A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Far-Right Fallacy

Some commentators need to learn what the far-right is before they run their mouths. Picture by Giovanni Dall'Orto.

There was a time, little over a decade ago, when you really had to go some to earn the label ‘far-right.’ You had to believe in certain things - you either did or you didn’t, and whether you did or didn’t determined whether the term could legitimately be applied to you. These things included eugenics; breeding out, excluding, or exterminating the weak links in the social chain. They included militarism and military expansionism; gender segregation; a rigidly-enforced social hierarchy; government creation and promotion of a social ‘norm,’ and the suppression of anything that ran contrary to it through indoctrination, intimidation, and force. You had to wholeheartedly believe in the virtues of oppression; you had to approve of a dictatorial leader. You had to actively and openly call for the establishment of a totalitarian state. If you didn’t do that, you weren’t far-right, pure and simple. You didn’t fit the definition.
But gone are the days when, in order to be called something you actually had to be it. Now, you can be mislabelled simply for having an opinion on any subject that people who think they know better than you have claimed as their sole jurisprudence. Take Marine le Pen, for example, the leader of the Front National. If you ignore their somewhat outdated name and look solely at their policies, you’ll find that they’re not ‘far-right’ by any actual standards (i.e., the kind involving definitions) at all; they’re little more than backbench Tories who’ve made the mistake of mentioning Islam on TV. The zero tolerance policy on crime, strict limits to mass-immigration, and support for integrationism may scare the pants off of professional activists, yet they’re nothing you won’t find in mainstream sentiment. If political commentators got out much, they’d hear similar sympathies every day of the week; on the bus, the cab, and in the comments of their own articles. From the Telegraph to the Guardian, Marine le Pen’s main gripes are simply part of common discourse. Her key policies, when you remove all rhetoric and look at what they’re actually saying, amount to limiting the number of people allowed to take up residence per annum within a national jurisdiction, and calling for religiously-prepared meat to be clearly labelled. Again, that’s the stuff that makes keyboard-wielding social campaigners spit lentils all over their MacBook Pro, but the ‘iconography of Nazism’ it clearly isn’t. Not to anyone endowed with a working sense of perspective and a cursory knowledge of Nazism, that is.
Even more extraordinary is the Dutch MP and leader of the Freedom Party Geert Wilders; there’s nothing in his manifesto that can be called anything other than centrist or even centre-left. You’d think that his calls to harshly punish violence against homosexuals and end Islamic gender apartheid would be roundly welcomed, considering they are the only party in the Netherlands that talks about these issues. Protecting homosexuals and Jews certainly isn’t something that fascists have traditionally been keen on - in fact, it’s not something that they can be keen on, given that both homosexuality and Judaism are perceived by fascists as threats to the sanctity of society and the state, which all far-right ideologues think paramount. But, no, to the self-same journalists that would mislabel le Pen, their seeking to protect homosexuals and Jews is just further evidence of far-right tendencies. Never mind that he once counted VVD politician and Somali-born atheist anti-sharia feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a colleague, and together they questioned the government on immigration policy. Even his comparing the Qur’an, which, as you might have guessed, he hates with a passion with Mein Kampf is not enough to prevent the accusations of extreme views which, in policy and principle, there is no evidence of him holding.
It’s the same story across Europe. In Britain, UKIP finds itself branded ‘extreme’ because of its one famous policy - a public vote on major constitutional and political change. In Finland, The Finns Party advocates the establishment and expansion of an enhanced welfare state, state investment in industry and agriculture, and one of the most progressive taxation systems in Europe – yet, because of their opposition to homosexual marriage and the bailouts, they too have been labeled ‘fascist.’ In fact, almost all of the hard-right parties you hear about in the media aren’t hard-right at all (with the exception of those in eastern Europe, including Austria’s Freedom Party). Some of them aren’t even right-wing. They are simply parties offering alternatives to what we have now, ranging from national conservatism to liberalism and even social democracy, united only by the fact that they all had the gall to say something that major politicians shy away from addressing, be that Islam, democracy, the rural economy - or anything else.

To any journalist, politician, or think tank who has ever decreed that any of these parties are ‘far-right:’ find out what the ‘far-right’ is. Not where it is relative to you, where it actually is, in the grand scheme of things. When you’ve done that, find out what it espouses. If any of the parties hitherto derided advocate any of the things that the Nazis did, that Mussolini did, that Franco did, feel free to shout it from the rooftops. Until then, speak the truth - not hyperbole - and debate through honesty and integrity, rather than salvoes of false phrases and empty words.

1 comment:

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