23 May, 2014

A POLITICAL EXPEDITION INTO THE WORLD OF RIGHT-WING POPULIST PARTIES IN EUROPE

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Category: European elections, far-right, Political campaign, Political hate speech
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By Johanna Luther

“Latest surveys say that in the next European parliament one third could consist of anti-European and right-wing populist parties”

The distressing situation of European politics today makes me nervous. Not only do I have the impression that people do not really care about the European Elections but also that the 25th of May is going to be a black day for the the European idea in general.

Although I am actually really motivated to cast my ballot on Sunday – I am young, I believe in the values of human rights and democracy. I believe in a world without borders,a world of various cultures and distinct heritages coexisting in peace. A world with tolerance and where everybody can live their life in a way they see fit without being a trouble to others. A life without discrimination on the basis of religion, sexuality or nationality and I think Europe has a great potential for this, even though the one or other straight or bent cucumber is sometimes barring the way.

But I really find the current situation of European politics frightening – in the European countries we find more and more parties on the electoral lists that actually fight against Europe – not only on an economic front as an internal market, for example, but very often as the source of an “endless flood of immigrants” or a harassment of the national strength and individuality.

I wanted to understand this phenomenon of the rise of the right-wing populist parties in Europe – their opinions, their strategies, and the reasons for their growing strength. Furthermore I wanted to find concrete proofs for their inhuman and undemocratic ideology to show, particularly for the young European voters, what these parties actually stand for.

So, in the course of my internship at the Council of Europe, the idea was to use the Hate Speech Watch – a rubric on the Website of the No Hate Speech Movement, where everybody gets the chance to point out examples of the violation of human rights online. I wanted to use this as a platform where I can publish the discriminating and hateful examples that I would find in the official manifestos and campaigns of these parties. My aim was not only to follow the comment opinions in the media (especially also because the parties always speak about a “smear hunt” against them) but to accuse them with the contents of their own publications.

I decided to focus on the UKIP in Great Britain, the Front National in France and the Alternative für Deutschland in Germany, to point out examples from some of the biggest and most influential countries in the European Union.

With this blog post now, I want to illustrate the complexity of the topic on the basis of my personal progress, which I experienced during my research.

ukI started with the United Kingdom Independence Party and its chairman Nigel Farage, who is known, inter alia, for accusing the president of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, of having “the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low grade bank clerk.”

 

So I started to study their manifesto and campaign and indeed – they juggle words like “open and closed” door for immigrants, Farage has been claiming for months that he is going “to cause an earthquake” in British politics and for this he needs a “people’s army”and everybody should join in. 

Furthermore on the official Facebook page of UKIP a sad British worker begs for money, the p

oster underline says: “British workers are hit hard by unlimited cheap labour” and in their manifesto you can find among others, the information that in London 303 robberies, committed by Romanians, took place, while saying nothing about the number of British robbers in comparison or at least in which period of time this statistic wasset up.

Very quickly I realized that one of the tactics they are using is putting facts out of the proper context.

uk1Moreover the official Twitter account of UKIP proclaimed in the beginning of May that “All David Cameron has delivered on the EU is open door immigration from Romania and Bulgaria and higher British public contributions” 

uk2

And finally one of “issues” they mention in their manifesto is depriving prisoners of their right to vote as it is assured by the European Court of Human Rights. In short – Great Britain should definitely leave the European Union.

 

 

fr

 

With the call to get rid of the European Union, Farage is not out on a limb –for months Marine Le Pen and her Front National are campaigning all over France to spread this message, even though her and Farage do not want to cooperate officially. In their manifesto they postulate as well the renegotiation of the European Convention on Human Rights, although in that case it is about Article 8 (“Right to respect for private and family life”) which, in their opinion “functions as the justification for the reaching numbers of immigrants in France”.

fr2Consequently, France is faced with “ghettos, inter-ethnic conflicts, the claims of the communities and political-religious provocations”, which is supposedly bad for the “national identity” and furthermore pushes the growing “Islamisation” by fundamental Muslims. To “solve” this problem, they demand that the so called “Anti-French racism” as a motivation to commit a crime, should be considered as an “aggravate circumstance” and therefore “punished accordingly”.
fr1

Moreover, if a company has to decide between two candidates with the same qualifications they claim a “priority status” for the French one.

“Being French is an honor” says their manifesto and because of this also “the dual nationality should not be authorized anymore” And of course they also strictly oppose same-sex marriage and their right to adopt children.

deThe third party I focused on – the Alternative für Deutschland and its president Bernd Lucke have a surprisingly similar viewpoint on these family issues.

 

 

de1In their political guidelines it says “The marriage between man and woman is desirable” and in their manifesto they clearly take a stand against “Gender Mainstreaming” and demand “that all the financial support of the EU for this should be stopped immediately, as well as any attempts of the EU to force the countries to pursue a policy like that.”

In addition they want “because of its number of inhabitants and its economic importance, a stronger influence of Germany in the European institutions”and on a national level they claim that “the number of immigrants should only be based on the German need of labour”.

After going through all this, I could almost hear a UKIP, Front National or AfD – voter, who reproached me by saying that these are only extracts of the manifestos and campaigns and do not show all the ideas and claims of the parties. And that is true – for example UKIP demands an Open GPsurgery in the evening for full-time workers, where there is demand. Or the Front National fights for more local production to protect the environment and wants to strengthen the right of animals and last but not the least, the AfD claims for example a right to work for asylum seekers.

So no, there is never black and white and also the supporters of these parties are mostly not unambiguous racist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-Semitic or xenophobic people. But if you study the comments, for example, under the Facebook posts or the YouTube videos of the parties, above all you will find discussions and opinions with the same latent tendencies towards discrimination as the parties have, but very rarely they contain “clear hate speech” and furthermore it is quite impossible to find that in the very professional and eloquent campaigns of the parties either.

Accordingly I found myself between a rock and a hard place- how does one find the fine line between freedom of speech and hate speech? And should I publish the few examples of obvious hate speech in the public reactions, which I found, even though I knew that they don’t actually represent the majority of their followers?

I decided – no, I should not. Because that does not show the danger that they entail. On the contrary – reducing everything to simple discriminating slogans is not the complete and irrevocable truth, it in fact even strengthens them, in my opinion.

And this is exactly their strength – they make these subtle suggestions, these racist, homophobic, anti – Semitic, anti – Islamic etc. and generally inhuman ideas, which are well hidden underneath intelligent phrases and well-designed manifestos, in an effort to make it socially acceptable, step by little step.

It is not about a few easily convictable Nazis, Nationalist or suchlike – it is about the trends that grow in the general subconscious of society and that from Sunday on will sit in the European Parliament, a place that is not a tiny hateful Facebook comment or a morning coffee with friends, but the legislative assembly of the whole European Union and there, with the strength of a third of all members, they might show us then, what they actually hide behind their phrases.

And every non – voter makes their influence even stronger.Therefore – people, first and foremost, it is important to cast your vote! Inform yourself, vote for whoever represents your opinions best, even a blank vote is better than no vote, but GO AND VOTE against these hateful movements and for an Europe of tolerance and love!


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