If the recent elections in the Middle East have held our attention hostage, let us then turn our worries towards elections which have sparked a new kind of radicalism.
Right here, at home.
From the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American President of the United States to the recent European Parliament elections, there has been a rise within right wing extremism. Within Europe, this shift has been political, with centre-Right parties become the more popular choice amongst already apathetic voters. In the United States, however, the radicalism has lost politically. Instead, American Right wing radicalism is taking on a more grassroots route, one which has proven to be violent and fueled by a bitter conservative media.
The Rise of the Radical Right in Europe: Muslims a Demographic Threat?
The British National Party (BNP), infamous for its white nationalist platform, has made a significant gain in the United Kingdom and Europe. The party stands against mass migration and the UK’s “surrender to the European Union.” It claims to represent the ‘indigenous people’ of the UK, wishing to bring glory back the thousand year old culture. While not (yet) a part of the UK Parliament, the party recently won seats within local county council elections as well as two seats in the European Parliament, representing North West England and Yorkshire and the Humber. While this comes as a shock to Britons and non-Britons alike, the BNP’s win and increased support falls within a seemingly growing trend of political and social radicalism in Europe.
The recent European Parliament elections, taking place from June 4th till June 7th, witnessed an unsettling sway towards the Right. In the Netherlands, the Christian Democratic Appeal, a centre-Right party, came out on top winning five seats out of a possible twenty-five. Geert Wilder’s Party for Freedom came in second for the Netherlands, winning four seats. In Italy, tough-on-immigration-soft-on-topless-women Silvio Berlusconi’s The People of Freedom Right wing party also emerged as the biggest winner, while in Austria the conservative Christian democratic Austrian People’s Party won six seats and the nationalist conservative Freedom Party of Austria won two out of a possible seventeen. In Denmark, the centre-Right Venstre came in second winning three seats out of 13, with the leading Social Democrats winning four. The Czech Republic saw for the first time two newly created Right wing parties participate in the elections and while neither of the groups won seats, there is a possibility for these parties to be recipients of government subsidies given “a combination of broad public apathy towards European elections combined with a get-out-the-vote drive by the extremists.” In total, centre-Right parties have taken around 263 seats and centre-Left have around 163, out of a possible 736 seats in the European Parliament.
The growth of support for both centre-Right parties and extreme-Right parties has not manifested itself without cause and certainly not overnight. Mass migration has been a popular form of population growth and labour for the past few decades amongst receiving European governments. Yet such immigration policies have created disenchantment amongst native citizens of various European states. Mainstream political parties, which have veered betweens variants of the Left, are thus becoming relatively less popular. In place of them, the centre-Right has begun gaining ground over the past fie years, starting with the election of Andrea Merkel as Germany’s Chancellor. Since then Denmark, Sweden, Italy, France, Austria, and the Czech Republic, amongst several others, have also experienced this shift to the Right. Yet while national governments evolve into centre-Right governments, there has also been an increase in support for populist Right wing parties, which unapologetically run on anti-immigrant, conservative nationalist platforms.
Economic frustration, increased minority visibility and continuous consciousness of the alleged threat of global and homegrown terrorism have created political dissatisfaction amongst many Europeans which has made the extreme conservative rhetoric, spreading throughout Europe, appealing.
While economic and political aggravations lace such increasing support for the right –both centrist and extreme- Europe’s quickly evolving demographics lie at the heart of the fear which is permitting Europeans to turn towards these groups which have rigid and racist stances on immigration, assimilation and policies of citizenship.
Europe is home to over 70 million immigrants, the largest immigrant population in the world. Muslims, the primary group at the receiving end of the populist Right’s demonization, is estimated to be around 55 million throughout Europe, with almost 20 million living in European Union countries. As the presence of Muslims increases, ranging from Pakistanis to North Africans, so does the visibility of their lifestyles. More and more Mosques are being propped up; Islamic schools are being created, religious Rights and courts are being demanded, cultural symbols are colouring the streets, and women in scarves and men with beards are flooding local grocery stores.
This visibility and assertion of presence has created a fear of the “Islamic colonization” of Europe into “Eurabia,” a mythical land, coined by Edward Said’s target Bernard Lewis, in the future in which Islam will overtake Europe economically and culturally. This fear has been impelled by declining birth rates amongst Europeans, which is lower than the point of population replacement, which stands at 2.1; a number required for the maintenance of a population and culture. According to a Medical News Today article, France led European states with a 1.8 birthrate in 2006. But even that was with the help from incentives.
High birth rates amongst immigrants have also not been a cause for comfort for increasing fears of being overtaken. Thus as Europe’s workforce will soon begin to age, become dependent on the government, and slowly pass on baby-making immigrants will undoubtedly fill in the labour void. Such fears have also been partnered with the rise of neo-Nazism in Eastern Europe, especially within Russia.
The Rise of the Violent Right in The United States: Right Wing Punditry, Gun Violence, White Supremacy and The 9/12 Project
Yet the rise of the radical Right is not isolated within European borders. Here in North America, in both the United States and Canada, the past eight years have seen the radicalization of conservatism. And in the wake of the Obama presidency, this radicalism has become violent, with the recent stream of apparently politically-driven homicides and bizarre right wing punditry.
A relationship between the aforementioned two has been noted by the liberal blogsphere and pundits, who have cited the hatred and fear-laden propaganda espoused on conservative radio and television shows as the cause for several hate driven crimes within the past while. While such a relationship does require more investigation, outside this writer’s current parameters, it is without a doubt that some of the most recent heinous crimes prove that there is a homegrown radicalism on the rise within the United States, coming from anyone but the usual suspects. Even the Department of Homeland Security has noted that the current urgent domestic threat facing the U.S is that of domestic extremist violence. Yet what is more relevant, yet certainly not surprising, is that this extremism is coming from the growing White Supremacist neo-Nazi movement within the United States.
Some of the noted crimes during the past few months include:
- James von Brunn recently entered the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C, shooting security guard Steven Tyrone James before being shot by the guard himself. The security guard later died at a local hospital. Von Brunn is 88 years old and a self-acclaimed White Supremacist, charging that the ‘Jews had brought in Obama.’
- The recent assassination of Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas doctor infamous for performing late-term abortions. The suspect is a man by the name of Scott Roeder, who has had a “history of anti-abortion, anti-government philosophy and protest.”
- Three Pittsburgh cops were killed in early April by 23 year-old Richard Poplawski, who was recently unemployed and afraid that Obama was going to take away his guns. Poplawski was a White Supremacist.
- To date at least two known assassination plots against President Obama have been foiled, one of which was during his acceptance speech. The other was uncovered when the perpetrators wife shot him in an unrelated incident. Both were led by White Supremacists.
Regardless of its own claims of victimization, the conservative media has done its part to wreak havoc against the new administration. The biggest culprit – hold your hearts – has been Fox News, led by the Neo-Conservative Owner of the Media Rupert Murdoch. A network which gleefully wallowed in the disastrous past eight years, supporting its every illegal and immoral move, has now become one for the people, demanding transparency and accountability. The network has also spread false information, often for purposes of fueling the flames of controversy against Barack Obama. In addition to their slander, several Fox News anchors and hosts have also made alarming allusions to violence, both towards the President and liberals. Liz Trotta, a Fox contributor, wished the assassination of Obama, having meant Osama and then laughed saying, “Well…both, if we could!”
Yet while popular conservatives such as Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity get much of the blame, it is in fact Glenn Beck, a fraudulent manifestation of an independent and a television host on Fox News, who is at the head of the conservative ‘fear-mongering.’
He is also extremely terrifying.
Since Obama’s inauguration, Beck’s show has become somewhat of a paranoid anti-government fear-fest. He claims that allegations of his commentary – because he is not a journalist and thus not responsible for checking facts –having a negative and violent effect on viewers is completely ill-founded and offensive. And yet it wasBeck who erroneously quipped before the Poplawski shooting that “slowly but surely [Obama will] take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun.” He has supported the idea of secession from the United States. And he has even implied Obama’s recent economic policies are akin government-led violence inflicted upon each American citizen, likening the policies to if the President had thrown gas upon each individual American.
And then lit a match.
Yet the most the terrifying of Beck’s actions, aside from his incessant and exploitative crying, has been his 9/12 Project which seems to be at the heart of the new face of Fox News. According to Beck, the day after 9/11 Americans knew exactly what to do; they had shed partisan politics and united in an attempt to bring the country back onto its feet. Interestingly enough, Beck only came to the realization of the importance of transparency and government accountability after the end of the Bush administration.
The 9/12 also stands for 9 values and 12 principles to unite Americans upon once again. They speak for themselves. But while they seem largely harmless, and perhaps even hokey, it is the widespread support that this project is receiving which should be catching the attention of the concerned American citizen. The forums on the 9/12 Project are filled with angry Americans-around almost one million supporters online-convinced that their rights and liberties will be stolen away by the new government in an attempt to turn the country into a Socialist haven. The racism is also extremely apparent, be it against Blacks, Arabs or illegal aliens i.e. Mexicans. Obama has come to make White Slaves out of the largest American demographic. Obama is friends with the Arabs who want to kill us. Mexicans are stealing our jobs.
But the real reason why the 9/12 Project should be a cause for concern for Americans is that it does not offer action to its viewer, but rather direction. Beck and his associates do not tell their supporters what actions to take, but rather provide them with a framework and some direction. They encourage small meetings amongst neighbours and friends, at local homes, pubs and sports arenas. At these meetings, Beck encourages that supporters discuss what it is that is aching them, to share their anguish and to use the meetings as a sort of catharsis. From these, they should organize themselves. They should create campaigns and sub-projects to protest against the injustices created by the government against its own citizenry. By providing direction and not action, the 9/12 Project becomes a grassroots initiative which spreads quickly, in an attempt to give the power back to the people.
The 9/12 Project seeks to empower and this empowerment is what is a great cause for concern because it based on false conceptions of empowerment. The 9/12 Project does exactly what Beck says – it takes the American citizenry into their post-9/11 mode as a population which succumbed its rights, freedoms and rationality to fear and manipulation.
This is the new radicalism. This will be the new war.