Anne Applebaum writes: “How did he do it?” That’s the question I was asked more than once by European friends the day after Alabama’s Senate election: How did Doug Jones win? The question was not idle. In many ways, the electoral challenge Jones faced in Alabama was strikingly similar to the challenge facing European politicians of the center-left and even — or maybe especially — the center-right: How to defeat racist, xenophobic or homophobic candidates who are supported by a passionate, unified minority? Or, to put it differently: How to get the majority — which is often complacent rather than passionate, and divided rather than unified — to vote?
This was the same question asked after the victory of Emmanuel Macron in the French elections, and part of the answer, in both cases, was luck. Nobody predicted a Roy Moore sex scandal. Nobody predicted that the French political establishment would fold so quickly either. France’s previous, center-left president was so unpopular that he discredited his party; France’s center-right leader, François Fillon, was knocked out of the race by a scandal. Macron wound up as the leader of a new centrist coalition, the electoral arithmetic was in his favor, and he won.
But beyond luck, both Macron and Jones also tried to reach across some traditional lines, in part by appealing to traditional values. Macron, fighting a nationalist opponent in the second round of the elections, openly promoted patriotism. Instead of fear and anger, he projected optimism about France and its international role. He spoke of the opportunities globalization brought to France instead of focusing on the dangers, and he declared himself proud to be both French and a citizen of the world.
He wasn’t the only European to take this route: Alexander Van der Bellen, the former Green Party leader who is now president of Austria, used a similar kind of campaign to beat a nationalist opponent. Van der Bellen’s posters featured beautiful Alpine scenes, the Austrian flag and the slogan “Those who love their homeland do not divide it.”
In Alabama, Jones used remarkably similar language. [Continue reading…]
The Verge reports: Another former Facebook executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world. Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media.
Palihapitiya’s criticisms were aimed not only at Facebook, but the wider online ecosystem. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, referring to online interactions driven by “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.” “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”
He went on to describe an incident in India where hoax messages about kidnappings shared on WhatsApp led to the lynching of seven innocent people. “That’s what we’re dealing with,” said Palihapitiya. “And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.” He says he tries to use Facebook as little as possible, and that his children “aren’t allowed to use that shit.” He later adds, though, that he believes the company “overwhelmingly does good in the world.” [Continue reading…]
Patch reports: ACT for America, the so-called “national security agency” known most recently for organizing anti-Sharia law rallies across the United States, has canceled 67 pro-Trump “America First” rallies in 36 states, citing “the recent violence in America and in Europe.” Instead the group said the 67 rallies planned for Sept. 9 will be replaced with an online “Day of ACTion.”
The group made the announcement in a statement given exclusively to Breitbart News, which it shared on its website and social media pages. While the group says the rallies were canceled “out of an abundance of caution,” the cancellation also comes at the heels of a “Free Speech” rally in Boston where thousands of counter-protesters drowned out a small group of rally-goers. [Continue reading…]
In an editorial, the New York Times says: Narendra Modi’s landslide victory as prime minister of India in 2014 was borne on his promises to unleash his country’s economic potential and build a bright future while he played down the Hindu nationalist roots of his Bharatiya Janata Party.
But, under Mr. Modi’s leadership, growth has slowed, jobs have not materialized, and what has actually been unleashed is virulent intolerance that threatens the foundation of the secular nation envisioned by its founders.
Since Mr. Modi took office, there has been an alarming rise in mob attacks against people accused of eating beef or abusing cows, an animal held sacred to Hindus. Most of those killed have been Muslims. Mr. Modi spoke out against the killings only last month, not long after his government banned the sale of cows for slaughter, a move suspended by India’s Supreme Court. The ban, enforcing cultural stigma, would have fallen hardest on Muslims and low-caste Hindus traditionally engaged in the meat and leather industry.
It would also have struck a blow against Mr. Modi’s supposed priorities: employment, economic growth and boosting exports. The $16 billion industry employs millions of workers and generated $4 billion in export income last year.
More disturbing was his party’s decision to name Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu warrior-priest, as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, and a springboard to national leadership. Mr. Adityanath has called India’s Muslims “a crop of two-legged animals that has to be stopped” and cried at one rally, “We are all preparing for religious war!” [Continue reading…]
Decca Aitkenhead writes: Every night, for almost a year, Brendan Cox and his wife sat up discussing the rise of the far right. He was conducting a major study of populist extremism across the western world and, once the children were in bed, the pair would talk through its implications and analyse the threat.
The contrast between the couple and the darkly angry ideology could scarcely have been more acute. His wife was a young, smiley, idealistic new Labour MP whom he had met when they both worked for Oxfam. They loved camping and mountain climbing, lived on a houseboat on the Thames and spent weekends at their cottage on the Welsh border, without electricity or water, where they’d celebrate the summer solstice each year with a party for 100 friends. Their son, Cuillin, now six, was named after a mountain range on the Isle of Skye; their four-year-old daughter, Lejla, after friends Cox had made while volunteering for a children’s charity in Bosnia. Liberal and internationalist, they worried about xenophobic hate – but their concern was political, not personal.
Brendan Cox spent the morning of 16 June 2016 working on the research project as normal, for an international campaign organisation called Purpose, and was on his way to lunch with his colleague when his phone rang. It was his wife’s parliamentary assistant. “Jo has been attacked. Get to Leeds as fast as you can.” Racing to the station, he called her constituency office and was told she’d been shot and stabbed. He was alone on a train, hurtling north, when the call came from Jo’s sister: “I’m so sorry, Brendan. She’s not made it.”
“Do you mean Jo’s died?”
“I don’t know what to say … but yes.”
As Cox broke down in tears, a man sitting across the aisle fetched him tissues and water. “If there’s anything I can do …” he offered kindly. Cox wiped his eyes, thanked the man and thought: “Is this what you are meant to do when your wife has just been murdered?”
The horror awaiting him in Yorkshire defied all comprehension. Thomas Mair, a 52-year-old Nazi sympathiser incensed by Jo’s support for refugees, had calmly approached the MP outside her constituency surgery in the Yorkshire village of Birstall, shot her with a sawn-off shotgun, pulled her to the ground and stabbed her repeatedly with a dagger. A 77-year-old pensioner who tried to stop him was stabbed. Cox’s last words were to her two assistants were: “Get away, let him hurt me, don’t let him hurt you!” Mair’s last words, after shooting her twice more, were: “Britain first. Britain will always come first.” [Continue reading…]
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: Stacy Silver prayed as she drove with her husband to Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia’s Wissinoming section Sunday: Please don’t let my mother and great-grandmother be among the victims.
When Silver, 50, of Cherry Hill, N.J., heard about the vandalism at the Jewish cemetery that occurred overnight Saturday, she rushed to her loved ones’ graves.
What she saw when she arrived was worse than she imagined — tombstone after tombstone, story after story, was toppled to the ground — including those belonging to her mother and great-grandmother.
“Your stomach just drops,” Silver said. “I mean it’s just horrible.”
Detectives canvassing the cemetery Sunday afternoon estimated that 75 to 100 headstones had been knocked over.
“It’s criminal. This is beyond vandalism,” said Northeast Detectives Capt. Shawn Thrush, as he walked the cemetery grounds. “It’s beyond belief.”
The vandalism, coming a week after a similar incident in St. Louis, prompted the Anne Frank Center to call for President Trump to make a forceful denunciation of anti-Semitic hate crimes.
“Mr. President, it’s time for you to deliver a prime-time nationally televised speech, live from the Oval Office, on how you intend to combat not only #Antisemitism but also Islamophobia and other rising forms of hate,” the organization posted Sunday on Twitter. “Whether or not your intention, your Presidency has given the oxygen of incitement to some of the most viciously hateful elements of our society.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 1,372 bias incidents between Trump’s inauguration and Feb. 7, the watchdog group reported. Among those, the group highlighted 57 incidents in 24 states of anonymous bomb threats being called in to Jewish Community Centers. The organization has also recorded that the number of hate groups in the U.S. grew in 2016 for the second straight year, with a threefold increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate groups. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: Millions of women gathered in Washington and cities around the country and the world Saturday to mount a roaring rejoinder to the inauguration of President Donald Trump. What started as a Facebook post by a Hawaii retiree became a historic international rebuke of new president that packed cities large and small — from London to Los Angeles, Paris to Park City, Utah, Miami to Melbourne, Australia.
In Chicago, the demonstration was overwhelmed by its own size, forcing officials to curtail its planned march when the crowd threatened to swamp the planned route.
The Washington organizers, who originally sought a permit for a gathering of 200,000, said Saturday that as many as a half million people participated. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: By early afternoon, the number of people who had taken Metro Saturday was approaching half a million, Metro said.
More than 470,000 people had taken Metro by 1 p.m. Saturday, in what officials say is an unprecedented number of riders for a weekend. The crowds surpassed the ridership on Inauguration Day, and even ridership on a regular weekday. [Continue reading…]
USA Today reports: According to a sister march webpage, an estimated 2.6 million people took part in 673 marches in all 50 states and 32 countries, from Belarus to New Zealand — with the largest taking place in Washington.
The crowds were so large in some cities that marching was almost impossible. In Chicago, organizers halted the march and rallied at Grant Park instead as crowds swelled to 150,000, although thousands still marched. In New York City, the number was 200,000; in Boston, media reported more than 100,000 people marching in Boston Common. In Oakland, Calif., police estimated that about 60,000 people took part in the women’s march. San Francisco’s rally was scheduled to begin at 3 pm local time, with a march at 5 pm.
In D.C., the huge crowds come a day after empty space was spotted on the National Mall ahead of Trump’s inauguration speech and bare bleachers were noticeable along the inaugural parade route. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: There is something inherently head-spinning about the so-called burkini bans that are popping up in coastal France. The obviousness of the contradiction — imposing rules on what women can wear on the grounds that it’s wrong for women to have to obey rules about what women can wear — makes it clear that there must be something deeper going on.
“Burkinis” are, essentially, full-body swimsuits that comply with Islamic modesty standards, and on Wednesday, Prime Minister Manuel Valls of France waded into the raging debate over the bans in some of the country’s beach towns, denouncing the rarely seen garb as part of the “enslavement of women.”
This, of course, is not really about swimwear. Social scientists say it is also not primarily about protecting Muslim women from patriarchy, but about protecting France’s non-Muslim majority from having to confront a changing world: one that requires them to widen their sense of identity when many would prefer to keep it as it was.
“These sorts of statements are a way to police what is French and what is not French,” said Terrence G. Peterson, a professor at Florida International University who studies France’s relationship with Muslim immigrants and the Muslim world.
While this battle over identity is rising now in the wake of terrorist attacks, it has been raging in one form or another in French society for decades, Professor Peterson said. What seems to be a struggle over the narrow issue of Islamic dress is really about what it means to be French. [Continue reading…]
This was once a referendum about whether or not the UK should remain in the EU. But not anymore. The referendum has effectively turned into a plebiscite about diversity and tolerance vs divisiveness and hatred: the Leave campaign in particular has largely ditched its long-demolished economic arguments and remoulded itself into an appeal to increasingly shrill and ugly emotion.
How could it have come to that? How could a campaign find so much popular traction by explicitly disavowing rational and informed deliberation?
Some commentators have responded to those questions with bewilderment and resignation, as if right-wing populism and hatred are unavoidable socio-political events, much like volcanic eruptions or earthquakes.
Far from it. Populism and hatred do not erupt, they are stoked. The “Tea Party” in the US was not a spontaneous eruption of “grassroots” opposition to Barack Obama but the result of long-standing efforts by libertarian “think tanks” and political operatives.
Likewise, the present demagoguery in the UK against the EU arises at least in part from media ignorance or hostility towards migrants, and a similar well-funded but nebulous network of organisations (often linked to human-caused climate change denial).
Populism is not an inevitable natural disaster but the result of political choices made by identifiable individuals who ultimately can be held accountable for those choices.
The Guardian reports: Almost 1,500 parliamentarians have signed a pledge to uphold the legacy of love and tolerance left by Jo Cox, the Labour MP killed last week.
MPs from 40 countries from Australia to Zimbabwe put their names to a statement on what would have been the eve of Cox’s 42nd birthday.
From the UK, the signatories include Hilary Benn, the shadow foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, the former London mayor, and his successor, Sadiq Khan. [Continue reading…]
The joint statement of parliamentarians and democratic representatives says:
Last week, the life of UK MP Jo Cox was brutally and senselessly snatched away. As many have been, we are shocked to the core at a violent attack on democracy and our values.
As human beings, we are devastated at the loss of an indefatigable and compassionate campaigner, mother and colleague. And as parliamentarians, we commit to ensuring her legacy is upheld.
In her first speech to parliament, just one year ago, Jo said: “While we celebrate our diversity … we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
Every elected representative should reflect on those words this week. Let this be a turning point for us all.
Beyond politics and parties, we must as societies stand together to stem the poisonous rising tide of fear and hate that breeds division and extremism. We must follow Jo’s example to open our arms with love to our communities, our neighbours and those less fortunate than ourselves, and to celebrate our tolerance and diversity.
Jo was a lifelong campaigner against injustice. She entered parliament because she wanted to be in the engine room of change, to steer a course toward a better future. Today we say: we will keep our hands on the wheel. We will do whatever it takes to renew our bonds and fight for those at the margins of our society, our continent and the world.