Wilders at Dutch campaign launch vows to crack down on ‘Moroccan scum’

Reuters reports: Dutch anti-Muslim, anti-EU party leader Geert Wilders promised to crack down on “Moroccan scum” who he said were making the streets unsafe and urged the Dutch to “regain” their country as he launched his election campaign on Saturday.

Wilders was surrounded by police and security guards during a walkabout in Spijkenisse, part of the ethnically diverse industrial area surrounding the vast port of Rotterdam and a stronghold of his Freedom Party.

“Not all are scum, but there is a lot of Moroccan scum in Holland who makes the streets unsafe,” he told reporters, speaking in English. “If you want to regain your country, if you want to make the Netherlands for the people of the Netherlands, your own home, again, then you can only vote for one party.”

Crime by young Moroccans was not being taken seriously, added Wilders, who in December was convicted of inciting discrimination for leading supporters in a chant that they wanted “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!” Moroccans in the country.

Wilders – who has lived in hiding since an Islamist murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004 – pledges to ban Muslim immigration, close all mosques and take the Netherlands out of the European Union.

Many of his supporters at the Spijkenisse market, however, said they cared more about his social welfare policies.

“The most important thing for me is bringing the pension age back down to 65,” said Wil Fens, 59, a crane operator at the port.

Wilders hopes a global upsurge in anti-establishment feeling that has already helped to propel Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency and to persuade Britons to vote to quit the European Union will propel him to power in the March 15 parliamentary election.

A win for Wilders would boost French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and the Alternative for Germany party, both hoping to transform European politics in elections this year. [Continue reading…]

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John McCain on the survival of the West

 

Many of those of us who have an interest in and experience of living in non-Western cultures have a distaste for what can sound like sanctimonious and domineering claims about Western superiority.

What is superior about a civilization that built its strength through subjugating others? The failings of the West are easy enough to discern from a passing glance over world history.

Nevertheless, the value of open societies is currently being undermined from within, not by people who are promoting better alternatives but on the contrary mostly by those whose cynicism has festered deep within the only societies they have ever known.

To be concerned about the future of Western democracies does not require overlooking their failings but simply recognizing that if they fail, what will follow will without doubt be much worse.

This isn’t a matter of conjecture. Look at the Middle East and the effects of the withdrawal of American power. This hasn’t opened the doors to self-determination. It has instead led to an ongoing and very bloody power struggle between competing autocratic powers.

What the retreat of the West facilitates both outside and inside the West is the rise of nationalism, authoritarianism, and xenophobia.

When Western power can be superseded by something better — something that better reflects global diversity — then it will indeed be time to dispense with the very concept of the West. But we haven’t got anywhere close to arriving at that point in history.

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Geert Wilders’ American connections

Politico reports: Geert Wilders is approaching the Dutch election bolstered by the shock victory of a like-minded campaign in the United States, and with something of his worldview reflected in Donald Trump’s White House.

Trump’s order barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States — currently blocked by the U.S. courts — echoes Wilders’ calls for countries across the West to stop all immigration from “Islamic countries,” which he has been advocating in speeches since at least 2014.

Now, Wilders’ U.S. contacts are pushing for a meeting with Trump in the hopes that it would give the Dutchman a new platform for his outspoken challenge to the European Union from within one of its founding states. For their part, Trump supporters see Wilders’ campaign as the next step — following the U.K.’s Brexit vote and the election of Trump — of a populist revolt that is shaking up the world order.

“I have sent those messages to the inner circle and encouraged that they communicate with Mr. Wilders,” Congressman Steve King, an Iowa Republican, told POLITICO in a phone interview. “It’s important for the Trump administration and for this White House team to be engaged in an effort to restore Western civilization.” [Continue reading…]

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Beyond Flynn, other ties bind the White House to the Kremlin

Ishaan Tharoor writes: Long gone are the days when Communist Moscow backed leftist movements around the world. Instead, Putin’s post-Soviet ideologues see Russia at the vanguard of global Christian nationalist conservatism. In this struggle, they’ve found common cause with Europe’s far-right parties as well as key figures within the Trump administration.

In 2014, current White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon told a gathering of European conservatives that “we, the Judeo-Christian West, really have to look at what [Putin]’s talking about as far as traditionalism goes — particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism.” That same year, a group of fringe American white nationalists joined a conference in Hungary that featured Russian nationalist Alexander Dugin, a philosopher sometimes dubbed “Putin’s Rasputin.” Dugin hailed Trump as “the American Putin” last year.

American journalist Casey Michel has assiduously tracked the connections between right-wing American evangelicals and kindred spirits in Russia, who both champion anti-gay laws and the primacy of Christianity in the identity of Western nations.

“In the same sense that Russia’s [anti-LGBT] laws came about in 2013, we’ve seen similar sorts of laws proposed in Tennessee, for example,” said Cole Parke, an LGBT researcher with Political Research Associates, to Michel last week. “It’s difficult to say in a chicken-and-egg sort of way who’s inspiring whom, but there’s definitely a correlation between the two movements.”

Western “traditionalists,” whether in the U.S. or Europe, now style themselves as Putin’s fellow travelers.

“Putin may be seeing the future with more clarity than Americans still caught in a Cold War paradigm,” wrote Patrick Buchanan, the right-wing, ethno-nationalist American politician, in 2013. He went on to suggest that the new fault line in global politics would be between “conservatives and traditionalists in every country arrayed against the militant secularism of a multicultural and transnational elite.” [Continue reading…]

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Stephen Miller — Trump’s devoted xenophobic ‘warrior’

The New York Times reports: Staff members on Capitol Hill recall Stephen Miller, the 31-year-old White House adviser behind many of President Trump’s most contentious executive orders, as the guy from Jeff Sessions’s office who made their inboxes cry for mercy.

As a top aide to Mr. Sessions, the conservative Alabama senator, Mr. Miller dispatched dozens and dozens of bombastic emails to congressional staff members and reporters in early 2013 when the Senate was considering a big bipartisan immigration overhaul. Mr. Miller slammed the evils of “foreign labor” and pushed around nasty news articles on proponents of compromise, like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

One exhausted Senate staff member, forwarding a Miller-gram to a reporter at the time, wrote: “His latest. And it’s only 11:45 a.m.”

The ascent of Mr. Miller from far-right gadfly with little policy experience to the president’s senior policy adviser came as a shock to many of the staff members who knew him from his seven years in the Senate. A man whose emails were, until recently, considered spam by many of his Republican peers is now shaping the Trump administration’s core domestic policies with his economic nationalism and hard-line positions on immigration. [Continue reading…]

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The fragile condition of Europe’s youngest democracies

Jan Kubik writes: On 31 January, during an evening session that was suspiciously secretive, the Romanian government adopted two ordinances changing the country’s penal code. The measures were immediately seen by many as a clumsy attempt to decriminalise certain corruption offences, with the main beneficiaries being the politicians of the ruling party. Street protests broke out during that night, culminating last Sunday in the biggest demonstration since the fall of communism.

These events bring into sharp relief the main features of a volatile situation in eastern Europe where three forces vie for dominance: disconnected and sometimes corrupt “traditional” politicians, increasingly impatient and angry publics and assertive demagogues.

The east central Europe that shed communism in 1989 is a convenient laboratory to observe the emergence of a new politics. It is not necessarily due to its politicians being more corrupt, its demagogues flashier (who can compete with Trump?) and its publics angrier. It is more because its democracies are still fresher, more “basic”, their institutions not yet wrapped in a resilient layer of protective pro-democratic cultures. The whole system is thus more exposed to pressure tests. [Continue reading…]

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Fukuyama describes how democracy is unraveling

Ishaan Tharoor writes: Francis Fukuyama, an acclaimed American political philosopher, entered the global imagination at the end of the Cold War when he prophesied the “end of history” — a belief that, after the fall of communism, free-market liberal democracy had won out and would become the world’s “final form of human government.” Now, at a moment when liberal democracy seems to be in crisis across the West, Fukuyama, too, wonders about its future.

“Twenty five years ago, I didn’t have a sense or a theory about how democracies can go backward,” said Fukuyama in a phone interview. “And I think they clearly can.”

Fukuyama’s initial argument (which I’ve greatly over-simplified) framed the international zeitgeist for the past two decades. Globalization was the vehicle by which liberalism would spread across the globe. The rule of law and institutions would supplant power politics and tribal divisions. Supranational bodies like the European Union seemed to embody those ideals.

But if the havoc of the Great Recession and the growing clout of authoritarian states like China and Russia hadn’t already upset the story, Brexit and the election of President Trump last year certainly did.

Now the backlash of right-wing nationalism on both sides of the Atlantic is in full swing. This week, French far-right leader Marine Le Pen announced her candidacy for president with a scathing attack on the liberal status quo. “Our leaders chose globalization, which they wanted to be a happy thing. It turned out to be a horrible thing,” Le Pen thundered.

Fukuyama recognizes the crisis. “Globalization really does seem to produce these internal tensions within democracies that these institutions have some trouble reconciling,” he said. Combined with grievances over immigration and multiculturalism, it created room for the “demagogic populism” that catapulted Trump into the White House. That has Fukuyama deeply concerned. [Continue reading…]

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Trump, Le Pen and the ideas more dangerous than bullets that were planted in the mind of the Quebec City killer

CBC News published a transcript of Imam Hassan Guillet’s English address to the Quebec City convention centre during the funeral for three of the six victims of Sunday night’s mosque shooting, in which he said: Khaled, Aboubaker, Abdelkrim, Azzedine, Mamadou and Ibrahima they selected the place they wanted to live in. They selected the society they wanted to be their society.

They selected with whom they wanted their children to grow. And it was Canada. It was Quebec. It was the city of Quebec in the same way they selected Quebec.

They chose Quebec to live in, and they chose the Canadian passport.

It is up to the society to choose them the same way they have chosen this society.

They had their dream to send their kids to school, to buy a house, to have a business and we have to continue their dreams. We have to continue their dreams the same way they extended their hands to the others. It is up to others to extend their hands toward them.

Now unfortunately, it is a little bit late. But not too late.

The society that could not protect them, the society that could not benefit from their generosity still has a chance. The hands that didn’t shake the hands of Khaled or Aboubaker or Abdelkrim or Azzedine or Mamadou or Ibrahima, that society can shake the hands of their kids.

We have 17 orphans. We have six widows. We have five wounded.

We ask Allah for them to get them out of the hospital as soon as possible.

Did I go through the complete list of victims? No.

There is one victim. None of us want talk about him.

But given my age, I have the courage to say it. This victim, his name is Alexandre Bissonnette.

Alexandre, before being a killer he was a victim himself. Before planting his bullets in the heads of his victims, somebody planted ideas more dangerous than the bullets in his head.

This little kid didn’t wake up in the morning and say ‘Hey guys instead of going to have a picnic or watching the Canadiens, I will go kill some people in the mosque.’ It doesn’t happen that way.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, certain politicians unfortunately, and certain reporters unfortunately, and certain media were poisoning our atmosphere. [Continue reading…]

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Steve Bannon’s faith in global war

Time reports: Sometime in the early 2000s, Bannon was captivated by a book called The Fourth Turning by generational theorists William Strauss and Neil Howe. The book argues that American history can be described in a four-phase cycle, repeated again and again, in which successive generations have fallen into crisis, embraced institutions, rebelled against those institutions and forgotten the lessons of the past–which invites the next crisis. These cycles of roughly 80 years each took us from the revolution to the Civil War, and then to World War II, which Bannon might point out was taking shape 80 years ago. During the fourth turning of the phase, institutions are destroyed and rebuilt.

In an interview with TIME, author Howe recalled that Bannon contacted him more than a decade ago about making a film based on the book. That eventually led to Generation Zero, released in 2010, in which Bannon cast the 2008 financial crisis as a sign that the turning was upon us. Howe agrees with the analysis, in part. In each cycle, the postcrisis generation, in this case the baby boomers, eventually rises to “become the senior leaders who have no memory of the last crisis, and they are always the ones who push us into the next one,” Howe said.

But Bannon, who once called himself the “patron saint of commoners,” seemed to relish the opportunity to clean out the old order and build a new one in its place, casting the political events of the nation as moments of extreme historical urgency, pivot points for the world. Historian David Kaiser played a featured role in Generation Zero, and he recalls his filmed interview with Bannon as an engrossing and enjoyable experience.

And yet, he told TIME, he was taken aback when Bannon began to argue that the current phase of history foreshadowed a massive new war. “I remember him saying, ‘Well, look, you have the American revolution, and then you have the Civil War, which was bigger than the revolution. And you have the Second World War, which was bigger than the Civil War,'” Kaiser said. “He even wanted me to say that on camera, and I was not willing.”

Howe, too, was struck by what he calls Bannon’s “rather severe outlook on what our nation is going through.” Bannon noted repeatedly on his radio show that “we’re at war” with radical jihadis in places around the world. This is “a global existential war” that likely will become “a major shooting war in the Middle East again.” War with China may also be looming, he has said. This conviction is central to the Breitbart mission, he explained in November 2015: “Our big belief, one of our central organizing principles at the site, is that we’re at war.” [Continue reading…]

The cover of Time magazine brands Bannon as “The Great Manipulator,” and however accurately that might describe him, it is an image that serves Trump’s interests in this regard: it turns Bannon into Trump’s insurance policy by availing the so-called president with the option of firing Bannon rather than admit the failure of his presidency. Indeed, it’s reasonable to assume that Trump will sooner declare the failure of America than ever take responsibility for his own actions.

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America’s long history of rejecting immigrants

Paul A Kramer writes: The Statue of Liberty’s long career as a beacon to the oppressed began in 1882 with refugees whose religion some Americans feared. The czar was cracking down on Jews, and tens of thousands of people fled across Europe, many reaching the East Coast of the United States. Jewish American organizations rushed to aid them, as commentators debated what the sudden influx meant. What, if anything, did America owe these impoverished strangers, with their non-Christian faith? In a booming industrial society hungry for workers but fearful of beggars and bomb-throwers, were they a benefit or a danger?

It was at this moment that a Jewish American poet in New York, Emma Lazarus, made her way to the depot on Wards Island, where the refugees were being housed. Moved by their suffering, she taught classes and pressed for better shelter, food, and sanitation. Later, Lazarus was asked to contribute a poem for an auction to raise funds for the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, and here she did something strange.

Until then, the icon had symbolized Franco-American friendship and trans-Atlantic republicanism. But in her sonnet, Lazarus recast it as a welcome signal to the poor and threatened, a “Mother of Exiles” calling out to the world to give over its “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Lazarus’ statue was not asking: “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me”; it commanded. The poem wore its ambivalence about immigrants on its sleeve — “wretched refuse,” it called them — but it also expressed the idea of the United States as a haven for outcasts in bold new ways, ways that would face repeated onslaughts in the coming decades.

Last week, Donald Trump launched the latest of these attacks, issuing an executive order that suspends the entrance of all refugees for 120 days, prohibits the entry of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries for at least 90 days, and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely. Given the racist, anti-immigrant nationalism at the center of Trump’s presidential campaign, his action came as no surprise. For his supporters, it represented a blow against menacing Islam and an assertion of white, Protestant identity as the genuine core of what it means to be American. For Trump’s many critics, it represented an outrageous affront to the United States’ deepest values as a beckoning “nation of immigrants,” the tradition that Lazarus championed.

Both stories about immigration and America — that there was a glorious past in which America was pure and protected from outsiders, or that Americans have always prized multicultural inclusion — remake the past to score political points in the present. In fact, Trump’s vile exercise in nativism — the xenophobic celebration of the national self — is only the latest maneuver in a series of battles over immigrants’ role in American life and America’s place in the world. Viewed historically, the claim that these anti-immigrant policies are “not who we are,” while stirring, does not hold water. American nativist politics have deep roots.

The founders made clear enough who among immigrants they envisioned to be potential citizens, barring naturalization to all but “free white persons” who had been in the country two years. In the mid-19th century, America’s first mass nativist movement directed Protestant nationalist fury against Irish Catholic immigrants suspected of depravity and papal allegiances that would corrupt the United States’ free institutions. In the 1880s, anti-Chinese movements, fired by fears of labor competition and civilizational decline, won the first congressional legislation restricting immigrants on the basis of racialized national origin. Hatred of immigrants as poor and working people — assumed to be lazy, immoral, and given to “dependency” on American largesse — animated U.S. nativism from its birth. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s hard-line actions have an intellectual godfather: Jeff Sessions

The Washington Post reports: In jagged black strokes, President Trump’s signature was scribbled onto a catalogue of executive orders over the past 10 days that translated the hard-line promises of his campaign into the policies of his government.

The directives bore Trump’s name, but another man’s fingerprints were also on nearly all of them: Jeff Sessions.

The early days of the Trump presidency have rushed a nationalist agenda long on the fringes of American life into action — and Sessions, the quiet Alabam­ian who long cultivated those ideas as a Senate backbencher, has become a singular power in this new Washington.

Sessions’s ideology is driven by a visceral aversion to what he calls “soulless globalism,” a term used on the extreme right to convey a perceived threat to the United States from free trade, international alliances and the immigration of nonwhites. [Continue reading…]

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Bannon is not Trump’s servant. The president is his tool

Lawrence Douglas writes: That didn’t take long. From no-drama Obama to all-trauma Trump: the shift has been seismic, leaving millions in this country and abroad frightened and struggling to make sense of America’s new political landscape.

Some of the upheaval appears to be the consequence of incompetence, the predictable result of an under-qualified real estate mogul struggling to master the most powerful and demanding job on the planet.

But not so with the travel ban. In this case, upheaval was the intent – not to the degree we have seen; that clearly caught the administration off guard. But it was upheaval nonetheless.

As we now know, the drafting and rollout of the travel ban was largely the work of Steve Bannon, the president’s chief political strategist. It was Bannon who reportedly overruled the proposal to exempt green card holders from the ban. And it was Bannon who pushed the order through without consulting experts at the Department of Homeland Security or at the state department.

The Nacht und Nebel quality of the ban’s announcement makes clear that the president’s chief strategist wanted to send tremors through the world. Here was bold proof that the portentous accents of Trump’s inaugural address, also Bannon’s work, was not mere rhetoric. [Continue reading…]

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Europe’s far-right leaders unite at dawn of the Trump era

Time reports: After a few weeks of reading online about Donald Trump’s transition to the presidency, Marco Kopping, a 36-year-old apprentice at a car-parts supplier near Frankfurt, decided to get involved in German politics. He had never sympathized with a political party before, let alone joined one. But in December he received his glossy membership card from Alternative for Germany (AfD), one of the far-right movements now riding the updraft from Trump’s ascent. What drove him, Kopping says, “was the feeling of a revolution.” He didn’t want to be left behind.

Across the European Union, politicians on the right-wing fringe have been invigorated by Trump’s victory, which has given them a chance to attract new supporters, build coalitions and argue that, despite the often-glaring differences between them, they are all part of a movement with seemingly unstoppable momentum.

The most striking proof yet of that movement came on Saturday in the cross-section of far-right populists who met for the first time, at the AfD’s invitation, at a convention in the German city of Koblenz. A day after Trump’s Inauguration, the stars of the European right drew a direct line between Trump’s success at the ballot box and their own looming electoral battles. [Continue reading…]

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Under President Trump, we’ll enter an age of global confrontation

Timothy Garton Ash writes: Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House reflects a wider phenomenon: a new era of nationalism. He joins Vladimir Putin of Russia, Narendra Modi of India, Xi Jinping of China, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and a score of other nationalist leaders around the globe.

While it might be unfair to describe Theresa May as a nationalist, her announcement that she’s going for a hard Brexit reflects the pressure of English nationalism on the British right, and will encourage the nationalism of others. Of course, eras of nationalism are nothing new. But precisely because we have experienced them before, we know that they often start with high hopes and end in tears.

For now, the nationalists are giving one another the Trumpian thumbs-up across the seas. Paul Nuttall, the Ukip leader, says he is “massively excited” by the advent of President Trump, who in turn tells Michael Gove in the Times that he thinks Brexit “is going to end up being a great thing”. In a photograph that should become notorious, the Brexiteer Gove gives Trump a sycophantic thumbs-up, with a curiously goofy expression on his face, making him look like a teenage Star Trek fan who has caught 10 seconds with Patrick Stewart. The vice-president of France’s Front National responded to May’s Brexit speech by declaring: “French independence soon.” And so it goes on. [Continue reading…]

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The rise and fall of European meritocracy

Ivan Krastev writes: … it is loyalty — namely the unconditional loyalty to ethnic, religious or social groups — that is at the heart of the appeal of Europe’s new populism. Populists promise people not to judge them based solely on their merits. They promise solidarity but not necessarily justice.

Unlike a century ago, today’s popular leaders aren’t interested in nationalizing industries. Instead, they promise to nationalize the elites. They do not promise to save the people but to stay with them. They promise to re-establish the national and ideological constraints that were removed by globalization. In short, what populists promise their voters is not competence but intimacy. They promise to re-establish the bond between the elites and the people. And many in Europe today find this promise appealing.[Continue reading…]

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Human Rights Watch: Trump, European populists foster bigotry, discrimination

Human Rights Watch: The rise of populist leaders in the United States and Europe poses a dangerous threat to basic rights protections while encouraging abuse by autocrats around the world, Human Rights Watch said today in launching its World Report 2017. Donald Trump’s election as US president after a campaign fomenting hatred and intolerance, and the rising influence of political parties in Europe that reject universal rights, have put the postwar human rights system at risk.

Meanwhile, strongman leaders in Russia, Turkey, the Philippines, and China have substituted their own authority, rather than accountable government and the rule of law, as a guarantor of prosperity and security. These converging trends, bolstered by propaganda operations that denigrate legal standards and disdain factual analysis, directly challenge the laws and institutions that promote dignity, tolerance, and equality, Human Rights Watch said.

In the 687-page World Report, its 27th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that a new generation of authoritarian populists seeks to overturn the concept of human rights protections, treating rights not as an essential check on official power but as an impediment to the majority will.

“The rise of populism poses a profound threat to human rights,” Roth said. “Trump and various politicians in Europe seek power through appeals to racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and nativism. They all claim that the public accepts violations of human rights as supposedly necessary to secure jobs, avoid cultural change, or prevent terrorist attacks. In fact, disregard for human rights offers the likeliest route to tyranny.”

Roth cited Trump’s presidential campaign in the US as a vivid illustration of the politics of intolerance. He said that Trump responded to those discontented with their economic situation and an increasingly multicultural society with rhetoric that rejected basic principles of dignity and equality. His campaign floated proposals that would harm millions of people, including plans to engage in massive deportations of immigrants, to curtail women’s rights and media freedoms, and to use torture. Unless Trump repudiates these proposals, his administration risks committing massive rights violations in the US and shirking a longstanding, bipartisan belief, however imperfectly applied, in a rights-based foreign policy agenda. [Continue reading…]

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