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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Pope appears to back anti-Trump protests in letter condemning populism

The Guardian reports: Pope Francis has offered his unequivocal support to grassroots organisers and activists who are fighting for social justice, migrants, and environmentalism, saying he “reaffirms” their choice to fight against tyranny amid a “gutting of democracies”.

“As Christians and all people of good will, it is for us to live and act at this moment. It is a grave responsibility, since certain present realities, unless effectively dealt with, are capable of setting off processes of dehumanisation which would then be hard to reverse,” the pontiff wrote in a letter that was read to organisers this week.

The remarks can be viewed as a clear endorsement by the Argentinian pope of resistance against populist and xenophobic political movements. While he did not name Donald Trump, and stressed his remarks were not targeted at any individual politician, the letter, read at the opening of the US Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements in Modesto, California, seem to speak directly to protests against the Republican president.

“The direction taken beyond this historic turning point – the ways in which this worsening crisis gets resolved – will depend on people’s involvement and participation and, largely, on yourselves, the popular movements,” Francis wrote. [Continue reading…]

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How Trump energized the extremists who dream of making America white again

Southern Poverty Law Center reports: After half a century of being increasingly relegated to the margins of society, the radical right entered the political mainstream last year in a way that had seemed virtually unimaginable since George Wallace ran for president in 1968.

A surge in right-wing populism, stemming from the long-unfolding effects of globalization and the movements of capital and labor that it spawned, brought a man many considered to be a racist, misogynist and xenophobe into the most powerful political office in the world. Donald Trump’s election as president mirrored similar currents in Europe, where globalization energized an array of extreme-right political movements and the United Kingdom’s decision to quit the European Union.

Trump’s run for office electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country.

He kicked off the campaign with a speech vilifying Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers. He retweeted white supremacist messages, including one that falsely claimed that black people were responsible for 80% of the murders of whites. He credentialed racist media personalities even while barring a serious outlet like The Washington Post, went on a radio show hosted by a rabid conspiracy theorist named Alex Jones, and said that Muslims should be banned from entering the country. He seemed to encourage violence against black protesters at his rallies, suggesting that he would pay the legal fees of anyone charged as a result.

The reaction to Trump’s victory by the radical right was ecstatic. “Our Glorious Leader has ascended to God Emperor,” wrote Andrew Anglin, who runs the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website. “Make no mistake about it: we did this. If it were not for us, it wouldn’t have been possible.” Jared Taylor, a white nationalist who edits a racist journal, said that “overwhelmingly white Americans” had shown they were not “obedient zombies” by choosing to vote “for America as a distinct nation with a distinct people who deserve a government devoted to that people.”

Richard Spencer, who leads a racist “think tank” called the National Policy Institute, exulted that “Trump’s victory was, at its root, a victory of identity politics.”

Trump’s election, as startling to extremists as it was to the political establishment, was followed by his selection of appointees with anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT and white nationalist sympathies. To lead his domestic transition team, he chose Kenneth Blackwell, an official of the virulently anti-LGBT Family Research Council. As national security adviser, he selected retired Gen. Mike Flynn, who has described Islam as a “malignant cancer” and tweeted that “[f]ear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” His designated CIA director was U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who is close to some of the country’s most rabid anti-Muslim extremists.

Most remarkable of all was his choice as chief strategic adviser of Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, a far-right media outlet known for promoting the so-called “alternative right” — fundamentally, a recent rebranding of white supremacy for public relations purposes, albeit one that de-emphasizes Klan robes and Nazi symbols in favor of a more “intellectual” approach. With Bannon’s appointment, white nationalists felt they had a man inside the White House. [Continue reading…]

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Popular support for the rule of law and democracy has weakened across America

Austin Sarat writes: There is much to celebrate in the court decision against President Trump’s immigration ban. It was a stirring victory for the rule of law and reaffirmation of the independence of the judiciary. Yet America faces a serious problem which that decision did not address: the erosion of public faith in the rule of law and democratic governance.

While we have been focused on partisan divides over government policy and personnel, an almost invisible erosion of the foundations of our political system has been taking place. Public support for the rule of law and democracy can no longer be taken for granted.

In 2017, the rule of law and democracy itself are under attack by President Trump and his administration. This is as much a symptom as a cause of our current crisis. Public Policy Polling has released the startling results of a national survey taken this week. Those results show significant fissures in the public’s embrace of the rule of law and democracy.

Only 53% of those surveyed said that they “trust judges more than President Trump to make the right decisions for the United States.” In this cross-section of Americans, 38% said they trusted Donald Trump more than our country’s judges. 9% were undecided. Support for the rule of law seemed higher when respondents were asked whether they thought that President Trump should “be able to overturn decisions by judges” when he disagrees with those decisions. Here only 25% agreed, with 11% saying they were unsure. [Continue reading…]

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The man who could make Marine Le Pen president of France

Angelique Chrisafis writes: On the night of the US election, Florian Philippot, the closest adviser to the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, was watching the results from his apartment on the Left Bank in Paris. Before dawn, when Donald Trump’s victory was not yet official but the liberal establishment was beginning to panic, he tweeted: “Their world is crumbling. Ours is being built.”

Around 8am, Philippot phoned Le Pen to discuss the good news. She was in a jubilant mood at the headquarters of her party – the nationalist, anti-immigration Front National – preparing to deliver a speech congratulating Trump. His victory, on promises of trade protectionism and the closing of borders, looked like a major boost to her presidential campaign. Meanwhile, a car arrived to take Philippot, the party’s vice-president, to the village of Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, 250km from Paris, to lay a wreath at the tomb of France’s great postwar leader, General Charles de Gaulle.

Trump’s victory happened to coincide with the anniversary of the death of de Gaulle, who led the French resistance against Nazi Germany. Philippot idolises de Gaulle: his office, which adjoins Le Pen’s, is plastered with de Gaulle memorabilia – one of many things that sets him apart as an oddity in a party that has long regarded de Gaulle as a traitor for allowing the former French colony of Algeria its independence.

Philippot’s elite credentials should have been another strike against him within a party that proclaims its loathing of the establishment. A graduate of the exclusive Ecole Nationale d’Administration, which produces presidents and prime ministers, Philippot didn’t start out in the Front National in the traditional way – driving around the countryside sticking election posters to fences. Philippot is also gay, in a party whose co-founder Jean-Marie Le Pen once called homosexuality “a biological and social anomaly”. And yet, at 35, he has become the voice of the party, its media star, and the first to claim Trump’s victory as a sign of a new world order. [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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How Trump got his party to love Russia

James Kirchick writes: For decades, anti-communism united conservatives behind the Republican Party. An otherwise disparate collection of national security hawks, free-market enthusiasts and social traditionalists rallied to the GOP, resolutely committed to checking Soviet influence around the world. All of these constituencies had reason to despise godless, revolution-exporting Bolsheviks. Although Russia no longer subscribes to Marxist-Leninist doctrine, it still presents a threat to the United States, its allies and the liberal world order. Witness its aggression against Ukraine, its intervention in Syria and its support for extremists across Europe.

In Donald Trump, the GOP nominated the most pro-Russian U.S. presidential candidate since Henry Wallace, whose 1948 bid on the Progressive Party ticket was largely run by communists. Throughout last year’s campaign, Trump lavished praise on Russian President (and career KGB agent) Vladimir Putin, attacked NATO and encouraged the Kremlin to hack his Democratic opponent’s emails. He even proposed recognizing Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula — the first violent European land grab since World War II — a move that would put the United States in the company of Cuba and North Korea. Since the election, he has openly contradicted the intelligence community’s finding that Moscow tampered in our democracy, calling such claims a “political witch-hunt.”

In his victory, Trump is bringing other Republicans along with him. GOP attitudes toward Russia began improving dramatically after Trump announced his candidacy: In July 2014, four months after Putin annexed Crimea, only 10 percent of Republicans held a favorable opinion of Russia’s president, according to an Economist/YouGov poll. Today, that figure is 37 percent. A recent poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that, while 65 percent of Americans support a congressional inquiry into Russian election interference, a narrow majority (51 percent ) of Republicans oppose it. And a survey released this past week by HuffPost/YouGov showed that 82 percent of Hillary Clinton voters want to maintain sanctions imposed on Moscow in response to its meddling, while only 16 percent of Trump voters do. Now that Russia has dropped its official atheism and anti-capitalism, claiming to be the protector of traditional values and Christendom, a growing number of American conservatives are receptive to Trump’s Russian rapprochement. [Continue reading…]

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Noam Chomsky & Harry Belafonte in conversation on Trump and the times in which we live

 

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Welcome to the age of anger

Pankaj Mishra writes: … as a polarised intellectual industry plays catch-up with fast-moving events that it completely failed to anticipate, it is hard to avoid the suspicion that our search for rational political explanations for the current disorder is doomed. All of the opponents of the new “irrationalism” – whether left, centre, or right – are united by the presumption that individuals are rational actors, motivated by material self-interest, enraged when their desires are thwarted, and, therefore, likely to be appeased by their fulfilment.

This notion of human motivation deepened during the Enlightenment, whose leading thinkers, despising tradition and religion, sought to replace them with the human capacity to rationally identify individual and collective interests. The dream of the late 18th century, to rebuild the world along secular and rational lines, was further elaborated in the 19th century by the utilitarian theorists of the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people – and this notion of progress was embraced by socialists and capitalists alike.

After the collapse of the socialist alternative in 1989, this utopian vision took the form of a global market economy dedicated to endless growth and consumption – to which there would be no alternative. According to this worldview, the dominance of which is now nearly absolute, the human norm is Homo economicus, a calculating subject whose natural desires and instincts are shaped by their ultimate motivation: to pursue happiness and avoid pain.

This simple view always neglected many factors ever-present in human lives: the fear, for instance, of losing honour, dignity and status, the distrust of change, the appeal of stability and familiarity. There was no place in it for more complex drives: vanity, fear of appearing vulnerable, the need to save face. Obsessed with material progress, the hyperrationalists ignored the lure of resentment for the left-behind, and the tenacious pleasures of victimhood. [Continue reading…]

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The rage of 2016

Roger Cohen writes: The long wave unfurled at last. Perhaps it is no surprise that the two societies that felt its furious force — the United States and Britain — are also the open societies at the hub of globalized turbo-capitalism and finance. For at least a decade, accelerating since the crash of 2008, fears and resentments had been building over the impunity of elites, the dizzying disruption of technology, the influx of migrants and the precariousness of modern existence.

In Western societies, for too long, there had been no victories, no glory and diminishing certainties. Wars were waged; nobody knew how they could be won. Their wounds festered. The distance between metropolis and periphery grew into a cultural chasm. Many things became unsayable; even gender became debatable. Truth blurred, then was sidelined, in an online tribal cacophony.

Jobs went. Inequality thrust itself in your face. What the powerful said and the lives people lived were so unrelated that politics looked increasingly like a big heist. Debacle followed debacle — the euro, the Iraq War, the Great Recession — and their architects never paid. Syria encapsulated the West’s newfound impotence, a kind of seeping amorality; and, in its bloody dismemberment, Syria sent into Europe a human tide that rabble-rousers seized upon.

And so the British voted to quit the European Union, symbol of a continent’s triumph over fascism and destructive nationalism. Americans voted on Nov. 8 for Donald J. Trump, who used much of the xenophobic, fear-mongering language of 1930s Europe to assemble an angry mob large enough that he triumphed over a compromised Hillary Clinton. Neither victory was large, but democracies can usher in radical change by the narrowest of margins. To give the Republican president-elect his due, he intuited an immense disquiet and spoke to it in unambiguous language.

A quarter-century after the post-Cold War zenith of liberal democracies and neoliberal economics, illiberalism and authoritarianism are on the march. It’s open season for anyone’s inner bigot. Violence is in the air, awaiting a spark. The winning political card today, as Mr. Trump has shown and Marine Le Pen may demonstrate in the French presidential election next year, is to lead “the people” against a “rigged system,” Muslim migration and the tyrannical consensus of overpaid experts. The postwar order — its military alliances, trade pacts, political integration and legal framework — feels flimsy, and the nature of the American power undergirding it all is suddenly unclear. Nobody excites Mr. Trump as much as Russia’s Vladimir V. Putin, who is to democracy what a sledgehammer is to a Ming vase. Strongmen and autocrats everywhere — not least in Egypt and the Gulf states — are exulting at Mr. Trump’s victory. [Continue reading…]

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Combative, populist Steve Bannon found his man in Donald Trump

The New York Times reports: When Julia Jones arrived at her office in Santa Monica at 8 a.m. — by Hollywood screenwriter standards, the crack of dawn — she found Stephen K. Bannon already at his desk, which was cluttered with takeout coffees. They were co-writers on a Ronald Reagan documentary, but Mr. Bannon had pretty much taken it over. He had been at work for hours, he told her, writing feverishly about his political hero.

Today, with Donald J. Trump, whose election Mr. Bannon helped engineer, on the threshold of power, the 2004 film “In the Face of Evil” has a prophetic ring. Its trailer has an over-the-top, apocalyptic feel: lurid footage of bombs dropping on cities alternating with grainy clips of Reagan speeches, as a choir provides a soaring soundtrack. The message: Only one man was up to the challenge posed by looming domestic and global threats.

“A man with a vision,” the trailer says. “An outsider, a radical with extreme views.”

The Reagan presidency has been a recurring touchstone for Mr. Bannon since 1980, when as a 26-year-old Navy officer he talked his way into Mr. Reagan’s election night celebration. It was at an early screening of “In the Face of Evil” that he met fellow Reagan admirer Andrew Breitbart, the budding conservative media provocateur.

Breitbart.com’s scorn for Muslims, immigrants and black activists drew a fervent following on the alt-right, an extremist fringe of message boards and online magazines popular with white supremacists, and after Mr. Bannon took control of the website in 2012, he built a raucous coalition of the discontented.

More quietly, Mr. Bannon systematically courted a series of politicians, especially those who share his dark, populist worldview: at home, a corrupt ruling class preying on working Americans; globally, “the Judeo-Christian West” in a “war against Islamic fascism.” They were views that placed him closer to the European right than to the Republican mainstream. [Continue reading…]

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What has become of conservatism?

Nick Cohen writes: You may not like conservatives. But you know where you are with them. Or, rather, you knew. Now, Trump, Brexit and the global rise of populism have created a crisis in conservatism across the west. You can tell a crisis is real when the men and women caught up in it duck hard questions. Today’s conservatives don’t want to say who they are and what they mean. They have become shifty operators who hate being pinned down. As Boris Johnson admitted, in one of his occasional moments of honesty, modern conservatives want to have their cake and eat it, too.

When it suits them they remain pragmatists, but that pose does not last for long. Everywhere you look you see conservatives sniffing the air and catching the scent of the radical right. It tempts them with the most seductive perfume in politics: the whiff of power. In Hungary, Poland, Turkey, South America and now, with Trump’s victory, North America, populists, who despise the checks and balances of liberal democracies, are taking control and giving every indication of holding on to it.

Conservatives have learned from Trump that they can break the old taboos. They can abuse women, damn whole races and religions, assault the constitutional order and repeat lie after lie without barely a pause for breath. Far from punishing them, the electorate will reward them. Trump’s victory is a dark liberation. Their suppressed thoughts, their guilty private conversations, now look like election winners. [Continue reading…]

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After Trump and Brexit, populist tsunami threatens European mainstream

Reuters reports: Back in May, when Donald’s Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election seemed the remotest of possibilities, a senior European official took to Twitter before a G7 summit in Tokyo to warn of a “horror scenario”.

Imagine, mused the official, if instead of Barack Obama, Francois Hollande, David Cameron and Matteo Renzi, next year’s meeting of the club of rich nations included Trump, Marine Le Pen, Boris Johnson and Beppe Grillo.

A month after Martin Selmayr, the head of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s cabinet made the comment, Britain shocked the world by voting to leave the European Union. Cameron stepped down as prime minister and Johnson – the former London mayor who helped swing Britons behind Brexit – became foreign minister.

Now, with Trump’s triumph over his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, the populist tsunami that seemed outlandish a few months ago is becoming reality, and the consequences for Europe’s own political landscape are potentially huge.

In 2017, voters in the Netherlands, France and Germany – and possibly in Italy and Britain too – will vote in elections that could be coloured by the triumphs of Trump and Brexit, and the toxic politics that drove those campaigns. [Continue reading…]

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Martin Bosma — Geert Wilders’ brain

Politico reports: Look at photographs of Geert Wilders in the Dutch parliament, and the camera often shows a figure seated behind him: Martin Bosma, the polemicist of the Freedom Party (PVV).

A former journalist, whose side-swept brown hair keeps him a youthful 52, Bosma is often described in Dutch media as the PVV’s ideologist. “He’s the brain. He invented the PVV,” said Geert Tomlow, a former parliamentary elections candidate from the party.

Bosma’s ideas are bearing fruit at just the right time, with the PVV leading in the polls five months from a general election that could see the party double in size in the parliament. He and Wilders have helped push the center-ground of Dutch politics to the Right and mainstreamed positions once confined to the fringe.

Since entering parliament a decade ago, Bosma has published two books, each released to a flurry of television interviews and controversy.

The autobiographical “The Fake Elite of the Counterfeiters” takes aim at a left-wing clique he accuses of taking over cultural institutions and allowing immigration in an underhand coup to achieve radical aims by stealth.

“Minority in One’s Own Land” turns to South African history. Bosma argues that the predominantly Dutch-descended settlers, the Afrikaners, became outnumbered by black South Africans and subjected to “cultural genocide” and “Apartheid 2.0” in events he warns could foreshadow the fate of the Netherlands. [Continue reading…]

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Nearly half the adults in Britain and elsewhere in Europe hold extremist views

BuzzFeed reports: Almost half of the adults in 12 European countries now hold anti-immigrant, nationalist views, according to major new research that reveals the spread of fringe political views into the mainstream.

BuzzFeed News has been given exclusive access to new data from YouGov, which polled more than 12,000 people across the continent to measure the extent of what it termed “authoritarian populist” opinions – a combination of anti-immigration sentiments, strong foreign policy views, and opposition to human rights laws, EU institutions, and European integration policies.

The YouGov findings are the first to capture the political attitudes that are both fuelling, and being fuelled by, upheaval across Europe and beyond – from the continent’s refugee crisis and the Brexit vote in Britain, to the burkini ban in France, to the rise of Donald Trump and the radical “alternative right” in the US.

In Britain, the poll found authoritarian populist attitudes were shared by 48% of adults, despite less than 20% of the population identifying itself as right-wing. Three months on from the EU referendum, prime minister Theresa May has responded this week by appealing directly to disaffected working-class voters with a promise to crackdown on immigration and reassert British sovereignty. [Continue reading…]

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