Donald Trump is the first demagogue of the Anthropocene — he won’t be the last

Robinson Meyer writes: Lately I’ve been thinking back to something that John Kerry told The Atlantic’s editor, Jeffrey Goldberg, earlier this year. Asked about the importance of the Middle East to the United States, Kerry answered entirely about the Islamic State.

“Imagine what would happen if we don’t stand and fight [ISIS],” he said:

If we didn’t do that, you could have allies and friends of ours fall. You could have a massive migration into Europe that destroys Europe, leads to the pure destruction of Europe, ends the European project, and everyone runs for cover and you’ve got the 1930s all over again, with nationalism and fascism and other things breaking out. Of course we have an interest in this, a huge interest in this.

The 1930s all over again — Kerry was laying out a prediction in April, but it sounds a little more like description now. Even if America’s current dunderheaded demagogue loses the presidential election, the European project already falters in the United Kingdom, and Russia rumbles with revanchism. Fueled now (as then) by an ailing global economy, far-right nationalism seems ascendant worldwide. It’s hard not to think of the 1930s as the catastrophe which presaged our contemporary tragicomedy.

I write and report climate change, not a pursuit that usually encourages optimism, but watching all this unfold with the atmosphere in mind has been particularly bleak. For the past few months in particular, I’ve been thinking: Wow, this is all happening way earlier than I thought it would.

Spend enough time with some of the worst-case climate scenarios, and you may start to assume, as I did, that a major demagogue would contest the presidency in the next century. I figured that the catastrophic consequences of planetary warming would all but ensure the necessary conditions for such a leader, and I imagined their support coming from a movement motivated by ethnonationalism, economic stagnation, and hatred of immigrants and refugees. I pictured, in other words, something not so far from Trump 2016.

I just assumed it wouldn’t pop up until 2040. [Continue reading…]

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Extremist militias recruiting in fear of Clinton winning election, activists say

The Guardian reports: In the past 12 months, Jessica Campbell has had her car’s fuel line cut and its wheel nuts loosened. Late last year, she had a GPS tracker surreptitiously attached to her vehicle. She is now accustomed to being tailed by unfamiliar vehicles on Interstate 5 near her home in Cottage Grove, just outside Eugene, Oregon. Strangers have regularly come uninvited onto her property; someone even stripped the barbed wire on her fence “just to send a message”. Online, she has repeatedly been threatened with rape and death.

And last week, when she showed up at the Canyon City community hall in Grant County, she told me that someone shot at her and her entourage. They misread their GPS, took a wrong turn and stopped to get their bearings when a crack rang out with what Campbell thought was a .22 bullet whizzing by their vehicle.

Such threats are part of the pushback her work has sparked in rural Oregon.

Campbell co-directs the Rural Organizing Project, a not-for-profit group that sets out to confront the rightwing insurgency that has been bubbling away in parts of rural Oregon and throughout the west. A political organizer since high school, she now coordinates groups attempting to respond to divisive tactics from rightwing activists on immigration, race and public land ownership.

This extremist surge received national media attention during the occupation of the Malheur national wildlife refuge by the Bundy group, but it has continued to rise alongside Trump, with his legitimization of white nationalist politics and his apparent inspiration of insurrectionists across the country. [Continue reading…]

The SPLC identified 998 active extreme antigovernment groups in 2015: The antigovernment movement has experienced a resurgence, growing quickly since 2008, when President Obama was elected to office. Factors fueling the antigovernment movement in recent years include changing demographics driven by immigration, the struggling economy and the election of the first African-American president. [Continue reading…]

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Migrant and refugee children are victims of more bullying than their peers

By Simona Carla Silvia Caravita, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

As migrants and refugees begin to settle into new lives across Europe, they face many challenges – from securing residency papers, to learning a new language and finding work. For children, new schools can also be difficult places to grow up. In our recent research we found that migrant and refugee children in Italian schools were more likely to be bullied than their peers, many because their schoolmates already held prejudices against them.

Rates of bullying among children are high across the world, according to a recent report from the UN’s special representative on violence against children. There is a big social cost to being bullied and these children face a greater risk of poor health, internalised stress, and suicidal thoughts.

Negative outcomes of bullying are now not only being reported in high-income countries, where the majority of research is conducted. A new briefing published by UNICEF’s Office of Research has looked at bullying among adolescents in low- and middle-income countries and the effect this has on young adults. It showed how adolescents in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam who were bullied by peers at age 15 tended to experience negative effects at age 19. These included lower self-esteem, a lower perception of their own success (known as self-efficacy) and more strained relationships with their peers and with their parents.

In our research, we wanted to look at the factors that increase the risk of bullying among particularly vulnerable children. The recent European immigration crisis, and in particular the situation in Italy and Greece, called our attention to the problem of bullying among migrant and refugee children attending Italian schools.

In 2013 and 2014, 9% of the Italian school pupil population were migrant and refugee children, according to data from the Italian Minister of Education Bullying of migrant and refugee children because of their migrant status, similar to victimisation of children of a particular ethnic group, is known as bias-based bullying.

[Read more…]

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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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Polish workers, Indian students and Italian politicians voice fears over Brexit effect on British culture

The Observer reports: Two young Polish women on the train from Gatwick into London are chattering away, bags at their feet. Off the flight from Kraków after five days at home with family, they followed the news, and the speeches, from Britain all week. “You have to – so as to get an idea of how long before we will be driven out of England. I’m sure it will happen,” said Angela, who is the manager of a gastropub near Oxford.

“It’s sad this is the way things are going because I was pleased to have a woman prime minister, but my boss said to me it will be bad. He’s angry because he wants to choose staff for how good they are, not their nationality. He says it will be hard to replace me, which is nice to hear,” she said.

Angela and her friend, Martina, are among the 600,000 people who will not have been in the UK for five years – giving, under present rules, permanent residency rights – by the time the UK leaves the EU in 2019. Now she and her friend are alarmed by the tone of the rhetoric that emerged from last week’s Tory conference. They are among thousands across Europe and beyond who fear that life for people hoping to settle in Britain may be about to become more difficult.

Of the 2.1 million EU nationals employed in the UK, Poles are the biggest group. Of EU nationals in the UK, Poles number 916,000, Irish 332,000, Romanians 233,000 and Portuguese 219,000, according to latest figures from the Office of National Statistics.

“My cousin is a priest here, he would rather be in Poland, close to his old mother, but he came where there is a shortage [of priests] and to be where he is needed. Britain does need workers,” Angela said. “In Poland people are worried, shocked. They say Britain is now dangerous and tell stories in the newspaper of race attacks and murders. People are scared if their children are living here,” she added. [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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Xenophobia inside British government: Foreign experts are now barred from offering advice on Brexit

The Guardian reports: Leading foreign academics acting as expert advisers to the UK government have been told they will not be asked to contribute to any government analysis and reports on Brexit because they are not British nationals.

“It is utterly baffling that the government is turning down expert, independent advice on Brexit simply because someone is from another country,” said Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats’ EU spokesman.

“This is yet more evidence of the Conservatives’ alarming embrace of petty chauvinism over rational policymaking.”

Sara Hagemann, an assistant professor at the London School of Economics who specialises in EU policymaking processes, EU treaty matters, the role of national parliaments and the consequences of EU enlargements, said she had been told her services would not be required. [Continue reading…]

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Xenophobia finds a foothold among those who feel left behind

Stefan Berg writes: I recently ran into a man in Brandenburg who, for no obvious reason, began to rail against German President Joachim Gauck before spitting on the ground and storming away. Another time, I overheard a loud discussion about refugees in a bus, one that escalated into an exchange of ideas for how best to neglect or even abuse migrants: by giving them only bread and water, for instance, or keeping them in cages. In the nearby butcher shop, you can find people who don’t care much about freedom — people who demand a “clear position,” a “bit more Putin” and less “palaver in the talk-shop,” by which they mean the German parliament in Berlin. Outside the butcher’s, there’s a parked car with the bumper sticker: “death penalty for child abusers.”

In its report on the state of German unity, which was celebrated on Monday, the government warned that Eastern Germany’s xenophobia represents a danger to social harmony. No matter where it takes place, xenophobia can be dangerous for its victims, whether in East or West. But the government in Berlin has identified a greater danger in Eastern Germany — one that threatens society as a whole.

Every time a snarling horde marches against a refugee home in Saxony, every time the chancellor is confronted with hateful tirades during a public appearance, I wonder if this behavior is typical for Eastern Germany. At first glance, my answer is: No. The majority of Eastern Germans clearly adhere to the rules of decency and democracy. Nevertheless, something “typically Eastern German” can still be identified in these excesses. [Continue reading…]

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How Vladimir Putin feeds Europe’s rabid right

Anna Nemtsova writes: Victor Orban, the right-wing leader of Hungary, offered his people a simple formula: Come and vote in a referendum against allowing in more asylum-seekers and you will be safe from terrorism in your country.

Prime Minister Orban also promised that if people did not show up for the migration referendum on Sunday, Hungary would have wasted more than $36 million, which is what the authorities were spending to organize the vote to reject the European Union quota of 1,229 refugees. That was the price to stop terrorism, according to Orban. (According to critics, that was $30,000 per head of anti-humanitarian spending.)

As often happens in Europe these days, the results were confusing, and unsettling.

Orban had compared migrants to “poison.” Hungary would “give Europe the finger,” he said, vowing to change Hungary’s constitution so the European Union would have no right to impose any rules on the country without its parliament’s approval.

This is the same country, remember, that just a dozen years ago celebrated its membership in the EU. Now it wants to restructure the whole thing. [Continue reading…]

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The new star of Germany’s far right

Thomas Meaney writes: For decades, the German far right has been a limited force, with easily recognizable supporters—nicotine-stained ex-Nazis in the sixties and seventies, leather-clad skinheads in the eighties and nineties. [Alternative für Deutschland leader, Frauke] Petry is something different, a disarmingly wholesome figure — a former businesswoman with a Ph.D. in chemistry and four children from her marriage to a Lutheran pastor. During a month I spent with her this summer as she drove around Germany giving speeches, she drew connections between politics and laboratory science, sprinkled her speech with Latin phrases, and steered discussions about German culture toward the cantatas of Bach.

Petry is not a gifted orator. Her speeches tend to be dull, with ornate sentences and technocratic talking points, and she is more comfortable citing economic studies than discussing the lives of ordinary people. Her manner belies the extremism of the AfD’s views. At the start of this year, Petry said that, in the face of the recent influx of refugees (many of them fleeing the war in Syria), the police might have to shoot people crossing the border illegally. In April, the Party said that head scarves should be banned in schools and universities, and minarets prohibited. Party members called for a referendum on whether to leave the euro; for the expulsion of Allied troops, who have been stationed in Germany since 1945; and for school curriculums that focus more on “positive, identity-uplifting” episodes in German history and less on Nazi crimes. Most contentious of all was the declaration “Islam does not belong in Germany.”

By American standards, especially in the age of Donald Trump, contemporary German politics is decorous and understated. But although Petry’s crisp style is in many ways the opposite of Trump’s, her rise has similarities to his. She, too, has come late to politics and relishes her outsider status. Like him, she often works by insinuation, fanning right-wing conspiracy theories not merely to stir up grievances but to bind members together with a sense of shared beliefs. Like him, she has been accused of financial improprieties. Like him, she castigates the media for liberal bias but also thrives on media attention. Petry and her colleagues have mastered the art of dominating the news cycle, to the point where a visitor to Germany listening to the radio or reading the newspapers could be forgiven for thinking that the AfD is the party in power. [Continue reading…]

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How Clausnitz in Saxony became shorthand for the ugly, xenophobic side of Germany

Takis Würger writes: I spent a month living in Clausnitz. I rented a guest room on a farm for eight euros a night.

One of the first village residents to speak with me was a refugee. Sitting on a bench in front of his home, he told me his story. He comes from a place full of forests and lakes, he said. Before the war, his father had worked at a paper factory, but he then went to the front and died there.

His mother fled with her son – making parts of the journey on foot and others in a horsecart. His mother carefully preserved a paper cornet as they fled that she had filled with a mixture of oatmeal and chocolate. She gave her son three spoonfuls of it each day.

His mother had no money to give to smugglers to ensure they would be taken to safety, so she gave them her wedding ring.

When the boy grew weak, she said to him: “We have to make it to Clausnitz.”

Today, that boy is 76 years old. He hasn’t set eyes on his home village of Hammermühle in Pomerania (in today’s Poland) since he fled 70 years ago. Hans-Peter Neitzke is a tall, upright man with a fisherman’s cap and blue overalls. He rented me my room.

When people learned one year ago that Syrian refugees would be coming to a village next to Clausnitz, his phone rang and a man told him he was collecting signatures against the refugees, Nietzke explains. “But I’m a refugee myself,” he told the man. [Continue reading…]

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Merkel’s party slumps in Berlin election, but don’t count her out for 2017

By Daniel Hough, University of Sussex

Angela Merkel’s CDU is having a tough time of late. The latest blow came via the Berlin state parliament election, where the party managed to cling on to second place but was dumped out of the city’s government.

This was the CDU’s worst ever performance in an election in the German capital. It took a meagre 18% of the vote (down from 23.3% in 2011).

The Social Democrats (SPD) also lost votes (down from 28.3% to around 22%), as did the Greens (from just over 17% to around 15.5%). The one consolation for the SPD and Greens is that they are likely to be key players in the next Berlin government – even if as part of a rather broad and unwieldy left-wing coalition alongside the Left Party.

The main winners, as had been widely predicted, were the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD). The AfD was nowhere in sight in 2011, but took around 13% of the vote this time round. A heavily anti-immigration (and particularly anti-refugee) rhetoric has chimed with parts of the electorate beyond Berlin, and the party now sits in 10 of Germany’s 16 regional parliaments. It is almost certain to add Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein, Northrhine-Westphalia and the federal parliament to this list in 2017.

[Read more…]

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