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…]
The Guardian reports: Donald Trump will disappoint and disillusion his far-right supporters by eschewing white supremacy, according to some of the movement’s own intellectual leaders.
Activists who recently gave Nazi salutes and shouted “hail Trump” at a gathering in Washington will revolt when the new US president fails to meet their expectations, the leaders told the Guardian.
The prospect of such disillusion and internecine squabbling may console liberals who fear a White House tinged with racism and quasi-fascism. All the more reassuring because it comes from far-right influencers and analysts, not wishful progressives.
Instead of enjoying proximity to power, according to this analysis, vocal parts of the loose coalition known as the “alt-right” could remain on the political fringe, wondering what happened to their triumph.
“Their hearts are bigger than their brains,” said Mark Weber, who runs the Institute for Historical Review, an organisation dedicated to exposing “Jewish-Zionist” power. “Saying they want to be the intellectual head of the Trump presidency is delusional.”
Jared Taylor, a white supremacist who runs the self-termed “race-realist” magazine American Renaissance, said the president-elect had already backpedalled on several pledges that had fired up the far-right. “At first he promised to send back every illegal immigrant. Now he is waffling on that.”
David Cole, a self-proclaimed Holocaust revisionist and Taki magazine columnist, envisaged the movement sliding into bickering and in-fighting, stuck in “rabbit warrens” of online trolling rather than policy shaping.
“In January Trump will start governing and will have to make compromises. Even small ones will trigger squabbles between the ‘alt-right’. ‘Trump betrayed us.’ ‘No, you’re betraying us for saying Trump betrayed us.’ And so on. The alt-right’s appearance of influence will diminish more and more as they start to fight amongst themselves.”
In an email interview Peter Brimelow, founder of the webzine Vdare.com, which alleges Mexican plots to remake the US, said Trump’s failure to deliver “important bones” could trigger a backlash. “I think the right of the right is absolutely prepared to revolt. It’s what they do.”
There is, however, a catch: Weber, Taylor and Brimelow – all classified as “extremists” by the Southern Poverty Law Center – said Trump’s victory energised the far-right and that the movement can grow with or without White House help. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: The Prince of Wales has warned that the rise of populist extremism and intolerance towards other faiths risks repeating the “horrors” of the Holocaust.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s religious Thought for the Day slot, the prince delivered an outspoken attack against religious hatred and pleaded for a welcoming attitude to those fleeing persecution.
He said: “We are now seeing the rise of many populist groups across the world that are increasingly aggressive to those who adhere to a minority faith. All of this has deeply disturbing echoes of the dark days of the 1930s.
“My parents’ generation fought and died in a battle against intolerance, monstrous extremism and inhuman attempts to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe.”
The prince did not mention any politicians by name, but his address will be seen by some as a veiled reference to the election of Donald Trump in the US, the rise of the far right in Europe, and increasingly hostile attitudes to refugees in the UK.
“That nearly 70 years later we should still be seeing such evil persecution is to me beyond all belief,” he said. “We owe it to those who suffered and died so horribly not to repeat the horrors of the past.” [Continue reading…]
The Wall Street Journal reports: Russia’s ruling party signed a five-year “cooperation agreement” with the anti-immigrant Freedom Party of Austria, one of the clearest signs that the Kremlin is seeking to deepen ties with nationalist and antiestablishment forces in the West.
The two-page agreement, reached in Moscow after Freedom Party leaders met with officials from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, spells out a common commitment to holding regular joint meetings and public events while working to strengthen social and economic ties between Russia and Austria.
The agreement, seen by The Wall Street Journal, describes “mutual noninterference in internal affairs” and “equal, reliable, and mutually beneficial partnership” as key principles.
The accord is the latest example of Russian efforts to forge ties with antiestablishment, euroskeptic parties in Europe, many of which in turn promote closer ties to Moscow and rolling back the European Union. Marine Le Pen’s National Front has tapped a Russian bank for a loan to help fund its election efforts in France, for instance. Meanwhile, antiestablishment politicians such as Ms. Le Pen, Britain’s Nigel Farage and Geert Wilders, head of the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom, have bashed the EU in interviews on Russian television. [Continue reading…]
Matthew d’Ancona writes: Russian hacking, White House warnings, angry denials by Vladimir Putin’s officials: we are edging towards a digital Cuban crisis. So it is as well to ask what is truly at stake in this e-conflict, and what underpins it.
To which end, meet the most important intellectual you have (probably) never heard of. Alexander Dugin, the Russian political scientist and polemicist, may resemble Santa’s evil younger brother and talk like a villain from an Austin Powers movie. But it is no accident that he has earned the nickname Putin’s Rasputin. His books and posts – often, it must be said impenetrable or plain madcap – are required reading for those who seek to understand the new landscape of Brexit, Donald Trump’s victory and the global surge of the far right.
Born in Moscow in 1962, Dugin is a ferocious champion of Russian imperialism, or what he calls Eurasianism. He supports tradition against liberalism, autocracy against democratic institutions, stern uniformity against Enlightenment pluralism. In The Fourth Political Theory (2009), he claims all this adds up to a new and coherent ideology, supplanting liberal democracy, Marxism and fascism – though he still seems pretty fond of fascism.
The extent of Dugin’s personal access to the Kremlin remains opaque: it has certainly waxed and waned over the decades. What is beyond dispute, however, is the influence his geopolitical vision has enjoyed in the general staff academy and the Russian ministry of defence. Putin’s intervention in Georgia in 2008, his invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and his tightening grip on Syria are all entirely consistent with Dugin’s strategy for Mother Russia.
All of which is alarming enough. But what makes Dugin so suddenly significant is his growing influence in the west. It has long been alleged that he acts as a covert intermediary between Moscow and far-right groups in Europe, many of which are believed to receive funding from the Kremlin.
The purpose of operations like the hacking of the US election has been to destabilise the Atlantic order generally, and America specifically. And on this great struggle, Dugin is positively millenarian: “We must create strategic alliances to overthrow the present order of things, of which the core could be described as human rights, anti-hierarchy, and political correctness – everything that is the face of the Beast, the anti-Christ.” [Continue reading…]
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The Atlantic reports: “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”
That’s how Richard B. Spencer saluted more than 200 attendees on Saturday, gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., for the annual conference of the National Policy Institute, which describes itself as “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.”
Spencer has popularized the term “alt-right” to describe the movement he leads. Spencer has said his dream is “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans,” and has called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”
For most of the day, a parade of speakers discussed their ideology in relatively anodyne terms, putting a presentable face on their agenda. But after dinner, when most journalists had already departed, Spencer rose and delivered a speech to his followers dripping with anti-Semitism, and leaving no doubt as to what he actually seeks. He referred to the mainstream media as “Lügenpresse,” a term he said he was borrowing from “the original German”; the Nazis used the word to attack their critics in the press.
“America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” Spencer said. “It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”
The audience offered cheers, applause, and enthusiastic Nazi salutes. [Continue reading…]
Politico reports: The day after Donald Trump won the White House last week, the American Civil Liberties Union wrote on Twitter that if the president-elect attempts “to implement his unconstitutional campaign promises, we’ll see him in court.”
But when it comes to the immigrant registration program that would target Muslims entering the United States — outlined Wednesday by an adviser to Trump’s transition team — three constitutional lawyers say the ACLU won’t have much of a shot before a judge.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, known for his hard-line stance on immigration, told Reuters in a story published Wednesday that he has been in regular contact with Trump’s immigration advisers and that the president-elect’s team is considering a system modeled after a controversial one implemented in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It fulfills Trump’s promise of “extreme vetting” for immigrants from countries affected by terrorism, a threshold he has yet to flesh out more fully.
That program, labeled the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, required those entering the U.S. from a list of certain countries — all but one predominantly Muslim — to register when they arrived in the U.S., undergo more thorough interrogation and be fingerprinted. The system, referred to by the acronym NSEERS, was criticized by civil rights groups for targeting a religious group and was phased out in 2011 because it was found to be redundant with other immigration systems.
Robert McCaw, director of government affairs for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said a reinstitution of NSEERS would be akin to “just turning back the clock.” CAIR will lobby heavily against the system as not only discriminatory but also ineffective, McCaw said, if it ends up being proposed by the Trump administration.
He also accused Kobach, an architect of the original NSEERS program when he was with the Justice Department under the George W. Bush administration, of having “a long ax to grind with the Muslim community.”
“NSEERS and registries like it are totally ineffective and burdensome and they’re perceived by Muslims and other minorities as just being a massive profiling campaign that, in the past, targeted Muslim travelers solely based on their religion and ethnicity,” he said. “When every country on that list happens to be a majority-Muslim country, it is religious profiling. Because there are threats from other nations and other communities and groups that don’t make it on NSEERS.”
But a program like NSEERS would likely pass constitutional muster before a judge, multiple experts said, in part because it already has. The system was never struck down by a court in the nearly nine years it was in place. [Continue reading…]
CNN reports: White nationalist leaders are praising Donald Trump’s decision to name former Breitbart executive Steve Bannon as his chief strategist, telling CNN in interviews they view Bannon as an advocate in the White House for policies they favor.
The leaders of the white nationalist and so-called “alt-right” movement — all of whom vehemently oppose multiculturalism and share the belief in the supremacy of the white race and Western civilization — publicly backed Trump during his campaign for his hardline positions on Mexican immigration, Muslims, and refugee resettlement. Trump has at times disavowed their support. Bannon’s hiring, they say, is a signal that Trump will follow through on some of his more controversial policy positions.
“I think that’s excellent,” former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke told CNN’s KFile. “I think that anyone that helps complete the program and the policies that President-elect Trump has developed during the campaign is a very good thing, obviously. So it’s good to see that he’s sticking to the issues and the ideas that he proposed as a candidate. Now he’s president-elect and he’s sticking to it and he’s reaffirming those issues.” [Continue reading…]
The Hill reports: Conservative commentator Glenn Beck called President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for a top adviser a “nightmare” who has ties to the white nationalist movement.
“You know, if people really want to in the press would like to call Donald Trump a racist, you might want to stop on that one and spend a little time on [Steve] Bannon,” Beck said on his radio broadcast Monday.
“Bannon has a clear tie to white nationalists — clear tie,” Beck added of the former Breitbart News executive and Trump campaign CEO. “He’s built Breitbart as a platform for the alt-right.
“He’s on record saying that. He’s on record defining the alt-right. He knows what it is. He’s a guy that wants to tear this system down and wants to replace it with a new system.”
Beck said Bannon’s role in Trump’s future administration should inspire fear about the pair’s intentions for America.
“He’s a nightmare,” Beck said of Bannon. “And he’s the chief adviser to the president of the United States now.
“He is a frightening — no, no, no, he is a terrifying man, terrifying man. … It speaks volumes.” [Continue reading…]
In an editorial, the New York Times says: Anyone holding out hope that Donald Trump would govern as a uniter — that the racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and nativism of his campaign were just poses to pick up votes — should think again.
In an ominous sign of what the Trump presidency will actually look like, the president-elect on Sunday appointed Stephen Bannon as his chief White House strategist and senior counselor, an enormously influential post.
Many if not most Americans had never heard of Mr. Bannon before this weekend, and for good reason: He has kept a low profile, even after taking over Mr. Trump’s campaign in August. Before that, he worked as the executive chairman of the Breitbart News Network, parent company of the far-right website Breitbart News, which under Mr. Bannon became what the Southern Poverty Law Center has called a “white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.”
Mr. Bannon himself seems fine with that description, telling Mother Jones last summer that Breitbart was now “the platform for the alt-right,” a loosely organized group of mostly young men who believe in white supremacy; oppose immigration, feminism and multiculturalism; and delight in harassing Jews, Muslims and other vulnerable groups by spewing shocking insults on social media.
To scroll through Breitbart headlines is to come upon a parallel universe where black people do nothing but commit crimes, immigrants rape native-born daughters, and feminists want to castrate all men. Here’s a sample:
“Hoist It High and Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims a Glorious Heritage” (This headline ran two weeks after a white supremacist massacred nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C.)
If you don’t find the headlines alarming, check the reader comments. Or take a look at who’s rejoicing over Mr. Bannon’s selection. The white nationalist Richard Spencer said on Twitter that Mr. Bannon was in “the best possible position” to influence policy, since he would “not get lost in the weeds” of establishment Washington. The chairman of the American Nazi Party said the pick showed that Mr. Trump might be “for ‘real.’” David Duke, former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, called the choice “excellent” and said Mr. Bannon was “basically creating the ideological aspects of where we’re going.”
Mr. Bannon is in some ways a perplexing figure: a far-right ideologue who made his millions investing in “Seinfeld”; a former Goldman Sachs banker who has reportedly called himself a “Leninist” with a goal “to destroy the state” and “bring everything crashing down.” He has also called progressive women “a bunch of dykes” and, in a 2014 email to one of his editors, wrote of the Republican leadership, “Let the grassroots turn on the hate because that’s the ONLY thing that will make them do their duty.”
A few conservatives have spoken out against Mr. Bannon. Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart News editor who resigned in protest last spring, said Mr. Bannon was a “vindictive, nasty figure.” Glenn Beck called him a “nightmare” and a “terrifying man.”
But most Republican officeholders have so far remained silent. Some have dismissed fears about Mr. Bannon. Other Republicans have praised him, like Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, whom Mr. Trump announced as his chief of staff on Sunday, and who said Mr. Bannon could not be such a bad guy because he served in the Navy and went to Harvard Business School. Some saw the pick of Mr. Priebus as evidence that Mr. Trump would not be leaning so much on Mr. Bannon. But don’t be fooled by Mr. Priebus’s elevated title; in the press release announcing both hires, Mr. Bannon’s name appeared above Mr. Priebus’s. In a little more than two months Mr. Bannon, and his toxic ideology, will be sitting down the hall from the Oval Office.
The Washington Post reports: Not long before Americans shocked the world by selecting Donald Trump to be their next president, a wealthy Brazilian businessman who played a reality-star boss on television became mayor of South America’s largest city.
On the other side of the globe, in Southeast Asia, a gun-slinging vigilante who vowed to kill all criminals and dump their bodies until the “fish will grow fat” was elected to lead a nation of 100 million.
And in Britain, voters with a centuries-long streak of moderation and pragmatism opted to ignore the overwhelming advice of experts by leaping into the abyss of life outside the European Union.
The populist wave of 2016 that carried Trump to the pinnacle of international power and influence didn’t start in the United States. And it certainly won’t end there.
Instead, the biggest prize yet for a global movement built on a seemingly bottomless reserve of political, economic and cultural grievance is likely to be an accelerant to even more victories for people and causes bent on upending the existing world order.
“Success breeds success,” said Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “Right now, everyone is susceptible to it. The drivers seem to be universal.”
And unless something dramatic changes to curb the populist appeal, a scattering of surprise victories this year could soon turn into a worldwide rout — the triumph of those who preach strong action over rule of law, unilateralism instead of cooperation and the interests of the majority above the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. [Continue reading…]
Business Insider reports: German investment bank Berenberg believes that “some aspects of Donald Trump’s successful election campaign evoke memories of the dreadful 1930s.”
The bank’s chief economist Holger Schmieding says in a note sent out on Monday that: “After the Brexit vote and the triumph of Trump, the echo of the early 1930s sounds a little less faint than it did before.”
Schmieding highlights populism, rising protectionism and nationalism, isolationism, and the erosion of the political middle ground as key features of both the current political climate and the 1930s.
“Populist” leaders — often dictators such as Hitler and Mussolini — came to power across Europe in the 1930s with promises to restore glory and honour to their countries, often blaming foreign races and religions for the problems.
Both recent the Brexit and Trump campaigns blamed outsiders for problems at home (the EU, Mexicans, Muslims) and had strong nationalist streaks (Make America Great Again, Take Back Control).
International trade tailed off in the wake of the 1929 Wall Street Crash as the US turned inwards. Schmieding says: “Two major policy mistakes turned the financial crisis into a depression” — the US fed tightening monetary policy and the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariff act, which enacted protectionist taxes on imports.
Both Trump and the current pro-Brexit UK government have promised to reverse the rising tide of globalism. Trump plans to do this by scrapping or significantly changing a trade deal with Mexico and putting tariffs on imports from China. UK Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to reign in globalisation.
Schmieding calls the 1930s “dreadful” because the Great Depression, triggered by policy mistakes, led to widespread poverty. The potent economic and political cocktail of depression and nationalism also led to World War II.
But Schmieding says that “the [current] situation is very different in at least three key respects.” These are:
- Rising employment: “Despite widespread anger at the establishment, we are not quite living in pitchfork times again.”
- Lack of ideology: “Trump and some other leading populists today come across as opportunistic self-promoters rather than incorrigible ideologues.”
- International cooperation: “Institutions of international co-operation and the rule of law at home are much stronger in the developed world than they were in Europe in the 1930s.”
As a result, he does not think we are hurtling towards another major global conflict or serious economic crisis. Still, there are significant risks. [Continue reading…]