White Nationalism Is Destroying the West – The New York Times

Good piece:

When rapid immigration and terrorist attacks occur simultaneously — and the terrorists belong to the same ethnic or religious group as the new immigrants — the combination of fear and xenophobia can be dangerous and destructive. In much of Europe, fear of jihadists (who pose a genuine security threat) and animosity toward refugees (who generally do not) have been conflated in a way that allows far-right populists to seize on Islamic State attacks as a pretext to shut the doors to desperate refugees, many of whom are themselves fleeing the Islamic State, and to engage in blatant discrimination against Muslim fellow citizens.

But this isn’t happening only in European countries. In recent years, anti-immigration rhetoric and nativist policies have become the new normal in liberal democracies from Europe to the United States. Legitimate debates about immigration policy and preventing extremism have been eclipsed by an obsessive focus on Muslims that paints them as an immutable civilizational enemy that is fundamentally incompatible with Western democratic values.

Yet despite the breathless warnings of impending Islamic conquest sounded by alarmist writers and pandering politicians, the risk of Islamization of the West has been greatly exaggerated. Islamists are not on the verge of seizing power in any advanced Western democracy or even winning significant political influence at the polls.

The same cannot be said of white nationalists, who today are on the march from Charlottesville, Va., to Dresden, Germany. As an ideology, white nationalism poses a significantly greater threat to Western democracies; its proponents and sympathizers have proved, historically and recently, that they can win a sizable share of the vote — as they did this year in France, Germany and the Netherlands — and even win power, as they have in the United States.

Far-right leaders are correct that immigration creates problems; what they miss is that they are the primary problem. The greatest threat to liberal democracies does not come from immigrants and refugees but from the backlash against them by those on the inside who are exploiting fear of outsiders to chip away at the values and institutions that make our societies liberal.

Anti-Semitic and xenophobic movements did not disappear from Europe after the liberation of Auschwitz, just as white supremacist groups have lurked beneath the surface of American politics ever since the Emancipation Proclamation. What has changed is that these groups have now been stirred from their slumber by savvy politicians seeking to stoke anger toward immigrants, refugees and racial minorities for their own benefit. Leaders from Donald Trump to France’s Marine Le Pen have validated the worldview of these groups, implicitly or explicitly encouraging them to promote their hateful opinions openly. As a result, ideas that were once marginal have now gone mainstream.

….

“It’s the great replacement,” his friend added, echoing the title of a 2010 book by the French writer Renaud Camus, which paints a dark picture of demographic conquest in the West. “They want to replace us.”

As Mr. Camus explains in the book: “You have a people and then, in an instant, in one generation, you have in its place one or several other peoples.” He finds it scandalous that “a veiled woman speaking our language badly, completely ignorant of our culture” is legally considered as French as “an indigenous Frenchman passionate for Romanesque churches, and the verbal and syntactic subtleties of Montaigne and Rousseau.” In Mr. Camus’s eyes, groups like Pegida are heroic. He praises the group as a “liberation front” that is battling “a colonial conquest in progress” where white Europeans are “the colonized indigenous people.”

Ms. Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front party, has a similar fear, and she sees birthright citizenship as the vehicle for replacement. Although she doesn’t use the term favored by many Republicans in the United States (“anchor babies”), she insists, as she told me in an interview last May, that “we must stop creating automatic French citizens.”

This argument has a long pedigree. It can be traced back to the Dreyfus Affair, when the virulently anti-Semitic writer Maurice Barrès warned that immigrants wanted to impose their way of life on France and that it would spell the “ruin of our fatherland.” “They are in contradiction to our civilization,” Barrès wrote in 1900. He saw French identity as rooted purely in his bloodline, declaring, “I defend my cemetery.”

Today’s version of the argument is: if you have foreign blood and don’t behave appropriately, then you don’t get a passport.

Calais and Charlottesville may be nearly 4,000 miles apart, but the ideas motivating far-right activists in both places are the same. When white nationalists descended on Charlottesville in August, the crowd chanted“Jews will not replace us” and “you will not replace us” before one of its members allegedly killed a woman with his car and others beat a black man; last week, they returned bearing torches and chanting similar slogans.

Just as Mr. Trump has plenty to say about Islamic State attacks but generally has no comment about hate crimes against Indians, blacks and Muslims, the European far-right is quick to denounce any violent act committed by a Muslim but rarely feels compelled to forcefully condemn attacks on mosques or neo-Nazis marching near synagogues on Yom Kippur.

Doing so might alienate their base. Alexander Gauland, a co-leader of the newest party in the German Parliament, is adamant that his Alternative for Germany is “not the parliamentary arm of Pegida,” although he did acknowledge in an interview that “a lot of people who march with Pegida in Dresden are people who could be members, or friends, or voters” for the party. Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Gauland and Ms. Le Pen would never admit to being white nationalists, but they are more than happy to dog-whistle to them and accept their support.

Those who worry that a godless Europe and an immigration-friendly America are no match for Islamic extremists have ignored an even greater threat: white nationalists.

Their ideology is especially dangerous because they present themselves as natives valiantly defending the homeland. Because they look and sound like most of their co-citizens, they garner sympathy from the majority in ways that Islamists never could. White nationalism is in many ways a mirror image of radical Islamism. Both share a nostalgic obsession with a purist form of identity: for one, a medieval Islamic state; for the other, a white nation unpolluted by immigrant blood.

If the influence of white nationalists continues to grow, they will eventually seek to trample the rights of immigrants and minorities and dismiss courts and constitutions as anti-democratic because they don’t reflect the supposed preferences of “the people.” Their rise threatens to transform countries that we once thought of as icons of liberalism into democracies only in name.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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