Pauline Hanson built a political career on white victimhood and brought far-right rhetoric to the mainstream

Of note. Bernier tried (and continues to try) to play a similar game:

Pauline Hanson and her party have only achieved modest electoral successes. Yet, she is undoubtedly Australia’s most successful populist politician and has had a profound impact on the way the country talks about issues like multiculturalism and immigration.

Hanson’s entire political career can be seen as a denial and rejection of the realities of whiteness in Australia – that is, the unearned benefits and privileges afforded to white people in settler-colonial countries.

Hanson has benefited from – and helped to shape – the normalisation of racism and xenophobia in Australia. She has pushed the boundaries of what can be “acceptably said” in public discourse and has had a disproportionate influence on the national debate.

In doing so, she has also created the political space for other far-right figures like Fraser Anning to emerge and become more a part of the political mainstream.

The birth of One Nation

Hanson first emerged on the political landscape in 1996 when she was disendorsed as the Liberal Party candidate for Oxley following racist comments she made about Indigenous people in a letter to the Queensland Times.

She contested the election anyway, running as an independent on a self-described nationalist, populist and protectionist platform, and won the seat with a large swing against the Labor incumbent.

In her maiden speech to the House of Representatives, Hanson claimed to speak on behalf of “mainstream Australians” and promised a “common sense” approach to politics.

Most controversially, Hanson warned Australia was “in danger of being swamped by Asians”, called for the abolition of multiculturalism and railed against Indigenous rights, so-called “political correctness” and “reverse-racism”.

The times suited Hanson. After 13 years of Labor government, John Howard and the Liberal Party looked to exploit a sense of resentment and grievance on the issues of multiculturalism and immigration, which arguably opened up the space for Hanson and helped to legitimise her views.

Indeed, in a 1996 speech delivered to the Queensland Liberal Party, Howard celebrated the idea people felt able to speak a little more freely and could do so without living in fear of being branded as a bigot or racist.

Hanson’s One Nation party was formed the following year and performed well at the 1998 Queensland state election, winning 11 seats.

Hanson’s downfall and political resurrection

One Nation’s initial success, however, was short-lived. Hanson failed to win the newly redistributed seat of Blair at the 1998 federal election. Her party then began to suffer from internal divisions, poor leadership and Hanson’s personal and financial scandals.

She was subsequently convicted of electoral fraud in 2003. (It was later overturned on appeal.)

After a number of failed federal and state campaigns (including under the rebranded Pauline’s United Australia Party), Hanson finally succeeded in being elected to the Senate in 2016, along with three other One Nation candidates.

This represented a high point for the party at the federal level and gave it considerable influence over government policy.

Hanson’s populist, nativist beliefs

Hanson can best be described as a populist radical right politician, alongside such figures as Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen and Viktor Orbán.

For populist figures, politics are seen as a struggle between everyday, ordinary people and a corrupt, illegitimate and out-of-touch elite.

But more importantly, the populist radical right also uses the language of “us-versus-them” and portrays immigrants and refugees as existential threats to the safety, security and “culture” of a particular society.

In Hanson’s view, non-natives must either assimilate and embrace “Australian culture and values” or “go back to where they came from”.

Hanson has consistently drawn on a sense of grievance and victimhood – in particular, white victimhood. She has espoused a belief in the existence of so-called “reverse-racism” or “anti-white” racism since the outset of her political career.

Hanson has even gone so far as to claim the most downtrodden person in this country is the white Anglo-Saxon male.

The mainstreaming of the far-right

Hanson’s resurgence in 2016 occurred in a very different political climate than her first stint in parliament in the late 1990s.

Political scientist Cas Mudde refers to the 21st century as the “fourth wave of the far-right”. It is a time when far-right ideas are becoming increasingly tolerated, debated and normalised in the mainstream and the boundaries of what can be said are shifting.

Emboldened by years of normalised Islamophobia in Australia and the electoral successes of far-right parties globally, Hanson’s maiden Senate speech warned Australia was now in danger of being swamped by Muslims, who bear a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own.

She called for a “Trump style” immigration ban, a Royal Commission into Islam and the “banning of the burqa”.

Hanson’s resurgence has clearly cemented Muslims as the new “dangerous other”, though her racist attitudes towards First Nations people and Asian immigrants have also remained a constant.

Her claims of “anti-white racism” have also gained traction in the mainstream. For example, when Hanson put forth a Senate motion declaring “it’s OK to be white” in 2018, a surprising number of Coalition members voted for it and later defended it on Twitter.

It was only later, after a vocal outcry, that the Coalition backed down and claimed the votes were made in error.

The media have played a key role in the mainstreaming of Hanson and One Nation by consistently giving them a platform to voice far-right ideas.

Hanson’s legacy and impact on society

There are a couple of ways to think about Hanson’s legacy and impact on society.

The first is to gauge her direct influence on government policy through her role as a parliamentarian. There’s no doubt she has wielded considerable influence as one of a number of senators to hold the balance of power in recent years.

Yet, despite some success in influencing legislation and her recent appointment as deputy chair of the family law inquiry, Hanson has been largely unsuccessful in seeing her signature policies realised.

And while acknowledging Hanson’s role in mainstreaming far-right ideas, it’s important to note these ideas have existed before her maiden speeches and will exist well beyond her time in politics.

Exclusively focusing on Hanson’s individual acts ignores the systemic nature of racism and the role of the mainstream political class in reproducing and upholding these racist structures.

When assessing Hanson’s legacy, it may be comforting to view her as an aberration and reflection of a bygone era, but she remains very much a product of the Australian settler-colonial story.

It’s perhaps more accurate to think of Hanson as a symptom of racism and xenophobia in Australia, rather than its cause.

Munich bans use of Nazi ‘Jewish star’ at coronavirus protests

Sad that it has had to come to this:

The city of Munich banned the use of Nazi-era Stars of David at coronavirus protests on Sunday after participants were seen wearing them in recent weeks.

Several protesters in cities across Germany have started wearing six pointed, yellow stars with the word “unvaccinated” emblazoned on them. From the color to the font, they’re nearly identical to the badges Jewish people were forced to wear across Nazi-occupied territories during the Holocaust.

Read moreHow are Germany’s coronavirus protests different?

Other anti-lockdown protesters have also dressed up in stripped prisoner uniforms — drawing comparison to concentration camp prisoners — and held up signs reading: “Masks will set you free” or “Vaccination will set you free.”

The slogans reference the “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work will set you free”) signs that hung above several concentration camps, where millions of Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

Demonstrators are using the highly questionable protest tactics to voice their opposition to mandatory coronavirus vaccines — despite the fact that the German government has repeatedly said it will not implement such a program.

Politicians slam anti-Semitic tactic

Felix Klein, Germany’s commissioner for the fight against anti-Semitism, said that wearing the altered Jewish stars was a “calculated breaking of a taboo,” reported local public broadcaster Bayerische Rundfunk.

The tactic has been used increasingly in protests in Germany, Klein said. In using symbols of the Holocaust to provoke at protests, he added, the demonstrators downplay the victims and their suffering.

Other politicians have called for more cities and states to also ban the use of Nazi-era stars at protests and to label them as a form of incitement.

Rüdiger Erben, a Social Democrat lawmaker in the state parliament of Saxony-Anhalt, said that the symbols have also appeared at protests in his state and that they have nothing to do with freedom of speech or freedom of assembly.

Whoever puts on one of the stars is acting “as an anti-Semite of the most repulsive kind,” Erben told news agency epd.

Protesters have been gathering for weeks in cities across Germany to demonstrate against the government’s restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Although participant numbers are starting to dwindle, politicians and analysts have grown increasingly concerned about right-wing extremist radicalization at the demonstrations.

Source: Munich bans use of Nazi ‘Jewish star’ at coronavirus protests

ICYMI: Germany sees rise in anti-Semitic, political crimes

Of note:

Germany saw a rise both far-right and far-left crimes in 2019, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday.

The country’s police recorded just over 41,000 cases of politically motivated crime last year, representing a rise of 14.2% compared to 2018, when there were just over 36,000.

More than half of all cases could be attributed to the far-right scene, the statistics show, with 22,342 cases, representing a 9.4% increase. The politically motivated crimes recorded ranged from verbal abuse, spreading racist propaganda, hate speech, to assault, arson, and murder. There has also been a 23% rise in far-left crime, focused particularly in the eastern city of Leipzig.

At the press conference, Seehofer was at pains to allay concerns that police or authorities were losing sight of far-right violence.

“The biggest threat comes from the far-right, we have to see that clearly,” Seehofer said,

Authorities also recorded 2,032 crimes motivated by anti-Semitism – a rise of 13% over 2018, and the highest since those statistics were collected. Some 93.4% of those crimes were carried out by far-right perpetrators. Seehofer said there was a similar figure – 90.1% – for Islamophobic crimes, which have also risen by 4% to 950 cases.

More propaganda, more murders

Next week marks the first anniversary of the murder of conservative politician Walter Lübcke, head of government in Kassel, central Germany. Far-right extremist Stephan E. initially confessed to the murder, though he withdrew the confession earlier this year and replaced it with a partial confession implicating an accomplice.

Far-right killings continued in February this year, when nine people of immigrant background were murdered by an extremist in two cafes in the central German city of Hanau.

The figures show that 36.8% of far-right crimes involve “propaganda offenses,” 13.7% involve “racist hate speech,” 4.9% property damage, and 4.4% violence against people.

Georg Maier, interior minister of Thuringia, who joined the press conference as the current chairman of the state interior ministers’ conference, was particularly forthright on the far-right threat.

“What we experienced in 2019 and 2020 represents a new dimension of threat against our democracy,” Maier said. “This danger is coming from the right. Three murders in 2019, and in 2020 already 10 murders with a racist and far-right extremist background. It had been a long time since we had the murder of a political representative in Germany, and that makes very clear how big the challenge for us is.”

Last week, Seehofer attended the first meeting of a newly established Cabinet committee, chaired by Chancellor Angela Merkel, to fight right-wing extremism and racism. “It was a very, very good and deep discussion,” Seehofer said. A cabinet report on new measures is planned for next spring.

The far-right and anti-lockdown protests

Maier, a Social Democrat who said his own campaign posters had been defaced with swastikas, said he had noticed an increase in “far-right structures,” both in the form of concerts, martial arts clubs, and online groups.

He said that organizers were using concerts to raise money for political campaigns and mentioned that far-right had even opened bars to create another revenue stream.

He went on connect such developments to a more polarized political atmosphere, and suggested that recent demonstrations against social distancing measures had been deliberately “undermined” by the far-right scene.

The data was released as police in Germany on Wednesday raided 25 premises linked to 31 suspected members of anti-government Reich Citizens Movement — a movement that overlaps with far-right extremist groups.

The group was suspected of making fake documents, including passports, driver’s licenses and birth certificates. The raids took place in the states of Hesse and Baden-Württemberg.

A faction of the group was officially banned by Seehofer in March for its anti-Semitic and right-wing sympathies.

Source: Germany sees rise in anti-Semitic, political crimes

‘A Perfect Storm’: Extremists Look For Ways To Exploit Coronavirus Pandemic

As they seek to exploit all issues:

For months, authorities say, 36-year-old white supremacist Timothy Wilson amassed bomb-making supplies and talked about attacking a synagogue, a mosque or a majority-black elementary school.

Then the coronavirus hit the United States, giving Wilson a new target — and a deadline. The FBI says Wilson planned to bomb a Missouri hospital with COVID-19 patients inside, and he wanted to do it before Kansas City’s stay-at-home order took effect at midnight on March 24.

“Wilson considered various targets and ultimately settled on an area hospital in an attempt to harm many people, targeting a facility that is providing critical medical care in today’s environment,” the FBI said in a statement.

The attack never happened. Wilson died in a shootout March 24 when federal agents moved to arrest him after a six-month investigation. It was an extraordinary domestic terrorism case, yet it got lost in the nonstop flood of news about the coronavirus pandemic. Extremism researchers warn against overlooking such episodes; they worry the Missouri example is a harbinger as far-right militants look for ways to exploit the crisis.

Already, monitoring groups have recorded a swell of hatred — including cases of physical violence — toward Asian Americans. Dehumanizing memes blame Jews for the virus. Conspiracy theories abound about causes and cures, while encrypted chats talk about spreading infection to people of color. And there is the rise of “Zoombombing” — racists crashing private videoconferences to send hateful images and comments.

“We know from our work in the trenches against white nationalism, antisemitism, and racism that where there is fear, there is someone organizing hate,” Eric Ward, executive director of the Western States Center, said in a statement. The Oregon-based monitoring group recorded about 100 bias-motivated incidents in the two weeks after the alleged Missouri plot was foiled.

Here are some areas extremism trackers are watching as the pandemic unfolds:

Hate crimes

A March FBI assessment predicted “hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States, due to the spread of coronavirus disease,” according to an intelligence report obtained by ABC News.

The report, prepared by the FBI’s Houston office and issued to law enforcement agencies nationwide, warned that “a portion of the U.S. public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations.” That idea has been reinforced by political leaders including President Trump, who has referred to the “Chinese virus” and variations that reference China or Wuhan rather than the clinical terms used by health officials.

Asian Americans say they have experienced hostility, with a dramatic increase in reports of racist incidents. A handful of them were violent attacks that are under investigation as hate crimes. For example, federal authorities say hatred motivated a 19-year-old Texas man who was arrested in a stabbing attack that targeted an Asian-American family at a Sam’s Club. The suspect told authorities that he thought the family was spreading the coronavirus.

Some Asian Americans have expressed fears that violence could increase once stay-at-home orders are lifted. A coalition of advocacy groups has appealed to Congress to denounce racism and xenophobia linked to the pandemic.

“This is a global emergency that should be met with both urgency and also cultural awareness that Covid-19 is not isolated to a single ethnic population,” Jeffrey Caballero, executive director of the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, said in a statement. “Xenophobic attacks and discrimination towards Asian American communities are unacceptable.”

Recruiting out-of-school kids

Millions of young Americans are home from school, bored, and scrolling through social media sites for hours every day. To white supremacist recruiters, they’re prey.

Cynthia Miller-Idriss, an American University professor who writes extensively about far-right extremism, said the increase in unsupervised screen time at a time of crisis creates “a perfect storm for recruitment and radicalization.” PERIL, the extremism research lab Miller-Idriss runs on campus, is scrambling for “rapid response” grants to develop an awareness campaign and toolkit for parents and caregivers about the risks of online radicalization in the coronavirus era.

“For extremists, this is an ideal time to exploit youth grievances about their lack of agency, their families’ economic distress, and their intense sense of disorientation, confusion, fear and anxiety,” Miller-Idriss said. Without the usual social support from trusted adults such as coaches and teachers, she said, “youth become easy targets for the far right.”

Anti-government flashpoints

Militias and self-described “constitutionalist” factions, categorized by federal authorities as anti-government extremists, are making noise about stay-at-home orders. Some armed groups reject the measures outright, calling them unconstitutional or overreaching. Another subset is openly defiant, as if daring authorities to use force and turn the issue into a high-stakes standoff.

Over Easter weekend, Ammon Bundy, who led an armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon in 2016, held a service that drew some 200 people to a warehouse in Idaho. Photos showed worshippers, including children, unmasked and sitting in close quarters.

If the perceived constitutional infringements worsen, Bundy has told his supporters, then “physically stand in defense in whatever way we need to.” That kind of provocation could turn ugly quickly, warn monitors of the anti-government movement.

Calls for violence

Extremism monitors are keeping tabs on so-called accelerationists, a subset of the racist right that believes in using violence to sow chaos in order to collapse society and replace it with a white nationalist model.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, an extremism watchdog group, has said, “Accelerationists consider themselves the revolutionary vanguard of the white supremacist movement.” In chat forums, they’ve discussed using the virus to infect people of color, staging attacks on medical centers and other forms of violence they hope will trigger a domino effect leading to the breakdown of society.

“These far-right extremists are arguing that the pandemic, which has thrown into question the federal government’s ability to steer the nation through a crisis, supports their argument that modern society is headed toward collapse,” wrote Cassie Miller of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Miller wrote that, for now, the fallout is already so chaotic that the accelerationists are content to watch, reckoning, “the situation seems to be escalating on its own, requiring no additional involvement on their part.”

Miller cited a white supremacist podcaster who told his followers: “It seems to be going plenty fast, thanks.”

Source: ‘A Perfect Storm’: Extremists Look For Ways To Exploit Coronavirus Pandemic

Neo-Nazis from U.S. and Europe build far-right links at concerts in Germany

Of note. As if we don’t have enough to worry about these days…

As the deafeningly loud, rapid-fire music known as “hate rock” blasted out, hundreds of white nationalists, skinheads and neo-Nazis nodded their heads and swigged their drinks.

Among them was Keith, 46, a welder from Las Vegas, who for the second year in a row had traveled from Nevada to Germany to attend several far-right events.

“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,” Keith told NBC News in June.

However, he was not there just to enjoy the music. He said he was also hoping to share ideas and strategies with like-minded people — a small part of what Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said was becoming an increasingly interconnected international movement with “clear links” between Europe and the U.S.

“You can’t just sit at home and eat cheeseburgers anymore. It’s time to mobilize,” said Keith, who did not wish to have his last name published, for fear of reprisals back in the U.S.

Events like the one in Themar, a small town in central Germany, are reluctantly tolerated and strictly controlled by the authorities. Both federal and local police could be seen monitoring the gathering, and riot squads with water cannons were braced for trouble nearby.

Keith changed his clothes before venturing to the event. At a privately run hotel before the event, he had been dressed from head to toe in clothing full of white power symbolism, and he wore a necklace showing Odin’s wolves and Thor’s hammer.

His big steel-capped boots, with 14 lace holes representing a popular white supremacist slogan, were scuffed from “brawling,” he boasted.

He said he was prevented from wearing them outside because German police considered them a weapon.

The country’s laws also ban the display of Nazi imagery and any action that could be deemed an incitement of hatred. To avoid arrest, many attendees walked around with Band-Aids on to hide their swastika tattoos.

“You’ll notice there’s a whole lot of people with scratches or bruises around here,” Keith said, adding that while he had given Nazi salutes many times, he would not do so in Germany because he would likely be arrested

Like other events of its type, it was held just outside the town, cordoned off to keep it separate from the local community. Keith and his fellow attendees then faced a gauntlet of searches and Breathalyzer tests from the authorities and jeering from a handful of anti-fascist protesters.

Separated by police and metal barriers, one of the demonstrators blew bubbles at them, while another taunted them with a beer can on a fishing rod.

As they have at many events of this type, police had banned the sale of alcohol, citing violence at similar events in the past. In March 2019, journalists and police officers were attacked at a far-right rock concert in Saxony.

Once inside the event in Themar, attendees, including a number of Americans like Keith, were greeted by Patrick Schroeder, who runs a weekly internet TV show espousing far-right views. He handed them free red baseball caps emblazoned with “MGHA,” shortform for “Make Germany Hate Again.” They mimick the “Make America Great Again” hats used to promote Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“We make it look like the Donald Trump party when he was elected,” said Schroeder, who has been dubbed a “nipster,” or “Nazi-hipster,” by the German media.

While the German government does not regularly publish the number of far-right events and concerts, the Interior Ministry has provided them when asked by members of Parliament. The last time they were made public, the figures showed that there had been 132 events of this type from January to September 2019.

There was a “major increase” in the number of violent crimes linked to the far right in Germany in 2017, according to the latest report from the Interior Ministry. The rise in right-wing extremist offenses motivated by anti-Semitism during the reporting year was also “noticeable,” it said, without providing figures.

In the U.S. meanwhile, the FBI recorded 7,036 hate crimes in 2018 — the latest figures available — of which 59.6 percent were racially motivated. That was a 17 percent spike in hate crimes overall, and there was a 37 percent increase in anti-Jewish incidents — the most common kind.

While it is unclear how many Americans attend events like the one in Themar, “there’s a great deal of cross-pollination” between the far right in Europe and the U.S., said Greenblatt.

“There are clear links between white supremacists in the United States and their ideological fellow travelers in Europe,” Greenblatt said in an interview, adding that the alt-right in the U.S. and Europe’s far-right Identitarian movement were both young and sophisticated and used the internet and social media to spread their messages.

“Both these movements have a lot in common,” he added. “They are anti-globalization, they are anti-democratic, they are anti-Semitic to the core, and they are highly opposed to multiculturalism and diversity of any sort.”

European white supremacists were marching in 2017 at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where counterdemonstrator Heather Heyer was killed when a car was deliberately driven into a crowd, he said.

A few months later, American white supremacists marched at the Independence Day rally in Poland, he added.

Greenblatt said there was a “through line” between a series of atrocities linked to attackers inspired by far-right thinking, including Anders Breivik, now 40, who killed 77 people in Norway’s worst terrorist attack in July 2011.

Breivik told a court that he wanted to promote his manifesto, a mixture of his thinking, far-right theories and other people’s writing. This included sections from a manifesto produced by Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, who over a number of years sent letter bombs to several universities and airlines, killing three people and wounding 23 others.

American white supremacist Dylann Roof, now 25, who killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in a bid to promote a “race war” in June 2015, cited Breivik as an influence, as did white nationalist Alexandre Bissonnette, now 21, who shot six people dead at a mosque in Quebec City in 2017. Bissonnette also praised Roof.

After 11 people were gunned down at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018, the suspect, Robert Gregory Bowers, was found to have repeatedly threatened Jews in online forums. British lawmaker Jo Cox was killed in the street in 2016 by a man inspired by far-right beliefs.

In March 2019, a man walked into two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 59 people as he livestreamed the attack on Facebook. He referred to Breivik, Roof and Bissonnette in his writings.

“We are no longer talking about one-off events, but a loosely coordinated chain of far-right attacks across the world, where members of these networks inspire — and challenge — each other to beat each other’s body counts,” said Peter Neumann, a professor of security studies at King’s College London.

These killers want to “launch a race war,” he said, adding: “The aim is to carry out attacks, claim responsibility, explain your actions and inspire others to follow.”

Describing himself as “a white internationalist because I’m international at this point and I’m participating in political activities on more than one continent,” Keith said he did not approve of violence.

But he said he thought the far-right attacks were a “direct result of the terrorist attacks that have happened against Christians and white people throughout the world.”

Keith said he did not believe that Trump was a white nationalist, although he said the U.S. president was “definitely white” and “definitely a nationalist.”

However, he added: “To put the two together is suggesting that he has some kind of desire to be associated with people like myself, and I don’t believe he does.”

Nevertheless, he said it is “great” having a national leader who “makes common-sense decisions in line” with his own beliefs.

Greenblatt said he found it “deeply disturbing” to see neo-Nazis “taking cues from our commander in chief.”

Trump has been criticized on a number of occasions for his use of language and his failure to condemn racist behavior from his supporters.

After Heyer was killed, Trump declared that there were “very fine people on both sides,” although in a later White House briefing he said the “egregious display of “hatred, bigotry and violence” had “no place in America.

Similarly, as the president stood by, the crowd at a Trump rally last year in Greenville, North Carolina, chanted “send her back” about the Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich, collectively known as “the squad.”

Trump later disavowed those chants, telling reporters: “i was not happy with it. I disagree with it.”

Asked about whether white supremacists were taking their cues from Trump, a White House spokesperson told NBC News the the president had consistently and repeatedly rejected racism, racial discrimination, and anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

That should be a real cause for concern, Greenblatt said. “The racists feel like they have someone who is in their corner, and that is a total break from the role of the presidency.”

Source: Neo-Nazis from U.S. and Europe build far-right links at concerts in Germany

White Supremacy Goes Green Why is the far right suddenly paying attention to climate change?

Of note:

As an environmental journalist, I’ve been covering the frightening acceleration of climate change for more than a decade. As a person who believes in the tenets of liberal democracy, I’ve watched the rise of white-supremacist, anti-immigrant and nationalistic ideologies with similar dread over the past few years.

But I always thought of those two trends — looming ecological dangers and the gathering strength of the far right — as unrelated, parallel crises in a turbulent time. Only recently have I begun to understand that they are deeply interconnected, an ugly pairing of forces drawing power from each other.

From France to Washington to New Zealand, angry voices on the hard right — nationalists, populists and others beyond conventional conservatism — are picking up old environmental tropes and adapting them to a moment charged with fears for the future. In doing so, they are giving potent new framing to a set of issues more typically associated with the left. Often, they emphasize what they see as the deep ties between a nation’s land and its people to exclude those they believe do not belong. Some twist scientific terms such as “invasive species” — foreign plants or animals that spread unchecked in a new ecosystem — to target immigrants and racial and ethnic minorities. And here’s what really frightens me: This dynamic is likely to intensify as climate change creates new stresses that could pit nations and groups against one another.

Although the pressures of a warming planet are new, the deployment of environmental language for racist, nativist and nationalistic ends has a long, dark history. Before environmentalism became a mainstream and progressive cause in the 1970s, many American conservationists were also white supremacists, who argued that those they saw as outsiders threatened the nation’s landscape or lacked the values to care for it properly. Such thinking was common in Europe, too. The Nazis embraced notions of a symbiotic connection between the German homeland and its people.

It is not hard to see why such ideas are making a comeback. As the relentlessness of environmental calamity — epic fires and floods, escalating extinctions, warming oceans — becomes impossible to ignore, the right needs a way to talk about it. Nationalistic framings fit comfortably with a worldview many already hold. And for the so-called alt right, they offer the bonus of a cudgel for bashing establishment conservatives as beholden to globalist, corporate interests.

Some radicals are drawn to apocalyptic climate scenarios, seeing openings for authoritarianism or a complete societal breakdown. “They want to accelerate it,” said Blair Taylor, program director at the Institute for Social Ecology, a left-wing educational center, who has studied such groups. “So after the downfall they can set up their fascist ethno-states, they can be the Übermensch.” Violent actors are grabbing hold of such ideas. The killers accused of targeting Muslims and Mexican immigrants last year in New Zealand and Texas posted online manifestoes weaving white supremacy with environmental statements.

The Australian man who allegedly murdered 51 people at two Christchurch mosques called himself an “ethnonationalist eco-fascist” and wrote that “continued immigration into Europe is environmental warfare.” The suspect in the El Paso shooting that killed 22 — modern America’s deadliest attack targeting Latinos — ranted about plastic waste and overconsumption. “If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can become more sustainable,” he concluded.

If there’s one thing Americans have learned in the Trump era, it is that toxic ideas can move between the fringes and the political realm with stunning speed. Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Rally — now the country’s main opposition party — has incorporated worries about the natural world into the party’s anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim ideology. She espouses an ideal of the French citizen as “someone rooted, someone who wants to live on their land and to pass it on to their children.” By contrast, she says,those who are “nomadic … do not care about the environment. They have no homeland.”

“Borders are the environment’s greatest ally,” said Jordan Bardella, the party spokesman and a member of the European Parliament. In Hungary, the far-right party Our Homeland accused Ukraine of poisoning Hungarians by dumping waste in the Tisa River. Extremist Polish groups hurl similar charges at Germany.

As climate change reshapes our world, we face a future filled with new pressures and constraints on resources, including arable land, food and water. Droughts, floods and storms are likely to push millions from their homes, some toward the relative safety and security of Europe, Australia and the United States.

The upsurge of anti-Asian discrimination that has followed in the wake of fears about the coronavirus offers a glimpse of the ugly sentiments such external pressures can unleash. Without giving it much thought, I used to accept the framing of environmental problems as shared concerns we would have to work together to solve. Now I can see there is another path too, one in which dark forces wield real dangers as weapons to tear us apart, and scarcity fuels conflict, brutality and racism. Our future in a hotter world of rising seas and more powerful storms already felt terrifying. Unless we come together — and fast — behind serious action to check the existential danger of climate change, it could be darker still.

Source: White Supremacy Goes Green

Far-Right Politicians Are Using Coronavirus To Push Anti-Immigration Xenophobia

Sigh….

The spread of the coronavirus has health officials worried about a potential global pandemic. But while governments and international organizations are rushing to stop the virus, far-right politicians in Europe have been eager to exploit it.

Radical right populists like Italy’s Matteo Salvini and France’s Marine Le Pen are using fear and uncertainty surrounding the virus, believed to have originated in China, to advocate for closed borders and anti-immigration policies ― misleading and panicked messages that health officials warn can hinder efforts to combat the virus.

In Italy, there are hundreds of cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, as well as multiple towns under quarantine and 17 people dead. Salvini, leader of the far-right Lega Party, has repeatedly attacked the government for its handling of the crisis. He has groundlessly linked Italy’s outbreak to the arrival of migrants from Africa, called for “armor plated borders” and accused Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of failing to “defend Italy.”

There is no proof for Salvini’s claims: Africa has only three confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to monitoring data from John Hopkins University. But his inflammatory statements are a prime example of the longtime far-right trope of associating migrants with disease ― derogatory rhetoric that has been a prominent feature of Europe’s migrant crisis.

These and other attacks, coming as officials struggle to contain the virus, have put additional stress on the European Union’s ideal of border-free travel. Salvini is calling for Italy to suspend the Schengen Agreement, which allows travel between EU nations without border checks, even though health experts doubt the measures would be effective.

Austria’s Freedom Party echoed Salvini’s calls for immigration controls and suggested that the government had failed to prevent the outbreak, while the Swiss People’s Party wants “strict border control immediately.” (Austria’s health minister countered with the assessment of World Health Organization and EU experts that closing borders “makes no sense.”)

In France, Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally, has called for border controls and falsely accused the EU of remaining silent on COVID-19. (EU officials have repeatedly issued statements on the virus and announcedhundreds of millions of euros in health funding.) Le Pen also clashed with Italy’s Prime Minister Conte when she suggested that Italian soccer fans should be barred from entering the country. Spain’s far-right Vox party leader Santiago Abascal similarly blamed open borders for the virus.

Far-right parties tend to thrive in opposition, where their lack of governing experience and extreme policies aren’t tested, allowing them to snipe from the sidelines to gain support. They also feed on periods of unrest and uncertainty, as seen in their fearmongering around events of recent years such as the migrant crisis and ISIS-related extremist attacks. The COVID-19 outbreak gives these parties a chance to both frame governments as ineffective and advocate for the anti-immigration policies they view as a panacea to every societal problem.

Meanwhile, countries with far-right governments in power have taken a slightly different tack, largely downplaying the virus and maintaining that everything is under control.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban claimed that although the virus has garnered the world’s attention, people should not forget that the real threat is from migration. In the United States, President Donald Trump has contradicted health officials and gave a dismissive press conference filled with false information, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday refused to say that the coronavirus wasn’t a hoax.

Source: Far-Right Politicians Are Using Coronavirus To Push Anti-Immigration Xenophobia

ICYMI: Far-right targets Austria’s first refugee minister

Of note:

Less than a week after Austria’s new conservative-Green coalition took power, it has already become a target for far-right supporters, who have railed against the country’s first minister with a refugee background.

Justice Minister Alma Zadic, who was born in Bosnia and fled the wars that tore apart Yugoslavia in the 1990s with her family at the age of 10, has faced a wave of social media abuse — and even death threats.

The abuse has often appeared under posts from politicians from the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) — a junior coalition partner until May — revealing racist attitudes some say were fostered by the party during its time in office.

“A criminal Muslim woman becoming justice minister. Sharia (Islamic law) is coming soon,” read one such contribution.

In response Zadic, of the Green Party, has received support from across the political spectrum.

Conservative chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who also headed the coalition with the FPOe, vowed on Thursday to “fight online hate — whether from the left, Islamists or the right”.

“Alma Zadic and all others who are affected by this have my full support!” he tweeted.

– ‘Anything but pleasant’ –

Zadic grew up in Vienna’s multicultural Favoriten district.

She told the Kurier newspaper she did not speak a word of German when she arrived: “The teachers didn’t know what to do with me.

“My experiences were anything but pleasant for an ambitious young girl.”

Now, at 35 years old, she has reached the cabinet.

Austria has taken far longer to reach the milestone of minority representation at this level than many other Western countries.

As in neighbouring Germany, Austrian society traditionally saw immigrants as “guest workers”, according to sociologist Kenan Guengoer, who serves on an official expert panel on integration.

Historically, they were viewed as “people who are here temporarily and would go back”, Guengoer says.

Both “guest workers” and refugees made up the forerunners of today’s population of more than 530,000 who have roots in the former Yugoslavia.

But the reception to Zadic hints at other reasons that progress in Austria has taken so long.

– ‘Overachiever’ –

Austria’s Bosnian community is considered to be among the best integrated, according to journalist and former teacher Melisa Erkurt — who was herself born in Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo.

Erkurt describes Zadic as “an overachiever”.

After studying law in Vienna and at Columbia University in New York, Zadic gained experience at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia before going on to work for an international law firm.

She will need all of her skills to navigate a brief where the two coalition partners are expected to clash.

But some in the far-right FPOe, which left government after being engulfed in a corruption scandal, were unimpressed by her CV.

Their main gripe was a civil case in which Zadic was ordered to pay compensation to a student from a right-wing fraternity who had been photographed making a gesture some interpreted as a Hitler salute.

Zadic shared the image on Twitter with the words: “No tolerance for neo-Nazis, fascists and racists.”

The student in question insisted he was simply waving to friends. Zadic is appealing against the decision.

– Cautionary tale –

According to Erkurt, Zadic could serve as a much-needed role model for young ethnic minority Austrians whom she says have not traditionally been encouraged to aim for positions of power.

“I work with many young girls and I can say to a 14-year-old girl called Fatima: ‘You really can achieve anything in Austria, it’s not just a cliche,'” says Erkurt.

But at the same time, she says Zadic’s treatment could be a cautionary tale.

Zadic has been targeted “despite the fact she speaks perfect German, she has a doctorate, she doesn’t wear a headscarf”.

“In other words, you can do everything ‘right’ in Austria but still be met with racism,” Erkurt says.

Indeed, in defending Zadic the Green party felt it necessary to clarify she did not practise any religion.

Kurz also came in for criticism after he mistakenly said she had been convicted of a criminal offence then later tweeted a clarification, adding: “I know and value her and think she is qualified.”

Florian Klenk, editor of the left-leaning Falter magazine, accused him of offering a “half-hearted” defence his minister.

Kurz’s fate is “connected to Zadic’s future”, Klenk wrote, adding: “She has become a symbol for this government.”

Source: Far-right targets Austria’s first refugee minister

The 2010s’ grim legacy: the decade of the far right

Of note, and Canada to date remains an exception:

The past decade was the decade of the far right.

In January 2010, leftist and centrist politicians led three of the largest democracies in the world: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Brazil), Manmohan Singh (India) and Barack Obama (US). In December 2019, all three countries have far-right leaders: Jair Bolsonaro, Narendra Modi and Donald Trump. In Europe, center-left parties have been decimated, while mainstream right parties mainly survive by adopting frames and policies from the radical right. Only Germany still has the same center-right leader, Angela Merkel, but that will probably change in the next year, too.

This political sea change is in large part the (delayed) consequence of demographic, economic and social shifts. After 9/11, the political debate in many countries shifted from socio-economic to socio-cultural issues. Even the Great Recession only changed this temporarily; once the dust over the bailouts had settled, immigration and security quickly replaced austerity and economic inequality as defining issues once again.

Source: The 2010s’ grim legacy: the decade of the far right

A Black Metal Festival in Ukraine This Weekend Is the Neo-Nazi Networking Event of the Year

Never knew of this disturbing genre of music but not surprised that the far right has a cultural aspect:

Hundreds of far-right extremists will converge on Ukraine’s capital this weekend for a “militant black metal” music festival that experts say has become a networking hub in the international neo-Nazi scene.

Asgardsrei, which will be held Saturday and Sunday in Kyiv’s Bingo Club, bills itself online as a black metal festival that has “grown into the largest (and certainly the most radical)” in the region.

“2 days, 14 bands, 1,500 places, 0 tolerance,” its website reads.

Researchers say the festival is a showcase for the explicitly neo-Nazi musical genre known as “national Socialist black metal,” or NSBM. The lineup features acts with violent anti-Semitic lyrics, referencing the Holocaust and swastikas, and featuring anti-Jewish slurs. One of the bands, Stutthof, is named after a Nazi concentration camp, while another, the French band Seigneur Voland, has a track titled “Quand les Svastikas étoilaient le Ciel” (“When Swastikas Light Up the Sky”).

Another act, the Greek band Wodulf, has a track with the lyrics: “Standards of Aryan might unfurl in triumph / Immortal loyalty to the swastika.” Footage from last year’s festival shows members of the audience widely giving the Nazi salute during performances.

“The organizers have been very clever in connecting almost the complete European neo-Nazi scene.”

Far-right experts say the festival, now in its fifth year in Kyiv, has become an important networking hub for the transnational white supremacy movement. The festival was organized by individuals linked to Ukraine’s powerful far-right Azov movement, the ultranationalist group that played a major role in the revolution and the war against Russian-backed separatists in the east. It also includes a mixed-martial arts “fight night” by an Azov-affiliated fight club on Friday night.

The festival has previously drawn extremists from groups including the U.S.-based neo-Nazi organization Atomwaffen Division, Germany’s The Third Path party, and Italy’s neofascist CasaPound.

“It’s established itself as the major festival of the national Socialist black metal scene,” said Thorsten Hindrichs, a musicologist at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz who specializes in far-right music subcultures.

He told VICE News that the festival provided an important point of contact for disparate far-right groups in their project “to build a pan-European community of right-wing extremists.”

“The organizers have been very clever in connecting almost the complete European neo-Nazi scene,” Hindrichs added.

Mollie Saltskog, an intelligence analyst at strategic consultancy firm The Soufan Group, said that festival organizers had boasted last year that they had “almost a thousand foreigners” at the event. Among them were members of Atomwaffen Division, including the leader of the group’s Washington State cell, Kaleb James Cole, who spent 18 days in Ukraine as part of 25-day trip through Europe.

“It’s likely that many prominent figures within the transnational white supremacy movement, both in and outside of Ukraine, will participate in the concert and surrounding activities this weekend in Kyiv,” Saltskog told VICE News.

“It’s an opportune moment for members of the transnational movement to meet up, network, forge international connections, and exchange tactics and experiences to bring back home to their own ‘fight.’” Saltskog continued.

Ahead of last year’s festival, she said, Azov had hosted an international conference of far-right ideologues, where they discussed topics such as “Nordic Paganism as Metaphysics.”

Hindrichs said Kyiv had become a “safe space” where events like Asgardsrei could take place without disruption from authorities or protesters. He said the festival’s growing importance on the international far-right scene meant it warranted closer attention from Western security services to monitor the contacts their extremists were potentially making in Kyiv.

“There’s horrifying things going on there,” he said. “It would be a good idea to try to stop people attending.”

A global hub

According to Haaretz, Asgardsrei was founded by Russian neo-Nazi Alexey Levkin, a far-right dissident who came to Ukraine in 2014 to support Azov, which has since actively forged links with like-minded groups elsewhere.

Levkin describes himself as an ideologist “who gives lectures in culture, history, and contemporary political thought” to National Militia — the paramilitary street wing of the sprawling Azov movement, which also has a regiment incorporated into Ukraine’s national army, as well as its own political party, National Corps.

As well as fronting his own band, M8L8TH, which will be performing at Asgardsrei, Levkin is also a key member in Wotanjugend — a Ukraine-based neo-Nazi group that has promoted a Russian-language translation of the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto. Saltskog said Wotanjugend was “originally established in Russia, but uses Ukraine as a base to operate and spread its neo-Nazi ideology and message of hate, under what appears to be the patronage of Azov.”

Levkin told VICE News that “only two or three bands on the line-up could really be considered NSBM” acts — including his own act, M8L8TH.

Levkin denied the festival had become a networking hub for the far-right and explained it was “first and foremost about breaking … taboos.”

“We respect any artists who dare to truly challenge the dominant narrative of the contemporary Western society,” he said.

And when asked if he considered himself a national socialist, he replied: “Yes, sure!”

Researchers said the event highlighted the way Ukraine, through the influence of Azov and affiliated far-right movements, has emerged as a global hub for right-wing extremists since the outbreak of war. In recent years, events like Asgardsrei have drawn foreign radicals to Ukraine to network with Azov-affiliated extremists, where they have documented their presence at far-right subcultural events like concerts and MMA tournaments on social media.

Meanwhile, Azov has pursued an outreach program to cultivate links with far-right groups internationally. Olena Semenyaka, international secretary for Azov’s political party who has strong ties to Levkin, traveled to meet contacts in Germany, Sweden, Italy, Croatia, and Portugal in the past year.

Last week, a far-right Ukrainian group even turned up on the frontlines of the Hong Kong protests, which sparked concerns they could be attempting to learn lessons from the pro-democracy demonstrations to use in violent street protests at home.