Swedish election puts anti-immigration Sweden Democrats centre stage

To watch:

Sweden’s right bloc appeared in pole position on Monday to form a government for the first time in nearly a decade, helped by a wave of voter anger over gang violence which could give an anti-immigration populist party a share in power for the first time.

Sunday’s national election remained too close to call on Monday with about 5% of electoral districts yet to be counted, but early results gave right-wing parties 175 of the 349 seats in the Riksdag, one more than the left bloc.

Overseas postal ballots were still to be counted and while they have historically tended to favour the right, this means a full preliminary result is not due until Wednesday. All votes are then counted again to provide a final tally.

If the results are confirmed, Sweden, which has long prided itself on being a bastion of tolerance, will become less open to immigrants even as the Russian invasion of Ukraine forces people to flee and climate change is pushing many to leave Africa.

Political observers say Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson is likely to become prime minister in a minority government supported by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats who are poised to become the largest party on the right and will have a big say on the new administration’s programme.

“The Sweden Democrats have had a fantastic election,” the party’s leader Jimmie Akesson said on Twitter.

“(We) hope the gap between the blocs remains through the Wednesday count. If so, we are ready to constructively participate in a change of power and a new start for Sweden,” he said.

What’s unlikely to change is Sweden’s path towards NATO membership, which has broad support in the wake of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, as well as the country’s plans to boost defence spending.

Social Democrat Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, who has yet to concede the election, pledged in March to increase the military budget to 2% of gross domestic product following what Moscow calls its “special operation” in Ukraine.

Preliminary results have shown the Sweden Democrats with 20.6% of the vote, up from 17.5% at the last election.

The party, which has white supremacists among their founders, is expected to stay formally in opposition, with many voters and politicians across the political spectrum uncomfortable with seeing it in government. However, their impact will still be felt.

“It is the Sweden Democrats who have driven the right-wing bloc along, both in terms of shaping the political content and in attracting voters to the constellation,” the independent liberal newspaper Goteborgsposten wrote.

“For Sweden, a new political era awaits.”

GAINING STATURE

When Kristersson took over as leader of the Moderates in 2017, the Sweden Democrats were shunned by the right and left. But he has gradually deepened cross-party ties since a 2018 election loss and the Sweden Democrats are increasingly seen as part of the mainstream right having moderated some policies such as dropping plans to leave the European Union. read more

Kristersson will now likely struggle to formulate his economic agenda as inflation runs at a three-decade high and energy costs soar, with the Sweden Democrats opposed to his flagship policy of benefit cuts.

“Intense negotiations are expected and it might take time to form a new government. Fiscal policy will likely remain expansionary regardless of which side wins,” Nordea Markets said in a note to clients.

Campaigning had seen parties battle to be the toughest on gang crime, after a steady rise in shootings that has unnerved voters, while surging inflation and the energy crisis have increasingly taken centre-stage.

While law and order issues are home turf for the right, gathering economic clouds as households and companies face sky-high power prices had been seen boosting Andersson, viewed as a safe pair of hands and more popular than her party. read more

She was finance minister for many years before becoming Sweden’s first female prime minister a year ago. Kristersson had cast himself as the only candidate who could unite the right and unseat her.

“In a fragmented, multiparty system, finding a stable, governing coalition is becoming increasingly difficult,” said Johannes Berg, research director for politics, democracy and civil society at the Institute for Social Research in Oslo.

“If the result we have now – a one-seat majority for the right – ends up being the final result, that is going to be a huge challenge for the Moderates to hold together.”

Source: Swedish election puts anti-immigration Sweden Democrats centre stage

From God to monsters – the “new nationalism” of the US right

Of interest:

In the New York Times on 1 June, one of the rising stars of the conservative movement, Nate Hochman, articulated what he takes to be the direction and meaning of the American right. The central thesis of his essay is that the religious right has been supplanted by “a new kind of conservatism” more secular in orientation and focused on culture war issues such as gender, identity, and what he ever-so-gently calls “race relations”. For Hochman, this new conservatism is based in a kind of class consciousness, with much of the coalition being comprised of dissatisfied – “exploited” – middle Americans countering the depredations of cultural elites: “Today’s right-wing culture warriors think in distinctly Marxian terms: a class struggle between a proletarian base of traditionalists and a powerful public-private bureaucracy that is actively hostile to the American way of life.”

To bolster his claims, Hochman refers to Don Warren’s 1976 book The Radical Centre: Middle Americans and the Politics of Alienation:

“The right’s new culture war represents the world-view of people the sociologist Donald Warren called “Middle American radicals”, or MARs. This demographic, which makes up the heart of Mr Trump’s electoral base, is composed primarily of non-college-educated middle- and lower-middle-class white people, and it is characterised by a populist hostility to elite pieties that often converges with the old social conservatism. But MARs do not share the same religious moral commitments as their devoutly Christian counterparts, both in their political views and in their lifestyles… These voters are more nationalistic and less amenable to multiculturalism than their religious peers, and they profess a scepticism of the cosmopolitan open-society arguments for free trade and mass immigration that have been made by neoliberals and neoconservatives alike.”

Hochman also draws on the work of the late right-wing American writer Sam Francis, one of the “paleo-conservatives” who in the 1990s augured the rise of Donald Trump, and who is among the best guides to understanding the trajectory of the contemporary right. Far from being a marginal or eccentric figure, he is read by prominent conservatives as both prophet and guide. There are even rumours that Francis is the favoured reading of some Department of Homeland Security officials. That Hochman himself, a fellow at National Review and a key figure of the US intellectual right, leans so heavily on Francis is proof enough of his importance.

“What is occurring on the right,” Hochman argues in his New York Timesessay, “is a partial realisation of the programme that the hard-right writer Sam Francis championed in his 1994 essay ‘Religious Wrong’. He argued that cultural, ethnic and social identities ‘are the principal lines of conflict’ between Middle Americans and progressive elites and that the ‘religious orientation of the Christian right serves to create what Marxists like to call a “false consciousness” for Middle Americans’. In other words, political Christianity prevented the right-wing base from fully understanding the culture war as a class war – a power struggle between Middle America and a hostile federal regime. He saw Christianity’s universalist ideals as at odds with the defence of the American nation, which was being dispossessed by mass immigration and multiculturalism. ‘Organized Christianity today,’ he wrote in 2001, ‘is the enemy of the West and the race that created it.’”

Is Hochman’s argument persuasive? As others have pointed out, there are good empirical reasons to insist on the continued importance of the religious right as a key constituency, from its role in Trump’s election to the assault on Roe vs Wade to the centrality of churches in the political base of the Republican PartyBut the religious right is part of a larger whole; a broader right-wing whose central inspiration is not primarily religious.

Other features of Francis’s vision are also instructive when thinking about the contemporary American right. First, the radicalism of the project: Francis was not really a conservative; he felt that the conservative movement had failed and even urged his friend Pat Buchanan to drop the “conservative” label when running for president in 1992 and 1996. His vision of nationalism was as much a call for a new order as a return to the past. In his 1992 essay  “Nationalism, Old and New”he rejected the “old nationalism” for a “new nationalism” that would replace the individualism and egalitarianism of Hamilton and Lincoln with something else:

“The pseudo-nationalist ethic of the old nationalism that served only as a mask for the pursuit of special interests will be replaced by the social ethic of an authentic nationalism that can summon and harness the genius of a people certain of its identity and its destiny. The myth of the managerial regime that America is merely a philosophical proposition about the equality of all mankind (and therefore includes all mankind) must be replaced by a new myth of the nation as a historically and culturally unique order that commands loyalty, solidarity and discipline and excludes those who do not or cannot assimilate to its norms and interests. This is the real meaning of ‘America First’: America must be first not only among other nations but first also among the other (individual or class or sectional) interests of its people.”

Whereas the “old nationalism” spoke the “abstract” and “alienating” language of universalism, the “new nationalism” is supposedly something rooted in the essence of the “real” American people. Here Francis echoed the “concrete nationalism” of the French far-right authors Charles Maurras and Maurice Barrés that emerged towards the end of the 19th century, which differed from the “old nationalism” of liberté, égalité, fraternité. As the French historian Michel Winock writes, this nationalism would “subordinate everything to the exclusive interests of the nation, that is, the nation-state: to its force, its power, and its greatness”, and was pitched in darker, more pessimistic registers than the old republican patriotism. “This mortuary nationalism,” Winock argues, “called for a resurrection: the restoration of state authority, the strengthening of the army, the protection of the old ways, the dissolution of divisive forces. In varying dosages, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-parliamentarianism were dispensed in the manner appropriate to each of the publics targeted.”

Today, in order to give an accurate picture of the conservative movement Hochman describes, the list of “varying dosages appropriate to the publics targeted” could be altered to include anti-transgenderism, immigration fears, the thinly veiled racism of the anti-critical race theory (CRT) panic, or any of the other demagogic issues the right regularly summons.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Francis would sound like a 19th-century European reactionary since he was an admirer of the work of Georges Sorel, a heretic socialist and Dreyfusard turned anti-Dreyfusard. The major concept that Francis gets from Sorel concerns the importance of political myth. Myths in this sense are concrete, imaginative embodiments of a group’s self-conception and political aspirations; they are not abstract party programmes or utopias. Francis believed that the Middle American Radicals and their leaders had to develop such a myth to replace the myths of “old nationalism”, all that nonsense about “all men being created equal”.

Well, they have at least one now in the form of the “stolen election”: what better way to embody the entire sentiment of dispossession, be it ideological or explicitly racial, than the idea that political power is being held illegitimately by one’s opponents. Another such myth is QAnon, which imagines an elaborate, evil cabal pulling the strings and then a sudden moment of eschatological deliverance from their machinations. Arguably, anti-vaxx sentiments function this way, too: creating an opposition between a rapacious overclass and the resistance of the people’s “salt of the earth” wisdom. The idea of “the Great Replacement” is another one, too. Hochman is probably embarrassed to speak about the centrality of these lurid myths on the right, but they might help explain the “secularisation” of the GOP: maybe there are just other, more chthonic gods now.

What about the “Marxian” elements of the new right? Hochman is right about its emphasis on class struggle but wrong about on whose behalf it is being fought. One of the characterisations right-wing culture warriors like to make about identity politics or critical race theory is that it replaces the structural role “the proletariat” once had in Marxism with some dispossessed ethnic group: so, instead of the industrial working class, now it’s – to use an extreme formulation – LGBT+ Latinx people with disabilities who are supposed to be the bearers of the revolutionary project, since the proletarian revolution failed.

This sounds like a poor interpretation of Georg Lukacs’ conception of class-consciousness, but it’s also exactly what Hochman and his fellows are doing: their class might not be really working class – Hochman admits it’s really the middle and lower-middle class – but they are somehow still “proletarian”, the revolutionary, or the “counter-revolutionary” – subjects that are achieving class consciousness of their historic mission to Make America Great Again. This is almost exactly “Cultural Marxism”: it simply replaces the material determinations of class struggle with the terms of the “culture war”.

So who is the class that is doing the struggling here? Again, it’s worth returning to Francis. At some points in his writing, Francis calls his Middle American Radicals “post-bourgeois” to emphasise their dispossession and alienation from the old bourgeois traditions and values. But in his mature work Leviathan and its Enemies, which was published posthumously, he opposed the feared and hated managerial class that supposedly runs the state and corporate bureaucracies, through to the plain-old bourgeoisie, that is to say, the class that owns, the proprietors of the “entrepreneurial firm (the partnership, family firm, or individual entrepreneurship)”. Hochman is being too modest when he says it’s just the middle and lower-middle class: the right enjoys the patronage of many great magnates and their families: Thiels, Kochs, Mercers, Uihleins, Princes, DeVoses, and so on. The Republican coalition is simply the alliance of the most reactionary sections of the whole property-owning class, the bourgeoisie from petit to haute. I’d argue their attack on the administrative state and their tax raiding has as much to do with the protection of their interest in this regard than any feeling of “cultural dispossession”. Indeed, the right now seems to be successfully attracting a broader swathe of the entrepreneurial class, as Elon Musk recently signalled his “new” Republican allegiance over labour issues.

Hochman may be interested in another Marxist category: totality, the notion that we have to analyse a social and political situation in its entirety, and that failing to do so will give us a false or incomplete picture. While he is more frank than most, Hochman doesn’t want to look at the right in its totality. Although he seems comfortable with the portions of the right that, despite being demagogic and repressive, remain within the bounds of legal and civic behaviour, like the anti-trans and anti-CRT campaigns, he doesn’t want to talk about the storming of the Capitol on 6 January, or the myth of the stolen election, the great replacement theory, or the cultish worship of Trump, or the Proud Boys, who now have a significant presence in a largely Hispanic Miami-Dade Republican Party. But these things are as much, if not more, emblematic of the modern Republican Party as young Hochman isAs Francis knew and was much more open about, these primal forces were the real right, with the think tank intelligentsia trailing behind or vainly trying to guide the masses.

So now let’s recapitulate the totality of the political situation, with the help of Hochman’s essay. He wants to say this new right is essentially a secular party of the aggrieved Mittelstand that feels the national substance has been undermined by a group of cosmopolitan elites who have infiltrated all the institutions of power; that also believes immigrants threaten to replace the traditional ethnic make-up of the country; that borrows conceptions and tactics from the socialist tradition but retools them for counter-revolutionary ends; that is animated by myths of national decline and renewal; that instrumentalises racial anxieties; that brings together dissatisfied and alienated members of the intelligentsia with the conservative families of the old bourgeoisie and futurist magnates of industry; that alternates a vulgar, sneering desire to provoke and shock with phobic moral prudishness; that is obsessed with a macho masculinity; that looks to a providential figure like Trump for leadership; that has street fighting and militia cadre; and that has even attempted an illegal putsch to give its leader absolute power. If only there was historical precedent and even a word for all that.

Source: From God to monsters – the “new nationalism” of the US right

‘Don’ of a new era: the rise of Peter Thiel as a US rightwing power player

Of note – campaign finance is another issue that will likely never be addressed. The lack of limits worked in Obama’s favour, so this is not just a problem of Republicans:

As the Republican party primaries play out across the US, the most sought after endorsement is still that of former president Donald Trump. But when it comes to the most vital part of any American campaign – money – another figure is emerging on the right of US politics who is becoming equally significant.

Peter Thiel, the PayPal founder and former CEO referred to as the “don” of the original PayPal Mafia, a group that included Elon Musk, is establishing himself as a serious power player in American rightwing politics by wielding the power of his vast fortune.

Thiel, styled as a billionaire venture capitalist and tech entrepreneur, plowed more than $10m into a super Pac backing Hillbilly Elegy author JD Vance, winner of the Republican primary for an open US Senate seat in Ohio.

In August, Thiel’s backing will be tested again after shoveling $13.5m into supporting former employee Blake Masters in the competitive Republican primary for a US Senate seat in Arizona.

In both cases, Thiel put his money – his fortune is said to be in the region of $6bn – to work behind candidates aligned with Trump’s rightwing agenda in 2022 midterm elections.

Earlier this year Thiel stepped down from the board of Meta, where he was an early investor, and a long-serving adviser to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “He wanted to avoid being a distraction for Facebook,” according to a person close to Thiel. With his resignation effective this month, the source told Forbes Thiel “thinks that the Republican Party can advance the Trump agenda and he wants to do what he can to support that”.

But there is a vacuum between the entire Trump political agenda and Trump himself. The former president is apt to pick candidates who promote his stolen election claims. Not all succeed, or are likely to. Trump’s failed backing of David Perdue as Georgia’s Republican gubernatorial candidate looked like a personal grudge against incumbent Brian Kemp, who certified Biden’s victory in 2020.

Thiel has so far helped Trump in that cause. By some estimates, Thiel has donated $25m to 15 other 2022 candidates for the House and Senate towing the Trump election fraud line.

Max Chafkin, author of a Thiel biography The Contrarian, recently wrote that Thiel’s goal is to turn Trump’s ideology into “a disciplined political platform”.

For Thiel, endorsements of Vance and Masters follow a $300,000 donation to the campaign of far-right senator Josh Hawley, then running for Missouri attorney general in 2016. He also donated money to help elect Trump president and spoke on his behalf at the Republican National Convention.

Thiel stayed out of the 2020 presidential race, and instead donated $2.1m to a super Pac supporting Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who had proposed creating a registry of Muslim immigrants and visitors.

“Thiel is one of the conservative mega donors that has the ability to shore up candidates that might need additional support. His spending is targeted, and his ability to spend millions can be impactful,” said Sheila Krumholz at OpenSecrets.

Where Trump often seems a single issue political player – obsessed with the 2020 election loss – Thiel is more flexible in terms of what he represents, Krumholz says.

“Often when your’e talking about party-aligned mega donors, there are people who have been active over decades, so Peter Thiel strikes a different figure. He’s an entrepreneur, he’s tech industry, super successful, seen as part of the young conservative vanguard that some see as more libertarian.”

“They might be Trump supporters, but their portfolio and persona waters down the connection,” Krumholz adds.

Like Musk, Thiel – called The Dungeon Master by the New York Review of Books because he played Dungeons & Dragons as a teenager and read J R R Tolkien’s trilogy ten times – presents a contradictory picture.

As an undergraduate, he founded the conservative Stanford Review and in 1995 Thiel co-authored The Diversity Myth, a book sought to question the impact of multiculturalism and “political correctness” at California’s higher education campuses.

“In bright and shallow Silicon Valley, Thiel stands apart for having retained the intellectual intensity of a bookish undergraduate, a quality that has made him an object of curiosity, admiration and mockery,” the publication noted. “He stands apart amid the orthodoxy of tech-world social progressivism as much for his conservatism as for his business sense.”

In 2003, he co-founded Palantir Technologies, a firm to assist US intelligence agencies with counter-terrorism operations. Last week, Palantir and global commodities trader Trafigura announced a new target market to track carbon emissions for the oil, gas, refined metals and concentrates sector. BP is among its customers, Reuters reported.

Thiel’s libertarian credentials, and perhaps in part his political motivation, were publicly established in 2016 when he funded an invasion of privacy lawsuit filed by Terry Bollea, known more popularly as wrestler Hulk Hogan, that bankrupted the news website Gawker. Gawker had outed Thiel in 2007.

“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” Thiel said of the action. “I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest … I thought it was worth fighting back.”

Funding the lawsuit, he added, was one of the “greater philanthropic things that I’ve done”.

Blake Masters, the 35-year-old Republican US senate candidate for Arizona, has suggested he would use the same tactics after the Arizona Mirror wrote that the candidate opposes abortion rights and “wants to allow states to ban contraception use”. Masters denies those positions.

“If I get any free time after winning my elections then you’re getting sued, and I’ll easily prove actual malice,” Masters wrote in a tweet. “Gawker found out the hard way and you will too.”

Thiel, said Masters last year, “sees some promise in me, but he knows I’ll be an independent-minded senator”.

But the larger issue for Thiel may be intense cross-currents in the US around big tech, social media and free speech. His former PayPal Mafia consigliere, Musk, is also emerging from the tech world to have influence in US politics – where he recently declared himself a Republican – and free speech as he seeks to buy the social media platform Twitter.

“[Tech is] an industry on the cutting edge and caught in the cross-fire between the parties,” said Krumholz. “There are a lot of conflicting pressures on and from within the tech industry. Tech is being scapegoated by some, and held responsible for much of the disinformation, excesses of social media, partisan division and radicalization we see.”

Moira Weigel, a professor of communications at Northeastern University and a founding editor of Logic magazine, argued in the New Republic last year that Thiel does not really matter: “What matters about him is whom he connects.”

At the moment, Thiel is busy connecting some of the most rightwing politicians in recent US history.

Source: ‘Don’ of a new era: the rise of Peter Thiel as a US rightwing power player

Krugman: When ‘Freedom’ Means the Right to Destroy

Good commentary:

On Sunday the Canadian police finally cleared away anti-vaccine demonstrators who had been blocking the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, a key commercial route that normally carries more than $300 million a day in international trade. Other bridges are still closed, and part of Ottawa, the Canadian capital, is still occupied.

The diffidence of Canadian authorities in the face of these disruptions has been startling to American eyes. Also startling, although not actually surprising, has been the embrace of economic vandalism and intimidation by much of the U.S. right — especially by people who ranted against demonstrations in favor of racial justice. What we’re getting here is an object lesson in what some people really mean when they talk about “law and order.”

Let’s talk about what has been happening in Canada and why I call it vandalism.

The “Freedom Convoy” has been marketed as a backlash by truckers angry about Covid-19 vaccination mandates. In reality, there don’t seem to have been many truckers among the protesters at the bridge (about 90 percent of Canadian truckers are vaccinated). Last week a Bloomberg reporter saw only three semis among the vehicles blocking the Ambassador Bridge, which were mainly pickup trucks and private cars; photos taken Saturday also show very few commercial trucks.

The Teamsters union, which represents many truckers on both sides of the border, has denounced the blockade.

So this isn’t a grass-roots trucker uprising. It’s more like a slow-motion Jan. 6, a disruption caused by a relatively small number of activists, many of them right-wing extremists. At their peak, the demonstrations in Ottawa reportedly involved only around 8,000 people, while numbers at other locations have been much smaller.

Despite their lack of numbers, however, the protesters have been inflicting a remarkable amount of economic damage. The U.S. and Canadian economies are very closely integrated. In particular, North American manufacturing, especially but not only in the auto industry, relies on a constant flow of parts between factories on both sides of the border. As a result, the disruption of that flow has hobbled industry, forcing production cuts and even factory shutdowns.

The closure of the Ambassador Bridge also imposed large indirect costs, as trucks were diverted to roundabout routes and forced to wait in long lines at alternative bridges.

Any attempt to put a number on the economic costs of the blockade is tricky and speculative. However, it’s not hard to come up with numbers like $300 million or more per day; combine that with the disruption of Ottawa, and the “trucker” protests may already have inflicted a couple of billion dollars in economic damage.

That’s an interesting number, because it’s roughly comparable to insurance industry estimates of total losses associated with the Black Lives Matter protests that followed the killing of George Floyd — protests that seem to have involved more than 15 million people.

This comparison will no doubt surprise those who get their news from right-wing media, which portrayed B.L.M. as an orgy of arson and looting. I still receive mail from people who believe that much of New York City was reduced to smoking rubble. In fact, the demonstrations were remarkably nonviolent; vandalism happened in a few cases, but it was relatively rare, and the damage was small considering the huge size of the protests.

By contrast, causing economic damage was and is what the Canadian protests are all about — because blocking essential flows of goods, threatening people’s livelihoods, is every bit as destructive as smashing a store window. And unlike, say, a strike aimed at a particular company, this damage fell indiscriminately on anyone who had the misfortune to rely on unobstructed trade.

And to what end? The B.L.M. demonstrations were a reaction to police killings of innocent people; what’s going on in Canada is, on its face, about rejecting public health measures intended to save lives. Of course, even that is mainly an excuse: What it’s really about is an attempt to exploit pandemic weariness to boost the usual culture-war agenda.

As you might expect, the U.S. right is loving it. People who portrayed peaceful protests against police killings as an existential threat are delighted by the spectacle of right-wing activists breaking the law and destroying wealth. Fox News has devoted many hours to fawning coverage of the blockades and occupations. Senator Rand Paul, who called B.L.M. activists a “crazed mob,” called for Canada-style protests to “clog up cities” in the United States, specifically saying that he hoped to see truckers disrupt the Super Bowl (they didn’t).

I assume that the reopening of the Ambassador Bridge is the beginning of a broader crackdown on destructive protests. But I hope we won’t forget this moment — and in particular that we remember it the next time a politician or media figure talks about “law and order.”

Recent events have confirmed what many suspected: The right is perfectly fine, indeed enthusiastic, about illegal actions and disorder as long as they serve right-wing ends.

Source: When ‘Freedom’ Means the Right to Destroy

The Campaign to Cancel Wokeness: How the right is trying to censor critical race theory.

Worth reading:

It’s something of a truism, particularly on the right, that conservatives have claimed the mantle of free speech from an intolerant left that is afraid to engage with uncomfortable ideas. Every embarrassing example of woke overreach — each ill-considered school board decision or high-profile campus meltdown— fuels this perception.

Yet when it comes to outright government censorship, it is the right that’s on the offense. Critical race theory, the intellectual tradition undergirding concepts like white privilege and microaggressions, is often blamed for fomenting what critics call cancel culture. And so, around America and even overseas, people who don’t like cancel culture are on an ironic quest to cancel the promotion of critical race theory in public forums.

In September, Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget ordered federal agencies to “begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on ‘critical race theory,’” which it described as “un-American propaganda.”

A month later, the conservative government in Britain declared some uses of critical race theory in education illegal. “We do not want teachers to teach their white pupils about white privilege and inherited racial guilt,” said the Tory equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch. “Any school which teaches these elements of critical race theory, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law.”

Some in France took up the fight as well. “French politicians, high-profile intellectuals and journalists are warning that progressive American ideas — specifically on race, gender, post-colonialism — are undermining their society,” Norimitsu Onishi reported in The New York Times. (This is quite a reversal from the days when American conservatives warned darkly about subversive French theory.)

Once Joe Biden became president, he undid Trump’s critical race theory ban, but lawmakers in several states have proposed their own prohibitions. An Arkansas legislator introduced a pair of bills, one banning the teaching of The Times’s 1619 Project curriculum, and the other nixing classes, events and activities that encourage “division between, resentment of, or social justice for” specific groups of people. “What is not appropriate is being able to theorize, use, specifically, critical race theory,” the bills’ sponsor told The Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Republicans in West Virginia and Oklahoma have introduced bills banning schools and, in West Virginia’s case, state contractors from promoting “divisive concepts,” including claims that “the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist.” A New Hampshire Republican also proposed a “divisive concepts” ban, saying in a hearing, “This bill addresses something called critical race theory.”

Kimberlé Crenshaw, a pioneering legal scholar who teaches at both U.C.L.A. and Columbia, has watched with alarm the attempts to suppress an entire intellectual movement. It was Crenshaw who came up with the name “critical race theory” when organizing a workshop in 1989. (She also coined the term “intersectionality.”) “The commitment to free speech seems to dissipate when the people who are being gagged are folks who are demanding racial justice,” she told me.

Many of the intellectual currents that would become critical race theory emerged in the 1970s out of disappointment with the incomplete work of the civil rights movement, and cohered among radical law professors in the 1980s.

The movement was ahead of its time; one of its central insights, that racism is structural rather than just a matter of interpersonal bigotry, is now conventional wisdom, at least on the left. It had concrete practical applications, leading, for example, to legal arguments that housing laws or employment criteria could be racist in practice even if they weren’t racist in intent.

Parts of the critical race theory tradition are in tension with liberalism, particularly when it comes to issues like free speech. Richard Delgado, a key figure in the movement, has argued that people should be able to sue those who utter racist slurs. Others have played a large role in crafting campus speech codes.

There’s plenty here for people committed to broad free speech protections to dispute. I’m persuaded by the essay Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote in the 1990s challenging the movement’s stance on the first amendment. “To remove the very formation of our identities from the messy realm of contestation and debate is an elemental, not incidental, truncation of the ideal of public discourse,” he wrote.

Disagreeing with certain ideas, however, is very different from anathematizing the collective work of a host of paradigm-shifting thinkers. Gates’s article was effective because he took the scholarly work he engaged with seriously. “The critical race theorists must be credited with helping to reinvigorate the debate about freedom of expression; even if not ultimately persuaded to join them, the civil libertarian will be much further along for having listened to their arguments and examples,” he wrote.

But the right, for all its chest-beating about the value of entertaining dangerous notions, is rarely interested in debating the tenets of critical race theory. It wants to eradicate them from public institutions.

“Critical race theory is a grave threat to the American way of life,” Christopher Rufo, director of the Center on Wealth and Poverty at the Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank once known for pushing an updated form of creationism in public schools, wrote in January.

Rufo’s been leading the conservative charge against critical race theory. Last year, during an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, he called on Trump to issue an executive order abolishing “critical race theory trainings from the federal government.” The next day, he told me, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, called him and asked for his help putting an order together.

Last month, Rufo announced a “new coalition of legal foundations and private attorneys that will wage relentless legal warfare against race theory in America’s institutions.” A number of House and Senate offices, he told me, are working on their own anti-critical race theory bills, though none are likely to go anywhere as long as Biden is president.

As Rufo sees it, critical race theory is a revolutionary program that replaces the Marxist categories of the bourgeois and the proletariat with racial groups, justifying discrimination against those deemed racial oppressors. His goal, ultimately, is to get the Supreme Court to rule that school and workplace trainings based on the doctrines of critical race theory violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

This inversion, casting anti-racist activists as the real racists, is familiar to Ian Haney López, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in critical race theory. “There’s a rhetoric of reaction which seeks to claim that it’s defending these higher values, which, perversely, often are the very values it’s traducing,” he said. “Whether that’s ‘In the name of free speech we’re going to persecute, we’re going to launch investigations into particular forms of speech’ or — and I think this is equally perverse — ‘In the name of fighting racism, we’re going to launch investigations into those scholars who are most serious about studying the complex forms that racism takes.’”

Rufo insists there are no free speech implications to what he’s trying to do. “You have the freedom of speech as an individual, of course, but you don’t have the kind of entitlement to perpetuate that speech through public agencies,” he said.

This sounds, ironically, a lot like the arguments people on the left make about de-platforming right-wingers. To Crenshaw, attempts to ban critical race theory vindicate some of the movement’s skepticism about free speech orthodoxy, showing that there were never transcendent principles at play.

When people defend offensive speech, she said, they’re often really defending “the substance of what the speech is — because if it was really about free speech, then this censorship, people would be howling to the high heavens.” If it was really about free speech, they should be.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/26/opinion/speech-racism-academia.html

The Extremist Campaign to Blame Immigrants for US Environmental Problems

Of interest. Haven’t seen too much of that here in Canada but may have missed:

With growing frequency over the past four years, right-wing pundits, policymakers, and political operatives have fiercely and furiously blamed immigrants for the degradation and decline of nature in the United States. William Perry Pendley, who temporarily ran the U.S. Bureau of Land Management under former President Donald Trump, saw “immigration as one of the biggest threats to public lands,” according to an agency spokesperson.1 A handful of right-wing anti-immigration zealots, including Joe Guzzardi, have repeatedly misused data published by the Center for American Progress on nature loss to make xenophobic arguments for anti-immigration policies.2 This so-called “greening of hate”—a term explored by Guardian reporter Susie Cagle—is a common refrain in a wide range of conservative and white supremacist arguments, including those of Ann Coulter, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, and the manifestos of more than one mass shooter.3

The claim that immigration is to blame for America’s environmental problems is so absurd, racist, and out of the mainstream that it is easily debunked and tempting to ignore. The scientific community, and the little research that has been conducted in this area, resoundingly refutes the premise. Consider, for example, the environmental damage caused by weak and inadequate regulation of polluting industries; the destruction of wildlife habitat to accommodate wealthy exurbs and second homes; the design and propagation of policies that concentrate toxic poisons and environmental destruction near communities of color and low-income communities; the continued subsidization of fossil fuel extraction and trampling of Indigenous rights to accommodate drilling and mining projects; and the propagation of a throw-away culture by industrial powerhouses. All of these factors and others cause exponentially more severe environmental harm than a family that is fleeing violence, poverty, or suffering to seek a new life in the United States.

The extremist effort to blame immigrants for the nation’s environmental problems deserves scrutiny—and not merely for the purpose of disproving its xenophobic and outlandish claims. The contours, origins, funding sources, and goals of this right-wing effort must be understood in order to effectively combat it and ensure that the extremists pushing it have no place in the conservation movement. The individuals and organizations that are most fervently propagating this argument come largely from well-funded hate groups that are abusing discredited ideologies that were prevalent in the 19th-century American conservation movement in an attempt to make their racist rhetoric more palatable to a public concerned about the health of their environment.

While leaders of the contemporary, mainstream environmental movement in the United States have disavowed this strain of thought and are working to confront the legacies of colonialism and racism in environmental organizations and policies, a small set of right-wing political operatives are trying to magnify overtly xenophobic and false environmental arguments to achieve specific political objectives. In particular, these right-wing political operatives and their deep-pocketed funders are seeking to broaden the appeal of their anti-immigration zealotry by greenwashing their movement and supplying their right-wing base with alternative explanations for environmental decline that sidestep the culpability of the conservative anti-regulatory agenda. In their refusal to confront the true reasons for environmental decline, they are hurting the people—immigrants, Indigenous peoples, and people of color—who bear a disproportionate burden of environmental consequences and are increasingly the base of the climate justice and conservation movements.

Contextualizing anti-immigrant thought in environmentalism

Today’s right-wing activists who are blaming immigrants for the destruction of nature are, unfortunately, drawing from and building on a long and troubling history of racism, colonialism, and xenophobia in the U.S. environmental movement that harks back to the violent dispossession of lands from Indigenous tribal nations. To understand the power and dangers of this extremist movement—and where it diverges from the current mainstream environmental movement—it is important to trace the origin of population control, eugenics, and anti-immigration ideologies within the U.S. environmental movement.

The discredited roots of environmental racism

Some of the earliest and most active proponents of land conservation in the United States also espoused anti-immigration, white supremacist, and racist views. For example, Madison Grant—a close friend of President Theodore Roosevelt and influential voice in species conservation, including playing a role in protecting the American bison and California redwood—served as director of the American Eugenics Society and vice president of the Immigration Restriction League.4 Grant played a key role in the passage of a 1924 law restricting immigration by Asians and Arabs.5 John Muir, known as the father of national parks, expressed racism toward Black and Native Americans and promoted ideas of restricting immigration by nonwhites.6

The notion that immigration was to blame for environmental destruction resurged in the 1970s, just as Europe’s population was plateauing and that of the Global South began to grow. During this period, many deemed overpopulation-driven resource depletion one of the largest challenges facing the planet. Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 book, The Population Bomb, which argued that overpopulation would fuel famine and global upheaval, proved very influential in the environmental movement at the time.7 This idea—which ignored the enormous difference in consumption patterns between countries—reinforced the idea already floating among U.S. nativists, which falsely associated global population growth and immigration growth.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, these xenophobic ideas existed within some environmental nonprofits, including Earth First! and the Rewilding Institute, both of which were started by extremist activist Dave Foreman.8 The environmental argument for anti-immigrant policies also tracks closely with the Sierra Club’s history, and its association with one person—John Tanton—has had perhaps the most lasting impact.9 Tanton, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) calls “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement” and who died in 2019, was a Sierra Club official in the 1980s and went on to form many prominent anti-immigration groups, including many that dabble in environmental messaging.10

Up until the 1990s, population control was part of the Sierra Club’s core platform. For decades, a faction within the organization—including Tanton—worked to use the Sierra Club’s influence to promote policies to block immigration and undermine immigrant rights. In 1998, Tanton and others pushed a vote about whether or not the Sierra Club would take a strong public stance against immigration. The proposal was narrowly defeated by the Sierra Club’s members, leading to a full separation from this ideology in the early 2000s.11 But Tanton’s groups continue to try to influence environmental progressives.12

Today, as major environmental groups grapple with their own systems of exclusion and injustice and reevaluate heroes and founders such as Muir and Roosevelt, the mainstream conservation movement no longer considers anti-immigrant arguments legitimate or accurate.13

The ‘greening of hate’

While the history of this anti-immigrant argument has roots in environmentalism, today, this line of thinking is primarily propagated by extremists who are cloaking themselves as conservationists to make their arguments more palatable. Researchers refer to this phenomena as the “greening of hate.”14 The individuals making these arguments are backed by many of the most prominent anti-immigration groups and funders, several of which the SPLC have flagged as white supremacist hate groups.

Greenwashed hate groups and their funders

Nearly every formal argument claiming immigrants as the source of environmental degradation can be traced back to a handful of anti-immigration groups funded and founded by extremists far outside of the mainstream environmental movement.

Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Founded by John Tanton, FAIR was deemed a hate group by the SPLC because of its ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists.15

Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Also founded by Tanton, CIS was deemed a hate group by the SPLC because it repeatedly publishes and promotes white supremacist and anti-Semitic writers and makes false claims about the criminality of immigrants.16

Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR). PFIR, also tied to Tanton, is perhaps the most central organization in the anti-immigrant greenwashing universe.17 The group has been flagged by the SPLC for hosting a “cynical greenwashing campaign to recruit environmentalists to the anti-immigrant cause by blaming them for urban sprawl, overconsumption and a host of other environmental problems.”18

Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). CAPS was founded by Garrett Hardin, a University of California, Santa Barbara professor and FAIR board member, who famously wrote the essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” which he used to support his ideology of preventing the “wrong” people—specifically nonwhite people—from reproducing.19 Like many others on this list, the group has ties to Tanton and was found to have hired white supremacists.20

NumbersUSA. Also founded by Tanton, the group is considered a nativist organization along the lines of FAIR and CIS.21 Don Weeden, of the Weeden Foundation, formerly served as the group’s treasurer and on the board of directors and until recently was one of the group’s independent directors.22

The Rewilding Institute. Compared with other groups on this list—which are largely focused on immigration but use environmentalism as a conduit—this one does focus on environmental issues but has frequently pushed similar lines of thought on immigration as those listed above, often through population-growth dog whistles.23 The group was founded by Dave Foreman—who was kicked out of Earth First!, another group he co-founded—in the 1980s for his extreme anti-immigrant beliefs.24 Foreman is still actively associated with Rewilding and frequently associates with organizations such as CAPS and publishes anti-immigration op-eds.25

Colcom Foundation. Based in Pittsburgh, Colcom was founded by Mellon Bank heiress Cordelia Scaife May, who believed that her life’s purpose was curbing the threat of overpopulation by limiting immigration to the United States.26 According to public tax filings, Colcom is the single-largest funder of anti-immigrant groups in the United States, giving around $150 million since 2005.27 The foundation provides the bulk of funding to Tanton’s anti-immigration groups, including PFIR, NumbersUSA, FAIR, and CIS, along with nominal money for environmental causes. In February 2020, activists protested Colcom, describing it as “not an environmental organization that dabbles in white supremacy, [but] a white supremacist group that dabbles in environmentalism.” Several environmental organizations have subsequently severed ties to the foundation.28 Colcom Vice President John Rohe, who decades ago published a book about Tanton, denied activists’ claims about the organization, saying, “To be concerned about the level of immigrants due to overpopulation is not anti-immigrant.”29

Weeden Foundation. Led by Don Weeden, the foundation has provided funding to CAPS, the Rewilding Institute, NumbersUSA, PFIR, FAIR, and CIS, along with biodiversity and wilderness conservation organizations and projects.30 Several of its officers have also been very active in leadership and boards within the anti-immigration groups that they fund.31

Foundation for the Carolinas. Despite generally being well liked for their work to improve economic opportunity in Charlotte and around North Carolina, the group manages a donor-advised fund that has funneled money to FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA. Between 2006 and 2018, the foundation gave nearly $21 million in donor-advised gifts to at least nine anti-immigrant organizations, 85 percent of which went to Tanton-linked organizations.32

Anti-immigrant groups cloaking themselves in environmentalism to push a xenophobic agenda is not new.33 While their scientifically meritless arguments are no longer welcome within the mainstream environmental movement, they continue to fuel the vitriol—and bad policy decisions, including draconian cuts to immigration levels, the evisceration of the U.S. refugee asylum systems, and the separation of families at the border—that hurt legitimate, effective solutions to the conservation and climate crisis.34

Racist rhetoric undermines the conservation movement

This small but organized and well-funded fringe of anti-immigration activists has produced arguments that range from openly bigoted and racist stereotypes to the more insidious and purportedly science-based claims about population that resonate with Eurocentric environmentalism of the 20th century. It bears repeating: These claims do not have the support of the scientific community, and the little research that has been conducted in this area resoundingly refutes them.35 In fact, the vast majority of behavioral studies demonstrate that immigrants live more environmentally sustainable lifestyles than native-born Americans, so much so that immigrant density is associated with lower carbon emissions.36

Population-based arguments against immigration, meanwhile, are built on a series of flawed assumptions. The first is that the environmental health of the United States exists in isolation from the rest of the world, which has never been more untrue than in 2020, as the country grapples with climate change, the collapse of transnational migratory species, and a coronavirus pandemic born out of nature destruction and overexploitation of wildlife in another continent.37 The second is that it allows the interests driving the real problem—overconsumption and unregulated development—off the hook.38 For example, corporate interests such as the oil and gas industry have undue influence on U.S. policy.39 Per capita, the United States has a greater rate of climate emissions, air pollution, and nature destruction than most other countries and is an outlier even among countries with similar standards of living.40 Policies aimed at limiting corporate capture and protecting public health—not curtailing immigration—are the solutions to these problems.

Polls show that communities of color—to which most immigrants and second-generation Americans belong—are the most concerned about this destruction and the likeliest to support policies that would protect the environment.41 For example, polls show high Latino support for conserving water, reducing air pollution, and protecting wildlife.42 This comes as no surprise given that communities of color—especially those that are also low-income—are more likely to suffer the consequences of unplanned urban sprawl, oil and gas drilling, deforestation, and pollution.43 Studies show that white people contribute disproportionately to the problem of air pollution, while Black and Latino people are the likeliest to bear the burden of air pollution where they live.44 Immigrants, who contribute less to pollution on average than native-born Americans, are still disproportionately likely to suffer the consequences of toxic pollution from industrial polluters.45 In this context, genuine environmentalism cannot exclude or antagonize immigrants and second-generation Americans, who form a core constituency of the conservation movement.

Instead, this vitriol could actively harm the conservation movement by alienating and erasing both potential and existing allies, members, and leaders who are from immigrant backgrounds.46 For example, immigrant leaders were central to the labor-driven movement to ban the use of toxic DDT pesticides in the 20th century.47 More recently, Asian immigrants in the fishing industry faced the worst consequences of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and participated heavily in cleanup efforts.48 At the local level, immigrants are at the forefront of a range of environmental justice and conservation efforts, even as they remain underrepresented at the tables of national organizations and government agencies.49 Moreover, the racist rhetoric that runs throughout the anti-immigration fringe could undermine the United States’ ability to cooperate across borders with countries that will be key allies in fighting climate change, conserving biodiversity, and, ultimately, fighting the ecological degradation and disasters that often force people to flee their home countries to begin with.50

One of the most dramatic examples of how greenwashed nativism can harm the planet is the Trump administration’s U.S.-Mexico border wall. Its construction was not only regarded as ineffective and wasteful but has also caused immense damage to the environment, including by blasting mountains, destroying ancient cactus, desecrating sacred sites of the Tohono O’odham Nation, and disrupting the migration routes and survival of nearly 100 already imperiled species ranging from jaguars to monarch butterflies.51 Notably, the Trump administration’s extensive use of waivers to circumvent environmental standards and regulations allowed the federal government to destroy these lands with impunity in the name of immigration control.52

Focusing, instead, on the root causes of human displacement and migration—including those rooted in nature destruction and climate change—and increasing well-designed legal channels for people to seek entry to the United States would help U.S. immigration policy become more humane, more effective, and more environmentally sustainable.53 Moreover, the Biden administration has an opportunity to focus on repairing the cruel and counterproductive mistakes of the Trump era to establish a working legal immigration system, asylum process, and pathway to citizenship—all of which will benefit the U.S. environmental movement.54

Conclusion 

Anti-immigrant sentiments were a staple of mainstream Eurocentric conservation in the 19th and 20th centuries—but so were eugenics, unscientific species exterminations, and the purposeful usurpation of land from Indigenous tribes who often stewarded natural resources more effectively than the managers who followed. As an examination of funding sources and policy positions have found, the extremist groups now hawking misleading and easily debunked green-hate arguments are not acting in good faith.

Twenty-first century environmentalism is, by necessity, a multiracial, multigenerational, international, and anti-elitist movement whose diversity only makes it stronger. It is built of, by, and for all people—and immigrant-dense communities are its base.55 If the evidence of bad actors funding green hate, the mounting scientific data, and 650 miles of border wall devastation are not evidence enough, this fact alone should make clear that these arguments do not belong in the modern environmental movement.

Jenny Rowland-Shea is a senior policy analyst for Public Lands at the Center for American Progress. Sahir Doshi is research assistant for Public Lands at the Center.

Source: The Extremist Campaign to Blame Immigrants for US Environmental Problems

‘Institutionally racist’: NZ security agencies were Islamophobic and ignored right-wing threat – Muslim group

Of note. Valid and necessary of course to await the inquiry’s final report:

New Zealand’s security agencies were “institutionally racist and Islamophobic” and ignored the rising threat of right-wing extremism because it was instead focused on Muslim terrorism, a Kiwi Islamic organisation says.

The Federation of the Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) yesterday publicly released its submission to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the March 15 terror attacks.

It investigated how the New Zealand Intelligence Community [NZIC] didn’t foresee the threat of right-wing extremism despite rising attacks overseas and the Muslim community here feeling increasingly unsafe.

“We asked for help. We knew we were vulnerable to such an attack. We did not know who, when, what, where or how. But we knew,” the report said.

A team of researchers pored over a decade of media reports, speeches in Parliament, public addresses, online forums among other sources to establish how the threat had been ignored.

It concluded security organisations were institutionally racist, Islamophobic, incorrect and misled the public.

“We are not trying to generate any hate, we are just trying to give the facts as we see them. The problem is much deeper than that,” said Abdur Razzaq Khan, who chaired the federation’s submission to the Royal Commission.

The federation said Muslim communities were left “defenceless” because of “systemic failures” of diversity at the security organisations which failed to properly engage with Muslim communities.

The report pointed to numerous examples of the director-general of security Rebecca Kitteridge wrongly framed terrorism as a “Muslim issue” rather than seeing the community as potential victims.

Their submission included a speech from Kitteridge in 2016 at Victoria University where she said New Zealanders “can walk the streets free from fear” of events like Paris, Brussels, Ottawa, London and Sydney which were all perpetrated by Islamic radicals.

She did not mention the events of Oslo, Quebec, Pittsburg or Macerata which were orchestrated by right-wing extremists.

It was not until mid-2018 that agencies began assessing the threat of right-wing extremists, the report said.

But Khan said they did not blame any individual for the “failings”, or say that the NZIC was staffed by white supremacists or individuals with anti-Muslim bias.

“This is not the fault of any individual – this is the culture of Islamophobia.”

The NZSIS was extremely capable and if they had focused on finding right-wing extremism, they would have found the Christchurch terrorist.

“This rat would have easily been identified if they were looking – but they weren’t looking.

“They are very good, they searched out those Muslims who were searching out objectionable material and they prosecuted.”

The federation also found the Christchurch mosque attacks terrorist would never have been able to obtain a firearm if proper procedures were followed because two of his referees did not meet police criteria.

In order to avoid a terror attack happening again, the federation recommended criminalising hate crimes, denying right-wing extremism, establishing a Ministry of Super Diversity, improving how media portray Muslims, and better training for the police and security agencies.

The New Zealand Intelligence Community said it could not respond to specific claims until the Royal Commission’s report was released on December 8. The 800-page report has been presented to the Government.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she wanted the public to see the report before “launching into the discussion” on whether New Zealand’s security agencies had failed.

Source: ‘Institutionally racist’: NZ security agencies were Islamophobic and ignored right-wing threat – Muslim group

Christian journal claims government has forced the Church to worship ‘the false god of saving lives’

Meanwhile, Christian fundamentalists:

Although a great many governors have made allowances for religious ceremonies to be performed in their coronavirus lockdown orders, many churches, too, have acknowledged in these extraordinary circumstances that their congregants should not be expected to attend public gatherings just for the sake of religious ceremony. Even Pope Francis has suggested Catholics who are at risk should ask God for forgiveness directly rather than go to Confession — a remarkable departure from centuries of Catholic Church doctrine.

But not all those of faith feel this way. In an angry article published in the right-wing Christian Journal First Things, editor R. R. Reno took a different position, suggesting that Christianity does not, in fact, command the faithful to take steps to save lives from COVID-19.

“At the press conference on Friday announcing the New York shutdown, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, ‘I want to be able to say to the people of New York — I did everything we could do. And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy,’” wrote Reno. “This statement reflects a disastrous sentimentalism. Everything for the sake of physical life? What about justice, beauty, and honor? There are many things more precious than life. And yet we have been whipped into such a frenzy in New York that most family members will forgo visiting sick parents. Clergy won’t visit the sick or console those who mourn. The Eucharist itself is now subordinated to the false god of ‘saving lives.’”

“A number of my friends disagree with me,” wrote Reno. “They support the current measures, insisting that Christians must defend life. But the pro-life cause concerns the battle against killing, not an ill-conceived crusade against human finitude and the dolorous reality of death.”

Indeed, Reno even suggested that fearing the pandemic is a victory for Satan.

“There is a demonic side to the sentimentalism of saving lives at any cost,” wrote Reno. “Satan rules a kingdom in which the ultimate power of death is announced morning, noon, and night. But Satan cannot rule directly. God alone has the power of life and death, and thus Satan can only rule indirectly. He must rely on our fear of death.”

“Fear of death and causing death is pervasive — stoked by a materialistic view of survival at any price and unchecked by Christian leaders who in all likelihood secretly accept the materialist assumptions of our age,” concluded Reno. “As long as we allow fear to reign, it will cause nearly all believers to fail to do as Christ commands in Matthew 25. It already is.”

Source: Christian journal claims government has forced the Church to worship ‘the false god of saving lives’

The Legitimate Islamic Right — A Frank Discussion

Interesting and more nuanced take from an organization that tends towards anti-Muslim commentary:

A frank discussion needs to be had about the legitimate Islamic Right, namely religious Muslims who are politically and socially conservative but not Islamists. Too often, religious Muslims and Islamists get lumped together in the same category, but in reality, opposing Islamism is about opposing a political ideology, not just conservative views.

Extremism is about politics, not faith. The difference between an Islamist extremist and a regular Muslim religious person is whether they see their faith as a totalitarian political solution, not how religious they are.

Unless countering Islamism draws a firm line there, it will consistently exclude the reasonable Islamic right.

The Religious Islamic Right

Theological differences aside, religious people from the Abrahamic faiths share more social and political beliefs than they disagree with, namely, the values of social conservatives.

Social conservatives hold a set of views about how societies should be arranged. These views prioritize community over individualistic loneliness, conservation over consumerism, and tradition over novelty. Above all, they prioritize marriage and the home.

There is nothing unique to what is sometimes called the “Judeo-Christian” tradition about these views. They are just as prevalent in Islam among religious Muslims.

For example, according to a 2013 cross comparison of religious attitudes on abortion conducted by PEW, the Islamic position on abortion is on par with the theological views of Christianity and Judaism. Most Islamic theologians view it very negatively, although it is permissible up to four months.

Regarding dating, the views are also similar. Religious Muslim families in America have been known to use informal networks of aunts and grandmothers to secure dates that might lead to marriage for young men and women too pious to date casually.

This is very similar to the shidduch system of Orthodox Jews. It’s also something that a lot of Christian conservatives, many of whom frown on modern sexual norms, might find more appealing for their own children.

For these reasons, a lot of Muslims used to vote Right wing. A 2001 Zogby poll, quoted by The Atlantic in a piece titled “How the GOP Won and Then Lost the Muslim Vote,” indicated that 42% of American Muslims voted for Bush, as opposed to 32% for his opponent Al Gore.

If Right-wing people view expression of these sorts of views as extremist when displayed by Muslims, but as laudable when displayed by members of their own faith, that is holding Islam to a different standard.

Of course, we are not talking about the cases where such religious systems become oppressive and involve coercion, restricting personal freedoms or even violence, it is unacceptable. Culture is never an excuse for abuse. But where there is no abuse, these attitudes are simply conservative.

What About Sharia?

Islam is not like Christianity. Sharia is a total code for life which draws on the rich Islamic tradition of scholarship to guide daily conduct. Although there are many different opinions on what sharia is, most Muslims agree that it is very important.

However, the point that Islamic Right differs from the Islamists is that the Islamic Right does not agree that sharia should become the law of the land – either at this time or even in the future.

Granted, many Muslims who are deeply religious may feel in theory that a global caliphate which implements sharia would be the best system of government. There’s just the “small matter” of who would be the caliph, and how to ensure the judges and administrators are decent people devoted to truth and justice, and not power hungry lunatics.

In order for them to pledge allegiance to a particular caliph, they would have to see some pretty clear evidence that this guy was in fact acting with the authority of Allah.

Evidence such as the coming of the mahdi, an Islamic messianic figure, and direct intervention by supernatural forces would be such indications.

In the meantime, they are content to live normal lives, follow their interpretation of sharia privately and live within under a democracy and secular law.

In fact, such views do not differ from those of religious Christians and Jews who also look to a future where the world will be run according to the “kingdom of God.”

Other religious Muslims would go further still and argue that sharia should never be imposed as state law.

Politics Not Faith

It is difficult to gauge accurately how many Muslims hold these views. What can be determined is which ideologies are dangerous and abusive and which are not.

The point is that it is unreasonable to expect Islam, alone among world religions, to cut off and excise its religiously conservative component to appease anxious non-Muslims.

If social-conservatism is a vital and necessary part of the national political conversation (and it is), then Muslims have just as much right to express that through their faith as anyone else.

What is reasonable is to highlight where that conservatism goes too far. The line, as always, is where it starts aggressing on someone else’s rights.

Any political ideology which seeks to impose religious conservatism as state law is the problem. It’s one thing to prefer the hijab for personal and spiritual reasons for yourself. To try and force others to wear it is something completely different.

In the meantime, barring any coercive circumstances, the “Judeo-Christian” conservative Right should open their doors to the Islamic Right — Muslims who share the same values as they do — instead of pushing them into alliances with the Left.

Source: The Legitimate Islamic Right — A Frank Discussion

How to speak to far-right nationalists: Buruma

Buruma is always interesting to read and his general advice worth reflecting upon:

Something many right-wing populists have in common is a peculiar form of self-pity: the feeling of being victimized by the liberal media, academics, intellectuals, “experts” – in short, by the so-called elites. The liberal elites, the populists proclaim, rule the world and dominate ordinary patriotic people with an air of lofty disdain.

This is in many ways an old-fashioned view. Liberals, or leftists, do not dominate politics any more. And the influence that great left-of-centre newspapers, like The New York Times, once had has long been eclipsed by radio talk-show hosts, right-wing cable TV stations, tabloid newspapers (largely owned by Rupert Murdoch in the English-speaking world) and social media.

Influence, however, is not the same thing as prestige. The great newspapers, as with the great universities, still enjoy a higher status than the more popular press, and the same goes for higher learning. The Sun or Bild lack the esteem of the Financial Times or the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and evangelical colleges in rural parts of the United States cannot compete in terms of cachet with Harvard or Yale.

Social status arouses more envy and resentment in our populist age than money or fame do. U.S. President Donald Trump, for example, is a very wealthy man, who was more famous than any of his rivals for the U.S. presidency, including Hillary Clinton. And yet he seems to be in an almost permanent rage against people who have greater intellectual or social prestige than he does. The fact that he shares this resentment with millions of people who are much less privileged goes a long way toward explaining his political success.

Until recently, figures on the extreme right had no prestige at all. Driven to the margins of most societies by collective memories of Nazi and fascist horrors, such men (there were hardly any women) had the grubby air of middle-aged patrons of backstreet porno cinemas. Stephen Bannon, still a highly influential figure in Mr. Trump’s world, seems a bit like that – a crank in a dirty raincoat.

But much has changed. Younger members of the far right, especially in Europe, are often sharply dressed in tailor-made suits, recalling the fascist dandies of pre-war France and Italy. They don’t shout at large mobs, but are slick performers in radio and TV studios, and are savvy users of social media. Some of them even have a sense of humour.

These new-model rightists are almost what Germans call salonfaehig, respectable enough to move in high circles. Overt racism is muted; their bigotry is disguised under a lot of smart patter. They crave prestige.

I had occasion to encounter a typical ideologue of this type recently at an academic conference organized by the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College in the United States. The conference was about populism, and the ideologue was Marc Jongen, a politician from the far-right Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) party with a doctorate in philosophy. The son of a Dutch father and an Italian mother, born in Italy’s German-speaking South Tyrol, Mr. Jongen spoke near-perfect English.

Self-pity lay close to the surface. Mr. Jongen described Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to give shelter in Germany to large numbers of refugees from Middle Eastern wars as “an act of violence” toward the German people. He called immigrants and refugees criminals and rapists (even though crime rates among refugees in Germany are far lower than among “natives”). Islam was robbing the German Volk of its true identity. Men like Mr. Jongen were always being called Nazis. And so on.

I had been asked to furnish some counterarguments. I did not call Mr. Jongen a Nazi. But I did my best to point out why I thought his claims were both wrong and dangerous. We shook hands at the end. And that, as far as I was concerned, was that.

Then a minor academic storm broke out. More than 50 distinguished U.S. academics signed a letter protesting the Hannah Arendt Center’s decision to invite Mr. Jongen to speak. The point was not that he didn’t have the right to express his opinions, but that Bard College should not have lent its prestige to make the speaker look respectable. Inviting him to speak made his views seem legitimate.

This strikes me as wrong-headed for several reasons. First, if one is going to organize a conference on right-wing populism, it is surely useful to hear what a right-wing populist actually has to say. Listening to professors denouncing ideas without actually hearing what they are would not be instructive.

Nor is it obvious that a spokesman for a major opposition party in a democratic state should be considered out of bounds as a speaker on a college campus. Left-wing revolutionaries were once a staple of campus life, and efforts to ban them would rightly have been resisted.

The protest against inviting Mr. Jongen was not only intellectually incoherent; it was also tactically stupid, because it confirms the beliefs of the far right that liberals are the enemies of free speech and that right-wing populists are victims of liberal intolerance. I like to think that Mr. Jongen left the Bard conference politely discredited. Because of the protest, he was able to snatch victory from defeat.

via How to speak to far-right nationalists – The Globe and Mail