Earlier today, in “How The Alt-Right Blogosphere Is Destroying Society,” I outlined the rise of the alt-right blogosphere and explained why it’s a threat to civility, progress, and rationality.
I also warned that thanks in no small part to sites like Breitbart News and its progeny, the alt-right harangue will likely now focus on helping to bolster the prospects for populist candidates in France, the Netherlands, and Germany, where Angela Merkel stands as the last beacon of hope for Western democracy which, as unlikely as this sounds, faces an existential threat from the rising tide of nationalism.
Whether or not we, as a society, can overcome the temptation to surrender our future to a succession of demagogues remains to be seen. And indeed we may be but one tragedy away from seeing the momentum turn irreversibly in favor of politicians who seek to capitalize on fear and intolerance. I shudder to think how quickly Frauke Petry’s already bright star would rise should there be a Paris-style attack in Berlin.
Following last month’s attack on a Berlin Christmas market, the AfD’s Marcus Pretzell posted the following message on Twitter:
That’s a rough translation. More precisely it says “These are Merkel’s dead.”
With that, consider the following excerpts from a recent Citi note which describes the mood in Europe:
Rising rejection towards globalization/immigration – This has been a common trend across Europe and in other advanced economies, illustrated recently by the Trump election. According to the latest Eurobarometer (in May), immigration is the second most important issue faced by countries in the EU (unemployment is the first), escalating from the fifth position in 2012. Such perceptions are likely to have been aggravated by the refugee/immigration crisis in 2015. Eurostat data show that the foreign-born population resident in the EU has increased by 9% between 2009 and 2015 to 10% of total population, up by around 20% in the UK (to 13%), Sweden (to 16%) and Denmark (to 11%). In addition, public aversion towards globalization remains very high in Europe, with around 45% of EU citizens thinking globalization represents a threat, according to a poll conducted in August by Dalia Research for the Bertelsmann Foundation. Interestingly, among those believing globalization is a threat, 53% see immigration as a major challenge while 54% feel ‘alienated’. Across countries, perceptions of globalization are the most negative in Austria, France and Poland (see Figure 6).
Low trust in institutions and elites – Lack of confidence/trust in political and business elites, ‘experts’, as well as the media has also featured as a resonant theme in the various political events this year. The resilience so far of the UK economy in the aftermath of the Brexit vote – against general warnings/projections (including ours) of a sharp short-term economic slowdown – and the inaccuracy of polls in predicting various electoral outcomes, are recent examples of potential catalysts in the deteriorating public perception against ‘elites’. According to recent data from the Edelman Trust Barometer, less than 50% of the general population in France (41%, see Figure 7), Germany (42%), the UK (42%), Spain (46%) and Italy (49%) trust the institutions of business, government, media and NGOs. Historically, low trust societies have been fertile ground for conspiracy theories as well revolutions in the most extreme cases.
And don’t forget, where globalization is a blessing, de-globalization is a curse…