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angela merkel europe geopolitics germany italy Matteo Salvini populism

The Wrong Side Of History.

Of populism, propaganda, Salvini and the Trump TIME cover.

You’ve probably seen this by now, but just in case, the following video – it’s from last year, but it started making the rounds again this week – shows League leader Matteo Salvini explicitly calling for a “mass cleansing” of migrants Italy.

 

If you’re not fluent in “racist”, here’s what he said there:

We need a mass cleansing, street by street, piazza by piazza, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. We need to be tough because there are entire parts of our cities, entire parts of Italy, that are out of control.

Salvini, who is of course now Interior Minister to the new Italian government, has predictably ratcheted up the xenophobic rhetoric over the last couple of weeks in an effort to … hell I don’t know … in an effort to I guess bolster the domestic appeal of the populist coalition he helped cement ahead of what are almost certain to be frequent clashes with the EU on any number of issues, including immigration.

That clip should be viewed in the context of Salvini’s plan to conduct a census of the Roma community. Here he is in an interview with broadcaster TeleLombardia:

Again, there are invariably some readers who aren’t fluent in “fascist”, so here’s the translation:

At the Ministry I am preparing a dossier on the Roma issue in Italy, because after Maroni nothing is done, and it is chaos. Asurvey of the Roma in Italy to see who, how, how many, referring to what was defined in the census, we make a registry. Irregular foreigners will have to be expelled with agreements between States, but the Italian Roma unfortunately you have to keep them at home.

He would defend that on Facebook, claiming that “if the left suggests it, it’s fine, if I propose it, it’s RACISM”.

Right (no pun intended). And that dichotomy stems directly from other racist things Salvini has said. It’s kind of like how, if Jeff Sessions were to tell you that the food sucks at an African American-owned restaurant that just opened down the street, you might suspect that maybe ol’ Jeff is discouraging you from eating there for reasons that don’t have anything to do with food quality.

Earlier this month, Salvini grabbed international headlines when he blocked a rescue boat carrying more than 600 migrants from docking and his hardline stance has exacerbated Angela Merkel’s increasingly precarious political position in Germany. 17 EU countries will gather in Brussels on Sunday for an emergency confab on the migration issue ahead of a formal summit on June 28-29.

Emmanuel Macron blasted Salvini at a speech in Brittany this week. “They are saying the most provocative things and no one, no one, is outraged,” he said, adding that “we are getting used to all kinds of extremism from countries that a few years ago were just as pro-European as we are.”

It goes without saying that Donald Trump is effectively legitimizing this extremism with his “zero tolerance” border policies. This week, he characterized immigrants as insects with only a half-hearted effort to attach the MS-13 red herring to his xenophobic tweet:

He would go on to describe America as a “migrant camp” and a “refugee holding facility.”

 

This is all plainly insane and it speaks to my contention that populism in its most recent incarnation is leaning increasingly on racism and nationalism while legitimate concerns about income distribution and economic disparities have fallen almost entirely by the wayside.

I reiterated this last weekend in “Sunset“, a post which featured the following excerpt from a January piece:

Trump’s campaign and the Brexit push both leaned heavily on nationalist sentiment and that sentiment itself relied at least in part on a heightened sense of xenophobia. Populist candidates used the influx of refugees from the war-torn Mideast to stoke fears of a coming culture war that, according to these political opportunists, would result in the Islamization of Western Europe.

Obviously, that was a ridiculous proposition, but it resonated thanks in no small part to a steady stream of propaganda. That propaganda push would reach epic levels of absurdity in 2016. For instance, right-wing websites at one point resorted to posting pictures of swimming pool etiquette signs (which, like swimming pool etiquette signs have always done, discouraged horseplay and literal ass-grabbing) as evidence that Muslims couldn’t be trusted around European women. Because no white man has ever grabbed himself a handful of ass at a swimming pool, right?

It didn’t help that journalists, in their zeal to embellish a largely generic tale of radicalization, managed to transform the story of Abdelhamid Abaaoud (the ringleader of the Paris attacks) into the jihadist version of the Keyser Söze legend. He was blown to bits like Wile E. Coyote in the St. Denis suburb north of Paris on November 18, 2015, but the media had already managed to turn him into a larger-than-life character. That, along with the Brussels attacks, allowed the specter of the cell he commanded to hang over European politics for a full year after his death.

Somehow, reason managed to triumph over fear in France and ultimately Marine Le Pen was trounced by Emmanuel Macron in the 2017 presidential election. Weeks earlier, Geert Wilders (the cartoonish xenophobe from the Netherlands) watched as his Party for Freedom put up a lackluster performance in the Dutch elections. As for AfD in Germany, they did manage to become the first far-Right party to enter parliament since … well … since you know. But they remain on the fringe.

Well, in a sweeping new note, Goldman takes a fresh look at what’s driving populism in Europe and as the bank writes, “the success of European populist movements goes beyond economics.” Here are some key excerpts:

Populists – principally those with their origins on the right of the political spectrum – have for a long time sought election on a platform of tighter control over immigration, from France’s FN to Hungary’s FIDESZ, from Germany’s AfD to Austria’s FPÖ. The programmes of Italy’s Lega and Five Star Movement (5SM) have also found common ground on that dimension.

GSPopulism

Mainstream politicians have also more recently tried to tap into a growing body of electors eager to curb immigration – and, at the same time, limit the erosion of their own electoral base – by shifting the slant towards these issues (e.g., the introduction by French President Macron’s centrist government of tighter immigration controls on April 2018, causing dissent in his parliamentary majority; German CSU Interior Minister Seehofer’s initiatives on asylum seekers ahead of elections in October 2018 in Bavaria, where the AfD is widely expected to compete aggressively for conservative votes).

This is in tune with opinion polls, which indicate that immigration is the most pressing policy issue facing the European continent, regardless of the overall economic situation. According to the EU Commission’s Eurobarometer, immigration from outside the EU is not perceived positively in a majority of EU countries, whereas the perception of intra-EU immigrants varies greatly across countries (Exhibits 1 and 2).

GSPOpulism2

I have long suggested that the populist push since 2015 depends first and foremost on an inherently racist agenda and that political opportunists both in Europe and in the U.S. capitalized off the misfortune of those fleeing violence in the war-torn Mideast by equating the European migrant crisis with the idea that globalism is leading to an erosion of national identities.

In the final act, these charlatans attempted (successfully) to attribute the decline of the Western middle class to the narrative. They whipped people into a xenophobic frenzy and managed to blind the electorate to the underlying message (which is predicated on racism) by couching everything in terms of economics after the fact. It’s a horrible mind fuck.

Have a look at the following chart:

GermanyBirths

As Goldman goes on to write, the upsurge in the number of live births to mothers born outside of Germany “accounts for most of the recent pick-up in Germany’s fertility rate.”

Obviously, that’s a reflection of Merkel’s decision to do everything she could to accommodate asylum seekers in 2015 as the wars in the Mideast prompted an influx of migrants.

But here’s the question: why is that a problem? How is it possible to present that statistic in a negative light without reference to xenophobia or, if that’s too pejorative for you, without reference to some kind of imagined erosion of cultural identity? It’s not possible – or if it is, it’s difficult.

Yes, cultural preservation is important, but not because it undergirds national identity. Who gives a fuck about national identity? It’s meaningless. Cultural preservation matters precisely because we can learn something from cultures that are different from our own. That calls for more integration, not less.

The “Islamization” of Europe meme is a myth. And guess who’s really – really – keen on perpetuating it? Here’s a hint:

Sputnik

That is just one of hundreds (if not thousands) of similar headlines run by Sputnik and RT since 2015.

Want an example of Sputnik’s propaganda that’s more recent? Fine:

migrant

As if that’s the fucking point, right? What’s next? The girl isn’t really crying? She’s not really a migrant? She’s a robot created by George Soros? That’s not really a picture of Donald Trump?

Here’s Sputnik’s version (citing the Daily Mail, of course).

Now here’s how CNN tells the exact same story, only in their version, there are admissions of mistakes, interviews with experts, quotes from both sides of the debate and explanations from TIME itself:

The cover features an image of a crying toddler taken by Getty photographer John Moore superimposed next to President Trump, who is towering over the child. The text next to the illustration reads, “Welcome to America.”

But as details about the little girl emerged this week, critics claim the cover is misleading because she is not one of the thousands of children who have been separated from their parents at the border.

Moore, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for Getty Images who has been photographing immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border for years, snapped the original photo of the two-year-old Honduran girl crying as her mother was next to her being searched and detained in McAllen, Texas, last week. The photo was widely used by media organizations, including CNN, to illustrate stories about children being taken from their parents after attempting to cross the border. But Time, with its iconic covers, became the center of a media ethics conversation.

Reporters began searching for more information about the little girl, who for many, reminded them of their own children in her red sneakers, jeans, long sleeve shirt and curly dark hair.

Soon reports began to emerge, citing the girl’s father, who is still in Honduras, and Customs and Border Protection, who said she was not separated from her mother.

Time magazine, however, stands by the cover.

“The June 12 photograph of the 2-year-old Honduran girl became the most visible symbol of the ongoing immigration debate in America for a reason: Under the policy enforced by the administration, prior to its reversal this week, those who crossed the border illegally were criminally prosecuted, which in turn resulted in the separation of children and parents. Our cover and our reporting capture the stakes of this moment,” Time’s editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said in a statement to CNN .

Moore, the photographer, told CNN he never claimed that the little girl was taken away from her mother. His original caption said that they were “detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents before being sent to a processing center for possible separation.”

[…]

The Republican National Committee blasted out an email with the subject line “TIME … to hire a new researcher.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted on Friday, “It’s shameful that [Democrats] and the media exploited this photo of a little girl to push their agenda. She was not separated from her mom. The separation here is from the facts.”

Time issued a correction on one of its articles in which Moore’s photo appeared. “The original version of this story misstated what happened to the girl in the photo after she taken from the scene. The girl was not carried away screaming by U.S. Border Patrol agents; her mother picked her up and the two were taken away together,” the correction reads. (CNN quickly issued a correction on one article Thursday that focused on the Time cover to correctly describe the image of the crying girl.)

Nancy Gibbs, a former editor of Time, told CNN the process of choosing a cover is collaborative, with the editor in chief working alongside the creative director and other senior editors. They look through several different options before deciding on the perfect visual expression of the magazine’s issue.

Gibbs defended the cover, saying it is clearly a photo illustration.

“Obviously this child never met the president, it’s not misleading at all in that sense,” Gibbs said. “I think that the power of it is in the juxtaposition of the two figures, of the child who quickly came to represent all of the children that we’re talking about, and the president who was making the decisions about their fate.”

Bruce Shapiro, a professor of journalism ethics and executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University, agreed with Gibbs and likened the cover to an editorial cartoon, saying it was “well within the parameters of editorial license.”

Got that? It’s a migrant girl. She’s crying. And she’s crying because she doesn’t understand what the fuck is going on and that confusion stems directly from being detained by U.S. border patrol agents. TIME took that picture and put her next to Trump in order to make a point and exactly no one who is in full possession of their faculties would ever believe that TIME was trying to suggest that Donald Trump actually met that little girl and towered over her smiling.

It’s not exactly like TIME took a picture of some random toddler crying in the McDonald’s line over getting a toy she didn’t like in a Happy Meal and tried to pass it off as a migrant girl.

Those headlines (from Sputnik and RT) are parroted by affiliated blogs and Kremlin mouthpieces across the web. It is so blatant and so painfully obvious to anyone who understands how propaganda works that it’s difficult to find the right words to communicate the sheer brazenness of it to gullible Westerners who have fallen hook, line and sinker for what at the end of the day is nothing more than a misinformation campaign designed to bolster the political fortunes of those who, for whatever reason, are intent on perpetuating the demise of Western hegemony.

Here’s an idea: don’t fall for it. It’s nonsense and in all likelihood, it will not work. These people (e.g., Trump, Le Pen, Salvini) will be remembered for what they are: demagogues.

Don’t be on the wrong side of history. Multiculturalism is a good thing. So is globalization.

And at the end of the day, both are inevitable.

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11 comments on “The Wrong Side Of History.

  1. Before immigration, there was no America. Without immigration, there will be no America.

  2. It’s not like this conversation about truth and subjectivity hasn’t been had on a national level before. That’s not the problem.

    The problem is that we are being asked to draw conclusions in order to evidence national loyalty (e.g., American democracy is dead so long as Trump is president), and we’re avoiding the necessary work to identify and fix the nation’s problems (e.g., how do I trade this chaotic mess in the market and make lots of money?).

    The market and financialization are once again blinding us.

  3. This is a good piece and it’s nice to see white hot from White. I think the populists/racists are winning because of an absence of leadership from their opposites. It’s back to “edukashun, edukashun, edukashun” to get people to stop being afraid of what is happening, and that’s not happening.

    A few decades ago in Germany, while I was cycling around, the government put out a series of posters as part of a campaign of tolerance. It was really good! The campaign said that if you want respect, you’ve got to respect sort of style. Last northern summer – I live in NZ – I cycled around Germany and other northern European countries again and there was no campaign like that, but it was needed, not because there was a lot of trouble – there wasn’t – but because the racists were winning, capitalising on fear that was unnecessary.

    Anyway thanks for standing up. It’s genuinely refreshing.

  4. Error404

    I’m not going to rebut this nonsense on a point-by-point basis, because – quite rightly – nobody gives a stuff what I think. What I will say is this: when you write about finance and macro, you’re clearly astute and well-informed. When you write about US domestic politics you’re clearly opinionated – but hey, it’s your blog, your country, and you’re on the spot. When you write about Europe your ignorance shows. As always, you’re entitled to your opinions, but if they are to be based on meaningful insight I suggest you come over and live for a while in today’s European reality rather than mindlessly throwing words such as ‘racism’, ‘xenophobia’, ‘fascism’, and ‘nationalism’ at complex phenomena you clearly don’t understand on anything other than the most superficial level.

    As for Mr. Evans’ comment, I was in Auckland recently – a place I’ve known well since the 1970s – and the racism amongst some strands of the pakeha population in response to the last decade’s immigration influx was palpable. I would suggest that when he’s finished offering advice on how to manage Europe he might want to focus closer to home.

    • So what? You have a right to an opinion. So do I.

    • During the recent German election, I was in Saxony. The AfD party got 25 per cent of the vote in this state. I stayed in Dresden for a month after and have German friends and acquaintances of various political stripes. I think I might know a few things about what is going on there. Are you sure you know what you’re talking about?

      As far as New Zealand goes, yes, there is a problem with racism here – as there is in probably every country on this Earth. I do my bit, and have done for some considerable period of time. Do you, wherever you are? . .whew!

    • As for Error’s erroneous comment here….

      I’m a trained political scientist. As in: I paid tens of thousands of dollars for political science degrees from large universities. So yeah, I do indeed have an academic leg to stand on here.

      There is nothing “mindless” about my analysis. It’s based on years of formal study under the supervision of PhDs.

      If you can say the same thing about your political analysis that’s great, but somehow, I doubt you can.

  5. I have to disagree with you on Europe’s immigration issues being solely race-related. There are plenty of very smart (and often dark-skinned) people out there who believe that Islam is incompatible with liberal democratic values, and I agree with them – and I do have a couple of degrees in political science from top-tier universities myself. Although I will add that I consider many strains of Christianity similarly incompatible, though perhaps to a slightly lesser degree.

    • But certainly racism is part of it. Definitely wouldn’t deny that. But so is the whole clashing worldviews thing.

  6. The concern we should all have is that globalization is what has created wealth, increased life expectancies and a whole slew of innovations.

    The only thing nationalism has brought is war.

    With the systemic shift to nationalism across the globe, it’s most crucial the United States play a leadership role in shifting the narrative back to globalization. Unfortunately, the current administration is leading the charge against globalization. And in so doing providing license to all the crazies to push limits….

    This, all while we are ignoring significant issues.
    Like watching shadows on the wall!

  7. Pingback: Reciprocity: Full Week Ahead Preview | AlltopCash.com

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