The pendulum in Europe is swinging to the right and it ain’t pretty. Most recently, Nick Griffin of the British Nationalist Party was elected to the European Parliament representing North West England. This is no joke: the man is no flash in the pan but has been a dedicated leader of the British far right for years. (He was recently pelted with eggs at a speech by british protestors).
You may try to write this off as a one-off event reflecting British frustrations. Though the political body is different, brits were recently told that their MPs had been behaving badly with their expense accounts, for example (from suite 101):
Labour Hazel Blears claimed expenses for three different houses in a single year including mortgage, furniture, TVs and bed linens. Not contented with three different addresses, she also claimed for stays at some of the most fashionable hotels in London. Miss Blears sold her second home to another politician making a profit of Â£45,000 without paying Capital Gains tax, having conveniently reassingned her primary address. Miss Blears, it is worth pointing out, is Communities Secretary and, as such, she is in charge of Housing Policy.
Yikes! Not cool, Hazel. But, as the new republic points out:
What is particularly grim, however, is that this is not solely a British phenomenon: The far right has made gains across Europe, including in longstanding EU member states. In Italy, the anti-immigrant Northern League and post-fascist National Alliance are part of the political establishment, serving in Berlusconi’s government. In Austria, the political spirit of Jorg Haider lives on as two extreme-right, anti-immigrant parties took an unprecedented 17.7 percent of the vote. In the Netherlands, the anti-Muslim immigrant far-right party of Geert Wilders came in second place, again with 17 percent of the vote, while in Denmark the far-right Danish People’s Party won two seats in the European Parliament.
But the most worrying developments are in the “new” Europe, where the heady days of rapid growth enjoyed in the post-Communist era have been brought to an abrupt halt. With national economies in a tailspin, ultranationalists and neo-fascists have tapped into the hardship felt by many voters, turning their ire on immigrants, Gypsies and other “outsiders.” In Slovakia, only 19.4 per cent of people turned out to vote–allowing ultra-nationalists parties, complete with their chilling anti-Roma rhetoric, to triumph. In Hungary, the Jobbik party, with its anti-Roma propaganda and Hungarian Guard paramilitary wing, won three seats for the first time.
A trend to notice is the increasing sophistication of at least the BNP. They have made a concerted effort to ditch anti-semitism and move onto cashing in on fear and hatred of Islam. In other words, Nick went from saying things like this:
I have reached the conclusion that the ‘extermination’ tale is a mixture of Allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lie, and latter-day witch-hysteria…
It stands to reason that adopting an ‘Islamophobic’ position that appeals to large numbers of ordinary people – including un-nudged journalists – is going to produce on average much better media coverage than siding with Iran and banging on about ‘Jewish power’, which is guaranteed to raise hackles of virtually every single journalist in the western world.
(The first quote is from Griffin’s 1998 trial. The second is from an article last year, both from the Guardian)
The BNP even put out a Jewish candidate, Patricia Robertson. According to the editor of the BNP newspaper, ‘Freedom’:
There has been a growing dialogue between senior members of the Jewish community and the BNP and today there are an increasing number of Jews campaigning for the BNP and feeling very comfortable with their political choice.
Muffti imagines that ‘increasing numbers’ may be easy to achieve given how low the numbers presumably were to begin with. Muffti assumes that few Jews feel comfortable with a party whose leader was a holocaust denier and whose prominent members members are holocaust deniers. In other words, the far-right is becoming more sophisticated in their message and ditching the ‘we hate every body’ that made them easy targets for the more nuanced position of ‘we hate those guys and, hey so do you!’. Muffti only hopes we won’t all be duped: radical islam is a terrible and frightening force and European politicians have been slow and lazy to deal with it. But empowered far right political parties that can take advantage of what promise to be very tough economic times for Europe have a history is not a very savory alternative.