In recent decades, anti-immigrant parties have surged in the polls and entered most European parliaments. Since the last federal elections even Germany, which had not had a party right of the CDU since the Second World War, now has a right-wing populist party in the Bundestag. According to this Bloomberg article some of the reasons for this rise are: immigration, inequality and globalization. This development is influential and is presumably known to all readers of this article. But, you might ask, does voting for an anti-immigrant party automatically make you extreme right? It does not. It is wrong to suggest that all voters of the PVV, AfD, UKIP or Front National are extreme right. But then again, some of them are, and some politicians in these parties are as well. With the extremists mixing in, it’s hard to determine who is who. Extreme right ideas are seldomly expressed openly and are often blended into a more moderate narrative. So how does one determine if a party is just critical of immigration and globalization or if their intentions lie deeper? In this article, I will display some signs that show an underlying ideology. This way, you can identify the extreme right ideology, even if it doesn’t wear a swastika.
Underlying intentions are important to determine the weight of words, and how far one is prepared to go to achieve his or her goals. And with the far right, much of the underlying intensions originate in the fascist ideology. Since the Second World War, extreme right groups were marginalized and the word ‘fascist’ became a curse word. This has discouraged people to associate with fascism, and it has also let this once influential ideology lose its relevance. This has been a very positive development, but a negative by-product is that people now associate negatively with the word ‘fascist’ without actually knowing what it stands for. This creates opportunities for politicians to just put another name tag on the same old ideology, or a somewhat modernized version, and sell it as something else.
But don’t be fooled, the ideology has the same consequences. Fascism, , has many shapes and forms. But some aspects are shared by most fascists. They like traditionalism, violence and nationalism. They dislike minorities’ rights, consumerism, modern values, intellectualism and democracy. Fascists see the world as one big battleground. Nations or races fight each other and will grow stronger through survival of the fittest. This is why nations should stick together and may not be divided and weakened by fighting internally, since this will result in domination by ‘the others’. Individuals are merely a piece of the collective, fighting for the common goal: the survival of your group. Any element that undermines the uniformity of your group should be forcefully removed. Therefore, everyone has to be on the lookout for internal enemies, which is why fascist ideas tend to be paranoid and why they produce so many conspiracy theories. Creating a feeling of threat is a very effective way to mobilize people, certainly when you’re being threatened from within. This theory of a fifth column (a group within a society that seeks to undermine its own group) is popular in extreme circles on both the right and left. The underlying ideology means that for fascists, much more is permitted than for the average critic of immigration. Violence and suppression are fine since you’re just defending what is your own.
An example of the effectiveness of threat trough conspiracy is the stab-in-back-myth. After the First World War, extreme conservative and fascist groups in Germany claimed that the war could have been won if it wasn’t for the socialist Weimar government that ended the war, and the presumed large Jewish influence. Therefore, the harsh punishment that Germany faced from the Versailles treaty was entirely the fault of the traitorous government, which was allegedly trying to undermine Germany. Even though the military strategists agreed that the war was lost, the myth was enough to inspire the Kapp-putsch, a coup that tried to replace the socialist government. Even though this coup failed, it instigated enough distrust of the Weimar establishment that made the rise of the Nazi-party a lot easier.
The effectiveness of such conspiracies is not only the element of threat, but also that it is self-confirming. The target can’t credibly deny that he is not trying to undermine his own group, since that would be exactly what a traitor would try to convince you of. Anti-establishment parties have been very effective in dividing the population from its political elites by pointing at their failures. The extreme right however does not say the elites are incompetent. The elites are evil and they pose an immediate threat to your well-being.
Conspiracies against the people
A conspiracy theory that is often used since the recent refugee crisis is that of replacement. Liberal elites allegedly promote immigration to replace the native population of a country, because immigrants tend to vote more left-winged. The refugee crisis has also sparked fears for the racial purity of Europe in extreme right circles. It fears the racial degradation of Europeans that comes forth out of mixing races. Take for instance the Dutch party FvD (Forum for Democracy), a conservative party with anti-immigrant stances. Their leader, Thierry Baudet, said that he is afraid of the homeopathic dilution of Europe and that he wanted to contain ‘our boreal Europe’. These are dog-whistles in extreme-right circles for a racially pure Europe. These international conspiracies are based on the idea of Globalism. This means that the elites want the degradation of national states and the to open western borders. Liberal elites allegedly want to break the western society, break the sovereignty of national states and establish a global government. National traditions stand in the way of this, and therefore have to be broken.
A tool for breaking these traditions is something that’s very present in recent debates: political correctness. Critics of political correctness say that the liberal elites forbid the people to say what they want if it can insult a minority group. Just open YouTube and you’ll be flooded by rants against the ‘social justice warriors’. Political correctness makes a lot of people very angry, as well as the extreme right. But their reasons lie deeper that just annoyance. They see these emancipatory movements as direct attacks on traditional values. Political correctness is a tool in these attacks, and these attacks are again inspired by a conspiracy against the people: Cultural Marxism.
Cultural Marxism is a school of thought that says the traditional western values are like chains to the population, and need to be systematically destroyed in order to prepare them for communism. This school of though is often ascribed to the Frankfurt School, a group of German Marxist exiles in the United States that also were predominately Jewish (which always raises alarm bells with the extreme right). Although this interpretation of Cultural Marxism is highly doubted, it is enough to frighten the extreme right. They fear that society will degrade without its traditional values to keep it in check. For instance, if traditional gender roles disappear, this will decrease the masculinity of western men, making it easier for other races to dominate them. Also, increased women’s rights are dangerous since women are ‘biologically less loyal to the tribe’ and are therefore more inclined to invite intruders into society. In essence, traditional values are the natural way for a society to function orderly. Take them away and you get chaos.
Since the extreme right tends to be paranoid, they see cultural Marxism in many aspects of society. Feminists, ANTIFA and LGTBQI action groups are common targets despite their limited political influence. Another common target is academia. In conservative circles, the more left-winged tendency of the highly educated has often been explained by the left-winged tendencies of professors. The extreme right sees this as a preconceived plan to infiltrate the university with ideologues, brainwashing their students to reject western values. The results of imprinting these ideas into the student’s young mind are a degradation of morals, mass immigration and eventually submission.
The extreme right is a complex phenomenon, and the characteristics described above are just the tip of the iceberg of the complete worldview the extreme right has created. The characteristics probably describe things that you recognize. However, not from extreme right propaganda itself, but from people that are taking over (some of) the narrative and techniques employed by the extreme right. Creating the notion of threat (‘rapefugees’, ‘a tsunami of immigrants’) or conspiracy from the elites against the people are now often used by anti-immigrant populist parties in Europe. US president Donald Trump based much of his presidential campaign on it. A concept like cultural Marxism, once only used in extremist circles, has now entered the common narrative, with people like popular YouTube professor Jordan Peterson criticizing it.
Don’t get me wrong, complaining about the loss of traditional values is what conservatism is all about and that’s legitimate. But to a growing extent, scaring people with the notion of being threatened by those in power and those on the outside is solely used to achieve certain political goals. Fascism creates totalitarianism. It induces paranoia, fierce discrimination and dehumanizes anyone that merely seems to have different views than you, and positions them as an arch enemy. Fear as a means in politics has become mainstream. It is our duty to stop this and make our political narrative shared and open again.