It was not Orwell’s original idea that those who control the language control the society and determine its nature. In any case, the left hardly ever needed inspiration from critics on how to achieve their agenda. They are instinctively good at manipulating speech and cultural expression. Watch out, therefore, for the current pattern of marginalising and delegitimising mainstream ideas they are hostile to by associating them with political fringes.
Analysis: Sri Lanka church bombings stoke far-right anger in the West https://t.co/seWuJwgzwG
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) April 22, 2019
Give Nore Dame a modern roof that the alt-right will hate, argues one writer https://t.co/JYbWzhk7Yn
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) April 20, 2019
Five Australians free to return after fighting in far-right "finishing school" https://t.co/ByAjkKv7ow
— ABC News (@abcnews) April 22, 2019
“The Washington Post” (“Democracy Dies in Darkness”) spends the whole article discussing how various “far-right” figures and forces, from France’s Marine Le Pen to Germany’s Alternative for Germany, got angry at the coordinated Islamist terrorist attacks that targeted churches among other locations and killed some 300 people. When I was growing up and well into my adulthood, “far right” was a description for neo-Nazi skinheads; nowadays it’s being used for those who might merely be Eurosceptics or don’t believe in open borders. But never mind the ever-creeping redefinition – just what exactly is the message of the article? That only “far-right” is angry about attacks on Christians? Or that if you are angry about attacks on Christians you must be “far right” yourself? Is Christianity now to be considered a white supremacist dog whistle? And if you are concerned about Islamist terrorism and/or terrorism against Christians world-wide are you now supposed to keep it down lest you somehow give succor to the far right or actually risk becoming associated with the far right in the eyes of the sophisticates who feast on Bezos’s fish wrapper? Maybe all of the above.
The article ends even more disingenuously than it starts, by advising readers not to jump to conclusions because no one has yet claimed responsibility for the Sri Lankan attacks (unlike in the clear cut case of the Christchurch terror attack), and reminding everyone that the bloody civil war in the country’s past was an ethno-nationalist affair rather than a religious one. Sure, it was the Tamils and the Sinhalese and Buddhist against Hindus, with the Marxist Tamil Tigers being quite big on suicide bombing, but is the WaPo suggesting – hoping? – that the recent outrages were a return to that old conflict rather than an instance of Islamist terrorism? Quite possibly, because we are lastly reminded that “Although Christian minorities are targeted around the world, analysts say that the vast majority of terrorism victims globally are Muslims.” Omitted is any mention that the vast majority of these Muslim victims of terrorism are murdered by the Muslim perpetrators. Can we be angry about that or is that also some sort of a far-right trait?
Another thing that apparently makes you far-right is wanting to rebuild the Notra Dame cathedral as it was prior to the fire:
If you ask me, in honor of Notre Dame’s history, the new roof needs to be a brand new design, representative of today and not of the past.
Why? Well, the restoration and preservation of historical buildings is based on an idea that there is an original state of things that can be reached if later additions and influences are done away with.
The idea of there being an ‘original state of things’ is also what dominates the worldview of the far right, who use their interpretation of the Middle Ages as a template for how they believe society should be.
Hence, “Notre Dame’s new roof should be a representation of the architecture of the first decades of the 21st century, more in the spirit of the pyramid at the Louvre than the spire that no longer defines the Paris city silhouette.” And if you are opposed to some modernist monstrosity on top of a Gothic cathedral, well, you are likely a fascist. Because “Western civilisation”:
Western civilization is a term that grew out of the creation of history as a topic of study at the universities in England, Germany, and France in the 19th century. In her book History. Why It Matters, historian Lynn Hunt states that “history grew as an academic discipline in tandem with nationalism and a growing conviction of European superiority over the rest of the world.” This conviction led to the West “being portrayed as the source of technical innovation and cultural advancement,” also known as “modernity.”The origins of “modernity” were found in a distorted interpretation of the Middle Ages, which medievalist Dorothy Kim traces to the German Völkisch movement, also in the 19th century. According to Kim, this movement “rewrote history, drawing from folklore such as that of Brothers Grimm, medieval epics and a dedication to racial white supremacy.”
From these two developments, the term “Western civilization” emerged in the 1890s, but it didn’t come into everyday use until the 20th century was well underway. According to philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, the term “West” is used in contrast to something else. During the age of Imperialism it was used in contrast to Asia; during the Cold War in contrast to Communist Europe and the Soviet Union; and today to Latin America, Africa, and Asia (also known as “the Global South”), and the Muslim world. Looking at the world from this point of view, “West” and “Western civilization” come to mean the United States, Europe, and Christianity.
This brings us to the notion of Judeo-Christian values, where once again the Middle Ages are used to make an argument that actually misrepresents the time period. In the eyes of those who promote the ideas of Western civilization and so-called Judeo-Christian values, the Middle Ages stand out as the ideal time period when Europe was a white society united in a homogenous Christian culture led by one single Christian institution.
Such a view of the Middle Ages is inaccurate. In fact, what is considered to be European culture, in the past and today, is an amalgamation of impulses from all over the world. During the Middle Ages, Europe communicated closely with Africa, Asia, and the Middle East using networks that were several thousand years old. Important to keep in mind is that at this point in time, Europe was located at the periphery of the world economic system, whose center lay in the civilizations surrounding the Indian Ocean.
Unlike Erika Herlitz-Kern, who has penned the above piece, I don’t wallow in guilt and shame about my cultural heritage and am quite happy to have been born in the heart of Europe. I don’t have any illusions about the past, which is why I’m glad to be alive today as opposed to the time of the Black Death, but I think that on balance the European experiment has been a success, having created the modernity, which most people around the world enjoy to one degree or another (even if some at the same time resent it), while the remainder would dearly love to if only they could. But thanks to Erika, I now also know that I’m alt-right for thinking that a medieval cathedral, one of the world’s architectural treasures, should have a historically and aesthetically matching roof, which no one saw anything wrong with until now – in fact it was undergoing restoration when the fire started. It’s a stupid argument that Herlitz-Kern would not make about other significant cultural monuments around the world like the Great Pyramid, Taj Mahal or palaces and temples of Kyoto, should they ever need a face-lift.
Lastly, the Ukrainian-Russian conflict in eastern Ukraine has now become a part of the vast far right universe:
Five Australians travelled to fight alongside Russian-backed nationalist militia in Ukraine, according to intelligence provided to the Australian Federal Police, raising concerns the group has been exposed to combat experience that could threaten Australia’s national security.
But the Australian government is powerless to prosecute those who return from the conflict, despite the war increasingly being viewed as inspiring far-right extremists in the same way that fighting in Syria and Iraq influenced Islamic terrorists.
Australian agencies face unprecedented scrutiny about the monitoring of far-right threats in the wake of the Christchurch massacre, amid growing international concern that an informal global network of white extremists is spurring on violence in the West.
This time we are talking about some genuine white supremacists and neo-Nazis, a handful of whom have been fighting with militias on both sides of this low-level war (as there similarly were on both the Croat and the Serbian sides during the Balkan wars of the 1990s). The conflict itself has nothing to do with “far right” or political ideology per se, except to the extent that the Russian side is more authoritarian while the Ukrainian one is more liberal and democratic. It is an ethno-nationalistic struggle over territory and its resources, between Slavic “cousins”, with a slight tinge of religious difference on top (not dissimilar to the Balkans too) that pits the Orthodox Russians against the largely Uniate (Eastern liturgy but with an allegiance to Rome) Ukrainians. Conflicts of this kind tend to attract their share of extreme nationalists, but are not “far-right conflicts” by any stretch of imagination, unless you consider the question of sovereign state control over its own territory to be a fascist preoccupation. Which more and more people probably do.
And so we increasingly live in a world where, if you believe the media, everywhere you turn there’s the “far right”. Mainstream centre-right ideas and concerns are now being redefined as being somehow associated with and tainted by extremism. If you are worried about the violence against and the persecution of Christians you might be far right. If you value the cultural and philosophical heritage of the Western civilisation you might be far right. If you don’t believe in an open borders immigration policy you might be far right. If you prefer local democracy to transnational institutions you might be far right. If you are defending your country from an armed invasion by another country you might be far right too. If these are all to be the indicators of far right extremism, then what exactly is the “normal” right right now?
This effort to use language as a cudgel has several sinister implications. It delegitimises perfectly normal political ideas through guilt by association. It also creates the impression that the (genuine) far right is much bigger, more influential and more threatening and dangerous than it actually is. This in turn is used to downplay and minimise the dangers of Islamist and far-left extremism and terrorism. But perhaps the scariest aspect of it all is that the left, by manufacturing the far right monster, are actually genuinely contributing to the growth of far-right extremism. The relentless flood of identity politics, grievance and victimhood, and shaming and guilting entire sections of population based on their skin colour and culture is genuinely radicalising some misfits into fascism, like the Christchurch terrorist, for example. For every action there is eventually an equal and opposite reaction. The left might think it’s courageously defanging the fascist dragon but instead it’s just sowing its teeth.