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A political space? September 29, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Interesting analysis here in the Examiner on political developments at the fringe. Commenting on the far-right attacks on counter-protesters this month at marches Natasha Dromey (attached to University College Cork), an expert of terrorism argues that such violence risks being normalised if the state doesn’t push back hard against it.

She notes:

Responding to comments from garda sources to the Irish Examiner that the groups in question are a “pick and mix” and a “witch’s brew” of groups, she said: “Interestingly a lot of these groups do not like to engage with each other and tend to stay separate.

And:

“Even though they may share a baseline ideology their narratives and lust for power keeps them apart, as is the case with the majority of extremist and terrorist organisations.”

But it can’t be the state alone in that response. Thinking of the enormous campaigns around the referendums this decade one has to ask where that energy has gone and how would it be possible to bring it back to the fore, particularly given the visceral hatred on display for progressive causes at the events this month.

Intriguingly:

She doesn’t expect to see in the near future a political party emerging to represent these groups

“I do not think that, as it stands, there is space or enough vulnerability within the Irish political system for groups like this to infiltrate or be represented as a viable political alternative.”

But she added: “That is not to say, however, that there is not an element within society that does not strongly support and agree with these groups. The danger would be that all it would take would be a trigger even to provide the catalyst for them to expand their support bases and bring those who are underlying supporters to light.”

Talking to various people their feeling is that at least some of those groups are trying to carve out representational political space. It’s very difficult to assess what space is available there for them given the remarkable range represented at local and national level.

Comments»

1. eoghan - September 29, 2020

I’ve heard anecdotally of the National Party attempting to get involved with some community campaigns and on-the-ground issues around Dublin, and know of at least one such campaign where they might’ve actually naively accepted this support if it wasn’t for one person involved being aware of their politics and objecting. I think this scares me more than any physical attacks outside the Dáil because this is a well-trodden path to gaining some support, coupled with some of the anti-mask/anti-lockdown stuff they’re opportunistically taking advantage of. My worry is that they’ll see a bump in voting share at next election due to efforts like this, and that there’ll be a large “How did this happen” by people not taking them seriously now. So I would be probably a bit more pessimistic than Dromey when she says that such a political party won’t emerge.

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WorldbyStorm - September 29, 2020

Yeah completely agree eoghan. There’s room for traction there. Low level and so on. Here’s a thought – a lot of far right parties seem ill suited for the slog of such work but those parties a few notches less far right – I think of the Lega in Italy- aren’t – I’d wonder if the space for that kind of party would be there

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NFB - September 29, 2020

It’s the locals I’d be fearful of. A few well-run campaigns at that level and the NP or IFF could sneak into a few councils. With that comes legitimacy/notice, and it’s from there a tilt at the Dail comes.

But we’re lucky in that the far-right here remains quite divided politically speaking – we have NP, the Irish Freedom Party, Anti Corruption Ireland and God knows how many loony Inds, who all seem to dislike each other – and have so far remained trapped in their echo chambers when it comes to elections.

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WorldbyStorm - September 29, 2020

The internecine stuff is remarkable. But as you say, particularly an independent branded individual might do it.

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Paul Culloty - September 29, 2020

In truth, there’s little incentive for an individual to join a far-right party when they can be far more effective as an independent – think of the comments Grealish, Collins and Verona Murphy have made in recent years.

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WorldbyStorm - September 29, 2020

The chances of being elected are far far higher.

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GearóidGaillimh - September 29, 2020

While I’m absolutely not encouraging complacency, I don’t think a far-right party will emerge under Barrett’s leadership as he’s just too much of an oddball. His remarks gloating about the assassination of Archbishop Romero undercut the NP’s attempts to appeal to pro-life support for example. https://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/attachment.php?attachmentid=526784&d=1600478686

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GearóidGaillimh - September 29, 2020

Various far-right agitators tried to organise an anti asylum seeker march in Galway on Friday which turned into a bit of a disaster when it was dwarfed by a much larger anti-racist demo. Where I would be worried about the far-right is moreso in smaller towns and rural areas where there is less of an organised left presence which can be mobilised at short notice and where they will try to manipulate genuine grievances about rural neglect into anti-immigrant agitation – obviously Oughterard etc, but they leafleted much of Ballinasloe a few times recently. Now in the latter instance I highly doubt they made any real impact but worrying for an area with no tradition of such activity.

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GearóidGaillimh - September 29, 2020

The internecine splits are grimly entertaining. Apparently there was a recent bitter falling out between the NP and the Yellow Vests with the latter accused by the former of being a ‘Sinn Féin front’.

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WorldbyStorm - September 30, 2020

Yeah, and as you say JB is an unlikely figure for a traditional political journey to el3cted representative.

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2. tafkaGW - September 29, 2020

The normalisation of right-wing violence can take place easily if there isn’t consistent resistance with stamina from the state and Antifa activists.

You only have to look at East Germany after the unification, where, due to indifference and sometime collusion by the state, if you looked or sounded at all different you stood a good chance of getting beaten up, and worse if you were clearly an immigrant.

This violence then becomes part of the culture and leads to the growth of parties like to NPD and the AfD.

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3. CL - September 29, 2020

“The perceived danger of an eventual vaccination programme has been one of the most concerning and far-reaching of coronavirus conspiracy narratives. But it has also been linked to attempts by the far right to exploit the pandemic to promote its extreme ideology….
A recent report from the United Nations Security Council warns that extreme right-wing groups and individuals in the US have sought to exploit the pandemic to “radicalize, recruit, and inspire plots and attacks”. This sentiment is echoed in a note from the Council of the European Union, which warns that it is “highly likely” right-wing extremists are now “capitalising on the corona crisis more than on any other issue”.
One of the key ways the far right is doing this is by taking advantage of the staggering extent of misinformation and conspiracy theories surrounding the virus”
https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-and-conspiracies-how-the-far-right-is-exploiting-the-pandemic-145968

“UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay underlined the dangers of misinformation and rumours in relation to the pandemic and other issues. “Conspiracy theories cause real harm to people, to their health, and also to their physical safety. They amplify and legitimize misconceptions about the pandemic, and reinforce stereotypes which can fuel violence and violent extremist ideologies,” she said….
Věra Jourová, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, said: “Disinformation and conspiracy theories harm the health of our democracies – this has been made very clear in the context of a global pandemic ”
https://en.unesco.org/news/new-resources-counter-covid-19-conspiracy-theories-through-critical-thinking-and-empathy

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WorldbyStorm - September 29, 2020

ANd echoes of those far-right argument keep seeping into the mainstream discourse too.

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4. sonofstan - September 29, 2020

A clearer danger might be that more ‘respectable’ figures would take some of this on board. There is a weird assymetry in reportage in that right wing stuff is often taken as expressing ‘what people really think’ but are afraid to say because PC/ Cultural Marxism etc. whereas leftist feeling is generally assumed to have little purchase beyond ‘extremists’.

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NFB - September 29, 2020

I’m waiting for a faction in FF to fully come out like that. There’s plenty in the PP who could potentially fit the profile.

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5. roddy - September 29, 2020

One bull work against these elements is Irish Republicanism.SF are a granted but even all the Disso groups who I despise have no truck with them.In fact if it came to street confrontations the right would get a real hammering.

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6. roddy - September 29, 2020

Even Aontu who would seem a possible vehicle for far right entryism would be a blind alley.They have only one councillor elected up here.(An SDLP councillor subsequently defected to them) Although one of their first public meetings was in South Derry and they drew about 80 people to it,not a single member of SF defected.Their demographic is almost completely “churchy” types with no political background at all and although the church has many controversial positions on social issues,anti Immigration is not on their horizon.If the church said “jump” ,Aontu would say “how high” .Virtually the entire Catholic population up here has an affinity with “civil rights” which allows them to empathise with asylum seekers for example and even those who take a strict orthodox line on divorce ,abortion etc tend not to be swayed by racism.

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NFB - September 29, 2020

Aontu may already be just the Toibin Party, and if he hadn’t got returned in February they may already be in the same state as Renua. Every election they have contested so far Toibin has given a number of seats he wants to win that gets lower and lower before election day, and even then they underperform.

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WorldbyStorm - September 29, 2020

Also I think he’s made an effort to keep away from them.

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Liberius - September 29, 2020
WorldbyStorm - September 29, 2020

Yeah, no disagreement there! That must make for fun times at meetings between the two of them.

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WorldbyStorm - September 29, 2020

BTW some very funny tweets about – erm – personal autonomy in relation to that story. 🙂

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sonofstan - September 29, 2020

Not that aontatha then?

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GearóidGaillimh - September 29, 2020

The real fash headbangers view Aontú as ‘globalist traitors’ for signing an ENAR Ireland Anti-Racism Election Protocol.

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WorldbyStorm - September 30, 2020

That’s right. It’s important draw distinctions between all these groups and parties and not confuse some socially conservative people with actual far right and fascists.

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7. Paul Culloty - September 29, 2020

An interesting piece here, which would have equal relevance in the Italian election article – an advisor to Jacinda Ardern states that rather than taking the bait of arguments proferred by the right, the left and centre should reframe discussions around their own viewpoints, thereby also attracting support beyond their base. So, rather than reacting to views on immigration, for instance, a politician should make the debate about equality, employment and education:

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/donald-trump-joe-biden-fear-vote-by-mail-echo-chamber-turnout-2020-election-1066969/

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WorldbyStorm - September 29, 2020

Very much agree.

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8. Mat - September 29, 2020

We see the same forces emerging here in New Zealand as well – a populist anti science anti elite anti liberal movement, that benefits from the perceived or actual centrism of the major parties. An unregistered party called the NZPP may have raised over $250k in a matter of weeks and jumped on to the election list of a disgraced National Party (Tory) MP.

Now they’re unlikely to get in and the most likely outcome of the election is a Labour Green coalition, however there is no evidence that such a victory will undercut the reasons for the growth of the conspiracist right, and indeed our own answer to the PDs ACT are on course to their best result in years thanks to a nod and a wink to the conspiracy types.

I think in both countries the growth of such movements is down to distrust in the hollow centre that has dominated politics for so long, and failed to deliver the material benefits that people feel entitled to, as we grew up believing in endless capitalist progress, while wallowing in blatant corruption and self interest.

While politicians antics and social media play a role I would argue the surest way to get these people to pay attention to reason would be if the forces of reason provided them with decent housing and secure jobs and dignity.

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WorldbyStorm - September 29, 2020

THat’s interesting re NZPP, interesting how forces rush in to fill vacuums.

Agree re hollow centre. And with your last paragraph in particular.

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9. Colm B - September 29, 2020

David Renton, who has written what are probably the best books on fascism and more recently on the new right/ authoritarians, has made two points that are pertinent re the growth of the far right in Ireland:

Growth has happened in part because of practical and ideological convergence between the far right and traditional conservatism. In the past conservative parties shunned fascists but now they facilitate fascists and their ideas – see the way the Republicans in the US have become a conduit for the far right and it’s ideology. So it’s possible that elements of FF or FG could play that role although not much sign of that yet.

Second, he points out that, although circumstances are very different today, in the past most successful fascist parties started as amorphous street movements not parties. Eventually these coagulated into parties. That should warn us that the incompetent loons that make up the leaderships of the NP, IFP, might lull us into complacency, as the beginning of serious fascism are the street-fighting elements who later coalesce into a more organized, serious formation.

https://www.plutobooks.com/9781786806512/fascism/

https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745338156/the-new-authoritarians/

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WorldbyStorm - September 30, 2020

In a way the key thing is to keep them atomised at this stage for fear further down the road they’ll gain power.

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CL - September 30, 2020

“Unlike the fascist leaders of the 1930s, Trump sees no active role for his supporters other than as a crowd to cheer him. He doesn’t want to see them fighting a war with the state on his behalf, nor is he offering to employ them to staff a new Trump-supporting police and army.”-Dave Renton
https://www.rs21.org.uk/2020/08/31/fascism-beyond-trump/

“President Donald Trump’s son stars in this new “defend your ballot” ad, and says: “We need every able-bodied man and woman to join Army for Trump’s election security operation…
https://boingboing.net/2020/09/25/army-for-trump-ads-incite-armed-militias-to-intimidate-voters-in-election-security-operation-also-don-jr-doesnt-look-so-good.html

“Does colonialism count? Aimé Césaire, C.L.R. James, and Hannah Arendt, among many other notable thinkers who lived through the first fascisms, certainly thought it did, arguing that European fascism visited upon white bodies what colonial and slave systems had perfected in visiting upon black and brown bodies…..
Wartime patriotism and the Allied triumph soon gave Americans permission to regard fascism as an alien and uniquely European pathology, but “the man on horseback,” the despot who could ride reactionary populist energies to power, had been a specter in American politics since at least as early as the presidency of Andrew Jackson in the 1830s…..
Then, too, there was Father Coughlin. “I take the road of Fascism,” he said in 1936, before forming the Christian Front, whose members referred to themselves as “brown shirts.” His virulently anti-Semitic radio program, regularly transmitting claims from the fabricated Protocols of the Elders of Zion, reached almost 30 million Americans at its height—the largest radio audience in the world at the time….
Nor is it only Trump’s critics who see fascist tendencies in his administration’s rhetoric glorifying violence and disregarding the rule of law, democratic processes, and civil liberties; the president and his supporters regularly embrace traditions of American fascism themselves…
Trump’s thundering ignorance does not mean he doesn’t understand the racist and fascist rhetoric he deploys….
fascism is never a coherent set of ideological doctrines. Force takes the place of ideology, as the fascist strong man performs for his followers their sense of rightful dominance and rage..
https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/06/22/american-fascism-it-has-happened-here/

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CL - September 30, 2020

The Proud Boys are ecstatic tonight about getting mentioned in the debate tonight.
“Trump basically said to go fuck them up! this makes me so happy,” writes one prominent Proud Boy.

The Proud Boys are now sharing the group’s logo with the president’s words emblazoned like a slogan.

Getting orders from Trump is a long-held “fantasy” for the group, Megan Squire, who tracks online extremism at Elon University, told NBC News. “To say Proud Boys are energized by this is an understatement,” she explained. “They were pro-Trump before this shout-out, and they are absolutely over the moon now. Their fantasy is to fight antifa in his defense, and he apparently just asked them to do just that.”
“Stand back and stand by” is not a condemnation, it’s a call to be ready. In a nation wracked by unrest, that was one of the most irresponsible and reprehensible statements I’ve ever seen from a president. The Proud Boys are a violent vigilante militia.”
https://theweek.com/speedreads/940676/proud-boys-are-celebrating-trumps-stand-back-stand-by-debate-shoutout

Members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group that has endorsed violence, celebrated on Tuesday night after President Trump mentioned them during the first presidential debate.

“Asked whether he condemned white supremacists and military groups, Mr. Trump demurred and then said, “Proud Boys — stand back and stand by.”

Within minutes, members of the group were posting in private social media channels, calling the president’s comments “historic.” In one channel dedicated to the Proud Boys on Telegram, a private messaging app, group members called the president’s comment a tacit endorsement of their violent tactics.”-NYT

“White supremacist groups have been cited by the State Department as one of the chief threats to national security. According to findings from an early September document shared with POLITICO from the Department of Homeland Security, white supremacist groups were listed above foreign terrorists in terms of immediate danger to the country.

Miles Taylor, a former Trump appointee who served as Chief of Staff to Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, said during an interview on CNN Tuesday night that the president’s refusal to criticize the Proud Boys is “disqualifying from the presidency.”
https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/30/trump-proud-boys-white-supremacy-423464

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sonofstan - September 30, 2020

Fred Perry have withdrawn the black and yellow polo shirt adopted by the Proud Boys from sale in the US. They’ve issued a statement that pretty unequivocally distances themselves from them:

“Fred [Perry] was the son of a working-class socialist MP who became a world tennis champion at a time when tennis was an elitist sport. He started a business with a Jewish businessman from eastern Europe. It’s a shame we even have to answer questions like this. No, we don’t support the ideals or the group that you speak of. It is counter to our beliefs and the people we work with.”

Liked by 1 person

Fergal - September 30, 2020

Son! You had a brilliant quote about culture here last week… people are much more than their culture … who said it? Thanks!

Liked by 1 person

sonofstan - September 30, 2020

‘People are, even now, better than their culture’
Theodor Adorno in Minima Moralia
‘Now’ was the late ’40s, so maybe he’d be less sanguine these days?

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CL - September 30, 2020

““This is fascism at our door,” tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y), …\

“The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, tweeted that it would not “stand down to hate groups,” and the Anti-Defamation League, which works against the defamation of Jewish people, has demanded an apology or explanation from Trump.”
https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisettevoytko/2020/09/30/facism-at-our-door-outrage-grows-after-trump-refuses-to-denounce-white-supremacy/#35bd223d7c32

“Trump frequently accuses the far-left of inciting violence, yet right-wing extremists have killed 329 victims in the last 25 years, while antifa members haven’t killed any”
https://www.businessinsider.com/right-wing-extremists-kill-329-since-1994-antifa-killed-none-2020-7

“it was a clear-cut call to a violent white supremacist group that they must stay vigilant. If I were a Proud Boy, which essentially is version 2.0 of a neo-Nazi skinhead, I would see that as a call to arms, specifically against anti-fascist groups and protesters like antifa and Black Lives Matter.”
– (Christian Picciolini, a former neo-Nazi who leads the Free Radicals Project)
https://www.democracynow.org/2020/9/30/trump_biden_debate_white_supremacists

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10. lcox - September 30, 2020

It is really important to keep challenging the far right directly. What happened in Galway was excellent and the Spire demo in Dublin a couple of weeks ago, along with some good left speeches in the Dail, contributed to a slew of mainstream media penning more critical pieces about the far right than we normally get.

At the Spire both United Against Racism / PbP speakers and Paul Murphy said rightly that that smallish demo should not be a once-off but just a beginning. Really hoping to see republicans (as roddy says), trade unions and “soft left” parties joining in and making sure there is a next time. It all helps delegitimate them – or in some cases make it seem “political” to people who are following without much reflection.

It’s true there are many flavours of far right in Ireland but they blur into each other. The more we can highlight the organisations, and some of the individual grifters involved (a lot of the social media work in particular is about personal gain and fairly blatantly so), the more it helps those divisions to come out.

The “churchy”, back-to-the-8th-Amendment one that doesn’t understand what went wrong wound up working (as indeed back in 1983) with US conservatives, not just religious ones but white supremacists of the “Irish slaves”, anti-BLM variety who have been very visible on Irish social media since. Often lining up bizarrely with people like an ex-British army soldier, ex-Britain First and UKIP people etc.

There is certainly scope for bringing out those divisions – not so much painting them all as identical as rather pointing out who people are associating with.

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