Continent of Fear: The Rise of Europe's Right-Wing Populists

Part 3: France's New National Front

Photo Gallery: The Right on the Rise Photos
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When the current French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, began his campaign in 2007, it was difficult to distinguish some of his rhetoric from Le Pen's. For example, he suggested that people who "slaughter sheep in their bathtubs" were unwelcome in France, and he won the election because he brought together votes from the right. Now Sarkozy will probably soon be confronted with a new National Front, a toned-down -- but perhaps more dangerous -- version of its former self. Marine Le Pen, the daughter of the party's founder, will campaign for the party's chairmanship in January and intends to create a party that could also appeal to the political center.

Marine Le Pen portrays herself as non-dogmatic and intellectual. She wears business suits and distributes kisses during her campaign appearances at markets in the Paris metropolitan area. "I want to unite all the French," she says. At the same time, like Wilders, she raves against the burqa and Islamization. She too has recognized that targeted Islamophobia is more promising than traditional xenophobia.

Le Pen poses a threat to Sarkozy, whose own shift to the right this year reveals how seriously he takes that threat. The debate he has launched in France over "national identity" is clearly directed against Muslims, and he has also embarked on a campaign to deport the Roma. So far, these tactics have done nothing for Sarkozy in the polls.

Borrowing Ideas

The transformation of the National Front is only one example of the new anti-Islamic mainstream among Western Europe's right-wing populist parties. This is the issue that unites all of these parties throughout Europe, which have even taken to borrowing each other's marketing ideas. For example, the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) copied a game from the website of Swiss People's Party (SVP), in which players shoot at minarets popping up in their familiar landscape. The only difference was that the Austrian version also included the option of shooting at the muezzins.

This is a new phenomenon, and it cannot hide the fact that there are still many differences among the parties that are being lumped together under the heading of right-wing populism. It is certainly true that most of them have always been anti-immigration, have positioned themselves against the political elite, have had charismatic leaders and have done particularly well in countries in which the established parties cultivate a culture of consensus. But a neoliberal with rural roots like Swiss politician Christoph Blocher of the SVP has very little in common with the French demagogue Le Pen. Their origins are too different, as are many of the details of their policies.

It is the shared concept of Islam as the enemy that now makes them ideological allies. Still, it is unlikely that these parties will continue to cooperate across borders in the future, despite Wilders' dream of spearheading such a movement throughout Europe. The "International Freedom Alliance" he established in July has two goals: to "defend freedom" and "stop Islam." In a video which is currently the only content on the alliance's website, Wilders says that he wants to pool the existing forces against Islam, in Germany, France, Britain, Canada and the United States.

When asked about Wilders' initiative, Marine Le Pen told SPIEGEL: "Without a concerted revolution, our civilization is ultimately doomed." This may be an acknowledgement of common goals, but it doesn't sound like she necessarily wants to join Wilders' organization.

Handsome Speaking Fees

So far, Wilders has only been successful abroad with right-wing Islamophobic groups in the United States. At the invitation of these groups, he has traveled around the United States for years, collecting awards for his supposed battle to uphold freedom of speech and giving talks to enthusiastic fans -- and collecting handsome speaking fees in the process.

David Horowitz, a millionaire conservative online journalist with anti-Islamic views, told the Dutch television station Avro that he pays Wilders a $20,000 speaking fee. Horowitz describes Wilders as the "Winston Churchill" of the war against Islam. On the ninth anniversary of 9/11, Wilders attended a rally at Ground Zero, where he spoke out against the planned construction of an Islamic community center two blocks away from the site.

American audiences are more enthusiastic about Wilders, who tells them horror stories about how Muslims have infiltrated Europe, than his fans in any other country. Muslims make up only 1 percent of the US population, and while the anger of voters of right-wing populists in Europe is directed against actual immigrants in their countries, conservative American groups cultivate an Islamophobia without Muslims. Some 50 percent of Americans now say that they have a negative impression of Islam, a higher percentage than after the 9/11 attacks.

'Thank You, Thilo Sarrazin!'

This weekend, Wilders will appear in Berlin as the representative of a political movement for which a market also seems to exist in Germany, even if it currently lack an effective salesman or saleswoman.

There will undoubtedly be an audience when former CDU politician René Stadtkewitz greets Wilders in Berlin. The German polemical website Politically Incorrect, a gathering place for the sharpest critics of Islam for years, is heavily promoting the appearance. The website is even selling T-shirts, for €19.90 apiece, imprinted with the words "Geert Wilders - Berlin - October 2, 2010" -- available in 19 different colors.

There are no Stadtkewitz T-shirts for sale, although the website does sell T-shirts imprinted with the words "Thank You, Thilo Sarrazin!"

MARKUS DEGGERICH, MANFRED ERTEL, JULIANE VON MITTELSTAEDT, MATHIEU VON ROHR, HANS-JÜRGEN SCHLAMP, STEFAN SIMONS

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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1. Dangers of Religion
cyberrifles 09/28/2010
I have read the Koran and most of it is really beautiful. However, the part where they must convert non believers to Islam or kill them was a bit of a shock. I also do not like their having their own law. ANY religion that allows a justice system other than the system of the country needs to be watched and not allowed to get out of hand. I feel Islam is a danger to the world as we know it.
2. Europe is playing into the hands of the far...
Europeanonion 09/29/2010
...but, as we have seen, the far left is a far more dangerous adversary; the idea that the free movement of peoples throughout Europe is aberrant, playing into the hands of the forces of ‘no good’. One can see where the left, where Europe, the EU, is heading, break down national barriers and when we are all one where will the opposition to Brussels (or Strasbourg, depending on the time of year) be? It is underhand. It is ‘our’ riches and ‘our’ future whenever Britain has a little local difficulty and yet, especially in France, we have seen how issues can be inoculated against Brussels’ intervention by claims of particular or peculiar national interest and how it has maintained a Common Agricultural Policy that is as expensive as it is unwieldy; how the tentacles of that awful construct have reached out into the Third World besides breeding shortages and Byzantine practices at home. But that may be all about to change. It may well be a case of first in, first out for France. The Germans may be at ease with Gastarbeiter but to many, the British in particular, it has a ring of European convention that means little to them, especially when they have so many of the labouring classes who seem to be in line for never having full time employment again. The British are also left wondering how such tribal meanderings around Europe need to embody those people having access to naturalisation, the deployment of passports and access to pensions and other social security which are patently un-earned. The French have this local difficulty (and the Dutch, and yes, the Italians have the problem too) they do not want these people in the main and no amount of pressure for the free flow of ‘skills’ is ever going to win them over. France and the Netherlands have already signalled that they are ill at ease with the EU and Britain is famously unconvinced, if the free vote in the North East of England over Regional Assemblies is an indication (the only referendum on Europe that anyone in Britain has had access to) Europe is a dead letter as far as the British are concerned. What would it take for French Nationalism to take a stand against EU interference having already shown dissent? Elsewhere Spiegel refers to Wilders and the Dutch experience, add the economic uncertainty and the social manipulation together and France’s stand is supportable, will undoubtedly raise all the other issues concerning the centrist, socialist model. Britain has just voted-out a Government that was modelled on Europe, where all the diktats and voluminous rules stifled not only commerce but were able to introduce viral infections into the culture that militated against the natural British conservatism, that played fast and loose with our social dimension and introduced countless statutes based on the will of the Government rather than natural law. I refer of course to a period of massive immigration that Andrew Neather, a one time Labour apparatchik, exposed as being a policy to undermine the Tory Party and its view of the British Diaspora. This could be the defining issue. Who do you, as a German, Englander, whatever, want to live with, who do you want as your fellow countryman? How are any of the countries of Europe to plan for their electorate when they cannot even project within narrow confines the size of the problem that they are trying to administrate? How can any worker already contemplating a life of rejection from the labour market stand by as the many ‘onion skin’ accessions take place and ever lower wage scales are imposed on the market, where the indigenous with commitments of ancestral proportions find that they cannot maintain their social obligations because the best that is offered is part time working and that only on a casual basis and even then competed for by foot-loose individuals, carpetbaggers, who will still undercut them? The French are raising doubts about the European Laws as they apply to France and if they can be delineated, itemised, acted against then anything is susceptible. At the moment Ireland is paying for German stability. France is having to consider the fancies of outsiders, whatever they may be. They are contemplating having to reconfigure the fundamentals of being French and to consider sacrificing those parameters on the whim apparently of scrap collectors and beggars. A state should always consider the higher ideals and have discretion, two things that the centrist confection of Brussels cannot entertain.
3.
BTraven 10/01/2010
---Quote (Originally by Europeanonion)--- This could be the defining issue. Who do you, as a German, Englander, whatever, want to live with, who do you want as your fellow countryman? How are any of the countries of Europe to plan for their electorate when they cannot even project within narrow confines the size of the problem that they are trying to administrate? How can any worker already contemplating a life of rejection from the labour market stand by as the many ‘onion skin’ accessions take place and ever lower wage scales are imposed on the market, where the indigenous with commitments of ancestral proportions find that they cannot maintain their social obligations because the best that is offered is part time working and that only on a casual basis and even then competed for by foot-loose individuals, carpetbaggers, who will still undercut them? ---End Quote--- Interesting statement which is not easy to answer since I will take a while to form my own opinion about it. Therefore I focus on next to last paragraph. Were Polish people not welcomed when the economy was still booming? The media gave always the impression that they were needed in order to keep up high growth rate. Nobody complained about them. Women could work because there were cheap babysitters available. Restaurants owners could offer meals at competitive prices. And, like in Germany, it was always claimed that they would do the work nobody wants to do. I think it was not the mistake of the left alone. The mistake of Labour was to permit that praxis. And it lost the election because those who had benefited from that policy think Tories and Liberals will continue with it. They chance only the people who serve their clientele. But the next wave of emigration is about to start - the Irish are forced to leave their country.
4. Rise of Europe
giggles13 11/09/2012
Rise of Europe is a free to play strategy browser game developed by China-based Perfect World and published by Travian Games. After I saw the demo of Game of Thrones Seven Kingdoms by Bigpoint (http://www.dotmmo.com/game-of-thrones-seven-kingdoms-10333.html), I think it will be popular among 3D browser game players because of the high quality graphfics and gameplays.
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