Don’t think that Trump and Brexit are isolated examples of a dramatic push to the extreme-right of politics. This is a trend spreading aggressively over the whole of Europe and nothing shows this more clearly than the rise of a new group: the Alt-Right.
The Alt-Right is a difficult group to define concisely, partly down to its relatively new appearance in the public sphere and partly because of the wide demographic of its followers. Sometimes considered a little like a form of ‘hipster’ extreme-right, it is a movement which takes mainly the internet as its domain and battleground, and uses memes as one of its most trusted weapons.
What holds the Alt-Right together is not a message of what they are for, but rather of what they are vehemently against. Multi-culturalism, immigration and political correctness are their enemies; elements we could all see in Trump’s presidential campaign. That message is however gaining strength in Europe too within the Identitarian Movement.
The Identitarian Movement actually began back in the early 2000s in France, but has only in recent years gained strength. Their increasing popularity up to now was caused in part by the refugee crisis, but recent inspiration in the form of Brexit and Trump have given the groups a heightened confidence that is starting to be felt.
In an article on ‘die Identitäre Bewegung’ (the German branch of the Identitarians) website regarding Trump’s victory, they state “if the citizens of the USA have done the ‘impossible’, then us Europeans can do the same…we can trust again in our own strength…let’s make Europe great again!” The European Alt-Right looks to Trump and Farage as their heroes. If these views gain further popularity, we could see yet more racism and instability Europe-wide.
The Identitarian’s islamophobia is particularly vocal. The French ‘Generation-Identitaire’ have painted graffiti depicting ‘Angry Birds’ as Muslims carrying the flag of Daesh. Likewise, in Hamburg, the ‘Identitäre Bewegung’ had an anti-Islam demonstration: one Woman covered in fake blood held a sign with the words “Germany 2016”, and next to her, a woman wearing a Burka with the sign “Germany 2020”. Germany was widely praised for its work accepting as many refugees as possible during the height of the refugee crisis, but sadly the backlash against that kindness is gaining vocal ground.
Some identify very extreme elements of historical fascism in the Identitarians. According to DÖW, an organisation concerned with the documenting of the extreme-right, the movement shows signs of a fascination with death that was an element of past fascist ideology. Instead of “YOLO”, the Austrian ‘Identitären’ use the phrase “YODO”; “You only die once”. If there was any doubt that t(his is a dangerously radical movement, then clear links to fascist thinking should cover it.
In all the fear and excitement of Brexit and Trump, it may be easy to think, or at least hope, that they were exceptions; moments of madness that bear no effect on global trends. That is unfortunately not true. The shape of politics in Europe and America is changing dramatically and those changes are potentially very dangerous. It is the job of Europe now to look the disasters of 2016 in the eye, and not let others emerge from an increasingly unstable political environment.
Tim van Gardingen
(Image courtesy of The Daily Stormer)