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EL ESPECTADOR

How The Far Right Usurped The Tools Of Leftist Counterculture

Poland's Janusz Korwin-Mikke
Poland's Janusz Korwin-Mikke
Carlos Granés

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — There is a curious new twist to a longstanding political phenomenon, and we see it popping up around the world. Provocation and outrageous behavior is switching sides.

Crossing the line has been a part of culture since poets like Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine, with their disheveled hair and shabby clothes, used to challenge the bourgeois customs in the 19th century. Avant-garde visual artists and political activists alike have used their skills to mock the establishment, whether it was Spanish painter Salvador Dalí, a master of undermining the status quo, or the Yippies who fielded a pig as a candidate for the 1968 U.S. presidential elections.

Counter-culture messages were always easy to spread when there was agitation in the air. Anything making waves or changing the natural order of things is news, and the media would naturally gaze, in fascination or horror, at these phenomena that shock our routines. It wasn't surprising then that cultural rebels were always in the news.

But while these strategies of provocation used to be a tool for the Left, they have now been usurped by the far-right.

I am thinking of that gray member of the European parliament, Poland's Janusz Korwin-Mikke, someone we would never have heard of were it not for his Nazi salutes in the chamber and his primitive remarks about women. Or take the Spanish Catholic group, HazteOír (Make Yourself Heard), of dubious far-right provenance, which has about 50,000 local fans after plastering anti-transgender messages on a traveling bus. Or the polemicist Milo Yiannopoulos, a kind of muse for the Trump era, who was until recently a regular guest at gatherings of conservative student societies where he would put his reality TV skills on show, speaking his mind and its misogynist and racist inanities.

The angle from which far-right parties are mounting their attack.

This shift in roles shows that Western societies have changed. Those who used to need to make noise to be heard are now running museums, universities, parliaments and media companies. They won the cultural war against moral rigidity but have left the field wide open for loud provocation and political diatribe that the far-right has usurped.

It is no coincidence that various xenophobic European parties bear the word "Freedom" in their names. The Left's cultural triumph has given legitimacy to sexual freedom and have censored expressions of contempt for difference. That's precisely the angle from which far-right parties are mounting their attack. Their discourse, left out of mainstream political debate and institutions, is charging back with counter-culture slogans and by lambasting the establishment.

But at this moment, let us remember a central lesson of the past and not give in to the temptation to use censorship against the tactics of provocation.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why Russia Is Suddenly Deploying Air Defense Systems On Moscow Rooftops

Russia is increasingly concerned about security from the sky: air defense systems have been installed on rooftops in Moscow's government quarter. Systems have also appeared in several other places in Russia, including near Vladimir Putin's lakeside home in Valdai. What is the Kremlin really worried about?

photo of ice on the river in Moscow

Clear skies, cold reality along the Moskva River

Anna Akage

-Analysis-

The Russian Defense Ministry has refused to comment. State Duma parliamentary officials say it’s a fake. Still, a series of verified photographs have circulated in recent days of an array of long-range C-400 and short-range air defense systems installed on three complexes in Moscow near the Kremlin, as well as on locations in the outskirts of the capital and in the northwest village of Valdai, where Vladimir Putin has a lakeside residence.

Some experts believe the air defense installations in Moscow were an immediate response to recent Ukrainian statements about a new fleet of military drones: The Ukroboronprom defense contracter said this month that it completed a series of successful tests of a new strike drone with a range of over 1,000 kilometers. Analyst Michael Naki suggests that Moscow’s anti-air defense systems were an immediate reaction to the fact that the drones can theoretically hit Kremlin.

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Yet the air defense installations in Valdai seem to have been in place since late December, following Ukrainian drone attacks on a military airfield deep inside Russia’s Sorotov region, 730 kilometers (454 miles) southeast of Moscow.

Others pose a very different rationale to explain Russia’s beefing up anti-air defenses on its own territory. Russian military analyst Yan Matveev argues that Putin demanded the deployment of such local systems not as defense against long-range Ukrainian drones, but rather for fear of sabotage from inside Russia.

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