Geopolitics

Why The Far Right Has Flourished In Scandinavia

Analysis: After the deadly Norway attacks carried out in the name of fanatical conservative ideology, it is time for Northern Europe to take stock of its increasingly extreme views on the political right: from rabid defense of Danish cartoons to the rise

Mourners in Oslo (Jørund Myhre)
Mourners in Oslo (Jørund Myhre)
Gunnar Herrmann

OSLO - Is Anders Behring Breivik a lone madman or a terrorist? We are unlikely ever to understand what goes on in the head of a man who kills kids with dum-dum bullets. However, we must conclude from Breivik's manifesto that he himself saw the murders as a political act. And for that reason the attacks are going to have political consequences, regardless of the results of his court-assigned psychological evaluation.

The Breivik manifesto posted on the Internet is full of references to the so-called "Islam debate." Many of the points are familiar: they've been widely written about, and discussed, also by political parties. This is not to say that right-wing politicians and publicists, to whose views much of the material in the manifesto can be traced, are in any way directly responsible for the crimes. Words don't kill – but they can add up to a dangerous view of the world, and spur vile actions. Breivik found enough raw material in Scandinavian political debate to craft a 1,500-page justification of his mass killings. We must use that fact as a catalyst for reflection on Northern Europe's political climate.

Right-wing parties have a long tradition in northern countries. In the past few years, under the collective label of "right-wing populism," they've also made an astonishing rise on the political scene. The Sweden Democrats made it into the country's parliament in 2010. The Norwegian Progress Party has, since 2009, been the second strongest in that country's parliament. Nearly 20% of Finnish voters gave their votes to the True Finns just a few months ago. And the Danish Peoples' Party has been exercising considerable influence on government policies for the past 10 years. All this has contributed to a much rougher political climate across Scandinavia.

Of course, there are differences among the groups. The Sweden Democrats have their roots in the Neo-Nazi scene, while in Norway and Denmark the right-wing parties began with platforms for lowering taxes. The True Finns were originally a provincial movement that today is mainly identified by its opposition to the European Union.

However, the past few years have seen certain common themes emerge among all these parties: an anti-Islam stance, and the view that the European way of life and European culture are threatened by immigrants, particularly those from Muslim countries. These are issues for all the right-wing populist parties, and they are also central to Breivik's manifesto.

Cartoons and refugees

There are many reasons for northern European attraction to such ideas. The "cartoon crisis' and attack on Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard (who created the controversial image of the Prophet Mohammad with a bomb in his turban) play a role, as do periodic arrivals of fairly large groups of refugees. Compared with other countries, however, the number of foreigners in Northern Europe is average or even below average.

Many believe that northern populists have quite simply copied a concept that worked well in other countries. Researchers have for a while now been observing that Neo-Nazism and racism are losing ground, and that instead right-wing groups – radical activists as well as political parties – have cherry-picked Islam as the new enemy. The idea of a superior race is replaced by the idea of a superior Western culture that is supposedly irreconcilable with the values of immigrants from Muslim countries. And this change in perception has helped the right-wing parties. Warnings of "over-foreignization," "creeping Islamization," and "multiculturalism" are increasingly mainstream and do resonate with voters who never would have voted for these parties before.

The encroachment of the right has been palpable in Scandinavian capitals for some time now, and up to now has quite simply been taken on board, with other parties adjusting to the new reality – including the Social Democrats, a party that often loses significant numbers of votes when right-wing politicians campaign in working-class neighborhoods.

The encroachment is most marked in Copenhagen, where politicians on both sides of the political spectrum have been known to try and outdo each other with calls for tougher immigration laws. During elections, like this spring's vote in Finland, speculation inevitably arises about coalitions of left-wing and far-right parties.

Post-Utøya this will stop, at least for the time being. Right-wing parties everywhere have started to distance themselves from the attacks. They will only become credible, however, when they change their rhetoric and adjust their stance. The hate-filled words in Breivik's manifesto speak volumes about the attitude right-wingers encourage that fuses resentment and hostility for those unlike themselves. It is an attitude that has no place in the debates of democratic parties.

Read the original article in German

Jørund Myhre

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Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

4.9%

China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.

📈💥  IN OTHER NEWS

​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.


Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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