We, the Anti-Fascist Fascists

The European Union can now cut ‘hate-inducing’ live broadcasts and delete sections from their online archive. The Guardian, the 9-million reader newspaper that published Snowden’s revelations on global surveillance, published an article titled ‘is it ethical to punch a Nazi?’ Anti-Trump protesters in Berkeley turned a peaceful demonstration into a riot, burning things and smashing windows along the way.
And all over the world, left-leaning parties are surprised that they are losing voters.
Our world was in dismay when it became clear that the next president of the United States was going to be Trump. Nobody had expected it. The polls hadn’t expected it. The polls – one of the most important measures used in political reporting by ‘the media’, were incorrect.
We have reached a point at which people are afraid of stating their political views, even through anonymous surveys. We lightheartedly label anyone who disagrees with our personal opinion a “nazi” – in an attempt to legitimize us marginalizing them and dismissing their ideas, opinions and fears. We aren’t protecting anyone’s freedom by doing so, but what we are doing is taking away people’s liberties and rights.
And that, on the other hand and rather ironically, is also one of the left’s main arguments against right wing parties: that parties like the Austrian Freedom Party or the French National Front try to marginalize groups of people, groups of our people and those that we side with and support, and that once elected, those parties would suppress freedom of speech and thought.
We should have realized by now that shutting down political discourse, whether it is on a parliamentary level or within Facebook comments, clearly isn’t an effective way to deal with hate-inducing speech. But rather than changing our tactic, we continue to hold on to censorship as one of our main methods of ensuring that our point of view prevails in arguments. And we are utterly stupid by doing so, because what we achieve is something very contrary to what we are aiming for: giving them the moral high ground. They are those who don’t agree with the ethical values and personal morales that we, as a whole, as human beings in our society, have come to agree upon and live by.
Our side claims that exactly those values are what we defend – but we seem to make an exception when it comes to dealing with sharply contradicting point of views. If we really live by these values, though, there is no room for exceptions. All ideas, opinions and especially all fears should be listened to and addressed.
We have turned into anti-fascist fascists.

Another issue that struggling left-of-center parties are facing is that the world of politics isn’t “sexy” enough. Organizations like the EU or major parties try to portray themselves as professional, but at the same time paint an inherently boring picture of themselves – in order to survive, the EU will have to seriously work on seeming more flashy and exciting. Emerging right-wing political contestants have long figured out that this is the key to success, and use the tactic effectively – the only difference is that in their case, we tend to call it populism.
Really the only answer to right-wing populism is left-wing populism. “Social” ideas tend to picked up extremely well by large and very different audiences, and we’ve seen this in a number of cases recently. In the German race for chancellor and parliamentary elections, Martin Schulz, representing the Social Democrats, was able to bring his party back up from the lowest approval ratings since the second world war in only a few weeks thanks to some mildly populist ideas. In France, pro-European Emmanuel Macron overwhelmingly won against far-right Marine Le Pen in the finals of the presidential election, and in Austria, Alexander van der Bellen of the Green Party received the majority of votes both in the initial presidential election and in the re-run of the election several months later. The hype of young people for Martin Schulz in Germany can be compared to that for Bernie Sanders in the US’ presidential election.
The oh-so-terrible mainstream media plays a key role in their tactic, and they really don’t have much of a choice. The story is as follows: A politician from the right end of the political spectrum says something outrageous, the media covers it, and then, a couple days later, the same politician claims that he had been misunderstood and assumes the role of the victim. This tactic doesn’t just portray the media, which as we all know is “controlled by the left”, as liars, but also legitimizes whoever came under public criticism, and as a bonus people will also feel sorry for them “falsely” being attacked so harshly. The fact that I don’t have to give you specific examples for you to realize that this is a readily used tactic proves my point.
The main difference between left and right populism links directly into what I just said. While the right is able to rally up support by spreading fears based on risks that are either incredibly blown out of proportion or sometimes even nonexistent (keyword “alternative facts”), left populism tends to promise utopian social systems provided by the state. The ideology of social democracy, if used correctly, is very well capable of competing with the shallow and fear-based populism that the right wing builds upon. To clarify: Scandinavia, other than what you may have heard, is not socialist. Scandinavia, Germany, Austria and many others have social systems in place, but are capitalist countries that more or less follow the social democratic ideology.
Today, generations that grew up with computers, access to internet and more connectivity to the rest of the world – and hence also more exposed to ideas and concepts of all sorts – reach the age to register as voters. It is time that left-leaning parties realize that they have to catch up with what the right has long done – it is time that parties like the Social Democrats in Germany and Austria, and institutions like the European Union rebrand themselves. They all have what it takes to have overwhelming success and popularity, but are incredibly bad at portraying themselves in an interesting light.
For the US Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders tried doing just that – but the rest of the party failed seeing the benefits of what he was doing, and decided to stick with the old ways of doing things, nominating Hillary Clinton as their presidential candidate. The old ways that worked for so many years, however, are far from being directly applicable, effective and really in any way useable in today’s age.
Politics isn’t a fun topic or really anything that most people want to get engaged with today. Many people don’t even bother voting anymore. Many elections throughout the world had voter turnouts of less than 50% in recent times – if less than half of the population votes, the result doesn’t represent what the people really want. Many of those that were mobilized to vote were brought out because of driving forces from the right who understood the art of rallying up support and getting people to go out, take the time and cast the vote for their candidate or party. The “mainstream” parties have a lot of catching up to do in this respect, and so do citizens all over the world. People don’t even register to be voters anymore when they reach the legal age!

The biggest threat to democracy is our own laziness.

We are currently standing at the brink of slipping into a world dominated by right-wing, nationalist and isolationist ideologies propagated by authoritarian and anti-democratic world leaders who likely will have come to power through completely fair and democratic elections. Sorry to disappoint you, but the trend of democratically electing dictators isn’t really anything new – the Italians, Germans, Austrians and so many others have done it before, and we might well do it again. And if that happens, we will try to put the blame on other people, complain that even had we tried more, we wouldn’t have been able to stop it from happening. But that is not the case.

It is because of people like us, people that believe in the importance of peace, international cooperation and unity that Europe hasn’t experienced a continent-wide war in over 70 years. It is because of people like us that the life expectancy worldwide is higher than ever before. It is because of people like us that we able to speak freely here, express our ideas and emotions. Let’s protect this heritage that generations and generations and generations before us dreamed of and fought so hard for. Now it is our time to stand up and defend what we have inherited and should treasure above anything else – our freedom.
We are still the majority! We can win this fight – a battle of logic, words; for peace and unity – if we do it correctly, if we put all of ourselves – our passion and our energy – into it, and, most importantly, if we stand united: We will win.

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