- Gary King came here and gave a very cool talk. He experimentally varied the content of small-ish news outlets (!), and the national conversation on Social Media changed massively. In other news, ethics is overrated 😉
- Germany’s SPD really dislikes the idea of being in power (or at least in a coalition)
- The New Statesman has a rather depressing piece on the alt-right’s internet
- If that is not enought, the New York Times has a long list of Trump’s racist statements and deeds going back to the 1980s
- Chris Hanretty says that public support for Brexit is declining
Personal blogs are so 1990s, yes?
This is not the late 1990s. Hey, it’s not even the early Naughties, and has not been for a while. I have had my own tiny corner of the Internet (then hosted on university Web space as it was the norm in the day) since Mosaic came under pressure from Netscape and the NYT experimented with releasing content as (I kid you not) postscript files, because PDF was not invented yet. I did this mostly because I liked computers, because it was new, and because it provided an excellent distraction from the things I should have been doing. By and large, not much changes over 25 years.
Later (that was before German universities had repositories or policies for such things), my webspace became a useful resource for teaching-related material. Reluctantly and with a certain resentment, I have copied slides and handouts from one site to the next, adding layers of disclaimers instead of leaving them behind, because some of this stuff carries hundreds of decade-old backlinks and gets downloaded / viewed dozens of times each day.
And of course, I started posting pre-publication versions of my papers, boldly ignoring / blissfully ignorant of the legal muddle surrounding the issue back in the day. Call me old fashioned, but making research visible and accessible is was the Web was invented for.
In summer 2008, I set up my own domain on a woefully underpowered shared webspace (since replaced by an underpowered virtual server). A bit earlier in the same year, already late to the party, I had started my own “Weblog” on wordpress.com, writing and ranting about science, politics, methods, and all that. A year down the road, I converted www.kai-arzheimer.com to wordpress, moved my blog over there, and have
never looked back continously wondered why I kept doing this.
Why keep blogging?
In those days of old, we had trackbacks and pingbacks & stuff (now a distant memory), and social media was the idea of having a network of interlinking personal blogs, whose authors would comment on each other’s posts. Even back in 2008 on wordpress, my blog was not terribly popular, but for a couple of years, there was a bunch of people who had similar interests, with whom I would interact occasionally.
Then, academically minded multi-author blogs came along, which greatly reduced fragmentation and aimed at making social science accessible for a much bigger audience whilst removing the need to set up and maintain a site. For similar reasons, Facebook and particularly Twitter became perfect outlets for
ranting “microblogging”, while Medium bypasses the fragmentation issue for longer texts and is far more aesthetically pleasing and faster than anything any of us could run by ourselves.
It is therefore only rational that many personal academic blogs died a slow death. People I used to read left Academia completely, gave up blogging, or moved on to the newer platforms. Do you remember blogrolls? No, you wouldn’t. Because I’m a dinosaur, I still get my news through an RSS reader (and you should, too). While there are a few exceptions (Chris Blattman and Andrew Gelman spring to mind), most of the sources in my “blog” drawer are run by collectives / institutions (the many LSE blogs, the Monkey Cage, the Duck etc.). I recently learned that I made it into an only slightly dubious looking list of the top 100 political science blogs, but that is surely because there are not many individual political science bloggers left.
So why am I still rambling in this empty Platonic man-cave? Off the top of my head, I can think of about five reasons:
- Total editorial control. I have written for the Monkey Cage, The Conversation, the LSE, and many other outlets. Working with their editors has made my texts much better, but sometimes I am not in the mood for clarity and accessibility. I want to rant, and be quick about it.
- Pre-prints. I like to have pre-publication versions of my work on my site, although again, institutional hosting makes much more sense. Once I upload them, I’m usually so happy that I want to say something about it.
- For me, my blog is still a bit like an open journal. If I need to remember some sequence of events in German or European politics for the day job, it’s helpful if I have blogged about it as it happened. Similarly, sometimes I work out the solution to some software issue but quickly forget the details. Five months later, a blog post is a handy reference and may help others.
- Irrelevance. Often, something annoys or interests me so much that I need to write a short piece about it, although few other people will care. I would have a better chance of being of finding an audience at Medium, but then again on my own wordpress-powered site, I have a perfectly serviceable CME which happens to have blogging functionality built in.
- Ease of use. I do almost all of my writing in Emacs and keep (almost) all my notes in orgmode code. Thanks to org2blog, turning a few paragraphs into a post is just some hard-to-remember key strokes away.
Bonus track: the five most popular posts in 2017
As everyone knows, I’m not obsessed with numbers, thank you very much. I keep switching between various types of analytic software and have no idea how much (or rather little) of an audience I actually have. Right now I’m back to the basic wordpress statistics and have been for over a year, so here is the list of the five posts that were the most popular in 2017.
- #5 nlcom and the Delta Method. This is a short explainer of the Delta Method and its implementation in a Stata command. It was written in the summer of 2013, presumably when we were working on surveybias, as a note-to-future-self post. It was viewed 343 times in 2017. Not too shabby for an oldie.
- #4 State of the German polls: The Schulz effect was real. Part of my 2017 poll-pooling exercise, this post demonstrates that the bounce for the SPD early in the campaign was real but short-lived. Just like this post? It got 620 views, but most of them (559) in March, right when it was published.
- #3 Similarly, Five Quick takes on the German election was viewed 869 times, but almost exclusively on election night and on the following day. Which is a pity, because some of it is still relevant (I think).
- #2 I looked up the AfD’s women’s organisation on Facebook. You will not believe what I found Posted only on December 30, this one got 878 views in the few remaining hours of the old year, almost bringing down my server in the process. Traffic was driven by Twitter, thanks to the click-baity title and the incredible image. You will not believe what I saw until you see it.
- #1 Me at the Margins: Average Marginal Effects, Marginal Effects at the Mean, and Stata’s margins command. Another short explainer involving statistical stuff and Stata. It was written in March 2011, but was viewed 1010 times in 2017. It was also the most popular post in 2016 and 2015. In all likelihood, it is the most popular thing on this blog, ever. Go figure.
Women don’t like the AfD (and why would they?)
The AfD is not particularly attractive for women. Survey data suggest that only one in three AfD voters is a woman. The new national executive has 14 memebers. Just two are of the female persuasion. This amounts to a cool 14%, even less than the female share of the AfD’s total membership (16%). The share of female AfD MPs in the new Bundestag is yet again lower at just over ten per cent, half of the already very low figures for the Liberals and the Christian Democrats.
This is hardly surprising. While some Radical Right parties in Western Europe parties at least aim to give the impression that they have modernised their stances on gender politics (cf the Netherlands, Norway), the AfD’s radicalisation over the last three years has brought them closer to traditional right-wing positions (see e.g. Jasmin Siri’s work on this), or perhaps these positions have become more visible.
Sex and loathing
Two “cheeky” 2017 campaign posters marked a new low on this front. One showed the behinds of a pair of scantily clad young women who allegedly “preferred Bikinis over Burqas“, the other used a picture of a massive baby bump to cajole Germans into “making new Germans instead of relying on immigration” (incidentally, the belly in question came from a stock photo of a Brazilian model).
This is the cutesy version of Höcke’s rambling about the “expansive African fertility type” that threatens to take over Germany. The obsession with the number of pure-blooded German babies and the means of their production, the Muslim as a sexual predator, the fear (and envy?) of the hyper-sexual Black that will take away our blonde daughters, wifes, and mistresses – the nice middle class veneer over the familiar right-wing extremist tropes is wearing pretty thin.
Female Facebook Friends
The AfD does not have an officially recognised women’s organisation. But a couple of weeks ago, Christiane Christen (the AfD deputy leader in Rhineland-Palatinate) and Janin Klatt-Eberle, a rank-and-file member from Saxony, have set up a Facebook community called “AfD-politics for women“. So far, some 600 people have liked it.
The page is not meant to co-ordinate or strengthen the positions of women within the AfD (where did that thought come from?). Its mission statement says that it will serve “to explain the AfD’s policies with respect to us women”, because the AfD is the only party that defends liberty and security for women. Hm.
The posts far, are what you would expect. They exploit the New Year’s Eve attacks on women in Cologne in 2015 and a recent jealousy killing where the perpetrator was a youth from Afghanistan and the victim an equally young German girl. They are similar to what can be found on the AfD’s official channels, but executed in a much more amateurish way. What really surprised me, however, even giving that level of amateurishness, was their logo, a – variation? – on the party’s official and already awkward design. This 👇
In my book, this beggars belief, so I preserve it for posterity here before they change it. I’m old enough to qualify as a dirty old man, so I just summarise the gist of the comments on the page:
- No money for a designer? Seriously?
- Pitch-perfect illustration of the party’s gender politics
- This must be a satirical page.
It’s not. It’s real.
Bonus track, because it is almost 2018: Link to one of my favourite older posts on a related subject.
- One of the best (and most depressing) articles on Trump I’ve read so far: “Inside Trump’s Hour-by-Hour Battle for Self-Preservation”
- If you learnt R as a grad student and if that was some time ago (cough), here is help to get you started on the new ways of doing things in R
- To further drive this home, here is a quick and only slightly dirty analysis of the Weinstein effect in newspaper reporting using tidytext
- What remains of the traditional French centre-right after Macron is poaching on the Front National. Art Goldhammer nails it.
- Meanwhile, the Front National is once more in hot water over the misuse of EU funds.
- #Bitcoin an even bigger waste of energy than previously thought. Some people claim that running the currency (if it is one) right now use up as much energy as running Denmark. After careful consideration, I prefer Denmark.
- A long, thoughtful essay on Brexit, written from a semi-Canadian perspective. Well worth your time.
- Another little Brexit gem: “did the SNP’s mixed signals encourage those for independence to vote for #Brexit”? I’m not convinced (have a look at the confidence intervals), but it is an interesting piece.
- An act of sheer (political) beauty: German artists build “Holocaust memorial” outside far-right politician’s house
The autumn/winter edition of the ever more Eclectic, ridiculously Erratic Bibliography on the Extreme Right in Western Europe is
overdue well on its way, and it’s gonna be YUGE! Make it even YUGEr by sending me your candidates (books, chapters, journal articles) for inclusion. The geographical focus remains on (Western) Europe, but I am also interested in general (e.g. conceptual, methodological, psychological etc.) right-wing stuff. Self nominations are welcome. Obviously, no guarantee for inclusion whatsoever. If you have a DOI and/or a well-formatted bibtex entry, that’s spiffy, but as long as the reference is complete, I’m not too fussed about the format. Put your reference(s) in a comment right here, send me an email (kai.arzheimer AT gmail.com), DM me, or leave a comment on the Facebook page.
At today’s AfD conference, Jörg Meuthen has been reelected as one of the the two co-chairs of the party. Although there was no other candidate, he garnered only 72% “yes” votes. Meuthen was once promoted by Petry because of his convenient market liberal profile, but quickly became friendly with the more radical elements.
The election of the second co-chair was a more interesting affair. Apparently, the leadership had agreed that Georg Pazderski (leader of the Berlin chapter), an alleged moderate and pragmatist, should get the job. But at the conference, a surprise competitor emerged: Doris von Sayn-Wittgenstein, party chair in Schleswig-Holstein, who had only joined the party when it began to radicalise after Lucke’s departure as leader and vehemently opposes any rapprochement with the powers that be. In two ballots, the vote was split almost equally between the two, but neither reached the 50% quorum.
After a break, both withdrew their candidacy, and Alexander Gauland, eminence grise and leader of the the AfD’s parliamentary Party emerged as the new and only candidate. He received a mere 68% “yes” votes. Gauland is an interesting figure. Once a long-term CDU member and career Beamter in Hesse, he became a conservative newspaper editor and then one of the founding members of the AfD.
Late in life (he is in his mid-70s), he turned out to be a populist who regularly toys with Islamophobia and racism. He has repeatedly used his considerable influence within the party to defend Höcke and his cronies. He has also repeatedly ruled out that he could become party leader, citing his poor health and advanced age. Now his double role makes him arguably the most powerful (co-) leader the AfD has ever had. While Pazderski’s defeat and the poor results for Meuthen and Gauland highlight the fault lines within the AfD, Gauland’s rise to the two top offices is further evidence for the growing influence of the party’s ultra right.
After Frauke Petry, herself not exactly a centrist by conventional standards, has left the party, the rightmost factions in the AfD are becoming even more influential (or perhaps just more visible). The party will elect a new leadership this coming weekend, and Andre Poggenburg will stand as a candidate for deputy party leader. Poggenburg, who leads the Saxony-Anhalt chapter of the party, is a friend and political ally of Björn Höcke, the most prominent representative of the ultra-right within the AfD. In the past, under both Lucke and Petry, the national executive has made several unsuccessful attempts to kick Höcke out of the party over his various racist and anti-semitic statements.
Speaking of anti-semitism, documents have surfaced a couple of days ago that incriminate Peter Felsen, deputy head of the AfD’s parliamentary group in the Bundestag. Felser and his company were involved in the production of campaign videos for the “Republikaner” party back when they still mattered. Broadcasters refused to air these videos (German parties get an allocation of free airtime) because of their inciting content, and the courts confirmed that their content “minimised, denied, and justified” the Holocaust. Felsen does not deny the allegations but says that he regrets the whole thing.
Meanwhile in Saxony, Petry’s erstwhile home state, the regional leadership has stopped a similar bid to throw out Jens Maier, over similarly controversial remarks. Maier, who is a judge, has publicly spoken out against what he calls “the cult of guilt” (right-wing extremist parlance for publicly remembering the Holocaust) and the “creation of mixed races”. He is also on the record for claiming that Anders “Breivik became a mass murderer out of pure desparation”. Amongst us anoraks, Maier came national prominence when he granted the NPD an injunction against colleague Steffen Kailitz, who was banned for a while from repeating statements he had made when he gave testimony against the NPD in the Constitutional Court. Maier also likes to call himself “little Höcke”.
If you have any interest at all in European politics, you will have noticed by now that the pre-coalition talks in Germany have collapsed on November 19. Because this could mean (amongst other things) fresh elections, and because Germans do not normally do crisis these days, and because a paralysed Germany has all sorts of implications for Europe, everyone got very excited for a while. Right now, my money is on a reprise of the so-called Grand Coalition (centre-left/centre right), if and when the SPD realises that they should be able to get major concessions.
In the meanwhile, if you want to catch up with the situation or a simply in the mood for a bit of Angst watching, here is a list of links I liked
- During the night, @JerremyCliffe provided a running commentary on twitter. A week may be a long time in politics, but this is still very useful. If you don’t follow the man yet, now is the time
- Statement by the Federal President on the morning after, indicating that he is not keen on a snap election (in German)
- Here is a long-form analysis by @TheDanHough, in which he very neatly dissects the mess the parties have landed us in
- These are my own two Euro cent on the state of play in Germany after the FDP’s walkout
- Politico on the growing dissent within the SPD
- Merkel, who previously said she would prefer new elections to running a minority government, now says that she is not in favour of fresh elections. Move on, nothing to see here
- Seeing the signs of the times, SPD leader Schulz no longer rules out “getting involved in formation of German government, in whatever capacity” and wants to give party base vote on final deal (but not on decision itself?)
- Here is a bit of scaremongering about the impact of the German impasse on the European Union
- Writing in the New York Times, @annakatrein is similarly pessimistic about Germany, Europe, and the world
- Ending on a somewhat lighter note