Update February 5, 2018
In March 2017, I posted a graph which shows how the AfD’s Facebook posts moved away from euroscepticism and Greece-bashing towards immigration and Islamophobia. But trends can change, and local regression smoothers have a habit of behaving strangely at the borders. So I downloaded another year’s worth of Facebook posts and reran the scripts:
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the new graph confirms for 2017 what we have seen for 2016: Muslims and immigrants are all the rage, whereas the Euro crisis is so 2014. I leave the old graph/post below as is for comparison.
Elections in Europe: great expectations.
2017 was a year of high-profile national elections in Europe, in which the Radical Right was expected to do particularly well. Balanced and neutral as ever, the Express claimed that the votes in France, Germany, and the Netherlands could DESTROY the EU. The Independent also flagged up the Dutch, German, and French elections, but added the Italian referendum, the Austrian presidential elections (both actually in 2016), and the British local elections, which, in hindsight, seems particularly quaint. Most observers missed the much more problematic Austrian parliamentary elections, and no one (arguably including the PM) expected Britain to go the polls, again.
SCoRE election data from four European countries
For better or worse, the individual-level data collection for our project on sub-national context and radical right support in Europe (SCoRE) was scheduled for 2017 anyway. In SCoRE, we try to bring together particularly fine-grained official data on living conditions (including immigration, unemployment, local economic growth, and access to basic services) with survey data on right-wing attitudes and other attitudinal and behaviour variables that are geo-referenced. In other words: we can see how the way people think is linked to where they live, and what it is like there. And with the British PM’s decision to have a snap election, we became an election study on the side.
All politics is local: a close look at regional patterns of radical right voting in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK
What sets SCoRE apart from other projects is its focus on regional and even local patterns of voting. To showcase this, my colleagues have produced a series of reports on the elections in Europe from this particular angle.
Will Allchorn and Jocelyn Evans (University of Leeds) study the switch from UKIP to the Conservatives in the 2017 election. One of their most interesting findings (I think) is that “the switchers are more strongly anti-European suggesting a tactical preference for a governing party able to deliver Brexit.
Eelco Harteveld and Sarah de Lange show that support for the Dutch Radical Right is not strongly correlated with a rural-urban divide. The PVV thrives in areas that are economically deprived and suffer from demographic stagnation, independent of urbanisation.
In Germany, the AfD is very much an eastern party. However, Carl Berning demonstrates that in the 2017 election, the
AfD did also well in the south-western states. A (perceived) sense of local decline seems to be a major factor.
Finally, a strong rural/urban divide sets in radical right voting is characteristic for France. Gilles Ivaldi and Jocelyn Evans show that support for the Front National was broken up into two distinct clusters, one in the northern rust belt, the other in the south.
Back in March 2018, the Montreal Holocaust Museum invited me to an expert panel that they were organising as part of their Action Week against Racism. The topic: the resurgence of aggressive right-wing politics in Europe. Speaking on this issue, at this institution, was both poignant and humbling. Here are my slides.
Spring is the new winter
A mere four months ago I asked you to send me your favourites for the autumn/winter edition of the ever popular Extreme Right bibliography, and send you did – so many references that it took me a bit longer than expected, and now it’s time for the spring edition. But since it is still cold outside, this problem’s solved. Sort of. So here it is: the latest edition of the Eclectic, Erratic Bibliography on the Extreme Right in Western Europe
118 new titles
Last year’s update was big (117 new titles), but this year’s update is bigger (118). I’m not making this up, it’s a simple, strange coincidence. And most of the new titles are, well, new.
There are even 13 titles that were published in 2018. With online first publications (a good thing in itself) that are turned into “real” (who reads printed journals?) articles much later, keeping track of publication years and page numbers is not a fun exercise. Speaking of not having fun: Is anyone publishing these things ever thinking of the poor sods who have to/want to read all this?
The article rules, OK?
Books are so long. Book chapters are still long, but more fun: people actually have the space to develop an idea, or to give a proper, detailed overview. But in most departments, neither counts for much, and we all have little time and so much to read. Here’s the result:
Kids, don’t do books.
The top ten journals
Which brings me to my final point: What are the ten most important (or rather most prominent) journals for scholars of the Radical/Extreme Right? Not much has changed since I ran this analysis for the first time in October 2016. The European Journal of Political Research and West European Politics are still leading the pack. Acta Politica and Party Politics have swapped places and there are some other minor adjustments. Political Psychology has pushed Government and Opposition out of the top ten, but Government and Opposition is hovering in the eleventh spot, so again, no big change here
|Journal||No. of articles|
|European Journal of Political Research||46|
|West European Politics||43|
|Comparative European Politics||14|
|Patterns of Prejudice||13|
|Comparative Political Studies||12|
Once more, I’m wondering if we as profession are wasting too much time and resources on these parties. At the same time, I’m eagerly waiting for the printed edition of the Oxford Handbook on the Radical Right, have wasted some more time and resources on creating a little twitter bot that promotes the fruit of our labours, and wonder if, how, and why I could text mine all those PDFs that I have collected over the years. Go figure.
I’m still collecting references for the next iteration of the Extreme Right Bibliography (but I am almost there. Honest to God. Really). Meanwhile, while I should have probably been doing other things, I’ve brushed up my fairly rudimentary R skills and taught myself how to write a similarly rudimentary twitterbot.
If you are reading this, the chances that you are interested in the Radical/Extreme/Etc Right are high. If you also happen to be on twitter, you will want to follow the Radical Right Research Robot for all sorts of serendipitous insights, e.g. that reference to the article you always suspected exists but were to shy to ask about.
And if that does not appeal, it has a cutesy profile pic. So follow it (him? her?). Resistance is futile.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Political Science suffers from generational cycles of collective amnesia. For obvious reasons, (right-wing) populism is a hot topic again, and mature colleagues (cough) may bemoan the fact that they have seen it all before (at least twice). Let them moan. The wheel does get a little better each time round. This winter has brought us not one, not two, but (almost)
three four five six Special Issues on the topic:
- Politics and Governance has a brand new Special Issue: Populism and the Remaking of (Il)Liberal Democracy in Europe. Six articles, one editorial, and it’s all Open Access.
- The European Journal of Political Research has put together a Virtual Special Issue on populism. It brings together twelve articles – classics as well as new-ish publications- that have appeared in the Journal over the last decade.
- If that is not enough for your (slightly pervy) taste, the Swiss Political Review has just published their Special Issue on Populist Mobilization Across Time and Space, which boast twelve article and an invited review.
- Still reading? European Political Science have a mini symposium on Populist Discourses and Political Communication in Southern Europe in their online first section. So far, four articles have appeared there.
Have we reached peak populism? Not yet, because here is more:
- Update (January 26). The Journal of Language and Politics was a new one to me. They seem to publish lots of interesting stuff, including their resent SI on the language of Right-Wing Populism in Europe and the US. Twelve more articles for your reading list.
- Update January 29: And…. another one. Government and Opposition have updated their virtual SI on populism, and it’s YUGE! It’s also all open-accessed for the occasion.
- Update January 29: They keep coming in: Democratization had a SI on Dealing with Populists in Government (in 2016 already, but this does not get old).
- Update January 29: As people keep sending me references, I realise that I have unleashed a beast 😉 The Czech Journal of Political Science published a SI on Populism and its Impact on the Political Landscape. It’s short (just three articles and an editorial) but looks interesting nonetheless.
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.