Feb 202019
 

An important part of my job is dealing with stuff that is both unpleasant and weird (no, I’m not talking about teaching evaluations). Much of what goes on in far-right politics these days used to be called “the lunatic fringe” but has stealthily moved into the political mainstream. The “manosphere”, a network of unabashedly anti-feminist (or rather anti-female) sites and online communities is fringe even by these standards. But that may change: the HuffPost has an interesting piece about the role of the UK anti-feminist movement within the wider far-right.

Speaking of fringe: I’m old enough to remember that the “Patrioten für Deutschland” (Patriots for Germany) stood in national elections in the late 1980s. They demanded a “new Renaissance” (sounded alright then) and had a manifesto that was manifestly bonkers. The party was part of the “global LaRouche movement”. Apparently their successor party still exists, and they are still deeply rooted within the mad-hatter sector of the political spectrum. And they continue to be guided by one Helga Zepp-LaRouche, wife of Lyndon LaRouche. The latter has died (“how was he still around???”), but his toxic legacy lives on.

Politico predicts “big wins” for the “right wing” in the upcoming EP elections, complete with a picture of Salvini and Le Pen smiling like newlyweds at the reception. Once you read the article, you realise that they actually predict losses for the Socialists/Social Democrats, good times for ALDE, and a mixed bag for Salvini, Le Pen and their ilk. But it is still an interesting article.

What is survivorship bias? Glad you asked, because this is my excuse for linking to yet another wonderful xkcd cartoon

survivorship_bias.png

Look Mom, no Brexit links this week!

Feb 102019
 
AfD results in 2017 federal election in Germany (map of districts)

As (West) European election years go, 2017 was quite something. The French party system changed beyond recognition. The radical right entered Germany’s national parliament for the first time. UKIP was wiped out, but May still managed to lose a comfortable majority. And very high fragmentation resulted in a coalition that looks improbable even by Dutch standards.

SCoRE is our multinational project that explores the link between local and regional living conditions on the one hand and radical right attitudes and behaviours in these four countries on the other. Sometimes, serendipity is really a thing. Because we had our individual-level data collection scheduled for this year anyway, we gained some unique insights into all four big Western European elections of 2017.

Accordingly, my colleagues have written up reports for France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK, complete with beautiful maps. Who does not like maps?

But perhaps you’re pressed for time or not sure if you really want to read four (fairly short) reports? With the European Parliamentary elections on the horizon, I made a short explainer/teaser video about them to bring you up to speed in just over two minutes. I have a hunch that afterwards, you will want to read all four pieces.

Feb 072019
 

Back in 2001, the British General Election Study contained a (presumably open-ended) question asking Britons to name the “ most important problem facing the country”. A whopping 0.4 per cent of the sample came up with something along the lines of “Britain’s relationship with Europe”. So much for the eternal struggle going all the way back to Napoleon. Or Boudica. Or whatever. Here is the tweet containing this nugget of information:

Germany’s AfD, which may or may not face surveillance by the secret service in the near future and is always good for a joke, is suing said agency. They are objecting not to the fact that the service is building a case against them but rather to the decision to make this fact public. Here is the full story: https://www.dw.com/en/germanys-far-right-afd-files-lawsuit-against-spy-agency/a-47400383

If you can bear to hear or read even more about the current occupant of the White House, this is a particularly scathing assessment of his presidency. Read it and weep.

Jan 272019
 

It is a warm but grey and gloomy weekend in Germany, so here are three links I enjoyed:

In case you were wondering whether Trump is a) evil, b) senile or c) a master strategist: here is a piece arguing that c) is unlikely, though a) and b) could easily be true at the same time.

This is surprisingly accurate: academic life told through Wallace & Gromit gifs

When I needed to maximise a two-variable function over a given range of input values, I found this brief tutorial helpful.

Bonus: a pic of Gromit:

Jan 252019
 

Last weekend, AfD leader Alexander Gauland gave a lecture at a “winter school” organised by the Institut für Staatspolitik (IfS). The IfS is a far-right think whose state aim it is to form the future elite of far-right leaders. If you think that leader of Germany’s biggest opposition party being part of such a thing is a big deal, you’re right. The story got little coverage in Germany and no coverage internationally, so I made a 90 second explainer video. If you like it, please share it.

 

Jan 192019
 

What is the “winter school” for Germany’s New Right?

This weekend, Alexander Gauland, co-leader of the AfD, will give a lecture at the annual “winter school”, a weekend seminar that is organised by the “Institut für Staatspolitik” (IfS). The IfS is a Wannabe-Nouvelle-Droite think tank based in Schnellroda, a tiny village in Saxony-Anhalt. Its mastermind is Götz Kubitschek, a far-right publisher, author and self-styled “New Right” intellectual.

Götz Kubitschek, co-founder of the IfS, invites Gauland to Schnellroda

Götz Kubitschek Metropolico.org [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Kubitschek believes in meta-politic: a conscious attempt to alter the meaning of words and establish new frames, to shift discourses and to form the minds of new generations, all in a bid to change the course of the nation. He and his associates borrowed this concept from the French Nouvelle Droite, who in turn got some ideas from the German “Konservative Revolution” of the 1920s and 1930s and mixed them, ironically, with a bit of Gramsci.

Their “winter school” is a crucial part of the meta-political strategy. It is run exclusively for people under the age of 35. Students pay just 60 € for two nights, including full board and access to all lectures. If they subscribe to “Sezession”, a highbrow right-wing magazine published by Kubitschek and the IfS, this is further discounted to 40 €. Getting to Schnellroda is definitively the most costly part of the weekend. But why is Gauland going to Schnellroda as a speaker? why is Gauland going to Schnellroda as a speaker? Click To Tweet

Schnellroda: Götz Kubitschek, the IfS, and the AfD

Kubitschek lives the Altdeutsch dream. More specifically, he lives in the local manor house, together his wife Ellen Kositza (also a far-right author) and their many children, who bear traditional Germanic names. We know all this from the newspapers. Kubitschek’s elite brand of far-right politics has attracted an unhealthy interest from mainstream journalists, who are occasionally allowed to visit the couple in exchange for half-gushy, half-disgusted home stories. Scientists are similarly intrigued, and there is a lot of research (in German) about the “New Right” networks Kubitschek and his ilk form. I sometimes wonder if his influence and importance are seriously overestimated.

Helmut Kellershohn: Das Institut für Staatspolitik und das jungkonservative Hegemonieprojekt. In: Stephan Braun, Alexander Geisler, Martin Gerster (Hrsg.): Strategien der extremen Rechten: Hintergründe – Analysen – Antworten. 2. aktualisierte und erweiterte Auflage, Springer Fachmedien, Wiesbaden 2015,

In the past, Kubitschek’s radicalism and elitism made for an uneasy relationship with the AfD. In 2015, when the party’s transformation from soft-eurosceptic to radical right came under way, he and Kositza applied for membership. They were initially accepted, but within days, the national executive, then still controlled by Bernd Lucke, intervened and rejected their applications. Nonetheless, Kubitschek is closely involved with the most radical Eastern circles in the party, whose members regularly attend events at Schnellroda. It was here, at an IfS meeting, that Höcke made his infamous speech about “Africans”, and it was Kubitschek who put a video of that speech online.

Kubitschek is closely involved with the most radical Eastern circles in the #AfD Click To Tweet

In his characteristically cringeworthy style, Höcke has praised the manor house as a sort of spiritual home for the AfD’s hardliners. In turn, Kubitschek and Kositza have attended conferences organised by the “Flügel”, the far-right network that is now under scrutiny by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), i.e. the secret service.

AfD leader Gauland speaks at Schnellroda, the infamous far-right gathering run by the IfS

Leader of the opposition, leader of the AfD, keynote speaker at Schnellroda – all in a day’s work Original picture: Metropolico.org [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Kubitschek has also spoken at “Pegida” and “Legida” events. At the invitation of Matteo Salvini, he has attended a Lega conference, but he also has contacts to the neo-fascist Casa Pound and has even published a Casa-inspired book in translation. He is friends with Martin Sellner, one of the most prominent figures in the “Identitarian” movement, and works closely with Jürgen Elsässer, one of the most prominent figures of the German far-out-right. Kubitschek is no neo-Nazi – that would be far to vulgar. But he puts himself into the succession line of the “Konservative Revolution”, the young, revolutionary and above all anti-democratic movement that operated at the fringes of conservatism in the Weimar Republic and helped to pave the way for the real Nazis.

What is Gauland doing at the Schnellroda “Winter School”?

In short, the IfS’s “winter school” is a remarkable event for Gauland to attend, let alone to give a lecture. Gauland is by no means the first AfD politician to speak at Schnellroda, but as national co-leader and co-leader of the AfD’s caucus in the Bundestag, he is by far the most prominent one. Gauland has attended “Flügel” meetings in the past, and has repeatedly defended Höcke. But he is still widely seen as “bürgerlich”, because as a former high-ranking bureaucrat, CDU member and conservative journalist, he is a card-carrying member of the elite that has run this country for seven decades.

In a press conference this week, the BfV announced that they would put the Flügel under enhanced scrutiny, which can even include measures such as phone tapping. When a journalist asked whether this could also affect Gauland, the BfV’s president said that would depend on what kind of information they would come unearth in the coming weeks and months. In this situation, speaking at Schnellroda is either particularly brave or extraordinarily stupid. Either way, we have reached the point where, within a single week, we have learned that the leader of the biggest opposition party in the Bundestag a) may come under observation by the secret service and b) is the headline speaker at a notorious far-right gathering. What a time to be alive. the leader of the biggest opposition party in Germany is also the keynote speaker at a notorious far-right gathering Click To Tweet

Jan 182019
 

An Economist study finds that the quality of democracy is highest in Australia, Canada, and Scandinavia. No big surprise here. Time to move?

You may have heard that a prominent member of the AfD was physically attacked in Bremen, which the AfD managed to put all over social media. The police say the initial account of the story does not match CCTV from the scene.

Another police officer in Hesse has come under scrutiny over ties to right-wing extremist networks: he is accused of leaking police information to two Neo Nazis. Worrying, to say the least.

Pankaj Mishra thinks that Brexit reflects everything British upper-middle and upper classes have inflicted on the large parts of Asia and Africa. A scathing and not implausible reading of modern history.

Jan 162019
 

Andre Poggenburg, a prominent hardliner from Saxony-Anhalt, has left the AfD. He has already founded a new party. What does that mean for the AfD and German politics in general? I’ve made a short explainer video. Or, if you’re not the visual type, you can read an old-fashioned post on the latest breakaway from the AfD.

Jan 142019
 

Terminology matters for science. If people use different words for the same thing, or even worse, the same word for different things, scientific communication turns into a dialogue of the deaf. European Radical Right Studies are a field where this is potentially a big problem: we use labels like “New”, “Populist”, “Radical”, “Extreme” or even “Extremist” with abandon. 

But how bad is it really? In a recent chapter (author’s version, not paywalled), I argue that communication in Radical Right studies still works. Texts using all 50 shades of “Right” are still cited together, indicating that later scholars realised they were all talking about (more or less) the same thing.

I have written a number of short blogs about the change in terminology over time, the extraction of the co-citation network, and the interpretation of the findings. But sometimes, all this reading is getting a bit much, and so I tried something different: using some newfangled software for noobs, I turned my findings into a short video. Have a look for yourself and tell me what you think.