Blog posts on the Extreme Right

The Extreme Right (or Radical Right, New Right, Populist Right) is one of my main research interests. Here is a collection of blog posts on the Extreme Right (i.e. parties, voters, policies) that I have written over the years. If this is relevant for you, you might also be interested in the 400+ titles bibliography on the Extreme Right that I maintain and in this page, which summarises much of my work on the Extreme Right.

Mar 142019
 
dogs in a libray: bibliography update March 2019

What’s new in the bibliography?

It’s that time of the year again. Once more, I have updated the Erratic Extreme/Far/Radical/Populist Right Bibliography. After the book-chapter heavy winter update, we are back to normal: the spring update brings four books, two chapters, and 45 journal articles. Most of these were published in 2018, but some are almost two decades old. Please keep pointing out relevant publications to me.

Far right bibliography: publication years of new additions

Publication years of the new additions to the bibliography

Who has written all the new stuff?

Far right bibliography update: authors

You know what they say about pictures and words. I thought I should give the new-ish wordcloud2 package a spin. Here is the result. Before you get too envious (or too haughty), please remember that scale is proportional to the number of publications, not the word count, and that additions to the bibliography happen on a non-systematic and utterly eccentric basis: if I come across something that interests me, it gets in, whether it is your very first article or your whole back catalogue.

The Far Right Bibliography: Spring 2019 Update

What is this new far right research about?

I stuffed the titles and (where I had them) abstracts into a dataset, forgot some obvious stop words (among? much? however?) and tried some lemmatisation (with mixed success). “Party”, “populist/populism”, and “radical” come out tops. Unsurprisingly, “immigration” is also prominent. But I find some of the smaller words more interesting. “Leave” is certainly a nod to Brexit. “Nord” is considerably smaller than “Lega”, reflecting the nationalisation (or at least the aspiration) of the former regionalists. “Unemployment” is certainly smaller than it would have been a decade or two ago. So is “extreme”. If you are interested in the fine print, click on the image for a larger, high-resolution version.

Far right bibliography March 2019 update: topics

Topics of the new additions to the Extreme/Far/Populist/Radical Right bibliography

Follow the robot

If you care about Extreme/Far/Populist/Radical Right research and if you are on Twitter, consider following the Radical Right Research Robot for random updates, serendipitous insights, and the occasional awkward pun.

I’m your friend

So: what titles exactly?

Here is the update, in all its glory:

Ackermann, Kathrin, Eros Zampieri, and Markus Freitag. 2018. “Personality and Voting for a Right-Wing Populist Party – Evidence from Switzerland.” Swiss Political Science Review 24 (4): 545–64. doi:10.1111/spsr.12330.

Albertazzi, Daniele. 2006a. “‘Back to Our Roots’ or Self-Confessed Manipulation? The Uses of the Past in the Lega Nord’s Positing of Padania.” National Identities 8 (1): 21–39. doi:10.1080/14608940600571222.

———. 2006b. “The Lega Dei Ticinesi. the Embodiment of Populism.” Politics 26 (2): 133–39. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9256.2006.00260.x.

———. 2016. “Going, Going, …Not Quite Gone yet? ‘Bossi’s Lega’ and the Survival of the Mass Party.” Contemporary Italian Politics 8 (2): 115–30. doi:10.1080/23248823.2016.1193349.

Albertazzi, Daniele, and Duncan McDonnell. 2005. “The Lega Nord in the Second Berlusconi Government: In a League of Its Own.” West European Politics 28 (5): 952–72. doi:10.1080/01402380500310600.

Albertazzi, Daniele, Arianna Giovannini, and Antonella Seddone. 2018. “‘No Regionalism Please, We Are Leghisti!’ the Transformation of the Italian Lega Nord Under the Leadership of Matteo Salvini.” Regional & Federal Studies 28 (5): 645–71. doi:10.1080/13597566.2018.1512977.

Albertazzi, Daniele, Duncan McDonnell, and James L. Newell. 2011. “Di Lotta E Di Governo: The Lega Nord and Rifondazione Comunista in Office.” Party Politics 17 (4): 471–87. doi:10.1177/1354068811400523.

Arzheimer, Kai. 2018. “Conceptual Confusion Is Not Always a Bad Thing: The Curious Case of European Radical Right Studies.” In Demokratie Und Entscheidung, edited by Karl Marker, Michael Roseneck, Annette Schmitt, and Jürgen Sirsch, 23–40. Wiesbaden: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-658-24529-0_3.

Bale, Tim. 2008. “Turning Round the Telescope. Centre-Right Parties and Immigration and Integration Policy in Europe.” Journal of European Public Policy 15 (3): 315–30. doi:10.1080/13501760701847341.

Blok, E.A. Lisanne de, and T.W.G. Tom van der Meer. 2018. “The Puzzling Effect of Residential Neighbourhoods on the Vote for the Radical Right an Individual-Level Panel Study on the Mechanisms Behind Neighbourhood Effects on Voting for the Dutch Freedom Party, 2010-2013.” Electoral Studies 53: 122–32. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.electstud.2018.04.003.

Carter, Elisabeth. 2018. “Right-Wing Extremism/Radicalism. Reconstructing the Concept.” Journal of Political Ideologies 23 (2): 157–82. doi:10.1080/13569317.2018.1451227.

Charalambous, Giorgos, and Panos Christoforou. 2019. “Far-Right Extremism and Populist Rhetoric: Greece and Cyprus During an Era of Crisis.” South European Society and Politics, 1–27. doi:10.1080/13608746.2018.1555957.

Dennison, James, and Andrew Geddes. 2018. “A Rising Tide? The Salience of Immigration and the Rise of Anti-Immigration Political Parties in Western Europe.” The Political Quarterly, online first. doi:10.1111/1467-923x.12620.

Downes, James F., and Matthew Loveless. 2018. “Centre Right and Radical Right Party Competition in Europe: Strategic Emphasis on Immigration, Anti-Incumbency, and Economic Crisis.” Electoral Studies 54: 148–58. doi:10.1016/j.electstud.2018.05.008.

Eger, Maureen A., and Sarah Valdez. 2018. “From Radical Right to Neo-Nationalist.” European Political Science. doi:10.1057/s41304-018-0160-0.

Elsas, Erika J. van. 2017. “Appealing to the ‘Losers’? The Electorates of Left-Wing and Right-Wing Eurosceptic Parties Compared, 1989-2014.” Electoral Studies 50: 68–79. doi:10.1016/j.electstud.2017.09.013.

Fitzgerald, Jennifer. 2018. Close to Home. Local Ties and Voting Radical Right in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ford, Robert, and Matthew J. Goodwin. 2014. Revolt on the Right. Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain. London: Routledge.

Fremeaux, Isabelle, and Daniele Albertazzi. 2002. “Discursive Strategies Around ‘Community’ in Political Propaganda. the Case of Lega Nord.” National Identities 4 (2): 145–60. doi:10.1080/14608940220143835.

Froio, Caterina. 2018. “Race, Religion, or Culture? Framing Islam Between Racism and Neo-Racism in the Online Network of the French Far Right.” Perspectives on Politics 16 (3): 696–709. doi:10.1017/S1537592718001573.

Goodwin, Matthew J., and Caitlin Milazzo. 2005. UKIP. Inside the Campaign to Redraw the Map of British Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Green-Pedersen, Christoffer, and Pontus Odmalm. 2008. “Going Different Ways? Right-Wing Parties and the Immigrant Issue in Denmark and Sweden.” Journal of European Public Policy 15 (3): 367–81. doi:10.1080/13501760701847564.

Halikiopoulou, Daphne. 2018. “A Right-Wing Populist Momentum? A Review of 2017 Elections Across Europe.” Journal of Common Market Studies 56 (S1): 63–73. doi:10.1111/jcms.12769.
Jonge, Léonie de. 2019. “The Populist Radical Right and the Media in the Benelux: Friend or Foe?” The International Journal of Press/Politics 0 (0): online first. doi:10.1177/1940161218821098.

Kaufmann, Eric. 2019. “Can Narratives of White Identity Reduce Opposition to Immigration and Support for Hard Brexit? A Survey Experiment.” Political Studies 67 (1): 31–46. doi:10.1177/0032321717740489.

Krekó, Péter, and Gregor Mayer. 2015. “Transforming Hungary – Together? An Analysis of the Fidesz-Jobbik Relationship.” In The East European Radical Right in the Political Process, edited by Michael Minkenberg, 183–205. Routledge.

Lutz, Philipp. 2019. “Variation in Policy Success. Radical Right Populism and Migration Policy.” West European Politics 42 (3): 517–44. doi:10.1080/01402382.2018.1504509.
Marx, Paul, and Elias Naumann. 2018. “Do Right-Wing Parties Foster Welfare Chauvinistic Attitudes? A Longitudinal Study of the 2015 ‘Refugee Crisis’ in Germany.” Electoral Studies 52: 111–16. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.electstud.2018.01.011.
Marx, Paul, and Gijs Schumacher. 2018. “Do Poor Citizens Vote for Redistribution, Against Immigration or Against the Establishment? A Conjoint Experiment in Denmark.” Scandinavian Political Studies 41 (3): 263–82. doi:10.1111/1467-9477.12119.
McDonnell, Duncan, and Annika Werner. 2018a. “Differently Eurosceptic: Radical Right Populist Parties and Their Supporters.” Journal of European Public Policy, 1–18. doi:10.1080/13501763.2018.1561743.
———. 2018b. “Respectable Radicals. Why Some Radical Right Parties in the European Parliament Forsake Policy Congruence.” Journal of European Public Policy 25 (5): 747–63. doi:10.1080/13501763.2017.1298659.
Miller-Idriss, Cynthia. 2009. Blood and Culture: Youth, Right-Wing Extremism, and National Belonging in Contemporary Germany. Durham: Duke University Press.

Olsen, Jonathan. 2018. “The Left Party and the Afd.” German Politics and Society 36 (1): 70–83. doi:10.3167/gps.2018.360104.

Pardos-Prado, Sergi, Bram Lancee, and Iñaki Sagarzazu. 2014. “Immigration and Electoral Change in Mainstream Political Space.” Political Behavior 36 (4): 847–75. doi:10.1007/s11109-013-9248-y.
Pytlas, Bartek. 2018. “Radical Right Politics in East and West. Distinctive yet Equivalent.” Sociology Compass 12: e12632. doi:10.1111/soc4.12632.
Rensmann, Lars. 2018. “Radical Right-Wing Populists in Parliament.” German Politics and Society 36 (3): 41–73. doi:10.3167/gps.2018.360303.

Rooduijn, Matthijs. 2018a. “State of the Field: How to Study Populism and Adjacent Topics? A Plea for Both More and Less Focus.” European Journal of Political Research, online first. doi:10.1111/1475-6765.12314.

———. 2018b. “What Unites the Voter Bases of Populist Parties? Comparing the Electorates of 15 Populist Parties.” European Political Science Review 10 (3): 351–68. doi:10.1017/s1755773917000145.
Rooduijn, Matthijs, and Brian Burgoon. 2018. “The Paradox of Well-Being. Do Unfavorable Socioeconomic and Sociocultural Contexts Deepen or Dampen Radical Left and Right Voting Among the Less Well-Off?” Comparative Political Studies 51 (13): 1720–53. doi:10.1177/0010414017720707.
Rydgren, Jens, and Sara van der Meiden. 2018. “The Radical Right and the End of Swedish Exceptionalism.” European Political Science. doi:10.1057/s41304-018-0159-6.

Salzborn, Samuel. 2018. “Antisemitism in the ‘Alternative for Germany’ Party.” German Politics and Society 36 (3): 74–93. doi:10.3167/gps.2018.360304.

Szöcsik, Edina, and Alina Polyakova. 2018. “Euroscepticism and the Electoral Success of the Far Right: The Role of the Strategic Interaction Between Center and Far Right.” European Political Science. doi:10.1057/s41304-018-0162-y.
Vasilopoulos, Pavlos, George E. Marcus, and Martial Foucault. 2018. “Emotional Responses to the Charlie Hebdo Attacks. Addressing the Authoritarianism Puzzle.” Political Psychology, 557–75. doi:10.1111/pops.12439.
Vasilopoulos, Pavlos, George E. Marcus, Nicholas A. Valentino, and Martial Foucault. 2018. “Fear, Anger, and Voting for the Far Right: Evidence from the November 13, 2015 Paris Terror Attacks.” Political Psychology, online first. doi:10.1111/pops.12513.
Vlandas, Tim, and Daphne Halikiopoulou. 2018. “Does Unemployment Matter? Economic Insecurity, Labour Market Policies and the Far-Right Vote in Europe.” European Political Science. doi:10.1057/s41304-018-0161-z.
Voogd, Remko, and Ruth Dassonneville. 2018. “Are the Supporters of Populist Parties Loyal Voters? Dissatisfaction and Stable Voting for Populist Parties.” Government and Opposition, online first. doi:10.1017/gov.2018.24.
Widfeldt, Anders, and Heinz Brandenburg. 2018. “What Kind of Party Is the UK Independence Party? The Future of the Extreme Right in Britain or Just Another Tory Party?” Political Studies 66 (3): 577–600. doi:10.1177/0032321717723509.
Wijk, Daniël van, Gideon Bolt, and Ron Johnston. 2018. “Contextual Effects on Populist Radical Right Support: Consensual Neighbourhood Effects and the Dutch PVV.” European Sociological Review, December. doi:10.1093/esr/jcy049.

Wirz, Dominique S., Martin Wettstein, Anne Schulz, Philipp Müller, Christian Schemer, Nicole Ernst, Frank Esser, and Werner Wirth. 2018. “The Effects of Right-Wing Populist Communication on Emotions and Cognitions Toward Immigrants.” The International Journal of Press/Politics 23 (4): 496–516. doi:10.1177/1940161218788956.

Zulianello, Mattia. 2018. “Anti-System Parties Revisited: Concept Formation and Guidelines for Empirical Research.” Government and Opposition 53 (4): 653–81. doi:10.1017/gov.2017.12.
Zulianello, Mattia, Alessandro Albertini, and Diego Ceccobelli. 2018. “A Populist Zeitgeist? The Communication Strategies of Western and Latin American Political Leaders on Facebook.” The International Journal of Press/Politics 23 (4): 439–57. doi:10.1177/1940161218783836.
Mar 122019
 

Last year, I did an interview with Luca Manucci for the Populism Observer blog. Luca had some great questions, and I did my best to answer them, based on other people’s and my own research. Though this is certainly not “all you need to know about radical right parties”. All in all, it was a very good experience.

The interview was well received on the interwebs, but I somehow never managed to link to it. Time to correct this omission!

Feb 282019
 

Does local decline drive the radical right vote? Are recent immigrants and other minorities blamed for problems that have nothing to do with them? And, most importantly, how should policy maker address these problems?

My colleague Sarah De Lange presents and discusses headline findings from our SCoRE project at the European Policy Centre in Brussels. Also on the panel are Jolanda Jetten (University of Queensland), who looks at these questions from a social psychology perspective, Marie De Somer, who is Head of the European Migration and Diversity programme at the European Policy Centre, and Judith Sargentini, who is an MEP for GroenLinks.

The full policy brief including our main findings and recommendations is freely available from our website.

Local conditions and radical right voting – policy briefing

Feb 252019
 
local living conditions and radical right voting

How do people in cities & the countryside react to the presence or absence of immigrants? How does local decline further radical right mobilisation? Are immigrants becoming convenient scapegoats for developments that have nothing to do with them?

Or does the daily interaction between immigrants and the native population foster positive contacts that lead to pro-immigration attitudes? And what role do self-selection of liberal-minded individuals into multi-cultural neighbourhoods on the one hand and “white flight” on the other play?

These are (I think) fascinating questions that have occupied me for a long time. Thanks to my fantastic colleagues in the SCoRE project, we are a bit closer to answering them. Tomorrow, we’ll present first findings and a couple of policy recommendations at an EPC event in Brussels. If you can’t/couldn’t make it to Belgium, watch this short video and read either the full policy brief or the executive summary.

Local living conditions, immigrants & the Radical Right in Europe

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?

Four 2017 elections that changed West European Politics: France, Germany, the Netherlands & the UK

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.

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? 

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.

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.

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.

The AfD splits again. This is why you should care

Jan 122019
 
AfD: split, not purge

Yesterday, Andre Poggenburg, formerly the AfD’s head honcho in Saxony-Anhalt announced that he had left the AfD and launched a new party further to the right: the “Awakening of German Patriots”. Before his fall from grace, Poggenburg was one of the more visible members of the party’s ultra-nationalist “völkisch” wing, which is particularly strong in the East.

Today, German public radio interviewed Klaus-Peter Schöppner, a well-known pollster, who claimed that the party could benefit “from throwing out the extrepmists”. This is exactly the spin the AfD is trying to put on the whole affair. They claim that they are getting rid of a problematic, bumbling character who would take his few and equally deranged supporters with him.

Don't believe in the spin. It's a trap

When you recognise the framing for what it is

Nothing could be further from the truth. Other leading members of the vökisch wing had sidelined Poggenburg more than a year ago over his gaffes and petty affairs. And these guys show no inclination whatsoever to leave the party. On the contrary, they will continue to shape the AfD in their image.

Björn Höcke, the most prominent of them, was re-elected as leader in Thuringia less than two months ago and is the party’s frontrunner for the state election in October 2019. Andreas Kalbitz became Gauland’s successor as state party leader in Brandenburg. Last week, he was confirmed as the frontrunner for the state election in September 2019. Jens Maier, the former judge who tried to silence our colleague Steffen Kaillitz, is a sitting MP. Hans-Thomas Tillschneider is a state MP in Saxony and will likely be re-elected come September. And the list goes on.

 

They cultivate links to the Pegida movement and to the Identitarians. They attend seminars run by New Right pseudo-intellectuals and dream of a “meta-political” transformation of German society. They were a driving force behind the AfDs’s metamorphosis to a Radical Right party, and it is unlikely that they will stop at that.

Jan 112019
 
Putsch in the AfD?

Putsch in the AfD!

This morning, I woke up to the news that Andre Poggenburg, former leader of the AfD in Saxony-Anhalt and former chair of the AfD’s delegation in the state parliament is now also a former member of the AfD. And thanks to @TheDanHough, I quickly learned that he has already set up his own party: “Awakening of German Patriots – Central Germany” (AdP). In other words, they are playing our special song. Once more, with feeling.

Putsch in the AfD?

The AfD and Bruce Springsteen. You would have to ask @BDStanley what it means.

Who is Andre Poggenburg?

The AfD began its life as a moderately Eurosceptic party to the right of the Christian Democrats. During its first two years, the AfD’s public image was dominated by men (mostly) that could have been members, or had in fact been members, of the postwar German centre-right parties. The gradual radicalisation of the party became more visible in 2015. By the end of 2015, the AfD had become a bog-standard Radical Right party.

The AfD’s transformation was sped up by circles on the very right of the party, chiefly based in former East Germany. As leader in Saxony-Anhalt, Poggenburg was a relatively prominent representative of these forces, although he always played second fiddle to Björn Höcke, who leads the AfD in Thuringia. In 2016, Poggenburg led a state-level campaign that was unusually aggressive even by the new standards of the AfD, and won their best result ever (so far): 24.3 per cent of the vote.

While most European Populist Radical Right parties shy away from traditional right-wing extremism and draw a (sometimes thin) line between themselves and those who openly campaign against democratic values and principles, the Eastern chapters of the AfD are remarkably relaxed in this respect. As early as 2015, Höcke voiced sympathy for not just voters but also for members of the right-wing extremist NPD. On other occasions, he has shown thinly veiled support for biological racism and has demanded that Germany performs a “U-turn” with respect to its attempts to come to terms with the Nazi past. Whenever Höcke came under fire from more moderate characters in the party, Poggenburg rose to his defence.

Poggenburg’s political positions and style are hardly different from Höcke’s. For years, the two men were allies, and perhaps even friends. But more recently, Poggenburg became a bit of an embarrassment, and his political star began to sink. His power grabs, his iron-fist approach to intra-party opposition and his chaotic, undisciplined leadership put off many party members in Saxony-Anhalt. As early as 2016, it emerged that Poggenburg, who was a small business owner before becoming a full-time politician, had not paid back money that he owed and had hidden from the bailiffs on several occasions.  In 2017 Poggenburg was accused of nepotism when it became known that the AfD employs his girlfriend as a trainee. All in all, he is not exactly a model law-and-order politician.
And so Poggenburg lost first his influence within the Eastern right-wing circles, then his seat on the national executive (in 2017), and finally, in 2018, his leadership positions in Saxony-Anhalt.

Trump on Poggenburg (source: https://tenor.com/view/no-one-loves-aloser-unloveable-loser-donald-trump-our-cartoon-president-gif-11428270)

His real problem, however, is that he lacks Höcke’s air of pseudo-intellectualism and does neither understand the concept of (im)plausible deniability nor the need for tactical moderation. In various states and at the federal level, authorities are currently pondering the question whether the AfD is an extremist party and should hence come under surveillance by the secret service. Such a move would not just be inconvenient but would put off many voters and would probably lead to a mass exodus of members who fear for their careers. Because of this threat, the national leadership is consulting with constitutional lawyers and has compiled a list of words and phrases that should be avoided because they are too obviously beyond the democratic pale.

Poggenburg baulked at this. He complained, without apparent irony, about a “lurch to the left” within the AfD. He began using a blue cornflower as his header image on social media, a symbol that was used by anti-semitic parties in Austria and Germany in the 19th century and became the shibboleth of the then-illegal Nazi party in pre-1938 Austria. And finally, Poggenburg kicked off 2019 by sending “patriotic well-wishes” to the “Volksgemeinschaft” (the community of the people)- a Nazi-era term that was used to legitimise first the exclusion, then the murder of Jews, socialists, communists, homosexuals, Roma, and anyone else who did not fit into the totalitarian vision of German society.

A couple of years ago, that might have been worth a half-hearted explanation (“I misstyped …”), but in the current climate, the national executive decided to ban Poggenburg from holding party offices for two years. And so the man left, then made his announcement, all just in time for a slow-news Friday and for the upcoming AfD party conference.

What are the likely consequences of this split?

Glad that you ask. The AfD has previous form for de-facto splits. In 2015 and 2017, the respective leaders left and went on to set-up their own parties: Lucke’s ALFA (now LKR) and Petry’s Blue Party. Ironically, both were self-styled moderates that broke with the AfD over its radicalisation (that they had furthered, up to a point). Poggenburg, on the other hand, is a true radical who leaves over the party’s alleged moderation.

Sometimes a flower is not just a flower

Three and a half year down the line, ALFA/LKR is dead in the water. The Blue Party looks pretty blue on the national level (could not resist – sorry), but may play a role in the upcoming election in Saxony, where it has a small parliamentary presence due to defections from the AfD. But by and large, there seems to be no demand for an entirely moderate AfD: voters can simply return to the centre-right, especially now that Merkel’s chancellorship is coming to a close.

Poggenburg’s AdP is a completely different proposition. He is aiming for East Germany (or Central Germany in his parlance) only, and heplans to out-AfD the AfD in the East German elections of 2019. That could work if Eastern voters were of the opinion that the AfD is indeed lurching to the left, selling out, etc., etc., etc. But so far, the AfD’s numbers in the polls look pretty solid. The Eastern state party chapters already operate to the right of most Western chapters. They have access to state funding that their parliamentary presence has earned them, they have party machines in place, and they have a cohort of reasonably seasoned politicians. Poggenburg, on the other hand, has all the experience of winning an election, then blowing it.

It’s early days still (the first day, actually), but so far, Poggenburg has only convinced two semi-prominent right-wingers to jump ship and join his new outfit. With this small team, he is mainly gunning for the small-ish group of voters that have previously supported the NPD. But even these voters might still find the AfD reasonably attractive and will be reluctant to potentially waste their vote. In 2019, the AfD is an established brand whereas the AdP, which has adopted the cornflower symbol, looks like a radicalised knock-off lead by a man who has previously overestimated his political capital by a considerable margin.

My colleague Hans Vorländer has speculated on public radio that Höcke might want to join the party (groan! enough with the puns!). Without doubt, that would be a game-changer.
But why would Höcke do such a thing? Höcke was instrumental in transforming the AfD. he division of labour between the AfD’s more respectable and its more radical/revolutionary wing has paid off handsomely for both, and the current national executive is willing to give Höcke and his associates considerable leeway. Not a single word of support for Poggenburg has come from Höcke in all of 2018. And so I think that this split will be as inconsequential as the last ones. But then again, I have been completely wrong before.

Jan 102019
 

Topic modelling does not work well for (my) research paper abstracts

The Radical Right Research Robot is a fun side project whose life began exactly one year ago. The Robot exists to promote the very large body of knowledge on Radical Right parties and their voters that social scientists have accumulated over decades. At its core is a loop that randomly selects one of the more than 800 titles on my online bibliography on the Extreme/Radical Right every few hours and spits it out on twitter.

Yet the little android’s aim was always for some sort of serendipity, and so it tries to extract meaning from the abstracts (where available), sometimes with rather funny consequences. The robots’s first idea was to make use (structural) topic modelling. There are some implementations available in R and the first results looked promising, but in the end, topic modelling did not find meaningful clusters of papers that could easily be labelled with a common theme. One possible reason is that the abstracts are short, and that there are relatively few (less than 400) of them. And so the Robot reverted to using a small and fairly arbitrary set of keywords for identifying topics.

This approach produced some embarrassing howlers like this one:

Or this one (clearly the robot has a thing for media studies – who doesn’t?):

There are two problems here: first, even a single instance of a keyword in a given abstract is enough to trigger a classification, and second, the bot’s pedestrian implementation would classify an abstract using the last keyword that it detected, even if it was the most peripheral of several hits. Not good enough for world domination, obviously.

Newsmap works reasonably well for classifying topics in research paper abstracts

Looking for an alternative solution, the robot came across newsmap (now also available within quanteda), a geographical news classifier developed by Kohei Watanabe. Newsmap is semi-supervised: it starts with a dictionary of proper nouns and adjectives that all refer to geographical entities, say

'France': [Paris, France, French*] 
'Germany': [German*, Berlin]
...

But newsmap is able to pick up additional words that also help to identify the respective country with high probability, e.g. “Macron”, “Merkel”, “Marseille”, “Hamburg”, or even “Lederhosen”. In a (limited) sense, it learns to identify geographical context even when the country in question is not mentioned explicitly.

But the algorithm is not restricted to geographical entities. It can also identify topics from a list. An so these days, the robot starts with a dictionary of seed words that is work in progress but looks mostly like this at the moment:

'religion & culture': [muslim*, islam*, relig*, cultur*]
'media': [TV, newspaper*, journalis*]
'group conflict': [group*,contact, prejudice, stereotyp*, competition]
...

Results are not perfect, but at least they are less embarrassing than those from the simple keyword approach. One remaining problem is that newsmap tags each abstract with (at most) one topic. In reality, any given article will refer to two or more themes in the literature. Topic models are much more attractive in this respect, because they treat each text as a mixture of topics, and so the robot may have to revisit them in the future.