We must address the global threat of Far-Right, Extremism
So far from the US... crickets
As Americans, we have a really bad habit, of ignoring certain types of threats. Physically, we have few common borders with serious threats and immense oceans to protect us. We long avoided both WWI and WWII, playing the isolationist card until we wore the spots off the card. Most of all, we have long and mostly, even today, still ignore extremist threats, unless it is the only type most Americans are familiar with, Islamic extremism, post-9-11. This is part ignorance, part arrogance and a great deal, of political these days.
Whatever the excuse, we must do our part globally to address, far-right extremism. After the Trump administration, strategically coinciding with a global peak of dangerous populist, nationalist and authoritarian leaders led by some of the globe’s most critical nations, only an ostrich would bury their head in the proverbial sand.
As much as any moral person utterly despises Putin, me included and as much as he has long been at the center of exporting far-right extremism, he is not the only source. RWE/ right-wing-extremism takes on many forms but carries in all instances, select trademark beliefs. The symptoms of unattended RWE are violence, intolerance, exclusion, despotic/ autocratic leadership and yes, violent, extreme, ideology, triggered involuntarily by charismatic narrators and leaders, to further their own interests. See here, Trump, Modi, Bolsonaro, Orban’, Meloni etc. History buffs will also, immediately recall Hitler, Mussolini.
In the last decade or so, Europe has been infected by RWE and patterned after Putin’s efforts, both overt and covert. Look no further than Marine le Pen in France or Georgia Meloni in Italy or the new Swedish government. Even the US Republican Party has long and deep connections to European extremists like Viktor Orban’, Marine le Pen and now are expending a great effort to befriend Italy’s far right government headed by Meloni. The point here is that RWE is a transnational threat of significance. Unlike our last focus, Islamic violent extremism, TRWE/ transnational RWE is far more dangerous because it affects global and national policy while simultaneously inspiring and cultivating violent, RWE in most nations.
If we are to look for the “fingerprints” of what I’m talking about here, look no further than the far-right movement behind the recent Brazilian assault on their democracy. The similarities are near impossible to ignore. Yes, there are differences but like the old commercial said, “even a caveman could understand it.”
Like with religious ideology, RWE has so-called prophets and disciples. Steve Bannon for example has been working across Europe for a decade to embolden and integrate Putin’s RWE format with already existing far-right movements. Bannon has even stooped so low as to do all possible to turn the far-right of the Catholic Church against Pope Francis and forward-thinking Catholics.
The globe has seen far left extremism as a severe threat as well in my lifetime. Communism is largely seen as far left. Although actual communism really no longer exists, even in China. Even now, there is an embedded threat trigger in most western nations due to the Cold War fight with communism. Truth be told, much of the Russian/ Chinese Cold War communism, was heavily influenced by fascism and authoritarianism while rarely, if ever actually committed to communism. It was just another historical ideology designed to control masses to serve corrupt and immoral leadership. The closest thing in my lifetime to true communism or socialism, was the Kibbutz system in Israel, very popular after the birth of the state. Yes, words have meanings, and we should pay attention to them.
Here in the US, with the GOP, now having a slim majority in the US House of Representatives, we can all see that they’ve elevated the worst of the worst RWEs to important committee assignments. This is the same minority that forced Speaker McCarthy to make a list of frightening concessions to America’s worst extremists, conspiracy theorists and the narrators of the armed rebellion of January 6th infamy. The US has had many like them in the past. Huey Long and former POTUS, Andy Jackson come to mind immediately. The key to putting a stop to our own worst tendencies have always been, our true national values. Yes, the key to our nation’s resilience is in fact, our founding documents. Our values have held against all attempts to changed them to suit a variety of power movements like, the Confederacy, US communism of the 1930s, the Klan, and now the US Republican Party. The GOP is not conservative. They are led, controlled and dominated by RWE. Principled conservatives have zero voice, even if they did try to use it.
Here's the problem with employing our values to provide the course-correction our nation needs to ward off the threat of RWE, our current most serious threat; We must continually narrate those values from a position of credibly. I use the word, “narrate” intentionally. Narrative is the key to ethical influence. Patriotic fervor based on our true values is but one form of ethical influence. Patriotism, as espoused by the US, far-right is not based on our true values. If it was, our ideal patriot would be an overweight white male running around in camo in the woods, Bible in hand and playing army, but never having the guts to serve our nation and its true values. Sadly, after the Trump era, we know their names all too well: Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, III%ers, CPAC, Constitutional Sheriffs, MAGA etc.
A particularly insidious component of the MAGA crowd is a bastardized, anti-Christian version of Christianity preached daily in churches all-across the nation. Heck, Reverend Hagee is one of these and sadly, he’s just down the street from where I live. I was raised in a family of rural, Midwestern teachers and preachers, I don’t even recognize Hagee’s ideology as Christian. As noted, before, his trademarks are hated, intolerance and exclusion of pretty much anyone who doesn’t belief precisely as he dictates. This is nearly the exact definition of RWE. Religion and extremist ideology are a most dangerous combination, and our nation is currently suffering dangerously from these twin pillars of a mortal social disease.
The illness the US suffers from most acutely, is our addiction to our political identities. This addiction is cultivated by parties and movements for their good, not the nation’s. If we are to “go back to basics” toward our actual values in order to protect our republic, putting party over country must be the first symptom to treat and eradicate. Just taming RWE is a start, because it’s our most severe threat but… all extremism is an affront to our founding principles, especially in our elected leadership.
Two easy ways to recognize if you are being slowly converted to extremism is to, 1. Ask yourself, do you believe your “side” is always right and the other wrong? and 2. Ask yourself if your leadership demands that you hate excluded portions of American society. A “yes” answer to either should tell you that you require a course correction in your life. A “yes” answer to both should terrify you.
There is no role for extremism in the republic our founders imagined for us. Though we have practiced our form of democracy for a couple of centuries, we are still far from achieving what our founders envisioned. Yes, I am still a “true believer” in what they envisioned. We are far closer to success than we were at the beginning but, should consciously recognize that the job isn’t finished. Tearing ourselves apart to make selfish men and women more powerful, is not part of the job and will surely sink our “great experiment.” It took remarkable courage to develop, win and establish our democracy. It will take even more to repair our ship of dreams, just to stay afloat. If we all have that courage, reaching our ultimate destination, as envisioned by Washington, Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson and the scholarship of Madison, will be easier because we’ll all be rowing together. If not, the rocks of history will break our ship into an unsalvageable wreck. Democracy is a team sport. Those who refuse to row, condemn us all.
Like the rowing scene in the epic movie, Ben Hur:
Good morning, Paul, another great post. Can't disagree with a word. Two short questions.
1) what is the difference between RWE/TREW and fascism?
2) In your model of ethical narrative influence, who should be the key narrators? (notice I asked 'should,' not 'are')