Alongside the flat-earthers, 9/11 truthers and Obama birthers, the anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists have always had a special distinction: They can do immediate and specific damage in a way that the others can’t. Birtherism surely increased Americans’ distrust of politics, though in ways that are hard to pin down. By contrast, when anti-vaxxers persuade parents not to vaccinate children, the result can be sickness and even death.
How, then, to push back against them? Does sympathy with parents who are spooked by vaccines help to bring them around, or is it better to be tough? Over the past few years, both of these tactics have been tried in Italy, a country where, starting in about 2012, vaccination rates plunged.… Seguir leyendo »
In June 2018, the newly elected Italian government refused to allow the Aquarius, a ship carrying 600 refugees, to dock in an Italian port. This story was news, and Corriere della Sera, Italy’s paper of record, covered it accordingly, with articles written from different angles and with different headlines. But the one that really affected readers on Corriere’s Facebook page had a headline featuring the name of Italy’s then-new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, as well as his declaration: “Our ports are closed to Aquarius!” A new study — carried out by my London School of Economics Arena project , the University of Venice and Corriere della Sera itself — found that, in 2018, this was the second-most “engaged with” post on the topic of migration on Corriere’s Facebook page, the one that attracted the most clicks, likes, dislikes, comments and shares.… Seguir leyendo »
It may have been the worst recession to hit any economy in modern times. Between 2007 and 2014, Greece lost a quarter of its economy; hundreds of thousands of people moved abroad; unemployment peaked at almost 28 percent, hitting nearly 1 in 3 of the working population. Extremist parties of the far left and far right came to power, railing against shadowy foreign enemies, spinning dark conspiracy theories and making impossible promises.
Under their leadership, the crisis grew worse. In the summer of 2015, the Greek government, led by a former young communist, Alexis Tsipras, nearly crashed out of the euro, the common European currency.… Seguir leyendo »
All across Milan, condolences rain down upon the head of the traveler bound for Rome. One Milanesi friend showed me photographs, sent by his niece, of the garbage that hasn’t been cleared from the Roman streets. Another told me to watch out for the smell: “If you haven’t been there for a long time, prepare for a shock.” The expressions of concern are dispensed with just a touch of glee, for Rome, unlike Milan, is now ruled by a mayor from the Five Star Movement. This newish Italian political party was founded by a professional comedian who used to describe politicians as “parasites,” whose leaders rail against the “establishment” and whose electoral lists were filled with people who had never before run for office.… Seguir leyendo »
Was it an invitation to cocktails or the start of a far-right conspiracy? In Europe, these days, it can be hard to tell. But this week Austrian media are reporting that the links between Martin Sellner and Brenton Tarrant were rather more extensive. Sellner is the clean-cut leader of the Austrian Identitarian Movement; Tarrant is the man charged with shooting up two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The two exchanged emails in 2018 after Tarrant made a donation to the Identitarians; Sellner sent Tarrant a link to his YouTube page and invited him for a beer in Vienna. Tarrant booked a hotel in Vienna, though we don’t know if he got there.… Seguir leyendo »
Post Opinions invited readers to submit questions about her Opinions Essay, “Want to build a far-right movement? Spain’s Vox party shows how.” What follows are lightly edited questions and answers about the essay.
Do you have any suggestions or thoughts for countries that wish to counteract the rise of the alt-right and far right?
Lots of politicians and political parties across Europe are struggling with that question right now. This is really the central question for all contemporary democracies. It’s a big subject, so I’ll mention just a few examples.
In many European countries where there are several parties in parliament, preventing an angry minority from dominating a fragmented majority is an important strategic objective.… Seguir leyendo »
Amanece en la campiña española. En cámara lenta, un hombre camina, corre y salta una cerca. Como en una película de Hollywood, el hombre cruza un campo de trigo mientras roza las espigas con sus manos. Durante todo este tiempo, suena una música mientras una voz narra: «Si no te ríes del honor porque no quieres vivir entre traidores… si anhelas nuevos horizontes sin despreciar tus viejos orígenes… si conservas intacta tu honradez en tiempos de corrupción…».
Sale el sol. El hombre sube por un camino empinado, cruza un río y queda atrapado en una tormenta. “Si sientes gratitud y orgullo por quienes, de uniforme, guardan el muro… si amas a tu patria como amas a tus padres…”.… Seguir leyendo »
It is dawn in the Spanish countryside. A man is walking, and then running, in slow motion. He climbs a fence. He crosses a field of wheat while brushing his hands, as in a Hollywood movie, across the tops of the sheaves. All the while, music is playing and a voice is speaking: «If you don’t laugh at honor because you don’t want to live among traitors . . . if you look toward new horizons without despising your old origins . . . if you can keep your honesty intact in times of corruption . . .»
The sun rises.… Seguir leyendo »
At every fateful historical turning point — every time a bad decision is taken or a wrong choice is made — there is always someone who tries to stop it, someone who predicts the consequences, someone who proposes an alternative plan. Cicero tried to halt the fall of the Roman Republic; Churchill opposed appeasement. And there are less mythical, more recent examples, too: Before the invasion of Iraq, the State Department conducted a massive study of the country, foreseeing many of the problems, making many proposals for a post-Saddam Hussein regime — all of which were ignored by the Pentagon after the invasion in 2003.… Seguir leyendo »
“She was dealt a bad hand.” “She took a poisoned chalice.” From a great distance, it is possible to feel sorry for British Prime Minister Theresa May. She seems so dignified. She seems to be trying so hard. The circles beneath her eyes have grown so much deeper since she became prime minister back in 2016, following the surprise result of the Brexit referendum, the resignation of her hapless predecessor, David Cameron, and an ugly leadership squabble, during which several of her male colleagues metaphorically stabbed one another in the back. Since then, she has always seemed to outsiders the sensible person in the room, the adult who knows what she is doing, the sane person in a madhouse.… Seguir leyendo »
It begins with humor. The alt-right’s jokes, a teenage friend assures me, are genuinely funny: They ridicule the pomposities of “mainstream” culture, laugh at political correctness and create ridiculous memes mocking everything, including themselves. And once you’ve laughed at the jokes, there is a whole amusing, darkly ironic, alternative world out there, only a couple of clicks away.
There are the YouTubers such as PewDiePie, the Swedish gamer and vlogger who has shown Nazi videos while metaphorically arching his eyebrows. Viewers are meant to get that it’s a joke: “I know my audience understand that and that is why they come to my channel,” he has said.… Seguir leyendo »
In Madrid last week, a senior politician told me that he was watching the Brexit crisis with growing astonishment. “England, the mother of parliaments,” he said, shaking his head. “We’ve looked up to them for so long.” Meanwhile an Italian friend who arrived in London on a delayed train — French customs officers are having a pre-Brexit strike at the Gare du Nord in Paris, delaying London-bound trains and demanding extra compensation — was also amazed. “We think our democracies are weak, elsewhere in Europe. But even if you took a bunch of Italians, Poles and Hungarians, kept them up all night and got them drunk, they still wouldn’t come up with anything as disastrous as what we are seeing in the House of Commons.”
Another week, another history-making vote: On Tuesday, the British Parliament rejected, again, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, an arrangement that would have given Britain a reasonably smooth transition period out of the European Union.… Seguir leyendo »
Elements of the 2016 British referendum campaign have long seemed familiar to Americans. There was a close, controversial election, full of rancor and anger. There were a lot of wealthy men talking about “the people” and their “will.” There were targeted advertising campaigns, stolen data and fake social media accounts. But now, with only a few days left until Britain is due to face the consequences of that vote, the Brexit story suddenly looks even more familiar: One of its protagonists turns out to have much deeper Russian business connections than previously suspected. He also tried to conceal them.
The protagonist in question is Arron Banks, the most important funder of both the pro-Brexit UK Independence Party (UKIP) and Leave.EU, one of several organizations that campaigned to get Britain out of the European Union.… Seguir leyendo »
Because I write books about Soviet history, and because I often speak about them to U.S. or European audiences, I am frequently forced to confront the problem of Western indifference. Why, I am asked over and over, did British diplomats who knew about the man-made Ukrainian famine of 1932-1933 do nothing to stop it? The Catholic Church at that time was also aware that millions of Soviet citizens were dying because Joseph Stalin’s state had confiscated their food. Why did it not galvanize Europeans to send grain?
Many are intrigued and horrified, as am I, by the story of Walter Duranty, then the New York Times Moscow correspondent, who covered up the story of the Ukrainian famine, though he knew it was happening.… Seguir leyendo »
In recent months, academics, columnists and analysts have spilled gallons of ink analyzing the so-called “populists” who are winning elections, or coming close to winning them, in so many countries. Mea culpa: I, too, have sought to explain why so many people are suddenly using xenophobic language, attacking “elites” and heaping scorn on international institutions of all kinds. What do they all have in common? What are the traits they all share?
After months of listening and reading, I am now beginning to think that we’re all wrong. All of our theories have missed the point. It isn’t racism, identity politics or even “nationalism” that links President Trump with his counterparts in Europe and beyond.… Seguir leyendo »
Winston Smith works at the Ministry of Truth. Each day, the hero of George Orwell’s “1984” “corrects” old newspapers to make sure that the information is in still accord with the current Party line. After rewriting history, he puts each “incorrect” story into a “memory hole” — a slit in the wall — and it is “whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building.”
Orwell’s portrayal of censorship is fictional. But, until very recently, it wasn’t all that far off from the reality. “Censorship” was an activity carried out by authoritarian states, and sometimes by democracies, which used repressive mechanisms to control political speech.… Seguir leyendo »
A few days ago, ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom, discovered that a tool it was using to track political advertising on Facebook had been quietly disabled — by Facebook. The browser extension had detected political ad campaigns and gathered details on the ads’ target audiences. Facebook also tracks political ad campaigns, but sometimes it fails to detect them. For the past year, the company had accepted corrections from ProPublica — until one day it decided it didn’t want them anymore. It also seems like “they don’t wish for there to be information about the targeting of political advertising,” an editor at ProPublica told me.… Seguir leyendo »
We guessed it. But now we know: There was no Plan B.
After months of negotiation and many hours of debate, after long delays and rumors of more delays, after protesters had rung bells and waved European flags outside the Palace of Westminster all afternoon, the British House of Commons finally voted on the “withdrawal deal” that Prime Minister Theresa May had negotiated with the European Union.
As expected, the deal was defeated. Not only that, but it was defeated by 230 votes — the biggest parliamentary defeat for any British government in living memory.
As expected, the opposition Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has called for a vote of no confidence in the government.… Seguir leyendo »
In theory, the European Union’s parliamentary elections are the most international in the world. The winners serve in a multinational legislature. They speak to one another with the help of hundreds of translators. They are members of transnational parties: In the parliament buildings in Brussels and Strasbourg, center-left MEPs from across Europe sit with the Party of European Socialists, center-right MEPs caucus with the European People’s Party, and so on.
Nevertheless, European elections have never quite fulfilled this multinational promise. Usually they consist of dozens of campaigns, each dominated by national debates. In most years, the German Christian Democrats don’t go on the hustings on behalf of their Swedish counterparts, and the Portuguese input into the Slovakian elections is pretty negligible.… Seguir leyendo »
On Nov. 11 — a mere month-and-a-half ago — world leaders gathered to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I. There were a lot of distractions that day: The U.S. president was afraid of some rain; the Russian president was insouciantly late. Since then, there have been more distractions: the gilets jaunes (yellow vest protesters), Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s resignation, the stock market drop.
But as 2018 draws to a very strange close — during Christmas, President Trump sat alone in the White House, surrounded by the synthetic glow of television screens — it’s worth pausing to remember the speech made that day by the French president, Emmanuel Macron.… Seguir leyendo »