How they frame it 6

This blog has been dormant for a while, and what better way to revive it than join the crowd of those who analyse the results of EP elections? The success of extreme right parties in some countries, for one, seems to be worth some attention. The usual explanation of their success is the spectacular failure of mainstream politicians to deal with the crisis (Hungary!) and/ or to comply with basic standards of personal integrity (UK, with the MPs' expenses scandal neatly before the elections).

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Then, there are those who notice the nationalist parties' appeal to the masses. Jamie Bartlett of Demos argues in his blog that the extreme right are good at finding approaches that appeal to the basic concerns of the electorate. Thus, the British National Party speak of the immigrants as freeriders who threaten the British people's access to social housing.

Indeed, the BNP frame their ethnocentric and at times openly xenophobic rhetoric primarily in economic terms (e.g. pointing out that Briatin's foreign aid budget is several times bigger than NHS deficit). At the same time, for anyone who takes a cursory glance at the BNP home page and takes a moment to think about it, one thing should be obvious: the BNP's objection to immigration is not purely economic. Their cultural nationalism and even racism, framed as a crusade against the islamisation of Britain, is probably much closer to the core of their ideology than their economic nationalism. In other words, they frame their agenda in economic terms in order to mobilise public opinion which has been made somewhat immune to open racism. When voters buy their economic arguments, they may use their share of public trust to promote more racist agenda.

Similarly, the Hungarian extreme right party Jobbik seems to have chosen economic arguments as the main line of successful attack on mainstream parties, while cultural insecurity is lurking in the background. A recent interview in the Budapest Sun with one of the Jobbik candidates in EP elections, Krisztina Morvai, illustrates this perfectly. Morvai said, among other things:

"The political and economic elite have placed the whole country in foreign hands. We have, therefore, a particular justification for emphasising that “Hungary belongs to the Hungarians”. We want to get back our national assets, which have been sold abroad and privatised, and want to prevent further national assets from getting into private and/or foreign hands."

To those who would buy her brand of economic nationalism, however, Dr. Morvai has a lot to offer in terms of cultural nationalism, too. Her offer includes elements of anti-Roma racism (as the same interview demonstrates), and, like any good Hungarian nationalist, she strives to remind her voters that she is not a great friend of Israel either (witness her law suit against Israel's leadership here). To be fair to Dr. Morvai, who is likely to spend the next five years in the European Parliament (her party got nearly 15% of votes in the EP election in Hungary), her dislike of foreigners is not limited to 'native' Roma - she also proudly refused to give an interview to a Daily Telegraph journalist who had previously written about her party's anti-semitism.

So, to return to my main point: speaking to the people's heart about how wicked foreigners steal their social welfare and national assets is one thing, but in the end Europe's extreme right parties remain what they always have been - crusaders of cultural prejudice. Their appeal to people's economic concerns is merely a rhetorical ploy. Sadly, this time a successful one.

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Komentāri (6) secība: augoša / dilstoša

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Kārlis Streips > Jānim Iesalniekam 11.06.2009 11:29
What exactly are you "Latvian nationalists" planning to take over from the Hungarians -- racism and anti-Semitism? Leave alone the fact that these are "principles" which are most adequately represented already in the wing of politics from which you hail. If your point is that the good idea (and it is astonishing that this is made by someone who has a doctorate!) is "Hungary for the Hungarians," then you are getting back into the realm of ethnic cleansing which was one of your party's proposals in the recent election. How fortunate that the Latvian fish did not take the bait.

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P-P! -> Kaža 10.06.2009 18:10
re: immigration, economic arguments

Halfrubbish, and I suspect you are well aware of it too :) No such statement of blanket nature, applicable to all immigrants taken as whole, can be supported – anywhere, I suspect. Just one example from Finland:

"There are remarkably large differences in the employment rates of immigrants to Finland from various countries. For example, only 19% of the Estonian immigrants were unemployed at the end of 2003, while the figure for Somali immigrants was as high as 58%."

Data from the article, unemployment at the end of 2003:

Russians: 40%
Estonians: 19%
Swedes: 11%
Brits: 13%
Germans: 9%
Turks: 32%
Somalis: 58%
Iraqis: 72%
Americans: 10%
Chinese: 9%
Thais: 30%
Iranians: 59%
Vietnamese: 47%
Bosnians: 40%
Serbs: 55%

Of course, the "liberals" and open borders extremists invariably come up with convoluted explanations for significant groups of immigrant population living off of welfare, invariably involving host nations culture (supposed racism). Yet one needs just one look at some breakdown of data per ethnicity, or to live in a country with, say, mixed Chinese/Muslim population long enough to learn about their cultures (something more than multiculturalist's dogma that all are inherently worthy, equal and so forth) to know that the "immigrant's outcomes" most likely do indeed have something to do with cultures - those of the arrivals.

Why is unemployment among Chinese similar to that of Finns? Because it's in their culture (at least among those I've lived next to):

a) to be family oriented - and your parents and family members will take no BS excuses and will instead shame, scold and nag you if you do not work and succeed;
b) to be self-reliant and to have low expectations of state welfare.

Those groups with less cultural inhibitions about living off of others - well they do so in greater numbers!

And check this out, from the same article:

"On the other hand, the Somalis' situation has improved over the last few years. Most of the Somalis have found employment in the public sector, particularly in the teaching and social services sections."

Tax base, right...

That's why such breakdowns are hard to come by - absence of data helps to "support" the denial of simple truths by ruling elites, and enables to perpetrate largely rubbish explanations like racism. Never mind - the longer it goes on, the harder the eventual blowback will be.

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Juris Kaža 10.06.2009 00:21
The problem is to seperate concern about Islamic fundamentalism, which is a kind of theocratic fascism, from true racism (which considers persons of one or another color to be inferior). Islam has no race, although in some countries it is practiced by persons of different appearance or ethnicity. At the same time, there are Arabs and Africans who are part of the same more-or-less Christian culture that nominally dominates in Europe. And while white Europeans cannot be turned into Africans nor Africans made to look like the majority of Swedes or Germans, Islam can spread as an ideology regardless of race.
Certainly Moslems are covered by the freedom of religion that is part of Western democracy, but at the same time, one should not be painted with the brush of racism or xenophobia for saying clearly what Islam or parts of it are -- a totalitarian ideology that would bring back the Middle Ages if implemented in full (along with the forced illiteracy and subjugation of women).
As for economic arguments against immigration, these can be easily taken apart because immigrants are entrepreneurs in many EU countries, contributing to the tax base rather than depleting it. Indeed, to make it to Europe from Central Africa is an act of extreme enterprise. Also, the "taking of jobs" argument falls apart when you ask how many "native-pick-your-EU country citziens " would collect garbage or drive underground trains on the night shift. These are the kind of entry jobs that immigrants often take, because few others do.

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Pēteris 09.06.2009 19:23
Interesting analysis, but I would like to argue that it is not a novelty that nationalists and racists mask their intentions with economic arguments. The success of "New Democracy" in Sweden in 1991 was due precisely to the same logic. The party claimed that the immigrants "costed" too much. Well, as it turned out, intolerance costed even more.

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Jānis Iesalnieks 09.06.2009 18:30
Mums, latviešu nacionālistiem, atliek tikai mācīties no britu un ungāru nacionālistu piemēra. Paldies par īso analīzi. Ņemsim vērā :)

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