Divisions in Europe and the rise of the extreme right and left

From Missy in the UK:


The political discourse in Europe is getting more intense as divisions are pushing people more and more to the extremes of left and right.

In the UK the Brexit debate has led to the divisions coming to the fore, however, this isn’t new in politics here, as many who were around in Thatcher’s time will remind you. Social Media has given a wider audience to it though, and the anonymity for some on social media has given the opportunity for language to become more and more abusive, something that is now spilling over into real life.

Those on the far left are happily calling political opponents fascists, far right, nazis, meanwhile some anti Brexit supporters are talking about killing all Leave voters, whilst others are calling Leave voters racists, xenophobes, nazis, fascist (that word again).

Some far left activists and activist groups have publicly called for Conservative politicians to be harassed wherever they go, they have sent death threats, and wished their children dead, whilst some on the far right (not as organised in groups as the far left extremists) have threatened rape and violence to those that they disagree with. This is not sudden either, several years ago when a back bench MP, the now Shadow Chancellor called for direct action against Conservative MPs calling them social criminals, he has also been filmed repeating a dubious ‘joke’ calling for violence against a female Conservative MP using the phrase ‘lynch the bitch’. When MPs are using language like this against their colleagues in the House of Commons who can blame their followers for thinking it is acceptable?

Anna Soubry, a pro Remain conservative MP has reportedly used extreme language to describe leave voters, (I have not seen any video evidence of her reported comments as I have of McDonnell’s), she also referred to her own Conservative colleagues that support Brexit as extremists and called for them to be slung out of the party. There is also a report that about 3 or 4 years ago she referred to her constituents as racists.

Yesterday during an interview on College Green Anna Soubry was shouted down by Brexit supporters and called a nazi. This has gained a lot of media coverage, which is prompting much condemnation, but also a bit of bemusement as to why the media have not covered as extensively pro Brexit MPs being shouted down and abused, or why the term nazi is suddenly so distasteful to pro Remain supporters when many of them have been using it for the last 3 years to denigrate Leave supporters. The bemusement and the whataboutery isn’t good for discourse, but it shows up the hypocrisy of many on the extremes of politics, where the language they use against those they disagree with is not okay when it is used against them.

Many on the left of politics in the UK tend to take the moral high ground on abuse against politicians, pointing to the murder of Jo Cox as evidence the left don’t do violence, only the right do. This is a dangerous position to take as we see in the violence of groups like Momentum and Antifa.

Today a story came out from Germany. Yesterday a German politician was badly beaten by three masked men in Bremen, he was saved by a construction worker who came to his aid, it was reported he was left half dead. The politician? Frank Magnitz, the leader of the AfD in Bremen.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46792556

It is not healthy for our democracy to descend into this level of abuse, words are used to shut down debate or invalidate someone’s opinion and it becomes the loudest that are heard and considered the voice of the majority, even though they are most likely the minority on the extremes. When words like racist, xenophobe, nazi, fascist are used to describe people who want to have legitimate discussions on topics like immigration the meaning of these words are diluted, and then they are no longer listened to or taken as credible descriptors of someone’s beliefs.