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Sylvia Poggioli's Full Response

Sylvia Poggioli's Full Response

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Published by NPRombudsman

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Published by: NPRombudsman on Aug 22, 2011
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Sylvia Poggioli¶s full response: Anders Breivik¶s double terrorist attacks in Oslo on July 22 that claimed 77 lives haveput the spotlight on the growth of rightwing extremism in Europe and the definition of expressions such as ultra-right, far-right and radical right.First of all, it may be useful to look at the term rightwing. In a continent that only 65years ago came out of the ashes of Nazism and Fascism, the concept of ³right -wing´for many decades carried strong echoes of the past. At the same time, governments today in power in countries such as France, Germany,Britain and Italy are defined as ³conservative´ or ³right-wing´, or ³center-right´ coalitions.Until recently, radical rightwing parties were marginalized and considered disreputable.For example, Norway¶s Progress Party ± of which Breivik used to be a member²wasisolated. Its anti-immigrant rhetoric made it a pariah party.The arrival over the last two decades of millions of immigrants ± mostly Muslims -- on acontinent where the nation-state had been based on mono-ethnic societies, has givennew impetus to the ultra-right parties. The turning points were the Islamist terrorist actsof 9/11, the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh (2004) and the Madrid andLondon bombings (2004, 2005). As Ian Buruma writes in The Nation, ³this finally gave right-wing populists a cause withwhich to crash into the center of European politics´.This is what writer Kenan Malik said in a NYT forum on this topic:³Far right parties throughout Europe draw upon two distinct constituencies. The first is acore of hardline racist bigots -- many of these parties, like the British National Party andthe Sweden Democrats emerged out of the neo-fascist swamp and some still live there.The bigots, however, have been joined by a swathe of new supporters whose hostilitytoward immigrants, minorities and Muslims is shaped less by old-fashioned racism thanby a newfangled sense of fear and insecurity.´The pool of voters for the ultra-right may have been enlarged by disgruntled andinsecure centrists and even former leftists, but the parties¶ rhetoric and slogans are anecho of Europe¶s dark past ± xenophobia, anti-foreigner sentiment, defense of nationalidentity and what is described as Western civilization.For this reason, although it has become the country¶s second largest, up to now, noother Norwegian political party has shown willingness to form a ruling coalition with theProgress Party.Nevertheless, many of anti-immigrant slogans are now entering mainstream Europeanpolitics.

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