Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Re-Narrating Europe in the Face of Populism: An Analysis of the Anti-Immigration Discourse of Populist Party Leaders

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Re-Narrating Europe in the Face of Populism: An Analysis of the Anti-Immigration Discourse of Populist Party Leaders

Article excerpt

Introduction

In a recent article, Rogers Brubaker, a well-known scholar of nationalism studies, poses the question, 'why is civilization replacing the nation?' The scope of this study is not to answer this question, but the inquiry remains valuable in an era of 'Europe for Europeans' rhetoric led by the populist parties in Europe. The rising tide of populism brings us to focus on this "civilizationism." (1) In 2011, Anders Breivik killed out people by detonating a van bomb in Oslo, then shot 69 participants to death in a Worker's Youth League summer camp. While defending himself in court, he argued that his intention in carrying out this terrorist attack was to "save Norway and Western Europe from cultural Marxism and a Muslim takeover." (2) The incident was a turning point, not just for Norway but for Europe in exposing how the continent is divided between the nativists and the liberals. It is clear that this incident was a cry out of the already existing crisis of identity re-construction, already declared by Angela Merkel as a 'failure of multiculturalism back in 2010. Helmut Kohl criticized his successor in 2011, saying, "[Angela Merkel] is destroying my Europe." (3) Although Kohl and Merkel belonged to the same political camp, as a former chancellor and party leader, Kohl criticized Merkel for her open-door policy toward refugee immigration. While Merkel saw herself as rescuing Europe from a worker shortage, Kohl viewed her policies as destructive. Today's Europe continues to confront these competing narratives against an unprecedently hostile backdrop of fears of terrorist threats, from both Islamist fundamentalists and far right extremists.

The narrative of the nation remains deficient, leading to more dismantling rather than creating unifying positions, and this is the departing point of populist parties who are all re-writing a story for the sake of defending their homeland, namely Europe. This is a result of the positioning of the nation-state in Europe, which is experiencing a crisis of legitimacy due to the European integration. Post-war Europe is grappling with two important narratives, which are in opposition to each other. The reconciliatory peacetime narrative has started fading, and in the ensuing crisis of identification, "fear has emerged as a framework for developing identities and for engaging in social life." (4) Up to the 1990s, thanks to the prevalence of centrist politics, migration was welcomed, and treated as a necessity rather than a problem. This led to an opportunity for the populist parties to develop the issue of migration upon identity politics. Their main theme evolved into protecting European culture from the aliens. Starting with the mid-1990s, right wing leaders garnered fear among the masses, citing a deep decay in the system alongside warnings of threat and aggression from 'outsiders,' feeding populist concerns across economic, social and cultural realms. Currently, the re-narration of European identity is mostly dominated by the anti-immigration discourse. Consequently, this study discusses the populist narrative through examples of the anti-immigration discourse of selected political party leaders in Europe.

According to Muller "populism is always a form of identity politics;" (5) this study endeavors to understand how this growing populism--for some neo-populism--(6) is constructing a European-wide narrative for the current era. Populist politics are gaining support in a great number of nation-states in Europe. A common language shared by right wing populist parties across Europe is emerging, and, it is this language--with its uniform style, slogans of hatred, anti-plural behavior--that is creating a European narrative, grasping north and south, east and west of Europe. The current study evaluates this language with a case study of the Party for Freedom (the Netherlands), the Northern League (Italy), Fidesz (Hungary), and True Finns (Finland). The discourse is analyzed under three similar features, which these above-mentioned parties share. …

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