The recent violent events in Charlottesville, Virginia created new opportunities for division and confusion for Americans. Demonstrations, protests, attitudes, viewpoints, diverse opinions, hatred and violence were all on display. And the media couldn’t get enough of it – couldn’t get enough of “virtue signaling” or blame casting. It seemed as if the establishment media and the political establishment wanted nothing more than division, labels, mistrust and confusion.
Well, there are some things that are not confusing at all. For example, free speech is not confusing – we should cherish it, even if we don’t agree with what’s being said. Racism is wrong – always – that is also not confusing. All people are created equal and have equal value. And loving and wanting to protecting your country is honorable.
But in a world where balance in the media is hard to find, where fringe radical groups exploit political statements, where terrorism has again raised its head in Europe and where identity politics are everywhere, emotions and words take on shape-shifting qualities – depending on who is using those words. So, let’s take a look at a few of the terms you’re sure to be hearing about a lot these days:
POPULISM: According to the Economist, a populist can be anything from a militarists to a libertarian. But in general, “populism” refers to the people – in a political sense, a populist leader like Donald Trump would appeal to the general population and their needs (jobs, economy, security, equal opportunities) as opposed to only the needs of the establishment, the elite or just certain interest groups.
The political scientist, Cas Mudde would define “populism” as a “thin ideology, one that merely sets up a framework; that of a pure people versus a corrupt elite.” (2016, Economist.) This ideology can explain the mindset of Donald Trump who wants to tamp down illegal immigration in favor of protecting American citizens, or the mentality of Brexiters who wanted to have more of a say in the future of the UK apart from the European Union. Or it could even be embodied in Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, who wants to crack down on Islamic terrorism in part to protect gay rights.
Populism is a mushy, fuzzy word that can mean lots of things to different people – from “putting the needs and rights of the people before the elite” to “putting the needs of a homogenous group before the needs of special interest groups.” This is why some people look at the word as common sense and good for the average person and why others look at it as non-inclusive and potentially racist.
ANTIFA: Antifa is short for anti-fascists. Today, this term generally refers to people whose political views skew left. Ok, really, really left. Some view the group as far-left communists and anarchists. While their history is not new, they have become a recent buzzword as they attract younger members and have been visibly present (sometimes dressed in all black) at recent protests and don’t mind employing violence to protect what they believe in.
What do they protests? They protest against fascism, Neo-Nazis, racism and hate speech. And also, against people and ideas that are conservative or farther to the right. (So watch out as to what might be considered “hate speech” or intolerance…it could end up simply being your opinion on feminism, abortion or same-sex marriage.) One of the big complaints about Antifa is that while they posture about the importance of tolerance, they seem to show no tolerance towards viewpoints and ideas that differ from their own.
A former Antifa organizer, Scott Crow told CNN, ”the philosophy of Antifa is based on the idea of direct action. The idea in Antifa is that we go where they (right-wingers) go. That hate speech is not free speech. That if you are endangering people with what you say and the actions that are behind them, then you do not have the right to do that.
“And so we go to cause conflict, to shut them down where they are, because we don’t believe that Nazis or fascists of any stripe should have a mouthpiece.”
GLOBALISM: Globalism is a political ideology that views everything from a global, one-world, perspective. That would include ideas like a borderless world and political, environmental and social values that would supersede any particular national agenda. It would include the idea that global leaders are morally obligated to make decisions (and participate in treaties) that would benefit the whole world – regardless as to how it affects their nation or population. It is the opposite of the view that one has an obligation first to his family, society, country and then to the rest of the world. Globalism is the kind of worldview that would motivate a country to accept millions of immigrants with no plan or intention of assimilating them into their country – but emotionally obligated to take them in – regardless as to the impact and cost to your nation’s citizens. (Take a look at countries like Germany, France, Belgium and Sweden if you want to see what that ends up looking like.)
George Soros is a billionaire who funds many left-wing groups and organizations that are pro-Globalism. He would love to see a borderless world and would also love to see the U.S. become less independent, and more compliant to global political bodies. You can read about him here.
NATIONALISM: Nationalism at its very root is the idea of loving and supporting one’s own country. It’s a patriotic sentiment. A more extreme version of nationalism (as viewed by some) would include feeling that your country (or your culture) is better than other countries.
Nationalism can provide a sense of unity for a nation as they share a history, language, culture and values. But as words and ideas are easily twisted, “pride in your country” isn’t viewed as such a great thing by everyone. For example, expecting immigrants who come to your country to assimilate into your culture, learn your language and respect your laws, could be viewed as intolerant or even racist.
Expressing that some cultures are better than other cultures, might get you labeled as xenophobic. For example, expressing that Western culture, which has given us classical music, art masterpieces, democracy, free speech and elevated the rights of women and minorities, is better than a culture that suppresses the rights of women and minorities and limits free speech and thought, could get you branded as a racist-xenophobic-Neo-Nazi-white supremacist.
As you continue to try to understand these terms (because you will be hearing about them a lot in the media and the political arena) try to determine the worldview and the ideology behind the people who are using these words. Attempt to understand their goals and the shades of meaning behind what they are saying. But know this: Populism does not automatically mean “racism.” Neither does the word “conservative.” Trump supporters are not all white supremacists. Nationalism does not always indicate xenophobia. And apparently, tolerance no longer means that you have to listen to and try to understand opposing viewpoints.