Category Archives: Intolerance

Quote of the day: A dirty campaign’s toxic legacy


While Norbert Hofer [previously], presidential candidate of the far-Right Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs [Austrian Freedom Party, or FPÖ] lost Sunday’s election by 31,000 votes out of 4.6 million ballots cast, his campaign has left a deep stain on Austria, writes Cathrin Kahlweit of Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Her words are of exceptional relevance here in the U.S., where another candidates will lead his own party’s ticket in November’s presidential election in a campaign fueled by the same resentments, anti-immigrant fear-mongering, and Islamophobia employed so effectively by Hofer:

[R]egardless of the election outcome, the country has changed dramatically over the last several months. Sensationalist media, the FPÖ and even some in the Christian democratic and conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) have jumped on the bandwagon with hyperbolic platitudes splashed all over social networks: There is talk of an “increasing crime rate,” a belief that “women can’t walk the streets alone anymore,” and even that “foreigners are all rapists and murderers.”

Hatred and contempt are suddenly acceptable, because they’re directed at others — outsiders. That’s what Hofer suggested in his final speech, when he said foreigners who care about Austria may stay, “but those who follow ISIS, or rape women, must go.”

Gross generalization and defamation have become widespread, with hateful comments parroted back by a public that passively absorbs them. The election campaign drifted far away from its stated goal of finding the right person to represent the country, attract investors, mediate and connect.

At the end of the day, Hofer could claim victory, even if he didn’t become president. He demonstrated a clear path for how a right-wing leader can rise to power: to sweep the country “clean” with an iron broom, to set limits to the current establishment, to restore the old order. Those in Austria who still see shades of gray, and who favor a moderate approach, are lost right now.

With the ballots counted and Van der Bellen elected, the real fight for Austria has just begun.

Report: A failed plan to map SeaTac’s Muslims


SeaTac, a neologism from the first syllables of Seattle and Tacoma, is a suburb of Seattle, and a new report reveals that a xenophobic interim city manager’s fears of terrorism lead him to call for a map of each member of the city’s Sunni and Shiite populations.

The official resigned after learning a city investigation of his plan was underway but before the results were announced.

Maybe he can land a job with the Trump campaign.

From the Seattle Times:

A few weeks after his hiring in January, SeaTac’s new interim City Manager James “Donny” Payne asked the staff geographic-information systems coordinator to undertake an unusual project.

“Mr. Payne stated an interest in knowing with a great deal of specificity (to the neighborhood, house, and even person) where Sunni and Shiite Muslim residents lived,” an investigator later wrote in a report issued to the city

Payne explained creating such a “tactical map” of Muslim residents from census data would be useful “in case he needed to go into the neighborhoods to ‘make the peace,’ ” the report said.

His idea for mapping the city’s Muslim residents never materialized, partly because the census doesn’t collect religious information, the investigator found.

H/T to Just An Earth-Bound Misfit, I.

Bigoted Hispanic studies book pushed in Texas


With all the anti-immigrant hysteria in the air, it should come as no surprise that Texas has proposed the adoption of a new Hispanic studies textbook perfectly in tune with these Trumpian times.

From NBC News in Dallas-Fort Worth:

A textbook proposed to help teach the cultural history of Mexican-Americans in Texas public schools is under scrutiny by scholars, some of whom decry the effort as racist and not a reflection of serious academic study.

The textbook, titled “Mexican American Heritage,” describes Mexican-Americans as people who “adopted a revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society.” It also links Mexican-Americans to undocumented immigrants, saying illegal immigration has “caused a number of economic and security problems” in the U.S. that include “poverty, drugs, crime, non-assimilation, and exploitation”

The State Board of Education voted to include textbooks on Mexican-American studies after activists last year demanded the subject be formally included in state curriculum. “Mexican American Heritage” is the first textbook on the subject included in a list of proposed instructional materials.

“Paradoxically, we pressed for the board to include texts on Mexican-American studies, and we achieved it, but not in the way we were expecting,” Tony Diaz, host of Nuestra Palabra (Our Word) radio program in Houston and director of Intercultural Initiatives at Lone Star College-North Harris, told the Houston Chronicle. “Instead of a text that is respectful of the Mexican-American history, we have a book poorly written, racist, and prepared by non-experts.”

More from the Associated Press:

Texans have until September to submit comments on the proposed instructional materials, said TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson. She also said the proposed textbooks will undergo review by a committee that includes teachers and administrators and that committee will make recommendations to the board.

Ultimately, books adopted by the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education in November become part of the recommended instructional materials for statewide curriculums, but school districts aren’t required to embrace them. Individual districts can use their state money to buy whatever textbooks they wish.

The book “is not a text that we have recommended nor we will be recommending,” says Douglas Torres-Edwards, coordinator of a TEA-approved Mexican-American studies course that has been implemented in some Houston Independent School District schools. “Frankly, that author is not recognized as someone who is part of the Mexican-American studies scholarship and most individuals engaged in scholarship will not recognize her as an author.”

Patrick Michels of the Texas Observer broke the story earlier this month, though it was largely ignored by most media until this week.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Independent defeats extremist in Austrian vote


The anti-immigrant extremist who was running for Austrian presidency in Sunday’s election [previously] was narrowly defeated by a candidate with no party affiliation.

From Deutsche Welle:

Europe came within a hair of having its first far-right head of state in the post-war era, but Austria’s Interior Minsiter Wolfgang Sobotka announced that right-wing Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer has lost the second round run-off election to Alexander van der Bellen after more than 700,000 absentee ballots were tabulated.

The margin of victory was 31,000 votes, out of more than 4.6 million ballots cast, with Van der Bellen winning 50.3 percent. Turnout was 72.7 percent.

But in conceding defeat, Hofer said Austria’s far-right would live to fight another day.

“Of course I am sad,” Hofer said on Facebook. “But please don’t be disheartened. The effort in this election campaign is not wasted, but is an investment for the future.”

UPDATE: Some more details, first from BBC News:

Although Mr Van der Bellen, 72, is officially independent, he led Austria’s Greens for a decade and some European Green politicians were hailing him as the world’s first elected Green head of state.

The campaign was fierce at times. Mr Van der Bellen said he did not want Austria to be led by a “populist right-wing, pan-Germanic fraternity member” and even urged voters “who don’t like me but perhaps like Hofer even less to vote for me”

>snip<

In nine out of Austria’s 10 main cities Mr Van der Bellen came top, whereas Mr Hofer dominated the rural areas, the Austrian broadcaster ORF reported (in German).

Support for Mr Hofer was exceptionally strong among manual workers – nearly 90%. The vote for Mr Van der Bellen was much stronger among people with a university degree or other higher education qualifications.

Support for Mr Hofer among men was 60%, while among women it was 60% for Mr Van der Bellen.

A map [screencap] of the voting results on a county-scale basis from Der Standard, the national newspaper published in Vienna, strongly echoes U.S. presidential voting results, with Democratic votes concentrated in urban areas and Republicans capturing rural counties:

BLOG Austria

Finally, from the Guardian, a snapshot of a country divided:

Mirroring the rise of populist parties across Europe, the Freedom party exploited anti-EU and anti-immigrant sentiment amid the continent’s refugee crisis, leaving a deep split over the direction Austria should now take.

In a reflection of voters’ dissatisfaction with mainstream politics, the candidates of both the centre-left Social Democrats and conservative People’s party, which have dominated Austria’s politics since the second world war, were eliminated in the first round of voting in late April.

Werner Faymann, the social democratic chancellor, resigned earlier this month. Viennese coffee houses reportedly set aside separate areas for supporters of the rival candidates over fears of clashes.

San Francisco ousts top cop over shootings


The lessons of Ferguson are being learned, albeit belatedly, is a city which has seen exposure of racist texts by all too may police officers.

And now, with the latest in a series of shootings by officers, the mayor has finally had enough.

From the New York Times:

Police Chief Gregory P. Suhr was forced out on Thursday after a fatal shooting of a black woman by a police officer, the third killing since December involving the police force, which is under federal investigation because of complaints of racial bias.

Mayor Edwin M. Lee said he had asked for Chief Suhr’s resignation after learning of the shooting.

“These officer-involved shootings, justified or not, have forced our city to open its eyes to questions of when and how police use lethal force,” the mayor said in the statement.

Chief Suhr had made “meaningful” reforms of the police force, the mayor said, “but it hasn’t been fast enough.”

Sunday’s Austrian election features two outsiders


Though Austria has a long history of populist governments, most notably under the pre-World War I Christian Socials, since World War II the national has been governed either by the moderately Leftist Social Democrats or the center-Right People’s Party, the SPÖ and ÖVP.

But Sunday’s presidential election marks a sea change, pitting a non-partisan Leftist populist, economist and descendant of Russian nobility Alexander Van der Bellen against the odds-on favorite, a former aircraft mechanic and leader of the far-Right Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs [Austrian Freedom Party, or FPÖ] Norbert Hofer.

Hofer, echoing another presidential candidate from across the Atlantic, declares himself to be “decisively opposed to forced multiculturalism, globalization and mass immigration.”

And while the presidency, as in most European parliamentary democracies, is largely ceremonial, the winner will be the commander of the nation’s armed forces.

Van der Bellen, formerly a member of and national spokesman for the Austrian Green Party, is running as a nonpartisan candidate, though with backing from the Greens.

Out of a field of six candidates in the initial round of voting 24 April, Hofer won  35 percent of the vote and Van der Bellen won 21 percent. And since no candidate had a majority, the two leading candidates headed to Sunday’s runoff.

What does it all mean?

From Der Spiegel:

All of Europe is looking this week to Austria, this small country in its midst where an eventuality considered by many to be outrageous may soon become reality. This reality, though, comes in the guise of a harmless, friendly face. Norbert Hofer is a 45-year-old trained airplane technician from the state of Burgenland, just southeast of Vienna. He is the father of four and his wife, his second marriage, is an elderly care professional. Hanging above his desk in parliament is a framed image of Article 1 of the constitution, which says of the Austrian Republic: “Its law emanates from the people.”

Will the people of Austria really elect a right-wing populist to become their highest representative on Sunday? Is Austria in the process of becoming part of that group of European countries, along with Hungary, Poland, Finland and Switzerland, where the right-wing is already part of the government? And if so, how long will it take before the new right-wing movement tears Europe apart?

If one looks geographically at the congratulatory messages the FPÖ candidate Hofer received following his triumph in the first round of presidential elections, a checkered pattern of new European nationalists emerges. Marine Le Pen from the French party Front National was first, followed by the Lega Nord of Matteo Salvini and Forza Italia, under the leadership of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. From the Netherlands, congratulations came from PVV head Geert Wilders and from Germany, plaudits were sent by the right-wing populists from the Alternative for Germany (AfD). The right wing in Europe is becoming organized and developing contacts across the Continent. The election on Sunday is far more than just a purely Austrian affair.

Across Europe, large, mainstream parties are losing power and influence. It has happened in Spain, France and Germany, but nowhere has the phenomenon been as dramatically visible as during the first round of the presidential elections in Austria. Hofer came in first place followed by Green candidate Van der Bellen. An independent candidate came in third place. Only then did the candidates of the SPÖ and ÖVP — the two parties that currently form the governing coalition — follow in fourth and fifth place. Together, they didn’t even managed 23 percent of the vote.

UPDATE: For a broader discussion of what’s at stake, here’s a video of a panel discussion on the election just posted by Deutsche Welle:

Crisis in Austria: Another Blow for Europe? | Quadriga

Program notes:

In Austria, Sunday could see a right-wing populist elected to the position of president. The FPÖ’S Norbert Hofer, whose xenophobic slogans have struck a chord with voters, aims to tap into the constitution’s potential for authoritarian power.

Norbert Hofer could take the reins of government by emergency decree if he wins Sunday’s elections. The current state of play augurs well for him.

In the first round of voting, the traditionally popular Social Democrats, the SPÖ, and the Conservatives, the ÖVP, got a taste of the electorate’s wrath. Chancellor Werner Faymann of the SPÖ resigned.

It seems the Alpine republic is lurching to the right as its voters follow a pattern that has emerged throughout Europe. Is there no end to the trend towards right-wing populism?

Our guests:

  • Ewald König is a freelance correspondent and an Austrian himself, who has been covering Austrian politics for decades now. He says: “It’s not only the refugees, there are many other reasons for Austria’s and Europe’s drift to the right.”
  • Alan Posener is a commentator for the Berlin daily Die Welt, who says: “Nobody cares who governs a small country like Austria. But Germany has a responsibility for the whole of Europe. We can’t afford Viennese coffeehouse politics.”
  • Ulrike Guérot of the European Democracy Lab believes that “A wildfire is sweeping across Europe. It’s taken in Hungary, and now Austria, with France looking likely to be next.”

Hitting the nail squarely on on the head


Noam Chomsky sums up.

From Democracy Now!:

Chomsky: Today’s Republican Party is a Candidate for Most Dangerous Organization in Human History

Program notes:

We speak with world-renowned political dissident Noam Chomsky about the Republican party, the rightward shift in U.S. politics and the 2016 election. “If we were honest, we would say something that sounds utterly shocking and no doubt will be taken out of context and lead to hysteria on the part of the usual suspects,” Chomsky says, “but the fact of the matter is that today’s Republican Party qualify as candidates for the most dangerous organization in human history. Literally.”