Category Archives: Intolerance

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.”

The curious case of the American religious Right


From Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, the curious case of the moralizing theocratic wing of the GOP embracing a serially polygamous transgender bathroom-approving Cheeto-haired hypocrite as their new standard bearer:

The Religious Right

Program note:

The untold story of how Christian conservatives went from politically inactive to never shutting the hell up.

Headline of the day: Making America great again


From Reuters:

Boston men jailed for Trump-inspired hate crime attack

Texas GOP embraces an Inquisition platform


The party that brought us Ted Cruz — the sphincter-mouthed solon who  resembles a spastic colon on the brink of a shit-spewing explosion —  has just adopted a platform Torquemada would gladly embrace.

Among the provisions reported by the Houston Press:

The Republicans say that “homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples.” Therefore, it wants to take away their right to marriage by overturning the U.S. Supreme Court case that granted it nationwide, and wants to make sure that anyone in Texas who seeks to discriminate against gay people won’t face any consequences. The platform also seeks to ensure there are no restrictions on “counseling and therapy” to designed to “change” someone’s sexual orientation.

As for transgender people, you guessed it: Texas Republicans want to police bathrooms by preventing transgender people from using the restroom that best fits their gender identity, which is generally affirmed by a court of law. Republican leadership is so committed to this goal, in fact, that Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said he would be willing to flush more than $3 billion in federal education funding down the toilet just so he could ignore President Barack Obama’s directive to school districts not to discriminate against transgender students by denying them access to the right bathroom.

Support for discrimination doesn’t end with the LGBTQ community. In order to defeat terrorism, the Republican Party would like to support the “reasonable use of profiling,” though “reasonable” is never defined. It would also like to call on all government agencies to sever ties with “all radical Islamic organizations, such as the Council on American Islamic Relations.”

Misogyny at the top plagues French ministries


Sexism in the French cabinet?

Yep, and lots of it.

From Deutche Welle:

“Aside from her great breasts, how is she?”

“Your skirt is too long, you need to shorten it.”

“Are you wearing a G-string?”

These misogynistic remarks were listed in the open letter, published Sunday in the weekly “Journal du Dimanche,” as examples of sexual harassment faced by women in French political circles.

Now, 17 leading French female politicians have taken a public stand against it.

“Enough is enough. Impunity is over. We will no longer keep quiet,” the former ministers from across the political spectrum wrote.

Among the signatories was current Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde, former Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot and former Housing Minister Cecile Duflot.

A must-watch: Requiem for the American Dream


The definitive Noam Chomsky video, featuring an extended interview conducted over four years in which he outlines his view of the state of American democracy.

And do set it to high resolution and full screen.

Requiem for the American Dream

The synopsis from IMDB:

REQUIEM FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM is the definitive discourse with Noam Chomsky, widely regarded as the most important intellectual alive, on the defining characteristic of our time – the deliberate concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a select few. Through interviews filmed over four years, Chomsky unpacks the principles that have brought us to the crossroads of historically unprecedented inequality – tracing a half century of policies designed to favor the most wealthy at the expense of the majority – while also looking back on his own life of activism and political participation. Profoundly personal and thought provoking, Chomsky provides penetrating insight into what may well be the lasting legacy of our time – the death of the middle class, and swan song of functioning democracy. A potent reminder that power ultimately rests in the hands of the governed, REQUIEM is required viewing for all who maintain hope in a shared stake in the future.
– Written by Jared P. Scott

Using interviews filmed over four years, Noam Chomsky discusses the deliberate concentration of wealth and power found in the hands of a select few.

Release date: January 29, 2016 (USA)

Directors: Kelly Nyks, Jared P. Scott, Peter D. Hutchison
Music composed by: Malcolm Francis
Screenplay: Kelly Nyks, Jared P. Scott, Peter D. Hutchison
Producers: Kelly Nyks, Jared P. Scott, Peter D. Hutchison
Cinematography: Rob Featherstone, Michael McSweeney

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