Two groups will hold opposing demonstrations in Denmark this weekend in a sign of the continent's challenge with identity politics.
English Defense League protesters clash with police in February / Reuters
When two groups of European protesters face off in Denmark this Saturday, they will represent two opposing sides of an increasingly important division in Europe's identity. The first is planned by the far-right English Defence League and aims to start a pan-European anti-Islamic movement. The Guardianreports "at least 10 anti-Islamic and far right groups from across the continent" are expected to attend. The second demonstration is in response: anti-fascists who plan to protest the rally. The anti-fascist coalition Projekt Antifa is booking transportation from Copenhagen to the demonstration in Aarhus, with at least one English group already committed to joining. "A big turnout of anti-fascists from Denmark and other European countries is expected," reports The Guardian.
It's hard to know how to read this standoff. The English Defence League emerged in 2009 as the largest populist street movement in several decades, has been shown (despite its claims) to be strongly associated with knee-jerk anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric, but has often fallen short of its grand aspirations. Turnouts in the past have been sparser than promised, and a 2011 report from British think tank Demos suggested "police and other agencies ought to consider downgrading their estimates on the size and strength of the EDL's marches and demonstrations," calling the EDL's own estimates "inflated."
So is counter-protesting the far-right group perhaps doing more harm than good, lending the extremists too much credibility?
Not if you buy the anti-fascist argument. Nick Lowles of Hope not Hate told reporters that the EDL's "focus on the threat of Islam, presenting it as a cultural war, has a far wider resonance amongst voters, especially in Europe, than old-style racists. They conflate Islamist extremists with immigration and in the current economic and political conditions it is extremely dangerous." That's a compelling view for a number of reasons.
To start with, let's go back to that think tank report. It largely confirmed The Guardian's 2010 exposé on the EDL, which looked at the racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric in the group's protests. Immigration, not Islamic extremism, is the top concern among EDL supporters, the report found. Nearly half of supporters "claim[ed] to have joined the EDL because of their views on Islam," while 31 percent also "cited their love of England, commitment to preservation of traditional national and cultural values, and representation of the interests of 'real' British countrymen ... as their reason for joining." To sum up: this is a movement very much about identity politics.
Identity politics appear to be on the rise in Europe, and precisely at a time when Europe can't afford that: the Eurozone crisis means that Europe needs to be more unified, not less. The trend is surely, in part, about economics. Demos found EDL members to be deeply pessimistic and "disproportionately likely to be out of work" -- consistent with Harvard economist Benjamin Friedman's theory in The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth that economic stagnation leads to upticks in intolerance. It's also consistent with a separate Demos report on far-right and populist groups throughout Europe, where the groups' online activists were "slightly more likely to be unemployed." Though the Demos writers were careful to stress that this could be about the activists' student status, unemployment also seemed, anecdotally, to inform the anti-immigrant sentiment. "I would like to send them back to their homes, rather than having to maintain them and give them jobs," a supporter of an Italian federalist party told researchers. "It would be better if they gave Italians a job first, for example to me, since I am unemployed."
It seems that European society at present is more open to the EDL's stated goal of a pan-European anti-Islamist movement than it might otherwise be. This might already be changing European politics. A recent study, on the inclusiveness of immigration policies, showed that the trend towards more inclusive policies was largely due to electoral pressures. The study also found, however, that naturalization rights in the ten European countries studied stagnated and even regressed after 2002.
Why is this worrisome? Three obvious reasons: crypto-fascism is scary, nationalist and protectionist impulses hurt economies, and the E.U. would like to stick around (most of these groups are anti-E.U.). But there's another problem: these groups actually isolate European Muslim communities even more. Muslim immigrants' failure to integrate culturally, as well as perceptions of unfairness and race-based economic discrimination, may lead to religious radicalization, according to some scholars. So can feelings that the West is out to get the Muslim world.
Groups like the EDL are likely worsening these problems. And that's why counter-demonstrations just might prove to be important after all. If each "anti-Islamist" demonstration sends a message to Muslims that they're not welcome, then anti-fascist groups can at least provide a competing message.
There's no getting around the ugliness of the European far right, or the dangers involved in its rise. But the presence of a well-organized and vocal anti-fascist opposition is somewhat encouraging. Traditionally, complacency and lack of interest has been more of a problem than competing agendas.
New research confirms what they say about nice guys.
Smile at the customer. Bake cookies for your colleagues. Sing your subordinates’ praises. Share credit. Listen. Empathize. Don’t drive the last dollar out of a deal. Leave the last doughnut for someone else.
Sneer at the customer. Keep your colleagues on edge. Claim credit. Speak first. Put your feet on the table. Withhold approval. Instill fear. Interrupt. Ask for more. And by all means, take that last doughnut. You deserve it.
Follow one of those paths, the success literature tells us, and you’ll go far. Follow the other, and you’ll die powerless and broke. The only question is, which is which?
Of all the issues that preoccupy the modern mind—Nature or nurture? Is there life in outer space? Why can’t America field a decent soccer team?—it’s hard to think of one that has attracted so much water-cooler philosophizing yet so little scientific inquiry. Does it pay to be nice? Or is there an advantage to being a jerk?
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Advocates say that a guaranteed basic income can lead to more creative, fulfilling work. The question is how to fund it.
Scott Santens has been thinking a lot about fish lately. Specifically, he’s been reflecting on the aphorism, “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for life.” What Santens wants to know is this: “If you build a robot to fish, do all men starve, or do all men eat?”
Santens is 37 years old, and he’s a leader in the basic income movement—a worldwide network of thousands of advocates (26,000 on Reddit alone) who believe that governments should provide every citizen with a monthly stipend big enough to cover life’s basic necessities. The idea of a basic income has been around for decades, and it once drew support from leaders as different as Martin Luther King Jr. and Richard Nixon. But rather than waiting for governments to act, Santens has started crowdfunding his own basic income of $1,000 per month. He’s nearly halfway to his his goal.
The mock metropolis is meant to have everything but people who live there.
Grigory Potemkin, the 18th-century war hero and nobleman, was also Catherine the Great’s lover and military advisor. According to ubiquitous legend, Potemkin fabricated villages along the banks of the Dnieper River in a bid to impress her. Historians aren’t convinced that Potemkin really constructed entire fake villages, their facades illuminated by enormous bonfires—but the concept may not be so far-fetched.
These days, when people talk about a Potemkin village, they’re usually referring to a ruse to make something appear better than it actually is. It’s a useful metaphor, but also a reflection of people’s fascination with fake cities and questions about the line between authenticity and artificiality in man-made environments.
Why agriculture may someday take place in towers, not fields
A couple of Octobers ago, I found myself standing on a 5,000-acre cotton crop in the outskirts of Lubbock, Texas, shoulder-to-shoulder with a third-generation cotton farmer. He swept his arm across the flat, brown horizon of his field, which was at that moment being plowed by an industrial-sized picker—a toothy machine as tall as a house and operated by one man. The picker’s yields were being dropped into a giant pod to be delivered late that night to the local gin. And far beneath our feet, the Ogallala aquifer dwindled away at its frighteningly swift pace. When asked about this, the farmer spoke of reverse osmosis—the process of desalinating water—which he seemed to put his faith in, and which kept him unafraid of famine and permanent drought.
19 Kids and Counting built its reputation on preaching family values, but the mass-media platforms that made the family famous might also be their undoing.
On Thursday, news broke that Josh Duggar, the oldest son of the Duggar family's 19 children, had, as a teenager, allegedly molested five underage girls. Four of them, allegedly, were his sisters.
The information came to light because, in 2006—two years before 17 Kids and Counting first aired on TLC, and thus two years before the Duggars became reality-TV celebrities—the family recorded an appearance on TheOprah Winfrey Show. Before the taping, an anonymous source sent an email to Harpo warning the production company Josh’s alleged molestation. Harpo forwarded the email to authorities, triggering a police investigation (the Oprah appearance never aired). The news was reported this week by In Touch Weekly—after the magazine filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the police report on the case—and then confirmed by the Duggars in a statement posted on Facebook.
In an interview, the U.S. president ties his legacy to a pact with Tehran, argues ISIS is not winning, warns Saudi Arabia not to pursue a nuclear-weapons program, and anguishes about Israel.
On Tuesday afternoon, as President Obama was bringing an occasionally contentious but often illuminating hour-long conversation about the Middle East to an end, I brought up a persistent worry. “A majority of American Jews want to support the Iran deal,” I said, “but a lot of people are anxiety-ridden about this, as am I.” Like many Jews—and also, by the way, many non-Jews—I believe that it is prudent to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of anti-Semitic regimes. Obama, who earlier in the discussion had explicitly labeled the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an anti-Semite, responded with an argument I had not heard him make before.
“Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” he said, referring to the apparently almost-finished nuclear agreement between Iran and a group of world powers led by the United States. “I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”
A majority of Senators wanted to stop a spy program that they never approved. They failed despite having more votes. And it only gets more bizarre from there.
In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the U.S. Senate played host to a moment that took mass surveillance on the phone records of Americans from outrage to farce.
The NSA’s phone dragnet had already been declared illegal.
Earlier this month, a federal appeals court ruled that while the surveillance agency has long claimed to be acting in accordance with Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the text of that law in fact authorizes no such program. The Obama Administration has been executing a policy that the legislature never passed into being.
But the law that doesn’t even authorize the program is set to expire at the end of the month. And so the court reasoned that Congress could let it expire or vote to change it. For this reason, the court declined to issue an order shutting the program down.
Why it’s so hard to defeat an enemy that won’t fight you, and what this means for U.S. strategy on everything from the Islamic State to China
The Scythians were nomadic horsemen who dominated a vast realm of the Pontic steppe north of the Black Sea, in present-day Ukraine and southern Russia, from the seventh century to the third century b.c. Unlike other ancient peoples who left not a trace, the Scythians continued to haunt and terrify long after they were gone. Herodotus recorded that they “ravaged the whole of Asia. They not only took tribute from each people, but also made raids and pillaged everything these peoples had.” Napoleon, on witnessing the Russians’ willingness to burn down their own capital rather than hand it over to his army, reputedly said: “They are Scythians!”
The more chilling moral for modern audiences involves not the Scythians’ cruelty, but rather their tactics against the invading Persian army of Darius, early in the sixth century b.c. As Darius’s infantry marched east near the Sea of Azov, hoping to meet the Scythian war bands in a decisive battle, the Scythians kept withdrawing into the immense reaches of their territory. Darius was perplexed, and sent the Scythian king, Idanthyrsus, a challenge: If you think yourself stronger, stand and fight; if not, submit.