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.
Meet the Bernie Sanders supporters who say they won’t switch allegiances, no matter what happens in the general election.
Loyal fans of Bernie Sanders have a difficult decision to make. If Hillary Clinton faces off against Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, legions of Sanders supporters will have to decide whether to switch allegiances or stand by Bernie until the bitter end.
At least some supporters of the Vermont senator insist they won’t vote for Clinton, no matter what. Many view the former secretary of state with her deep ties to the Democratic establishment as the polar opposite of Sanders and his rallying cry of political revolution. Throwing their weight behind her White House bid would feel like a betrayal of everything they believe.
These voters express unwavering dedication to Sanders on social media, deploying hashtags like NeverClinton and NeverHillary, and circulating petitions like www.wontvotehillary.com, which asks visitors to promise “under no circumstances will I vote for Hillary Clinton.” It’s garnered more than 56,500 signatures so far. Many feel alienated by the Democratic Party. They may want unity, but not if it means a stamp of approval for a political status quo they believe is fundamentally flawed and needs to be fixed.
There’s no escaping the pressure that U.S. inequality exerts on parents to make sure their kids succeed.
More than a half-century ago, Betty Friedan set out to call attention to “the problem that has no name,” by which she meant the dissatisfaction of millions of American housewives.
Today, many are suffering from another problem that has no name, and it’s manifested in the bleak financial situations of millions of middle-class—and even upper-middle-class—American households.
Poverty doesn’t describe the situation of middle-class Americans, who by definition earn decent incomes and live in relative material comfort. Yet they are in financial distress. For people earning between $40,000 and $100,000 (i.e. not the very poorest), 44 percent said they could not come up with $400 in an emergency (either with cash or with a credit card whose bill they could pay off within a month). Even more astonishing, 27 percent of those making more than $100,000 also could not. This is not poverty. So what is it?
Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. I’m one of them.
Since 2013,the Federal Reserve Board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?
The candidate has exposed the tension between democracy and liberal values—just like the Arab Spring did.
When I was living in the Middle East, politics always felt existential, in a way that I suppose I could never fully understand. After all, I could always leave (as my relatives in Egypt were fond of reminding me). But it was easy enough to sense it. Here, in the era of Arab revolt, elections really had consequences. Politics wasn’t about policy; it was about a battle over the very meaning and purpose of the nation-state. These were the things that mattered more than anything else, in part because they were impossible to measure or quantify.
The primary divide in most Arab countries was between Islamists and non-Islamists. The latter, especially those of a more secular bent, feared that Islamist rule, however “democratic” it might be, would alter the nature of their countries beyond recognition. It wouldn’t just affect their governments or their laws, but how they lived, what they wore, and how they raised their sons and daughters.
Boosting your ego won’t make you feel better. Instead, try talking to yourself like you would your best friend.
In 1986, California state assemblyman John Vasconcellos came up with what he believed could be “a vaccine for major social ills” like teen pregnancy and drug abuse: a special task-force to promote self-esteem among Californians. The effort folded three years later, and was widely considered not to have accomplished much.
To Kristin Neff, a psychology professor at the University of Texas, that’s not surprising. Though self-esteem continues to reverberate as a pop-psych cure-all, the quest for inflated egos, in her view, is misguided and largely pointless.
There’s nothing wrong with being confident, to answer Demi Lovato’s question. The trouble is how we try to achieve high self-regard. Often, it’s by undermining others or comparing our achievements to those around us. That’s not just unsustainable, Neff argues, it can also lead to narcissism or depressive bouts during hard times.
It’s a paradox: Shouldn’t the most accomplished be well equipped to make choices that maximize life satisfaction?
There are three things, once one’s basic needs are satisfied, that academic literature points to as the ingredients for happiness: having meaningful social relationships, being good at whatever it is one spends one’s days doing, and having the freedom to make life decisions independently.
But research into happiness has also yielded something a little less obvious: Being better educated, richer, or more accomplished doesn’t do much to predict whether someone will be happy. In fact, it might mean someone is less likely to be satisfied with life.
That second finding is the puzzle that Raj Raghunathan, a professor of marketing at The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, tries to make sense of in his recent book, If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?Raghunathan’s writing does fall under the category of self-help (with all of the pep talks and progress worksheets that that entails), but his commitment to scientific research serves as ballast for the genre’s more glib tendencies.
If pushed, most people would say, “It’s discriminatory.” That’s the answer my Con Law students often give about various hypothetical statutes. They’re always correct, and always wrong, because all laws are “discriminatory.” Driver’s-license laws and drinking laws discriminate on the basis of age, for example. Immigration law discriminates on the basis of birthplace and citizenship. Tax laws discriminate on residence, income level, home ownership, and occupation.
The U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world.
Friday, August 30, 2013, the day the feckless Barack Obama brought to a premature end America’s reign as the world’s sole indispensable superpower—or, alternatively, the day the sagacious Barack Obama peered into the Middle Eastern abyss and stepped back from the consuming void—began with a thundering speech given on Obama’s behalf by his secretary of state, John Kerry, in Washington, D.C. The subject of Kerry’s uncharacteristically Churchillian remarks, delivered in the Treaty Room at the State Department, was the gassing of civilians by the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.
A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.
A long love letter to the creator of the world’s greatest nature documentaries, on the eve of his 90th birthday.
This Sunday, Sir David Attenborough, naturalist, maker of wildlife documentaries, snuggler of gorillas, wielder of That Voice, keeper of the blue shirt, and Most Trusted Man in Britain, turns 90. To mark the occasion, and celebrate his unbeatable oeuvre, I re-watched all 79 episodes of his Life Collection, and ranked them from worst to best—or, really, from least great to greatest.
Recent series like Blue Planet, Planet Earth, and Life are not represented here. Although many bill them as “Attenborough shows,” he only narrated them (and was over-dubbed by movie stars in the US). No, this list focuses on the big series that he himself wrote and presented, the ones that are most marbled with his influence, the ones that feature his beaming face along with his velvet voice. There are nine, starting with Life on Earth in 1979 and going up to Life in Cold Blood in 2008.