Around 50 after since Nazi Germany was defeated and dismantled, two instances of faux pas this week across the Atlantic has jarred us into the hard realities of 2017. The leader of French far-right National Front and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen on Sunday denied French guilt in the roundup of Jews in the Vel d’Hive campaign, against the well documented fact that it was the overtly eager French police that rounded up close to 15,000 Jews in Paris and transported them to their deaths in 1942.
#Marine Le Pen sparks outrage over holocaust comments
— Illi Mai (@illimattic408) April 10, 2017
On the other hand, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied that the Nazis ever used chemical weapons in the Second World War. In all likelihood, Spicer’s comments were a result of ignorance of the state of the world and its history, reflecting the way his government has treated facts in the course of the 2016 presidential campaign and the first few months of the Trump presidency.
— Anne Frank Center (@AnneFrankCenter) April 11, 2017
Sean Spicer should be fired for saying Hitler did not use chemical weapons on "his own people.” You mean 6 million Jews don’t count?
— Barbra Streisand (@BarbraStreisand) April 11, 2017
Le Pen’s comments are what we can term as a general campaign to misrepresent history, in order to play on the French people’s nationalist emotions. However, the common thread seems to be the distortion of facts about Nazi Germany and its fascist motives to fit the same nationalist narratives, fuelled by rising xenophobia and racism.
The influx of immigrants from the bloody civil war in Syria-Iraq has inadvertently precipitated both the rise of the terror group ISIS and the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War. In a Friday prayer meeting in a Mosul mosque, ISIS leader al Baghdadi proclaimed the Islamic caliphate come again, and invited the billion plus Muslim population to be a part of it. While the call was seen as the bickering of another terror group by most people then, through an effective military and social media campaign, ISIS has managed to occupy a large portion of Iraq and Syria, and carried out bombings and beheadings that have put it in the crosshairs of all major powers and inspired fear akin to al-Qaeda in the psyche of the Western world. Compounding the problem, ISIS happens to be only one of several groups fighting to topple the Syrian president Basshar al-Assad. The fighting has left hundreds and thousands dead, and has caused an influx of millions of people fleeing war, and ISIS, into Turkey onto Europe.
The anti-Muslim wave created by the rise of ISIS and al-Qaeda dominated terrorism of the previous decade has fed into this perception of marginalisation felt by the mostly white European population along with the flood of immigrants from the war torn region. The familiar cries of the far right about immigrants taking jobs, money and culture away from the people of the land has now found resonance, and the rise of Geert Wilders and Frauke Petry, besides Le Penn (who is expected to do well in the coming presidential elections) can be clearly attributed to the changing demographics.
Across the Atlantic, it seems that it is more the perception than actual immigrants and terror attacks that have fuelled the rise of the ignorant-cum-bigoted Donald Trump. Milking the perception of reverse racism and victimisation felt by the flyover states, Trump exploited the xenophobia against Mexicans and Muslims, besides the resentment against the elitist liberal class who look down upon them, Trump walked his way into the White House with a majority in the Electoral College. Although Trump is not necessarily far-right, he has since surrounded himself with people who are. The former Breitbart chief Steve Bannon, who is a known far-right conspiracy theorist and anti-Semite, is the White House chief of staff and rumored to be the most powerful man on the Trump team. Trump has also shown the temperament of a fascist dictator, with a disregard for facts or rules, and wanting absolute power.
It seems that every fifty years or so, the world forgets the value of multi-culturalism, and the these developments represent a revolt against the globalistic and democratic trends in economics and culture post-World War II. It remains to be seen whether the Western world, and rising superpowers of India and China, learn the lesson against narrow minded bigotry of fascists and racists, and avoid the mistakes of the beginning of the century.