Reviews | Bad economy, fake news and the global far right
The current wave of MAGA Republican candidates for Congress and Donald Trump’s likely 2024 bid to reclaim the White House are part of this trend.
But to better understand the rise of the global far right, let’s look at the two most recent elections involving Christian nationalist candidates: the presidential and legislative elections in Brazil and the legislative elections in Italy. In both cases, far-right leaders have effectively appealed to ethnicity – particularly religion – and used largely unregulated social media platforms to amplify propaganda and “fake news” that further normalizes extreme ideas and the demand to establish discriminatory policies.
The far right has paved the way to power in Brazil, Latin America’s biggest economy, after launching attacks on leaders of the ruling Workers’ Party (PT). In 2016, through the law – the misuse of rules and procedures as a political weapon – Congress impeached and impeached President Dilma Rousseff for accounting irregularities (which were later dismissed), and the courts prosecuted the former President Lula da Silva for corruption. trial that failed to follow due process (and where the judge and lead prosecutor conspired to convict him so he couldn’t run for president in 2018).
After Lula’s arrest, Bolsonaro, a former military officer who called Hitler a ‘great strategist’ and thinks Brazil is ‘a Christian country’, emerged as the frontrunner and was elected in a runoff with 55% of the votes. Bolsonaro has spent the last four years in power ruling divisively as « Trump of the Tropics ».
On October 2, Bolsonaro faced a rematch with Lula, who was eventually exonerated after wrongfully spending 548 days in jail. In the first round of the Brazilian presidential election, Lula came first, with 48% of the vote, two points less than the majority to win. Bolsonaro, who had campaigned to « make Brazil great », took second place with 43% of the vote, seven points more than any poll had expected.
Perhaps the most important factor at the end of the campaign was the proliferation of fake news indicating that Lula would persecute Christians and shut down churches if elected, which helped Bolsonaro draw centrist votes to his side. .
Bolsonaro has consistently used religion on the track as a marker of cultural identity in an effort to reimpose eroded patriarchal hierarchies and traditions. Issues such as abortion and transgender rights were front and center for evangelical Christians, who make up a third of Brazilians and were among Bolsonaro’s staunchest supporters. Evangelical churches also actively campaigned for Bolsonaro in 2018 and in return received tax exemptions, appointments to several ministries, the removal of LGBTQ protections from public guidelines and a Supreme Court pastor. It’s a replay of what happened in the United States: Evangelical Christians were instrumental in getting Trump elected in 2016, and he then handed down a Supreme Court that struck down the right to abortion.
In addition to the surprisingly high support Bolsonaro enjoys, his far-right allies performed extremely well in the congressional elections, consolidating their grip on the legislative process through an alliance that now controls half of the lower house and does not is only one seat away from a majority in the Senate. More than a third of the lower house and 10% of the Senate are controlled by the Evangelical Parliamentary Front.
This means that even if Lula defeats Bolsonaro in the October 30 runoff election, he will face an aggressive conservative Congress ready to block legislation and remove him and his ministers. This political straitjacket will reduce the scope of government action to bring well-being to the precarious majority. Government inaction would in turn increase popular discontent, eroding the legitimacy of social democratic forces in Brazil and setting the stage for a stronger Bolsonarist comeback.
The far right is also resurging in Italy, the EU’s third largest economy.
For a year and a half, Italy has been administered by a technocratic « national unity » government, which briefly brought together left, center and far-right populist parties, and which was led by Mario Draghi, l former Governor of the Central European Union. Bank. Giorgia Meloni’s party, Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), which she co-founded in 2012 and which controlled only 4% of Parliament, was the only one in the opposition. This tough and intransigent stance against the technocratic pro-EU government paid off after the fall of the Draghi government in July. During the recent snap elections, Meloni campaigned with the slogan « Italy and Italians first! » and his coalition, which includes the far-right Lega Nord party as well as Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party, won 44% of the vote. Brothers of Italy was the most voted party in parliament with 26%, which paved the way for Meloni to become Italy’s first female prime minister.
Brothers of Italy is the successor of the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI), active but marginal until 1995. In addition to occupying the same headquarters as the MSI in Rome and using its central symbol, the tricolor flame , Brothers of Italy closely follow the Fascist doctrine of 1926 to protect “the State, the family, morals and the economy”. Meloni, a Christian nationalist who praised Mussolini when she was younger, vowed to « defend God, country and family ». His rhetoric comes straight from the far-right playbook. She proposed a naval blockade against migrants (a measure that was declared a human rights violation by the European Court of Human Rights in 2012), to « protect human life from conception » (the abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978 and reaffirmed in two national referendums) and to reduce taxes. In a speech at a meeting with Spain’s far-right Vox party in June, she laid out the tenets of her neo-fascist ideology: « yes to the natural family…no to gender ideology… .yes to the universality of the Cross…no to mass immigration, yes to jobs for our citizens, no to international finance.
Meloni’s victory was partly due to anti-establishment sentiments after successive governments failed to improve living conditions, as well as the spread of fake news that appealed to people’s fear of « the other « . During the election campaign, immigration was a hot topic and voters were bombarded with xenophobic messages and manipulated content. In the days leading up to the vote, fake videos and images of suspected immigrants beating or abusing people were posted on Facebook and Twitter, tipping the balance even further.
The far right is a transnational network today, so it’s no surprise that similar tactics to lure people into a sense of empowerment based on the oppression of others are now at work in American politics. .
Moreover, the Biden administration has failed to dramatically improve conditions for the majority in the face of fierce conservative resistance and its own reluctance to act boldly. An economy marked by high inflation has people in a sour mood that could lead to Democratic annihilation in the medium term. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve seems increasingly eager to fuel a recession, which means things could get even worse for ordinary Americans.
With fear and anxiety about their livelihoods and positions in society, people are more likely to turn to Trumpism and his Christian nationalist policies. Unless Democrats are able to provide immediate economic relief and sweeping reforms that can increase public well-being and feelings of safety, the resurgence of the far right across the world could soon affect states. -United.