In an article for the New Statesman, Daniel Trilling examines the growing use of far-right rhetoric in the political mainstream. Out of the embers of the economic collapse, Trilling claims, has arisen a dissatisfied and disillusioned Europe; a Europe ready to accept and absorb increasingly nationalistic and xenophobic messages.
Although the atrocities committed by Anders Behring Brevik in Norway were a reminder of the dangers posed by far-right extremists, Trilling's article reminds us that the opinions and political ideologies motivating the attacks are in fact more widespread than many may be prepared to accept. As well as documenting examples of growing movements in Hungary and France, Trilling also discusses the rise of the EDL in Britain.
The speed at which the mainstream has accepted the EDL's language is shocking. The Daily Star - a national newspaper with a circulation of nearly a million - has all but endorsed the group, giving it acres of uncritical coverage, culminating in February's front-page story "English Defence League to become political party". (It wasn't true but, judging by the tone of that day's leader column, it is easy to suspect that the Star wished it was.)
The increased acceptance of the rhetoric put forward by groups such as the EDL needs to be addressed, claims Trilling, if we are to tackle the issues and challenges posed by them. We can no longer ignore such talk as fringe and remote; it is increasingly a part of our culture, and the problem needs to be looked at in a new way.
This context should serve as a reminder that we cannot expect the state alone to counter the threat posed by far-right politics effectively. Terrorism by the likes of Breivik may cause untold misery to its victims, but no fascist movement has ever achieved power only by force: even Hitler was invited into government by a ruling class desperate to preserve its position at a time of economic turmoil. We will hear calls to act on "extremism" but it is equally important to consider which elements of extremist ideology parts of the political mainstream share.
Visit the New Statesman to read the article.
Daniel Trillings' book on the BNP, Bloody Nasty People, will be published by Verso in 2012.