"Wokeism", "gender agenda", "climate terror": The patchwork of keywords that combine to form the discourse of right-wing parties and movements seems to be becoming more and more similar internationally. We spoke with political scientist Dr. Léonie de Jonge about how ideas are spreading on the right-wing fringe - and are also becoming acceptable in Luxembourg.
Somehow it is always the same pattern: "asylum abuse", "eco-terror", "woke", "the parties of bans". Ideas that are increasingly taken up by parties and currents on the right-wing fringe, even in Luxembourg, have usually already been declared – in their eyes – "problematic" by right-wingers abroad. Not infrequently, a glance across the borders or the Atlantic even allows one predict which issues will probably soon be taken up as "problematic". It is no coincidence that the push against drag culture has also reached Luxembourg after conservatives in the USA made it a "problem". A call that has often led to violence there.
Dr. Léonie de Jonge is Assistant Professor of European Politics and Society at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. She deals primarily with right-wing populist movements. She received her PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2019 for her work on this topic. We talked to her about how right-wing movements learn from each other, develop and adapt their ideas, how they influence social discourse, but at the same time the spokespeople behind them appear posh to the outside world.
In your analysis of Luxembourg's right-wing parties in 2019, you classified them as "comparatively moderate". A lot has happened since then: Fred Keup is party president of the ADR. Déi Konservativ, then a marginal note, are still active. How has the situation changed since you described them in The Successes & Failures of Right-Wing Populist Parties in the Benelux Countries?
As one might have expected. The more moderate members have tended to be marginalised, like Gast Gibéryen, and have been replaced by people with more conservative, right-wing ideologies. That's not unusual, you often see that with radical right-wing and right-wing populist parties, that there are more moderate and more radical currents. When there are splinter groups, it is usually the more radical ones that prevail. That is a trend that can also be seen here.
Of course, the question is always when one can or must call something radical or extreme right-wing. It is clear that the borderline is becoming increasingly blurred and that the parties are also playing with it to some extent. This can be seen quite clearly in the ADR, where extreme right-wing ideas are cropping up again and again. They are increasingly taking up themes that can also be seen in far-right parties abroad. At some point, the question arises as to where one can still see a difference between an ADR and an AfD.
Examples of this are fighting words like "wokeism", "gender agenda", "climate terror", "corona dictatorship", but also criticism of drag culture and LGBTQ+ movements. These have been known for a long time from abroad but they are slowly appearing in Luxembourg as well. The example of Tata Tom shows this quite clearly. Drag culture was never a hot potato until it was declared war on in America. It seems that right-wing populist groups around the world are copying from each other?
Yes, although I would no longer call it right-wing populism, but rather radical right-wing ideas. This development is a result of mainstreaming, or "normalisation". It's often hard to classify exactly where the ideas come from, but especially with the gender discourse, you could see signs online five or six years ago. It usually starts with memes, jokes, on 4Chan or similar online message channels. Here the ideas are presented and at some point they are taken up by bigger actors. Right-wing radicalism and right-wing populism are not phenomena that are primarily or solely located in the party landscape, but mainly in social movements in which many non-political actors are also active. But political groups subsequently take up these issues and ideas and try to make their mark in these new thematic areas. We have seen this during the past years at Corona. There, classic issues like immigration have taken a back seat and been replaced by new ones. Gender and climate are the new favourite topics of right-wing extremists. Here, they almost all overlap. This is interesting if only because these are classically nationalist movements, but they are becoming more and more international. The ideas are very easily taken up by actors in other countries.
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