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Claiming the right of free expression: Words as Weapons in the European Far-right

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Claiming the right of free expression: Words as Weapons in the European Far-right

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This paper highlights the hijacking of core enlightenment values within the European far-right.

This paper highlights the hijacking of core enlightenment values within the European far-right.

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Claiming the right of free expression: Words as Weapons in the European Far-right

  1. 1. Claiming the Right of Free Expression: Words as Weapons in the European Far-Right Dr. Andreas Önnerfors, Reader in Intellectual History University of Gothenburg, Sweden andreas.onnerfors@gu.se
  2. 2. Word-cloud from the Swedish ‘Freedom of the Press Association’: debate, freedom of expression, free press, press freedom, religious freedom, freedom of opinion, courage,
  3. 3. Structure of paper (1) Enlightenment context of freedom of press: the case of Sweden 1766 (2) Theoretical framework: Isaiah Berlins “two concepts of liberty”, negative and positive (3) The far-right high-jacking of core enlightenment values as building bricks in radicalized ideology (4) Case-study: ‘Freedom of the Press Associations’ DK, SWE and its outlet Dispatch International (5) Concluding remarks
  4. 4. freedom of the press: Sweden 1766 Aim: • cultivation and dissemination of arts and sciences • knowledge about ”sagely arranged” form of government Regulation: • censorship abolished, responsibilty placed on governmental departments, authors, printers and publishers • no critique against protestant state religion • no sacrileges allowed • no derogation of monarchy Most important and to this day prevailing: Freedom of information = all public documents are freely accessible unless declared secret
  5. 5. Theoretical framework: Isaiah Berlin, ”Two Concepts of Liberty” (1958) Negative freedom (relational): no interference, freedom from external actor, “no man or body of men interferes with my activity”, e.g. freedom from censorship Positive freedom (self-realisation): freedom to do something, ’self-mastery’, “bearing responsibility for my choices”, e.g. freedom to print (within legal framework and within the aims of the granted right) Negative freedom compels the external actor (government) and the political subject to agree on clear limits that can be enforced, an agreed relationship with strong commitment. Berlin sees this as typical for liberal systems, regulating relationships between individual and state with strong options to claim the right of non-infringement. Positive freedom compels the external actor (government) to create options for self-realisation, but does not as strongly define enforceable limits, a pledge with weak commitment. Berlin sees this as representative for totalitarian regimes, granting rights on collective grounds, but with few options to claim the rights.  hypothesis: right-wing claims of ‘freedom of press’ are focussed on positive freedom, ‘to say what I want to say’, rather than defining rights
  6. 6. Far-right highjacking of central enlightenment valuesIn the world view of the European Counter Jihad Movement (ECJM), the fabric of the West is constituted by a Christian, national and enlightenment legacy. Since ’the West’ is threatened by an unholy alliance of internal and external enemies, ECJM claims the right of interpretation of Europeanness, Christianity and Enlightenment. The purpose is however always directed against the alleged enemy, the significant Other in identification-driven exclusion. In this vein, ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘freedom of press’ are hijacked for the purpose of the construction of enemy images. Under the false flag of a commitment to an alleged enlightenment value, attacks against the significant Other are launched.
  7. 7. Case-study: ’Freedom of Press Associations’ in Denmark (2004) and Sweden (2012) and their outlet Dispatch International https://youtu.be/q7E_QV afvxo
  8. 8. “The Freedom of Press Association fights for the free word. Where-ever it is threatened. Whoever threatens it. In Sweden, consensus is aspired. All have to think the same and have the right opinion. In dictatorships, journalists are forced to support power and to lie for the citizens. In Sweden, journalists lie voluntarily and call it a free press. Freedom of Press Association is working for a truly free press examining power. We have no other opinion than that you should be granted to express your opinion free without fear for reprisal of any kind. ‘If we don’t believe in freedom of expression of people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all. (Noam Chomsky).” Aims of Tryckfrihetssällskapet, Sweden, 2012
  9. 9. What is the freedom to express used for? • biopolitical fear-mongering (internal and external enemy) • making claims about ’left-wing’ meritocracy (internal enemy: cultural marxists) • rejecting climate change • tapping into American ’ZOG’- conspiracy theories about Obama’s ’true identity’ (conspiracism) • hailing Israel as a political actor (pro-zionism) • claiming that Swedes are discriminated by their own political class (internal enemy: corrupted elites) • making claims about immigration
  10. 10. Final remarks What are the true intentions of freedoms in the context of a claimed enlightenment legacy? Primarily negative or primarily positive? And how is the relationship and hierarchy between them? When freedom of press is evoked in the ECJM-milieu, it is predominantly in the terms of a ‘positive freedom’, i.e. ‘to say what I want’ and not in terms of an elaborate discussion of infringements in a mature political community. This right is however almost exclusively used in a manner that contradicts its enlightenment origin: derogatory, propagandistic, twisting historical facts, always targeting others (on grounds of culture, ethnicity, religion and origin), stirring up enemy images, undermining trust and tolerance in existing political affairs. The false flag operation in the ECJM/European far-right milieu slowly invades political thinking and thus contributes to ideological radicalization.

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