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Opinion

Are the New Populists Dangerous or Just Not Liberals?

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Posted: Feb 17, 2019 12:01 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not represent the views of Townhall.com.

There have been some people elected in Europe and South America who have been branded by the MSM not only as populists but harboring dangerous attitudes toward democracy despite being elected in open elections in their countries.  Are these leaders problematic or are they just not left-of-center politicians?  

I have been watching with great interest the development of what has been labeled “populism” around the world.  Hungary was one of the first countries to elect a leader who was scrutinized by the world press and by other world leaders. The leader of Poland followed, then the Italians, and just weeks ago the new leader of Brazil has come under a great level of criticism even before he took office.  These leaders have been branded by our MSM as “authoritarian” with a whiff of “dictator” thrown in for good measure.  The populists are criticized for statements and actions that don’t go along with what is perceived as by the Left as acceptable thought in current social circles.

What befuddles me is that I am not sure whether these reports are being colored by the press because these new leaders are not going along with the acceptable norms established by Western European Elites, or whether they are really dangerous.  Challenging in my mind are acts such as Poland’s attempt to restrict commentary regarding the Holocaust because of a desire to stop branding the Poles for efforts to eradicate Jews engineered by the Germans.  Other charges were hurled at Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán for perceived attempts to suppress free speech.  

Or are the characterizations because of resistance to the left-leaning policies promulgated by the EU including the flooding of Europe by Germany of Muslim immigrants who were ill prepared to adapt to the culture of their countries.

While I kept a watchful eye on these matters searching how to properly filter the “facts” offered, I received a column from an unimpeachable source. Dr. Daniel Pipes runs the Middle East Forum which advocates strong ties with Israel and other democracies as they emerge, working for human rights throughout the region.  Pipes’ father, Richard Pipes, who recently passed away at the age of 94, was also an extremely well-respected academic and winner of the National Humanities Medal.  

Pipes wrote a piece entitled In Defense of Europe’s “Far-Right” Parties.  Just seeing the title took me back some as Pipes is a staunch defender of the Jewish people.  How could he be supporting these governments which are being charged with lurching toward right-wing totalitarianism?

It turns out he isn’t exactly.  As stated in his column “In Poland and Hungary, the ruling PiS and Fidesz parties have built soft autocracies where governments control the judiciary, economy, media and educational institutions. Corruption has increased. Elections are free but not fair.”

He then wrote over time that parties like these “generally moderate, moving away from racism and anti-Semitism.”  When I spoke to Dr. Pipes he stated “They have their problems, but not worse than Germany, France or Sweden.”

Then came the hook in the column.  That is when he described the activities of the governments of esteemed Western Europe that are just as challenging or worse.  He details actions of the Swedes and the French that have been as egregious or worse than the new populist parties.  

Then he went into describing the policies of one of our closest allies, the United Kingdom.  One of the two major parties (Labour) reeks of anti-Semitism and they don’t even attempt to hide it.  Because of Brexit and the disruption going on, the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, could become Prime Minister.  If he is replaced as leader of his party, there appears to be someone worse ready to step into his shoes.  Sources have told me many Jews who live there have prepared an exit strategy if either becomes PM.  That will follow on the heels of the Jews fleeing France. 

Pipes wrote, “As for authoritarianism: No one is jailed in Poland or Hungary for expressing views contrary to the government.”  He described the case of Tommy Robinson who in May 2018 was jailed in England and sentenced to 13 months for live-streaming information readily available about a Muslim rape gang on trial.  Robinson subsequently was released.  

Based on the details laid out by Pipes, yes these populist governments have real problems, but the leaders of countries pointing fingers at them are in many ways worse.  What this means is that the reason the press ardently attacks these governments is because they are right of center, not fascist, but right of center.  The Western elites are feeling threatened as they attempt to move the world toward more government control and more centralized government.  And since these leaders and the media who support them are left of center or socialists, these are scare tactics.

Kind of what we see here in America.