Sunday, May 2, 2010

Nationalist Populism in France and the U.S.

One common trend I see these days in both France (or Europe at large) and the U.S. is how politicians use fear and nationalist populism at the expense of freedom for quick political gain and how the media play along to make an extra buck.

In France, it is not only the success of the right-wing 'Front National' (a party which has advocated sending African immigrants back to the continent) in the regional elections, it is also the government itself which has pandered to anti-immigrant sentiment to try to divert attention from problems they can't solve (the economic crisis) and to woo their most extreme right-wing voters. They initiated an unnecessary debate on French identity (which eventually back-lashed) and are now ready to vote a law to ban the full-body veil (which really concerns a mere 2,000 women in the whole country at the most). Meanwhile people are struggling with trying to find a job or making ends meet when they have one, and most worry more about the national debt than about the full-body veil or their national identity.

In the U.S. there seems to be similar tendency towards strong anti illegal immigration. Of course, illegal immigration causes serious problems and the current violence across the border in Mexican cities makes people very nervous, but this does not explain why Arizona Governor Jan Brewer claims her state has been under "terrorist attack" by illegal immigrants:

It blows my mind that the new anti-illegal immigration law was even voted. It requires the police “when practicable” to detain people they reasonably suspect are in the country without authorization. It also allows the police to charge immigrants with a state crime for not carrying immigration documents. And it allows residents to sue cities if they believe the law is not being enforced.

Obviously, there is no way one can spot an illegal immigrant from a regular immigrant or from an American citizen of Hispanic decent - a fact acknowledged by the governor herself, whose discomfort at the question is pretty obvious :

She nonetheless signed the bill - who cares if it's unenforceable. The same could be said about the full veil ban in France.

I am amazed how easily political leaders can do away with constitutional principles. There is a backlash of course and some people will oppose them but it still means that enough people are okay with those laws so that they can be passed. Where is the tea-party movement who claims that there's too much interference of government in their lives? Their silence is evidence of their political bias.

As a side note, it must be added that while in France, you are supposed to carry some form of ID with you, it is also illegal to ask anyone for their identification in the streets without probable cause (see here in French).

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