Misrhetoric of popular extremism: “us” and “them”

On March 11, 2019, the High Commissioner of the United Nations Organization (UN) for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, gave a speech whose message today more than ever is essential to evoke because although it was delivered as a result of the Islamophobic attack occurred against two mosques in New Zealand, specifically in it he warned about the growing alarm within said international organization in the face of the rise of political movements supported by extremist populist ideologies, particularly racist and xenophobic. Doctrines, all of them, false, unjust, reprehensible and dangerous, as well categorized in 2017 by the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former UN secretary, the Ghanaian Kofi Annan, when he warned that populism promoted by extremist parties was putting pressure on multiple countries to seize power via democracy and then proceed to destroy it through populist leaders who posed as “charismatic individuals or false prophets, promising simplistic solutions to the injustices people face, with radical policies that deny of institutions and laws for considering them irrelevant or inconvenient”.

Animosity against all democratic institutions -beginning with judicial independence and freedom of the press- and obsession with “defining who is part of the ‘authentic people’ and demonizing the ‘others'” -migrants, religious minorities and certain social elites-, which popular extremism initiates its social receptors through conspiracy theories and the perception of “crisis, siege and threat” because of “them”, and that it propagates through social networks. Perverse ideology that, even when it lacks a real foundation, achieves great effectiveness by germinating in its followers feelings of hatred, violence and resentment as it is a hypernationalist discourse -opposed to authentic patriotism- that, far from uniting, increases insecurity and pulverizes the social fabric.

Why are the mechanisms of persuasion and axiological shaping of populist leaders successful? Why do their followers blindly believe them? Mass psychology has the answer when it notices that among the common elements shared by the members of these masses, the following predominate: little education; cultivation of prejudices; tendency to compulsion and fanaticism; discredit and rebellion against the norm; origins in oppressive environments; predisposition to react passionately and irrationally and the need to build an identity “ours” as opposed to that of “them”, the “others”.

There are authors specialized in European extremism on the right, such as Piero Ignazi, and on the left, such as Luke March and Cas Mudde, but extremism is not exclusive to any of them; Whether from the right or the left, all extremes meet and are equally deleterious for the development of a healthy social coexistence: radicalism, ultra-right, totalitarianism, fascism, Nazism, Stalinism, populism, radical left, ultra-left, communism, anarchism, terrorism, among others, they all tend to breach the rule of law, its system and pre-existing legal procedures; to the pursuit of maximalist political ends and, finally, to the extralegal implementation of coercive measures that justify the use of force “against the illegitimate” status quo and the preceding socioeconomic structures (liberalism, capitalism, integrationism, neoliberalism, globalization ), in order to implement a redistribution of resources within the framework of a “new” order or structural transformation.

Even more, popular extremism gestated within democracy, it is not only intolerant but also becomes an enemy of legality, pluralism, inclusion, tolerance, dissent and diversity, in such a way that once the rule of law and human rights are undermined in a society -particularly those of the groups lashed out from power-, the transition from a democratic regime to a dictatorship is immediate, as was also confirmed by Annan’s successor at the UN General Secretariat, Ban Ki-moon, at declare that violent extremism is a global phenomenon, not exclusive to any region, creed or nationality, whose objective is to cause fear to prevail in society and divide it, in order to win once “ours” have been convinced ” that “they” are the “traitors”, the enemy to be defeated.

How does he do it? Through misorhetoric, the execrable hate speech of which extremist governments are spokespersons and which the uncritical “we” make their own who allow themselves to be abducted by their hypnotic and sinister low-frequency song to which they succumb. What is serious is when this psychic violence, after being internalized, moves from words to actions, encouraging the commission of acts of physical violence whose final objective is not only the moral but material extermination of the “others”. An example of “them”: the intellectuals and, above all, the journalists.

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Misrhetoric of popular extremism: “us” and “them”