Breitbart’s click-hate echo chamber is a threat to Europe. Here
Source: Guardian | Tuesday, 7 March 2017 Source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/07/breitbart-threat-to-europe-postwar-liberal-consensus
Breitbart is not a news website. Nor is it a media outlet, and its staff are not ordinary journalists. Breitbart is a political project, with a specific political agenda, and staffed by willing propagandists.
As Hope not Hate’s new report, Breitbart: A rightwing plot to shape Europe’s future shows, while ostensibly a rightwing news outlet like any other, Breitbart is in reality part of a transatlantic political movement with a common worldview and coordinated objectives. It doesn’t just report on events: it seeks to make them and (mis-)shape them.
Indeed, Breitbart publishes falsehoods and peddles half-truths. Its unsubstantiated conclusions are drawn from its existing prejudices and published to advance its agenda; Breitbart is a click-hate echo chamber.
It fits comfortably within a contemporary movement of people, political parties and philosophical currents that seemingly aim to undermine the current liberal democratic progressive consensus and the societal norms that are derived from it.
While Breitbart regularly publishes content that is anti-feminist, homophobic and transphobic, central to its politics is a rejection of multiculturalism, manifest as opposition to immigration and liberal refugee policies.
As shown by an analysis of the last 500 articles published on Breitbart London in our new report, one of the website’s main focuses is on migration, especially Muslim immigration into Europe. The heavy focus on the issue is probably derived from the outlook of former Breitbart executive chair Steve Bannon, who believes we are in the grip of a civilisational conflict between the west and the Muslim world.
Whatever the driving force behind it, Breitbart’s “reporting” related to Islam and Muslims is often completely indistinguishable from the anti-Muslim “counter-jihad” movement’s rhetoric (a movement we recently profiled), or even that of the extreme far right.
Take for example the Breitbart article, “Political Correctness Protects Muslim rape Culture”. Based on an unsubstantiated claim that there is indeed a “rape epidemic”, the piece states that “the epidemic is a byproduct of the influx into Europe of a million, mostly Muslim, migrants”, arguing that: “It’s just not politically correct to talk openly about Islam’s rape culture” and that “like honor killings, with massive Muslim immigration on the horizon, it could be coming to a town near you all too soon”.
In stark contrast to the website’s regular downplaying of “the radical feminist ‘rape culture’ panic” – despite research suggesting that 23% of female undergraduate students in the US have reported experiencing sexual assault since enrolling in college – the portrayal of Muslims as not just culturally different but also a physical and sexual threat (a traditional tactic of the anti-immigrant far right) is commonplace on Breitbart.
While it is a digital platform, it would be wrong to see Breitbart’s threat as merely online. In February 2014 it opened its first international section with the launch of Breitbart London. At the time of its launch, along with a new branch in Texas, Bannon made clear the motivation for the expansion across the Atlantic: “We look at London and Texas as two fronts in our current cultural and political war.” The establishment of a British branch was accelerated in order to support a “nascent European Tea Party” before the May 2015 elections.
The offline soldiers in his “political war” here in the UK have been Ukip. “We effectively became the Ukip comms office,” one Breitbart employee told the Spectator following the 2015 general election. “Any criticism of the sainted Farage was completely banned,” said another.
Plans have also been announced (though have yet failed to materialise) to expand the Breitbart brand to the continent, with editions planned in France and Germany. Both countries have elections soon. It has also emerged that there are plans to launch in Italy, too, with the country facing growing economic issues and the increased likelihood of elections this year.
Despite these announcements, the chance of a French Breitbart opening in time for the elections is slim, though this has certainly not stopped its existing platforms providing plenty of coverage to the Front National. In the last year alone, Breitbart has published more than 200 articles with Le Pen in the title and many more where she and her party are mentioned. Last November, a tweet by Marion Maréchal-Le Pen – a prominent Front National official who is also a niece of Marine Le Pen – fuelled speculation about a link-up between Breitbart and the party. Maréchal-Le Pen said she had an accepted an invitation to work together with Bannon, who had described her as a “rising star” (Bannon later denied, via an aide, reaching out to her).
Similar exposure has been given to Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders – who is also a Breitbart columnist – predicted to poll well in next week’s Dutch elections; and the anti-Islam Alternative für Deutschland in Germany, while strong support was offered to Norbert Hofer, the far-right Freedom party candidate, during his failed bid to become Austrian president last year.
Along with far-right and populist parties, Breitbart poses a threat to the liberal progressive consensus established after the second world war, and with it protections offered to vulnerable minorities, especially Muslims.