Wrong About the Right

| May 22, 2002

Wrong About the Right Stuff

The surprising popularity of Jean-Marie Le Pen in France and the murder of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn has thrust so-called 'far right' politics into the headlines and has Anne Applebaum wondering whether political labels really apply anymore.

Writing in Slate, Applebaum notes that political parties deemed as 'far right' often have little or nothing in common, and extremists such as Austrian politician Jorg Haider and Le Pen are too easily dubbed by the public as spokespeople for 'rightist' parties. 'Sometimes 'far right' is just a simpler phrase to use than 'anti-establishment, pro-free-market, anti-immigration, possibly racist right,' when you don't feel you have enough space to explain the details of a particular party or politician,' she writes.

But political associations depend on individual perception, Applebaum says: 'Yes, to passionate opponents of the death penalty, those who advocate it do seem 'extremist.' Yes, to devotees of the European welfare state, free marketeers may seem 'extremist,' too. In fact--given that 'conservative' is now a word commonly used to describe the communist leadership of North Korea and 'extreme left' is now a word used to describe the backward-looking ex-communist politicians of Eastern Germany--we might be better off giving up altogether the attempt to use 19th-century political terminology in a post-1989, post-9/11 world.'
--Julie Madsen
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