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The Economist Cover “Playing With Fear”

December 11, 2015

The stark nature of the cover from the best written and argued newspaper that makes its way around the world says a great deal about the grip which the worst of human nature can foment in troubled times.

The cover says it all.

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This newspaper stands for pretty much everything the populists despise: open markets, open borders, globalisation and the free movement of people. We do not expect to convince populist leaders of our arguments. But voters are reasonable—and most of them would sooner hear something more optimistic than rage against a dangerous world.

Part of the answer is to draw on the power of liberal ideals. New technology, prosperity and commerce will do more than xenophobia to banish people’s insecurities. The way to overcome resentment is economic growth—not to put up walls. The way to defeat Islamist terrorism is to enlist the help of Muslims—not to treat them as hostile. The main parties need to make that case loudly and convincingly.

Politicians also need to deal with the populists’ complaint that government often fails its citizens. Take the threat to security. Mr Obama’s reluctance to deploy more troops against IS’s “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq does not convince most Americans, including many present and former military commanders. Europe’s spooks and law-enforcement agencies fail to share information. The EU needs to manage the flow of people at the border, allowing those who qualify as refugees to work and thus help them to absorb Western values (see article).

To imagine better government across all of economic and security policy is a counsel of perfection. But even small improvements will count if they are allied to a robust defence of the West’s Enlightenment values. 

I had written about Marine La Pen in January 2014.   Her inclusion on the cover given the news she has made as of late is another reason to feel queasy about the state of the world.

But that is where his daughter Marine Le Pen comes into the equation.,  She is trying to turn his anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, fascist party into something that resembles a credible alternative to the mainstream political parties.  With a boldness she predicts that she will be in the Elysée within a decade.

There is a need to hold her brash style and political rants up to the light of day and watch her as she works to get people elected in municipal elections throughout France.

For those of us who read and study history it comes as no surprise we are concerned when xenophobia, racism and intolerance are used as the foundations for a political movement anywhere in the world, let alone in Europe.  But that is exactly what Marine Le Pen promotes.  That she comes with blond hair and the everyday look as a divorced mother of teenagers makes her seem a sharp contrast to the thug of a father who has been accused and convicted several times at home and abroad of xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

But the fruit has not fallen very far from the tree when it comes to Le Pen and voters in France along with international viewers need to keep an eye on Front National.   History shows what can happen when we do not keep an eye on those who use their fears and biases as a basis for national political platforms.

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