NYT Sees Fascism in Europe: 'Nihilism,' 'Meanness,' Opposing Food Cops

May 12th, 2019 3:42 PM

Perhaps wary of Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, international reporters at the New York Times are seeing the “far right” everywhere, in unlikely guises, such as supporting being allowed to eat and drink whatever one likes without government interference.

The paper filed an odd update from Finland in April: “Finland’s Right Appeals to Voters With a Nihilistic View on Climate.” The Times condescended to conservative voters while reviling the climate stands of conservative politicians.

When they really wanted to rile up conservative voters this spring, the politicians from Finland’s nationalist party made a beeline for the rawest subject in this year’s general election.

No, not immigration. Climate.

As Finland’s other parties competed with each other to offer ambitious climate goals ahead of Sunday’s general election, the Finns Party has seized on climate as a new front in the culture wars, warning its conservative, working-class supporters that they are being betrayed by urban elites.

Aggressive environmental measures will “take the sausage from the mouths of laborers,” warned a Finns Party politician, Matti Putkonen, in a recent televised debate. And, more important, from dogs and cats, whose food, he said, would increase in price by 20 to 40 percent....If that was not enough, he suggested contemptuously that, if the liberals got their way, dogs and cats would have to accept vegan substitutes for meat.

But the paper’s own reporting shows the truth behind those political claims:

Instead, much of the debate has been dominated by climate, with nearly every major party proposing its own plan to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees. The proposals have been wide-ranging and, in some cases, aggressive, like an eco-tax on meat and airfare and restrictions on logging....


The lines clearly find an echo in Republican attacks on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal in the United States, which portray liberal Democrats as Stalinists taking away people’s pickup trucks and hamburgers.

The Green New Deal is sufficiently wacky that no exaggeration is necessary when mocking it.

Jason Horowitz, one of the paper’s more colorful (and biased) reporters, came down hypocritically in April on right-wing politicians who play insult games themselves. The text box wailed: “A far-right attempt to eschew civility and make meanness cool.”

....these days, it seems, one of the biggest put-downs of all is to call someone a do-gooder.

And on the lips of Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigrant League Party and Italy’s most powerful politician, the word “buonista,” or do-gooder, is a dangerous weapon.

“The European dream is being buried by the bureaucrats, the do-gooders and the bankers who are governing Europe for too much time,” Mr. Salvini said this past week at the introduction of a new alliance of far-right and populist parties before European parliamentary elections in May.


Do-gooder owes its heavy rotation on Italy’s poisonous social media accounts, in political interviews and in Mr. Salvini’s speeches to a period of acute polarization and incivility.


But there are real-world consequences to making good bad and bad good, not least a more permissive atmosphere to be downright mean, uncivil or even violent.

The most recent example of hysteria was Saturday’s story by Palko Karasz: “Norway’s Health Minister Rejects Being ‘Moral Police.’

It was a most unusual message from a health official: People should be allowed to eat, drink and smoke as they see fit.

Norway’s new minister in charge of public health said this week that adults did not need government lectures about what to put in their bodies, but it sounded a bit like she was telling people to go ahead and indulge. Critics protested that her remarks were damaging, particularly coming from someone in her position.

Her remarks were indeed refreshingly libertarian:

“I think people should be allowed to smoke, drink and eat as much red meat as they like,” Sylvi Listhaug, the government’s minister for the elderly and public health, said in an interview posted on Monday on the website of NRK, Norway’s state broadcaster. “The government may provide information, but I think people in general know what is healthy and what is not.”

But the Times found them ominous and dangerous.

The interview was published just three days after she took over the ministry, and it was dotted with the kind of sharp, controversial comments Ms. Listhaug, deputy leader of the right-wing, anti-immigration Progress Party, is known for.

Karasz quickly linked the freedom to smoke and drink and eat to a murderous fascist terrorist.

The Progress Party has been a junior partner in Norway’s center-right governing coalition since 2013. Its rise to prominence created unease, coming just two years after a far-right, anti-Muslim extremist who had once belonged to the party killed 77 people in a murderous rampage.

Karasz showed no qualms about government-style food police, describing the policies in benign terms.

Governments around the world have stepped up campaigns to fight unhealthy habits. France recently told people not to drink every day; a soda tax in Britain has helped lower sugar levels in some drinks...

Karasz stamped an unflattering label on the live-and-let-live philosophy.

Ms. Listhaug said that people who smoked felt like “pariahs” in Norway, and that she would not be the “moral police” in government. She echoed comments made by Austria’s far right, defending freedom of choice in opposing antismoking legislation.