The NY Times Is Normalizing Fascism by Running Marine Le Pen's Column
In the latest sign that the far-right is gaining ground in the mainstream, the New York Times today provided French neo-fascist leader Marine Le Pen with a platform for celebrating the outcome of the Brexit vote.
Entitled “After Brexit, the People’s Spring Is Inevitable,” the piece was featured in the opinion section of America's so-called newspaper of record. Le Pen's op-ed depicted the UK’s narrow vote to exit the European Union as a victory for “people who embrace their freedom.”
Le Pen’s full-throated support for the Brexit is no surprise. Neo-fascist and reactionary forces like those who fill the ranks of her National Front party have seized on the “leave” campaign to promote racism, xenophobia and anti-Muslim incitement.
The platform of Le Pen's increasingly popular party is staunchly anti-refugee and anti-Muslim, aiming to eradicate the European Schengen Area, immediately deport undocumented residents, ban dual nationality, and slash immigration by 2,000 percent.
Last year, Le Pen was taken to court for anti-Muslim remarks she made in 2010 comparing Muslims praying in the street to Nazi occupiers. “I'm sorry, but for those who really like to talk about World War Two, if we're talking about occupation, we could talk about that (street prayers), because that is clearly an occupation of the territory,” she said a meeting in Lyon.
Le Pen's father—Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Front—was convicted of Holocaust denial in 2008 for referring to the Nazi occupation of France as “not particularly inhuman.”
“First the call of the National Front was anti-Semitic, reminiscent of the Vichy regime that collaborated with Hitler,” Yasser Louati, a human rights and civil liberties activist based in France, told AlterNet. “It was a political party propelled forward through the 1980s by hatred of what is not white and Christian. Now they are making a strategic shift from anti-Semitism to Islamophobia.”
“Europe is going back to its demons,” Louati added, “there is no question.”
In the aftermath of the ISIS-inspired Paris attacks last year, the high-pitched Islamophobia of the National Front intensified. As Foreign Policy In Focus’s John Feffer put it in an article published in 2015, Marine Le Pen is “the face of the new extremism: sufficiently liberal in some respects (divorced, pro-choice) to reach out to the mainstream but just as aggressively intolerant as her predecessors to appeal to the base.”
Providing Le Pen such a prominent platform not only impacts her standing in France, but also helps legitimize far-right movements in the United Sates. The Southern Poverty Law Center noted that the National Front has collaborated with white supremacist groups in the United States, including the white nationalist New Century Foundation, which it described as “a self-styled think tank that promotes pseudo-scientific studies and research that purport to show the inferiority of blacks to whites.”
“There’s always a question of who gets a place at the table to be part of the discussion,” Jim Naureckas, editor of Extra!, the magazine of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, told AlterNet. “And the people who are chosen to be invited to the New York Times op-ed page are the people designated by the media establishment as worth hearing and having their ideas taken seriously."
"When you have the leader of a neo-fascist party given that platform," Naureckas continued, "they really are opening up political space to people who have ideologies that one would have thought were permanently put outside the realm of acceptable opinion.”