In an increasingly vicious election year, the GOP and American conservatives have a new enemy: Europe.
Conservative publications and websites such as Breitbart.com are increasingly using Europe as a straw man to attack Democrats and the liberal left. The reasoning goes something like this: “The liberals and progressives want to recreate America in Europe’s image … gun control, free education, universal health care, social safety nets, defense cuts and mass transit. But look at Europe … the Muslims have taken over and the EU is falling apart.”
The new breed of nativist American conservatives are aligning themselves with Europe’s extreme nationalist and their anti-immigration movements such as Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party and Geert Wilder’s Dutch Party for Freedom … even embracing Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Perhaps the most vocal Europe hater is – no surprise here – Donald Trump. Today, French Conservative weekly Valuers Actuelles has an interview with the leading GOP presidential candidate in which – according to this Vice Media post – Trump claims he carries a gun, which he would have used to stop the attacks if only he had he been in Paris on 13 Nov. 2015.
“I can tell you that if I had been at the Bataclan or in one of the cafés, I would have opened fire. I might have died, but I would have drawn [my gun],” Trump says in “Donald Trump, seul contre tous!” (Trump alone against the world.) Trump is famous/infamous for tweeting “Isn’t it interesting that the tragedy in Paris took place in one of the toughest gun control countries in the world?” after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
In the Valuers Actuelles interview, Trump indulges in the Fox News “no-go zones” trope … those mythical districts of urban legend in London, Paris and other European cities where no non-Muslim dare tread, bemoaning the loss of sovereign territory to the jihadis. (For the record, I’ve lived in France and been to most of the largest cities, and never seen a no-go zone, even in the bleakest banlieue. And I’ve seen far more women wearing hijab in my native city of Louisville, Kentucky, with its substantial Middle Eastern and African populations.)
“My French friends say they sometimes have the feeling that they aren’t really at home when they go about here and there in their country,” Trump told Valeurs Actuelles. For good measure, Trump threw in observations about Europe teetering on the brink of collapse and “heading for revolutions,” calling out German Chancellor Angela Merkel for encouraging “migrant madness.” (Should he win the presidency, it will be interesting to see how Trump deals with Merkel, the leader of one of the U.S.’s crucial allies.)
This is all pretty standard stuff at Breitbart, the conservative news site. Here are a few headlines from this week:
• UK Christians now a ‘minority,’ say two top clerics: You’re thinking with the word ‘cleric,” it’s a story about Muslims taking a victory lap after setting up all those “no-go zones.” Disappointingly, it’s about two Christians – a Roman Catholic archbishop and an Anglican bishop – bemoaning the fact Europeans aren’t overly diligent about going to church these days. News flash: this trend dates to World War I. Oddly, Breitbart, which often breathlessly reports on the War against Christians, was founded by the late Andrew Breitbart, who was raised Jewish. (Editor’s note: Breitbart changed the headline to “UK Christians now a ‘minority’ like persecuted Catholics during Reformation, say two top clerics.” Just doesn’t have the same zip.)
• Just 28 migrants live in a German castle supposed to house 300: Ah, those European appeasers… bending over backward to please their new Muslim overlords. Ahhh, no. It turns out there just aren’t that many migrants making it to the area, and locals are disappointed because they thought the federal government was going to hire them to deal with the influx.
• Trump thumps Merkel on migrant madness: ‘It’s the end of Europe’: Now, this is the seminal Breitbart post in which it celebrates Trump for excoriating Merkel for her handling of the migrant crisis while praising Putin for, well, praising Trump. “He (Putin) said I was brilliant. That proves a certain smartness,” said Trump. There you go …. By the way, “migrant madness” makes its way into countless Breitbart headlines about Europe.
The repeated use of the “migrant madness” theme is not just a ploy to get pageviews. It’s meant reinforce a narrative for Breitbart’s conservative American audience – most have never had a passport – that Europe is a battleground. That if you were foolish enough to travel to, say, London, mobs of Muslim refugees would abduct you before you made it to Buckingham Palace. Which may or may not be in a no-go zone. These are, in essence, cautionary tales … that if you elect the Democrats, that is what’s in store for America.
To that end, Breitbart has multiple posts on its special “Migrant Crisis Live Wire” feed documenting the depravity wreaked on Europe by immigrants. Well, the stories never specifically say “immigrants,” only inferring through descriptions of “Mediterranean complexions” and bad accents the perpetrators are part of the Muslim horde. “Girl shot in the head for resisting” is a pretty typical headline on a pretty typical “news” bulletin.
A masked man “speaking bad German with a foreign accent” demands sex from a 19-year- old German woman as she walked home in her small town, squeezing her chest and buttocks while threatening her with a gun. The woman assumes it’s a toy and flees, but the man shoots her in the head! With an “airsoft gun,” that shoots foam bullets. NQOnline is the quoted source for the story … a small-town website in Villingen-Schweningen on the Liechtenstein border that aggregates news right off the crime reports. No arrest was made because, of course, the Polizei are aiding and abetting the migrant madness on the direct orders of Angela Merkel.
And by the way … what about those no-go zones? Last year, Fox News executives, to their credit, acknowledged there’s no such thing, running an on-air apology in January, 2015, a week after a sensational exposé in which “terror expert” Steve Emerson’s claimed there are places in England and France where local authorities have ceded control to Muslims, who’ve now imposed Sharia law and ban non-Muslims.
“Over the course of this last week, we have made some regrettable errors on-air regarding the Muslim population in Europe — particularly with regard to England and France,” Fox News anchor Julie Banderas said on Saturday. “Now, this applies especially to discussions of so-called ‘no-go zones,’ areas where non-Muslims allegedly aren’t allowed in and police supposedly won’t go. To be clear, there is no formal designation of these zones in either country, and no credible information to support the assertion that there are specific areas in these countries that exclude individuals based solely on their religion.”
Not surprisingly, Emerson’s incendiary assertions live on in Trump’s big European interview today … more than a year after Fox News itself repudiated the existence of “no-go zones.”
Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.