Was politics always this nasty? It certainly feels like the extremes are growing more extreme, and the centre is crumbling. Everybody seems to be suggesting simple solutions to complex issues, voices are growing louder and shriller, and compromise has become a dirty word. How can we stop the rise of extremist politics? Is it possible to return to a less fractious, divisive, and aggressive form of politics?
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Ed, who argues that the best way to prevent the rise of extremist politicians is by debating their ideas and discrediting them publicly. He says: “Put these people in an open debate and you will soon see that their ideas are nothing more than propaganda. Allow them to claim they are being victimised and suppressed and their support will grow.” Is he right?
To get a response, we took Ed’s comment to British MEP Magid Magid, a former Lord Mayor of Sheffield, one of Friends of Europe’s European Young Leaders, and current Member of the European Parliament for the Green Party. What would he say?
One of our earlier debates looked at whether extremism is caused by inequality. Some of our readers, in that debate, suggested that the best way to tackle extremism would be to tackle the root causes of extremism, which means addressing social and economic inequality.
However, we also had a comment from Maria, arguing that extremism is less about inequality and more about the perception of inequality. Is she right?
To get a response, we put Maria’s comment to Dr Chris Allen, Associate Professor in Hate Studies at the University of Leicester. What would he say?
I think that’s a really, really interesting question. There is a link between inequality and extremism, but it does come down to perception as well. The role of perception is very interesting; I think there is a perception, for example, that the number of migrants coming to countries is much higher than it is, or that certain minority groups may be – to use speech marks – ‘taking over’ when the reality is very different, and I think that this is one of the things to consider when we look at the kind of things that we understand as being drivers or catalysts for extremism. We certainly need to understand what is the perception and what is the reality.
I think that sometimes what we are seeing is that the reality is there’s a lack of a prosperous future, there’s a lack of quality jobs, there’s a lack of opportunities to get into the housing market, as we’ve seen in the UK, for example. And what actually happens with that is that you have these extremist groups, who say “Well look, this all because of X minority group”, or “This is caused by those groups coming into this country”.
Or, alternatively, you have extremists among minority groups saying “See, you will never belong in this society or country, the people and governments here do not like you”. So, you see this kind of dichotomous relationship beginning to emerge, wherein extremism feeds extremism. And, of course, this is about perceptions, but it’s also about real forces behind those perceptions, rather than just being perceptions in themselves. Inequality feeds this, but it really is perception as opposed to reality which is the catalyst and the problem.
What’s the best way to stop extremist politics? Is the best way to simply debate and discredit their ideas publicly? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!