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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 21 November, 2019

Sitdown Sunday: Rebranding Europe's far-right parties

Grab a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. Rebranding Europe’s far right

Germany Europe Nationalists Far-right leader Marine le Pen Source: Michael Probst

Europe’s new far right have claimed the progressive causes of the left, writes Sasha Polakow-Suransky, by depicting Muslim immigrants as the primary threat to gay rights, women’s equality and protecting Jews from anti-semitism. It’s part of their rebranding, and it’s very effective.

(The Guardian, approx 38 mins reading time)

These parties have built a coherent ideology and steadily chipped away at the establishment parties’ hold on power by pursuing a new and devastatingly effective electoral strategy. They have made a very public break with the symbols of the old right’s past, distancing themselves from skinheads, neo-Nazis and homophobes. They have also deftly co-opted the causes, policies and rhetoric of their opponents. They have sought to outflank the left when it comes to defending a strong welfare state and protecting social benefits that they claim are threatened by an influx of freeloading migrants.

2. The untold story of the Bastille Day attacker

In July 2016, a horrific attack took place on Bastille Day in Nice. This story tells the strange but true story of the attacker.

(GQ, approx 36 mins reading time)

At 10:32, Lahouaiej Bouhlel pulled onto the Promenade’s wide southern thoroughfare. He rode along with the traffic for 1,000 feet or so until, across from the children’s hospital that would soon receive the crushed and mutilated, he drove up onto the broad sidewalk, filled now with revelers and families. He had extinguished his headlights. Soon came the crack of exploding seaside benches, and the dull thud of bodies spinning off the front edges of the truck. Its driver grinned.

3. The alternative media

Trump President Donald Trump's White House Senior Advisor Steve Bannon, formerly of Breitbart. Source: Andrew Harnik

The alt-right has started to create its own media world, one which it says readers can trust. Buzzfeed describes it as the ‘upside down’ like in Stranger Things – a parallel universe with its own ‘alternative facts’.

(Buzzfeed, approx 15 mins reading time)

 If you live in the mainstream media world, the New Media Upside Down can be hard to find — the only real crossover between the two worlds is on Twitter, where its leaders lambaste mainstream news reports often with the aim of discrediting them. It’s (reasonably) young and hungry, and has risen with Trump all the way to the White House — where Steve Bannon, who helped construct this upside-down media world while running Breitbart News, now holds sway as senior counselor to the president himself.

4. Doomsday is coming

There are people who believe disaster is coming to civilisation… and there are the rich who are preparing for that disaster in a very intense way – like Reddit’s CEO, who has had laser eye surgery to improve his odds of surviving the world’s end.

(The New Yorker, approx 43 mins reading time)

Antonio García Martínez, a forty-year-old former Facebook product manager living in San Francisco, bought five wooded acres on an island in the Pacific Northwest and brought in generators, solar panels, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. “When society loses a healthy founding myth, it descends into chaos,” he told me. The author of “Chaos Monkeys,” an acerbic Silicon Valley memoir, García Martínez wanted a refuge that would be far from cities but not entirely isolated. “All these dudes think that one guy alone could somehow withstand the roving mob,” he said. “No, you’re going to need to form a local militia. You just need so many things to actually ride out the apocalypse.”

5. Why I voted for Trump

Trump Donald Trump arrives off Air Force One. Source: Jose Luis Magana

Rick Perlstein is a lecturer, and last year he asked a student of his why he voted for Trump. His answer is interesting reading.

(Mother Jones, approx 10mins reading time)

But while Peter’s analysis is at odds with much of the data, his overall story does fit a national pattern. Trump voters report experiencing greater-than-average levels of economic anxiety, even though they tend have better-than-average incomes. And they are inclined to blame economic instability on the federal government—even, sometimes, when it flows from private corporations. Peter wrote about the sense of salvation his neighbors felt when a Walmart came to town: “Now there were enough jobs, even part-time jobs…But Walmart constantly got attacked by unions nationally and with federal regulations; someone lost their job, or their job became part-time.”

6. Stalked, then diagnosed with cancer

American sports presenter Erin Andrews was stalked in 2008, a case that was brought to court last year. But what people didn’t realise that was that she was also secretly fighting cervical cancer.

(MMQB, approx 14 mins reading time)

Andrews did not tell colleagues of her diagnosis. She worked that Sunday’s game, then flew home to L.A. She missed the Monday and Tuesday tapings of Dancing with the Stars; ABC said she took time off to support boyfriend (now fiancé) Jarret Stoll and his grieving family. (Stoll’s 17-year-old nephew had been killed in a car accident that weekend.) That, in part, was true. But Andrews was mostly dealing with her diagnosis.


In 2003, Laura Hillenbrand wrote about her experience of a sudden and strange illness that knocked her sideways.

(The New Yorker, approx mins reading time)

Sometimes I’d look at words or pictures but see only meaningless shapes. I’d stare at clocks and not understand what the positions of the hands meant. Words from different parts of a page appeared to be grouped together in bizarre sentences: “Endangered Condors Charged in Shotgun Killing.” In conversation, I’d think of one word but say something completely unrelated: “hotel” became “plankton”; “cup” came out “elastic.” I couldn’t hang on to a thought long enough to carry it through a sentence. When I tried to cross the street, the motion of the cars became so disorienting that I couldn’t move. I was at a sensory distance from the world, as if I were wrapped in clear plastic.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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