Archive for Xenophobia/Islamophobia

The Fall of Rome as “the End of the White World”: Jean Raspail’s “Camp of the Saints”

The Camp of the Saints is a xenophobic novel by Jean Raspail published in French in 1973 and translated into English in 1975. Generally well-received when first published, it imagines a race war in Europe sparked by unchecked immigration. Its author, who died in June 2020, has won two of the most prestigious literary prizes in France, and more recently the book has been praised and promoted in the United States by a Congressional Representative and three senior advisors to the President of the United States, making it one of the most influential white supremacist books ever written, one that Historian and Artist Nell Painter has identified as a key text for understanding “American Whiteness Since Trump.” Unlike other French xenophobic treatises, The Camp of the Saints did not engage much with Greco-Roman Antiquity. Until, that is, it was reprinted 1985 with a new author’s preface.

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Monsters from Greek Mythology Inspire White Supremacist Activists

“The Hundred Handers” is a network of white supremacists who post racist stickers in public places. It’s a strategy used by many racist groups, including those who use imagery taken from Greco-Roman antiquity. According to an interview with the network’s anonymous founder on an anti-government website, the goal of the Hundred Handers’ stickers is to reassure the “whole population who aren’t as plugged [into] social media and may feel alone against the tsunami of anti-white hatred that they face daily”  that “you’re not alone and there are others like you in close proximity.” The network takes its name from the many-headed and many-limbed monsters who, according to the Greek poet Hesiod’s Theogony, helped Zeus and the Olympian gods defeat the Titans in the battle for control of the universe.

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Ancient Greece a Symbol to Rally Neo-Nazis

As the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has spread, so have xenophobic and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories blaming the spread of the virus on immigrants or Muslims or calling it a Jewish plot. One of the proponents of these conspiracy theories is Martin Sellner, whom the BBC called “the new face of the far right in Europe” for the influence he has achieved as a leader of the Austrian branch of the white nationalist Identitarian Movement which in some respects is a European predecessor to the alt-right in the United States. Unlike some other white supremacists whom Pharos has documented, Sellner has not invoked Greco-Roman antiquity in his promotion of coronavirus conspiracy theories, but in the weeks before the pandemic struck Europe, he used the Classical past — and his reach to almost 40,000 people on social media — to promote violent xenophobia against some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

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Greek Myth and Apocalyptic European Nationalism 

This month is the fifth anniversary of the launch of Fabien Bièvre-Perrin’s Antiquipop, a website that, like Pharos, documents appropriations of Greco-Roman antiquity in the contemporary world. But whereas the pages of Pharos are filled with regressive interpretations and distortions of the ancient past, Antiquipop celebrates the deployment and reanalysis of that past in contemporary art, film, fashion, and music. On Pharos you will find examples of Greco-Roman antiquity being used to exclude, to erase, to threaten, and to oppress. On Antiquipop you find engagements with antiquity that are intended to appeal to broad audiences, engagements that, by simultaneously invoking and questioning the prestige of the Classical past, promote a sometimes radically inclusive vision of what the Greco-Roman world might mean in the contemporary world. And so, in celebration of the fifth birthday of Antiquipop your friends at Pharos offer this documentation of some Classical references in the work of a prominent member of the French far right, as an illustration of how vital your work is to the project of rejecting the claims that hate groups make on the ancient past.

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Fake Aristotle Quote Opposing Human Rights for Immigrants

A xenophobic news aggregator called Western Voices World News reposted an article from the New York Post concerning New York City’s strongest-in-the-nation Human Rights Law. In September 2019 the city explicitly affirmed that the law protects New Yorkers from being harassed because of their accent, for speaking a language other than English, or from being called an “illegal alien” out of hate. Western Voices World News provided only two bits of commentary on the report: the xenophobic heading “Trusting your government and getting conquered by aliens are now one and the same” and a meme showing a bust of Aristotle with a quotation “Tolerance and Apathy are the last virtues of a dying society.” Pharos has documented and responded to hate groups using things Aristotle actually wrote in support of hatred, but Sententiae Antiquae and The Athenian Inspector have both shown that this quote appears nowhere in Aristotle’s work: racists, xenophobes, and nationalists just attach Aristotle’s name to it in order to give intellectual credibility to their hateful politics.

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Greco-Roman Antiquity in Camus’ “Great Replacement”

No fewer than three recent mass shooters have said they found inspiration in the French intellectual Renaud Camus’ theory of “the Great Replacement,” a xenophobic and racist claim that “European” or “white” culture is being “replaced” through immigration. Camus outlined this theory in a 2011 book entitled Le Grand Remplacement that he later rewrote and translated into English as You Will Not Replace Us! (2018), a title clearly intended to echo the chant of the white supremacists at the 2017 Charlottesville rallyPharos has reported on how this theory appears, often in connection with references to Greco-Roman antiquity, on various hate sites, and ancient historian Sarah Bond has traced the history of this theory, uncovering a long tradition of such thinking well before Camus published his work. But Greco-Roman antiquity is not just a touchstone for those who subscribe to Camus’ theory: his treatise itself takes its starting point from a reading of an ancient Greek philosophical text and is peppered throughout with references to antiquity in support of his claims.

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Islamophobic Site Finds Evidence of a “New Dark Ages” in the Fall of Rome

Gates of Vienna is a xenophobic and Islamophobic website that has been in existence since 2004. The anti-racist group Hope Note Hate calls it “one of the most influential counter-jihad sites in the world” and lists its founder, Edward S. May, as one of the “top 16 players on the international Islamophobia scene.” Most of the material on the site is devoted to demonstrating that immigration from Muslim countries poses an existential threat to “Christian Europe.” Among the many articles on this topic is a three-part series entitled “How Long Until the Dark Ages Return?” arguing that the arrival of refugees from Muslim-majority countries has brought Europe to “the brink of [a] New Dark Ages” that will be marked by the “total chaos and absolute anarchy” that “ruled” in Europe following the collapse of Roman state power. The example of Rome is held up as a warning to Europe, since “It’s interesting to see how that came to be the last time.”

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Militia Group Warns of the Roman “Path to Ruin”

In May 2019, Pennsylvania state representative Stephanie Borowicz drew criticism for posing for a photograph with a member of the militia group “American Guard” at a rally. Such reports of elected officials having ties to white supremacy or granting influence to members of hate groups seem to be increasingly common. When the report of Rep. Borowicz’s selfie came across our desk Pharos looked into American Guard and found not only hateful politics, but references to classical antiquity as well.

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Political party using antiquity to “Make Spain Great Again”

VOX is an anti-immigrant, Islamaphobic, homophobic, and misogynist political party in Spain that in 2019 won enough votes to elect twenty-four legislators to Spain’s Congress of Deputies. In a body of 350 seats this is not enough to enact a legislative agenda but they now have a voice and legitimacy that they had previously lacked. Like many far-right parties VOX’s rhetoric depends on a nostalgia for a supposedly more peaceful, more prosperous (and actually less equitable) past. Although VOX finds its inspiration primarily in Spain’s more recent, fascist, past, it also invokes the Greco-Roman world to legitimize its politics.

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Classical Shirts Mask Hate with Humor

“Culture Wars” is a store on the custom apparel website TeePublic.com that advertises itself as “designs in support of European culture and civilization.” Like another online apparel store that Pharos has documented, “Culture Wars” offers many shirts with classical images and themes that promote both coded and explicit racism, homophobia, and misogyny. But whereas the previously documented site promoted a violent and hyper-masculine vision of the classical past, “Culture Wars” takes the approach of attempting to mask much of its hatred with humor.

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