The Dehumanization of Immigrants and the Rise of the Extreme Right
University of California at Berkeley
Beverly Crawford Ames was a DAAD/AICGS Research Fellow in mid April - mid June 2019. She is Professor emerita of Political Science and Political Economy at the University of California at Berkeley and is the former Director of Berkeley’s Center for German and European Studies. She has written on German foreign policy, ethnic and religious conflict, international trade and security, the European Union, globalization, regionalism, and topics in international relations theory. In 2015 she received fellowships from the Turkish National Science Foundation and from the European Commission to study the demographics of the refugee crisis in Turkey and Europe, and became an “accidental volunteer” aiding Syrian refugees on the streets of Izmir. In 2016 she was a Senior Fellow at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin where she worked on a project on refugee integration in Germany for BAMF, the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. In 2017 she taught a course on the Global Refugee Crisis at the University of Haifa. Her most recent publications are "Merkel III: From Committed Pragmatist to ‘Conviction Leader’?" with Ludger Helms and Femke Van Esch, German Politics, Vol. 27, Issue 3, 2018; "The Euro, The Gold Standard, and German Power: A Cautionary Tale," with Armon Rezai, German Politics and Society, Issue 125 Vol. 35, No. 4 (Winter 2017): 77–104; and "Moral Leadership or Moral Hazard? Germany's Response to the Refugee Crisis and its Impact on European Solidarity” forthcoming in Crisis, Resilience and the Future of the EU (working title - editors Akasemi Newsome, Marianne Riddervold, Jarle Trondal), Palgrave Macmillian, 2019.
During her fellowship at AICGS, Dr. Crawford Ames will examine the representation of migrants and the role of misinformation, exaggeration, distortion of facts, and fabricated content about them in both social and mainstream media as important factors explaining the rise of right-wing extremism in both Germany and the United States.
The ascendance of the far right has jolted both American and European politics. It has undermined liberal democracy in Hungary and Poland, and threatens it throughout Europe. That ascendance depends on virulent opposition to immigration and immigrants. Opposing immigration is Donald Trump’s lodestar. Anti-immigrant rhetoric defines his central political message. But he is not alone. With the refugee crisis of 2015-16, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) staked its very existence on its opposition to immigrants and thereby rose to become Germany’s third largest party.
For Trump, the AfD, and for other extreme right-wing parties across Europe, the anti-immigrant message is bolstered by the rhetoric of dehumanization. Migrants, e.g., human beings who were born across their borders, are called “congenital criminals, lepers, thieves, unclean,” “garbage,” “animals,” “predators,” “testosterone bombs,” and worse. Dehumanization of others denies them the dignity, consideration, compassion, and empathy that we typically give other people. Dehumanizing language pollutes the debate, blocks solutions to social problems, and can relax our instinctive aversion to aggression and violence.
How have we arrived at this point?