We have the means to challenge and beat xenophobia and fascism in today’s Europe

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Even if we should be concerned about the rise of xenophobia and fascism, which disguises itself with populist anti-immigration rhetoric in Europe, there’s one matter that should worry us the most: silence and apathy.

Tomorrow, the referendum in the United Kingdom on whether to stay in the European Union isn’t only a vote for or against but on how much space Britons will give to anti-immigration rhetoric and demagoguery.

Throughout Europe, we have seen countless examples in Hungary, Denmark, Poland, United Kingdom, Finland and others of how xenophobia and creeping fascism have challenged our values for a culturally diverse, socially equal and just Europe.

When challenging the very forces that aim to take us back to an all-white Europe that only existed in rhetoric and myth, it’s important to keep in mind that size doesn’t matter.

The most powerful weapon that we have as activists is our sense of social justice and our never-ending dedication to challenge the very matters that populists and fascists don’t want the public to know about their ugly truth.

Latin America has seen its fair share of social injustice and violence. In Argentina, where I was born, we lived through one of the bloodiest dictatorships  in our history during the so-called dirty war (1976-83) era. Back then, it was relatively easy for a military dictatorship to shut the country off from the outside world; landline phones didn’t work, censorship and self-censorship were rampant.

During those dark days, there was a newspaper called the Buenos Aires Herald that spoke out against human rights abuses by the military regime with the help of solid editorials and columns. Those arguments in those editorials were one important factor in helping to expose the human rights abuses and empty promises of the military regimes.

In many respects, but in a different context, the simple-solution arguments used by anti-immigration populists and European white supremacists today are not very different from those employed by Argentina’s military régimes. The cast of the narrative is the same and includes a scapegoat, 1+1=2 arguments, and some false promise of salvation.

Migrant Tales is a blog community founded in 2007 that employs some of the same tactics that the Buenos Aires Herald used to expose the atrocities and challenge the cemetery silence so common during that era. We don’t have huge resources but we tell the story that’s not being told or faintly heard by the media and by politicians. This helps us stand out and makes all the difference.

In Finland, where I live, Migrant Tales has received national attention. One of our most recent stories last month exposed the abuses at an asylum reception center in the northern Finnish town of Kolari. What we wrote helped get the deputy manager fired after the national media picked up our stories.

We should not feel disappointed if  the mainstream media in Finland and Europe doesn’t notice us as much as we’d wish. Understanding why we’re not getting noticed is important in exposing the story behind the story.

It’s, therefore, important to find new ways to get our story, or narrative, out. We as activists and concerned culturally and ethnically diverse Europeans must find ever-more effective ways of getting our message across to the public.

If we succeed, I am confident that we can effectively challenge the rise of xenophobia and fascism in Europe.