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From the country that elected a former Nazi as president comes another outrage:

In an extraordinary on-air outburst, Klaus Emmerich, the veteran
Austrian television pundit, declared: “I would not want the western
world to be directed by a black man.” When invited to retract, Mr
Emmerich stood by what he had said, adding that “blacks aren’t as
politically civilised” and pouring fuel on to the fire by hinting that
Mr Obama’s “rhetorical brilliance” and ability in organising a movement
made him comparable to infamous demagogues from the past. America’s
choice, Mr Emmerich concluded, was as misplaced as a Turk becoming the
next chancellor of Austria…

A comment such as Mr Emmerich’s would be political suicide in the
US; in Austria it earned little more than a slap on the wrist. How is
it that while both places have their fair share of racism, one finds
such contrasting public and political responses?

One difference
is that in Europe today truly to belong still means being white. “Do
you feel yourself to be British?” BBC journalist Jeremy Paxman asked a
young black London rapper after Mr Obama’s victory. Europeans find it
hard adjusting to a colour-blind world. Indeed their hesitancy is
growing. In Austria, the extreme right carved out big gains
in September’s general elections. Pope Benedict weighed in over the
summer to warn against a possible resurgence of fascist values in
Italy. Europe as a whole, according to recent polls, has become
significantly more xenophobic over the past few years. Fears of Islamic
terrorism and anxiety about globalisation have fed this trend. So has
fervent anti-European Union sentiment, strongly correlated to populist
anti-immigrant rhetoric. By contrast, Mr Obama’s story is that of the
immigrant dream, a tale of upwardly-mobile success that cut decisively
across race lines. Immigrant voters played a decisive electoral role in
Mr Obama’s win, yet immigration – for all the prior public debate –
figured little as a campaign issue.

Read the full article by Mark Mazower in the FT.

Posted 18 Nov 2008 in Blog

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