Haider-hating an exercise in hypocrisy

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Let me see if I have this straight. Israel is demanding international
action against the Austrian government because its new governing
coalition includes the Freedom Party, which is led by a man who
has made “racist” statements. That’s the same Israel,
of course, that officially discriminates against Arabs and that
bulldozes the homes of Palestinians who refuse to live crammed into
apartheid-like settlements.

How’s that for bald-faced hypocrisy?

Likewise, European Union nations have been issuing threats and
devising sanctions against Austria for the same reason. Those are
the same EU nations that are filled with former communist party
members, who have leading Green movements that are epitomes of left-wing
intolerance and nuttiness, that have any number of politicians who,
in the observation of The New York Times, “have made
excuses for Stalin or other dictators.”

Not to be outdone, the Clinton administration-two words that have
become synonymous with hypocrisy-is joining in the fray, issuing
dire warnings about the rise of Austrian extremism. Yet, unlike
some other well-known country, the Austrians haven’t bombed anyone
in recent months, haven’t imposed a policy of child-killing sanctions
on any nation, haven’t deprived any foreigners of badly needed medicines
because their leader can’t tell a legitimate pharmaceutical plant
from a terrorist-run chemical weapons facility.

Whatever. Anti-Austria hysteria isn’t about a rational examination
of the political scene on distant shores. It is about, well, hysteria.
Apparently, leftists are so afraid of any dissent, and so unable
to offer rational arguments for their positions, that they must
depict any opponent as a Nazi.

Those of us who are libertarians or conservatives routinely are
called Nazis by liberals, even when the policies we promote (noninterventionism,
free markets, limited government) are the very opposites of the
programs the Nazis promoted. So I know from experience that the
ultra-far-right charges don’t always hold up under scrutiny.

Still, when I first heard the news reports about Joerg Haider’s
Freedom Party getting 27-percent of the vote in recent Austrian
elections, and about its inclusion last week in a center-right governing
coalition, I thought that, perhaps, someone like Russia’s notorious
anti-Semite Vladimir Zhirinovsky had gained power.

But I kept reading the news accounts about the neo-Nazi, Nazi-sympathizing,
far-right, ultra-far-right, ultra-super-duper-exceedingly-far-right
Freedom Party, but could not find any supporting information. Surely,
if Haider was such a Nazi-lover, then he would have on the record
at least as many inflammatory quotations as Jesse “Hymietown”
Jackson or Al “rip your lungs out” Gore.

The main charge against Haider is that he supported Hitler’s employment
policies. But how much checking would it have taken for the Associated
Press, the network news stations or any other media establishmentarians
to find out or report on the context of that support?

Thank goodness for the Internet. Here is an account by Justin Raimondo
from his recent column on the antiwar.com Web site:

“This is the old cut-and-paste school of character assassination,
in which single sentences are lifted out of context and presented
on their face; in Haider’s case, it is a single phrase, a fragment
of a sentence uttered in the heat of debate on the floor of the
Austrian Parliament. . [I]n answer to Haider’s proposal that welfare
recipients, both native and foreign born, be strongly encouraged
to find private sector jobs under threat of a cut-off in benefits,
the socialists replied that Haider’s proposal would be a return
to the policies of the Third Reich! Overcome by such hypocrisy,
the intemperate Haider replied that, unlike the Social Democrats,
the Nazis had actually increased employment …”

Kind of takes the wind out of the “Springtime for Haider in
Austria” hysteria, doesn’t it? On Sunday, The Washington
Post ran an extensive story titled “Haider Plays on Fears
of Foreigners.” Although it contains the typical far-right
this-and-that hyperbole, the story at least printed some of the
things this fiery racist actually said.

At the worst, Haider said “The Waffen SS was part of the Wehrmacht
[German military] and hence it deserves all the honor and respect
of the army in public life.” Sounds pretty bad, but, as
Toronto Sun columnist Eric Margolis pointed out this week, “Some
Waffen SS units committed atrocities. The majority of Waffen SS,
however, were courageous soldiers who fought ferociously in a bad
cause.” Which, he notes, isn’t that different from what Ronald
Reagan said during a controversial trip to a German cemetery.

The Post’s section of Haider quotations on Jews included nothing
even interesting let along incriminating. Just the typical statements
about the horror of the Holocaust, about the fact that “It
is known in my 20 years in politics, I never uttered a single anti-Semitic
remark.” And he bragged about his close relationship with Jewish
Austrians one of whom is his top adviser. Had Haider said anything
inflammatory about Jews, I’m sure it would have been splashed across
the headline. If that’s all the Post could dig up, then there’s
precious little linking the man to Nazism.

What’s going on here?

Haider is opposed to open borders, fearing that waves of low-paid
immigrant labor from Eastern Europe will flood into the country,
driving down wages and harming the Austrian way of life. I don’t
share his immigration views, but since when is it a sign of Nazism
to oppose open borders?

Furthermore, the Freedom Party champions the privatization of industry,
tax cuts, rooting out corruption as well as some questionable policies
for increasing welfare for families. But, by and large, his program
is pretty mainstream stuff. You may not agree with that brand of
conservatism, but it has nothing to do with Nazism or fascism. To
suggest otherwise is slanderous, illogical and Nazi-like in its
totalitarian desire to paint opponents as pure evil, worthy of any

But the Post article touched on the real reason the establishment
is so alarmed: “[W]hat scares many EU governments is that his
views may send a negative signal to prospective members and nurture
doubts among their own populations about the wisdom of its eastward
expansion. The EU is holding, or about to open, talks on prospective
membership with 12 candidate countries, including four of Austria’s
neighbors Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.”

In other words, the Euro-socialists and other Third Way governments
fear that their uniform plans for the world are imperiled if anyone
resists. And they are dangerously expanding an economic union into
a political one-which is what the “extremists” always
said would happen. So the real fear isn’t anything Austria might
do to its minorities or its neighbors, but that Austria will complicate
European unification — which is a big part of the global progressive

If that’s the case, then go get ‘em Joerg Haider and let’s hope
that other pockets of resistance emerge elsewhere.

10, 2000

Greenhut is an editorial writer at the Orange County Register
in Santa Ana, Calif.

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