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Open Access Publications from the University of California

CRWS Working Papers

Founded in 2009 at UC Berkeley’s Institute for the Study of Societal Issues, the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies is a research center dedicated to the study of right-wing movements in the 20th and 21st centuries. The Center promotes research, offers mini-grants, fellowships, and training opportunities to Berkeley students, publishes findings, and brings together leading scholars through conferences, colloquia, and other public events in order to engage in a comparative and interdisciplinary dialogue on right-wing ideology, politics, and organizational forms and their likely directions in the 21st century.

Cover page of Saving Heroism in the Online Sphere: The Heroic in Far-Right Internet Memes

Saving Heroism in the Online Sphere: The Heroic in Far-Right Internet Memes

(2021)

While the far right is usually associated with an actively practiced hero worship, the relationship of new right-wing movements to the heroic remains undertheorized. This paper seeks to fill this void arguing that far-right online internet meme culture is marked by an ambivalent relationship to heroism, which stands in contrast to the serious, unambiguous take on heroism in “traditional” Nazi and neo-Nazi propaganda: In the context of the Great Meme War, a (partly) self-ironic approach to the desire for heroism can be observed, which, as I argue, serves to immunise the heroic in view of its feared loss/absence in the online sphere.

Cover page of TUMOR: The (Dis)organization of the Right-Wing Opposition against Mexico’s ‘Fourth Transformation’

TUMOR: The (Dis)organization of the Right-Wing Opposition against Mexico’s ‘Fourth Transformation’

(2021)

Mexico’s current government, led by president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (December 2018-November 2024), launched a program of major overhaul of the country’s governance named “The Fourth Transformation (4T)”. While the reform agenda is largely supported by the masses, these measures have met a strong, multifaceted and relentless reaction from the social and political interests being affected, couched in a right-wing discourse. This opposition, carried out either by individual actors or by coalitions of organized interests, has been sarcastically dubbed TUMOR (“Todos unidos contra Morena”, All United against Morena, the party in power) by 4T supporters.

 

This article aims at mapping and analyzing the right-wing movement of resistance to the 4T, identifying its main individual and collective actors, their strategies and their international allies. It tests the hypothesis suggested in Kevin Middlebrook’s theory about conservatism and the right in Latin America: when economically and socially privileged actors feel deprived of political power to protect their interests, they resort to whatever means and strategy is at their disposal to regain the lost influence. If no political party offers them a reasonable expectation of representing them, winning elections and protecting their unquestioned influence, they will not hesitate to sabotage democracy and disrupt the legal order.

 

Empirical information—under the form of a mostly qualitative narrative detailed in Annex (Appendix) 1—to test the hypothesis was obtained with a systematic follow up of events spanning from the inauguration of Mexico’s current government on December 1, 2018 to June 6 2021 midterm elections; as reported in mainstream media, the president’s office and internet-based information sources. Annex (Appendix) 2 offers a profile of the main actors in the opposition movement.

Cover page of Culture and Belonging in the USA: Multiracial Organizing on the Contemporary Far Right

Culture and Belonging in the USA: Multiracial Organizing on the Contemporary Far Right

(2019)

In a moment of rising nationalism, examining the particular glue that mobilizes people becomes important. In the US, many have rightfully pointed out that White nationalism is on the rise, a movement that seeks to create an all-White nation-state. But, not all far-right organizations in the U.S. are ideologically White nationalist or overtly racist. The Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys, two far-right organizations which have gained prominence in the post “Unite the Right Rally” period, boast multiracial membership and often repurpose antiracist language against their opponents. Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys lead demonstrations against the Left, Antifa, “social justice” advocates and the #Metoo movement, and have gained a following particularly in the Pacific Northwest and California. Through examining the history of far-right multiracial organizing, particularly in the 1990s anti-government militia movements, this paper seeks to contextualize this contemporary trend within a historical context, exploring its specific attributes, and why it is happening today.

Cover page of Digital Fascism: Challenges for the Open Society in Times of Social Media

Digital Fascism: Challenges for the Open Society in Times of Social Media

(2019)

This paper takes up the assumption that social media offers a beneficial terrain for the far right to undermine open societies. Identifying perceptions of imperilment as the central impetus for the far right to justify illiberal politics, it analyzes how such perceptions are boosted under the digital condition. This contextualization is essential for our understanding of digital fascism: a highly fluid and ambivalent variant of fascism that lacks a clear organizational center as the digitally networked masses are the engine of their own manipulation. To substantiate this concept, we relate structures of social media to far-right agency in social media. Concretely, we show how the techniques of dramatic storytelling, gaslighting and metric manipulation correspond with the functioning of social media that catalyzes the amplification of fears, the diffusion of post-truth and the logic of numbers. Based on this, we argue that a new perspective on fascism is needed, since digital fascism draws its dynamics mainly from digital (hate) cultures and less from formal and regimented party structures. In consequence, it has to be analyzed and countered as a social phenomenon that emerges both organically and strategically in the ecosystems of social media. This presents open societies with a dilemma: The dynamics of digital fascism develop out of structures that warrant freedom of expression – and to break these dynamics, restrictions that harm its liberal principles appear necessary.

Cover page of My Girlfriend Became Neo-Nazi: The Right's Presence and Activity in the Internet

My Girlfriend Became Neo-Nazi: The Right's Presence and Activity in the Internet

(2019)

This paper discusses the role that the right’s presence on the internet has played in this ideology’s rise to popularity and its successful attempts at winning elections. It highlights the main messages that specialized websites and the public chat groups available over Twitter, Facebook and Instagram spread around selected issues, such as climate change, immigration, gay rights, and race in Canada; in an attempt to determine the direction that they want to give to public debate on those matters. 

 

Based on the case study of the spring 2019 provincial elections in Alberta, Canada, I test the hypothesis that the frequency and radical features of messaging distributed by right-wing websites and chat groups in social media increase around election times, as an expression of a sustained and successful effort at influencing the vote along their ideological direction.

Cover page of The Right Wing in the Brazilian 2013 Cycle of Protests

The Right Wing in the Brazilian 2013 Cycle of Protests

(2019)

This article aims to investigate the narratives of the right-wing protestors that were present in June 2013 cycle of protest about their participation in it and some of the following interpretations and actions they had after that, especially regarding the pro-impeachment cycle, which started on the end of 2014. The aim is to have a closer look at the right-wing protestors in the 2013 cycle of protests to understand who they were, what were their practices and what principles guided them during that time. The, the paper is divided on three sections, besides its introduction and conclusion, as listed: (i) the presentation of June 2013 protests and its relations to contemporary forms of collective action; (ii) the analysis of the interviews made with 16 right-wing demonstrators in Belo Horizonte, systematizing their narratives in the concepts of actors, practices and grammars; (iii) the interviewees understandings of these protests in their lives and the impacts related to the pro-impeachment cycle. In the first, June 2013 is presented as a diverse and diffuse political event, in which could be found a political ambivalence between left and right-wins. In the second section, the paper found that the protestors went alone and without a political organization guidance to the demonstrations – the right-wing actors were individuals. As for the practices, two were considered as more distinctive of the right-wing: the critique of violence and the use of national colors. And for the grammars, it was found that they were guided by a nationalistic view related mostly to the people’s sovereignty against corruption and political elites. In the third section, it was possible to notice that the interviewees that acted on the pro-impeachment demonstrations, gave more importance to this second cycle than to the first one. However, those who disagreed with the president’s impeachment felt uncomfortable and “without a place” in such political developments. In conclusion, this paper finds that the June protests were important for the right-wing, but both the demonstrations and the right-wing were too dispersed then. It was the following events that made possible the actors’ continuous articulation and formation of collective actions and identities to gain space and strength to impeach the former president, and now, elect a right-wing-authoritarian president.

Cover page of Convening Remarks presented by Lawrence Rosenthal at the Inaugural Conference on Right-Wing Studies, UC Berkeley: The Nationalist Internation

Convening Remarks presented by Lawrence Rosenthal at the Inaugural Conference on Right-Wing Studies, UC Berkeley: The Nationalist Internation

(2019)

Dr. Lawrence Rosenthal, Founder and Chair of the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies, offered convening remarks at the opening of the Inaugural Conference on Right-Wing Studies, April 25-27, 2019, University of Cailfornia, Berkeley. In his remarks, Rosenthal proposes the concept of the Nationalist International to explain the shared identity of right-wing actors today.

Cover page of Treason, Treachery and Pro-Nazi Activities by the British Ruling Classes During World War Two

Treason, Treachery and Pro-Nazi Activities by the British Ruling Classes During World War Two

(2019)

How deeply did sympathy for German fascism run in the British establishment in World War Two; and to what extent were pro-Hitler members of the British political and military ruling classes willing to betray their country to the Nazi regime and its Axis allies ? Drawing on primary source material contained in previously-classified MI5 and Government files, this paper adduces evidence that,  contrary to the conventional history of a country united in opposition to Hitler, right-wing British MPs, Peers and senior figures in the military clandestinely worked – individually and collectively – to hasten a German victory, and to supplant the elected British Government with a pro-Nazi puppet regime. The activities of this ‘Fifth Column’ included espionage, sabotage, unlawful private attempts to broker peace deals between Germany and Britain, sending military and political intelligence to Berlin, and plans to launch armed fascist coups d’état on London’s streets.

 

The Security Service files containing this evidence were withheld from public scrutiny for more than half a century; they were gradually released to the UK National Archives between 2000 and 2017. Together with de-classified files from other departments, they also reveal the eagerness of successive British Governments to protect the leading political, military and society figures who betrayed their country. But beyond these are other files – identified in the declassified MI5 dossiers – which have not been released to the National Archives.  They relate to yet more aristocrats, MPs and military officers who worked on behalf of Germany during the war. 

 

This paper questions whether their suppression indicates a continuing determination to conceal the scale of pro-Nazi fascist sympathisers in positions of power during World War Two.

Cover page of Remarks presented by Joseph Lowndes on the Opening Keynote Panel of the Inaugural Conference on Right-Wing Studies, UC Berkeley

Remarks presented by Joseph Lowndes on the Opening Keynote Panel of the Inaugural Conference on Right-Wing Studies, UC Berkeley

(2019)

Joseph Lowndes, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Oregon, presented remarks as part of the opening keynote panel ("Perspectives on the Far-Right Insurgency: Latin America, Europe and the U.S.") of the Inaugural Conference on Right-Wing Studies, April 25-27, 2019.  In his remarks, Lowndes places the current situation in the U.S. in the context of the history of U.S. right-wing extremism, suggesting both the continuity and the novelty of where we are today.