Today, I aim to draw your attention to a growing, yet disquieting trend in our society: the banalization, or normalizing, of language once confined to the realm of far-right extremist groups. The term ‘extreme right language‘ might seem innocuous or purely linguistic at first glance, but its societal implications are profound. This shift carries heavy implications for our democratic values, and more importantly, for the rights of minority groups.
Banalization: What Does it Mean?
In the realm of language, ‘banalization’ signifies the process of making commonplace or normal that which was once taboo or extraordinary. The language of the extreme right, once met with derision or outright rejection, gradually integrates into mainstream discourse through this process, morphing into a dangerous vehicle for disseminating potentially harmful ideologies. This infiltration happens so subtly that it often evades our alarm bells.
The Historical Implications
History bears ample testimony to the damaging consequences of normalizing hate speech or discriminatory language. The rise of Fascism in Italy in the 1920s and 1930s serves as a potent example. Initially, Benito Mussolini and his National Fascist Party propagated discriminatory ideologies that were accepted only by a tiny segment of the population. However, through the persistent spread and subsequent banalization of this rhetoric, these dangerous ideas eventually ascended to become the governing ideology of the nation. The result? A totalitarian state that curtailed freedoms and persecuted minorities.
Unmasking the Danger: Why is Banalization Dangerous?
The banalization of extreme right language doesn’t just alter the political discourse. It reshapes societal norms in ways that often go unnoticed. Here are some reasons why this is a concern:
Extreme right groups cleverly use banalization to disseminate their ideologies without facing immediate resistance. By reshaping their rhetoric into something seemingly less threatening, they conceal their true intentions.
Normalization of Hatred
Banalization often leads to society growing indifferent towards discrimination and hatred, allowing extremist groups to further their agendas with ease.
Shifting the Overton Window
The ‘Overton window’ is a term representing the range of ideas considered acceptable in political discourse at a given time. By banalizing extreme ideas, extremist groups can shift this window in their favor, thus mainstreaming their ideologies.
Viewing Through the Lens of Antonio Gramsci
It would be remiss not to mention the insights of Antonio Gramsci, an influential Italian Marxist theorist, when discussing the intersection of language and society. Gramsci’s ideas about the role of language and culture offer a valuable framework for understanding the power of language in shaping society and enabling the banalization of extreme right rhetoric.
Gramsci viewed language as an instrument of hegemony—a tool by which a dominant group imposes its norms and values onto society, making them appear as ‘common sense’ or ‘natural’. Language, according to Gramsci, is not a neutral communication tool. Instead, it’s a dynamic social phenomenon that both reflects and influences power relations within a society.
The Reality of Banalization in Today’s Context
The banalization of extreme right language mirrors Gramsci’s concept of cultural hegemony. When extremist language normalizes, it is an attempt to attain cultural dominance. By presenting their ideologies in everyday, less threatening terms, these groups seek to make their worldview dominant.
The fact that language once exclusive to far-right groups now appears in everyday discourse is not merely a change in language usage. It is a signal of an underlying shift in society’s power structures. It is an indication that these groups are succeeding in embedding their ideologies into our collective consciousness, making them seem like ‘common sense’.
Thus, it becomes crucial to remain vigilant and critically examine how language is used in our society. Recognizing and countering the banalization of extreme right language is a significant step in thwarting these groups’ attempts to attain cultural hegemony. As Gramsci has taught us, language is a powerful tool. We must ensure that it does not become a vehicle to normalize hatred and discrimination.
In the struggle against the insidious creep of extreme right language into our daily lives, knowledge and awareness are our best allies. By recognizing the dangers of banalization, we can resist the normalization of harmful ideologies and protect the principles that underpin our diverse, democratic societies.