This week I went on Australian-based antifascist podcast Yeah Nah Pasaran! It was a lively and wide-ranging discussion, touching on my research on Cultural Marxism as an antisemitic conspiracy theory; the influence of the apocalyptic thinking of Julius Evola on both Steve Bannon and neo-Nazi accelerationist groups; the role of Erich Fromm’s Critical Theory in helping us understand fascism and how to fight it; and ideological and ethical problems in the deradicalization/”Countering Violent Extremism” field.
You can listen to the episode here: https://www.3cr.org.au/yeahnahpasaran/episode-202009171630/dr-joan-braune-cultural-marxism-bannon-compassion.
I also presented a couple of weeks ago at workshop in the series on Research Ethics and the Far-Right. My presentation was not recorded but focused on my research on the problem of former neo-Nazis’ “compassion narratives,” a topic I also explain and address in the podcast episode. It was great to reflect with other researchers over the course of several weeks on the ethical dilemmas involved in research on the far-right.
A recurring theme of the research ethics discussions was the question of empathy: namely, is it possible to empathize with far-right research subjects without giving credence to their views, or distorting our understanding of the harm they cause? Ultimately, I think it depends on what one means by “empathy.” An intellectual curiosity and even human concern about people’s motives and experiences can still be undertaken from a position of primary solidarity with fascism’s targets and victims, but if empathy means presuming that fascists have “legitimate grievances” and are misunderstood, then one is beginning to abandon the ethical commitments needed in this work.