Interview #16 with Levi Littvay: Conspiracies, Fake News and Populism

In this interview POP investigates the connection between populism and conspiracy theories. It was written during the first weeks of the conflict in Budapest between academic freedom, liberalism, and democracy on the one hand, and repression, authoritarianism, and (veiled ?) Antisemitism on the other hand. The Central European University had to start a fight for its own survival as well as for the principle of academic freedom, while the European institutions and the other member countries mainly observed, powerless. This interview is about populism and conspiracy theories, and it can be read also in the light of the shameful events that are affecting the Central European University, where Levente Littvay is Associate Professor of Political Science.

Maybe, after having read the interview it will be clearer how a populist leader can motivate his decision to close down an independent University.

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Ghosts from the past

CharlesCouglinFather Coughlin knew how to use the radio and he used it to deliver his messages to millions of people. First he supported Roosevelt and the New Deal, but later criticized him because of his relationships with the bankers. I would be curious to interview Charles Edward Coughlin now, in 2015, and to listen from his energetic, mesmerizing voice, what he thinks about the situation in Europe. Another cycle of economic recession, another time of social unrest. An age of barriers, drifting boats, night marches, proclamations.

Father Coughlin was particularly harsh with Jewish bankers, accused of being behind the Russian Revolution, and ended up backing Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini concerning social and political measures against both capitalism and Communism.

At the Congress, he once said, it is time to endorse a candidate ‘who can rise above his party and puts patriotism first. He may be a Democrat or a Republican or whatnot, but we’re through with the sham battle of politicians and now we’re on our own’.Kill the lie

In 2015, in Europe, it is time for important decisions, and the soul of Coughlin’s speeches resonates with our time, ominously, through new politicians. About democracy, and the way it was not able to prevent the great Depression, he said: ‘somebody must be blamed, of course. But those in power always forget to blame themselves. (…) And democracy once more, thinking that it has power within its soul, shall rise up to clap and applaud, because the youth of the land is going abroad to make the world safe for what? Safe for dictatorship? Safe against communism abroad when we have communism at home? Safe from socialism in France when we have socialism in America? Or safe, safe for the international bankers?

I wanted to talk about the last elections in Poland and in Spain, about PEGIDA in Germany and Salvini in Italy, but there will be time for that. Now, I just wanted to hear father Coughlin’s words again, because those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.