In every democratic system, there are political actors the establishment despises. Justified or not, the establishment tends to present itself as the defender of particular values important to citizens and the political order, and to portray the unwanted actors as extremist, i.e., threats to these values and the political order. In addition, it may take action against these actors, justifying it as necessary to defend such values. There are various ways in which the establishment reacts to such extremists, of which this workshop discusses four. First, systematic boycotts. Historically, cordons sanitaires have been established in Western Europe around Socialists, Fascists, Communists, and right-wing radical parties. Second, the establishment of judicial measures meant to contain extremism. Communists and right-wing radicalists have faced prosecution and bans. Recent examples include efforts to prosecute Marine Le Pen, and to ban the German NPD. Third, civil society reactions. In Cold-War Western Europe, Communists were dismissed from their jobs, and faced social sanctions. Nowadays, the establishment often turns a blind eye to antifascist violence against right-wing radicals, and facilitates mass protest against them. Fourth, mainstream media responses. Western media demonized the far left in the 1950s. Recent reactions include Swedish newspapers’ systematically ignoring Sweden Democrats, and a Dutch daily’s campaign against the Socialist Party.
Although these reactions to extremism frequently occur, their origins are relatively unknown. Why do some actors face boycotts, trials, stigma, and media hostility while others do not? We also know little about consequences of these responses. How do they affect public opinion, or extremists’ success? Answering these questions, key to maintaining the quality of democracy, requires international cooperation and comparison. This workshop brings together scholars offering fresh approaches to this understudied topic. In engaging in comparative-empirical analysis, its participants will further our understanding of causes and effects of various responses to extremists.