Today’s Switzerland shows ever more disquieting parallels with the Germany of eight decades ago. Not only does the SVP (Swiss People’s Party), the rightmost major party, commandeer about the same percentage of voters than the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers’ Party) did in Germany on the eve of Hitler’s chancellery, their very language and imagery is eerily similar.
In fact, the only major artistic difference (full color realism vs few colors) on the following propaganda samples is mostly due to the current mainstream of visualization, whereas the basic element (spreading fear by invoking the bogeyman) is the exact same.
The bogeyman of Germany’s NSDAP was the Jew, depicted as a hook-nosed bankier, blamed for everything bad happening to Germany by manipulating Germany’s enemies. Central to these posters is the easily recognizable figure, dressed in black to evoke feelings of darkness, death and fear. In the first image, it is half-hidden behind the flags of the nations threatening Germany (never mind the fact that Great Britain actually put Jewish refugees from Germany behind barbed wire for the duration of the war and stopped refugee ships before they reached the shores of Palestine, whereas the US had strict immigrant quotas, refusing all Jewish refugees above those limits).
The bogeyman of Switzerland’s SVP is the muslim, blamed for just about everything from destroying our culture to destroying our lives (despite the fact that there has never been an islamic terrorist act on Swiss soil, whereas Swiss weapons sold to questionable buyers regularly surface in killings of muslim civilians all around the globe). Central to these posters is the easily recognizable figure, dressed in black to evoke feelings of darkness, death and fear. In the first image, it is complemented by “minarets” that look more like ICBMs with nuclear warheads, casting shadows over the Swiss flag.
Just like being a bankier isn’t part of Judaism, so is repressing women by making them wear a full body veil isn’t part of Islam – it’s a perverted, misogynistic tradition hiding behind willfully misinterpreted scripture – much like the classic Christian patriarchal worldview in Switzerland (and Germany), where “Kinder Küche Kirche” (children, kitchen, church) are the only things a woman should be concerned with. But because the getup of an actual terrorist isn’t as scary an image as that of a hidden person, they picked a blatantly wrong and misleading image that in the process not only hurts muslims who as a religious community are at least as peaceful as Christians (especially concerning Europe, where in the last half century Catholic organizations like the IRA and ETA were responsible for the majority of terrorist attacks), but also women, especially repressed and mistreated women towards whom every decent person should only feel empathy and concern, not fear and hatred. But then again, the role model of today’s Nazi propagandists are yesterday’s Nazi propagandists and Hitler’s regime was famous for regarding women as nothing more than “birthing machines” to produce more soldiers for the cause.
While the situation here in today’s Switzerland is not (yet) as dire as in Hitler’s Germany, it’s not for want of trying by the right wing of the SVP. They intentionally whip up emotions and muddy waters around the elections, to cause the very disillusionment with politicians, government and public institutions that led to people voting against their own interests in the US and the UK in 2016. The original issues in question were completely blown out of proportion (see appendix), up to the point where a level-headed and factual discussion about the issues up for popular vote wasn’t possible any more.
Appendix: what the Swiss popular votes were about
In 2009, the referendum up for vote was whether there should be a federal ban on building minarets, which was a completely pointless waste of money to vote about, given the very high level of local autonomy in Switzerland. Even without such a law, in the case of someone wanting to build a minaret every citizen living in that municipality has a vote whether the minaret would be allowed to be built in their town. Thus, the only purpose of the federal law was that the xenophobic majority in the German-speaking cantons could block the communities of the more open-minded French-speaking cantons from even thinking about building one. Thus, it’s damaging for democracy, widens the rift between the German- and French-speaking parts of the country, threatening the stability of Switzerland and as a byproduct does away with one of the most important achievements in Swiss history: religious tolerance.
In 2017, the referendum up for vote is whether to allow third-generation “immigrants” (as in people came here 50+ years ago, they had children here, those children grew up and now the grandchildren who never knew another country are still not citizens) to have an easier naturalization process. Not an automatic citizenship, just a shorter process than the regular 6-12+ years it takes today. Even in Trump’s extremely xenophobic America, people would just laugh at the question, saying that the second generation, having born on American soil, are automatically US citizens, so what the hell else are their children, the third generation, supposed to be, if not Americans?