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UN Human Rights Chief Urges Action Against Western 'Demagogues'

Comparing the likes of Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, and Geert Wilders to ISIS, UN's Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein implores: "Speak out and up...Draw the line!"

"The formula is...simple: make people, already nervous, feel terrible, and then emphasize it's all because of a group, lying within, foreign and menacing," said Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein. (Photo: UN Geneva/flickr/cc)

United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein condemned Western "demagogues" like Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, and Geert Wilders and urged people to "draw the line" against their far-right rhetoric before it leads to "colossal violence."

Zeid spoke at the Hague in the Netherlands on Monday, about a week after Wilders, founder of the increasingly popular Dutch right-wing Party for Freedom, released an 11-point plan to ban the Koran, close Muslim schools and mosques, and shutter asylum centers around the country. And while polls show Wilders is poised to do well in the Netherlands' elections in March, Zeid said, his incendiary tactics are similar to those used by the Islamic State (ISIS or Daesh).

"All seek in varying degrees to recover a past, halcyon and so pure in form, where sunlit fields are settled by peoples united by ethnicity or religion—living peacefully in isolation, pilots of their fate, free of crime, foreign influence, and war," Zeid said. "A past that most certainly, in reality, did not exist anywhere, ever."

"The formula is therefore simple: make people, already nervous, feel terrible, and then emphasize it's all because of a group, lying within, foreign and menacing," he said.

"History has perhaps taught Mr. Wilders and his ilk how effectively xenophobia and bigotry can be weaponized."
—Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein

"Then make your target audience feel good by offering up what is a fantasy to them, but a horrendous injustice to others. Inflame and quench, repeat many times over, until anxiety has been hardened into hatred."


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In addition to Wilders, Trump, and Farage, Zeid criticized Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Czech Republic President Miloš Zeman, Wilders' Party for Freedom colleague Norbert Hofer, Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, and conservative French politician Marine Le Pen.

Zeid described ISIS as "monstrous and sickening," and clarified that he was not comparing the actions of the far-right leaders to the militant group, but added, "in its mode of communication, its use of half-truths and oversimplification, the propaganda of Daesh uses tactics similar to those of the populists."

Promises to return to that non-existent utopian past "is fiction; its merchants are cheats," he said. "Clever cheats."

He concluded his speech with a call to action, stating, "History has perhaps taught Mr. Wilders and his ilk how effectively xenophobia and bigotry can be weaponized. Communities will barricade themselves into fearful, hostile camps, with populists like them, and the extremists, as the commandants. The atmosphere will become thick with hate; at this point it can descend rapidly into colossal violence. We must pull back from this trajectory."

"We must guard [human rights] law passionately, and be guided by it," he said. "Speak out and up, speak the truth and do so compassionately, speak for your children, for those you care about, for the rights of all, and be sure to say clearly: stop! We will not be bullied by you the bully, nor fooled by you the deceiver, not again, no more; because we, not you, will steer our collective fate. And we, not you, will write and sculpt this coming century. Draw the line!"

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