Nationalism & Beyond, Over-Protectionism on the Rise
Lebanese American University
Marwa Ben Khalifa
This work aims to analyze, evaluate and critique The Economist magazine’s cover entitled “The New Nationalism.” It studies the characters presented in the cover and their backgrounds. It also studies the colors, body positions as well as the elements used in the caricature. Furthermore, both the analysis and critique are based on articles and personal knowledge and interpretation. The piece also provides various perspectives to the matter based on the person’s ideology and beliefs and it suggests an alternative headline and image to the story.
“The media’s use of historical analogies, of metaphors and of imagery, can be an extension of their tendency toward sensationalism, but it can also be an attempt through vivid shorthand to replace complexity with a known quantity” States Moeller (1999, p. 1). In fact, The Economist’s cover is a concrete and clear reference to the historical painting of Eugène Delacroix’s « La liberté guidant le peuple” which symbolizes the popular win and victory of the people. Indeed, the cover presents the victory of the “New Nationalism” led by Trump, Putin, Marine le Pen, and Farage but also it conveys different messages.
The headline of the cover suggests that a new definition of nationalism be established; one that is related to the 21st century type of nationalism. To clarify, the cover displays the leaders of this new ideology celebrating and promoting their ideas, values, and beliefs. As an illustration, the characters presented in the caricature are recently-elected US President Donald Trump, Russian President Putin, Nigel Farage, former leader of the UKIP (UK Independence Party), and French presidential candidate Marine le Pen,. According to Oxford dictionary, Nationalism is “a set of beliefs and symbols expressing identification with a given national community” (2008) . However, the cover provides the reader with a different meaning of nationalism adopted by these four leaders, wich highly consists of closing borders, being over conservative, disputing globalization and over-protectionsim. The author chose to present the topic through a caricature that helped him discuss an important matter in a satirical way while conveying an important message. Moreover, the cover depicts an era when many countries from different continents are adopting a more conservative approach to their political system, represented in four of their rightist leaders shown in the cover, each celebrating his/her own new nationalism.
First of all, Trump seems to be the dominant character in the cover, as his position and the use of the US flag in the background symbolizes his power, domination, and authority. This can be represented through the recent policies made by his administration, such as banning citizens of seven countries from entering the US and the recent sanctions against Iran. Additionally, he is portrayed as playing the drum which is a symbol of loudness and clearness, which if persistant may lead to disconfort, irritation, and malaise. This disconfort can be seen within the people effected by Trump’s decisions. The choice of the boots and the casual clothes make him look like a typical American; therefore, Americans can relate to him as “one of them”. Trump’s new nationalism can be interpreted through the win of the Republicans over the Democrats and adopting conservatism as an ideology rather than liberalism. He is deluded that his ability to make “America Great Again “was actually applied since the first couple weeks of his governance through the various policies and decisions he implemented. Secondly, next to Trump is Vladimir Putin, who has been defending the Russian nation and identity from many external threats. Putin has always shown his will to make Russia a big and more powerful country economically, politically and militarily. For instance, Putin has been intervening in the Middle East crisis to prove to himself and the world that he is assertive with a big role to play in the region. His portrait, playing the flute, shows to a certain level the success of his new nationalism as well. Having Trump playing the drum and Putin the flute shows the difference between these two leaders. The drum is louder than the flute, which means that Trump as a president is stronger and has more influence internationally than Putin. Thirdly, Nigel Farage, former leader of the UKIP, is also presented in the same position as Trump, using a similar instrument. As a matter of fact, Farage heads the party that led the brexit campaign. As a result, the UK organized a referendum in which people have chosen to exit the EU, achieving Nigel Farage’s goal, which explains his contented state in the cover. Next to Putin is Marine le Pen, who belongs to the French National Front party and is currently running for the 2017 French presidential elections. Portraying her as waving the French flag can be materialized by her loyalty, patriotism, and her plan and will to make France a more developed country outside the the umbrella of the EU. As portrayed in the cover. Le Pen seems to be still behind the scene and running to reach a level of assertion as Trump and Putin did, which parallels her true state, a presidential candidate with no real power yet.
The cover assimilates the leaders and seems not to distinguish between them, whereas they’re not at all the same leaders. In fact, Le Pen and Farage were never elected presidents. The use of the US flag in the middle of the cover clearly creates an “American connection” (Moeller, 1999, pp. 4–5), which makes Americans fully relate to the story while neglecting the rest of the world. Additionally, conservatives would easily analyze the caricature in a positive way, as these leaders apply their ideology and values. Nevertheless, liberals will perceive the caricature as radical and scary, as it will change the world system, favoring conservatism and over-nationalism at the expense of liberalism. Such explanation can be seen in the caricature’s cracked floor and the grey clouds behind the four leaders. It can also interpret the future as a dark unsettling one, full of tragedies. An alternative headline for the same story would be “The Extreme Form of Nationalism”, which presents the negative connotation of this ideology. It provides the reader with a totally different understanding of nationalism: One that differs from the one depicted in the cover. Furthermore, as an alternative image, I think showing the consequences of these leaders’nationalism would explain its extreme form. For instance, the use of an image that characterizes higher walls, barrieres, and borders or a discriminative state would also show the pitfalls of the “New Nationalism.”
In a nutshell, The Economist’s cover portrays these conservative great leaders and how they percieve nationalism. However, the grey color used in the background and the cracked floor can present the cons of this ideology. Whereas in reality, their nationalism is percieved by many viewers as an unpleasant feeling. Nationalism should not be viewed the way The Economist projects it, but rather as a positive sense of belonging to a certain group of people while tolerating other’s differences.
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