Julia Cagé, Anna Dagorret, Pauline Grosjean, Saumitra Jha, 17 January 2021

The events at the US Capitol earlier this month echo important moments in history where rioters protesting the state include former veterans and political heroes. This column uses novel evidence on extreme right-wing supporters and Nazi collaborators in France to show how democratic values can be undermined by exogenous networks of influential individuals, including military heroes. Heroes are specially positioned to widen the ‘Overton window’ and legitimise views previously considered deeply repugnant. Social networks of individuals sharing such an identity can transmit and reinforce this influence, leading to escalating commitments that entrench political positions and make debiasing more difficult.

Daron Acemoğlu, Giuseppe De Feo, Giacomo De Luca, Gianluca Russo, 28 October 2020

Right-wing populist movements often come to power by exploiting people’s anxieties and fears. Following WWI, fascists in Italy likely exploited the perceived threat of socialism to gain support among the elite and the middle classes. This column explores the link between the threat of socialism and Mussolini’s rise to power and finds a strong association between the Red Scare in Italy and the subsequent local support for the Fascist Party in the early 1920s. Local elites, especially large landowners, played an important role in boosting Fascist Party activity and support.

Alan de Bromhead, Barry Eichengreen, Kevin O'Rourke, 27 February 2012

The enduring global crisis is giving rise to fears that economic hard times will feed political extremism, as it did in the 1930s. This column suggests that the danger of political polarisation and extremism is greatest in countries with relatively recent histories of democracy, with existing right-wing extremist parties, and with electoral systems that create low hurdles to parliamentary representation of new parties. But above all, it is greatest where depressed economic conditions are allowed to persist.

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