Sylvia Poggioli's Response:
You write that the term "ultra-right" "raises images of the Nazis" and "conjures up images of extermination camps." Odious as they are, I really don't think that a Le Pen in France or a Geert Wilders in The Netherlands have yet proposed death camps for immigrants. And yet, they are broadly referred to as ultra-right, far-right or extreme right.
You write that a preliminary review of how other media in the US and abroad described the Norwegian Progress Party did not turn up any use of the expression "ultra right-wing." I enclose below just a few links that use the equivalent expression "far-right" in describing the party – including a recent item from the Associated Press.
(I personally use the "ultra" form because I believe it has a clearer sound on the radio.)
In your column, you raise a question that you do not answer: "Should a U.S. scale be used to describe European parties for American listeners?"
This is a key point. NPR is an American network, but since it has gone digital and is widely present on the Web, I believe that it is also a global network with a growing international audience – and the evidence can be easily found in the comments section.
I think we would be failing in our task as journalists if we were to limit ourselves to the prism of American politics in covering international events.
As I think you'll see from the articles below, the ultra-right, far-right or extreme right is very much alive and well and its influence is growing in mainstream European politics.
I suggest you read an article that appeared yesterday in the NYT, in which the expressions far-right and extreme right are repeatedly used to describe a growing phenomenon in Germany and the rest of Europe.
Finally, you suggest we should eliminate the right/left label completely.
If I were to apply that rule in my coverage of Europe it would be impossible to analyze contemporary politics as well as the continent's tormented legacy of the last 150 years.
After all, isn't Europe the cradle of Anarchism, Communism, Fascism and Nazism?
Contrary to the U.S., a society that constantly projects itself into the future, Europe is a continent that is still looking back over its shoulder, haunted by its dark past.
(In covering the decade-long disintegration of Yugoslavia, I was able to see how the wars were in many ways inspired by events of the past.)
In your column you write about "tendentious labeling." The title of your column starts with the words "Ultra-Wrong." Isn't that somewhat tendentious?
Norway Far-right Sets New Course BBC, October 16, 2001
Norway's Dark Secret The Guardian, November 1, 2002
Far-Right Progress Party Stronger in Norway Angus Reid Global Monitor, March 6, 2009
Norway: Special Police Unit To Probe Massacre Case Associated Press, August 3, 2011
Europe's Far Right The Guardian, 2011
Norway attacks: We Can No Longer Ignore the Far-Right Threat The Guardian, July 24, 2011
Norway Attacks: Anders Behring Breivik Was Active Member of Far-Right Party The Telegraph, July 23, 2011
Gunman Alienated by Party's Softened Rhetoric The Irish Times, July 25, 2011
Norway Attacks: How a Once Moderate Region Became a Haven for the Far Right Time Magazine, July 25, 2011