What is the meaning of "sanitised extremes" in the following context?

Disappointed voters are abandoning the centre-right and centre-left for newly sanitised extremes. Outside the slowed and aging West, illiberal politics appeal to rapidly growing revisionary powers: China, for example, and to some degree, India, Turkey and Iran.

  • This is why people should use straightforward language and quit the bush-beating. Ever read what Humpty Dumpty tried to do with words?
    – user21820
    Dec 7 '17 at 11:39
  • 'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"' 'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected. 'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.' 'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.' 'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.' ...
    – user21820
    Dec 7 '17 at 11:41

The usual meaning of sanitised is "cleaned" or "made hygienic". The meaning in this example is metaphorical.

Extreme political parties have been associated with violent and unpleasant men. They are metaphorically "unclean" as nice people don't want to to be near them. But there are new leaders of the extreme right wing (Marie Le-Pen in France, Richard Spencer in the USA, for example) Who dress smartly, speak nicely. They are "sanitised". They present themselves as "clean".


Extreme views are often seen as "unclean". So they are sanitised to disinfect them, in an attempt to make them widely acceptable.

  • It seems we got opposite readings out of this, so more context may be required. But the "abandoning" center politics part of the sentence leads me to believe that they aren't trying to be more acceptable, they are trying to be more purist. Dec 6 '17 at 21:58
  • I almost commented the very same - opposite. I thought your answer was a sarcasm, that moderate people are considered unclean by the extremists, who want to appear to be sane. Dec 6 '17 at 22:00
  • I read it exactly like Weather Vane:
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 6 '17 at 22:06
  • @WeatherVane, well, I was being sarcastic about the attitude, but I really do think extremists see moderates as unclean. So it could go either way. Dec 6 '17 at 22:10

It means they've cleaned out all those dirty moderates whose views aren't pure enough.

  • Our answers have polar political views, but are similar in the use of sanitised. Dec 6 '17 at 22:03
  • True, either way, they're cleaning something. :) Dec 6 '17 at 22:06

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