It’s propaganda, sell it to the innocent!

And no I’m not talking about Donald J and his address to boy scouts with jibes at his predecessor Obama or the media. I’m talking about Michael Moore and yet another, in a long line of ludicrous political posts.  Let me begin by saying that I don’t agree with political leaders using youth rallies to score cheap political points. We want the youth of tomorrow to think for themselves and not swear loyalty to one man as leader, as Trump possibly alluded to. However, I think the media are doing enough of a job of tackling why this is an issue, from what I have seen so far, and so I don’t think me piling on the opprobrium is necessary, I thought I’d turn my attention to a response from a public figure that borders on the hysteric.

Michael Moore has done everything he can to paint Trump as the direct descendant of Adolf Hitler. Why this gains any traction, I’ll spend a bit of time on. Hitler is the ultimate evil in the eyes of modern Westerners. His expansionist vision for Germany engulfed the world in a second war that took the lives of somewhere between 50 and 85 million people. Let that sink in, that’s essentially the population of the entirety of Britain wiped off the face of the earth. He also conducted the genocide that killed millions of Jews. His leadership of Germany brought Europe to its knees, only to be resuscitated in the aftermath through American loans. The nations of Europe may have recovered on the surface, but the impact on their societies has had reverberations that affect us today. Just to the give two examples. Firstly, the loss of millions of people who could have gone on to benefit society in any number of ways. Secondly the evaporation of generations of men leaving the workforce of Europe depleted and necessitating policies of immigration that have irreversibly changed the fabric of our societies, not necessarily negatively, but altered dramatically nonetheless.

Hitler has become the real-life version of the bogeyman. Because of the devastation he wrought it is easy to understand why people are afraid of anything similar re-occurring. As a consequence, the far right has effectively been a political non-entity over the last seventy years in terms of its cultural impact on society. To be openly far right is to be a social pariah of the worst order. The result has cast a shadow over the entirety of the right as an offshoot, not just its most radical elements. Racism is directly linked to the Nazi regime and to Hitler himself, therefore racism is as Hitler is, evil. The political left knows this and elements within it use it mercilessly and immorally to portray influential figures amongst the political right as racists in order to de-legitimise their arguments and effectively silence them, when they know full well that they aren’t racists. This is part of the reason why we can’t have an honest discussion on immigration and why so many on the political right feel as though they cannot speak openly in a democratic society about their beliefs, however sensible, for fear of being labelled a bigot and put in league with the bogeyman. It is essentially the social tyranny that John Stuart Mill rallied against in his work On Liberty.

The result is that the political left, although it may lose at the ballot box more often than not, has gained a disproportionate control over the educational and cultural environment in the West. The Overton window of public political discourse has been dragged leftwards, which perhaps sheds a tiny inch of light on why the more radical elements of the far left, who are as equally nefarious as the far right, have managed to impact the mainstream and its culture more effectively in the post war world.

And so, this brings us to Michael Moore, a man who is doing everything he can to whip up his 2 million Facebook followers into an anti-Trump frenzy, by finding anything he can, however loosely it fits, to frame an orange tanned, reality TV star business mogul as the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. Never mind that Trump isn’t threatening to invade other countries in his vision to grab living space for the pure white American people, never mind that he doesn’t pathologically hate the Jews, homosexuals or the disabled. Never mind that he lives within a political system that has probably the best democratic safeguards in the world, in the form of the division of power between Congress, the Presidency and the Judiciary. Never mind that, that system doesn’t have the direct equivalent of article 48 that existed in the German constitution, giving the chancellor emergency powers to curb habeas corpus, free expression of opinion, freedom of the press, rights of assembly, and the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications. The article that ultimately allowed Hitler the opportunity to seize power and instil a dictatorship over Germany 30 days after coming to power.

What matters to Moore is not anything more than superficial comparisons that he can manipulate. Purely because he knows that it drives fear and that fear is what keeps him relevant. One could argue that his career has been earmarked by sensationalist, fear driving claims to whip his supporters up into a frenzy and sell his books and DVDs. This is the art of the public figure. This is why I have written this piece. Consider for a moment the impact that you could have, by claiming that the acting President is the next Hitler, given what Hitler is to the West. All it takes is for one crazed individual to get wrapped up in the conspiracy to try and take matters into his own hands and make an attempt on Trump’s life. People like Moore harp on about the consequences of speech and the responsibility that comes with it. Where is his responsibility, as a public figure with a wide reach, not to fear monger a mob into pitchfork like proportions? And when you think about that you have to ask yourself, is someone who is willing to so lightly invoke a Hitler comparison fit to talk about the character flaws and morals of the sitting President?

 

 

Reflections on history and liberal democracy

History in my experience has been a catalogue of all of the worst things that people have ever done to each other. It has been a lifelong study into the dark side of human nature. I have seen what happens when a group of soldiers without effective leadership and discipline, thrown into a war in which their friends are blown to shreds by concealed booby-trapped bombs, can do to a village of women and children when order and control breaks down. I have seen leaders with total disregard for human life sign pieces of paper, often without a care in the world, that consign thousands of living, breathing human beings to death. And yet, as a species we carry on. We have managed to build the most open and prosperous nations ever to have existed, our technology progresses like an unstoppable cyclone and despite the mighty threats of the 20th century, namely Nazism/Marxism-Leninism, relatively free and open society survives.

The kind of tyranny we saw a glimpse of in those regimes has been staved off, if only for a time. The tendency in people towards authoritarianism is substantial in my experience. I have met only small amounts of people who I could consider to genuinely have an open mind and be willing to hear or allow differing or extreme opinions. This reminded me of John Stuart Mill’s work on liberty, in which he makes the case that prior to Martin Luther, the reformation had broken out at least twenty times and been put down brutally each time. He reminds us that freedom is fragile and does not always naturally triumph over repression.

Which led me to thinking about our own liberal democracy in Europe, as I often do. Liberalism has only ever really taken root in Europe or in countries where European colonists moved to and destroyed the native population to take the land. It is the product of hundreds of years of struggle in society against the controlling influence of monarchs and theologians. Both democracy and liberalism are somewhat embedded in the nations of Europe’s heritage. I have written a few times on how this is likely to change now that the continent has gone down the path of multiculturalism and why I fear the consequences of the the slow erosion of liberal values, but in this piece, I wanted to take another approach.

I’m amazed that liberalism/democracy have survived as long as they have. Liberalism in particular is an idea that allows its enemies by its own nature to speak and disseminate ideas that undermine its very structure. Unlike tyrannical one party/one leader states, which brutally oppress all dissent and individuality, our system is open to its foes. Because of democracy and the precedence of the individual over the state, it had been surprisingly hard for governments to infringe upon people’s individual rights when it came to scenarios like terrorism. This too is slowly eroding as people allow concessions of power to the state. But again how is it that a system that seemingly allows its enemies free reign and can’t effectively defend itself against the most extreme of its adversaries not only survive, but thrive in the world?

People don’t particularly take me seriously when I say that I’m a patriot because I love the UKs broad values and I suspect that’s in part because we’ve been raised in an educational environment that taught us all of the sins of the empire and connected them to its values. Patriotism and its connection to heritage, history and values are shunned and I find it incredulous that this is the case given where this country stands now and how tolerant and open it is. Surely to be able to consider all of the past sins, the destruction of native peoples’ communities and the taking of resources, together with the good, the progress and the drive that led to the end of things like slavery (officially) and the birth of the eight hour day or the end of children working in brutal factories does not lead you to a place of pure hatred for the UK, but one of balance and potentially hope.

Especially when you compare where we all are now, in our relatively cushy office jobs, surrounded by a plethora of people from all over the planet whilst we stuff our faces with donuts and coffee, to the struggle that millions of people endured in the past in search of a better future. Surely it is only possible to view that through a lens of negativity if you lack historical perspective?

And so we come full circle back to history. I opened this splurge of thoughts with the premise that history has been a catalogue of the worst things in human nature and it has for me. But that has allowed me to wake up in the mornings, look around me and be eternally grateful that I was born into a society that grants great freedoms and the ability to progress, all in a time of technological boom and peace time. Some of the simple things we consume daily even on the lowest wages in our society were luxuries in times gone by and it is with an appeal to gratitude for the values and system that allow this to happen and a greater appreciation of historical perspective that I end.