I had trouble sleeping last night – woke up about 4am, then just couldn’t get back to sleep. While I lay there, my mind drifting, it seemed to me that I could hear laughing…in some way at the holocaust. Well…give me 1,500 words, and let’s see if I can explain it any better than that.
Today, the 18th November, is Alan Moore’s 63rd birthday. Perhaps unsurprisingly this week I found myself drawn back to watch the film version of his classic ‘V for Vendetta’ ten years since it was released. As much as I was devouring the very different comic when it was being issued by DC Comics, I always found the film, written by the Wachowskis, to be nonetheless very powerful and appealing in its own right. One of Moore’s many criticisms of the film’s script, was that it translated the story of anarchy versus fascism into a US political debate (albeit staying in the setting of London). I can remember the promotional material when the comic came out– the slogan ‘Welcome to Fascist Britain, 1997’ seemed prophetic then, living through Thatcher’s government, as much as I would argue that, after this past year, the film now seems prophetic. The vision of a Fascist Britain, governed by a thuggish breakaway from the Conservative Party (Norsefire), requiring swearing of Articles of Allegiance, with High Chancellor Adam Suttler (beautifully played by John Hurt) strikes a chord with both BrExit England and President-Elect Trump’s New America.
The reports of racist attacks in the US (and elsewhere) may not be as quantifiable as the post-BrExit vote spike in violence observed in Britain (at least not until August 2017, when the figures are annually released by the US Government) and therefore dissembling by Trump supporters that the incidents are all hoaxes sadly gains some traction in the absence of official collated data, but it does now seem that this type of aggressive behaviour has in the minds of some been given a legitimacy due to the poor quality of candidate about to enter the White House on January 20th. Already the protesters are appearing with rhythmic placards: ‘No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA’. But there are deniers spreading across social media, saying ‘it ain’t so’ – questioning whether stories are hoaxes (Breitbart News being particularly keen to push that angle, of course, as they have been one of the most incendiary outlets for support for Trump since the start), unfortunately fed by a component of the population that either wishes to defend its decision or can’t bring themselves to believe the horror of what has come to take up residence in Washington D.C.: from ‘oh now, it can’t be so bad, he’ll be held in check’ to the mind-numbing and naively destructive ‘it can’t be bad, change is a good thing – right?’. By doing so, they are helping lay a foundation of skepticism to greet any future reports of abuses or other incidents – and inadvertently become apologists for white supremacists.
In a recent post I drew attention to the similarity of the wins by Trump, BrExit and the No campaign against Scottish independence, and others have been drawing other connections. A week ago, we all noted the photo of Trump with Farage in the foyer of Trump Towers with the gauche golden lift in the background, looking fresh as though plucked from a luxury hotel in China. Trump had even had Farage at one of his rallies, and referred to his prospective win of the White House as being “BrExit plus plus plus” – so the link between the two was clear. But a recent article (https://wildernessofpeace.wordpress.com/2016/11/15/cresting-the-rising-tide/#more-4060 – screen grab above from Wings Over Scotland’s repost) had another image from the same golden lift photoshoot, with a mob of other BrExit steerers surrounding the two, all with pedigrees for opposing the Scottish independence vote, as well. Take a long look at them: that group got three for three, and – mostly in this year – have between them made the world unrecognisable.
Farage seems to have upset the bumbling Conservative Government by being far higher up Trump’s speed-dial list than them, to such an extent that not only is he being asked if he will rejoin the Conservative Party (which he left in 1992 after Major signed the Maastricht Treaty), but there is also a suggestion that he may be made a Lord. On the one hand, it might seem like he is being shunted sideways, patted on the head and told to be quiet by Theresa – but then again he would provide a strong pro-BrExit voice in the House of Lords, where the Conservatives do not have a majority. Theresa May would need such an advocate for a hard BrExit in that house…and might feel that it would finally be getting him to do some work to deal with the consequences of the BrExit campaign that he had been building towards for years and finally won in June this year. Farage – like Trump – was always difficult to take seriously, although the media (in particular the BBC) seemed dangerously entranced by him long before he had an elected MP for his party. But, as Carolyn Leckie’s piece ‘Beware the rise of Fascism in UK and US’ noted the day before Trump’s election, fascism does not come wearing its trappings on its sleeve, with obvious monsters at its head – it is presented by amiable harmless-looking buffoons, it lulls, befriends, and acts as the only friend for the poor and frustrated…even if it is plainly clothed in wealth and elitist privilege.
Amongst the voices denying that BrExit and Trump’s election are a dangerous surge to the right (nicely labelled with the inoffensive ‘alt right’ caption), I can’t help but hear a laughter of derision at the comparison: ‘why no, that’s not us, dear boy, of course not…!!’ That psychology that makes people believe that bad things only happen to (or are done by) ‘other people’ can turn a standard that everyone should be measuring themselves against, into a standard that is just for ‘those other people’ to keep themselves in check with.
‘It happens to other people – not us.’ That passive racism so well-exhibited by Generation WW (who were taught it as part of wartime propaganda) that it was somehow exclusively ‘a German thing’, blinds us to such threats coming from anywhere else – especially close to home. Certainly Generation WW was willingly blind to just how keen a population the Third Reich would have found in Britain to exercise some of those racial purity laws – and if THAT generation could be in denial, given their proximity to those events, what about more recent generations, that have been so distanced in time from the entire experience of that war? They may not laugh at the thought of the holocaust being homegrown as easily in Britain after a banking collapse (as it was in Germany 80 years earlier), but they still desperately need to not see the commonality. And it is hard not to see it in the context of the holocaust, for what is to come.
In Germany, at least, they teach the horrors of that war and why totalitarianism must never take hold there again – elsewhere, where countries don’t feel they have to take responsibility for their anti-semitism or racism at the same time in history (because, you know, it wasn’t ‘their’ racism that was causing all the problems of the war, right?) a smug complacency develops – ‘their’ racial intolerance is Ok – they’ve got it under control – its just a bit of ‘banter’, right? All the usual excuses that apologists for intolerance deploy to deflect criticism, happening on a national level: ‘it doesn’t happen here – it happens to other people – it simply wouldn’t happen here, you know – because, of course, we’re BETTER than that other country that started the war…’ and the hypocrisy of that simplistic justification is completely lost on them, as they slowly start to move back to the dangerous mindset that sets all the wheels back in motion again.
Of course, it is hysterical and unreasonable to leap to Nazi Germany as a comparison for Trump or Farage – of course it is. Unfortunately, history gives us absolutely no better comparator. Those people who warned us about not learning the lessons of history – particularly with reference to the Third Reich – have sadly been vindicated. In this context, I thought Farage’s suggestion that Trump restore the bust of Winston Churchill to the White House to be somewhat inappropriate: as much as it was symbolic of a link and that mythical ‘special relationship’ between the UK and the US, I’m not really sure that Churchill would approve of Farage himself, given that he represents the rise of the same political threat that Churchill spent so much of his energy fighting against during the war, but hey ho…irony sleeps for noone.
For myself, I am just starting to find it funny – almost as funny as BrExit – because the whole thing of such a dark, hideous disaster, underpinned by such base stupidity and denial is preposterous. Especially with the war of words between those saying ‘No…it can’t be THAT bad…change is good, right?’ and the others going ‘You have no IDEA how bad this really really is!!!’ – that is – in and of itself, funny.
The holocaust is very much the ‘poster boy’ event for mass atrocities resulting from such racial (and other) discrimination – the sheer scale of its numbers meant to intone immediate solemn agreement from all that ‘IT’ should never happen again. And yet…it seems that in practice it is not having that effect on a significant number of the global population. I mean, if 6 million dead were not enough to get the lesson learned last time…then what is? How much more death do we need the next time – how high the mountains of bodies to be digitally recorded in colour, so superior to those old black and white Pathe wartime newsreels – to have a chance of the lesson sticking? If THAT many people dying isn’t enough of a warning to tell you that this is the way things go (so don’t even start on that path by voting in leaders advocating such racist policies) then what is the magic magic number that will be? What is the magic number that does the trick, so people realise that the lesson from history is not a restricted ‘discriminate even more against people in other countries called Germany’ but a very simple and encompassing ‘do not go there ever again – because anybody can do that’?
And its not like there were not the accounts to bring the point home – Pastor Niemoller, for one – although perhaps today he would instead be saying “first they came for the Muslims, then they came for the women…” Yet it was not enough to give enough people pause to think. And of course – as long as people can externalise those uncomfortable parts of the narrative to apply to others, and not them, then the lessons from history will continue to go unheeded – and voters will still be exploited by smiling right wing politicians who know they can easily take advantage of them to gain power.
The pictures outside the golden lift in NYC are naked triumphalism from those who do not care to sit back in the shadows anymore – they’ve won, and as far as they are concerned, they have remade the world in their image – what can anyone do against them now? In the coming years they will drive the US’s media to follow Breitbart News as a legitimised model, and slowly start to dumb down the nation’s attitudes into bestial savagery.
Happy Birthday, Alan – as Bart Simpson recently noted on his blackboard, ‘Being Right Sucks’.
“Immigrants. Muslims. Homosexuals. Terrorists. Disease-ridden degenerates. They had to go. Strength through Unity, Unity through Faith. I’m a god-fearing Englishman and I’m goddamn proud of it.” (Lewis Prothero, the Voice of London, V for Vendetta, 2006 motion picture – or maybe also the Daily Mail editorial, any day of the week)