The overuse and abuse of ‘fascism’
I would be very happy if I never had to hear the name Gary Lineker again. He was a vague presence in my childhood thanks to his playing the game of football and his advertising of a brand of delicious, obesity-inducing crisps. But after more than a week in which his name has dominated every news bulletin, I have serious Lineker-fatigue. I feel as one might had we just had a fortnight of discussion and talk of the collapse of major institutions due to a political view expressed by Russ Abbot.
To speak plainly, I do not care to hear the views of a retired footballer or crisp-seller on the matter of immigration. Nor do I wish to hear the views of such a person on the Nazi genocide of European Jewry. Anyone who thinks that trying to secure a border is the same as what happened to Jews in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s must have the IQ of a potato chip. Among much else it suggests they believe that in the 1930s and 1940s Jews were desperate to break into Nazi Germany.
I do not care to hear the views of a retired footballer or crisp-seller on the matter of immigration
It is possible that Lineker isn’t the stupidest man in Britain. He may not even be the dimmest presenter at the BBC. But in an era where fame trumps knowledge, he is a signal example of how every debate in our society gets slowed down by people who are painfully cognitively deficient.
It’s not only a problem in Britain. Every western democracy is being debased by a type of celebrity-politico class which imagines that shouting dumb stuff out loud gives heroic purpose to their lives. America is especially full of it. For instance, the Capitol attack of 6 January 2021 is still being litigated in the United States. In part this is because the new Republican Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, has handed over thousands of hours of footage from the day to Fox News host Tucker Carlson. As a result the American public have had a chance to see a slightly different narrative from the one screamed by the left for the past two years.
Their narrative is that what happened was (and this is shouted everywhere from Congress to cable news) the worst attack on America since 9/11, the worst thing to happen in America since the Civil War and an attempted insurrection by fascists. The carefully edited tapes that the partisan inquiry put together for the media showed only the chaos and violence of the day. The Carlson tapes show, among other things, that the most visible law-breaker – Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman – was in fact given a sort of guided tour of the building by police. At one stage he was alone with eight or nine police officers, none of whom made any attempt to arrest him. Among much else this was a horrible failure of law enforcement.
What happened on 6 January was appalling and a stain on American democracy, the fault of which can be squarely put at the door of Donald Trump for gathering a crowd after he lost the election and sending them to the Capitol. It was not, however, a fascist insurrection. The only person violently killed on the day was a female protestor shot by police. There was no scenario in which the crazily attired QAnon Shaman was going to replace Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House or declare the election results void. The House adjourned in disturbing circumstances but it re-adjourned and finished its business a few hours later. It wasn’t even close to an overthrow of the government.
But how many people can keep both of these thoughts in their heads at once? The answer seems to be ‘vanishingly few’. It is so much easier – and grabs so much more attention – if you pretend that 6 January was a ‘fascist insurrection’ which almost saw the end of democracy in America.
The same thing is going on in country after country. In Israel the government is attempting to make judicial reforms which have brought massive numbers out on the streets. Many are claiming that the reforms will be ‘the end of democracy’ in Israel, or even signal the descent of the country into being – yes, you guessed it – a ‘fascist’ state.
In fact Israeli democracy does have a serious problem with judicial overreach. Democracy does not work if you have an unelected class consistently wielding more political power than the elected government of the day. So why can even Israeli celebrities and ex-politicians not contest these changes without citing fascism? Even in America– where the rules are clearer and set by longer precedent – the separation of powers remains a contested matter. Both sides regularly threaten to flood the Court with their own appointees, and always in the name of averting fascism. Whereas all that is actually happening is that they are complaining about not getting their own way politically.
When the Polish and Hungarian governments want to appoint justices to their courts, their opponents also claim these countries are devolving into ‘fascism’. And yet strangely, when the left-wing Spanish government attempts to abuse and subvert that country’s judicial system, the global media and footballing class are silent. Because we all know that no ill can ever come from a left-wing government engaging in overreach, don’t we?
Therein lies a problem which exists from Warsaw to Washington and from the streets of Jerusalem to the studios of Match of the Day. We live in a world in which there is only one historical reference point for evil – Hitlerian fascism – and this reference point must as a result be wheeled out at every opportunity as the example of what not to do.
I for one am fed up of it. And more than fed up. ‘Sickened’ probably sums it up better. It should go without saying that this is a deep insult to the victims of fascism. But it is an insult to the victims of left-wing extremism too, including the tens of millions whom people like Gary Lineker have probably never heard about. I was going to say it’s an insult to our collective intelligence. But I grow doubtful about whether any such thing exists.