Monday, June 08, 2009

When brains fall out

There's a not-bad detective novel by Faye Kellerman called 'Straight Into Darkness' - I read it a few years ago - about a copper balancing his commitment to good policing and his personal weaknesses with his powerlessness in the face of big events.

It's particularly interesting because it's set in Munich in the late 1920s. It shows us a city that is subject to a creeping takeover by the Nazis. Playing the civil and democratic institutions as deftly as a fiddle, we see them deploying deniable low-level brutality with large-scale political intimidation while gradually placing it's thugs in key positions in the city.

It sees a movement that knows it will never seize power in the decisive way that, say, the Bolsheviks seized it in 1917, but one that would use the weaknesses of democracy against it.

Now, I wouldn't pay Nick Griffin's shower of knuckledraggers the dubious compliment of a direct comparison. Whatever people say about last night's results, this is not an irresistible tide of mouth-breathers poised to seize the wheel.

The Master Race will have to wait a while longer in the UK, I think.

But it does, for me, foreground the whole question of 'no platform'. I understand the argument that fascists need to be flushed out and to have their arguments exposed. But we've seen that political debate doesn't work like that. 

For instance, in an election that has been largely dominated by the perception that the main parties are on the take, the biggest beneficiary has been probably the most corrupt party that the UK has ever seen. Y'know, statistically speaking. The idea that public debate is something that happens on a rational plane is one that doesn't really bear much examination. It's why plebiscites and direct democracy present such a bloody awful way of making decisions.

Liberal Democracy is a like a game. There are a set of unwritten rules - you can't oppress minorities, you can't win and then abolish subsequent elections, and so on.

If you don't buy into those rules, you don't get to play the game.

There's a line that one of the Nazis uses in Kellerman's book. A character is told that he has become so open-minded that his brains may fall out. For me, a lot of those defending the right for the BNP to access the same platforms as politicians who are committed to liberal democracy could face the same charge.

3 comments:

CS Clark said...

I'm a little chary of mentioning this quote from this source, even though the bastard did use to be funny in parts, but I'm reminded of PJ O'Rourke's line 'You can always reason with a German. You can always reason with a barnyard animal, too, for all the good it does.'

Anonymous said...

2 points:-

Firstly, that article should point out that Ashley Mote was a convicted fraudster AFTER he was elected, and Nigel Farage made his views on Mote very clear at the time. It's also the case that unlike Labour, UKIP have no power to change the expenses process, and Nigel Farage cannot see the expenses of MEPs.

Secondly, not giving a voice to the BNP is just naive. Beating the BNP doesn't involve people having protest rallies and wringing their hands about how terrible they are. It involves taking their policies, whether about race or economics and pulling them apart. Hoping they'll go away is just naive. They'll build up their support elsewhere in their own way.

cian said...

Except the Nazis gained power because they seduced the elites, which is unlikely to happen with the BNP.

Actually, having seen the first MEP speak I'm kind of glad he did get elected. A real pedantic old bore of the old school. Give the guy enough rope and he may just hang the entire bloody party.