Tuesday 31 July 2018

The modern extreme-right are just copying ideas straight out of the Nazi propaganda playbook

There's absolutely no doubt that the extreme-right is on the rise. Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Israel have elected extreme-right ethno-nationalists into government.

In Britain it's not all Brexit voters were vile extreme-right fanatics, but there's no doubt whatever that the extreme-right demographic were numerous enough to tip the balance in favour of Leave in a very close 52%-48% referendum vote.

In the United States Donald Trump was propelled into power with the support of the KKK and the 'alt-right', and he returned the favour by appointing the alt-right ideologue Steve Bannon as his most senior adviser, and then actually claimed that the Swastika-carrying "Jews will not replace us" thugs and murderous extreme-right terrorists in Charlottsville included "some very fine people".

One of the most extraordinary things about this resurgence of fascism is that the modern extreme-right are doing little more than lazily copying tactics straight out of the Nazi propaganda playbook, presumably because they don't actually have any new ideas of their own, and just want another stab at world domination via the methods that almost succeeded for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

The censorship fallacy

One of the most blatant examples of the modern extreme-right ripping off Nazi propaganda tactics is the continual refrain that their ideas are being censored, often expressed through sound systems on stages and glitzy websites (where the money actually comes from to pay for all of this extreme-right propaganda is the subject for another article ...).

Even worse than standing on a stage to claim that you're being silenced is the extreme-right tactic of screaming "censorship" whenever anyone else dares to use their own freedom of speech to criticise what the extreme-right fanatic was talking about. 

Freedom of speech means that you're free to say whatever you like (within the bounds of the law), but it certainly doesn't provide freedom from criticism if what you chose to say was a load of absolute shite.

Just like Adolf Hitler in 1928 the modern extreme-right are pretending that their views are being unfairly censored, and if these dangerous fanatics ever did assume political power, we can be absolutely sure that their very first moves would involve launching their own clamp down on free speech and setting about the ruthless persecution of their political opponents, just like Adolf Hitler did before them.

Free speech and criminality

Of course extreme-right fanatics will immediately try to counter criticism of their victims of censorship posturing by citing Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon).

"But we are being censored" they'll wail "because our beloved Tommy has been jailed for free speech".

The problem with this "free Tommy" narrative is that it's pure deception. Yaxley-Lennon wasn't jailed for free speech, he was jailed for attempting to disrupt the prosecution of child sex abuse gangs as a personal publicity stunt.

He risked collapsing several linked trials and freeing monstrous child sex abusers, he did it as a publicity stunt despite having been previously warned to stop disrupting trials by judges, and he pleaded guilty to the crimes he was charged with.

The fundamental deceit here is the claim that free speech gives people a blanket right to say and do whatever they like, but that's not how free speech works. Nobody is free to yell "fire" in a crowded theatre, nobody is free to threaten to rape or kill people when they disagree with them, and nobody is free to deliberately disrupt child sex abuse trials for their own personal advantage.

Anyone who pretends that free speech does cover these things is simply misusing the term to excuse criminal behaviour.

Victim complexing

One of the most effective extreme-right propaganda techniques is victim complexing, which constitutes an effort to instil extreme levels of self-pity within the victims of their propaganda.

Pretending that certain minority groups are receiving favours is one way of doing it, pushing the fiction that the most privileged people in society are the biggest victims of discrimination is another, and pretending that certain political views are being banned is another.

The whole point of victim complexing is to inflate people's levels of self-pity as much as possible, because once you've got your intended audience walking around with victim complexes the size of hot air balloons, it only takes the slightest puff of wind to get them all floating in the desired direction.

Xenophobia and anti-Semitism

Stoking fear of foreigners has always been a core tactic of the extreme-right, as has anti-Semitism. It's absolutely clear that this kind of rampant xenophobia and bigotry is on the rise again.

Look at Donald Trump's use of grotesque anti-immigrant rhetoric to whip up his extreme-right base (despite the fact that his mother was an immigrant, and two of his three wives have been immigrants!).

Look at the way both Brexit campaigns used anti-immigrant fearmongering to achieve their aims (the Nazi style Leave.EU posters & the recently exposed Vote Leave campaign of highly misleading anti-immigrant fearmongering targeted social media dark ads).

Consider the wave of racism and racist attacks in Italy that have accompanied the rapid resurgence of Italian fascism there.

Consider the use of anti-immigrant rhetoric and vile anti-Semitic propaganda by the extreme-right Hungarian government of Vikton Orbán to provide cover for his ever more tyrannical and anti-democratic political agenda. 

The parallels between Orbán's massive anti-Semitic poster campaign declaring the Jewish billionaire George Soros as an "enemy of the people" and the two minutes hate against Emmanuel Goldstein in George Orwell's 1984 are impossible to ignore.

Cultural Marxism

The threat of "cultural Marxism" is another fascist trope pulled straight out of the Nazi propaganda playbook.

The Nazi propaganda trope of "Kulturbolschewismus" (cultural Bolshevism) was a way of railing against modernism and progressive values. 

In those days allegations of "Kulturbolschewismus" were lobbed at modern art, Bauhaus architecture, and anything resembling socially liberal values. Today the same allegation of "cultural Marxism" is used to disparage issues like gay rights, transgender rights, and gender neutrality.

Given that Marx's economic philosophy centred on exposing the inequalities and abuses of the capitalist economy, and steered well clear of architectural aesthetics and transgender issues, it's absolutely clear that the term "cultural Marxism" is just a way of invoking scary red bogeymen in order to fearmonger against progressive and modernist trends that the extreme-right see as threats to their traditionalist hyper-conformist mentality.

Normalisation of Nazi propaganda

One of the most shocking things about this resurgence of fascism is the way in which Nazi propaganda is being rapidly normalised within political discourse.

Donald Trump is the obvious example, with members of the Republican Party ever willing to excuse, or even parrot Trump's extremist rhetoric out of their desire to ride on the coat tails of his success. It's not necessary to rehabilitate the reputation of the hard-right warmonger George W. Bush to note that at least the previous Republican President never resorted to racist Trumpian anti-immigrant abuse to whip up support from the extreme-right, nor sought to impose constitution defying anti-immigrant legislation.

In Britain the story is the same. The once centre-right Tory party has passionately embraced the extreme-right, welcoming the fanatically right-wing ultranationalist blue-kip demographic into the Tory fold with open arms.

from Theresa May spewing vile anti-immigrant rhetoric, through the disgusting BNP-inspired fearmongering of the Tories' 2016 London Mayoral election campaign, to young Tories openly spreading Nazi propaganda tropes without fear of recriminations, it's absolutely clear that the Tory party has shifted so far to the right, that what was until recently the domain of the extreme-right is now considered perfectly normal and acceptable, not just among the Tory rank and file, but more worryingly, within the party leadership too.

The paradox of tolerance

We've already seen how the extreme-right resort to victim-complex crying over their freedom of speech when they are imprisoned for their lawless behaviour, or even when others use their own freedom of speech to argue back against their propaganda.

It's absolutely clear that the extreme-right want to exist in an unlimited tolerance environment where they are free from the constraints of the laws of the land, and free from any criticism of their views.

Essentially they're demanding absolute tolerance of their ever increasing use of Nazi propaganda, and their unquestionably lawless behaviour.

But as Karl Popper pointed out in 1945, "unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them".

It's hard to argue that he was wrong given that he witnessed Adolf Hitler's rise to power using the victim complexing narrative that his ideas were being unfairly censored, only to immediately set about silencing and executing all of his political opponents to create one of the most deadly and intolerant autocratic regimes in human history once he got into power.

The lessons of history

Now that the same process is repeating over again, with the modern extreme-right using the exact same propaganda tactics to spread their intolerant ideologies, it's worth remembering Winston Churchill's warning: "those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it".

Now that almost all of the generation who witnessed the disgusting barbarity of fascism first hand (which obviously included Orwell, Popper and Churchill) are now dead, with the very youngest of the WWII veterans into their 90s now, it's becoming increasingly clear that the lessons of history are indeed being forgotten, and the extreme-right are perfectly prepared to use the exact same propaganda tactics as the Nazis before them in order to attack and undermine socially liberal democracy.

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