Friday 14 September 2018

The rise of Fascism in the UK - is the Daily Express joining in?

Last week I was sunning myself in Portugal. It was lovely. As I always do, I take a few books to read as I chill out by the pool. For this trip, I bought "Travellers in the Third Reich" by Julia Boyd. The book is a collection of letters, diary entries and other recollections of non German people who travelled through Germany between the end of the first and second world wars. These ordinary people chart the rise of Fascism. The book has the strapline "The rise of Fascism seen through the eyes of everyday people". I specifically bought the book to see if it gave any pointers as to whether there are any parallels with the situation today.

Just a week ago, I was fairly smugly saying to myself "well actually, although what we are seeing is pretty unpleasant, what is happening here is not really the same. What we are seeing in Labour is not whipping up anger directed at Jewish people. Whilst Jeremy Corbyn has been extremely insensitive with his statements and attitude towards the UK Jewish lobby, there is no evidence at all that he wants to emulate Hitler. We see no smashing of synagogues or breaking of Jewish owned shop windows orchestrated by Corbyinte thugs. We see no calling for the end to "Jewish Bankers" by the Labour front bench. For example, one quote from Captain Truman Smith from 1922 stated

"Twelve hundred of the toughest roughnecks I have ever seen in my life passed in review before Hitler at the goosestep under the old Reichflag,  wearing armbands with Hazenkreuze (Swastika)... Hitler shouted "Death to Jews" etc and etc. There was frantic cheering."
Whatever we are seeing coming out of the Labour party, it is nothing of that nature. It is worth keeping that in mind when we discuss the subject. But as I've thought about what is going on, it seems to me that we are very much at risk from a nationalistic form of fascism, more so than any time since the 1930's. Yesterday I reported that the Board of Deputies of British Jews had condemned the alliance in the EU Parliament between the UK Conservatives and the highly fascistic Hungarian government. It can only be worrying that a party which is traditionally centre right can sit comfortably with such people.

Poster for Nazi Art Exhibition
One of the subjects in the book that intrigued me was the Exhibition of Degenerate Art staged by the Nazi's to show people how bad "Modern Art" is. As an artist, it always amuses me when people try and describe art as good or bad. For me it is a very personal thing. For me, I much prefer modern art to the more traditional forms. I love the work of Kandisky, Matisse and even Banksy. I was fascinated to see Tracy Emin's breakthrough at the Whitechapel Gallery a decade ago. The friends I was with didn't get it at all, but I thought it was brilliant. To simply decide that "classical art" is the only valid form puts a straightjacket on creative thinking. I happen to think it is also a very un-British way of thinking. We glory in the odd and the absurd. I think the reason we have such an amazing country and have invented so much of the fabric of modern life is because we don't put constraints on thinking.  Imagine how disturbed just how disturbing I found reading a diatribe in todays Daily Express against spending taxpayers money on Modern Art.

Leading the charge is a Tory MP I'd thankfully never heard of previously called "David Davies". He said "Some additions are “worthless tat which could be knocked up in 10 minutes by a child with a finger painting set. Mr Davies said: “We’ve spent more than £60,000 on a photo of a window. It’s a disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ cash."  The article continued "More than £20,000 was raised for Wine Dark Sea by Mary Ramadan, while six stick man drawings by David Shirley set taxpayers’ back more than £14,000.  The GAC is supposed to feature pieces by artists who have a strong British connection.   But for around the same amount of money that would pay for three NHS nurses the committee decided to secure "In The Back" by Left Wing German campaigner Wolfgang Tillmans."

It seems very worrying to me that The Express is suggesting a piece of art should not be purchased because it was created by a left wing German artist. When I see an article that could be lifted from a Nazi paper of 1937, that can only ring alarm bells.

Another feature of the rise of the Nazi's was the way they would totally distort the facts of events to whip up hatred of their opponents. Perhaps the classic example of this was the burning of the Reichstag (German Parliament) in 1933. This was blamed on communists and used as an excuse for a round up of opponents of the Nazis. In the Express we saw just such a smear today. In an article entitled "Harassing an MP’s children is a new low for the Left", Express columnist Ross Clarke blames John McDonnell and the policies of Jeremy Corbyn. Anyone who is unfamiliar with the events would assume that the totally unacceptable harassment of Jacob Rees-Mogg's children was an action of people associated with the Labour Party. Nothing could be further from the truth. The man responsible is Ian Bone, who is associated with anarchist group Class War.  Class war are a tiny grouping who loath Labour and Jeremy Corbyn just as much as they hate the Tories. Mr Clark seems to suggest that John McDonnell has suddenly given permission for such protests. Any serious journalist, who had done his homework would know that Bone organised "Bash the Rich" protests in 1985. If anything, telling Mr Rees-Moggs kids that their Daddy isn't very popular with some people, although repulsive, is thankfully a de-escalation from his previous stance that would presumably have been to have bashed Mr Rees-Mogg. From what I heard of the event, all we witnessed was two strands of rather odd English eccentrics having a rather absurd stand off. Jacob Rees-Mogg clearly understood that he'd simply been called a few names by a rather odd man and his friends. I suspect that the likes of Mr Bone will still be around long after the Corbynista's have been supplanted in whatever the next set of machinations to face the Labour Party produce. What concerns me most, isn't that there are a few rather odd individuals such as Mr Bone. That will always be a feature of a free society. What concerns me is that The Daily Express, a National paper allegedly employing professional journalists, can publish something that is so completely misleading about the left, John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn.

I am sure that if Mr Clark really wanted to, and was inclined to get off his fat arse and do some proper journalistic work, he could uncover all manner of things about Corbyn and McDonnell that would send his ever diminishing band of readers into a froth. What is clear to me is that the Daily Express is drifting ever further from being a paper that provides sane and rational news coverage, and is becoming ever more dishonest in its pushing of a hard right ultra nationalist agenda.

Whilst I still think we are a hell of a long way from the situation that lead to the rise of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco in the 1930's in Europe, it is also clear to me that some elements of the press are sacrificing the principles of professional journalism to create a climate that could give critical mass to the people who believe in such things. Whilst one really can't draw too many conclusions from a few rather badly written articles in a newspaper with a plummeting circulation, unable to attract higher calibre journalists and forced to toe a deeply dodgy editorial line by rather ideologically motivated owners, we have to keep an eye on such things. I see the role of bloggers very much to be to flag these things up, so that lies do not get accepted as being truth. We are not on that slippery slope to Fascism yet, but if we don't shout loudly about this sort of thing then we will be taking another step towards it.

People have said to me "why do you read rags such as the Daily Express?" I could be glib and say "Someone has to", but the serious answer is that if I only read worthy tomes that I agreed with, I wouldn't have a clue what is really going on. Articles such as this tell me far more than all of the 10,000 word deep analysis I may read in the Guardian. And sadly it is not what the articles say, but what they mean when you view them in the historical perspective of how such articles and ways of thinking have been used in times gone by, where bad things have happened.

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