It has been a baking hot summer in the UK. So hot that nothing – not even a piece about a soft-drinks company – can be published without wild hyperbole and the crow-barring-in of politics. Writing in Wednesday’s Guardian, one Ellie Mae O’Hagan wrote about the recent market successes of Fever Tree, the producer of alcoholic mixers, among other things. O’Hagan was particularly exercised about the question of what Fever Tree’s recent share price increases told us about ‘late capitalism’.
“What a pointless era we live in,” Ms O’Hagan opined, sounding as though she may well have had a couple herself. “How odd it is to see these examples of laconic decadence illuminated against our current political background of imminent climate crisis, political instability and the rise of the far right. How have these inane products retained their popularity in a world of unrelenting doom and gloom? Perhaps we’re trying to rise above the misery in any way we can.”
The paper’s headline writers summed up this piece with the subtitle, ‘We are sipping cocktails as the world burns’, suggesting that perhaps O’Hagan isn’t the only person at The Guardian in need of a lie-down.
The fact that ‘rise of the far right’ and ‘the world is burning’ rhetoric can find its way into a piece about fizzy drinks is rather beautifully illustrative of our hyperventilating times. The problem is that some people are finding this hyperventilating mode both attractive and politically useful.
Earlier this week, for example, the Shadow Chancellor made his own overheated intervention. Citing those demonstrations this year calling for the release from prison of Tommy Robinson, John McDonnell and adding as evidence Boris Johnson’s column on not banning burkas, he suggested that “It’s time for an Anti-Nazi League-type cultural and political campaign to resist. We can no longer ignore the rise of far-right politics in our society…. We should seriously look at emulating the work of the ANL and Rock Against Racism at a time when the far right once again poses a genuine threat to our society.’”
Only a hardened cynic would suggest that McDonnell might be attempting to divert attention from the antisemitism scandal in his own party.
McDonnell is not working alone. Others on the left of the Labour party are making similar claims. Young Corbyn supporters, in particular, have become fond of making claims that nearly everyone, everywhere is enabling or encouraging fascism. From Owen Jones alone in recent weeks we have learned that: “The BBC is enabling fascism”:
That LBC “hosts fascists”:
And that “The far right is now at its strongest in the West since the fall of Adolf Hitler”. Owen went on to warn, “If we don’t hold the media to account for their legitimisation of the far right, then fascism will consume us all over again”:
Bold, bloviating claims though such statements are, let us pretend for a moment that rather than being part of a distraction machine – a deliberate effort to engage in hyperbole in order to make people look in another direction – these claims are actually sincere and serious. Let us also pretend that people believe them and choose to follow them.
What are these ‘anti-Nazis’ going to do to find their Nazis? Where will they look? For after all, where can Nazis be found in modern Britain? They are not in the phone book. Nor do they appear to openly congregate in public areas. Given this fact, do our anti-Nazis not find themselves in a conundrum? Do they not, perhaps, find themselves in the situation of a hound with no foxes to chase? What, then, are our ‘anti-Nazis’ going to do with their time?
It seems most likely that they’ll lower their criteria for Nazis and then decide to interpret for themselves who these Nazis might be. Perhaps through some internal mechanism they will work out, to their own satisfaction (if nobody else’s), where the multiple Nazis in our society are actually dwelling.
And what should be done with a Nazi – or suspected Nazi – when one is found? Tweet at them? Prevent them from speaking or appearing in public?
No, if we are truly at a place where we have not been since 1945, shouldn’t we do everything in our power to stop this threat? If fascism is about to “consume us all over again”, surely there are no extremes to which we should not go to in our response? No tactics should be off the table. If we are to stop Nazism consuming the globe once again, then surely, violence and murder are reasonable tools to resort to.
But, then, these are early days in the hyperventilation business, and perhaps everyone will calm down. The tale of someone who certainly did go off too early should provide food for thought.
Paul Mason has spent recent years moving from journalism to the role of full-time devotee of the Corbyn revolution. He has thrown in his career and lot so fully it is perhaps inevitable that he will not back down now. But he too has adopted the language of the ‘no parasan!’ nostalgists.
Last month, Mason was at a meeting organised by the Dutch Labour party in The Hague at which Jeremy Corbyn was speaking. A group of Dutch Jews at the event unveiled a banner designed to embarrass the UK Labour party and its recent troubles with antisemitism. The head of the Jewish youth group claims that he was then assaulted by Paul Mason. Mason vehemently denies the claim and the Dutch police have said that they are looking into the matter.
But the striking thing about the whole affair is not who said what or did what. The point is that Mason claims that he thought the students were being antisemitic, rather than anti-Corbyn. And as such he confronted them (though he claims not to have done so violently).
Is there not a lesson here? If everyone is on a hair-trigger to find fascists, is this not precisely the sort of confused altercation that is likely to occur? If you are meant to be fighting Nazis might you not quite easily find yourself fighting non-Nazis? The Nazis being in such short supply.
The tale of Paul Mason claiming that he thought he was confronting a group of antisemites when he was in fact confronting a group of young Dutch Jews is a cautionary one. It is a tiny incident. But a telling one. An incident from which any wise person or movement would learn a lesson.
Some cooling off would certainly be a good thing all around. Perhaps with the aid of a long, soothing drink, and a mixture of your choice.