Using the Holocaust to discuss vaccine side-effects is counter-productive
Was the Conservative Party right to remove the whip from Andrew Bridgen? A deleted tweet, that referred to the Holocaust in order to condemn Covid vaccination, has caused widespread outrage — but some on the Right believe that Bridgen has been unjustly silenced.
Laurence Fox, for instance, protests that “it is imperative our MPs have the freedom to speak up or democracy is just a mirage.” Up to a point, I agree: democracy isn’t just about representing the majority view, but also allowing minorities to disagree with the majority.
Consider the dictionary definition of a “freethinker”, i.e. a person “who forms opinions on the basis of reason independently of authority”. In past centuries, that especially meant independence from religious dogma. Freethinking was therefore associated with anti-clericalism, deism and outright atheism.
But with the declining clout of organised religion, who are the freethinkers of our own time? Well, if we define modern-day “authority” as the views of the political and cultural establishment, then, in a reversal of the historical pattern, the loudest voices of dissent are to be found on the Right. While the Left mostly demands more of what the establishment already agrees with — economic interventionism, environmentalism, wokery etc — Right-wingers are more likely to go against the grain.
Note that I’m not referring to the totalitarians of the extreme Right, but to a very different bunch of radicals: those who think of themselves as the defenders of liberty. As such, when they see government impinging on our freedoms, they’re willing to object — for instance to Covid lockdowns or Net Zero policies — even if this means defying the official arbiters of truth.
Though this version of the Right is often wrong, I’m still glad it exists. As any environmentalist could tell you, monocultures are not healthy — and that applies as much to politics and the media as it does to the natural world. The experts aren’t infallible and so it is important that there are platforms from which the establishment view can be challenged.
And yet the freethinkers of the Right need to remember that freethinking is not just about disagreeing with authority, but doing so “on the basis of reason”. While it’s entirely reasonable to ask probing questions about the side-effects of the Covid vaccine, using the Holocaust to make the point is, to say the least, counter-productive.
To take an another example, there’s nothing wrong with criticising the antics of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex; but one can do that without descending to Jeremy Clarkson levels of gratuitous abuse. Clarkson is a wind-up merchant whose lurid insults aren’t to be taken seriously, but by going too far he allowed Meghan Markle’s supporters to present her as a victim again.
Another target of the Right is Greta Thunberg — and, fair enough, not everything she says should be taken as the gospel truth. But there are better ways of expressing disagreement than seizing upon her Twitter spat with Andrew Tate — and siding with the latter.
Of course, outrage is clickbait. But while provocation may get you attention, does it produce results? Freethinking Right-wingers might like to ask themselves why they’re forever taking on the establishment instead of taking it over.
Though the freedom to have arguments is precious, winning them is even better.