Gary Lineker Was Right

Why we should call out fascism when we see it

Every time I open one of my news apps, I feel like George Orwell has come back from the dead. When Orwell wrote 1984 and Animal Farm, he was criticising the totalitarian rule of the USSR. While the government’s most recent refugee bill can be summarised as “all humans are equal, but some are more equal than others”, it is the dystopian writer’s earlier essays on Fascism in Germany that spring to mind.

In his 1945 essay Antisemitism in Britain, Orwell notes how pervasive antisemitism is throughout the UK. He writes on the simultaneous derision of Nazi antisemitism and prejudice against the Jewish population. Those in late 1940s Britain believed themselves above the prejudices of the Nazi party – they were citizens of a great Allied power, too intelligent and civilised for hatred. Yet, the very same people who denounced antisemitism were those spreading its message. “Why do they come here when France is now safe?” they asked. “They’re trying to change British values!” they argued. “I’m not antisemitic but…” Similarly, in 1938, the Daily Mail wrote articles on the influx of Jewish refugees from Germany, in which they were called aliens, a strain on our resources and the reason for increased crime. Sound familiar?

A commonly heard phrase among debate circles is that ‘you lose an argument when you mention the Nazis’. This belief that Nazi fascism was an anomaly that could never be repeated in the educated countries of Europe is strong. Any comment likening our government to that of 1930s Germany is deemed inexcusably over the top. Even those who agreed with Gary Lineker in his disgust of Braverman’s new ‘illegal migration bill’ claimed he went too far in his comparison to Hitler. We are Britain, they say. We weren’t antisemitic then; we aren’t racist now and we are never fascist.

This is a re-write of history. Not everyone in Britain will have been antisemitic but many were. Orwell proves that with his 1945 interviews. “But we went to war for the Jewish people?” Another re-write. Hitler and his government were already committing atrocities against the Jewish population when Neville Chamberlain came back from Munich with an appeasement deal. We went to war for Poland, because then, as now, there are worthy victims and ignored victims. The Ukrainians, just like the Polish in 1939, deserve our help. We promised to come to their aid if they were under attack, so, of course, we should welcome their refugees. But the worthiness of the Ukrainian people does not diminish the worthiness of those from Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan and so on. All humans are worthy of a safe place to live.

The way we have re-written history and our refusal to look at our own behaviour critically leave the door open for a repeat. If we cannot learn to recognise fascist language from our own politicians, we will make the same mistakes of countries past. We keep changing the debate. Now, headlines are discussing if a TV presenter should be allowed to tweet something political instead of examining the harmful policy he was trying to draw attention to. Time and time again, we leave those we have deemed unworthy of our sympathy to die while we congratulate ourselves on being a kind and caring nation.

The simple fact is that more people will die because of Suella Braverman’s bill. That is what we should be talking about. If we want to be a nation that can hold its head up and say, “we care, we are good people”, then we need to start caring about everyone, not just those we deem worthy. And we need to stop fearing to scream and shout when we see our governments doing something so horrific. Denying fascism doesn’t stop it, calling it out might. As Orwell said, “In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

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