It’s been a good week for Nazism. A few days ago, the Spectator’s regular columnist Taki Theodoracopulos (‘Taki’) explained that ‘the only thing that stands between [Greeks] and utter anarchy in the poor neighbourhoods are the youths of Golden Dawn’. Yes, that Golden Dawn – the one whose leaders shout ‘Heil Hitler!’ in Parliament and describe the German Fuhrer as ‘a great personality’. The one accused of scores of racial murders, the one whose shaven-headed members parade around Athens singing the Horst Wessel song.
‘Golden Dawn is referred to as a neofascist political party, instead of a nationalist one, because it will not play ball with those who have reduced the country to the state it is in today,’ says Taki. Well, that’s one interpretation. Others might say that it’s referred to as a neofascist party because its members, um, teach children to draw swastikas and give Nazi salutes. But Taki likes Golden Dawn’s boot boys because they menace migrants, whom he calls ‘the latest nuisance to invade Europe’.
He’s not alone in that perspective, as a remarkable experiment hosted by two journalists on Medium illustrates. The pair (@DMReporter and @bestofthemail) has been posting quotes from historical Nazis as comments on articles in Britain’s Daily Mail articles – only to find the fascist rhetoric consistently popular, so long as it’s directed at migrants.
For instance, Robert Ley was head of the German Labour Front and responsible for the internal education of National Socialists. If he hadn’t committed suicide first, he would, most likely, have joined his peers in the nooses of Nuremberg.
It’s not hard to see why. ‘In this struggle against Judah, there’s only a clear either/or,’ he wrote in a charming book entitled (symptomatically) The Pestilential Miasma of the World. ‘Any half measure leads to one’s own destruction. Judah and its world must die if humanity wants to live; there is no other choice than to fight a pitiless battle against the Jews in every form.’
A pretty clear statement of homicidal intent, one would think.
Yet Ley’s remarks were amended with the references to Jews replaced with attacks on immigrants (‘in this struggle against migrants …’), they were massively upvoted on Daily Mail comment threads, becoming, at one stage, the most highly rated contribution.
Another example. ‘If the Jew wants to fight, it is fine with us,’ Ley said elsewhere. ‘We have wanted that fight for a long time. There is no room in the world for the Jews any more. The Jew or us, one of us will have to go.’
Yes, you guessed it: the Mail’s readers also overwhelmingly endorsed a comment arguing there is no room in the world for migrants anymore.
‘At the most recent count,’ write @DMReporter and @bestofthemail, ‘we had a total of 480 up votes (and rising) against 16 down votes, across eight adapted Nazi comments. It seems the migration debate has evolved to a place where even certified hate speech can pass for popular political opinion.’
Of course, one must be cautious about extrapolating from the fever-swamps of the internet to public opinion more generally, since plenty of seemingly normal people transform into hatemongers in the course of online debates.
Nonetheless, there’s no doubt that, across the developed world, rhetoric about immigrants and refugees has become more and more eliminationist. Not so long ago, for instant, Sun columnist Katie Hopkins called for gunships to be used on those she dubbed ‘cockroaches’.
That’s why the Medium experiment is so interesting.
Increasingly, when mainstream parties and respectable commentators talk about population flows, they no longer focus on the crises (both economic and political) driving people to seek asylum. Instead, they accept a designation of the refugees themselves as the problem.
References to ‘the Jewish problem’ sound unmistakably sinister but the same kind of phraseology now passes without comment in public debates about asylum seekers. Not surprisingly, radical solutions to such ‘problem people’ become more and more palatable.
‘The party’s strength,’ writes Taki of Golden Dawn, ‘lies in its youth movement and its incorruptibility.’
That’s always been the appeal of fascists. At a time when half measures lead to destruction (as Robert Ley might say), they boast of their young cadre prepared to take the measures that the corrupt old parties refuse.
Expect such rhetoric to get louder.
Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.
Subscribe | Renew | Donate November 9–16 to support progressive literary culture for another year – and for the chance to win magnificent prizes!