So the youth of Worthing are restless. The UK creeps towards a police state, with public order measures concocted to combat terrorism and riot deployed to stop the yeomen of Worthing congregating after dark. Or at least an order under Section 30 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, providing for “dispersal of groups and removal of persons under 16 to their place of residence.” I’ve been to Worthing many times, generally just passing through on the A27. It’s no hotbed of sedition. I’ve always thought of it an elephants’ graveyard, where the well-heeled bourgeois of conservative Sussex buy expensive coastal retirement bungalows to quietly await the inevitable. Of course this is a caricature, and unfair. I’ve also heard, anecdotally, of a small but seething youth counter-culture down there; if you know the right people, you can have a surprisingly good time. After all it’s not far from Brighton, most people there have money. Apparently Worthing’s not as dull as it looks.
I heard about the Worthing Freedom Campaign on Twitter from @SchNews, the Twitter account of an organisation known to have a nifty line in radical political satire, and to be supportive of direct action against the kind of criminality and immorality that the rightwing and mainstream media don’t tend to highlight. Their by-line: “If you’re not pissed off you’re not paying attention.” Well, I too am disturbed, not to mention angry, at the way things are going in this country. Those responsible for the current, worsening, financial and economic crisis have not been held to account. They appear to continue as if nothing has changed, for they are insulated from the consequences of their mistakes, indeed these same mistakes would seem to result, for them, in ever larger bonuses and other rewards. Austerity is clearly failing, the coalition’s mandate is uncertain. A lot of other bad stuff is going on here and in the wider world that needs to be challenged. There’s a big international crisis, on several fronts (in case you weren’t paying attention.) Though I’m no spring chicken these days, have a job to hold down, and live far from Sussex, I would hope to make common cause with a lot of what SchNews do.
Surely to win any challenge from a position of material weakness you must win the argument first? You must choose your weapons carefully. I wasn’t that impressed with the Worthing Freedom Campaign’s blog, with its links to other news sheets sporting brutish satire. Not terribly edgy, not terribly original, not terribly funny, and not awfully constructive. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so harsh? The authors of Pork-Bolter could well be kids; at least they take an interest, exercise creativity and are asking questions. But in my experience the police are far more open to negotiation and reason when treated like the human beings they in fact are. A respectful and constructive attitude tends to be reciprocated, though you may take issue with the laws the police are enforcing, or whether their methods are always proportionate and lawful. But a report from the Brighton Evening Argus – it has to be said a paper not noted for political neutrality or detailed factual accuracy – linked to by @SchNews caught my eye, the reported use of the Nazi swastika by this Worthing Freedom Campaign.
At this point I should confess that I think about the Nazis a lot. More than most people do, and possibly more than is healthy. But that’s a function of my day job as a history teacher, and because a lot of dark, evil and perverted stuff happened during the brief but spectacular period the Nazis inhabit. So what sort of “Freedom Campaign” deploys the swastika? To me, that’s an interesting question. Hitler’s concept of “freedom” was somewhat different to that understood by @SchNews, and, one would hope, the Worthing Freedom Campaign. What Hitler meant by freedom was, in the first instance, the freedom of ethnic Germans and other “Nordics” (if they were up for it, though in the end choice would not apply) to join the same big or “Greater” Germany, regardless of the wishes of other peoples who happened to dwell thereabouts. To achieve this collective “freedom” Hitler’s people would need an invincible war machine that would ultimately enslave or exterminate their enemies and rivals. Individual Germans wouldn’t have any choice about participating in this “freedom” project either. Hitler’s idea of freedom was not freedom at all.
A side issue, then, to the main event, but an important one to this interested party. @SchNews did not at first respond to my questions. Snubbed and disappointed, I provoked them to respond. I’m new to Twitter. Once their “hive mind” had worked out what on earth I was on about, they said the story wasn’t true, they wrongly blamed the Argus. @SchNews did then concede that the swastika had been used on a leaflet which was “not the cleverest we’ve seen” but in the end no big deal. The image itself is no longer available but reportedly the swastika had been used in juxtaposition with a Sussex Police badge, so as to suggest, ironically or not, that Sussex Police are Nazis. Soon @Sussex_Police were in touch too. They said that this Nazi emblem had appeared on the Worthing Freedom Campaign’s website too, but had been removed. The message left by Sussex Police to complain had been deleted. The police account made the glib but fair point that censorship was hardly in the spirit of freedom too.
Scrapper Duncan has blogged about all this already, and very well. My point with @SchNews was that this use of the swastika was at best inflammatory and hysterical, hardly likely to help the credibility of the campaign. At worst, it’s lot more disturbing than that. Their defence was that the use of the swastika was by a couple of silly individuals not representative of the campaign, and was a bit of an irrelevance. Worthing’s Freedom Campaign seemed to have thought better of it, which must be a good thing? Just when I thought I was making some progress with @SchNews, edging them towards a condemnation of this sort of imagery, they made the questionable assertion that the meanings of these symbols change over time. The hive was perhaps not in harmony. My understanding of the symbols of Nazism is no longer current, then. It doesn’t really matter. These days the Nazis aren’t so bad.
Here’s how they responded to Scrapper Duncan’s post (unfortunately Jo Makepeace’s remains incomplete, and seems set to remain so. Two further comments in response by Scrapper Duncan and by me are also reproduced):
Wow – our first Twitter row! #welcome to the 21stCentury.
Thanks for the fulsome praise in the first few paragraphs by the way!
Our remit is definitely to defend grass-roots groups trying to resist authority, although it seems unfair to charge us with ‘fundamentalism’ on this basis. We stated that we didn’t think it was the cleverest of leaflets, although no doubt we’ve been guilty of equally crass behaviour in the past in pursuit of some splendidly satirical objective or other.
Ian’s point struck us as nitpicking – having a go at a small group trying their best to stand up to over-weening police power by pointing out an exaggerated claim in a single leaflet.
Ian seemed to be suggesting that an ‘even-handed’ approach be taken between the Worthing Freedom Campaign and Sussex Police, which given the power imbalance between them is laughable. The fact that the cops have the power to sweep you off the streets and incarcerate you (with increasingly little redress) is precisely why they shouldn’t be welcomed into the rhizomatic world of twitter and blogging as equals. Certainly they shouldn’t be shedding crocodile tears about hurt feelings!
There may have been a point in the past when Naziism wasn’t trivialised but that’s long ago now. I don’t think that the Worthing Freedom Campaign are responsible for Allo, Allo, the Download spoofs etc etc. The meanings of symbols do change and the power of the Swastika emblem to shock has been eroded over time.
Cultural saturation with the idea that Naziism represented some black hole sui generis apex of evil that effectively stands outside history has ironically aided that erosion. Without an…
Thanks for your comment. You seem to have been interrupted by the character limit? Imposed to stop time wasters, which are definitely not one. Still, same rule for everyone! If you finish elsewhere, I’ll publish your pingback.
Thank you Duncan for this post and your support in this matter. My interest here was purely to query and challenge the use of the swastika by no doubt a small minority of these protesters in Worthing. I was not attempting to question or pass judgement on the basis of the protest, nor the tactics of Sussex police. From the point of view of Schnews this is not an important issue and I was “nitpicking.” This would explain why my first two questions to Schnews about this were ignored. Neither is the association of protesters – who no doubt would regard themselves as on the left and supporters of liberty -the narrative Schnews would want to propagate.
The fact that the swastika was deployed on a single leaflet only, and quickly removed from the website of these protesters, indicates that they thought better of it. Good. Though there’s enough in Jo Makepeace’s response here to take issue with, I’d rather see the whole comment before responding item by item. It was just getting interesting, though I’m not sure the Latin (or Greek?) adds to its clarity. So I’ll leave it a few hours in the hope that the full comment is published.
If you want to debate Nazism, its implications, and the real meaning of their symbols I’m happy to do that, Jo Makepeace. If you don’t, then just say, clearly and unequivocally, that the deployment of the swastika in this context was wrong.
More than a few hours later, I’ll continue. Jo Makepeace here concedes that this use of the swastika was “crass“, but then in mitigation implies that this is the sort of oversight anybody (radical left activists?) “in pursuit of some splendidly satirical objective or other” could make. It remains a bit of a joke. I was “nit-picking” and “having a go at a small group” trying to stand up against “over-weening police powers“. I’m not disputing that incidents where the police obtain restrictive public order powers, on what appear slender justifications, need to be questioned or challenged. The authoritarian trends initiated by the New Labour government continue, as society becomes more unequal our privacy and our rights to protest are increasingly curtailed. This is not in dispute. But by saying this use of Nazi symbolism was “an exaggerated claim” Jo Makepeace also implies that the police in Sussex are not so very far from Nazism, that the problem is one of emphasis. You do not condemn the use of this imagery, Jo. You think the right of kids to assemble as they please in Worthing is the more important issue. Ultimately, you do not get it.
Jo Makepeace may believe that by discussing issues with the police I’m siding with them. I’m accused of failing to acknowledge the “power imbalance” between police and protesters by advocating an “even-handed approach.” Why not discuss the swastika in an even-handed way? I do not buy the implication that because I’m criticising the protesters I’m taking sides with the cops, and by extension buying into “their” value system by being shocked at the swastika. You assert that the “power of the swastika to shock has been eroded over time.” I’m not sure that’s true, and if it is, it needs to be challenged. You also contend that I shouldn’t be communicating with the police on social media “as equals” even in serious discussion, however constructively. A superficial grasp of the historiography leads you to argue that because ‘great minds’ have ‘discovered’ that Nazism does not stand “outside history” (whatever that means), and because of ‘Allo, ‘Allo and the “Download spoofs” (sic), Nazism is now “trivialised” and has been for some time. You say that ultimately the Nazis were a pretty normal sort of evil, nothing unique (which is how I understood your “sui generis apex of evil“). Summary: I don’t hate the police enough, and I hate the Nazis too much.
Well, for my part I was just saying people should treat each other with respect. It’s an essential component of resolving any dispute without force. Further, that this trivialisation of Nazism is problematic, and in this case counter-productive for your protest, and your credibility. It’s ridiculous, wrong and offensive to excuse the use of the swastika in this way. I would say that if you had paid any attention to the Nazis, Jo Makepeace, you would be a good deal more “pissed off” with them. For a “hive” of radicals @SchNews is really nowhere near angry at the Nazis enough. I think you should get your ideas in order. There’s a lot more to the symbolism of the swastika than the abuse of authority. To throw that symbol around is to cheapen it further, and to cheapen yourself.
In a very clumsy way, I suppose you are accusing the police of fascism. If the Worthing Freedom Campaign had chosen a symbol of fascism to associate with Sussex Police I wouldn’t have agreed, but also wouldn’t have bothered to query it with @SchNews. The symbols of “fascism” do not quite resonate like the swastika. Meanwhile fascism is notoriously difficult to define, partly because it doesn’t, in the end, make a lot of sense nor stand up to very much scrutiny. We should perhaps pay heed to Mussolini, who coined the term. He defined fascism as “state power plus corporate power”, a marriage of capitalist and state interests in which the concerns or ambitions or rights of individuals had no intrinsic value. Into the mix also: a bellicose, imperialist nationalism and obsessive militarism, a fondness for uniforms, command hierarchies, discipline, machismo, aggression, hardness, strength, self-sacrifice, traditionalism, and obviously violence.
Perhaps this is a persuasive definition? If you consider the way the USA conducts its foreign policy, or the way the London Olympics is being organised, you could soon be peppering your after-dinner conversation with “fascism”, and sounding quite authoritative. There’s always the narrative of the threat to civilisation, too, to justify the restriction or suspension of civil liberties. For Mussolini and Hitler the primary threat was communism. The Bolsheviks and their enemies had indeed brought catastrophic upheaval and millions of unearned deaths to a society already strained to crisis by the First World War in the wake of the Russian Revolutions of 1917. Communism was and is an international conspiracy against the capitalist order. What little was known about events within Russia in the early 1920s made Revolution a frightening prospect to those with wealth or status or values to lose. In our time the primary recent threat has been Islamic terrorism. But there are always others: organised crime, the internet, mass immigration, the collapse of the banking system and so on. These are all in some ways threatening. The fascist way is to exaggerate the gravity and to lie about the nature of the threat, then ignore human values in pursuit of a forceful and total victory.
Scrapper Duncan blogged some bad photographs I took a few weeks ago. The Olympic Torch relay passed directly outside my home. At 6.30 am there was no ignoring it. It was certainly an “event” as the Council had even swept the streets in this unglamorous neighbourhood. So I suppressed my principled reservations and went to take a look. Now, like Scrapper, I’m all in favour of the sport but have misgivings about a lot of the other stuff that’s going on. As we all know the Torch relay is no ancient Greek ritual but a practice invented for the Berlin Games of 1936, an event the Nazis used to showcase their achievements to the world. The Nazis were very good at this sort of thing. It would be facile to suggest those taking part in the Torch Relay were pro-Nazi. But, overall, the parade, lasting a good 20 minutes, was a distinctly hostile spectacle. In cocktail terms maybe 4 parts police, 1 part Corporations, and a dash of athletics – a single runner near the back, who’d probably paid for the privilege, and appearing late in the parade as if an afterthought. A terrorist threat to the Torch could be real enough, who knows? I suppose we must trust that the Torch needs such an impressive police guard, and be glad that they are very careful indeed to look after it. The torch relay looked like fascism to me. It did not make me feel good about the Olympics. But even in early morning there were people cheering and waving flags so it was popular, and mine was the minority view.
I don’t dispute that there are valid reasons to be concerned about policing matters in this country. On the corporatisation front, our esteemed Home Secretary’s plans to open more policing and prison services to private companies smells of fascism, certainly. But the police themselves are hostile to and angry at that prospect, and in common with all other public sector workers other than regime itself and its corporate donors and cosseted beneficiaries, are up in arms about jobs, pay, pensions, and the insidious process the politicians call “reform.” (This word could do with re-definition.) Meanwhile, and specifically with regard to the Metropolitan Police, the Leveson Enquiry continues to cast light on the corruptible nexus between political leaders, the right-wing media, and the police. The cases of Daniel Morgan, Stephen Lawrence, and Ian Tomlinson are amongst a number of open wounds for the Met’s credibility. Of course there are also the important issues surrounding the policing of protest. SchNews will know about those.
In the real world, at our current stage of ethical development, we need police. There are bad people out there who do bad things, and it’s definitely necessary to stop some people from mixing freely with the general population. Be realistic: there are accidents, horrible crimes, acts of terrorism, tragic events. Policing is a tough job, and stressful, who else should deal with this stuff? We should not be surprised that the police defend the rights of property and companies, of those who produce wealth and provide jobs. Neither should we be surprised that from their perspective, more sweeping powers would make their task easier. Would SchNews suggest instead a force of ordinary citizens as right-on vigilantes in some ‘Big Society’ dystopia? Or, people more to their liking doing much the same service, in a similar structure, and vulnerable to the same institutional and cultural problems as the current police? If you have an ideological objection to capitalism or the government or the law or whatever, fine. Don’t confuse that with a justification for hating every individual police officer. Don’t be stupid. Really – and I admittedly bear fewer grudges against the police, based on personal experience, than some – any opportunity for constructive dialogue in any media should be used to persuade them of the justice of your cause, and to display humanity and respect. Are those not the values you stand for?
But we’re being self-indulgent building this argument that the police are a bunch of fascists, and serve a fascist system. We are letting fascism off the hook. To really “get” fascism we have to see it on an emotional level, the vast number of its adherents could never be accused of thinking too hard. We see this in the EDL. The ‘original’ fascists in Italy and Germany and elsewhere had some sort of excuse, as they were veterans of the Great War of 1914-18 and many were quite frankly unhinged by the things they had experienced. In the modern parlance many had PTSD. Suffering in defeat, as the Germans did, and believing the defeat and the chaotic aftermath to have been born of conspiracy was particularly traumatising. The root of fascism is a mess of boiling fears and hatreds, an urge to destroy. There was hatred of communists, obviously. Also hatred of socialists, anarchists, liberals, free-thinkers, eccentrics, homosexuals, feminists, protesters, the workshy, the poor, the weak, smart-alecs, non-conformists, uncooperative priests, foreigners, and anybody they took a dislike to, even each other. They would certainly hate SchNews and work to destroy the hive. Getting beaten up – in Italy perhaps they would have made you drink castor oil and stab you playfully in the backside – would be the very least you could hope for. If Sussex Police really were fascist this is what they would be doing. If SchNews has evidence of this, publish it.
But the swastika is not actually a symbol of fascism. The Nazis shared the superficial characteristics of fascism, certainly, but they were actually something different, and far worse. Jo Makepeace takes her cues on the Nazis and their meaning these days from ‘Allo ‘Allo and from Downfall spoofs. I’m no fan of the former, though clearly many have differed, but for a while the Downfall spoofs could be funny. “Every joke is a tiny revolution,” as Orwell said, and in telling good jokes about difficult topics we are asserting our freedom, and examining assumptions that need to be tested. I’m not above a snicker at Herr Flick or a titter at Bruno Ganz ranting about the football dressed as a late-period bunker-bound Hitler. But neither of these are actually about Nazism, they’re about the war, and in losing the war the Nazis become ridiculous, mad, defeated, no longer a threat, denatured, emasculated, pathetic, a joke. This image does not describe what the Nazis actually were. It’s more about us.
We British are obsessed with the Second World War. The point of “cultural saturation” was reached long ago, before my time. We have to keep on reminding ourselves that we won. 1940 is the British national foundation myth: the Dunkirk spirit, Churchill, standing against Hitler alone though massively outgunned, Spitfires and Hurricanes the blitz and all that. We should indeed be proud of the stand we took in 1940 and our broader contribution to victory, and what it hopefully says about us. Hitler could not believe we would be so stupid as to risk our Empire, suffer austerity and terror bombing from the air, maybe end up a bankrupted satellite state of the USA if we survived at all. Hitler was right about something then, but he was wrong to believe the UK would make the sensible play and fold. He saw no pressing need to invade Britain, though for obvious reasons he was keen for us to believe he would. Beginning new conflicts against the USSR and the USA in 1941 without first neutralising our little stepping-stone on the edge of Europe was a catastrophic strategic error. Hitler was wrong about Britain because he, like Nazism, was blind to morality and incapable of ethical judgment.
There does come a point when all this forced British jocularity about the Nazis hits the wrong note, causing offence to those who do not share our smug view of the war, and becomes morbid. The villagers of Haworth must still be scratching their heads at why members of a German delegation from their twin town burst into tears upon sight of some clown prancing about in an SS uniform. No doubt they’re still chortling down at the Golf Club. Obviously there is a long history now of the misappropriation of more specifically Nazi symbols, like the fine Hugo Boss tailoring of the SS uniform (which was certainly a selling-point for aspirant SS at the time). The Nazis did look kind of cool by the standards of 1930s paramilitary couture. There is certain brand of Russian neo-Nazi who in their ignorance forgets that Hitler tried to wipe out the people of that land, and all sorts of nutters in the USA of course, but let’s restrict ourselves here to stupid British people. We all laughed at Prince Harry’s notorious Nazi fancy dress incident. We’re not laughing with Harry, or because the Nazis are amusing these days, are we? We’re laughing at Harry because of his lack of knowledge and awareness, and what he may be unconsciously revealing about the values of his class and his family. Edward VIII’s sorry little clique were not the only Windsors enamoured of Hitlerian order and dynamism before 1940. What did those communists and those Jews matter anyway?
If these incidents provoke ironic detachment, what of Aidan Burley MP (Conservative, obviously), and that unfortunate stag party? There are laws about this sort of thing in France, it’s not such a triviality over there. And what peculiar company Mr Burley keeps. Company Jo Makepeace might find convivial, perhaps, as they too would have it that Nazism and its symbols are trivial these days, or irresistibly cool? Or a punk statement of irreverence? I hope you’re not going to tell me it was cool for Sid Vicious to stumble around the Jewish quarter of Paris sporting a swastika t-shirt? There was nothing cool about Sid, actually. He was a derelict heroin addict, he used to attack people in nightclubs with a bicycle chain, couldn’t play the bass, was culpable – along with the idiotic management who put him in the band and egged him on – for the swift derailment of one of the greatest English rock’n’roll bands. Worse, Sid was responsible also for the death of his girlfriend, most probably, and his own demise at the tender age of 21. He tarnished the punk movement with violence, heroin, racism and neo-Nazism. Not cool, but at least Sid had the integrity to preserve the association of the swastika with death. Make no mistake, the Nazis brought death in unimaginable quantities.
Like our humour, British myths about the war don’t always translate too well. At root, we were white people from the north, Nordics with a strong Saxon strain, not a priority in the Nazi order of things. As a result we were fortunate to not experience Hitler’s war in the same way it was experienced on the Continent, and worst of all by the peoples then resident in Poland, Russia, the Baltic States, Ukraine, and ultimately Germany too. We did not suffer occupation and repression, armies fighting through our landscape, the horrors of forced labour, mass starvation, racial extermination (beyond the indefensible Channel Islands at any rate). Just compare the figures, brutally: the UK lost 0.94%, just under half a million, of its pre-war population; Belarus, to pick just one area of intense combat and lengthy occupation lost 25.3%, more than 2 millions. Then check the figures for the whole Soviet Union as was, for Poland, and Germany. The large majority of these deaths are civilians, people who did not always choose to fight but were unfortunate to be in the way as across Eastern Europe the Nazis made war against humanity itself, indiscriminately. Perhaps I should apologise for linking to the Daily Mail? But I make no apology for linking to Wikipedia. On controversial subjects like the Nazi crimes of WW2 it’s reliable, because (ahem) it is ‘policed’.
“A single human death is a tragedy, a million a statistic” said Stalin, who knew quite a lot about this topic, as a prolific mass-murderer himself. We do not have the ability to process the truth of the destroyed human beings represented by these numbers, and we’ve heard it all before. Maybe we are lucky that we can’t feel this flood of human misery and tragedy as those who lived then did. We forget, too, that the truth of the war cannot be simply measured in deaths. There were refugees by the tens of millions, displaced people, traumatised people, people who fought and people who suffered, people who survived. We forget, too, that many of this generation remain alive. We forget that this is the living past. We seek respect for our own youthful preferences without a care for this dying generation’s memories, sacrifices, and struggles. We forget respect is a two way street. We would pretend that the rights of kids to assemble in Worthing are on a par with all this. What savage injustice.
The swastika is also a symbol of the most pernicious and destructive racism. Hitler’s radical Social Darwinism not only normalised war and conflict, but also established a racial hierarchy in which those adjudged inferior were not merely deprived of rights, but of the right to exist. The swastika is specifically anti-semitic, anti-Gypsy, and anti-Slav. This is reason enough to refrain from its careless use. During Hitler’s war the Nazis and their allies conducted a quite insane industrialised mass murder campaign against Europe’s Jews, wiping out between 6 and 8 million of them by means of starvation, forced labour, mass shootings, and the gas chamber. The legacy of this baleful tragedy lives on, it is a key motor of the most intractable and dangerous conflict in the world today, in Palestine. Without the Nazis, there would be no Israel. Every year thousands of young Israelis visit Auschwitz and they are told: “this is what happens when we don’t fight back.” It’s not so very long ago either that millions of Eastern Europeans lived under repressive communist regimes, as a direct result of Nazism. When you deploy the swastika you are directly insulting those who were destroyed, those whose families were destroyed, those who struggled to defeat this thing, and those whose lives were determined or blighted by the consequences of this destruction.
We can draw banal lessons from Nazism: be nice to minorities, be tolerant, don’t invade Poland. Or we can draw more disturbing warnings much more relevant to the now. You can go read Ian Kershaw and discover that as a result of a disorderly system of government, a lazy leader who did not deal in detail and spoke in visions, the abrogation of humane values, and problems on an ever-increasing scale, they were making a lot of it up as they went along; the lesser bods were “Working towards the Fuehrer.” It’s been a long time since Hans Mommsen identified a unique vector of “cumulative radicalism” in Nazism: the longer it lasted, the madder it got. From 1933 they murdered communists, socialists, trade unionists, people like SchNews; at this stage usually murder wasn’t necessary as a short spell in Dachau would often get the message across. After all the communists would have done the same. Nazism progressed to destroy Protestant sectarians, turbulent priests, some Jews; disobedient women were sterilised and died under the knife by the thousand. By 1939 German doctors were murdering disabled people in hospitals on their own initiative, more or less, finding their own little work-arounds to make life less bureaucratic. During the war itself the really big crimes occurred, and very large numbers of people made them happen. Go read Zygmunt Bauman on the role of a modern bureaucracy, not so different from our own, in this, and how responsibility was spread so thinly that nobody really had to feel guilty as an individual, and through a process of double-think could even claim a clear conscience or that they were just following orders. Or go look in the street at the Mercedes and BMWs and ponder the amorality of capitalism. How with barely a step-change these corporations went from dealing in mass murder and the machines of destruction back to making luxury cars for rich people.
SchNews should be standing against all this and not excusing, humorising, or normalising its symbolism. Even if you accept that it ever went away, this kind of sickness is on the way back. In Greece at the weekend the vote for Golden Dawn held up. It takes an economic crisis, an authoritarian mindset, a normalisation of violence, a scapegoating of immigrants and foreigners to set this ball rolling. Golden Dawn are not yet Nazis, though we can see their contempt for humanity in the behaviour of Ilias Kasidiaris in that well-publicised TV incident. We should be disturbed too, that Kasidiaris was not quickly arrested and that the police in Greece are playing, reportedly, a big part in their electoral success and legal impunity. We cannot say where Golden Dawn will go. We cannot be sure the same conditions that have brought them to the forefront of Greek politics will not, in time, happen here. We must be watchful. There can be no accommodation, no normalisation, no negotiation with the likes of Golden Dawn because we know where this road can lead. We should remember.
No kid in my class will get too hard a time for footwear or a hairstyle or even the odd expletive, if they treat me and their peers right. But if they draw a swastika on their exercise book I’m going to remind them what it means, and whether they understand what they’re doing. If they do, it’s a whole different set of problems for us all.
Ian Beck, Cardiff, June 2012
Follow @ian_bec on Twitter
From Scrapper Duncan: I’ve located a copy of the image used by the Worthing Freedom Campaign, which comprised of a Nazi Swastika superimposed on the Sussex Police Logo and included it in my previous post on this topic.