Sunday 24 February 2019

Targeting tycoon paves way for real fascists to slip in under radar

Labour's Tulip Siddiq during a debate calling to ban US presidential hopeful Donald Trump from Britain, at Westminster. Photo: PA
Labour's Tulip Siddiq during a debate calling to ban US presidential hopeful Donald Trump from Britain, at Westminster. Photo: PA
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

It may have been a long overdue victory for common sense, but the fact that there was even a debate in the House of Commons this week about barring Donald Trump from Britain remains an indictment of an institution which likes to claim to be the oldest parliament in the world.

As you probably know, the leading Republican candidate for next November's presidential election is so prone to gaffes and demented outbursts that it often seems like he opens his mouth only to change feet. Whether it's building a wall across America's southern border to keep out illegal immigrants, insulting prisoners of war, or unveiling a thoroughly unworkable and morally objectionable plan to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering America, the former 'Apprentice' host is as adept at grabbing headlines as a politician as he ever was while a television personality.

But contrary to what organisers of the proposed travel ban claim, the fact that 570,000 people signed a petition calling on the UK Home Secretary to refuse Trump entry to Britain wasn't a sign that the vast majority of Brits don't want him to enter the country. It was merely a sign that, these days, you can easily mobilise hundreds of thousands of bored people to sign any old petition.

Frankly, in the world of carefully orchestrated outrage on social media, a decent campaign could muster that number of signatories for a missing cat. Not that you would have known that from the posturing of the MPs during the debate. According to Tulip Siddiq MP (above): "He is interviewing for the most important job in the world. His words are not comical, his words are not funny. His words are poisonous. He should not be given a visa to come and visit our multicultural country that we are so proud of."

Of course, many people would be forgiven for thinking that even as she made the point, she was missing it - Trump could well be the next president of the USA. For a country which has been desperately hanging on to the so-called 'special relationship', the idea of deliberately alienating the man - and his voters - seems almost wilfully dense.

But apart from the simple realpolitik of not going out of your way to infuriate a man who might be the next POTUS, this was just the latest example of people who think anything they disagree with should be banned and denounced as 'hate speech'.

Of course, what Trump said was neither hate speech nor, as other MPs claimed, incitement to hatred. He never espoused violence, he simply made a dumb statement.

If, for instance, he had said that Muslim women who disobey their husband deserve to be beaten, then he would have undoubtedly been guilty of incitement to violence - but there are plenty of Islamic clerics who have made such utterances. For instance, few of Trump's Lilliputian critics called for Egyptian cleric Fadel Soliman to barred from Britain for saying exactly that. In fact, the delightful Soliman, who thinks disobedient women should be beaten with 'a small stick', was treated as an honoured guest in 19 universities in the UK last year, with no petitions or angry debate in Parliament.

That's the problem with such selective outrage - it exposes the hypocrisy of those who seem the most indignant.

Even more contemptible was the contribution from Labour MP Jack Dromey, who graciously conceded that: "Donald Trump is free to be a fool but he is not free to be a dangerous fool in Britain ... Isis needs Donald Trump and Donald Trump needs Isis. Isis needs to be able to say, 'Muslims, you are under attack' and Donald Trump needs to be able to say, 'you are under attack by Muslims'."

This is exactly the kind of demonstrably fatuous assertion that Trump thrives on. After all, whenever there is an Isil-inspired attack on European or American soil, Trump has never been cited as the inspiration.

The whole point of a robust democracy is the ability to argue about different points of view without trying to ban them altogether.

The idea that the British are so gullible and bovine that they will suddenly start to ape his views and demand the reconstruction of Hadrian's Wall and a ban on Muslim immigration is a rather demeaning one, yet that is the position held by elected politicians such as Siddiq and Dromey.

By consistently mischaracterising Trump and people who hold similar concerns about Islamic violence as 'far right', as is now the case, his critics make it easier for real fascists to slip under the radar unnoticed.

It's easy to denounce Trump as a bumbling proto-fascist fool but that seems to come from the instinctive contempt that many on the Left, in both Britain and Ireland, feel for America itself.

The Americans, meanwhile, place more value in their constitutionally protected right to free speech than an increasingly cowardly Europe, and even American news networks which despise Trump have been nonplussed by the British move against him.

There is, perhaps, one crucial reason why Trump is not guilty of 'hate speech' and it's a rather simple one: he is so evidently head over heels in love with himself that it's unlikely he has the emotional reserves to hate anyone else.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss