There was something genuinely frightening about the disturbance aimed at Nigel Farage and his family this weekend; what’s scary is that there seem to be so many people in our country who think a man having lunch with his family is a legitimate target for such a stunt because of his views. If you’re prepared to do that in front of people’s kids, you can likely do anything.
Their self-justification was telling; as one protester put it, Farage was a target because he ‘othered’ people. In my experience people who use the word othered are quite quick to ‘other’ anyone who disagrees with them. Likewise when another one of the crowd gets aggressive with someone he believes works for a ‘back-stabbing Tory rag’, he says his rage is out of ‘love for disabled people’.
Aside from the group’s unwittingly Christian idea that there should be no in groups or out groups, something shared by very, very few people outside the west, there is the historical argument that in their attitudes to migrants Ukip resemble the Nazis.
This is the story that a generation has been taught, that Nazi Germany’s exceptional crimes were an extension of conservative beliefs, a product of their view of in-groups and out-groups, and of national identity generally. In this way the Second World War has become part of the diversity cult.
The Nazis were a fairly unique historical phenomenon and hugely unlikely ever to happen again: they came to power, partly through violence, in an advanced society with weak political structures and a reactionary judiciary that tolerated their thuggery, an unusual combination that bears no relation to Europe today.
None of the major populist parties in western Europe, whether it be Ukip, the FN, the Party for Freedom or any other, resemble the Nazis any more than the standard centre-Left have much in common with Stalin; there are genuinely neo-Nazi parties, such as Golden Dawn, but they tend to be tiny and ineffective, and in weak, fringe nations.
But once you convince a generation that anyone objecting to ‘diversity’ is a Nazi you can make them do almost anything not just to beat their arguments but to destroy them. When Pim Fortuyn rose to popularity on a platform opposing multiculturalism in his liberal country the Dutch media painted him as a new Hitler who was scapegoating Muslims – until one activist took it upon himself to make sure Fortuyn could do so no more.
A much more productive lesson from European history would be how fanaticism, whether Left-wing, Right-wing or religious, can make people do appalling things; that if you start to see your opponents as not just misguided but actually evil then it’s very easy to start seeing them as physically a target.
(Another lesson is that humans rarely learn their lessons, and in trying to avoid previous mistakes often repeat them; because of Europe’s historical guilt over centuries of persecution we must therefore import millions of people from the most anti-Semitic societies on earth.)
What Farage advocates, the right of a people to control their borders, is not an extremist othering of anyone, it’s a basic human right without which a people cannot achieve happiness and prosperity. Indeed one of the great downsides of this diversity we’re all supposed to celebrate is that democracy is very difficult to operate in multicultural societies, where instead of seeing others as opponents, people tend to see them as their enemies.