I can forgive many of the sins of the Trump-is-Hitler, Brexit-is-Beelzebub lobby. I mean, we all lose the plot occasionally. We’re all susceptible to freaking out. One day you’re a paragon of measured political chatter and the next you’re on Twitter at 3am screaming ‘FASCIST!’ at eggs and plotting to make Hampstead a republic so you don’t have to share citizenship with former miners and women called Chardonnay who don’t like the EU. Meltdowns happen. I get it. Let’s not be too hard on these people who’ve left the land of reason for the world of WTF, where Godwin’s Law is permanently suspended.
But there’s one thing for which I’ll never forgive them: making me defend Piers Morgan. Anything but this. Alas, needs must. Because the vicious Twitterstorming of Morgan over the weekend, after he said on American TV that the Trump administration has not banned Muslims from visiting the US and that it is hysterical to call Trump Hitler, confirms that even people who say factual things can now expect to feel the flames of the Trump-fearing, Brexit-loathing set. Yes, this is how thoroughly the plot has been lost by the EU-backing, Hillary-pining part of the chattering class: they’ve managed to make Piers Morgan look like the voice of reason. Heaven help us. Or them.
Morgan’s crime was to tell everyone to calm down. On Bill Maher’s TV show ‘Real Time’, he got into a spat with Aussie comedian Jim Jefferies. In response to Jefferies blathering on like a real-life version of Rick from The Young Ones about how Trump is Hitler, Morgan said that was ‘hysterical’. It is hysterical. He’s right. Unlike Morgan, I am opposed to everything Trump has done so far, yet even I can see it is properly daft (I’m being generous here) to talk about him in the same breath as the nastiest mass murderer in history.
Morgan also said it is wrong to speak of a ‘Muslim Ban’, because Muslims aren’t banned from the US. Again, he’s right. A temporary restriction on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries (which I think is a bad idea, by the way) is not a Muslim Ban. Eighty-five percent of the world’s Muslims can still travel to the US. Or are we saying accuracy and clarity no longer matter? That fact-free, fear-mongering hyperbole is acceptable when it comes to having a dig at Trump? In 2006, the New Labour government ‘debar[red] virtually all Bulgarians and Romanians from working in Britain’. It would make as much sense to have called that a European Ban as it does to call Trump’s order a Muslim Ban. (Also, while we’re here, I don’t remember anyone referring to New Labour as Literally Hitler over that extraordinary restriction on free movement in the EU.)
By any objective, reasoned, measured assessment, what Morgan said was true. Muslims aren’t banned. Trump isn’t as bad as Hitler. These are facts. And yet Morgan has been shoved in the stocks by the Twitterati and subjected to two days of ridicule and fury and even demands that he lose his TV gigs.
JK Rowling, who has of late started to play a very worrying role in unleashing vast Twittermobs, led the charge against Morgan. She branded him ‘fact-free’ and ‘amoral’, even though in this instance he was the one being factual against others who were behaving hysterically. Jefferies hollered about Trump: ‘Give him a fucking chance, mate. [Hitler] didn’t kill the Jews on the first day.’ It is this which is unhinged, and which is amoral too in fact, since it represents an exploitation of the historic and profound suffering of the Jews to the end of scoring a cheap political point in the present. And yet in the moral meltdown over Trump, the man saying ‘let’s get our facts straight’ is hounded while the guy basically saying ‘Trump will get around to committing genocide’ is cheered. It is bizarre, and perverse.
In a sense, Morgan and Rowling deserve each other, he the TV blowhard and she the billionaire woman of the people, both given to moral showboating online. But the fury at Morgan also tells a bigger story. It confirms that the anti-Trump panic is making reasoned, rational debate — and reasoned, rational opposition to Trump, which would be a good thing — virtually impossible. These people prefer the cheap thrill of screaming ‘HITLER’ and the moral kick of shaming those who like Trump over analysing what Trump really represents and how his presidency came about. It’s almost Salem-like: if you fail to denounce the devil in sufficiently shrill tones, you will be suspected of being in communion with the devil. Hate Trump or you’re in trouble. Right now, I’m more scared of this cultural elite that has abandoned reason and embraced fear, which threatens to crush those who disagree, than I am of Trump.