Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage

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This article was written on 17 Jun 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Mental illness and Brexit as fascism

I’ve had mental illness. Or, rather, I have mental illness, because there are times, and days, and weeks when the fog won’t lift. My mental illness generally means that I’m scared and anxious, have no energy and want to sleep rather a lot. It doesn’t make me want to murder someone because, and here’s the kicker, tabloid writers, I’ve never wanted to murder anyone previously. The depression doesn’t put any ideas there that weren’t present before, but shoves a giant magnifying glass over the negative ones until they crowd out the positivity.

Of course, I’m talking about the killer of Jo Cox and I’m not going to name him because, like the man who shot John Lennon, he doesn’t deserve that level of recognition. The tabloids want him to be, in their parlance, ‘mental,’ because it means that the hatred and division that they’ve been sowing in people’s minds for years hasn’t sprouted and grown very quickly into something that is both grotesque and poisonous. If he’s mad, they don’t have to look at themselves and it’s all explained away nicely.

Except, of course, that doesn’t work. Julia Hartley-Privilege said that the person who killed the people in the Orlando nightclub was a ‘lunatic,’ which is designed to do a similar thing. Put them in the mad box and you don’t need to think about what their motives are. Put that particular person in the mad box and you don’t need to think about him being an absolutely galloping and self-hating homophobe whose desperate inner conflict could only find expression by killing people who were enjoying themselves. And you certainly don’t need to think about the media, telling their readers, watchers and listeners about the evil gays RAMMING IT DOWN YOUR THROAT.

Put Jo Cox’s killer in the mad box, and the Brexiters don’t need to think about how much they hate just because they’ve been told to hate or because hating is politically expedient. They can get on with hating and not thinking because, if there’s one thing that hate can’t stand, it’s thought. What if you thought about those people on the poster you’re told to be afraid of, and happened to think that they were people fleeing for their lives, fleeing from the same Islamic extremists that you’re wanking yourself half to death over? Their decision to leave and seek safe harbour suddenly doesn’t look so odd, does it? And Britain’s desire to keep them out suddenly doesn’t look so noble, does it?

This line of thinking, of looking at pictures of ‘undesirables’ and voting according to how the caption told you to feel, was popular in Nazi Germany. Pictures of Jews stood around, looking Jewish, with voiceovers that said they were evil, thieving swine who had inexplicably stabbed their country in the back during the First World War. Jews on street corners looking impoverished, because they were in ghettos that the Nazi state had made for them. Or Jews looking frightened, because they had every reason to be. When this happens, people end up dying because just enough people have been primed to see them as in some way less than human or a threat.

And this is what fascism does. Whether it’s the type in a brown uniform that fights in the street and herds people into camps, or the bloke in a tie who tells you that other Europeans want your job, it’s the same. The fascism that seizes power is, for the time being, dead. The fascism that uses the ballot box to claim legitimacy, that wears suits rather than uniforms, purely because it’s much more effective and because you get much less opposition, is more popular by far. Go back to the 1930s and people like Farage would have been wearing a black shirt and saluting the British Union of Fascists flag. All that’s different is that people like him are wearing a disguise.

These people aren’t mad, of course. They’re depressingly sane. And nor are the people who do violence to others. They’re not mad, either, for all that the papers will tell you that they are. They have a worldview that is hideously hostile to love, to kindness and to caring about your fellow human being, no matter what their colour, creed or religion. That isn’t the product of mental illness or anything like it. No, it’s the product of fascism. Jo Cox was targeted before she died and the signs are that the attack was premeditated. Again, that isn’t mental illness. It’s fascism.

And we need to start calling this by its correct name. Fascism. Fearing others with no reason is fascism. Wanting violence to be visited on others, whether it’s indirectly through poverty or directly, as Katie Hopkins would have it, with people machine gunning refugees, is fascism. It might not march behind a symbol, it might claim that people who actually act on it are mad, but what it is is, in fact, fascism. And if this country votes to leave the EU, as seems likely, then it’s going down a long, dark road to hatred, along which fascism is merely one step.

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