Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Marie Antoinette And Powerlessness

Camille Paglia, writing in The Chronicle Review, remarks that Marie Antoinette's reputation is recovering somewhat from the "let them eat cake" travesty which defined her for so long, nothwithstanding Edmund Burke's spirited contemporaneous defence of her.

Ms Paglia herself concludes, with fitting, if infuriatingly vague, grandiloquence:

"The return of Marie Antoinette suggests that there are political forces at work in the world that Western humanism does not fully understand and that it may not be able to control."

Could be. Although such unknowable "political forces" have always been with us, and always will be. It could also be that Marie Antoinette's story is at once irresistibly romantic and symbolic - yet continuously controversial - a rare combination guaranteed to keep her in the limelight.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Neo-Nazis Do Quite Well In German Elections

The NPD, Germany's leading neo-Nazi party, got just over 7% of yesterday's vote in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and in Berlin. This makes the party stronger than the Greens and the Left Party.

The NPD is often described as "anti-democratic" but this is a misnomer. The NPD is democratic if (and it's a big if) one identifies the German demos as being exlusively (racially) German. It is also democratic in that in an effective populist way it is articulating important issues - if politically incorrect ones - issues left largely untouched by "mainstream" parties and media. The specific policies advocated by the NPD on its website are as follows:

- Repatriation of all foreigners from German soil (one presumes this includes all Jewish citizens, although this is left unspecified, perhaps out of sqeamishness);

- Withdrawal from NATO, the EU and the euro;

- The creation of an "Interventionsfähigen National- und Sozialstaates" (interventionist national- and social-state), priorising the State over the market economy;

- "Resistance" to the US' "Frankenstein-concept" of nation building and the "Imperium Americanum";

- Removal of all foreign troops from Germany.

It is the familiar mixture of nationalism and socialism which has always characterised the Nazis.

In some ways, however, especially in its anti-Americanism and anti-capitalism, it is quite similar to the bien-pensant bromides embraced by the mainstream left and centre of German politics. Indeed, the NPD sees itself as the "Third Way" between capitalism and communism, quaintly reminiscent of Tony Blair and of Gerhard Schroeder.

There is also a strong "environmental" aspect, which echoes both historical Nazi, and current mainstream preoccupations. One feels sure that these NPD chaps and the tree-hugging Al Gore would have much in common beyond their abhorrence of George W. Bush.

Beyond this resonance with the Zeitgeist, one secret of the NPD's success is its acitivists´ targetting of young voters in relatively disadvantaged, unemployment-blighted areas, especially in the east, and its exploitation of widespread dissatisfaction with mainstream politics. Germany is having a harder time coming to terms with globalisation than, say, the UK, Switzerland and Holland, and political debate is inhibited by a set of outdated, politically-correct assumptions.

The only sure way mainstream parties can spike the appeal of parties like the NPD is to reconnect with voters and work out effective policies to deal with unemployment. Unfortunately, the current coalition gopvernment is hamstrung by its inherent contradictions, and current polls show that its support is weakening.

Whilst this doesn't mean that Germany as a whole is about to embrace the NPD's endearingly dotty policies, it does make it unlikely the NPD will just fade away - as the media and political mainstream appears to hope. It isn't enough - nor even accurate - simply to denounce the NPD as "anti-democratic". That makes a mockery of their electoral success. The NPD may in some ways be a pathetic throwback, but it articulates important themes, in a taboo populist rhetoric. Its notions also to a large extent overlap with those of the German mainstream, as with their opposition to the war in Iraq, George W Bush, and their environmental scaremongering.

It is the vocal populism of the NPD - not just the impractical, wobbly, wrongheaded policy platform - which frightens off the mainstream parties; it inhibits them from grappling with the issues, from taking the NPD to pieces by argument, rather than falling back on their practised, ineffectual "anti-democratic" reflex-cries.

The success of the NPD is a disgrace to Germany - not because of what the NPD represents, but because its success is bred by indifference, on the part of the German mainstream, to what it represents.

Link to the NPD site (German only)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"Rivers of Blood" versus the "Noble Lie"

Roger Scruton, writing in the New Criterion on Enoch Powell's (in)famous "Rivers of Blood speech, lays into liberalism and its "noble lie", by which, he argues, the dangers of large-scale immigration were masked. Powell's extravagant quotation from Virgil, he believes, made it easy for liberals to dismiss Powell's stance as "racist" and so avoid the need to debate his arguments. But the arguments, Scruton says, were far from being racist.

"Nor is it racist" (he writes) "to argue that indigenous people must take precedence over newcomers, who have to earn their right of residence and cannot be allowed to appropriate the savings of their hosts. But it is easier for me to write about these matters in an American intellectual journal than in an English newspaper, and if I tried to write about these things in a Belgian newspaper, I could be in serious trouble with the courts. The iron curtain of censorship that came down in the wake of Powell’s speech has not lifted everywhere; on the contrary, if the EU has its way, it will be enshrined in the criminal code, with “racism and xenophobia”—defined as vaguely as is required to silence unwanted opinion—made into an extraditable offense throughout the Union."

One suspects Scruton of over-egging the cake a little with some of this - his contention that the EU is aiming to make discussion of immigration illegal, his view that "an iron curtain of censorship" exists in these matters. Neo-Nazi parties, after all, thrive in Belgium, Germany, France and Italy. But this element of slightly camp posing has always been part of Scruton's appeal.

Link to Scruton's article:
The New Criterion — Should he have spoken?

Scruton on J.S. Mill the prototype leftist.

"Global Alliance Against Nuclear Terrorism"

Graham Allison, writing in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, reckons a terrorist nuclear attack on America is probably "inevitable", although "preventable". He says that the pusillanimity of western governments in this matter is caused by the same failure of imagination that failed to foresee the possibility of 9/11 and calls for a Global Alliance Against Nuclear Terrorism.

Link to Allison's article:
The ongoing failure of imagination |

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

NATO In The "Cradle Of 9/11" - Call For More Manpower

America, Britain, Canada and Holland are the only NATO members currently engaged in resisting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, despite NATO's Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's urgent call for reinforcements.

The absence of large European countries like France and Germany is significant, if hardly surprising. Their governments appear wilfully blind to the price of failure in "the cradle of 9/11. In part, this reflects their voters' dangerous amivalences. But it is their own citizens who will suffer if the terrorists are allowed to win through the indifference and pusillanimity of their governments.

Telegraph | Comment | Nato's members must share burden of fighting

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Scandal Over Multiple Iraqi Idenitity-Papers In Germany

An Iraqi immigrant to Germany, who arrived illegally, was given three different identity passes by German authorities (in Schwelm). His papers featured different names and ages, but the same photographs and physical descriptions.

This is somewhat embarrassing given that the German Home Office is currently reviewing its security aparatus. If German civil servant happily allow illegal Muslim immigrants to be so flexible with their identities, there can be no real expectation that Germany can keep any meaningful surveillance over this highly dangerous community, which has already contributed much to international terror.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Parallels Between Iraq and 1936 Spain

Stephen Schwartz draws some parallels between the war in Iraq today and the Spanish Civil War.

The main one being that European pusillanimity, in refusing to support the Spanish Republicans against Franco, paved the way for WWII.

Schwartz posits that a similar pusillanimity regarding the war against Islamic fascism may have similarly disastrous consequences.

PREVIEW: 1936 and All That