We know the saying about sticks and stones but words never hurting. We know about Freedom of Speech and we know about heckling. We know there’s a difference between hurling epithets at a political opponent and hurling stones and bottles.
So let’s compare and contrast two incidents which happened at the beginning of this week. One took place here in our country, in front of Parliament, on camera. One took place in a town in Germany. In both cases, duly and freely elected MPs were the target.
Here, a Remain MP was heckled by a group wearing yellow vests who shouted “Nazi, Nazi” at her. In Germany, an AfD Parliamentarian was nearly beaten to death because the Left had labelled him and his Party as “Nazi”.
Let’s look at the case here first. It was Anna Soubry, the fierce Remain MP, who was heckled. She was outraged. Her colleagues in the HoC, from the Speaker down, condemned this verbal attack vociferously. Some writers in today’s MSM are busy pointing out that some of the hecklers have ties to UKIP, others, e.g. Allison Pearson (here) and Nigel Farage (here) write that this sort of heckling, and worse, has been dished out to Leave politicians for some time with nary an outcry.
All of us who’ve been out and about promoting Brexit have been called names, ‘fascist scum’ being the usual one. One might ask why being called ‘fascist scum’ is ok, but being called ‘Nazi’ isn’t – I’ll come back to this.
Now let’s look at the case of the German AfD MP. He was violently attacked on the way back from a reception. The police speaks of three masked men attacking him from the back and kicking his head when he was on the ground. The German MSM reports as well as those here, e.g. by the BBC, all pixelated the photo of the injured MP, Frank Magnitz. This fact helpfully allowed the ‘usual suspects’ to denigrate the leader of the AfD in the German Parliament for being over the top when she spoke of attempted murder. If you visit the facebook page of the AfD Bremen section (here) you can still find some reports with the unpixelated photo. It is gruesome but shows that Dr Weidel was right. Mr Magnitz is recovering and was able to talk yesterday afternoon.
You need to know that the AfD has been vilified as being ‘Nazi’ ever since their success in getting elected to the German Parliament. You also need to know that the extreme left-wing ‘scene’ is flourishing in Germany and that they are prone to violence. A few days ago they had placed a bomb at an AfD office in a German state where state elections are taking place this autumn. You need to know furthermore that these antifa groups have proclaimed on their blogs that the time for words is past and that the “AfD Nazis” must now be attacked physically.
Does Germany have Hate Speech legislation? Certainly. After all, this is a EU directive. But there’s ‘hate’ and then there’s ‘Hate’. If it’s deemed to be ‘right wing’ then it will be ‘stamped out’. If it comes from left wing groups, antifa: not so much.
Finally, here’s one other point which we and German readers have noticed over the past few years. Our MSM, there as here, are generally more supportive of left wing, green, anti-conservative issues and policies. They are more ready to condemn anything which looks ‘right wing’. Labelling them as ‘extreme far right populists’ is common. You’ll never see the ideas and policies of the Left in either country being labelled ‘extreme far left populists’. This is the soil in which left-wing attacks, from verbal attacks to attacks on objects to physical violence, are allowed to flourish, where left-wing attacks are condoned.
This brings us back to the starting point: Hate Speech and Violence. Hate speech can certainly prepare the ground for Violence if unchecked. Thus, if Hate Speech coming from the Left is not condemned as forcefully as when it comes from the Right – and it isn’t – then we may see attacks as those on the AfD politician being perpetrated here as well.
If being called “Nazi” by a right-wing mini-mob is outrageous then surely being called ‘fascist scum’ is equally to be condemned. It does not matter if the person or MP thus attacked happens to be a political ‘enemy’: if you condemn the one you must condemn the other.
We’ve always had a robust culture of heckling in this country. We did not need Hate Speech legislation to tell us not to be offensive. However, in a society more polarised than ever – promoted by the usual suspects who dish it out, verbally, but squeal when on the verbal receiving end – we must now be aware that there are groups who will step up from speech to violence.
Calling Ms Soubry, the Remain MP, a ‘Nazi’ was so outrageous because at almost the same time the German MP was physically attacked and nearly beaten to death because he had been labelled a ‘Nazi’.
It must be obvious to even the most partisan reader that it can be a small step from name-calling to violence: once someone has been given a ‘Hate’ label, a physical attack can seem righteous to sick minds.
Conservatives cannot be part of that. Moreover, calling some Remainer ‘Nazi’ is stupid and unimaginative. Conservatives must speak their minds, even forcefully, but that can be done without resorting to violence, verbal or physical. Conservatives do not need to ape the Left.