Nick Cohen

‘Far-left’ and ‘far-right’: distinctions without differences

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In my Observer column today, I talk about the growing repression in Hungary and my dislike of the terms “far right” and “far left”. Look for divergences between them and all you find are distinctions without differences. Dictatorial movements in Europe are merging; apparent opposites are turning out to be the same. The rather brave Hungarian artists I spoke to are threatened by fascistic forces. Yet when they fear for the future, they think of the fate of the subject people of “socialist” Belarus, whose dictatorship is being supported by the local representative of the supposed free speech lovers at Wikileaks, a story my Fleet Street colleagues ought to think about covering. 


The common ideology is that democratic countries are the source of all the evils of the world, which is where Wikileaks fits in, and that democracy and human rights are shams. As is traditional, all parties to the compact spew out the Jewish conspiracy theory.


The second reason for my discomfort with the old labels is that I know too many people who will, rightly, condemn the Tories for allying with nationalist and xenophobic movements in Eastern Europe while staying silent about the liberal-left’s alliances with the misogynists, homophobes and racists of radical Islam.


As I say in the piece:


'It is customary in the liberal press to attack the EU and, by extension, David Cameron for their toleration of the European far right. I won't follow precedent because I have no wish to join the selective moralists of liberal England, who beat their breasts and denounce Cameron for allying with unsavoury east European parties, but stay silent when leftwing British charlatans indulge an Islamist far right, whose hatreds of gays and Jews are as putrid as anything you can find behind the old Iron Curtain.'


Alas, whenever you believe that you have nailed British hypocrisy, the BBC comes along and proves that it is worse than you thought. If there were an award for intellectual cowardice, a gold medal for journalistic double standards, this morning’s effort by Radio 4 deserves it.


The BBC began its report (here 28 minutes in) on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by saying that after the attack “some in the west felt personally threatened by Muslims. They believed that Muslims had nothing hatred for America and its allies.” Note how at once the BBC avoids discussion of radical Islam, which does indeed have nothing but hatred for the West, for the Jews, for the Hindus and for the free thinkers, atheists, agnostics, liberals, secularist and democrats. Hatred that is complemented by its loathing for those Muslims or ex-Muslins who do not share its fascistic values, and whom it is slaughtering and oppressing wherever it has the power to kill.


Instead of acknowledging radical Islam’s existence, the BBC politely ignores what was in front of its nose and implies that to oppose radical Islam is to incubate a racist hated of all Muslims.


The only fanatic it quotes is Pastor Jones, the Florida preacher who wanted to burn the Koran. He is a nasty piece of work, to be sure, but an insignificant figure whose global notoriety owes everything to media corporations such as the BBC. The fanaticism we should worry about is Christian fanaticism not Islamist fanaticism, the suggestion runs. At the very least there is a moral equivalence between the two. The BBC then mentions the 7/7 bombings, which as I remember them were perpetrated by men with “nothing but hatred for the West”. Instead of finding someone who can talk about the killings with honesty and intelligence, it drags up a vicar so wet you could wring him out. His contribution is to blame the media for “piling on the agony” – as if journalists were the suicide bombers – and to describe the atrocity in tellingly woozy and illiterate language as “something international,” when it was all too clearly “something domestic”.


I am glad to say that in the studio discussion afterwards, Stephen Pollard exploded. “The idea that there is some kind of equivalence of extremism” between a Florida pastor with a tiny congregation and a global clerical fascist movement was “fantasy,” he boomed.


Here is my first prediction for 2011. Radio 4 will not invite Mr Pollard back for a very long time.

Written byNick Cohen

Nick Cohen is a columnist for the Observer and author of What's Left and You Can't Read This Book.

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