If a politician expresses admiration for Winston Churchill do you immediately think that he's a great fan of, among other considerations, casual indifference to the Bengal famine, the use of chemical weapons in Iraq or the pulverisation and total destruction of German cities? Of course you don't. But when a politician says he admires Enoch Powell it's as if he'd decided to fill the Tiber with blood by scurrying around the country and slaughtering the children of every immigrant in the land.
This is, as you might expect, also nonsense. But, lo and behold there's a mini-rumpus and a song and dance over some comments made by Daniel Hannan to reason.tv. Hannan's crime? To say that among his political heroes:
"In the British context, [was] Enoch Powell ... as somebody who understood the importance of national democracy, who understood why you need to live in an independent country and what that meant, as well as being a free marketeer and a small-government Conservative."
Nonetheless, predictably, this is cause for much asshattery. To wit:
Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, said: "Yet again, we are seeing the two faces of the Conservative Party. The one they want to present to the public and the one which attacks the NHS and praises Enoch Powell.”
Oh please. Never mind that the Labour voters who deserted the party to support the ghastly BNP would have agreed with Powell on immigration, the notion that Powell=Hitler is too absurd for words. Which is to say that it's perfect for politics and ideal fodder for our newspapers who, though they should know better, cannot resist deliberately creating a nonsense out of nothing. If this means helping politicians deliberately distort the obvious meaning and context of an argument then so be it. Who's paying attention?
And, just to be clear, if Hannan had bigged-up Powell's views on immigration while he was talking to Reason* the chances are that he'd have been challenged on them. That's because Reason's a libertarian magazine that, you know, is pretty relaxed about the free movement of people and generally disapproves of border supremacists and absolutists.
Anyway, whatever you think of Hannan's views, isn't it unpatriotic - if we must travel down this dreary road - to suggest that he be bullied into silence?
Please, people, let this Summer of Stupidity end soon.
*Disclosure: Several friends either work at Reason or have done so in the past. I think it's terrific and think you should think so too.