Monday, 16 May 2016

Boris Johnson and the Antichrist of Europe

Boris Johnson and the Antichrist of Europe

"EU has delivered peace in Europe for over 70 years. Comparisons by @borisjohnson with Hitler's Third Reich are obscene and deluded”

“#BorisJohnson just so you know Hitler stole the human rights of millions whilst EU fights to preserve and expand human rights thro ECHR”

"Do you wear shoes? You know who else wore shoes, don't you? Hitler. That's who. You're like Hitler. #Boris #Brexit"

This is the news which shows that Boris Johnson’s rhetoric and judgement has finally got the better of him., for all that he studied history, we are now in the kind of history written by Whig historians like Macaulay – a biased history in which Britain’s triumphalism is foremost.

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Johnson said European history had seen repeated attempts to rediscover the "golden age of peace and prosperity under the Romans".

“The whole thing began with the Roman Empire. I wrote a book on this subject, and I think it’s probably right. The truth is that the history of the last couple of thousand years has been broadly repeated attempts by various people or institutions – in a Freudian way – to rediscover the lost childhood of Europe, this golden age of peace and prosperity under the Romans, by trying to unify it. Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically.”

“The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods. But fundamentally what it is lacking is the eternal problem, which is that there is no underlying loyalty to the idea of Europe. There is no single authority that anybody respects or understands. That is causing this massive democratic void.”

Now this rang a very distinct bell in my memory, as I remember reading “The Late, Great Planet Earth” which was a best-selling 1970 book by Hal Lindsey with Carole C. Carlson, and first published by Zondervan. This is what it had to say on the subject:

“The Roman influence upon the world is so extensive that it touches Western civilization in every aspect of life. From absorbing epics like Ben Hur to the Roman candle we shoot on the Fourth of July, we are saturated with the glory that was Rome. However, Rome disintegrated from within; unfortunately, there is in America the same trend in moral decay that led to the downfall of Rome.”

A nice touch that – a diatribe against the liberal movement in America from the Christian right, because of course, this is a fundamentalist Christian polemic. Lindsay continues:

“It is interesting to see in history how men have attempted to put together the old Roman Empire. Charlemagne tried to do this in A.D. 800. His ‘Roman Empire’ included what are now the countries of France, Germany, Italy, Holland and Belgium. Charlemagne was crowned by the Pope as Emperor Charles Augustus. But his empire was not the ten-nation confederacy of the Scriptures.”

“Napoleon tried his strutting best to establish his own Roman Empire. Another Pope, Pius VII, made a tedious trip across the Alps to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris to place an imperial crown on Napoleon but the new little Caesar snatched the crown from the Pope and put it on himself. His empire was not the revived Roman Empire, either.”

“And then there was Hitler. Does anyone doubt that he attempted to put Rome together again? He said his Third Reich would last a thousand years. God had other plans and Hitler lost.”

So far, we are travelling along a very similar road to Johnson, and where are we about to end up?

“In spite of the vain striving of man, of the bold and infamous conquerors throughout the ages who failed in their human attempts, we are beginning to see the Ancient Roman Empire draw together, just as predicted.”

“We are not speaking of a revived Roman Empire in the physical, geographical sense, although some of these countries were part of the Ancient Roman Empire, but we are speaking of those countries which are the depository of the people, the culture, and tradition of Europe”.

Yes, the drive to reunify Europe, looking back to the ancient Roman Empire, comes to it final form in the present with the European Union.

This is still very much part of the thinking of the American Christian right, those who are looking for the return of the antichrist as part of the “end times”. Remember "The Omen"? A considerably scary number of American fundamentalists (and even some British ones) believe the Antichrist will return as the head of a revived Roman Empire of some kind.

In 2004, Hal Lindsay returned to this subject:

“What is relevant is that there exists, at this point in human history, a 10-core nation European defence collective consisting of the richest and most powerful nations in Europe.”

“We believe that the Common Market and the trend toward the unification of Europe may well be the beginning of the 10-nation confederacy predicted by Daniel and the Book of Revelation.”

Quite where Lindsay has gone with this now that there are far more than 10 nations part of the European Union I don’t know, but I suspect he’s adjusted his rhetoric to fit the facts.

This is a kind of Christianity which finds its roots in the book of Daniel and Revelation, and looks towards the end of the world; it is what might be termed a real-world apocalyptic.

Boris is still some distance from that, but he is getting close.

It is true that the European Union does have problems with adequate representation in the structures of accountable power of its member states. Election to the EU Parliament is done in a roundabout way via the European Parliament, although precisely who is appointed is not by a straightforward vote.

In this respect, it represents a Cabinet, where Cabinet members are not in any way directly voted for by the people, or by Parliament, although with the Commission there are rights to question the suitability of candidates, whereas the Cabinet is formed by Prime Ministerial appointment alone.

It might also be noted that elections to the EU Parliament are by proportional representation, giving a much less democratic void that the UK's First Past the Post which usually leads to any third party being swallowed by a democratic black hole.

By its context in his speech with Johnson’s preamble in which he cites Napoleon and Hitler, suggests that when he speaks of a “massive democratic void”, he is invoking comparison with leaders who would stop at nothing in their ruthless aim to reunite Europe.

In that, he is certainly emulating the tactics of one of his heroes, Winston Churchill, who launched a blazing attack on the Labour Party in the 1945 general election campaign, using the most incendiary language possible. It is worth stating this in its whole, to see how closely it mirrors Boris Johnson’s rant against the European Union:

“My friends, I must tell you that a Socialist policy is abhorrent to the British ideas of freedom. Although it is now put forward in the main by people who have a good grounding in the Liberalism and Radicalism of the early part of this century, there can be no doubt that Socialism is inseparably interwoven with Totalitarianism and the abject worship of the State. It is not alone that property, in all its forms, is struck at, but that liberty, in all its forms, is challenged by the fundamental conceptions of Socialism.”

“Look how even to-day they hunger for controls of every kind, as if these were delectable foods instead of war-time inflictions and monstrosities. There is to be one State to which all are to be obedient in every act of their lives. This State is to be the arch-employer, the arch-planner, the arch-administrator and ruler, and the arch caucus boss.”

“How is an ordinary citizen or subject of the King to stand up against this formidable machine, which, once it is in power, will prescribe for every one of them where they are to work; what they are to work at; where they may go and what they may say; what views they are to hold and within what limits they may express them; where their wives are to go to queue-up for the State ration; and what education their children are to receive to mould their views of human liberty and conduct in the future?”

“A Socialist State once thoroughly completed in all its details and its aspects – and that is what I am speaking of – could not afford to suffer opposition. Here in old England, in Great Britain, of which old England forms no inconspicuous part, in this glorious Island, the cradle and citadel of free democracy throughout the world, we do not like to be regimented and ordered about and have every action of our lives prescribed for us.”

“Socialism is, in its essence, an attack not only upon British enterprise, but upon the right of the ordinary man or woman to breathe freely without having a harsh, clumsy, tyrannical hand clapped across their mouths and nostrils. A Free Parliament – look at that – a Free Parliament is odious to the Socialist doctrinaire.”

And Churchill, like Johnson, could not resist invoking the spirit of Hitler:

“No Socialist Government conducting the entire life and industry of the country could afford to allow free, sharp, or violently-worded expressions of public discontent. They would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo, no doubt very humanely directed in the first instance. And this would nip opinion in the bud; it would stop criticism as it reared its head, and it would gather all the power to the supreme party and the party leaders, rising like stately pinnacles above their vast bureaucracies of Civil servants, no longer servants and no longer civil. And where would the ordinary simple folk – the common people, as they like to call them in America – where would they be, once this mighty organism had got them in its grip?”

Substitute the European Union in the above for the phrase “Socialism” and “Socialist Government”, and you have almost an identical diatribe against Europe.

Godwin’s Law states that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches", that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism.

Mike Godwin himself was interviewed on Channel 4, and suggested that Godwin’s Law came about because it was firstly an argument to trump opponent’s arguments – for bad people, who is worse in recently history than Hitler – and secondly because it was an easy and lazy argument to make.

Churchill’s rhetorical diatribe – which also involved Nazi comparisons - backfired, and it will be interesting to see if the same happens with Boris Johnson’s own supposedly historical analysis of the drive to European hegemony. Like Johnson, Churchill also wrote history - his "History of the English Speaking Peoples" being a case in point - but this did not stop him making a tremendous mistake in his presentation of post-war socialism, which saw his more measured historical writing jettisoned for a demonised projection of his own fears.

Attlee's rejoinder showed how Churchill's position actually favoured those in positions of power, and not the common people:

"The Prime Minister made much play last night with the rights of the individual and the dangers of people being ordered about by officials. I entirely agree that people should have the greatest freedom compatible with the freedom of others. There was a time when employers were free to work little children for sixteen hours a day. I remember when employers were free to employ sweated women workers on finishing trousers at a penny halfpenny a pair. There was a time when people were free to neglect sanitation so that thousands died of preventable diseases. For years every attempt to remedy these crying evils was blocked by the same plea of freedom for the individual. It was in fact freedom for the rich and slavery for the poor. Make no mistake, it has only been through the power of the State, given to it by Parliament, that the general public has been protected against the greed of ruthless profit-makers and property owners."
The Johnsonian rhetoric, by demonising the European Union, fails to see its strengths as well as its failings; it is unbalanced, and unfair.

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