Brendan O’Neill says don’t call people fascists – but he did on the Mail’s front page

He's such a contrarian he contradicts himself


‘The worst thing about 2016’, writes Brendan O’Neill in the Spectator, ‘has been the mainstreaming of the insult ‘fascist’.’ O’Neill blasts

‘the vicious, authoritarian tactic of using the word fascist to pathologise those who think differently or who kick against the political order’,


“The F-word is a weapon. It’s a silencing tactic. Its aim is not to describe but to denounce.”

If only the great free-speech warrior listened to his own advice! Back in November 2015, O’Neill wrote a front page column for the Daily Mail headlined: ‘Britain’s students: the new fascists?’

On that occasion, he wrote:

“The word ‘fascist’ must never be used lightly. But to destroy with fire words you don’t like? That is fascistic, and the very opposite of the freedom of thought that should prevail on 21st-century campuses.”

Perhaps he was just calling the act of burning pamphlets fascist? Nope:

“As we have seen, the New Fascists, and the academic apologists who cave in to their censorious demands, frown on alternative thinking and seek to eradicate dissenting thought.”

O’Neill is such a great contrarian – he even contradicts himself!

* * *
As to his argument, I beat him to it by a year. Here’s what I wrote about his Mail piece in Nov 2015:

“O’Neill is right to be cautious. As far back as 1944, George Orwell wrote in Tribune that the word ‘fascism’ had become little more than a swear word, (though he took the movement seriously enough to have nearly lost his life fighting it in Spain). Nevertheless, he wouldn’t have confused an outbreak of Mary Whitehouse-ism on campus with the boots of the Wehrmacht…

Nice of O’Neill to catch up. Trouble is, sometimes the word really does apply – from Aleppo to Batley and Spen.

But don’t look to O’Neill for clarity on this point. His old magazine Living Marxism famously accused ITV of having faked footage of Serbian concentration camps in Bosnia.

ITV sued and won, and Living Marxism is no more, leaving O’Neill to reinvent himself as a libertarian and champion of free speech.

Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13 

See: The five stupidest Brendan O’Neill articles

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6 Responses to “Brendan O’Neill says don’t call people fascists – but he did on the Mail’s front page”

  1. Jimmy Glesga

    Merkel and the liberal lefties should resign and offer humble apologies for what is about to ensue in the EU. What is happening in Germany is just the starter course for them. Assad warned what was coming to Europe even Gaddafi warned but as usual no one listened. The lefties and liberals should be held accountable for their stupidity.

  2. Andrew Hennager

    Do you not understand the concept of irony?

  3. GodfreyR

    The real fascists these days are those who try to foist their culture and religion on others by means of violent terrorism.

  4. Imran Khan

    Adam. It’s all in the question mark at the end of the Daily Mail headline. Punctuation really is important you know. Read Lynn Truss. Anyway, another own goal from you but I really do hope you improve in the New Year.

  5. Adam Barnett

    Adam Barnett

    There’s no question mark in O’Neill’s piece, ‘Imran’.

  6. Jimmy Choo

    Jimmy Glesga says “what is about to ensue in the EU”. Is that what you’re going to do Jimmy? Or will you leave it to others and support it from home? Your type always talk about the rise of the far right as if they are somewhere else. You are the far right.

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