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 @AdamBarnett13Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.