The Death of Democracy
Fintan O’Toole has been telling us in The Irish Times recently that we in the West are living in a state of “pre-fascism” and that everything that is happening now from the recent emergence of populist parties in Italy, to Viktor Orbán in Hungary, to Donald Trump in the US, to the Brexit vote in the UK, is a trial run for the fascism to come. What precisely he means by fascism is a bit vague. One assumes he means the literal 1930s Italian variety but since Liberals apply the word fascism liberally, you can never be quite sure they’re not talking about you.
“Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy” he tells us. It needs to be “market tested” first. So that’s where we are. In a period of market testing for O’Toole’s nightmare fascist take-over. This concept is, ironically, one that could only be proposed at a moment of near total Liberal ascent. This is especially true in the Republic of Ireland where the Left have assured us for years that we live in a fascist state. What a surprise then to find that we live not under fascism but “pre-fascism”.
In this moment of triumphant Liberalism, O’Toole sees bad omens everywhere. Signs that the Liberal consensus (the Left flank of which he explicitly stands for and defends) is threatened. That “democracy” and “freedom” are on the defensive. After all, they’re losing elections. “One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections.” Here O’Toole’s treatise enters the territory of convenient fiction. It is hard to say whether Liberals have talked themselves into believing this or whether they actually believe it. In any case they say they do. So you can take it as writ, that no “right wing” election victory you will ever see in your lifetime will be considered valid. It will be portrayed as hacked, rigged, fixed or falsified.
What he is actually saying is that he does not recognise democratic elections any longer. He does not recognise the victories of opposing ideologies. Whenever there is a vote the wrong way, then there must be a conspiracy behind it. Usually orchestrated by an omniscient Russian ogre.
Democracy becomes unviable as soon as the victory of one side all but guarantees the liquidation of the other. Democracy relies on there being a shared ontology, a shared set of beliefs and presuppositions. We live in a Liberal Democracy and that’s fine and dandy as long as we’re all Liberals and vote for Liberals. When enough of that shared ontology breaks down, then you have a fight to the death. This fight may not be a military confrontation, as it was in say 1861 to 1865 in the “United” States, but one way of seeing the world, one form of society, one ontology must win out over the other before stability can once again reign. The most interesting potential battlefield for this in the coming years is the European Union. What will happen when a significant bloc of EU states share not only a contrary but an irreconcilable outlook to the others? We can foresee conflict but what form will that conflict take?
As every neo-conservative warmonger will tell you outright, Liberalism is a total system. It demands that the whole world be integrated into one sphere. It achieves this either by war or by franchise. Sometimes by a combination of the two. The centre of this gravitational pull has been for two hundred years the Anglo-American world order. And it is not yet clear how much the shifting of world influence eastward across the Pacific will distort that situation.
The 68 per cent victory of the Yes side in the recent abortion referendum is the ratification of Ireland’s integration finally and totally into that system. We have paid our dues by abolishing the idea of life having inherent value. The basis for justifying human life is now utilitarian. The greatest good for the greatest amount of people as decided on by the experts, the technocrats, the commissions, the councils etc. In other words the people who operate at the furthest possible remove from everyday human life. The people for whom structures like family and nation are mere obsolete contrivances. Had the abortion vote been closer it would have been an interesting problem for our governing bodies because the first-principles on either side of the vote were so radically contrary. But luckily for them the outcome was decisive. The losers can easily be brushed aside along with their natural law conception of the world. We are now living in a meat factory.
“It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility” O’Toole tells us. But neither side in the recent referendum debate would have even agreed on the definitions of freedom or civility. There are radically different ideas of what constitutes freedom and from where it derives. One person’s definition of freedom is another person’s definition of tyranny. It has always been so.
What people like O’Toole are well aware of in any case is that the Liberal project does not view democracy as an end but as a means. There is nothing particularly democratic about the emerging European Superstate despite which they all support it. The loyalty of the Fabian is finally to technocracy, not to democracy. Almost every Liberal intellectual for the last hundred years who tried to articulate their ideal society came to a variation of rule by the Elect. Rule by the people who know best. Liberal Democracy is the kind of compromise they settle on but perfect technocracy is what they dream of.
Liberalism Needs an Enemy
It is entertaining in a way to see how necessary fascism becomes to the Liberal as society itself becomes more Liberal. In the last two to three years the occurrence of the word fascism in Irish newspaper editorials and opinion pieces has become jarringly frequent. We are reaching saturation point. Television and radio personalities who we’ve grown up listening to without much consideration to their political leanings, are suddenly lecturing us on the dangers of fascism. Who knew? It’s all the more remarkable because if fascism really were imminent then the whole cultural establishment would certainly have to shoulder a good deal of the blame.
Nothing is so necessary to Liberalism as the fascist menace. It was always so. Consider this: American progressives got more mileage out of McCarthyism than McCarthy got out of the Red Menace. The Cold War is long gone and the Red Menace a detail of history but the spectre of McCarthyism is still evoked by American progressives with utter conviction. As though it had happened yesterday. Because it is necessary that it not simply be historical but imminent.
“Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group. This allows the members of that group to be dehumanised.” So says O’Toole.
O’Toole talks a lot about despised out-groups but never stops in public to examine whether Liberals have out-groups that they despise. The hatred of O’Toole for the people who voted for Brexit or Donald Trump or Matteo Salvini in Italy is palpable. And on the face of it is supra-ideological. It’s not really possible to rationalise hating people quite as much as he seems to hate these people. And it is typical of a broad swath of media opinion. Certainly the only media opinion that O’Toole would accept as legitimate and democratic are of one mind on this.
Again and again he characterises them in terms that brook no compromise or parley. They are fascists in his words, and therefore nothing is too bad for them. They are the storm-troopers of his imagined dystopia. The fly in the ointment of democracy. There can be no question of these people being allowed to win, no question of these people being allowed to hold influence. They must presumably in his view be exterminated, or at least their presence eliminated from public life, their very capacity to organise destroyed. Democracy is not possible anymore he is effectively telling us because one side must wipe out the other. “Once that has been achieved, you can gradually up the ante, working through the stages from breaking windows to extermination.” His excited description of fascism is a window into his Liberal revenge fantasy. The more extreme his enemies can be portrayed the more extreme can the prohibitions against them be enacted. O’Toole is coming as close as he can to advocating knocking out people’s teeth.
A few years ago a family in Britain had their adopted children taken away from them because they were members of UKIP. Eventually the children were returned but that is the kind of place we are heading. And do you think Fintan O’Toole will give one damn about screaming children then? When your children are being dragged out of your home, because you voted No to abortion or complained about mass-immigration? Or made an illiberal comment on the Internet? Not for one second.
It’s hardly worth going into his overblown description of the omniscient Murdoch media machine. O’Toole’s own prose is as hysterical and tacky as any Fox news bimbo. He hits every Liberal cliché like they were targets on a pinball machine. Propaganda is something that can only ever be “right wing”, just as conspiracies, rigged elections and injustice can only ever be “right wing.”
Yet only the other day O’Toole was one of the more high profile faces in the MacGill Summer School controversy. As Liberal Ireland stared into the mirror, wide-eyed at its own shocking misogyny, O’Toole became just another stale male lord of the manel (male panel). A living embodiment of the Ireland that wants all women trod upon, tortured and buried alive. He became a fascist for a day.
When the Yes side won the referendum O’Toole mused on Twitter that Irish novelists would no longer have anything to write about. There was no clerical fascist Irish State left to rail against. One could have said the same about his own occupation. His entire career can be summed up by the advocacy of Liberalism and inclusion as a contrary doctrine to a Catholic conservative Ireland so-called. Well, we’ve run as far in the opposite direction as it may be possible to run. So it’s about time to start questioning the validity of these absolute ideals of Liberalism and inclusion. They are merely the burnt hand recoiling from the fire. We go on writing novels about a repressive insular Ireland and producing alleged works of art that proudly rebel against a society that many people in this country can’t even remember. At what point do we stop blaming a dead Ireland for the crimes of the present and begin looking for new criminals?
“We can no longer tolerate intolerance” is the catch cry we will hear more and more. Which is to say we cannot tolerate the demographic that voted for Viktor Orbán or Matteo Salvini or Donald Trump or Brexit, or even the depressingly small demographic that voted to keep abortion out of Ireland.
“Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about 40 per cent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power.” O’Toole is telling us that 40 per cent of people are monsters. In his conception of the world they probably shouldn’t even be allowed to vote. Though they do need to work and pay taxes to pay for his Fabian social projects.
The Left-Liberal is never wrong, which is to say that within his worldview or ontology it is not possible for him to be wrong… The only way he could be wrong is if he were to do something “right-wing”… as he would conceptualise it, like when O’Toole temporarily joined the patriarchy recently. Presumably those to the manel born will now be applying for gender reassignments to ensure this embarrassment never reoccurs.
To conclude, fascism is not imminent. The day it is imminent they will shut up writing about it. There is a threat to democracy certainly but it does not come from the right or from the left. It comes from the fact that we no longer agree on things. The Western world is experiencing a gradual polarisation of political outlook. And the danger, for democracy at any rate, is that one day the losing side of an election will decide they can’t accept the result. Or perhaps they will decide that it is too dangerous for them to accept the result.
O’Toole does not appear to believe very strongly in democracy anyway. As a technocrat and a Europhile why should he? But he will talk about threats to democracy as long as Liberalism is hegemonic in Ireland. And he will always point the finger of blame at us and not at himself.
Liberalism needs an enemy. It needs to portray itself as the battered spouse. It needs the very political subterfuge that it warns us constantly about. And as they drag your children away from you, people like O’Toole will say “Think of the children, think of the children.” And other fools will cheer.
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