Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Adolf Hitler’

Fahrenheit 11/9 ****

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 22nd October, 2018

Fahrenheit 11 9Michael Moore has carved out a special place for himself in contemporary US film-making: as an intrusive, progressive Democrat who cares passionately about environmental issues, the abuse of power and the sad state of American society. So no-one is going to go to his new documentary Fahrenheit 11/9 expecting that the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, is going to be given a smooth ride. The parallels Moore draws between Trump and Adolf Hitler and the way that the American public is being softened up to accept demagoguery and dictatorship, as happened in 1930s Germany, are hardly subtle, yet no less effective for that. Moore rightly likens the Trump tactics of holding mass rallies, whipping up crowd fervour against blacks/Hispanics/lesbians or whichever particular minority he is taking a pot-shot at, or the mainstream media, to those of the Fuehrer. Perhaps the most shocking thing to emerge from the film, for a traditional liberal such as myself, is to realise that far from being stupid (as we liberals tend to think) Trump has been very clever in the way he has reached out to the poor white working class, those who treasure the right to bear arms and self-identifying patriots. He knows how to manipulate and resonate, and hopes to be in there for the long haul.

Trump in Fahrenheit 11 9 The overarching message about how the fuck Trump got there (to quote Moore directly) and where the hell this is all heading, is nonetheless somewhat diluted by two very different sub-stories or plots in the film. One is the awful tale of the predominantly black Michigan town of Flint, whose people were poisoned by a water supply contaminated with lead because of the state governor’s switching of the pipes from the Great Lakes to the filthy local river to win favour from contractors. But even Barack Obama gets a big slap in the face over that, as he flew to Flint, to be greeted like a hero, only to dash local residents’ hopes by drinking a glass of the water to show them it was actually OK. That’s one reason many people in the area did not turn out to vote for Hillary Clinton in November 2016. Sure, she lost because of the antiquated Electoral College system, which meant that Trump won although she had a majority of the popular vote overall. But Ms Clinton also comes over as a poor candidate, badly prepared and in hock to big business, in contrast to Bernie Sanders, who obviously does rock Michael Moore’s boat. So too — indeed, much more so — the youngsters from Florida who reacted to yet another mass school shooting by standing up and speaking out against guns and then, through social media, organising big rallies across the country. When dealing with them, Michael Moore abandons his usual satirical bent, which makes things a little uncomfortable. But towards the end, the movie swings back to Trump and Hitler and the rise of the alt-Right. So there is an awful lot thrown together in this film, which makes it more uneven than some of his earlier work. But there are enough “oh my God” moments, as well as dark humour and the director’s trade-mark sloppy bear act, to make it fairly gripping throughout.

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Weak and Unstable: Britain’s Brexit Government

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 7th May, 2017

Theresa May 8Theresa May and her camp followers have adopted with gusto the rather tiresome mantra “Strong and Stable”. I wonder if they realise that it was Adolf Hitler who brought that phrase to prominence, in Mein Kampf. Now, I am not suggesting Mrs May is a neo-Nazi, like Marine Le Pen. But apart from the fact that she scores nuls points for originality in political slogans, the Prime Minister’s “strong and stable” catchphrase repeated ad nauseam is an egregious example of alternative facts, an Orwellian distortion of words that chimes with the era of Donald Trump and Brexit. And, of course, in this case it is all about Brexit. What the Conservative government is doing, having co-opted UKIP’s agenda, is trying to hoodwink the British public into agreeing that it is providing decisive leadership in Britain’s best interests — whereas the reality is that it is doing precisely the opposite. The cack-handedness of their whole approach since the EU Referendum last June has illustrated their incompetence. They hadn’t planned for a Leave vote, and once it happened they floundered around, with chief ditherer and fantasist Boris Johnson despatched to the Foreign Office to try to explain things to the rest of the world. The rest of the world, with the possible exception of Putin’s Russia and other enemies of liberal democracy plus Donald Trump, is aghast. And instead of dealing sensibly with our 27 EU partners in the prolonged negotiations that are about to start, Mrs May has indicated that she intends to try to brow-beat them, cheered on by rabid Brexit media such as the Daily Mail and the Daily Express. No-wonder several of her key Downing Street advisors have resigned, as even true blue apparatchiks know that you do not succeed in negotiations if you insult the other side to their face. The sad truth is that the whole Brexit thing is going to go horribly wrong, with serious damage to the British economy and not least to the poorer parts of the British population — and Mrs May is going to blame it all on Brussels, as she wraps herself Boudica-like in the Union Jack. But she should remember that Boudica lost, as she will lose. “Strong and stable” May is a myth. She is weak and unstable, but the only way to stop her is to vote her out of office.

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Guernica 80 Years On

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 26th April, 2017

GuernicaEighty years ago today, German planes bombed the Basque town of Guernica in support of General Franco’s fascist forces in the Spanish civil war. For the Nazis, it was an experiment: to see if Blitzkrieg would work. And it did, incinerating not only the buildings but a sizable part of the defenceless population in a firestorm. It would be another two years before the start of the Second World War (which Spain basically sat out), but the Guernica atrocity served as a warning to Europe of what was to come. Hitler’s Germany would eventually be defeated, after killing directly or indirectly many millions of people, including the six million Jews as well as other minorities who perished in the Holocaust. But fascism itself was not defeated; in continued in Spain until Franco’s death in the mid-1970s, in Portugal and for a while in Greece. The restoration of functioning democracy enabled these southern European states integrate into what has become the European Union, but military dictatorships continued to flourish in Central and South America and parts of Africa. Most of those countries are now also multi-party democracies. But one should not be lulled into a false sense of security that the monster of fascism has been slain. It is like a virus that can lie undetected for years before taking hold of the body politic once more. The rise of nationalism in many parts of Europe is an unnerving warning that people can be talked into supporting demagogues, even when they are spouting lies. Hungary is particularly worrying, but it is not alone. And just as the Nazis scapegoated Jews for the economic ills of the Weimar Republic so now populist politicians on both sides of the English Channel are blaming refugees, Muslims and sometimes foreigners in general for their societies’ shortcomings. Decent people need to speak out about this. And as we commemorate the horrors of Guernica we should remember that it is not just a lesson from the past but a warning about a possible future.

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Remembering the Baltic Way

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 26th August, 2009

The Baltic WayLast night I attended a reception and the opening of a video installation at the 12 Star gallery at the London offices of the European Commission, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Baltic Way. That was the human chain made up of well over a million people on 23 August, 1989, stretching from the bottom of Toompea in the Estonian capital Tallinn to the base of the Gediminus Tower in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, via the Latvian capital Riga: 600 kilometres of an unbroken line of people of every age and walk of life. Those demonstrators were marking the 50th anniversary of the notorious Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, but they were also demanding the right to run their own affairs, free from the shackles of Moscow. This would indeed soon lead of the regaining of independence by the three Baltic states, with Lithuania making the bold move first.

Jonathan Steele of the Guardian, who had been the newspaper’s Moscow correspondent at the time of the Baltic Way, spoke at last night’s event and reminded people that the demonstration was preceeded by moves within the local Communist parties to gain greater autonomy. Moreover, some members of the substantial Russian minorities in Estonia and Latvia took part in the human chain. Even some of the state security police drove round in their cars waving the national flags of the three states. By then, Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow must have known that Soviet control of the region was in its twilight days.

Link: www.balticway.net

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The Grey Danube

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 21st November, 2008

spiegelei_gebraten_de  I spent most of today in the Strauss Room of the Arcotel in Linz, Austria, at the Annual Assembly of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ). Picture windows looked out over the Danube, which was never blue, despite Strauss’s wishful thinking and indeed today was a particularly threatening shade of grey, matched by the heavy clouds that discharged rain, followed by snow. But the content of the day was worthwhile, including a long presentation and discussion this morning about Linz’s role as a European Capital of Culture next year. This would surprise anyone who knew Austria’s third city even 20 years ago, when it had a literally stinking reputation, thanks to all its heavy industry. But the place has been cleaned up and regenerated (there is zero unemployment, as a representative of the Upper Austria economic council crowed) and the place is full of cutting edge artistic establishments. Intriguingly, the city has decided to acknowledge its most notorious past fame as the adopted hometown of Adolf Hitler, an exhibition of whose ambitious cultural plans for Linz is taking place in the Castle. Whether visitors will be encouraged to visit Mauthausen is another matter, but Linz 2009 could be a welcome opportunity to help local people as well as the wider Europe face up to the realities of the not-too-distant past.

Links: www.aej.org and www.linz09.at

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