Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Time Warp

Today on my way home I was listening to the BBC’s Radio Five Live, and as I listened, I began to wonder what it might have sounded like if today’s BBC was around 60 years ago. Imagine the scene, on September 9, 1944.

Presenter: I’m Julian Warwickshire, and I’m here in Chiswick where, yesterday, a horrible new bomb, the so-called V2 rocket, landed on Stavely Road after being launched from somewhere on the mainland of Europe, killing 3 and seriously injuring 17. With me is Iain Handwringer, a scholar from Oxford specializing in Germanic studies.

Mr. Handwringer, now we don’t want to jump to conclusions here, as the authorities are still piecing together what happened, but it is widely suspected that this new rocket-propelled weapon is the work of the German military. And of course we should note that, even if that turns out to be the case, we are only talking about a tiny percentage of Germans. Most of the German people, of course, are law-abiding and are not a part of the military machine at all. They are productive members of the European community. We at the BBC want to make that perfectly clear. But if this does turn out to be the work of German militarists, what can be done to protect ourselves?

Handwringer: Well, really what we have to start doing is looking at the root causes of militarism. And, again, we must stress that we are talking here about only a small criminal element, fanatics of a sect called Nazism. We don’t want to paint all Germans with the same broad brush…that cannot be overstated. To date we really have done very little to understand the source of alienation that drives disaffected German youth into the arms of extremists like the Nazis. We need to come up with ways of making these alienated Germans feel welcomed in, and an integral part of the wider European community. The philosophy of racial purity and German superiority can seem very empowering and hence attractive to people who are estranged from the wider community, so we must come up with ways of embracing these people and encouraging them to become a part of, rather than conquering, Europe. I think we really need to look to how we’ve failed the German population such that some of them – and really, it is only a small percentage of them - feel their only choice is to embrace the extremism professed by Hitler.

Presenter: I understand that, in the wake of the attacks yesterday, hostility towards Germany and Germans has grown. What do you say to those expressing such hostility?

Handwringer: Really, such feelings are not only unjustified, but counterproductive as well. Hostility towards Germans only increases the sense of isolation which fuels the attraction of Nazism. We must remember that the misguided perpetrators of this crime do not represent the wider Aryan mindset. They are acting on a perversion of, not a true understanding of, the German Volk. Rather than hostility, we need education. We need to both educate the British public about German thinking, and educate potential extremist Nazis that the concept of Volk is compatible with, not an alienation from, European life.

Presenter: A few months ago Britain joined the Americans in invading France, ostensibly to “liberate” the country from the Nazis. We were told that a Nazi-controlled France posed a threat to the UK. Doesn’t yesterday’s attack demonstrate that the invasion has made us even less safe?

Handwringer: Well, I don’t think you can establish a direct causal link. We have always ranked high on the list of Nazi enemies, ever since our opposition to the invasion of Poland. However, it is certainly true that, having declared war against the Nazis when they invaded Poland, our leaders can hardly complain that the Germans are acting as though they are in a war.

Presenter: Again, we should be clear that when you say Germans, you mean a small, radical sect of Germans, the Nazis, and not wider Germany.

Handwringer: Of course. I misspoke there. We definitely do not want to stigmatize all Germans with the acts of a few.

Presenter: Mr. Handwringer, thank you. And now, back to you Jane Garvey, for an interview with Heinrich Schwarzenegger, who condemns today’s attacks, worrying about the impact on the British-German community.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Priceless !!!

11:38 AM  
Anonymous thedogsdanglybits said...

"We have always ranked high on the list of Nazi enemies, ever since our opposition to the invasion of Poland. However, it is certainly true that, having declared war against the Nazis when they invaded Poland, our leaders can hardly complain that the Germans are acting as though they are in a war."

Not PC enough.

Suggest 'legitimate desire to reunite the German people in one state with the fraternal assistance of the Soviet Union'

Oh sorry, I can't claim copywrite on that, I'm just rehashing opinions of Labour Party members at the time. Stupid of me.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Americans aren't really ones to lecture about wars of the last century, are they?

Late into both major ones and a lot of support for Irish terrorists, and all that.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...

anonymous #2,

You've oddly, although quite obviously, missed the point. It wasn't a "lecture" about wars of the last century. It was a satirical comment on the way in which the current war is being treated in the media.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Steve Mac said...

Can you imagine how the modern press would have reported the evacuation of Dunkirk? The finger pointing, blame, and endless smearing of the government would not have ended until it was brought down. WW2 would have been over before it began.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, it was the only straw I could see; unfortunately I'm not very clever. All I really have to get by on is my knee-jerk anti-Americanism. I'm doing the best I can, Scott! For pity's sake, can't you at least act offended? I'm losing the will to live here.

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved it. Will copy it and send it to a few others. Treating the Muslim community with respect means treating them in the same way we would treat any other set of adults who behaved that way. Instead we treat the Muslims as children who must be taken care of and for whom we must make excuses.

9:25 AM  
Blogger john b said...

There's something of a difference between the actions of a semi-democratically-elected nation state at total war, and the actions of a loose-knit community defined partly on ethnic and partly on religious grounds, innit?

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loose-knit? If you read what is happening in Europe, the Muslims form a nation inside another nation. There is not the same move to blend in as has been the case with other immigrant groups. While civilized rules of behavior say we cannot act in any negative way toward individuals we know nothing about and stop anyone else from acting in that way, we need more big bold headlines stating the who, what, when where and why of Muslim terrorist operations. Those headlines would help inform the well-meaning Muslims of the snakes in their midst, and would also send the message that we opponents across the world are not weak-kneed fools.

6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thedogsdanglybits said...
Oh sorry, I can't claim copywrite on that, I'm just rehashing opinions of Labour Party members at the time.

Of course, we'll never know what the opinions of Conservative Party members were at the time - not a one could get his tongue out of a Nazi's arse long enough to voice them.

1:56 PM  
Blogger john b said...

"If you read what is happening in Europe, the Muslims form a nation inside another nation. There is not the same move to blend in as has been the case with other immigrant groups."

Yes. If you read in the right-wing press what's happening in Europe, this is indeed what you'll think. However, if you, I don't know, live here, talk to and work alongside Muslims, then you'll become aware that it's utter horsesh*t.

(to be fair, I've got little idea of what goes on in Muslim communities outside the UK, and I'm told French Muslims do have more serious integration problems).

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John B

Of course, the Muslims aren't the only ones who have problems getting along with the French.

Still, wherever in the world they may be found (as a non-indigenous community), muslims generally remain a very exclusive group mixing little with the rest.

Remittance Man

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John B - You ought to read what is happening in the Netherlands where police can't even enter the Muslim communities.
I can understand your concern because it is easy to demonize those with whom we do not associate. Do note that this is what the Muslims do when they do not integrate with the people among whom they live. We are to bend over backwards to understand them, but they do not make the same effort in return, believing they are much superior to us.

5:31 AM  
Anonymous Mark said...

I take issue with your direct analogy between "the German people" during WWII and "Muslims" in general, today. When we went into Iraq, even we used terminology that separated Saddam Hussein's government from the Iraqi people. When Bush was making the case for war in Iraq he made it clear that we were not at war with the Iraqi people, or Muslims in general, but rather that we meant to take down a government that oppressed its own people, which was largely true, and whose intentions and relationship with terrorists posed a threat to our security down the road.

Hitler and Nazism was a different situation. Hitler had political support among the people, though as I remember in my history he came to power without even being elected to office. I think members of the Nazi party did get elected to their representative body though.

I've since learned that people within academia were quite receptive to "the fascist cause" at the time. I read an article a while back by David Horowitz that did some review on the subject. He brought up a quote from some people at Oxford who said prior to the outbreak of war they were "waiting to accept" the fascists into their midst whenever they chose to act. Pretty striking.

I'm with you on the last 5 paragraphs though. I think the analogy is very apt. The NYT was a critic in the lead-up to our involvement in WWII, and in the post-war period, as I remember from history. An example that Bush cited once was during the Allied occupation of Germany, the NYT criticized the Truman Administration, saying the post-war strategy for Germany was "aimless and without direction", sounding fatalistic about its chances for success. In 20/20 hindsight we see how well that prediction held up...

History can make things sound rosy that weren't. The way WWII history was presented to me when I was in school made it sound pretty cut and dried. It made it sound like there were never any questions raised in the U.S. after Pearl Harbor about the correctness of our actions. While Hollywood was supportive of the war while it was going on, they made several anti-war movies, based on WWII, after it was over. The most famous one was "Bridge Over the River Quai", which I've come to understand was just as gross a distortion of history as "Fahrenheit 9/11".

3:08 AM  
Anonymous Erik Svane said...

Here is a real-life example: "Hitler requires, not condemnation, but understanding" (taken from 1942, no less...)

1:16 PM  

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