Thursday, December 10, 2015

How to respond, and how not to respond, to people like Trump and Le Pen.

For every complex problem there is an answer which is clear-cut, straightforward, and absolutely wrong.

One of the downsides of democracy is that you can usually find some foolish or irresponsible demagogue advocating that course of action at the top of his voice. (Or, as in France at the moment, her voice.) And lots of people following them.

As Alistair Heath wrote in the Telegraph, Donald Trump's crude oversimplifications will make it harder to fight Islamist terrorists. Such siren voices need to be challenged.

However, the worst possible solution is to ban them.

It cannot be emphasised too strongly that the vast majority of Western Muslims do not support Jihadi terrorists, are not responsible for their atrocities and in many cases have come to the West to get away from such people. They are not here because they want to use the open nature of a free and tolerant society to destroy it from within but because they want to share in it. As a reminder, here is the graphic which shows how similar the views of British Muslims are to those of British non-Muslims with regard to people who go to join "fighters" (not necessarily DA'ESH) in Syria.

The passerby who told the Leytonstone knifeman "You Ain't No Muslim Bruv" spoke for the vast majority of Muslims in this country. It would be a catastrophic mistake to act as if all those people were our enemies. The idea of banning all followers of a particular religion from entering the USA is as ludicrously impractical as Trump's description of Britain is unrepresentative.

Not least because putting draconian measures in place to protect a free society is a contradiction in terms.

Ben Franklin is often supposed to have said that “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

I am told that in context of the actual political dispute in which he expressed that view in 1755, Franklin's views were much more nuanced than they may appear out of context.

Franklin was defending the authority of a legislature to govern in the interests of collective security and ironically, the quote means in context, not quite the opposite of what it's almost always quoted as saying but much closer to the opposite than to what people who quote it usually think it means. The reality is that we need to work to maintain both liberty AND security.

But the point most people think Franklin was making - that if you give up essential liberties to protect your society you have done for them the work of those who want to destroy a free society - is also correct.

That is why people like Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen have to be taken on in open and constructive debate.

I have already referred on this blog to this brilliant defence of freedom, including religious freedom, by Republican senator Ben Sasse, which is an excellent example of the right way to respond to terrorism and xenophobia alike - to put the positive case for a free and tolerant society.

Challenging those who put forward ideas incompatible with a free society is one thing and needs to be done: banning them is another matter entirely and a contradiction in terms.

I was sorry to see that the suggestion is being seriously put forward that Donald Trump should be banned from entering the UK, and a petition to ban Trump from coming here has gained a record number of signatures: 456,387 as at 7pm this evening.

The trouble is that although Trump is a dangerous and irresponsible demagogue, he is speaking for and appealing to a significant minority of people in both the USA and the UK.

A Yougov survey has found that although the vast majority of British voters interviewed thought Trump's proposed ban on Muslim immigration into the USA would not be appropriate, with two to one or larger majorities against among Conservative, Labour, Lib/Dem and SNP supporters, that still leaves a quarter of the polling sample who disagreed.

25% of British voters consulted said that Trump's proposed policy of banning Muslims from entering the USA would be an appropriate policy for that country. To be precise, 13% say the policy would be ‘very’ appropriate while 12% say ‘quite’ appropriate.

In the North of England the percentage saying the policy is appropriate for the US rises to 34%, and among UKIP voters it rises to fully 61%, with only 32% calling it inappropriate.

Put the arguments in a positive way for an open and tolerant society which practices religious freedom and you may have a chance of persuading some of the people who are expressing support for Trump. Resort to banning, or accuse him (and by implication, them) of being racist and all you are  likely to achieve is to further disenchant them from mainstream politics.

Alex Massie has written on the CapX site that banning Donald Trump would be moronic and I think he has a point.

1 comment:

Jim said...

For every complex problem there is an answer which is clear-cut, straightforward, and absolutely wrong.

I like that line a lot