Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Does anyone know a Godwin's law compliant metaphor equivalent to the Reichstag Fire Decrees?

I have been watching events in a certain corner of the world with increasing concern, and also racking my brains for the most appropriate metaphor to express those concerns.

The government of the country concerned has been elected and re-elected several times in what are generally recognised as reasonably free and fair elections. I happen to believe that the government concerned started reasonably well but, for the last three years or so, has been going seriously off the rails. More importantly, a very large minority of the citizens of the country concerned also think that, but more importantly still, the majority do not and that government was recently re-elected.

A free and democratic society cannot be based on the military overthrow of elected governments: it appears that there has just been an attempt to overthrow the government in the country we are talking about and this has rightly been condemned by all the countries of the free world.

However, there is now a massive crackdown against tens of thousands of people accused of involvement in the attempted coup. I can certainly see why a lot of soldiers and police officers have been arrested or sacked, but the government has also moved against thousands of judges, prosecutors and academics. At least some, and probably thousands, of those arrested are almost certainly innocent, not least because if they had all really supported the coup it would either have been betrayed before it got remotely near to starting, or would have succeeded.

I have been racking my brains for an appropriate parallel which everyone has heard of for a gross over-reaction to an illegal action against a state.

Unfortunately the one my mind keeps coming back to is the Reichstag Fire Decrees, and I really don't want to appear to be comparing the present-day government we are thinking about to the Nazis.

It is a terrible government - people in this country who talk about David Cameron or even Gordon Brown as though either were some kind of real-world Lord Voldemort should have a close look at some of the countries at the other end of Europe to see what a really awful administration looks like. But there is no reason to believe they are planning to put millions of people into gas chambers or otherwise behave in ways which would make a Nazi comparison proportionate.

If the situation had arisen in my youth, when far more educated people were familiar with the classics, it would have been easy to find a metaphor from the latter days of the Roman Republic - in those days most educated people would have heard of the Catiline conspiracies and the role Cicero played in putting them down, so it would have been easy to create a metaphor about the over-reaction of some in Rome to the second Catiline conspiracy - or if you wanted to be more critical still, to the Proscriptions of Sulla.

Unfortunately knowledge of the events of the classical era two thousand years ago is not what it was.

Can anyone suggest a Godwin's Law compliant metaphor for over-reaction to an outrage against democracy which is proportionate and would be generally understood in the modern age?

No comments: