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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The British National Party And -- Screwtape?

These are the words of British National Party leader Nick Griffin, spoken at a meeting of white nationalists in Texas (at which David Duke happened to be in attendance). He addressed one of the basic principles of propaganda: "saleable" words, catchphrases that sound appealing to the general public on the surface but which the propagandist uses to masquerade his or her more noxious principles.

There’s a difference between selling out your ideas, and selling your ideas. And the British National Party isn’t about selling out its ideas ... but we are determined now to sell them. And that means basically to use the saleable words. As I say, freedom, security, identity, democracy. Nobody can criticise them, nobody can come at you and attack you on those ideas. They are saleable.

Perhaps one day, once by being rather more subtle we’ve got ourselves in a position where we control the British broadcasting media, then perhaps one day the British people might change their mind and say, “Yes, every last one must go.” Perhaps they will one day, but if you offer that as your sole aim to start with, you’re gonna get absolutely nowhere. So, instead of talking about racial purity, we talk about identity.

These are the words of Screwtape, C. S. Lewis' fictional bureaucrat from Hell, instructing demonic field agent Wormwood on using one of the most powerful of saleable words: "democracy" (emphasis added).

Democracy is the word with which you must lead them by the nose. The good work which our philological experts have already done in the corruption of human language makes it unnecessary to warn you that they should never be allowed to give this word a clear and definable meaning. They won't. It will never occur to them that democracy is properly the name of a political system, even a system of voting, and that this has only the most remote and tenuous connection with what you are trying to sell them. Nor of course must they ever be allowed to raise Aristotle's question: whether "democratic behaviour" means the behaviour that democracies like or the behaviour that will preserve a democracy. For if they did, it could hardly fail to occur to them that these need not be the same.

You are to use the word purely as an incantation; if you like, purely for its selling power. It is a name they venerate. And of course it is connected with the political ideal that men should be equally treated. You then make a stealthy transition in their minds from this political ideal to a factual belief that all men are equal. Especially the man you are working on. As a result you can use the word democracy to sanction in his thought the most degrading (and also the least enjoyable) of human feelings. You can get him to practice, not only without shame but with a positive glow of self-approval, conduct which, if undefended by the magic word, would be universally derided.
Under the influence of this incantation those who are in any or every way inferior can labour more wholeheartedly and successfully than ever before to pull down everyone else to their own level. But that is not all. Under the same influence, those who come, or could come, nearer to a full humanity, actually draw back from fear of being undemocratic.

Later in the passage, Screwtape relates a tale of a tyrant who seeks advice on governing from another tyrant. Using the allegory of cutting wheat stalks all down to the same size, Screwtape defines the diabolical sense of democracy:

Allow no preeminence among your subjects. Let no man live who is wiser or better or more famous or even handsomer than the mass. Cut them all down to a level: all slaves, all ciphers, all nobodies. All equals.

BNP may or may not share this view of "democracy." That's not the point. The lesson here is that we must look past deceptive jargon.


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