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Puffed up with self-importance

Posted by Helen Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I cannot resist this one. In today’s Daily Telegraph article by Mark Steyn, otherwise not entirely relevant to the blog, he quotes from one of my favourite authors, P. G. Wodehouse.

Why Nazism or Fascism, Steyn says (with rather more optimism than I would display, but let that pass) was impossible in Britain or any other English-speaking country because it seemed inherently ridiculous. The whole attitude could be summed up in Bertie Wooster’s famous attack on the preposterous Sir Roderick Spode, clearly based on the egregious Sir Oswald Mosley:

"The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you're someone. You hear them shouting, 'Heil, Spode!'and you imagine it is the Voice of the People.

"That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: 'Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?'"
Substitute the name of any politician, would-be politician, official, would-be official, regulator, would-be regulator for Spode and you will not be too far off the mark.

Unfortunately, as Steyn himself points out, all this goes for the upfront, uniform-wearing, salute-exchanging, slogan-shouting type of tyranny. They can be made to look and sound ridiculous. But there is a more insidious form of political oppression, what Steyn describes as
“… the soft, supple, creeping totalitarian inclination of our present-day rulers”.
This, as he rightly says, is much harder to mock, resist or even to identify and define. But we must do so or we cannot win the battle.