Tuesday, 8 May 2018

A special nation, just like all the others

"Just after the referendum someone predicted that the brexit negotiations would be a process of 'controlled capitulation'. Which has come to pass. At least our egregious sense of national exceptionalism is being nailed ever deeper into the cross of astounded leaver righteousness."
Perhaps the most egregious thing about the United Kingdom's sense of national exceptionalism is that it's almost exactly like everybody else's sense of national exceptionalism. This, for example, is what "taking back control" looks like in Viktor Orbán's Hungary:
A few weeks ago, in a small town in Hungary, two Catholic nuns were stopped on the street and berated by people yelling, “Migrants! Migrants!” After pushing the old ladies a bit, they called the police, believing they had seen Muslim women in a burqa and hijab. The police saved the nuns from the Christian crowd.
Those eejits might have been wearing the Magyar version of the MAGA hat but, from the UK, this sort of thing  looks depressingly familiar. Remember this story from 2014?
Nigel Farage’s local Ukip branch has rebuked the BBC for its ingrained liberal bias in holding a straw poll on the party leader in front of a London mosque. The mosque in question was Westminster Cathedral...

...This isn’t the first-time a rightwing party has got its buildings confused. The English Defence League mistook Brighton’s Royal Pavilion for a mosque last year.
Different flag, same stupid.

Lose that flag and other people's national exceptionalism starts to look a whole lot like our own:
The Orbán government’s first legislative move is the Stop Soros Act, which will force human rights groups to register as foreign agents and submit to regular police surveillance, fiduciary controls, and punitive taxes. Groups that have absolutely nothing to do with immigration — those looking after Hungarian citizens’ human rights, advocating education and prison reform, representing the homeless and ethnic and religious minorities, etc. — will be persecuted [Brits may not be able to get a decent cup of tea on the Continent, but at they'll at least have enough of a "hostile environment" to make them feel right at home]...

...Orbán’s semi-dictatorship ... unlike its post-Stalinist predecessor, is not statist or centralizing. Its guiding principles are arbitrary, capricious rule and, above all, informality. The real centers of power in Orbán’s Hungary are formally independent institutions (state foundations, semi-private companies, purportedly private firms living on state credit) that are outside the control of normal government administration and of judicial control as well [in the UK, think how policy is shaped by a shady spider's web of obscure, unaccountable interest groups - the Legatum Institute, the European Research Group, the TaxPayers' Alliance, Migration Watch, the Adam Smith Institute...]. Meanwhile, regular administration is being dismantled and well-trained civil servants are being thrown out in droves ["Brexit minister fuels conspiracy about 'rogue' civil servants"] . Drafting of bills happens behind the backs of ostensibly leading politicians and bureaucrats, and rushed through parliament [Henry VIII clauses, anybody?] — usually without discussion.
There's nothing special and unique about people insisting that they're special and unique.