Roar Staff Writer Isabelle Nash explores the use of the Holocaust as an instrument for scoring popularity points in politics and society, critiquing the ignorance and disingenuity it often conceals.
Recently, Gary Lineker was criticised for comparing Suella Braverman’s Illegal Migration Bill to Nazi Germany, bringing the Holocaust into politics. He tweeted:
“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s, and I’m out of order?”
Is it wrong for these people to use the Holocaust in politics? Or does it just show that we are learning from the past?
HYPOCRISY AT ITS FINEST
In the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast, Suella Braverman responded to Gary Lineker’s tweet. She said it: “diminishes the unspeakable tragedy”, a rational, cogent, and understandable response. So far, so good. However, Braverman then said: “to hear that characterisation is offensive because – as you said – my husband is Jewish, my children are therefore directly descendant from people who were murdered in gas chambers during the Holocaust”.
In linking herself to the victims of the Holocaust, Braverman seeks to redirect Lineker’s criticism. Even though his way of communicating was problematic, his point still stands – Braverman’s bill is undeniably abhorrent.
The Illegal Migration Bill proposes annual limits on places that are provided for legal migrants and prohibits those entering illegally (and their children) from acquiring citizenship. Also, recovery periods and support would be taken away from migrants that are victims of modern slavery and/or trafficking. During the first 28 days of detention, migrants would not be allowed to apply for immigration bail or judicial review, and it would mean asylum seekers that aren’t from pre-approved countries would be deported to third party states, where they may not speak the language, have likely never travelled, and are not citizens of.
Ironically, Braverman’s bill would prevent victims of war and persecution, much like her husband’s Jewish ancestors she eagerly invoked, from seeking asylum. Braverman is no better than Lineker: she deploys her husband’s ancestors as a tool to gain support and dodge hard-hitting criticism. If she truly cared about the Holocaust’s victims, she wouldn’t be planning to withhold sanctuary from desperate people in the first place. In so doing, she has unintentionally exposed her hypocrisy.
Is there a pattern of holocaust analogies?
There are various other public figures and politicians who have made Lineker-esque comparison. This includes Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen. In speaking about Covid vaccines, he tweeted:
does ideology make a difference?
We have an example of a left-wing speaker (Lineker) and a right-wing speaker (Bridgen) both using the Holocaust in their politics. While Lineker was temporarily suspended from his role on BBC’s Match of the Day – with the broadcaster facing a wave of vitriol. Andrew Bridgen was first stripped of the Conservative whip before being expelled from the Tory party entirely (for reasons that likely include both the tweet and his illicit lobbying) in January 2023.
The disparate outcomes of Lineker and Bridgen’s cases seem to indicate a miscarriage of justice. However, it is important to consider the contexts in which their remarks were made. Of the two, Bridgen’s actions are unequivocally worse, because he is misinformed and willingly spreading that same misinformation to others. Also, we must also take his role as Member of Parliament into account, a position of great authority and responsibility. Bridgen ignored his duty to always consider his constituents’ best interests, instead feeding them false information.
But Isn’t this how we learn from the past?
It can be argued that bringing historical events, like the Holocaust, into political arguments shows reluctance to repeat the errors of the past. It shows that we are conscious of the need for progress. However, there are better ways of communicating this risk of regression without reappropriating tragedies that have occurred, the effects of which are still being felt by people today. These public figures should be much more specific in their analogies, rather than vaguely referencing a genocide that spanned over a decade.
Perhaps it would be more effective to use a quotation from an old speech, or a specific bill passed. While public figures have no formal obligation to strengthen their knowledge and amend their lazy language, it might be in their interests for them to do some thorough research on a topic they continue to mention. After all, for how much longer can Bridgen hold onto his role as an MP? In a world where information confers power, prestige, and legitimacy, public figures can ill afford to remain so hopelessly ignorant.