Listening to NPR the other day, I caught a story on the haranguing of Muslim refugees by natives in Clausnitz, Germany. A bus transporting migrants to a shelter in the small town was stopped by nearly 100 Germans, who opposed forced settlement in their town by yelling such things as “Get Lost” and “Go Home if You Don’t Like it Here.” Not kind words, but not off the mark either.
While reporting the bus episode, the radio host blithely referred to the protestors as “neo-Nazis.” Her guest, a Canadian immigrant who organizes aid services for refugees, let the Nazi charge go unchallenged. Without a lick of evidence, they both agreed that the protesters were Führer worshippers. The idea that those who resents the forced relocation of foreigners in their town are Hitler acolytes was treated as accepted wisdom. And this was an ostensibly nonpartisan program!
Occasions like this – that is, the assumed maliciousness on the part of ideological opponents – are becoming increasingly prevalent in western democracies. Whatever one’s political leanings, there is a sense that common consensus is gone. One side is right; the others are morally and ethically wrong, and don’t deserve a fair hearing.
How have we gotten to this point?