Professional athletes have not practiced civility or sportsmanship since the ghastly 60s, so how has Rocker suddenly dishonored baseball? Muhammad Ali is cheered as a hero though he called all white people devils. When Jim Brown periodically busted up women, judges gave him suspended sentences. When Rae Carruth is arrested for the drive-by shooting of his pregnant girlfriend, and Ray Lewis is accused of the stabbing murder of two men, no mention is made of dishonor or of professional black athletes' violent behavior. In fact, the contrary. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue went out of his way to point out that the perception of violence among NFL players is wrong. Dennis Rodman is arrested for drunken driving, and as far as I know, none of the parents who have lost children to drunken drivers have boycotted him. Oh yes, I almost forgot. When a Puerto Rican superstar second baseman spat in an umpire's face, an umpire whose child had died, Bud Selig slapped him on the wrist with a mere five-game suspension, and did not mention the word dishonor.
What is going on here? As Charles Krauthammer recently wrote in The Washington Post, back in the 20th century the Russian authorities used to lock up dissidents in psychiatric hospitals. In modern America we send them to sensitivity training. Rocker was first sentenced to undergo sensitivity training by Selig the Clown, just like Naomi Campbell, the supermodel, who took a telephone and bashed it over the head of a female assistant. Now I ask you: Would you prefer to be called a filthy foreigner by Rocker, or bashed on the noggin by Naomi? I like to think I'm a brave man, but I'll take Rocker's insult any day, and so should you. Just as I'd rather be called a fat monkey than be spat upon. Better yet, Sean (Puffy) Combs underwent such a course after he broke the arm of a man he was negotiating with. Apparently he took the course without success, because a bit later a member of his entourage sprayed a nightclub with a 9 mm. I think I'll take Rocker's name-calling.
Rocker is neither evil nor a Nazi. He is a not very well-educated young man with normal smalltown prejudices against the excesses of a big city like New York. Selig is a greedy buffoon trying to show his liberal credentials to the kind of sneering pseudo-intellectuals never to be found within a 20-mile radius of Shea Stadium. There's no big deal here, and Sports Illustrated could have protected Rocker?as they certainly would have if a black super-pitcher had called Jews bloodsuckers. But again, whatever happened to free speech?
Let's face it: Every study of human psychology finds new evidence of genetic influence in human behavior, including violence, drunkenness, dishonesty and stupidity. Power?or lording it over one's fellow human beings?is the stimulus that most motivates humans. Make no mistake about it. P.c. is the most intolerant system of thought since the Salem trials. A certain Adolf Hitler knew all about it. He was antitobacco?Nazi Germany restricted tobacco advertising?he was anti-meat and had closed the elite Herren club, a gentleman's club in Berlin, for discriminating against women and choosing only gentlemen as members. Hitler was a perfect p.c. man long before his time.
And speaking of Hitler, the hysteria over Jorg Haider in Austria is breathtaking in its hypocrisy. Vote as you like, as long as we like the way you vote, is the message. Austria has been run by the same coalition of two parties for close to 40 years. This era brought grotesque corruption and feather-bedding of citizenry in state benefits, plus hundreds of thousands, if not a million, immigrants to a small alpine nation of eight million. Haider is no more opportunistic than Bill Clinton, telling Austrians what they want to hear: enough foreigners, Austrians first. The outrage is the interference by the rest of the European big shots. Romano Prodi, president of the European Union, is an Italian who is under investigation for gross corruption, yet he remains head of an extremely corrupt institution. The Belgian government has allowed an unprecedented child molestation scandal to be swept under the carpet, yet is in the forefront of screaming foul against Haider's Freedom Party. Jacques Chirac, no stranger to financial skullduggery, is in cahoots with François Mitterrand, ditto. Worst of all is Italy's premier, Massimo D'Alema, an admirer of Stalin, a nonapologetic communist despite the system's reduction of human beings to mere matter, plus close to 100 million dead, give or take a few million. D'Alema claims the EU has a duty to put Austria "into a sort of quarantine...under observation."
Which brings me to the point I wish to make. Imperial edicts used to be a thing of the past. No longer. Prodi, D'Alema, Chirac, Blair are the new autocrats, like Albright and Clinton. Haider has gotten bad press for not a few unfortunate remarks, mostly taken out of context, made for domestic consumption. It is because of his hostility toward European integration. As with Pat Buchanan over on these shores, the left-wing press and the ruling socialist autocrats have demonized him. Going against the EU is like Buchanan's defense of American workers. A no-no. Yet the bigger the EU gets, the better the possibilities of a police state brought to perfection, where power is the only thing that counts, where the past is modified to fit the present and where the official language is Orwellian Newspeak. The autocrats who are making up these rules are nonelected bureaucrats in Brussels, and Haider has not been exactly singing their praises. Ergo the neo-Nazi label. Bud Selig would feel comfortable in their midsts. He is as much of a coward and a behind-the-scenes plotter as they are.
George Szamuely The Bunker
Haider Seek Never was the flatulence of our elite so embarrassingly on display as in its response to the entry into the Austrian government of Jorg Haider's Freedom Party. The first to make a complete fool of himself was Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Sounding like someone from central casting, Barak spluttered that "for every Jew in the world it is a highly disturbing signal." Then Shimon Peres chimed in: "[Hitler] was from Austria? Even Hitler came to power by so-called democratic means." Israel duly withdrew its ambassador from Vienna and announced that Haider would not be welcome in the country.
The European Union then announced that it would have nothing to do with Austria. Our rulers outdid one another in their total contempt for democratic procedures. Who cared what Austrians wanted? "The ideas of the Freedom Party," argued French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin rather menacingly, "are contradictory to the principles on which the European Union was founded... The aim is to make the Austrians wake up and see that this project is broken off." Jospin did not explain what these terrible "ideas" were. Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel saw no purpose to Austria's existence: "It's too simplistic to say that we must keep Austria in Europe at all costs. I think Europe can very well do without Austria." German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder unquestionably won the championship for emitting the most gas. "If we make it clear that we want nothing to do with politicians like Herr Haider, that is not interfering in another country's affairs," he explained. "It is an expression that we stand for a Europe based on values and that Herr Haider has constantly violated those values."
The extraordinary thing about all these pompous declarations is that no one bothered to explain what it is Haider is supposed to have done. Newspaper accounts kept repeating the same three or four utterances. Even by today's hysterical "hunt the anti-Semite" standards the case against Haider is pretty thin. Since these statement are the only ones on offer we must assume that this is the best case against Haider there is.
First: "Our soldiers were not criminals, at most they were victims," he is alleged to have said in October 1990. This is staggeringly innocuous stuff. Haider may be wrong, but his use of the word "victims" hardly suggests an ardent Nazi. Second: "In the Third Reich they had an orderly employment policy." This was uttered in the middle of a June 1991 debate in the Carinthian state legislature. Taken out of context, it is hard to know what Haider meant. Is an "orderly employment policy" a good or a bad thing? Either way, Haider later apologized for the remark. Third: Haider once allegedly referred to Mauthausen as a "punishment camp." He later corrected himself, saying he meant "concentration camp."
And that's the case against Haider. Not one phrase?and people have been searching assiduously?that sounds remotely anti-Semitic. Not one remark that denies the Holocaust. Not a single defense of Nazism. Not a single defense of the Anschluss. Yet from the screeching of U.S. officials you would have thought the swastika had been hoisted over the Hofburg palace. Slavishly courting the Jewish vote, Hillary Clinton wrote an ingratiating letter to World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman. "Haider's record of intolerance, extremism and anti-Semitism," she wrote, "should be of concern to all of us. Neither he nor his party should be seriously considered as a partner in an Austrian government." Madeleine Albright?loathsome as ever?got into the act: "We'll be watching, and we'll take appropriate steps. There's always a concern when countries don't deal with their past."
As it turns out, Austria's moral failings pale in comparison with those of America's new ally in the Middle East?Syria. Last week Tishreen, a state newspaper, published an article by its editor suggesting that Israel had exaggerated the Holocaust in order to win Western support for its expansionist policies. Albright seemed unable to muster the same rage she had directed against Haider. Al Gore?never one to let a sanctimonious cliche pass him by?intoned, "The world has suffered horribly in the past century at the hands of leaders who have used the tools of democracy to undermine the spirit and purpose of democracy."
As a matter of fact, it is hard to think of a movement less fascist than Haider's. He is out to destroy the cozy division of spoils between the two established parties of Austria. The civil service has been politicized, as has the awarding of official jobs and even of business licenses. His "Contract with Austria" promises to keep taxes at 40 percent of GDP. It talks of breaking up the state monopoly on broadcasting, cutting politicians' pay, reducing financial aid to political parties, abolishing press subsidies and ending state patronage of artists. He argues?correctly?that the Blairs and the Schroders, though they talk about the Third Way, are essentially creatures of the large corporations: "The gap between the pin-stripe socialists with regular spa holidays in the gardens of Tuscany and the little people in Austria has become unbridgeable." He is against throwing people out of work for the sake of "competitiveness." And?horror?he is opposed to the practice of importing cheap labor to drive down wages.
All of this makes him anathema to the Third Way mediocrities who run today's West. The shrewdest comment came from?not surprisingly?Serbia. What is "happening around Austria," explained a government spokesman, "is only another example of interference in the internal affairs of other countries because it is obvious that anything is possible today in a Europe that serves America and not itself." Exactly. As long as Europeans keep following American norms of political correctness, the European Union will stay dead in the water.
Charles Glass The London Desk
No Right When I moved to Great Britain in 1976, I heard a stock phrase of the British left: "No free speech for fascists." Now the slogan seems to be: "No elected right-wing governments in Central Europe." The first statement is itself fundamentally fascist, and the second is clearly antidemocratic. If fascists have no freedom of speech, then no speech is free. And if voters elect a right-winger, why do the British, who can barely govern themselves these days, and their fellow European Union members say he may not serve in government?
Fourteen of the 15 European Union states want to isolate Austria for allowing a party that ran second in the last elections, with 27 percent of the vote, to take part in government. The U.S. and Israel have joined in, threatening to "downgrade" relations with Austria. The Austrian Freedom Party and its leader, Jorg Haider, may not be everyone's cup of tea, but he's a cup the Austrians decided to drink during elections that were less tainted by corporate finance than America's.
Lionel Jospin, the French prime minister, lectured, "France will have to take every measure to see that the Austria of Mr. Haider and Mr. [Wolfgang] Schussel [conservative People's Party] is politically isolated in Europe." Look who's talking. The last French president, François Mitterrand, bribed the last chancellor of Germany, Helmut Kohl, with millions of oil dollars. Mitterrand's successor, Jacques Chirac, may yet be prosecuted for his alleged activities as mayor of Paris. Belgium's previous government was filled with pedophiles who concealed child murders from the police. Italy was a proud EU member, shunned by no one, while its prime minister pocketed bribes and consorted with the Mafia. Then it elected a government with real fascists in a coalition with a brainless businessman and former cruise ship crooner, Silvio Berlusconi.
Britain has seen more cabinet ministers go down, for corruption, than hookers in a Soho brothel. The Irish picked Champagne Charlie Haughey to enrich himself at their expense. Israel doesn't like Haider, understandably, but it just saw another Palestinian die in Shin Beth custody three months after its High Court declared four of its torture techniques illegal. Our country voted for Bill Clinton, twice. Yet even I would vote for Clinton if the world told me not to. What do all these people imagine Austrians think when told their votes don't matter?
I interviewed Haider last year for CNN & Time, television's greatest news magazine program. The profile of him was critical and fair, but he's suing anyway in Austria for something like defamation. I hold no brief for him, but he is no Nazi. His mother and father, just like 600,000 other Austrians, were paid-up party stalwarts. They were more dedicated than most in their devotion to the Austrian founder, Adolph Hitler. When Austria proscribed the National Socialists in the 1920s, Haider pere fled to Germany and joined the SA when they were a bunch of street thugs terrorizing innocent Jews. Mrs. Haider joined the League of German Maidens, an Aryan sisterhood. The family bought a vast estate in Carinthia, the province of which Haider is now governor, at a knock-down rate from an aristocratic Jewish family who were escaping in advance of the Anschluss. Haider still lives there and draws his wealth from its land. Unlike most prominent Austrian politicians, Haider has never disavowed his parents' Nazi past.
One of the more serious charges against Haider is that he "praised the employment policies of the Third Reich." Well, not exactly. The first time Haider was elected governor of Carinthia, he said in a parliamentary debate: "An orderly employment policy was carried out in the Third Reich, which the government in Vienna cannot manage." The implication was that "even the Third Reich" did something Vienna couldn't. If an American senator had said the equivalent, no one would have noticed. (No one notices what they say anyway.) The irony was obvious, but it gave Haider's opponents a good weapon with which to attack him. He had to resign as governor and apologize.
Haider has praised old SS veterans, just like Ronald Reagan at Bitburg. He threatens Gypsies, just like Vaclav Havel's Czech Republic, and immigrants, like most of Europe. He defended his anti-immigrant proposals to me at his party's congress last year in Linz: "Its always the same, because the Austrian population is really open to help the refugees. And it was during the Hungarian revolution in 1956 and the same happens now, we accept people from Kosovo. If you compare our initiatives with other European states, you will see Austria, as a small country, accepts a lot of refugees, compared with Germany. They accept only a few. And France accepts no refugees."
His proposals to restrict immigration resemble those of Britain's Jack Straw, who is making life for refugees, whether Albanians or Kurds, impossible. Haider compares himself not to Hitler, but to two politicians of his generation whom he most admires and emulates, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.
Eastern European immigrants and Austria's few thousand surviving Jews don't like Haider, and I cannot blame them. All of Europe should be examining its conscience, because something is wrong if people anywhere vote for a buffoon like Haider. Austria is rich and its unemployment is low, but its politicians, like everyone else's, are third-rate and have nothing to offer. Haider swept in with jazzy, Americanesque commercials, jokes and a promise to give a kindercheck?that is, cash?to all mothers with children. The other two parties, which have governed the country nonstop and shared out all the spoils since 1946, promised continuity?a hard sell in the era of the fleeting image.
Jim Holt The Tired Hedonist
Rambo A Go-Go A couple of weeks ago a certain leggy blonde "sex columnist" offered me an extravagant bribe to sully this page with a filthy joke about Michael Musto. Much against my better judgment I published this filth?something to do with masturbation?but my temptress ratted on the bargain and never paid me the bribe. Some day I'll boil that bitch in her own stew. Meanwhile, my apologies to Mr. Musto.
Speaking of women who write about sex, how about that old pussycat Helen Gurley Brown? Last week it hit the news that in her new memoir, I'm Wild Again, Ms. Brown, who is now 76, will reveal that as a 24-year-old she was "kept" by an older, married movie-studio executive. In exchange for submitting to daily sex with this fellow?whom she describes as totally bald, gimpy and "a bit pinched"?she got the rent of a modest apartment and a do-nothing secretarial job.
"I don't have any shame about it, really," Ms. Brown says of this episode in her life. "I was trying to get enough money together to send to my mother and my sister, who had polio." And who can think any the less of her for it? All of us, at one time or another in our lives, have had to submit to irksome sexual arrangements for altruistic reasons. One especially revolting detail makes it clear just how great Ms. Brown's sacrifice was: she had to down "four or five glasses" of Harvey's Bristol Creme, she tells us, in order to nerve herself up for afternoon "copulating" with her aged benefactor. Such revelations are bound to elicit the public's sympathy. They will certainly not cause Ms. Brown to be "ridden out of town on a rail," as the gossip columnist Liz Smith has strangely opined.
Some readers of Helen Gurley Brown's new memoir might be disturbed by the author's tendency to refer to herself as moi?as in "Moi learned to fake [orgasms] often and well." I suppose that is a matter of taste. In her 1962 book Sex and the Single Girl, which inaugurated the era of free love, Ms. Brown employed a rather rococo vocabulary, and nobody objected then. I particularly liked her early use of the terms "pippy-poo" and "mouseburger." One always knew precisely what she meant. She brought that unfailing clarity of expression to Cosmopolitan magazine as its editor for more than three decades, making "Cosmo" a byword for journalistic excellence.
Reading The New York Times Magazine, by contrast, one never knows exactly what words are supposed to mean. In the Jan. 23 issue, for example, there was an article about a young Russian novelist, Victor Pelevin by name, who writes about Russian life with "a finger-clickingly contemporary voice." The article was entitled "Gogol A Go-Go."
Just what is "a go-go" supposed to signify here? In French, á gogo is an adverb meaning "abundantly" or "in plenty." The expression crops up as early as 1440. It has nothing to do with the English verb go; rather, it is a reduplication of the Old French word gogue, meaning "jest." Thus, for example, whiskey á gogo would mean "lots of whiskey." In fact, "Whiskey a gogo" was the name of a well-known Paris discotheque in the 60s. It was this disco association that presumably inspired mod-era expressions like "go-go boots" and "go-go girls"; later, we had the "go-go 80s"; today we speak of a "go-go stock." The go-go occurring in these expressions is an adjective meaning "energetic," "full of vitality," "with-it," "mod"; unlike the French expression, it is a reduplication of the English verb go.
Now: did the Times Magazine editors who chose the title "Gogol A Go-Go" really mean "lots of Gogol," the way whiskey a gogo means "lots of whiskey"? Or did they mean a sort of mod, spirited, with-it, up-to-date Gogol?a "Go-Go Gogol," as it were? I suspect the latter, but to know for sure would mean reading the article, and Times Magazine articles are notoriously boring.
Importing foreign expressions into English is a treacherous business, and we have all committed our share of howlers. Who has not been undone by a murdered pronunciation? The other night on Channel 13, Charlie Rose devoted his program to a tour of the apartment of John Richardson?dandy, memoirist and Picasso biographer. Approaching Richardson's bed, Rose picked up a book lying on the night table. "Oh look," he said, "a book of poems by RIM-BAWD." Thus did Charlie Rose join the illustrious company of the preacher Billy Graham, who once pronounced "Goethe" to rhyme with "both," and former New York Mayor John Lindsay, who once pronounced "Camus" to rhyme with "bus."
Whenever I invoke the name "Rimbaud," I always fix firmly in mind the image of the action character played by Sylvester Stallone, which character's name is pronounced almost the same way as that of the French poete maudit. In fact, this caused a certain amount of confusion back in the 80s, when the "Rambo" films started coming out. On one occasion a muscular man dressed in military fatigues and armed with a hunting knife was arrested near the state Capitol in Albany. He told the police that it was an innocent prank: he was just delivering a novelty-message to someone, a "Rambo-gram." An English friend of mine who was visiting New York at the time heard this incident reported on the radio and found it perplexing.
"A Rimbaud-gram?" he exclaimed. "I should have thought that was a poem and a glass of absinthe!"
Toby Young Arriviste
The Slow Lane The mood in London now is one of ecstatic celebration following the unveiling of the Millennium Wheel. The giant Ferris wheel on the south bank of the Thames, built to commemorate the turn of the century, has finally opened and Londoners can now enjoy some of the best views in the city from its pods. The fact that it's a month behind schedule, having missed rather an important deadline, is not a cause for complaint. On the contrary?and as I've gone on about before in these pages?Londoners are so used to patiently waiting around, they're actually pleasantly surprised that the Millennium Wheel is up and running so soon.
One of the hardest things about returning to London after living in New York for five years is the amount of time you have to spend cooling your heels. New York is a city designed for movers and shakers in a hurry; London appears to be for loafers who have all the time in the world. Standing patiently in line?or queuing, as we Brits call it?is practically a national pastime. I've spent my first week here screaming at people to HURRY UP!
For instance, I was in the Hammersmith branch of Marks & Spencer the other day, waiting in line to pay for my groceries, when the woman at the front of the queue suddenly got a call on her mobile (cellphone). At this stage her groceries had been rung up and the checkout girl (store clerk) was waiting to be paid. However, rather than reach in her bag and get out her purse (pocket book), the woman took the call and just stood there, blithely chatting away, ignoring the fact that four other people were standing behind her. Now, had this been New York, I have no doubt someone would have said something. At the very least, the store clerk would have pointedly repeated the total, reminding the woman to pay. If that hadn't worked, the people behind her would have taken matters into their own hands. But because this was London, no one?including the check-out girl?said anything.
Why are Londoners so damned patient? In addition to paying for groceries, dozens of other everyday tasks take far longer than they do in New York?at least three times as long. Taxis, for instance, aren't nearly as plentiful and because London is so much more spread out, as well as being more congested, it takes an age to get anywhere. I live in West London and if I go to a dinner party in North London, followed by a trip to a bar in Soho, it's not an exaggeration to say I'll end up spending 50 percent of my evening in transit. Once you factor in how much more expensive taxis are over here?when you first get in there's already £2.50 ($4.00) showing on the meter?it makes going out a very unattractive option.
Not that staying in is any more appealing. Let's say you decide to order a pizza and watch Friends. A pizza is pretty much all you can order since no other takeout foods are available, and, to make matters worse, the only pizzas you can get delivered are Domino's. Typically, I'll call Domino's at 7:30 p.m., half an hour before Friends starts, and immediately be put on hold. Then, after five minutes, a non-English-speaking Pakistani will attempt to take my order, a process complicated by the fact that his menu doesn't match mine. At 8:15 p.m., when the pizza hasn't materialized, I'll call back, at which point I'll be put on hold again. At 8:20 p.m., I'll finally speak to the same Pakistani, who'll tell me that they tried to deliver the pizza but no one answered my door. I'll ask him to read my address back to me and discover he's spelt the name of my street wrong and written down the wrong post code (ZIP code). At 8:35 p.m. the pizza will finally arrive but, in addition to being cold, it won't be the right one. By this time Friends will be over, but it scarcely matters since I will have already seen this episode nine months earlier in America. Along with everything else, we have to wait longer than New Yorkers to watch the latest episodes of our favorite programmes (shows).
How did things reach such a pretty pass? Why don't Londoners demand better service? The explanation, I think, is that the Brits are extremely reluctant to confront whoever's responsible. We're not slow to complain?indeed, we complain so much the Australians refer to us as "winging Poms"?but only to each other, never to someone in a position of authority. To do that would involve confrontation and this, in turn, would inevitably lead to a great deal of embarrassment, which is a fate worse than death. Being embarrassed is like kryptonite to people from this particular cluster of islands: it leaves us red-faced and tongue-tied, sometimes unable to even move. We'd prefer to put up with having to wait 50 minutes for a Domino's pizza than risk getting involved in a standoff with the half-wit on the other end of the phone.
Certainly, New Yorkers can occasionally go too far in the opposite direction. I remember an incident in Woolworth's in Times Square shortly after I arrived. I was standing on a slow-moving escalator that was so narrow it only had room for one abreast. For some reason, the woman at the head of the line had decided to stand still, rather than walk up it, so everyone behind her had to stand still as well. After a few seconds, the man standing directly behind me shouted, "Hurry up." Someone ahead of us turned around and said, in an admonitory half-whisper, "She's an older person." It was enough to shut the man up but I wouldn't go as far as to say he was embarrassed. Had it been me, I would have dropped dead on the spot.
John O'Sullivan Traveling Light
Left Crimes There is a law in political science, repeatedly confirmed in recent years, that anything proposed by French President Jacques Chirac fails abysmally. Since President Chirac was the driving force behind the European Union's attempt to prevent Jorg Haider's Freedom Party from entering the Austrian government by threatening official ostracism, it is no surprise that "far-right" ministers are now lolling about in the back of official limousines all over Vienna. Although the threat of "Austracism" failed in its main aim, however, it is still a striking fact that Mr. Chirac was able to recruit every government in the EU, plus the United States, for an undisguised attempt to annul the results of a democratic election in a sovereign state.
At the same time, no one is really shocked by this demarche.
Political observers may be surprised by the scale of the diplomatic response, but they expected some kind of concerted rejection of Haider's entry into government, if not officially from European governments, then from MPs in the European parliaments or bodies such as the Socialist International. That, after all, is what happened a few years ago when the "post-fascist" National Alliance entered the Italian government as a minority partner. There were protests in the European Parliament denouncing the coalition and the Italian foreign minister, Antonio Martino, perhaps the most genuinely liberal figure in Italian politics, had to tour round Europe assuring governments that Mussolini had not risen from the grave.
Yet there were no protests whatsoever when an Italian left coalition was formed in which the largest partner was the former communist party, reborn as the Party of the Democratic Left, and the Prime Minister a man who said he was proud to be a communist. Indeed, the wonderfully named "Democratici di Sinistra" are now respectable members of the socialist bloc in the European Parliament alongside the British Labour Party, the German SPD and the French Socialists. And no one ever asks them about their long loyalty to a genocidal regime and totalitarian ideology.
This Italian comparison is just one of many possible illustrations of the deep ideological bias in the political cultures and structures of Europe that handicaps conservatives and benefits the left. Parties that actually were mainstays of totalitarian communism are politically respectable; parties that are merely suspected of sympathy with totalitarian fascism are outcasts. The mea culpa of a former communist is never sought; the mea culpa of a suspected fascist is never accepted. And a "post-fascist" party is unacceptable as a coalition partner, whereas the leadership of a "post-communist" party in a coalition is unremarkable.
What does it matter if only one set of bastards is shunned? Surely that is an improvement on both fascists and communists being respectable? Up to a point. If fascists were the only ones suffering from this bias, no one would much mind. In fact, however, the bias handicaps the entire right. Consider this: European electorates divide roughly equally between left and right, and each side of the spectrum divides between long-standing democrats and, er, recent democrats. While all the votes on the left count equally, however, only votes for the long-standing democrats count on the right. After every election, therefore, there are untouchable right-wingers in Parliament whom conservatives cannot include in their coalition calculations. Result: the left has an inbuilt electoral and parliamentary advantage.
That was a minor consideration when parties like the Italian MSI and the German NDP won three, four or five percent of the vote. In recent years, however, the European political establishment has widened the concept of "fascism" to include such ideas as "populist nationalism" and opposition to EU integration. Thus the document that the Austrian president required Haider to sign as a condition of office placed neo-Nazism and Euro-skepticism on an equal footing, and disavowed both.
Also, parties advancing such ideas as national sovereignty, opposition to the euro and reduced immigration have begun to win 15, 20 and 30 percent of the vote?thus presenting mainstream conservatives with the unpalatable choice either of allying themselves with the unrespectable right or of putting the left in power. This week, the moderate-conservative Austrian People's Party allied themselves with Haider; last year Chirac ordered his supporters to put the Socialists in power in regional elections rather than accept support from the (admittedly odious) National Front. Indeed, former President Mitterrand had restored proportional representation precisely in order to revive the NF and so present this dilemma to the right, reversing the old Cold War rule of French politics that "the Left couldn't win with the Communists and it couldn't win without them."
How can the right leap out of this box? Making post-fascism as respectable as post-communism does not seem the wisest policy, even if it could succeed. Resisting the left's redefinition of fascism to include perfectably respectable conservative ideas is essential but not sufficient. That leaves making post-communism as unrespectable as post-fascism: which, as it happens, is not only strategically vital for the right but also required for the moral hygiene of European politics. Social democrats must be forced to disavow collaboration with communists; French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin should be asked to apologize for including communists in his government and describing the 1917 revolution favorably as "one of the greatest events in history"; and the communists themselves must be compelled to face up to the moral disgrace of their long defense of totalitarian evil.
Only one initiative is available that might set in motion the necessary process of moral revulsion. That is a public examination of the crimes of communism from 1917 to 1989, from censorship to genocide. Historians from Robert Conquest to the authors of The Black Book of Communism have begun this work, putting the academic "Gulag deniers" on the defensive. But something more public and official is needed: namely, an international Nuremberg trial of communism's crimes against humanity that would hold Soviet and East European leaders accountable, open the files of their criminal regimes to the searchlight of history, and imprint in the public mind an image of communist evil as vivid and indelible as the image of Nazism.