The Dangers of Wearing Glasses: Intellectual Opposition to Liberalism in Contemporary Britain

By Dutton, Edward | Contemporary Review, December 2004 | Go to article overview

The Dangers of Wearing Glasses: Intellectual Opposition to Liberalism in Contemporary Britain


Dutton, Edward, Contemporary Review


'There's no doubt he's an educated man: a former university lecturer in Sociology and Economics, which makes him dangerously articulate'. Kirsty Lang, BBC News Correspondent, on Pim Fortuyn, May 2002.

ONE of the most extreme actions of Cambodia's late Communist dictator Pol Pot was to purge the country of anybody who wore glasses. Superficially inexplicable, there was a twisted logic to this policy. Those who wore glasses were more likely to be educated and more likely, therefore, to have the mental and verbal faculties to challenge his regime. As such, in order to ensure that the majority of such people would be eliminated, all those wearing glasses were purged. Indeed, one of the most politically expedient acts of any authoritarian regime is to remove the educated members of society who oppose them. These, after all, have the necessary abilities to persuade and mobilise less articulate opposition and consequently pose a clear danger to the regime itself.

When we think of such policies we think of Pol Pot, Stalin or Hitler, all of whom employed such methods. We think of regimes that are historically or geographically relatively distant from our own. We tend not to think of Britain at the beginning of the twenty-first century and even if we are able to note similarities we are likely to dismiss such observations as 'extreme' or 'going too far'. We might associate them with something we find unpalatable: Neo-Nazi Groups, perhaps, or Conspiracy Theorists. However, I would like to suggest that apparently liberally inclined people currently running many sectors of British life do indeed follow policies which attempt to ostracise, discredit and ultimately, and as a consequence, silence educated people who dare to oppose their ideology in a manner which they do not with those who are not educated. Indeed, we might further argue that they attempt to prevent those who already oppose them becoming educated at all. The liberal's policy is to suppress its most eloquent opponents and prevent others becoming so. And once that occurs liberalism can run amok, entirely unchallenged.

Dangerous Leaders

Who cares if the British National Party win a handful of seats on Burnley Council or perhaps eventually its Parliamentary seat? As long as the BNP only win seats in deprived areas their vote can be dismissed as a result of ignorance. As long as they remain in these areas, their elected representatives are likely to be, in the main, neither highly educated nor eloquent. Who cares if a builder, a former toilet-cleaner and a convicted football hooligan, amongst others elected as councillors in 2003, articulate the voice of illiberal dissent in Britain? In fact, it is probably in the interests of liberals to ensure that such people compose the tangible voice of opposition to them. They can be dismissed as 'thugs' as the Conservative leader, Michael Howard, has termed them. Mainstream politicians start to care, however, when their actions or policies are condemned by doctors, lawyers, academics and journalists. They start to become concerned when those who fundamentally oppose them are educated. This would tend to ensure that opposition was not only rendered more 'respectable' but that it was expressed in an articulate and persuasive manner. Perhaps for this reason BBC journalist Kirsty Lang commented with regard to Pim Fortuyn, the subsequently assassinated 'far right' Dutch leader, that he was a former university lecturer which made him 'dangerously articulate'. Indeed, the possession of an educated leader is not uncommon in the European 'far right'. Nick Griffin of the BNP studied Law at Cambridge, Jean-Marie Le Pen studied Law in Paris, Austria's Jorg Haider has a PhD.

In relation to the above politicians, their political opponents do all that they can to discredit them on a personal level. It is emphasised that Nick Griffin was once chairman of the National Front and has a conviction of inciting racial hatred, Jean-Marie Le Pen has convictions for violent behaviour and Jorg Haider praised Hitler's economic policies. …

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