The Banality of Douglas: The malicious Mr Murray says you don't understand the Holocaust

We're not remembering the Holocaust in the 'right' way, according to the Spectator columnist; the thinking man's bigot.

You would think that the creation of a Holocaust memorial in Westminster would be an uncontroversial decision for anyone who isn’t an antisemite. Certainly, someone who dedicated thousands of words to the problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party would surely not argue against remembering the Holocaust, right?

Well… Douglas Murray is a special sort of vile.

The controversialist columnist, associate editor of The Spectator, and author, whose Twitter profile picture is so smoothed out he looks like an Auton, wrote his latest weekly Spectator column on what he deems “the misuses of history”. Guess what? It turns out people are remembering the Holocaust in the ‘wrong’ way.

After attacking Peter Gumbel, who wrote a piece headline ‘Britain has lost itself’ for The New York Times about his grandparents fleeing Nazi Germany for safety in Britain and how he sees the country now, and grinding the axe about the pop-historian Dan Snow, Murray gets to the rancid meat of his argument:

To draw facile lessons — perhaps any lessons — from history is becoming ever more aggravating to me. For this reason, in recent months, I have become increasingly worried about the ugly Holocaust memorial that the government plans to erect in Victoria Tower Gardens, right beside the Houses of Parliament. The scheme, announced several years ago, now looks certain to be pushed through, despite the fact that the UK already has many excellent and informative Holocaust memorials.

The more you study the plan, the clearer it becomes that the putative project will not be a memorial but a political project. There are many aesthetic and planning grounds to object to the proposed memorial. But personally I object to what I know its erection will portend. Naturally it will be an extension of that way in which German war guilt keeps being spread across Europe and indeed the whole western world — as though we all did it, or were capable of doing it, as cheap would-be historians keep insisting.

Yet even that will not be the sum of what the proposed building will likely teach. For it is also due to be — dread term — a ‘learning centre’. And as David Cameron said when he announced the project back in 2016, it is due not only to teach the ‘lessons’ of the Holocaust but also ‘British values’. What are the chances those values would include national pride, self-determination, doggedness in the face of all opposition, or a willingness to walk against the international flow of your time? More likely the focus will be on how Britain did not let in enough Jewish refugees in the 1930s. And since no one likes an unhappy ending, it will stress how we have made up for this in the years since by taking in millions of economic migrants from across the third world — something which we must obviously continue to do.

Murray seems to be so angry about the idea of drawing lessons from history, I suspect he’s even deleted Take That’s Never Forget from his record collection. Still, Horst-Wessel-Lied has a catchy tune, right?

I’m making jokes but the truth is — even as a regular observer of the horrors penned and spoken by Murray — this column plumbed new depths of depravity. Murray himself misuses history at every turn. Any sense that Britain and its empire were not a ‘force for good’ is wiped away in his writing, which is basically a fascist perspective with the politeness dial turned up. Dig into his books and you’ll discover his distaste, disdain and outright disgust for immigrants.

Also: Imagine how he would respond to a left-wing writer penning the line “To draw facile lessons — perhaps any lessons — from history is becoming ever more aggravating to me.”

When Murray sneers that it’s “more likely the focus [of the memorial] will be on how Britain did not let in enough Jewish refugees in the 1930s”. That’s a historical fact, but one that Murray does not want to be part of the story because his argument is always that immigration is bad and must be stopped, regardless of the net positives of immigration to an ageing and ailing nation like Britain.

Louise London’s book ‘Whitehall and the Jews, 1933-1948: British Immigration Policy, Jewish Refugees and the Holocaust’ — an actual work of scholarship as compared to Murray’s own peevish pamphlets — outlines how the British government was reluctant to admit Jewish refugees during the war and a consistent line that the rescue of Jew was not a war aim. Even when it knew about the Holocaust’s progress across Europe, the British government kept quiet.

It’s particularly striking that Murray wants to distort the history around the Holocaust and Britain’s response to it given how ‘robust’ his views seemed during the Labour antisemitism debate.

In 2016, speaking to The Rebel, a Far-Right Canadian outlet, and representing The Gatestone Insitute, a far-right think tank with a distinct obsession with anti-Muslim rhetoric, Murray said the Labour Party was “rotting from the head”. It’s notable that he casually mentions “random members in Bradford” being a source of antisemitism, it’s the kind of shrill dog whistle that Gatestone (and Murray) specialise in.

Despite Murray’s continual barking about how much he values free speech and how under threat it is — buy his books, subscribe to The Spectator and Daily Telegraph, follow him on Twitter and watch him on YouTube to see how silenced he is — he doesn’t actually like people with different politics to him having opinions. In his typically smug way, he writes:

Fortunately a growing number of Holocaust survivors are speaking out against the Westminster project. But as they die out, their descendants like Gumbel and others… will step forward… to tell us what the slaughter of six million Jews means. They will instruct us on what lessons to take from it, and say what we must and must not do because of it.

Gumbel’s grandparents fled Germany and escaped death. His great-aunt died in Auschwitz and, as he writes in his New York Times piece, “several other cousins died in the Holocaust”. But, to Murray, because Gumbel is a hated ‘remainer’, dismayed with the way Britain has turned, his opinions are to be disregarded, his family history treated as incidental.

Afflicted as he is with the pseudo-intellectual’s taste for swiping epigrams from others in place of original insight, Murray concludes his column like this:

Personally, whenever the 1930s, fascism, the Holocaust and what to think about all of this comes to mind, I am increasingly reminded of nothing so much as a phrase from Paul Valéry. ‘Le simple est toujours faux. Ce qui ne l’est pas est inutilisable.’ Everything simple is false. That which is not is unusable.

Well, it makes sense that someone so comfortable with the fascist ideas of today might want to muddy the water about the fascist actions of yesterday. Murray is a malignant and monstrous creature. His undoubtedly refined diction and a surfeit of starry bylines may distract some people from that, but they don’t fool me; a jackboot is a jackboot no matter how much you polish it.