I have been writing a book about Robert Oppenheimer, the man who created the A-bob, only to fall foul of the McCarthyite atmosphere of 1954 – the pinnacle of the Cold War.
It is fascinating – and moving – to see the idealism of the day, that led President Truman to come close in 1946 to handing over all their hard-won nuclear knowhow to a new international body under the UN.
These days that would be pretty unthinkable. But it also makes me worry for other reasons – because, on both sides of the Atlantic, it is the right who are resurgent and who are carrying young people along with them.
Thy were unable to make much out of the decision by Puffin Books to censor Roald Dahl, because everyone piled in so quickly and said what a bad idea it was.
But a story caught my eye in the Guardian over the weekend which suggests that ‘far right extremists’ are trying to hijack campaigns against ‘low traffic neighbourhoods’ – and especially in Oxford.
Now I know a bit about Oxford because I was a reporter there for five years in the early-1980s. In the 1970s, there were also a number of confrontations between frustrated motorists and people who live in the rat runs they use.
Yet the weekend before last, a big demonstration through the city included a contingent from Patriotic Alternative – the same group behind the violent demonstrations against asylum-seekers in Knowsley – and there were reports that some parts of the crowd were chanting “refugees are rapists” and “Jews will not replace us”.
If this is true, then the ongoing campaign against low-traffic measures of all kinds by the Sunday Telegraph and GB News has a lot to answer for.
And it is worrying
Oxford is not alone its struggle against the motor car.
Washington City Council in the USA has also brought down the rage of the locals on them for their plans to limit traffic. But then, since the public transport there is almost non-existent, I have rather more sympathy with them.
Hope Not Hate chief executive Nick Lowles was quoted as saying: “The far right and their conspiracy theorists fellow travellers in this space base their argument on fundamentally anti-semitic ideas of shadowy global elites controlling things from afar.”
But these are American right-wing Trumpist tropes.
Traditionally nobody here believes in shadowy global elites here except the far left – and the phrase ‘world government’ only scares Republicans – for the same reason the EU scared the Conservatives: they limit their ‘power’. But that isn’t the worst of it.
The worst id that toxic American politics – by which I mean both Trump and the reactions against him.
So is there a solution?
I don’t know, but I personally fear the way that the left has forgotten its own radical roots about health may be part of the problem.
These days, anyone who casts doubt on anything we are told about our health by the government is beyond the pale.
You don’t have to be reading petitions against Anthony Fauci or anyone else. You don’t have to be saying that the strange and growing number of deaths (again, on both sides of the Atlantic) might have something to do with the covid vaccine – any scepticism is enough to get your tweets cancelled and to get yourself forced off Facebook.
The trouble is that defending the establishment doesn’t suit the left. I know their fear is that going along with any scepticism about, say, the impact of 5G on all our brains – that would strengthen the forces of Trump.
But just think about it from the point of view of a floating voter who feels excluded in the USA – who has, as so many do, fears about Alzheimer’s or have a range of other chronic problems (in the last 20 years, chronic disease in the USA has grown by up to 8 million people every five years, and now affects 50 per cent of the population) – and they will realise they can’t go online and hear Sarah Otto or Dr Peter Kan, about how to deal with digestion issues, they won’t be at all happy.
Yet any party that runs with this sense of ill-ease about mainstream medicine would find that it has an enormous base to work from – as the Five Star movement did in Italy.
Unfortunately, it looks as though we will leave all that to Trump and those like him…