Aesop’s fable of the boy who cried wolf teaches that it is not a good idea to fabricate dangers when there are none. But it doesn’t contain any practical advice for what to do when danger really arrives.
Put yourself in the shepherd boy’s shoes. He has already lost his reputation as a spotter of wolves. The villagers think him a liar. Then he sees the real thing. What option does he have but to cry wolf again? He is forced to use the only defence mechanism available. Or should he stay penitently silent, hoping the feral canine predator is, by some miracle, actually vegetarian?
You’ve guessed where this is heading. There have been sightings of incipient fascism in the actions of democratically elected governments for as long as I can remember. When Margaret Thatcher faced down striking miners, her leftwing antagonists weren’t shy of the F-word. When Tony Blair wanted to introduce mandatory ID cards, his liberal critics plotted the policy alongside anti-terror laws and antisocial behaviour orders, charting a gradient towards tyranny. Oppositions never seem to accept that democracy is on a horizontal axis. It must be on a slope – and a slippery one too.
The horrors that lie at the bottom are belittled by constant, casual hyperbole. There will always be someone on the left willing to decry western foreign policy as cold-blooded colonial expansionism. There will always be some conservative fanatic trying to draw equivalence between the European Union and the…