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So. Read this today. Didn't quite live up to my expectations. Although to be fair is quite nicely deranged. But.
The point of this sort of thing is that "it could happen here
". And while the scenery of London (Parliament, the Old Bailey, Telecom Tower, Number 10, the Tube) is all there, the institutions are different.
The scary thing to me about fascism is how it usurps the state, not entirely replacing it - isn't it a bit of a waste to have a fascist leader in Britain who isn't
Prime Minister, and surely the secret police ought to have been Special Branch? The only subverted state institution was the Church of England - we see the paedophile bishop (which is no longer really shocking either). Is this just because it would have been too radical/political for the 1980s? That the bad guys had to be racist, homophobic and Mengele-like bad guys, just so that nobody was in any doubt they were bad...
So, is anyone writing the V for Vendetta for the age of the War on Terrorism? Or are we in the end-times with no need for satire?Tags: books
|Date:||September 28th, 2005 01:24 pm (UTC)|| |
It's all a long time ago - Alan Moore started formulating the core idea of 'V' in the late seventies and early 80's, and you might not recognise his conception of the pre-Thatcher institutions of the state. Nevertheless, the BBC is fairly recognisable as a corrupted rump of its former self, bound to the service of Nation and Party.
There are hints that the NHS still exists, although its geriatric care has become a source of dismay and dread to the elderly... An entirely plausible outcome, from a 1980 starting point!
The Eye (or was it the Ear?) is an outdated view of the surveillance state, based on a mistaken 1980's conception of the future costs and capabilities of computers and video cameras. (Mistaken, except for the latter-day rise in street CCTV which is, of course, for your own safety). Moore would never have dreamt that, one day, we would have an existing surveillance infrastructure; he believed that The Party would have built an East-German infrastructure form scratch, a completely new institution.
But the Finger is actually a recognisable corruption of an existing institution. It looks a lot like detective work in the late 70's, as shown on 'The Sweeney'; this might not be an accurate depiction of Special Branch in operation but it has the 'look and feel' of provincial plainclothes work in an era where 'civil liberties' really didn't get a look in. Think of Birmingham in the mid-70's, with the systematic abuses and all those unsafe convictions. Yes, you could find your fear of height being used against you.
Moore never did present a detailed treatise on the Fascist takeover - he had better things to do - but there's a fairly convincing picture of The Party's internal security apparatus taking over the top echelons of the police, imposing a visibly unpopular chain-of-command on the uniformed branch, and finding a willing pool of recruits (and existing Party members) among the CID who were willing to take on an overtly political role in maintaining order against 'subversion'... And an accommodation with black-marketeers and racketeers that isn't all that different to the underworld's uneasy truce with the police in the days before drug money. There would, of course, be token 'decent coppers' at fairly senior levels and the character Finch is the perfect example.
Special Branch are missing from the picture because they existed - and exist - to protect the current regime; it is possible that, in 'V', senior members were subverted by The Party, or played politics and curried favour with Susan when it became clear that he would become Leader. But it is more likely that SB would be a highly capable, implacable and dangerous enemy to a would-be Fascist takeover; as such, they would certainly be disbanded and replaced by an organ of the Party.
Concentration camps for immigrants... less likely. 'Resettlement' is believable, as is forced repatriation, but I find extermination very difficult to credit. Even for 'degenerates'. But then, I'd have said the same if I lived in Munich in 1936 and so would you.
As for more recent fiction... There does seem to be a shortage of one-second-into-the-future dystopian fiction, satirical or otherwise. Maybe the whole idea is too depressing, what with the future turning out to be worse than predicted at every turn.
We may also be dealing with censorship: I suspect that it is very difficult to publish unpatriotic material. And very, very stupid to try.
|Date:||September 28th, 2005 01:39 pm (UTC)|| |
Hmm. The security services were I think five - "the finger" (the police), "the eye", "the ear" both, I think, "the nose" (forensics/medical?) and "the mouth" of course representing the BBC. (NTV, as it was called). However, my understanding of the back story was that after a period of anarchy, the blackshirts effectively started up a new state, rather than hijacking the old one. It wasn't exactly clear though.
Despite being unpublished, What If Gordon Banks Had Played?
is probably the best I've seen in this genre - any timeline featuring Enoch Powell as Prime Minister, the Queen being assassinated by the IRA, and Margaret Thatcher sent to jail for war crimes is good by me. ;)
|Date:||September 28th, 2005 03:08 pm (UTC)|| |
Aha! Another soc.history.what-if person! Yes, I've read most of the alternative history on the uchronia
website. What If Gordon Banks had played
is superb; whoever wrote it, they were there in the 1970's when the collapse of the Wilson/Heath/Callaghan Wiemar Republic seemed all too plausible. There really was a loss of control of the security services... And talk of military assistance (not a coup!) that moved in from the fringes to tentative discussions among retired military officers, industrialists, and senior figures in the Conservative Party... One of whom was a close associate and mentor of Margaret Thatcher.
Arguably, this is the backstory that preyed on Alan Moore's mind when he wrote 'V' - but he went for an even more dystopian vision, with a collapse back to conditions seen in 1920's Germany leading to a fascist militia arising from the rubble of civil society. This is in contrast to the milder (and more plausible) case in 'What if Gordon Banks...'
of an authoritarian leader taking legitimate power through the Parlimentiary process and consolidating dictatorial 'emergency' powers that are used with to dismantle democracy. </p>
|Date:||September 29th, 2005 09:45 am (UTC)|| |
Certainly, but I think it makes V's rejection of the system less interesting...
|Date:||September 29th, 2005 12:25 pm (UTC)|| |
Hmm. So someone with no free will was trying to give it to others?
I'd imagined V as someone who was an anarchist before the war, was probably imprisoned for that, and was now, with nothing left to lose, just following in the finest tradition of Czolgosz and Grinevitski. But who knows - V's background is left deliberately vague.