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NICK RYAN - Homeland   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Sunday, 17 October 2004

The problem with fascists is that there’s not that many of them. Now even one of them is too many, but when you get to investigating them you realise that most of them know each other : and they don’t like each other. In fact if the extreme right wing are anything, aside from being racist and violent, they’re not at all united. So much for their precious United Kingdom. Their precious Homeland.

And so, this is the problem with Nick Ryans Homeland ; not that it reads like an expanded series of magazine articles (which it is), but that there just aren’t enough fascists, nationalists, and outright racists to really get any sense of them as a genuine threat to the nation ; instead, they are seen as just as isolated bunch of scattered nutters. That’s the general public perception, irrespective of how many people vote for them occasionally, and how many of them are undeniably remorseless and immoral.

What Ryan reveals is that fascists are just as dull and boring as the rest of us : probably more so actually. Most of them have fragmented into a dozen or so deeply divided splinter groups, most of them are deeply suspicious (and rightly so), and many of them are just plain stupid. So stupid they don’t even know exactly how ignorant they are.

So the trick is simple in theory, but difficult to pull off. It’s an old trick, but Ryan does it as well as anyone. Give an idiot enough rope, and he‘ll hang himself with his words. All it takes is a few moments where the guard drops, and they reveal some tiny nugget of truth. And their true face : paranoid, violent, and fuelled with desperate, illogical fear shows itself. Because these people believe that all they need to repeat their propaganda and somehow the nation will be converted to bigotry, fear, and violence.

In the midst of all this, Nick Ryan walks, offering a seemingly impartial eye. But as we know, what he chooses to report - the mundane, lonely existence of the racist surrounded by infidels - is glaringly obvious. Through gentle questioning, the holes in the logic of his subjects are exposed. But he never judges. He never comes straight out and questions their bullshit. He never sums up with exactly what he thinks of these men. They speak for themselves and he does exactly what they want from him : he reports things as they are, and their paranoia about getting ‘bad press’ is only because they do look unfavourable in anyone’s eyes.

Those who live to hate have no compunctions about using violence or threats to achieve their paradise. One has to read through the lines to see what these people truly are. They’re - to a man, - sad, lonely men pining for a paradise that never existed. Prepared to use violence to achieve it. Convinced its all the fault of Der Juden, the wogs, the niggers, the kooks and the liberals. Some people define themselves not by what they are, but what they are not, as if they exist only to be against something.

Of course, to come out and paint these organisations, these people as the shrivelled excuses they are is probably a bit too blunt. But it does need to be said. Without such outright condemnation, someone might actually be taken in by this stuff.

Homeland then, is such an expose. The tone is vivid, the characters allowed to unfold slowly and gently, never coerced into revealing their weaknesses, but unravelling under close examination. The web of deceit, self-deceit, and denial is compelling in exposing their weaknesses, and the central flaws in their beliefs : that anyone whose beliefs are inspired by fear and ignorance is someone whose beliefs know not fact, and those who live in a world without fact are often those who want to turn their fantasies, their White-Paradise, into reality. Ignorance is undoubtedly a threat, and Homeland is nothing if not informed : Ryans subjects are to be pitied, but never exonerated, their beliefs to be challenged and never to be accepted, their causes to be exposed for the bile they are.

And Homeland succeeds. You need to know the enemy to all the things this country prides itself in, all the things that these people think make this nation great are the things that poison it. And there’s no better place to start.

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