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For one side, a society confronted with nativistic sentiments ought to suppress their expression; for the other, they are best aired with context, analysis, and dissents. After delivering it, Powell appropriately faced political consequences: He was dismissed from his position in the shadow cabinet.

Powell's way of putting his views. In any event, British immigration continued, far surpassing even the projections that alarmed Powell. No incentive program was adopted to urge existing immigrants to leave. And no viable anti-immigration coalition emerged.

Rivers of Blood

If British law circa would have forbade a politician like Powell from delivering a speech of that kind, would suppression have merely spared immigrants the fear they felt on hearing the speech? Or would it have caused the anti-immigrant faction to be radicalized or rallied around as free speech martyrs?

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It is impossible to say for sure. But if pro-immigrant folks could rerun history from onward, suppressing the speech would be imprudent, given how things turned out. He forecast bloody conflict by Now that twice as much time has passed, even as more than twice as many immigrants as he anticipated took up residence, it could not be clearer that his dire predictions of bloody ethnic strife were flat wrong.

Second, the speech was a useful reminder that there are always some people in all democracies who find the rapid changes and the different kinds of diversity that characterize most free societies to be deeply unsettling and hard to abide. Karen Stenner argues persuasively that we ignore the reality of those people and their innate predisposition to prize sameness at our peril.

Even as we reject their most coercive demands, we must find ways to understand and ease their discomfort—or face the sorts of authoritarian backlashes that tear societies apart. Third, to hear the speech today is to be forced to confront its racism. One of the most flagrant such moments concerns the aging pensioner who was cast as the quintessential victim of demographic change.

In fact, she was brought to the brink of bankruptcy by a self-inflicted handicap: As the racial composition of her neighborhood changed from all white to all people of color, she simply refused to rent to the latter, then sought welfare in order to subsidize her xenophobic housing discrimination. In Britain, speeches raising fears about immigration are typically much milder. Insofar as that reflects a debate more focused on legitimate fears about integration than retrograde racism or skin-color determinism, that change is an unalloyed good.

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The rebroadcast also inspired some Britons to post on social media under the hashtag Rivers of Love. Now that BBC exposed them to sunlight, that sentiment may wither under evidence of all the ways Enoch was wrong, some of it marshaled by people newly determined to disprove his pessimism. Earlier this month, Damon Linker warned the American left against the tactic of trying to suppress ideas that they deem beyond the pale rather than mounting the most rhetorically and logically formidable counterargument possible.

He regards the tactic as the manifestation of a dangerous fantasy that politics can be settled:. Whether the issue concerns public policy or the fundamental moral principles undergirding American public life, progressives tend to presume that their own positions deserve to be treated as lying beyond the give-and-take of political disagreement and debate. What the rise of a less liberal, more radical, intransigent, and populist right is forcing progressives to confront is that this way of conceiving of democratic politics is a fiction.

Nothing in democratic politics is given—or rather, the things we consider given at any moment enjoy this status for no more exalted reason than that public opinion expressed primarily through elections favors treating it as such.

After Enoch

In response, Powell attacked the cross-party postwar consensus, not just on race relations but also on broader questions of national identity. He was spot-on about demography. No parallel exists for such rapid demographic transformation in the history of Britain or any other European state. Powell was not entirely wrong about the politicizing of race. Powell was wrong, however, in many other ways. His race-baiting exemplified the collectivizing hostility he purported to warn against and the opportunistic populism he professed to despise.

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He underestimated the tolerance of his countrymen. The Enoch-was-right parties of the s never won a parliamentary seat. The British have largely kept calm and carried on as their society has been transformed over a generation.

Enoch Powell's "Rivers of Blood" Speech at 50 - The Atlantic

That tolerance was disturbed only recently, with the acceleration of Muslim immigration and the eruption of domestic jihadism. It is ironic that Powell insulted Caribbeans and Sikhs in his speech but never mentioned Muslims. Trump finally faces the impeachment challenge, but plans to brazen it out.

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