George Orwell in The Lion and the Unicorn:
“One rapid but fairly sure guide to the social atmosphere of a country is the parade-step of its army.
“A military parade is really a kind of ritual dance, something like a ballet, expressing a certain philosophy of life.
“The goose-step, for instance, is one of the most horrible sights in the world, far more terrifying than a dive-bomber.
“It is simply an affirmation of naked power; contained in it, quite consciously and intentionally, is the vision of a boot crashing down on a face.
“Its ugliness is part of its essence, for what it is saying is ‘Yes, I am ugly, and you daren’t laugh at me’, like the bully who makes faces at his victim.
“Why is the goose-step not used in England?
“There are, heaven knows, plenty of army officers who would be only too glad to introduce some such thing.
“It is not used because the people in the street would laugh.
“Beyond a certain point, military display is only possible in countries where the common people dare not laugh at the army.”
So: to adapt Orwell: extremism is only possible in countries where the people dare not laugh at extremism.
(From a post originally posted here.)