THERE has been much harrumphing about how Gary Lineker’s tweets likening the UK Government’s language around the Illegal Migration Bill “to that used by Germany in the 1930s” shouldn’t be leading the nightly news.

As someone who still gets the “just shut up and sing, pal” jibe, I’m happy to defend Citizen Lineker’s right to speak. A BBC that essentially set up Nigel Farage as the voice of reaction on its news channels for over a decade – with all the consequences we know – has some room left on the other side of the scales.

I’d even like to take Lineker’s tweets entirely seriously – they seem factually based to me. “No huge influx”, he thumbs. “We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.”

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In terms of current policy, that’s simply true. Seventeen European nations grant more asylum claims per head than the UK. Other nations Britain is behind include Lebanon, Syria, Bangladesh, Canada, Pakistan and the USA – countries both poorer and richer than these islands.

And as for the Nazi language comparison? Surely that’s inarguable. “Waves of illegal arrivals breaching our borders” and “criminals breaking into Britain daily” is, to say the least, a crude and dehumanising way to describe complex migrant stories.

Previously, Braverman has used the term “invasion on our southern coast”; David Cameron referred to a “swarm” coming across the Mediterranean; and Philip Hammond to “marauding” migrants.

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Others targeted by Braverman in the last few days include “a blob of left-wing lawyers and civil servants”. And for past context, let’s not forget “tofu-munching liberal elites” or court judges as “enemies of the people”, spread across the usual tabloid covers.

All of these targets are familiar language from early 20th-century fascist agitation and practice. Alastair Campbell has suggested a great topic for someone’s PhD – comparing the front pages of the Mail and the Express with papers like Der Sturmer and the Volkischer Beobachter from 1930s Germany.

Other lines from Braverman – like “the vast majority” [of small boat illegal migrants] “were adult males under the age of 40, rich enough to pay criminal gangs thousands of pounds for passage” – are particularly odious. As Green MP Caroline Lucas pointed out: “Grown men can be refugees too – in fact, men are often those targeted in the first place – they can be and are victims of trauma, torture and sexual violence”.

It’s easy to establish that the UK Government is constricting “safe and legal” migration to self-defeatingly narrow parameters. It’s also worth noting their deep cynicism regarding public protests at hotels housing asylum seekers, in cities like Liverpool and Rotherham.

Sotto voce, this is useful evidence that the British “sense of fair play has been tested beyond its limits ... they’ve seen the country taken for a ride and that patience has run out”, as Braverman put it in her Commons speech.

The National: Suella Braverman pictured in the Commons on Tuesday during the debate on the Illegal Migration Bill

So we should be grateful to the aforementioned crisp vendor and football-botherer. Lineker is using his platform to steer the swirling passions of popular sentiment around migration into zones of reflection and fact-seeking.

There’s no doubt that, in terms of fascism and anti-fascism, it’s a communications war out there – and always has been.

This week I watched The March On Rome, a new production from Edinburgh-based documentary magus Mark Cousins. It’s a film essay about the falsifications involved in fascist myth-making. Cousins’s method is to consider the heroic 1923 newsreel commemorating Mussolini’s 1922 March on Rome which led to his installation as Il Duce.

Titled “A Noi!” (To Us), made by Umberto Paradisi, and preceding both Sergei Eisenstein’s and Leni Riefenstahl’s acts of movie propaganda, it’s a long ribbon of lies.

Cousins is forensic. Pictures of the sparse, often rained-off crowds are shown to be carefully cropped, in order to suggest teeming thousands. Mussolini wasn’t on the march himself, but cowering in a Milan hotel, assessing whether he needed to flee to exile in Switzerland.

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And the dictator’s accession to power wasn’t a consequence of the implacable masses but was in fact a boardroom putsch – a deal quietly cut between King Emmanuel and other besuited fascist leaders.

Cousins’s documentary dwells on many other matters. For example, the continuing presence of Mussolini-era architecture in Italian life, as well as the emotional investments that fascism elicits from ordinary people.

THE contemporary resonance is obvious. Donald Trump opens Cousins’s film, where the Caligularity is being challenged on a Mussolini quote he’s just tweeted: “it’s better to live one day as a lion than one hundred years as a sheep”.

The Don’s response is predictable: “What difference does it make if it’s Mussolini or somebody else … it’s certainly an interesting quote”.

The National:

We need to be vigilant about the hard right using “interesting quotes” – they pull material from anywhere.

There’s a note in the Braverman-Lineker stramash that deserves some careful consideration. And that’s the Home Secretary’s warning that “potentially 100 million” – in the Daily Mail, she writes “billions” – might be eligible for asylum on British shores, under international asylum law. Thus the need to “take a stand now”.

Lineker is strictly correct to say there’s “no huge influx” of asylum seekers. But one will not be able to say the same, in the coming decades, for climate migrants.

A few months ago, I profiled Gaia Vince’s book Nomad Century on these pages. Vince lays out a clear picture of the migrant consequences of degrees of global warming. Perhaps 1.5bn environmental migrants will be on the move by 2050, says the UN, and likeliest heading north.

This is warming that developed countries are historically responsible for visiting on the south – a responsibility stretching back not just decades but centuries.

At two degrees, these billions will be fleeing, writes Vince, from “drowned cities; stagnant seas; a crash in biodiversity; intolerable heatwaves; entire countries becoming uninhabitable; widespread hunger ... They will keep coming because there will be no choice”.

She continues: “The question is whether they will be helped or whether the rest of the world will [not intervene] and watch them die.”

That’s the real “stand” that Braverman and her officials would seem to be urging us to make. That is, against our own “duty of care” to populations that our comfortable, consumerist modernity has made unviable, in their own homelands.

I asked Vince for her thoughts about the “small boats crisis”, and she made the obvious connection.

“Rather than using inflammatory language against extremely vulnerable people and describing them as ‘illegals’,” Gaia tweeted to me. “Leaders should be working together to manage refugee movements so that it’s safe, humane and enables people to get on with their new lives.

Vince continued: “Over the coming decades we will see a large increase in human movement owing to climate impacts, so it’s essential that governments find sustainable ways to manage migration rather than toxic rhetoric and unlawful schemes.”

I would only add that the line between asylum seeker and climate migrant is easily blurred – given that regime instability is one of the obvious outcomes of being baked out of your biosphere.

But this only points to the extremely pinched boundaries of our discourse around the global mega-migrations that will mark the remainder of this century.

The winsome former footballer is not wrong to alert us to the possibility that a fearful, potentially fascist response to this inevitability is being tested out in Braverman’s (and the Tories’) politicking.

Scotland’s recent rhetoric on our attitudes to migrants and asylum seekers, assuming we ever have full sovereignty over our borders, has been noble and progressive. But the test of that is properly yet to come.

This week’s riot in a crisp poke is only a faint crackle of what’s ahead.

Mark Cousins’s The March On Rome is showing on Saturday afternoon at 4pm at the Glasgow Film Theatre