Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone praised Hitler and shared his preference for totalitarian regimes over democracies yesterday to the Times. Let me attempt to give Bernie Ecclestone the benefit of the doubt. I assume his intention was to say that a strong leader, irrespective of the ideology or system, is what he admires. That hasnâ€™t stopped the outrage from boiling over after Ecclestone shared some candid and controversial thoughts with the Times yesterday. Odd he should choose Hitler as an example of a strong leader and object of admiration:
â€œIn a lot of ways, terrible to say this I suppose, but apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he was in the way that he could command a lot of people, able to get things done.
â€œIn the end he got lost, so he wasnâ€™t a very good dictator because either he had all these things and knew what was going on and insisted, or he just went along with it . . . so either way he wasnâ€™t a dictator.â€ He also rounded on democracy, claiming that â€œit hasnâ€™t done a lot of good for many countries â€” including this one [Britain]â€.
I am unclear of what history Mr. Ecclestone missed in primary school but Hitler didnâ€™t have to be persuaded to do the things he did. Have the British and American people forgotten the sacrifice paid to rid the world of a tyrannical dictator who was the definitional and tangible example of genocide? The responses of Ecclestoneâ€™s comments would suggest they havenâ€™t:
A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews said: â€œMr Ecclestoneâ€™s comments regarding Hitler, female, black and Jewish racing drivers, and dictatorships are quite bizarre. He says [in the interview], â€˜Politics is not for meâ€™, and we are inclined to agree.â€
Stephen Pollard, Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, said: â€œMr Ecclestone is either an idiot or morally repulsive. Either he has no idea how stupid and offensive his views are or he does and deserves to be held in contempt by all decent people.â€
John Whittingdale, the Tory chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said: â€œThese are extraordinary views and Iâ€™m appalled that anybody could hold them.â€
Ecclestoneâ€™s friend, and son of British Union of Fascists leader, Max Mosley has been involved in a war of words with the Formula 1 teams and was recently accused of being a â€œdictatorâ€. The label has reignited and reinvigorated Mosley as he was set to step down from his post as president of the FÃ©dÃ©ration Internationale de lâ€™Automobile (FIA) this coming October. It now appears he may be considering another term and this has many Formula 1 fans, teams and sponsors on edge.
Mosley has fallen from favor amongst many involved in F1 but his power base runs deep and is intertwined in political hotbeds of Europe and around the globe. He has been a formidable foe of those who have crossed him and last years sex scandal, which would be the undoing of any mere politician, was a glancing blow to his retention as president of the FIA. Ecclestone initially buckled under the fallout of that scandal but quickly sided with his beleaguered friend. It seems he has chosen to repeat his endorsement this year with odd soliloquies about fascist leaders and tyranny being a more efficient form of government.
â€œPoliticians are too worried about elections,â€ he said. â€œWe did a terrible thing when we supported the idea of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. He was the only one who could control that country. It was the same [with the Taleban]. We move into countries and we have no idea of the culture. The Americans probably thought Bosnia was a town in Miami. There are people starving in Africa and we sit back and do nothing but we get involved in things we should leave alone.â€
â€œAll these guys, Gordon and Tony, are trying to please everybody all the time.
â€œMax would do a super job. Heâ€™s a good leader with people. I donâ€™t think his background would be a problem.â€
Ultimately Ecclestoneâ€™s espousal for Mosley seems to be an endorsement for Prime Minister and to extol the virtues of dictatorial leadership. If Ecclestone was trying to defend Mosley from the F1 teamâ€™s criticism, he went a bridge too far. Fascists leaders, tyranny, dictators, genocide, Hitler and Hussein all used on behalf of his friend Mosley for Prime Minister seems like padded-room logic.
All of this coming from the mouths of Formula 1â€™s leaders is, in this writerâ€™s opinion, just too much. Mr. Ecclestone would do well to remember that fascism, dictatorial leadership tactics and â€œtowns in Miamiâ€ (Miami is a town/city, not a state) didnâ€™t help him become a billionaire nor would he have likely become one under such ideology. No, the very system he criticizes has fattened his calf and afforded him wealth of immeasurable amounts allowing for the bravery of being out of range.
This is a sport being errantly controlled by two men who were not savvy enough nor polished enough to make it in real politics and chose to exact their revenge on a sporting fiefdom that have tired of their lordâ€™s keep and started a revolution. If you are a fan of fascism, genocide, Hitler, Hussein, dictators and tyranny; go play politics in government halls and leave the sport to those who appreciate it for what it isâ€”a sport. A sport that is in desperate need of new leaders and serious flushing of these two fascist fawning dictators who have passed their â€œsell-byâ€ dates. The sport has enough politics without throwing ideology into the mix. Irrespective of how capitalist, fascist, communist or centrist you might be; no one particularly wants to hear it whilst trying to watch Formula 1 racing. Perhaps retirement may afford both gentlemen the precious time they need to fawn poetically over long sought ideologies and utopia on earth under a dictator in fatigues.