Tag Archives: anti-immigration

Gordon Brown’s Selective Anti-racism

Remember Gordon Brown? Who could forget him? He was dubbed the “Iron Chancellor”, who would “hit the ground running” as soon as he came into government. He was also the man who seemingly channelled every British right-wing politician who ever existed, when he said, without irony, “British jobs for British workers”. This is the same Gordon Brown, who said nothing when Phil Woolas, the former Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, got kicked out the Commons for distributing racist leaflets to his constituents. “Scare the white vote” he was told. Brown was also happy to adopt anti-immigration rhetoric rather than challenge Michael Howard’s dog-whistle racism during the 2005 General Election campaign.

Now he’s back and he wants the world to know it.

In yesterday’s Guardian, Brown wrote:

The Labour party owes the Jewish community an unqualified apology. But that is only a starting point in rebuilding the trust that has been shattered.

A few months ago, I joined hundreds of other non-Jewish Labour party members in signing up as an affiliated member of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). Instead of Jewish members leaving Labour, Labour members joined the Jewish community.

That’s the same Jewish Labour Movement that accepts non-Jews into its ranks and which has spent the last four years smearing left-wing Jews and the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as “anti-Semitic”. Notice also Brown’s suggestion that the JLM and the organizations which share their ideology and loathing for anything left-wing, is definitively representative of a homogenized, Jewish community (sic). But he goes further, even misrepresenting the words of Chris Williamson, who was farcically suspended again after having the whip restored less than 48 hours earlier.

For somewhere along the way it became possible for a Labour MP, close to the leader, to suggest that in dealing with antisemitism we were being “too apologetic”. 

Counterfire provides the context to Williamson’s speech here.

In an effort to show that he’s being even-handed when it comes to racism, Brown adds:

Of course, this poison is not restricted to the Jewish community or to Labour. Islamophobes who use social media to condemn all Muslims also exhibit a racism that disfigures more and more of our society – especially now that a populist nationalism, which needs enemies, is on the rise.

All well and good, but there’s not a single mention of people of colour, who have seen the biggest rise in hate crimes against them, nor is there, predictably, any mention of the racism experienced by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. It’s as if, by our very visibility, we’ve become somehow invisible to Brown’s one good eye. He flourishes his credentials, which are, to adapt Baudrillard, a flaunting of his collection of signs.

And while I gave the go-ahead under the last Labour government for the establishment of a post-Holocaust envoy, it is now clear we need to go much further. The next Labour government should announce it will appoint a designated minister, backed up by an ambassador. This role should be to combat antisemitism – by monitoring and reporting on its evil presence and pressurising governments everywhere to eradicate it.

Hundreds of thousands, around 25% of Europe’s Roma and Sinti population were exterminated in the Nazi death camps, but Brown doesn’t see them, let alone even mention them. The use of the word ‘Holocaust’ suggests that it was only Jews who were killed by the Nazis and the reader is left to assume that’s what Brown means. A proper history lesson for Gord wouldn’t go amiss.

More lip service is paid to anti-racism as a sign in the following paragraph:

When, in 2016, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission reviewed 50 years of anti-racist legislation and enforcement, it called on the government to formulate a comprehensive anti-racism strategy fit for new times. The need is more urgent now and, in preparation for the next Labour government, we should consult on a new and broader strategy that begins with better education in our schools – for example, we should do more to support the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust – and include stronger laws against racism in all its forms.

There is a hierarchy of racism (and race) in the United Kingdom and Brown and the others have either consciously or unconsciously accepted it as fait accompli in their speech and in their actions – though they would deny it. If you’re Black, for example, the racism that you experience comes a distant second, third or fourth place behind the smears. Even genuine cases of anti-Semitism come a long way behind the confected accusations. For example, while the following story may appear on news websites, it wasn’t mentioned on any of the national television or radio news bulletins that I watched or listened to yesterday.

Far-right extremist Tristan Morgan, who set fire to a synagogue on a day commemorating the Holocaust, has been locked up in hospital indefinitely.

He laughed after he set fire to the synagogue in Exeter, Devon, the Old Bailey heard.

Morgan, from the city, was set on fire by the blast after he poured petrol into a window of the 18th Century building on 21 July 2018.

He had previously admitted arson and two terrorism-related charges.

A genuine case of anti-Semitism, you would think and one which certainly deserved more attention than it actually received. You’d be right.

I’m not racist, but…

In the aftermath of the 2010 General Election, the Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, was found to have deliberately lied about his opponent in some racist leaflets he’d sent to his constituents in order to “galvanize the white S*n vote”. Gordon Brown and no less a figure than Cherie Blair came to his defence, as did his close friend, John Mann.

For those who say, in the words of Howard and Crosby’s 2005 dog-whistle posters that “it isn’t racist to be concerned about immigration”, I would argue that may or may not be the case, in and of itself, but behind such concerns often lurk the unpleasant discourses of racism, xenophobia and eugenics. Opposition to immigration provides a useful rallying point that also provides cover to deeply-bigoted sentiments.

Just over a year ago, Brown made speech in which he oversimplified the reasons that impelled many voters to use the EU referendum to send a message to Westminster. True to form, he reduced those reasons into a single anti-immigration discourse. The Guardian’s Larry Elliott wrote:

Brown presented a six-point plan for dealing with concerns about migration: no undercutting of wages by migrants; registration of jobs to give local people a chance to apply; registration of migrants on arrival in the UK; possible removal of migrants if they failed to find a job within nine months; a ban on employment agencies advertising jobs abroad that had not been advertised in the UK; and a bigger fund to help mitigate the impact of migration on local communities.

Indeed, last month, in his speech to an event organized by the Fabian Society and Hope Not Hate, the latter of which pretends to be an all-encompassing anti-racism campaign group, but which in reality, has become little more than a vehicle for anti-Semitism witch hunters like Ruth Smeeth, Brown suggested that in order to combat the far-right, one needed to adopt their positions or, at least, listen to them more. Isn’t that what got us here in the first place?

The ‘Go Home’ vans, Hostile Environment and the Windrush Scandal didn’t appear from nowhere, they are ontologically related and have their roots in Nu Labour’s 2005 anti-immigration discourses. Gordon Brown would have you believe he’s on the side of the anti-racists. He isn’t. He’s part of the problem.

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Filed under Government & politics, Labour, Media, propaganda, Racism, smear campaigns

Migration And Humans

I apologize if I’ve already covered this subject, but I’m always amazed by the numbers of people that seem to think that migration can suddenly be stopped, simply on the basis that the ‘wrong’ people are moving across borders. First, borders are artificial constructs. Sometimes they are defined by geography and other times, they are lines drawn on a map. Second, and this is most important, humans like other animals, are a migratory species. Demanding that people remain in areas where there is conflict or a lack of food and opportunity, is almost like demanding that people stop eating or having sex.

There are many people, who believe that humans aren’t animals or organisms, and believe they’re something else. Quite what they believe themselves to be is a mystery. Do they see themselves as machines? Robots, perhaps?

If you move to take up a job in another town or city, that makes you a migrant. If you move house within a town, city or village, you’re a migrant. You can no more stop human migration than I can dig my way from Britain to China with my bare hands.

I’ve seen people on Twitter retweet Hungary’s semi-fascist President, Victor Orban, who believes that migration can be magically stopped. How can you stop people from migrating? Cut off their limbs?

The self-styled ‘Voice of Europe’ is full of anti-immigration memes and racist and xenophobic propaganda. Much of the content shades outright racism. The timeline is full of retweets from the Daily Express and other far-right sources, including its own blog site in which it claims to be providing “uncensored news”. It is little more than scaremongering and hysteria that’s intended to appeal to the paranoia of gullible fools.

I won’t link to the site, so here’s a broken link that you can copy and paste into your browser. https://voiceofeurope.com/2017/12/life-sentence-for-afghan-refugee-who-raped-and-burned-finnish-girl-alive/#.Wj0fUMN2ykc.twitter

What these small-minded anti-immigration types want is to limit migration to white people only. But there’s a problem with this line of thinking: the anti-immigrationists are selective in what kind of white people they want, though they won’t admit it. The other thing they won’t admit is that, if faced with war or starvation themselves, they would also migrate to find safety, shelter and food.

Migration is one of our survival instincts and to deny these instincts isn’t human at all, but quite the opposite.

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What’s Happening To Stand-up Comedy In Britain?

I’m one of the judges for the New Acts of The Year and we’re about half way through the contest. One thing that I and other judges have noticed is the general lack of political and philosophical engagement with the world among novice comedians. There are also a worrying number of acts who either have no material or have nothing interesting to say. Some have even ventured into misogyny, homophobia and casual racism in a feeble attempt to get laughs. What we also tend to find is that, rather than present a quirky view of the world, some of these novice comedians are giving us a spoken version of their CV. Is this what people are being taught to do at the many stand-up comedy courses that have proliferated since the early 1990s? I think it is. Whatever the case, British stand-up comedy is on its sick bed.

For the last few days, many comedians have been talking about Andrew Lawrence’s alleged support for UKIP and his attack on immigrants. Even UKIP leader Nigel Farage has given Lawrence his support.   A potential kiss of death? Possibly. Only time will tell. What has the world come to when today’s comedians are embracing anti-immigration rhetoric and railing against diversity? Are we really heading back in time to the immediate post-colonial period when comedians used trot out a stream of racist and sexist gags and used “it’s only a joke” as a defence? Sometimes it seems that way.  In Lawrence’s case, it’s easy to suggest that he’s doing this to attract attention. On the other hand, perhaps he, like so many others, is suffering from cognitive dissonance or maybe he’s just a right-wing reactionary arsehole. At any rate, there is an absence of critical thinking to his rant and I would argue that this is indicative of a malaise that is currently affecting the entire country, especially in England, where this negative attitude towards difference seems rife. This malaise is particularly manifest in those people who believe UKIP is ‘anti-establishment’ or ‘anti-politics’.  ‘Anti-politics’? Really? There is no such thing as ‘anti-politics’. Everything is political. UKIP is an anti-intellectual party that appeals to anti-intellectuals, who believe the country’s myriad problems can be solved by simply ‘pulling up the drawbridge’.

On Lawrence’s Facebook page, he attempts to “clarify” his earlier post but is actually reiterating what he said previously. In effect, he ends up digging himself an even bigger hole of gargantuan proportions:

A comedian from a minority background who uses their own ethnicity as a foundation for the whole of their act, rather than looking at wider aspects of society and exploring outside of their own personal experience.

And then says:

Quotas have been introduced, whereby every panel show must book a certain number of female and ethnic comedians, regardless of ability or merit.

Objectively then, there are comedians on panel shows who are there first and foremost because of their gender or ethnicity.

But it gets worse:

Because there is currently not a sufficiently large enough pool of female comedians with the requisite experience and ability to fill the quota, there are females who’ve been booked for these shows who are either poor comedians, not comedians at all, or aspiring female comedians that are still learning their craft, but have not yet reached a decent professional standard.

These females I have described as ‘women-posing-as-comedians’.

The upshot of all that is that there are still many women coming across incredibly badly on panel shows, which is helping to perpetuate the myth that women aren’t funny.

The hope is that women currently on panel shows, will further legitimise stand-up comedy as a career for women and encourage other women to take up comedy. Which is an admirable aim.

Unfortunately for every female who gets on a panel show, there are very many male comedians with more ability and experience who are not and will never get the opportunity to be on one. I think that’s a great shame for TV audiences.

And for his finale:

Oh, and I don’t have a problem with properly regulated immigration and I don’t have a problem with immigrants.

I do have a great deal of concern about the lack of border controls in this country and subsequent gross overpopulation as a result of EU legislation, which I believe adversely affects all our quality of life.

Here Lawrence uncritically accepts UKIP’s position on immigration and seeks to rationalize this position by summoning up the Malthusian claim of “overpopulation” to lend some kind of intellectual gravitas to his narrativization. This is exactly what Malthusian think-tank Migration Watch UK (and Bill Oddie) does all the time.  But this claim that there is a “lack of proper border controls” is not only ludicrously melodramatic, it’s a complete myth. He claims that he isn’t a UKIP supporter but that claim is pretty meaningless, given the fact that he’s regurgitated the same myths as Kippers and the rest of the English Right. Lawrence, if anything, is a reactionary, though it’s not something that he would readily admit. Instead, he complains that comedians are making jokes about UKIP. Diddums.

Let’s return to Lawrence’s comment about “minority comedians”, who he claims use their ethnicity as the basis of their act. Here, he doesn’t even try to understand why this is the case. He’s a white male stand-up and looks more or less like every other white male stand-up. If you’re black or a woman (or both), you have certain visual signifiers that differentiate you from the rest of the pack and may make jokes about those things. That’s what happens. If you have red hair or you’re fat, you will also make jokes about those things. That’s what happens. Yet, for Lawrence, it’s as if over 200 years of colonialism and racism never happened and that things are all right now because this is the year 2014 and people have stopped being racist. Sure they have. Yet for all the white male faces on television, the numbers of black faces on panel shows is so small as to be non-existent. Can you think why that is? I can. It’s called institutionalized racism and it’s a product of the dominant class’s early socialization. The vast majority of producers and commissioning editors come from public school and Oxbridge backgrounds. In their schools, some of which are all boy schools, they never see any females apart from those who are employed to teach or make beds. Black pupils are just as much of a rarity, thus commissioning editors tend to employ those people who are most like them: white and male.

With regards to women comedians, Lawrence has painted himself into a corner by claiming on the one hand that there aren’t a large number of women comics and on the other,  this small number of women comics is responsible for inferior female talent because male numbers are superior. Confused? Don’t be. It’s the anti-intellectual tripe of a knee-jerk reactionary. Like so many white [right-wing] males, Lawrence is playing the victim and it’s as if to say “It’s all the fault of those horrible wimmin with their feminism. They’re oppressing me”.  Lawrence is offering nothing new and is merely repeating the worn-out fallacy that women aren’t funny. Let me tell you something, Andrew, a lot of women are funnier than men, they just don’t get the same opportunities as white males who constantly refer to their genitalia and their apparent sexual inadequacies/perversions. Boring, huh?

The current malaise in British stand-up comedy is an indication of an overall malaise that hangs over this country like miasma. We have now entered a time when the very idea of tolerance is being pissed on, not only by right-wing politicians, but also by selfish misogynistic comics for cheap laughs, who believe they’re ‘pushing the boundaries’. The dominant discourses in this country have been orientated to the right for the last 35 years. People walk around talking in market-speak without realizing it. Other people repeat phrases like “Benefit claimants are addicted to the state” and “We need to have cuts” without thinking about them. Some, like Toby Young, believe that free speech means you can say anything you like without being criticized or being called an ‘idiot’ for it. However, if you’re tolerant and see immigration as a benefit to the nation, you’re shouted down, while those who oppose immigration complain that their voices “aren’t heard” even though the newspapers are full of articles complaining about immigration, and which rely on the usual myths, tropes and hyperbolic flights of fancy like “the country is crowded” to make their spurious points.

If comedy acts as a barometer for the political and social health of a nation, then Britain or, at least, England is a very sick patient indeed. It is obsessed with nostalgia and ready to blame its condition on everything but the system that produces inequalities and untold miseries. Instead, women, ethnic minorities and immigrants are scapegoated for a system that has comprehensively failed to deliver. Those in power in Westminster are happy to allow this continue and comedians like Andrew Lawrence are more than happy to act on their behalf. Sometimes I think the battles that we fought in the 1980s were for nothing.

 

 

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Filed under Comedy, comedy, Ideologies, immigration, National Identity, Popular culture, racism, sexism, social class, Society & culture

Telegraph Comment of the Week (#22)

If it’s one thing the Right loves to do it’s to claim that it’s philosophically and epistemologically superior to the Left. Yet its constant rewriting of history actually demonstrates the opposite. In recent years, many on the Right have claimed that the Nazis are ‘left-wing’. Why? Because they can’t cope with the idea that the Nazis (and fascists) occupy a space further along from them on the political Right. They do this for two reasons: first, to smear the Left and second, to claim a tenuous moral superiority over them. The Nazis are ‘socialists’ they will exclaim because the word ‘socialist’ appears in their name. There can be no more a feeble rationalization. For example, the Australian Liberal Party, in spite of its name, is not a centre left party but a right-wing party. If you tell them that, they start hurling insults. Names count for nothing but try telling them that.

This week’s comment was found on a Delingtroll blog, which makes the same tired claims about how Nazis aren’t really right-wing. In this blog, he attempts to create a space between Nigel Farage and the Front National’s Marine Le Pen but ends up making himself look foolish and ignorant in the process. No mean feat for Delingpole or Dan Hannan, who is cited in this hilarious piece.

To lump together fascist parties (Golden Dawn in Greece, Ataka in Bulgaria, Jobbik in Hungary, the BNP) with bellicose but essentially constitutional anti-immigration movements (FN in France, PVV in the Netherlands, Freedom Party in Austria) is clumsy. To add in eurosceptic parties of the democratic right (AfD in Germany, Mouvement pour la France, Danish People’s Party, Ukip) is deliberately tendentious.

When someone groups all these parties together under the label ‘extreme right’, he is telling you more about himself than about them. Parties like Golden Dawn are not right-wing in any recognisable sense. They favour workers’ councils, higher spending, state-controlled industries; they march on May Day under red flags. They could just as easily sit at either end of the European Parliament’s hemicycle (our closest equivalent, in its combination of mystical nationalism and loathing for capitalism, is Sinn Féin). Calling such parties right-wing isn’t intended to make anyone think less of them; it’s intended to damage mainstream conservatives by implying that the difference between them and the Nazis is one of degree.

Hannan’s article for The Spectator Dictator is desperate as well as intellectually dishonest. UKIP have, through Godfrey Bloom, established friendly relations with Le Pen’s FN. Moreover, the FN recently met with Geert Wilders PVV with the intention of forming an electoral pact in the European Parliament. There’s nothing ‘clumsy’ about those connections. They are real.

The above quote is preceded by a characteristic whinge from Delingtroll:

Yet our lazy and parti-pris media – even many newspapers notionally on the right-wing side of the debate – continue to do the liberal-left’s dirty work for it by labelling any party with instincts which are nationalistic, anti-immigration, or anti-EU as belonging to the “far-right” – and therefore automatically beyond the pale of reasoned political discourse. The loons of the green-left, on the other hand, get a more or less free pass to spout their anti-democratic drivel at will.

The nationalism that is expressed by the likes of the PVV or the other parties mentioned here, belongs on the far-right. There can be no question about it. Furthermore, there is nothing ‘reasoned’ or reasonable about the shrill paranoia that dominates the Right’s anti-immigration discourses. Words like ‘floods’ and ‘tides’ are constantly used alongside exaggerations like ‘mass immigration’ which is itself a euphemization of the phrase ‘floods of immigrants’. These words are often joined by hygiene metaphors like ‘contamination’.

Now to this week’s comment. This one comes from ‘eufreedom’. Yeah, I laughed at that name too.

euignorance

The key to this comment is “ALL British born” and in spite of “eufreedom’s” claims that no distinctions will be made according to colour, creed and denomination, questions are invariably asked by such parties regarding one’s right to claim national identity – particularly if they look different. Kippers often claim that they are “neither right nor left” but given their nationalism and obsession with difference, this is evidently dishonest. ‘eufreedom’ also takes umbrage with the fact that people disagree with his/her drivel and pronounces them “neo-fascist-marxist-EU drones and trolls”. This comment may look like a self-parody of a Kipper, but this is how they really think and talk.

For more hilarity, have a look at Toby Young’s feeble attempt to unite the Tories and UKIP under the “Country before Party” banner. 

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