Tag Archives: xenophobia

Culture, Class And Loathing: The Establishment’s Distorted Views Of The Working Class

In recent years I have noticed a tendency on the part of mainstream politicians and the media to make blanket generalisations of the working class. For them, the working class is uniformly illiterate, ignorant, racist, xenophobic, eat Big Macs and slob around in tracksuit bottoms that have been purchased from Sports Direct. In reality, these supposed characteristics are nothing less than middle class prejudices that have been projected onto an entire social formation. These views have been helped along by the appearance of ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary series like Channel 4’s Benefits Street, which depict the working classes as feckless and indolent.

Middle class anxieties about the subaltern classes are nothing new.  In the 19th century, Music Hall, which was popular with the urban working classes, was seen as a site of class conflict because it was created from below by the people  (qv. Kift, 1996). Some Music Halls, like Hoxton Hall, were shut down on police advice, while other halls began to appeal to middle class audiences. By the 1920s, Music Hall was dead and had been replaced by the more respectable genre of variety theatre. The working class performers who played the halls were eventually forced out to make way for respectable middle class performers.

We expect the Tories to approach the working class through fictional characters and their view to be informed by a handful of tropes.  This is in spite of their continued claim that there is no class war or that class “doesn’t matter” or “doesn’t exist”.  When John Prescott infamously remarked “we’re all middle class now” he was unconsciously acknowledging his party’s abandonment of the working class. His party leader, Tony Blair, left working class communities to the predations of UKIP and the far-right. Indeed, the party under Blair helped to foster an atmosphere of intolerance and hatred that has now been given a voice in post-EU referendum Britain.  Instead of facing down Michael Howard’s racist dog whistle election campaign in 2005, it started mimicking them by producing its own version in Gordon Brown’s “British jobs for British workers” speech in 2007.

A few years ago, a blog written by Daniel Hannan for the Telegraph used an image of Wayne and Waynetta Slob to provide a visual representation of the working class, who it also suggested were ‘intergenerationally workshy’. This theme, it would appear, has been enthusiastically adopted by the right-wing Labour politicians and their allies in the Murdoch and Rothermere press. They heap trope upon trope by making unsubstantiated claims about working class culture. One such claim is that McDonald’s, the American fast food chain, is universally appreciated by working class people. When Labour banned the chain from its conference last year, the right-wing of the party saw an opportunity to indulge in some slack thinking.

Defending McDonald’s, right-wing Labour MP, Wes Streeting, claimed.

“McDonald’s may not be the trendy falafel bar that some people in politics like to hang out at, but it’s enjoyed by families across the country,”

Streeting would possibly deny that he was referring to the working class in this statement to The S*n (also seen as a working class institution by out of touch parliamentarians) but the signifiers are there for all to see. “Falafel”, for example, is seen as a middle class food by lazy-thinkers, but on what evidence is this view based? None that I can see. Don’t working class people eat falafels? Of course they do. How about middle class people? Don’t they eat McDonald’s burgers too? Yes, they do and they shop at Sports Direct. But who are these “families” of which he speaks? They are no more than line drawings of a group of people who have been observed at a distance through the lens of bourgeois privilege. The mention of “families” is also deployed to add ballast to a weak argument.

But Streeting’s words also dovetail into the notion that working class people don’t support Jeremy Corbyn, who is generally depicted by his detractors as a middle class out-of-touch metropolitan intellectual that fails to “connect” with the working class.  Yet, there is no evidence to support this view and it is likely that the Streetings of this world are projecting their own prejudices onto the working class. They are supported in this by the media, whose lazy-thinking hacks are more than happy to adopt this view uncritically and spread it about like so much muck on a field.

In an article in The New Statesman, Streeting wrote:

First up, a declaration of interest. I used to work in McDonald’s. Serving customers helped me pay my way through my A-levels. I enjoyed it, for the most part.

Unlike those legions of working class people who are forced to accept jobs at McDonald’s by the Jobcentre, Streeting’s time at the food chain was a relatively short one. His path to a political future smoothed by being a middle class young man from a middle class family. Once he completed his ‘A’ Levels, he was off to Cambridge University and eventually the House of Commons via his presidency of the National Union of Students. For those working class people unable to find jobs that pay well or go to university, they were abandoned to the likes of ruthless sweatshop employers like Sports Direct or forced into ‘self-employment’ and other forms of insecure employment. Their condition is blamed on immigrants – regardless of where they come from.

We have been told by the media and politicians that the working class voted overwhelmingly in favour of leaving the European Union and this was seen, on the one hand, as evidence of their insularity, ignorance and xenophobia and on the other as “two fingers up to the establishment”. This sentiment was uttered,  without a trace of irony, by same establishment that has exploited them for generations. It is true, however, that working class fears were manipulated and exploited by superficial postmodern politicians, but if we look at parts of Southern England, it would be reasonable to suggest that the middle class also voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. So what’s going on?

Postmodern politicians are seeking a mandate to ram through short-sighted policies that propose further cuts to public spending. To do this, they claim that we “must listen to the working class’s fears” and limit immigration numbers. Yet when it comes to demands for more council housing, proper wages, equal access to education and healthcare, a decent standard of living, the working classes are completely ignored. Instead, the politicians play to xenophobic class fractions that buy into the narrative that foreigners are taking jobs and being advanced up council house waiting lists over long-term residents. Only a month ago, Labour right-winger, Rachel Reeves attempted to exploit these fears by channelling Powellite rhetoric. No doubt this middle class woman would claim a ‘mandate’ from the working class too.

Labour politicians like Reeves, Streeting and Woodcock and their friends in the media subscribe to the bourgeois view that the working class en masse are illiterate and ignorant. Yet, there is a long history of an educated working class, who placed great emphasis on reading and study. My own family, for instance, is part of this working class fraction. My grandfather, who worked as a boy miner and joined the army as a young man, was a self-educated historian. My mother was an amateur Egyptologist, while my father was a mostly self-taught linguist. I was the first in my family to go to university. Yet, the very institutions of working class education that my family and those like us took for granted: the public libraries, trades unions and mechanics institutes have been systematically eroded or destroyed. Libraries were actually closed under the Tory-Lib Dem coalition. One Tory even claimed (and I paraphrase) that “if you can’t afford to buy books, then why should we provide them for free in public libraries”? The unstated aim of this philistinism is to keep working class people in the perpetual darkness of ignorance and superstition. If people are denied access to knowledge and learning, it makes them easier to manipulate. Hack politicians know this only too well.

For all the talk of a universally ignorant working class, there is no mention of middle class ignorants. The middle class and the aristocracy contains just as many xenophobic, reactionary and anti-intellectual elements as the working class, but no one dares to ascribe these characteristics to those classes as a whole.  It’s past time that the generalisations made of the working class were challenged.

Reference

Kift, D. (1996). The Victorian Music Hall: Culture, Class, and Conflict. Cambridge University Press.

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Filed under social class, Society & culture

No Compassion For Refugees Please, We’re British

“Charity begins at home” at least this is what Britain’s “no refugees here” types have been saying on comments threads on The Guardian and Independent websites. Ironically (or perhaps not), these are the very same people who would not only claim that “people are receiving to much in social security payments”, they would also tell you that the existence of foodbanks proves there is a “food shortage” in this country. Logic? It was never there in the first place.

Many people like to think of The Guardian and The Independent as liberal newspapers with socially liberal readerships. In the case of The Indy, this notion was blown out of the water by the paper’s support for the Tories at the last election and in the case of The Graun, there has been a steady rightward drift in its editorial orientation for years. Sadly, however, the change in direction for these papers has also attracted legions of right-wing racists and keyboard warriors, all of whom have been drawn to the stories of what is now being called the “Refugee Crisis” (formerly the “Migrant Crisis”), a crisis that was entirely created by the actions of the so-called West.

Yet the idea that there is a cause behind the Refugee Crisis is barely mentioned by the tabloid hacks and their pals in Parliament. Instead, in the mind of the knuckledragger, these people are coming here variously for “economic reasons” or the “presence of McDonalds and KFC”, or some such nonsense, and not because they are fleeing the conflicts and tyrannies that the West has created and sustained for decades. Causality, as far as these people are concerned, is a hospital drama on BBC1.

Readers, I have been disgusted by the lack of compassion shown by these keyboard warriors and slackwits but I have been even more disgusted by The Indy’s and The Graun’s tolerance of the vile hatred that’s being openly expressed on its comments threads. If I want to read that kind of shite, I can always go to St*rmfr*nt. Dig?

I always remember reading about this country’s hostile reaction towards the thousands of Jewish refugees who were fleeing the Nazis in the 1930s. This article by Anne Karpf from 2002 – in The Guardian – recalls that those years.

The parallels between past and present are striking. Just as the majority of Jewish refugees were admitted less for compassionate reasons than to meet the shortage of domestic servants, so today’s refugees tend to do the low-paid catering and cleaning jobs spurned by the native British. And just as in spring 1940, when German Jews were interned on the Isle of Man, British newspapers blurred the distinctions between refugee, alien and enemy, so today, according to Alasdair Mackenzie, coordinator of Asylum Aid, “There’s general confusion in many newspapers between an asylum seeker and someone from abroad – everyone gets tarred with the same brush.”

Hostility towards the refugees was stirred up by the virulently anti-immigration rag The Daily (Hate) Mail. Many people internalised its xenophobic and anti-Semitic messages and demanded the government refuse to land any refugees. Déjà Vu? Malheureusement, oui.

The comment below appeared on this Guardian article by the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas. Her name, alone, is enough the get hordes of slavering knuckledraggers thumping their chests and declaring themselves the defenders of “common sense”.

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Britons would probably be far more receptive to the idea of allowing many more refugees into Britain had the country not experience almost two decades of mass immigration in which over five million people had entered Britain.

Here, we have a comment in which the views expressed are little different to those expressed by UKIP’ Nigel Farage (or that Nuttall wanker) on a weekly basis. Although it avoids offensive language and isn’t obvious in its racism, its premise is based on the notion that there has been an “invasion”. Yet, this commenter offers no proof for the numbers they’re using; they are seemingly axiomatic.

On the other hand, this commenter doesn’t disguise his hatred. This is what passes for wit.

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So it turns out now that the guy who recklessly ended up drowning his wife and children had turned down asylum.

Oh.

Sickening.

The government’s response to the crisis has been characteristically Tory: blame “people smugglers” and keep repeating the word “criminals”. It’s as if the refugees themselves have become secondary to the need to punish “those responsible for the trafficking”. In April, in response to refugees drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, Michael ‘Polly’ Portillo, the son of a Spanish republican refugee who fled Franco’s dictatorship, said they should be “sent back where they came from” – and should be “dumped on a Libyan beach”. And you thought he’d been rehabilitated? No way, he’s the same as he ever was.

This nation has been governed by bullies for centuries and people have internalised the bullying to such an extent that they, themselves, have become bullies. This is evident from the lack of compassion shown to refugees. The idea that “charity begins at home” is noble one but one which is now being used dishonestly to bolster the fash’s absurd claim that this country is “full up”.

A few days ago, Cameron appeared on television to give an account of his sluggish response to the crisis. He told the reporter with a straight face that the solution is to “bring peace in Middle East”. But that’s after he’s bombed it back to the Stone Age first.

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Filed under Africa, Eritrea, immigration, Journalism, Libya, Media, Middle East, News/Current Affairs, propaganda, racism, Society & culture, Sudan, Syria, World

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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Filed under Media, Telegraph Comment of the Week, Tory press

Telegraph Comment of the Week (#17)

The thing about today’s racists is that they don’t like to be called racists. Yet that it is what they are and describing yourself as an ‘ethno-nationalist’ doesn’t let  you off the hook either. In fact, an ethno-nationalist is exactly the same thing as a racist. If you look at blogs like those on the Telegraph or Express websites, you will always see the racists jumping up and down and whining that they’re being labelled ‘racists’. Seriously, these racists doth protest too much. Diddums. Life’s so unfair.

This blog from the Torygraph’s token black blogger, Selena Grey, has the kind of title that gets all the racists chiming in with their tuppence worth. Indeed the fact that she’s black is enough to get some ranting and raving about ‘white genocide’.

Grey opens with this paragraph that’s bound to get the racists  baying for blood and demanding there be such a thing as ‘white history’ on the school curriculum.

Black History Month is all about learning. I certainly learnt something this year. I trekked across England as a panelist on the Great Debate Tour. The tour travels to university campuses through October and November and invites black and ethnic minority students to Question Time style debates on immigration, integration, voter registration and enterprise.

She then goes on to describe how some black students defied her expectations and complained about the amount of racism had poisoned the so-called immigration ‘debate’.

At Goldsmiths University the panel was asked whether immigrants take jobs from Brits or merely do the jobs that Brits are unwilling to do. I shared how my hardworking British friends in the construction industry found themselves undercut and almost unemployed when the Polish builders first arrived on the scene. In response to my contribution an enraged black female student raised her hand and yelled “if your friends couldn’t compete with the Polish maybe they’re just crap businessmen”.

Did you see how she set up that paragraph? She fell back on the auld canard that immigrants come here and “take jobs from Brits”. She’s a crowd-pleaser and no mistake.

To press her point, Grey carefully selects the correct black voices to lend support to her dreary argument. Here’s one:

At Oxford University, a black female student was furious at our politicians’ inability to discuss, address or control immigration. At Manchester University, a black female student was annoyed to find herself in the English-speaking minority on her Medical Science degree course. At Greenwich University, a black charity worker from East London shared his deep-seated irritation at how the local culture had been transformed by Asian and Somali immigrants: “I feel uncomfortable” he said. His candid comment led to an awkward silence.

Nothing like divide and rule, eh? The sad thing is that Grey has fallen for it. Yet if the anti-immigrationists ever got their way, guess who they’d turn on next? Uh huh, that’s right, people with black or brown skin. That hasn’t crossed Grey’s mind nor the minds of second generation immigrants who think it’s reasonable to enter into the same side of the knee-jerk ‘debate’ on immigration as white racists.

Grey closes with this paragraph:

One concern of the Great Debate founders is that blacks are not as politically active as whites. But immigration was the one issue black people in these audiences did have a political opinion about. And black Brits are uncomfortable with it.

If she’s trying to ingratiate herself and the black people she claims to speak for to a bunch of xenophobes, then she will fail.

Now for this week’s comment. This one is from “tedsanityville” who’s appeared on this blog once before.

tedinsanityville

Notice how the racists can’t avoid using zoological terminology to describe non-white people. Other cultures – the filthy hordes – “breed”, unlike pure white Brits (itself an oxymoron) who also breed, though the racists will often referred to it as ‘shagging’.  This is how white racists see others: as lesser beings, even animals.

See how “tedinsanityville” extends the ‘crowded island’ canard to “mainland Europe”. Their countries “are shitholes” declares this racist without a trace of irony. Everyone else lives in a ‘shithole’ but these people.

“brendalacluster” then chips in with an ‘Amen, brother’. Her suggestion is that the reason for “failing hospitals, schools etc” is because of those immigrant darkies, who come over here with the intention of destroying Britain’s infrastructure. It never occurs to people like this that the country is being destroyed by a ruling class that uses the NHS and education as political footballs. Like the ruling class, these xenophobes and racists would much rather blame someone else. Why? Because it’s easy and they’re incapable of critical thinking.

I have a simple proposition: if people who are against immigration don’t want to be called ‘racist’, they could start by not being racists in the first place. See? It’s easy.

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Filed under Media, propaganda, Racism, Telegraph Comment of the Week, Tory press

The Weasel Words and Faulty Logic of Michael Heaver

UKIP’s bright young thing or just another tool?

I was looking at Telegraph blogs this morning when I spotted this blog by Michael Heaver.

Heaver describes himself as:

… a political commentator who campaigns for Ukip.

His Facebook page tells us:

Michael Heaver is standing to be UKIP MEP in Eastern England. He blogs for The Telegraph and was Young Independence’s first elected Chairman.

Heaver’s blog has the deliberately provocative title “Britain is massively in debt with major youth unemployment. What do we do? Throw open our borders”. This is enough to get the racists, fascists and closet weirdos out in force.

Scientific racist, Roger Hicks, can’t resist an opportunity to plug his book and repeat his usual spiel about the need to preserve the purity of the British ‘race’ (sic).

rogerhicks 
We are seeking to provide for too many, both our own and those from abroad.The underlying problem is that we don’t really distinguish between the two. To me, native Britons are my OWN. For the government it is ANYONE they choose to give British citizenship to.

When the numbers were small, handing out British citizenship to a few people of different race and culture to our own wasn’t an issue, like adding a few drops of colour to a very large pot of white paint: you are still left with a pot of white paint.

But this is not what has happened. Colour has been added by the cupful, providing a temporary “rainbow” (or “kaleidoscope”! as John Bercow would call it) of colour, but so much that if we stir it in (which we are constantly being encouraged to do), we will no longer have a pot of white paint, i.e. will destroy the ethnic identity of Britain’s ancient native (white) population . . .

It is high time we faced up to this reality, instead of dismissing any reference to it as “racist”, or ridiculing the importance of skin colour as an indicator of ethnic identity (fine for black people to acknowledge as such, but a mortal sin for white people to do the same . . Why? Because of state racial ideology).

State ideology (and IDEOLOGY, with its spurious claim to moral authority, which anyone in public life needs to be associated with, is what this is really all about) insists that “race doesn’t matter”, or even exist, is just a “social construct”, of importance only to evil “racists” like myself.

Only race and ethnic origins clearly DO matter. Not in the way that genuine racists believe they do, but because central to any deep and meaningful sense of both personal, and group, i.e. national, identity. Which is why the state, which legitimises itself and its political elite by deceitfully posing as our nation, need to demonise and suppress this truth as “racist”.

My bold. This guy is clearly a fascist fruitloop. Paranoid, delusional, hysterical and prone to hyperbolic flights of fancy, he always attempts to link skin colour to culture. Notice also how he attacks the idea of ‘race’ as a social construct. This is one who believes that ‘race’ is ‘biologically determined’ but if that’s the case, so are congenital diseases like Huntington’s  Disease. And eye and hair colour? They’re biologically determined too. Yet he wouldn’t demand that we keep the purity of our ‘natural’ British hair colour (whatever that is). Say NO to dying/colouring your hair!

If time travel were possible, I’d like to send Hicks back to Roman Britain just to see how he reacts. Better still, perhaps he should be made to take a DNA test to determine what his ‘racial’ origins are. We’d probably find that his ancestors are a mix of Arabs, Jews and Africans.

Anyway, back to Heaver. Here’s his opening gambit:

Vast swathes of the British political establishment now seem to have their heads buried so deep in the sand I’m surprised they know whether it’s day or night. We stand as a country buried in hundreds of billions of pounds of debt, with a government still spending vast amounts more than it raises, and yet the inevitable pressures are set to continue. Pressures which will be of our own government’s making.

For someone who wants to stand as a UKIP candidate for the European Parliament, Heaver is remarkably clueless about state finances. All governments borrow money and even if the present government says it’s “reducing the debt”, they’re lying and lying badly. Of course, the majority of people are clueless when it comes to state finances and will believe anything that someone with a posh accent tells them to believe. “We’re reducing the national debt”, they’ll say.  Yeah? Prove it, then. “Er, I meant the deficit”. Oh? Show me, then. “Look over there! Migrants are coming to take our jobs”! Yes, that really is the best they can do.

Here Heaver repeats his party’s scare story about the UK being ‘flooded’ with immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria in January. He tries to sidestep this in the opening sentence of the following paragraph:

Talking about mass migration is a silly game of scaremongering, say many of those in Westminster. Yet today we find out that once again, they are wrong. No fewer than 200,000 Roma are already in Britain and that’s before the doors open to Romania and Bulgaria next year.

Realising someone may come along an accuse him and his dreadful party of anti-Roma prejudice, he offers this insincere disclaimer:

I don’t want to demonise the Roma. These are often vulnerable people – who inevitably require resources that we simply haven’t got. Healthcare, schooling, social services – there was even talk on a Channel 4 News report last night of advice on jobseeker’s allowance.

“I don’t want to demonise the Roma”, he tells us but he’s going to anyway.

His next paragraph opens with an appeal to ‘common sense’ in which he cites the ubiquitous but somewhat anonymous ‘man-on-the-street’:

The man on the street can see it how it is: we are a country with one million young people unemployed. Half of our young black males are out of work. Our resources are not stretching far enough for those already here. Committing ourselves to providing for many of those who chose to come is madness. The numbers don’t stack up and nor does the moral argument.

He ends the paragraph with an appeal to moral authority. These people love their logical fallacies.

Instead of proposing sensible solutions, like a reduction in the working week or providing real jobs and training, Heaver – like any Kipper – resorts to the easy solution of scapegoating. Just join the dots and feel the hate.

As I write this, I’ve noticed that Hicks has posted another massive comment that repeats what he said in the first comment. He’s desperate to sell his book. Don’t buy it! Heaver is just as desperate, but in his case he wants get elected, take EU money and spend all his time doing nothing like the rest of his party’s MEPs.

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Filed under Anti-Ziganism, Ideologies, National Identity, Political parties, Society & culture, UKIP

The British Right, the EU and the absence of modernity

John Bull: pigheadedness, anti-intellectual and resistant to modernity

Whenever I returned from a visit to the continent in the 1980s and 1990s, my heart would sink as I approached the port or airport. For I knew that when I set foot on British soil I was likely to be confronted with an antiquated train that was dirty and smelly. These days I need to re-mortgage the home I don’t own to pay the fare. On the continent, the railways are fast, clean, efficient and reasonably priced. Everyone has a seat and no one stands. Those countries embrace modernity. This country mostly rejects it. We have one high speed line. That is all.

In 1970, when my father announced to the family that we were going to move from Germany to England, I wasn’t happy. I wanted to stay in Germany. I’d grown used to the country and learned to speak German. But if you’re a child growing up in a military family, you get used to moving every 3 or 4 years. You lose friends and you quickly make more. That’s the way it is.

When we arrived in England, I was surprised that little had changed since my previous visits in 1963 and 1967. The country was still fusty, curled up around the edges like a stale cheese and pickle sandwich. Many television programmes were a source of horror and I was appalled to see white men blacking up and singing minstrel songs in 1970! I was disgusted when I heard comedians tell jokes about “nig nogs” and “pakis”. Grown up men telling jokes that schoolchildren whispered to their mates on the playground. Grown men!

People were still complaining or making jokes about the Germans. The attitude toward the French was no better. Other European countries also came in for abuse. No one was safe. But there was no justification for this superiority complex. None at all. It seemed that Britain was resting on its laurels; always harking back to the 19th century and the days of Empire. “This country kick-started the industrial revolution”! “We invented the railways”! So? What are you doing now?

Britain’s post-war governments had tried and failed many times to join the EEC. Now European nations must be wondering why they bothered in the first place. But in the 1970s Britain persisted with its application for membership and because the biggest obstacle, De Gaulle was cold in the grave, it was finally successful.

So on Wednesday when Cameron appeared before the cameras to announce that he would give the British people a say over the EU, it reminded me of all the times I’d heard jokes about the Germans and the French. On Twitter, the Europhobes crowed.  They started popping the corks – prematurely, of course. Some started talking fondly about the Empire. “Oh, those were the days”! “We should never have given up Inja”!

Britain is not a modern country. The parties of the right are obsessed with the days of Empire. They refuse to face the future, because it’s much more comforting to look to the past. But it’s not a past that exists in either the bowdlerized history books beloved of Michael Gove and Niall Ferguson or the popular memory. It’s a past that’s formed entirely out of the nothingness of nostalgia; it’s shit and dust. The Tories and their ideological cousins, UKIP, are incapable of doing anything but looking backwards and in doing so, they want to drag us back to some mythological age when there was “free trade” and “civilization” was dispensed from the barrel of a gun.

And with the talk of a referendum, comes the Churchillian rhetoric about “fighting them on the beaches”. Plucky little England against beastly Europe. These people demand Imperial Preference from an Empire that no longer exists and “free trade” that isn’t free. The thing is, in spite of what our Europhobic friends say, Britain still trades with its former colonies. Today when I visited the supermarket, I saw Anchor Butter (from New Zealand), New Zealand lamb, Sri Lankan tea and coffee from Kenya – openly on sale. Who says that Britain doesn’t trade with these countries? UKIP does and so do Europhobic Tories.

It was a Conservative government under Edward Heath that took Britain into the EEC. The Labour Party was mostly opposed because they saw it as an institution dominated by bankers and bosses. By the 1980s, the Labour position had changed because of Thatcher’s anti-union laws. The EU was gradually seen as a bulwark against the excesses of rapacious neoliberalism, though it was pretty much hopeless, because those laws were passed (so much for a “loss” of sovereignty) and trade unions were forced to comply.The Tories complained that Britain would lose its sovereignty. It didn’t.

The Tory-supporting media drives the debate on Europe and it would be wrong to suggest that it doesn’t. It would also be wrong to suggest that many British people are well-informed about Europe. They aren’t. If you tell that to a member of UKIP, they’ll tell you that you’re being “patronizing” but they’re in denial and they’re arrogant. Just have a look at the papers: they all say the same things about Europe and the EU.

The alleged ban on curved bananas was a myth fabricated right here in Britain. You see, Britain can still manufacture things, even if those things are completely wrong or useless. The press continues to make up stories about Europe and the EU. Take this example quoted by Roy Greenslade in The Guardian.

I pointed out on Monday that the Daily Express had run a bogus splash,EU wants to merge UK and France.

A similar story appeared in the Express’s red-top sister title, the Daily StarClowns plan to turn us French.

I can only shake my head in dismay. How can we have a sensible and rational debate about the EU when our “free” press prints lies like these?

I’ve said in a previous blog that the EU isn’t perfect. But when one unpacks the narrative of the right’s opposition to the EU, one uncovers the sheer hatred of foreigners and immigrants that lies beneath rhetoric about sovereignty. I see plenty of comments on Telegraph blogs that do nothing but bleat about “purity” and how Britain’s culture is being destroyed by immigrants. Like it or not, this country is a nation of immigrants and it is all the better for it. But it still isn’t a modern country.

What really galls me about the UKIP and Tory Europhobe argument is their tendency to insist that there is a consensus of support for their position. But this consensus is entirely imagined. They talk of the “people” but they have nothing but contempt for the people. They demand a referendum on the EU but they won’t give us a referendum on austerity, the cuts to education and the selling off of the NHS to medical companies.  Their obsession over Europe and the EU is pathological, perhaps sociopathic. Even a psychoanalyst would say so.

As for modernity, it’s resisted at every turn. Right-wing politicians and businesses (including Registered Social Landlords) operate like feudal overlords. The poor, the unemployed, the disabled are all dumped on. Those with the least means are saddled with  massive debts and high costs. Modern? Hell, Britain isn’t even civilized. A socialist  acquaintance told me years ago that “Britain was the last colony of the British Empire”. He was right. We’re all living under the heel of rapacious colonizers and little empire builders in a country that refuses to grow up and enter the modern world.

Europhobes cry “Many people weren’t old enough to vote in the Common Market referendum of 1975”. The people who use this line are the same people who weren’t old enough to be Tory MPs during the Thatcher years, but who now insist on forcing through policies that not even that government could get away with.

We need a proper grown up debate on the EU, not more lies, mischief-making and scaremongering by the press.

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Dan Hannan: the master of lazy thinking

Yesterday, Hannan wrote a defence of the Tea Party. In it he suggests that the Boston Tea Party of 1773 was perpetrated by a group of ‘patriots’ who were eager to use the occasion of the Tea Act to engage in a little direct action. The truth is that the Tea Act made tea cheaper and it was this act which was about to put tea smugglers out of business.

The immediate catalyst was a tax break—not a tax increase—that effectively made imported tea more affordable for colonists. What irked the patriots was that they had no role in the decision.

Gastronerds says,

Turns out the Sons of Liberty were not protesting the tea tax, they were saving their lucrative tea smuggling operation. See some of the Sons, specifically John Hancock, was illegally importing tea from the Dutch East Indies Company, bypassing British Customs and selling the tea in the 13 original colonies. Sweet eh?

I thought Hannan was some kind of historian. What makes me laugh about Hannan’s blog is his mention of socialist, Tom Paine whom he describes as a “radical”. What he doesn’t mention about the CNN poll he quotes, is that more people think the Tea Party are extreme as compared to those who see either the Republicans or Democrats as extreme. Furthermore, the Boston Tea Party was seen as an embarrassment for many years until relatively recently when it was rehabilitated by the national myth-making machine.

The Tea Party stands for the opposite of all those things. Of course, if you depend wholly on British media reports, you might not realise this. Opponents of the Tea Party have systematically tried to portray it as a far-Right fronde. One Leftist website even encourages its supporters to attend Tea Party events and wave racist placards in front of the cameras. But Americans haven’t fallen for it: the most recent CNN poll shows that the Tea Party and the Democratic Party are seen as equally mainstream (or, if you prefer, equally extreme). Despite all the propaganda, voters view the Tea Party’s principal contention – that taxes are too high – as reasonable.

Another thing that Hannan skilfully avoids are the growing links between the Tea Party and the thugs of the English Defence League. Here, Atlas Shrugs declares,

The EDL is being smeared like the tea party activists in the States. The media is corrupt.

These are the people Mad Dan seeks to defend. I wonder what Hannan has to say about the EDL? Well, oddly enough, he’s rather quiet on that subject. Atlas Shrugs is closely linked to the Tea Party and is responsible for perpetuating lies like this one,

When I started posting about Obama’s religious Muslim background in January of 2007, every epithet was hurled at me from the left and mainstream circles. Islamophobe! Right wing nut! Racist? What race? He is really more Arab American than African American, but the racist charge was for his religion (Islam is a race?). I continued to post through 2007 and 2008 evidence of his Islamic religious birth, his extremist Muslim family and his Islamic schooling. Terrorists supported him. There were the phone banks in Gaza. Oodles of jihad money from a Hamas controlled refugee camp in Gaza. Mosques in the US were preaching for ObamaKhalid Al Mansoursponsored Obama for Harvard. *crickets chirped*

Like Atlas Shrugs, Hannan’s blog is fully of lazy thinking and dubious connections (just like his stablemate, Andrew Gilligan). Here he repeats his nonsensically puerile assertion that the BNP is “left wing”. He links back to one of his earlier blogs in which he moans and whines that “There is nothing Right wing about the BNP except in the BBC sense of baddie”. These aren’t the words of a grown man,  they are the words of a spotty-faced 16 year old boy with smelly feet.

Where to start? The BNP is statist, authoritarian and racist. It might just as well be called far Left as far Right, favouring as it does higher taxes, workers’ co-operatives, protectionism and the nationalisation of industry

For someone with a classical education, Hannan is a remarkably thick individual. How on earth did he manage to become an MEP in the first place? I have news for you, Dan, the BNP isn’t interested in the rights of worker’s-even if it says that it is. In fact, that is something that your party and the BNP have in common: a hatred for the working class.  He continues to live in denial,

I’m sure the Tea Party has its share of eccentrics and, perhaps, of racists: so do almost all large organisations, including the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties.

Oh, that’s big of you. But oddly enough none of the political parties that he’s mentioned have described the EDL as ‘patriots’. Though the Conservative Party has previous form when it comes to racism and xenophobia (go on, sue me). In fact, for all of Mad Dan’s bluster, he conveniently ignores the most glaring exponents of his party’s racism: Gerald Nabarro, Piers Merchant, Harvey Proctor, John Townend and the Wintertons to name a few.

Last week, Hannan used the deportation of Roma from France to have a dig at the EU (the people who pay him lots of money). He has no sympathy for the Roma, he just interested in making noise…and posting up videos of himself speaking in the Euro Parliament. Not only is Hannan a cheap dissembler; he’s vain as well.

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Filed under Government & politics, Tea party, United States