Monday, June 20, 2016

DAVID WEARING What would a post-xenophobic politics look like? // AARON WINTER - Island retreat: on hate, violence and the murder of Jo Cox

The day after the murder of the MP Jo Cox, her husband Brendan circulated a paper he had written a few weeks previously on politicians’ failure to tackle the subject of immigration. There he argued that efforts “to neuter [far right populists] by taking their ground and aping their rhetoric” had backfired. “Far from closing down the debates, these steps legitimise [their] views, reinforce their frames and pull the debate further to the extremes”. In the hours after his wife’s death, Cox released a statement in which he urged us to “unite to fight against the hatred that killed her”. Let’s start thinking constructively about how we can do that.

The false frame
The overall framing of the national debate on immigration is that it’s a problem, and that the more immigrants, the bigger the problem and the bigger the burden on society. It’s a frame, rather than just a contestable opinion, because it’s not only the political right – or, in the current EU debate, the Leave camp – that say it. Their opponents accept it as well.

Back in 2004, the current deputy leader of the Labour party, Tom Watson, was responsible for an election leaflet that said “Labour is on your side, the Lib Dems are on the side of failed asylum seekers”. Former Labour home secretary David Blunkett has said repeatedly that Britain is being “swamped” by foreigners, recently predicting “an explosion” if Roma migrants don’t “change [their] culture”. The consistent stance on immigration from most of the right and centre of the parliamentary Labour party is that it can control ‘the numbers’ better than the Conservatives. Watson has since expressed regret for his past actions, though last week he contradicted his party leadership by calling for tighter restrictions on immigration – again, reinforcing the frames of the anti-immigrant right.

So the first step toward a post-xenophobic politics has to be pointing out, again and again, that the ‘burdensome immigration’ frame is a false one. Recent research produced by the London School of Economics (confirming earlier findings from University College London) shows that recent EU migrants “pay more in taxes than they use in public services”, have not pushed down wages or reduced job opportunities, and provide a boost to the economy through their purchasing of goods and services.

Therefore, every statement and argument made by a politician or commentator that is based on the false frame needs to be met with an immediate and direct correction. Not only is the current debate actively dangerous, but its entire basis is factually wrong. We need to say so (while also pointing out that judging human beings as economic units is slightly grotesque to begin with). But this is insufficient by itself. The second stage has to be showing that concerns about jobs, housing and public services can all be addressed without irrelevant diversions into immigration policy. People deserve a tangible sense that their problems can be solved, not just to be told that they’ve been misled about the causes… read more:

AARON WINTER - Island retreat: on hate, violence and the murder of Jo Cox 
What we have seen is the mainstreaming of the extreme, informing an emboldening and radicalisation of the mainstream, and further emboldening and radicalisation of the far-right. .. The danger is already being seen. It is retreating so far inwards (without the benefits of introspection) that it will implode or eat itself, consumed by hate and consuming those deemed a threat or barrier to self-realisation. That is where fascism manifests. For the political elites driving this racist, scapegoating campaign, that is just the cost of doing business.

It is too early to know all the details, but a picture is emerging in the horrible murder of Labour MP for Batley and Spen Jo Cox in Birstall West Yorkshire on 16 June 2016, of a killer with sympathies for, if not ties to, the far-right. It was originally alleged that her killer shouted ‘Britain First’ or ‘put Britain First’ as he shot and stabbed Cox, a prominent Remain campaigner and champion of refugees. 52 year old Thomas Mair, who has been charged with the murder, later claimed that he said ‘this is for Britain’ and ‘keep Britain independent’

The original witness statements led the group Britain First to deny responsibility or links, claiming that it was likely used as a slogan, but an image which appears to be of Mair campaigning for the group soon emerged on the internet. Britain First is the far-right party founded in 2011 by Jim Dowson and led by former British National Party member Paul Golding. They are virulently anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, white nationalist, and engage in street patrols, militant direct action and have representatives who run for elected office, including Golding who recently lost the 2016 London mayoral race to Sadiq Khan, who was subjected to an Islamophobic campaign by Tory opponent Zac Goldsmith. 

In addition to links to Britain First, Mair is also alleged to have purchased material including instructions on how to make a pistol from the US based neo-Nazi group National Alliance, infamous it is for being led by the late William Pierce who wrote the Turner Diaries which influenced the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. He is also alleged to have ties to the anti-EU Springbok Club, which had supported Apartheid. When asked to state his name in court on 18 June, Mair answered ‘My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain’.

Too often when a case of far-right violence occurs, politicians, the media and public are quick to paint a picture of an individual who has stepped outside the boundaries of reasonable, rational democratic discourse and practice to espouse extremist views and use violence. Often the individual in question is described, as Mair has been by the media, as a mentally unstable loner. Some will claim that this depoliticises the actor and act, particularly if this is the dominant or only framing, but Mair may demonstrate that a psychological and political reading and reality can co-exist. At this stage, he has clear far-right political beliefs and links (even identifying as a ‘political activist’), and both the far-right links and mental illness are lines of police enquiry.

Some will claim that this individualisation (based on mental illness or ‘lone wolf’ designation), deracialises the actor and act, allowing white British people to not have to identify with him or it, distance themselves, provide a collective alibi and even apologise as Muslims are frequently asked and pressured to do after a terrorist attack. This is a fair and important point to make after attacks by Anders Breivik, Dylan Roof and other ‘white’ perpetrators. As Mair’s act was committed in the name of Britain and against foreigners, and he had an association with Britain First, the racist double standard and irony are obvious. So too is the irony when Britain First defensively distanced themselves from Mair and the shooting as if they think collective guilt by association with terrorism is a bad thing, but it might just be when it applied to them.. read more: