Sharp rise in tactics that echo attempts to inflame fears around immigration and minorities ahead of midterm elections
The 2018 midterm elections have seen a dramatic rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric, a new report has found, as political campaigns are emboldened by Donald Trump’s ascent to the White House.Continue reading...
Beijing now proudly parades ‘humane management and care’ at internment camps, after denying their existence for months
China’s state broadcaster CCTV last week offered a look inside Xinjiang’s controversial internment camps.
In the 15-minute segment journalists visit the Hotan City Vocational Skills Education and Training Centre where they teach students Mandarin, China’s various legal codes, and job-relevant skills, according to a city official, reciting almost verbatim a description previously given in Chinese state media.
The ultimate aim is the creation of a vocational, patriotic education system for adult minorities.
Seeing this video again, it appears there are at least five cameras monitoring this classroom of a so-called "vocational skills training center", as seen on @CCTV.https://t.co/8Xvneh85hI pic.twitter.com/uKewVUR56gContinue reading...
‘Normalisation’ is the idea that if the media gives too much exposure to extreme views or those without any basis in fact or science, they become the political mainstream and will come to be widely accepted as fact, or people will feel obliged to accommodate them despite disagreeing with them or knowing that they are baseless. I have heard this word used a lot in recent years, mainly by the left who are rightly concerned about the effect of the rise of the “alt-right” on things such as women’s rights, the right of minorities to live in peace and in some cases the rule of law itself. Peter Hurst, who writes mainly on Medium as “Post Liberal Bot”, calls the “normalisation narrative” an example of left-wing authoritarianism in which we lament the “loss of traditional gatekeepers to news and information, due to the decline of old media and the advent of social media”. He cites calls by politicians for bans on anonymous accounts and closed forums on social media and for a social media regulator.
In my experience, the normalisation narrative is not so much that people are getting their news and views through alternative means; most of us think that is no bad thing. In the last month or so, for example, I have seen a lot of tweets from Scots advocating a refusal to pay the British TV licence fee on the grounds that it funds the BBC which they see as a biased, English-establishment broadcaster which gives too much airtime to English Brexiteers and too little to Scottish, pro-EU progressive or nationalist viewpoints. I also know many people on the Left who firmly reject any ban on anonymity because it allows people such as abuse survivors (or people currently suffering abuse) to talk about their situation without fear of retaliation from their abusers or of being exposed to friends and relatives who do not know about their situation. Most of us use social media. It allows us to keep in touch, to make friends, to announce things such as events and blog postings, to share writing and other content we like.
The chief complaint is that traditional ‘gatekeepers’ allow fringe voices airtime out of proportion to either their popular support, their respect for truth or how well-founded their argument is. A classic example is the regular slots on programmes such as Question Time given to Nigel Farage despite the fact that his party had never persuaded a single constituency to give him a plurality of votes (as well as burnishing his “man of the people” image by showing him drinking beer in a pub, then calling it a “Kent village pub” when in fact it was in an expensive corner of a wealthy London borough). They may justify this with the result of the 2016 referendum and the party’s better (though not overwhelming) showing in European elections, but one has to ask whether his access to the media is a cause or a consequence of the popularity of his party, which produced no other politicians of note (Douglas Carswell was a Tory for most of his parliamentary career).
Often the reason for amplifying extreme voices is that they treat news and discussion as entertainment and deliberately bring on people with inflammatory views so that they can have a row on air. In other cases, an insistence on ‘balance’ means that an ‘expert’ who denies the science that points to the fact of man-made global warming will be brought on to argue with a real expert when in fact there is no great debate among climate scientists that it is a fact; the ‘sceptics’ are often funded by the oil industry or other moneyed interests and sometimes use a scientific background as a justification when their specialisation is not climate. They present other industry-funded lobby groups as grassroots affairs (e.g. Forest, which is funded by the tobacco industry, presented as a “smokers’ group”) and think-tank spokespeople get regular slots on news and analysis programmes without any question about their qualifications or funding.
This has consequences. The media regularly allowed Omar Bakri Muhammad and Anjum Choudary, the leaders of the Muslim extremist group originally called Al-Muhajiroun, to promote their ideas on local and national news on TV and radio, allowing people to think that the group had support among Muslims whereas in fact they were tiny and dwindling and were fond of gate-crashing other Muslims’ demonstrations (they were openly contemptuous of the groups that organised the demos they invaded — they claimed that Cage, then Cage Prisoners, was “close to becoming munaafiqeen”, i.e. not really Muslims). A lot of Muslims thought they were agents provocateurs retained by someone or other’s secret services. It was their demonstration (attended by about 20 people) at a procession by returning soldiers in Luton, and the sensationalist media coverage of it, that led to the formation of the English Defence League. The EDL itself has peaked (though the hooligans reformed as the “Democratic Football Lads’ Alliance”), but we now have Steven Yaxley-Lennon being made a martyr while interfering in the legal process and being dishonestly promoted by racists and other malefactors as a defender of western values against “Muslim extremism” and/or cowardice when he is in fact an ignorant thug with a criminal record. We have not heard the end of this and if the media had not hyped the Muhajiroun throughout the 2000s his ‘career’ may never have got off the ground.
The fact is that if you have access to the media, you have a greater degree of freedom of speech in this country than if you only have access to the Internet, as laws that ban ‘offensive’ or ‘malicious’ communications using the phone system (which have more recently been extended to the Internet) do not apply to newspapers or to things said on a stage, such that people have been convicted for taunting football supporters about a plane crash decades ago, inducing a dog to give a Nazi salute and denying the Holocaust on online videos which they would not have been if they had done it in a mainstream newspaper or on TV. The thing that gets someone prosecuted does not even have to be illegal in itself, just judged (after the event) to cause offence. The mainstream media are not governed by any such laws; they are free to print lies as long as they are not against an individual, and even then the penalties are civil, not criminal. It is even legal for political campaign ads to contain obvious falsehoods.
Social media does present avenues for the promotion of extremism. People can very easily circulate images which are doctored or which do not reflect what they say they do — they may be taken at a different time in a different country, for example, but any footage of brown-skinned people celebrating could be misrepresented as Palestinians celebrating the 9/11 attacks, for example. It is an ideal forum for circulating fake news, i.e. false stories on fake newspaper websites or fake clippings (an older method). The Right accuses the Left of existing in a Twitter-based echo chamber (as does Hurst’s article), but racists often use social media to spread misinformation far more cheaply and easily than they could when they had to actually put together and run off fliers or mini-newspapers and distribute them. And racists and fascists have been complaining about being shut out of the mainstream media for a lot longer then the mainstream Left have been complaining about ‘normalisation’ — in some cases it was almost a boast, that the “Jewish controlled media” would not touch them.
But nobody wants social media to disappear. As already stated, most of us use it for both personal and political reasons. It’s actually quite easy to rebut misinformation on social media as an image can be reverse-searched and a newspaper can be contacted to see if they really printed a given story, or if they exist. The same is not true of mainstream media; it takes months to even get a complaint examined and even then, the correction will be nowhere near as prominent as the original story, which many people will continue to believe. It is easier to get an account shut down or a story taken down because it is false or offensive than a newspaper story, even on their website. How many times has a newspaper been closed because a story they printed caused offence? Just once — the News of the World in 2011, because of outrage over a murdered teenage girl’s voice mails being illegally accessed, which it was thought might have delayed finding her or her body — and its owner promptly launched another Sunday paper based on its own weekday title.
But ultimately, what the likes of Peter Hurst calls ‘populism’, the rest of us calls racism, and the reason why we want to see racism suppressed rather than ‘debated’ is because it has consequences: people discriminated against, harassed or abused in the street or as they do their job, made to feel unable to live in the country they had been led to believe was their own, or unjustly expelled from it and separated from their families. You may think “Is rising ethnic diversity a threat to the West?” is a worthy or necessary ‘debate’ that the “metropolitan élite” has been shirking for too long — despite it having been on the front pages of tabloids in one form or another on a regular basis for decades — but it’s their life. And when racist attitudes are normalised by being exposed on the radio or in the papers (this includes whinges about immigration, health/benefit tourism etc., particularly when they take liberties with the facts), especially if unchallenged, it makes life difficult for anyone who is, or may be mistaken for an immigrant, or has personal connections with them. This is not academic. It’s not the university debating society. It’s not a nice bit of entertainment on a Friday evening. It’s people’s lives.
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This morning I saw a longish interview on the BBC Breakfast show with some guy called Richard Tice, who was identified only as a spokesman for “Leave Means Leave”. I didn’t hear most of it as I was having a haircut and the electric shaver started up almost as soon as he opened his mouth, but I did catch him call the marchers “losers” who should “get behind us Brexiteers” instead of trying to undermine the government’s negotiations. However, on a truck drivers’ Facebook forum, someone quoted him as saying that a trucker had said to him that he could just give him the word and he would block London. This is baloney and whether he knows it or not, his alleged friend does.
Most of us truck drivers do not own a vehicle other than private car or maybe a motorbike. We drive our bosses’ trucks and often those bosses are big companies such as DHL which are based abroad, often in mainland Europe, and often they are involved in moving freight to and from the mainland. I happen to know that my boss supports Brexit, but he’s a subcontractor to a major contractor to a big online ordering company and most of the journeys his vehicles make are to pull that company’s trailers. Said big company is based in a mainland European tax haven. He will not be using his vehicles to stop his client from doing their business, regardless of politics. Nobody will thank him for doing that and they might remember it the next time he needs some business. Besides, those of us who have Saturday off will often have spent all week working and will be spending Saturday doing a mixture of house chores and relaxation and then preparation for the week ahead. Brexit is not enough to get anyone blockading roads (unlike the fuel price crisis of 2000 or so, which really was impacting on business even though prices were much lower than they are now).
As I write this I’m on the way to the demonstration; not everyone who opposes Brexit is a comfortably-off academic or financier.
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Blog claims sermon by imam at Oxford church contrary to ‘sacred act of divine worship’ in keeping with C of E rites
An invitation to a distinguished Muslim scholar to preach at a eucharist service in an Oxford church on Sunday has triggered complaints from traditionalists.
Monawar Hussain, who was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours last year for services to interfaith relations and the community, will deliver a sermon at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, following a request from Oxford University’s vice-chancellor, Louise Richardson.Continue reading...
19 October 1967: A retrial was ordered in the case against Michael Abdul Malik, leader of Britain’s Black Muslims, amid confusion over jurors
A retrial was ordered for Michael Abdul Malik, known as Michael X, leader of Britain’s Black Muslims, by the Recorder, Mr R. C. Hutton, at the Reading Quarter Sessions yesterday on a race-hate charge.
This followed an application by Mr Kenneth Jones, QC, for the prosecution, who said that from what Malik had said he had intended to object to a juror on Tuesday.Continue reading...
Kazakh national was asked to speak at Congress about his ordeal, but his application was rejected by the US consulate in Istanbul
An outspoken former detainee in China’s internment camps for Muslims has said that his application for a visa to visit the United States was rejected even though he had been invited to speak at Congress about his ordeal.
Kazakh national Omir Bekali was asked to travel to Washington in September by the chairs of the Congressional-Executive Committee on China. He said his application was rejected by the US consulate in Istanbul on 2 October after he was questioned about his employment status.Continue reading...
For three years, Miqdaad Versi has waged a quixotic – and always scrupulously courteous – campaign against the endless errors and distortions in news about British Muslims. But can a thousand polite complaints make a difference? By Samanth Subramanian
News about Muslims in the British press is rarely positive, but it is never scarce. Consider these stories, published across a typical month towards the end of 2016. In the Times on 9 November 2016, an article announced: “Islamist School Can Segregate Boys and Girls.” On the Daily Express website, nine days later: “Anger as less than A THIRD of Muslim nations sign up to coalition against Isis.” In the Sun online, on 1 December: “SECRET IS SAFE: Half of British Muslims would not go to cops if they knew someone with Isis links.” On the Daily Express site the day after: “New £5 notes could be BANNED by religious groups as Bank CAN’T promise they’re Halal.” On ITV News, the same day: “Half of UK Muslims would not report extremism.” Two days later, in the Sunday Times: “Enclaves of Islam see UK as 75% Muslim.” The Mail on Sunday, that same day: “Isolated British Muslims are so cut off from the rest of society that they see the UK as 75% Islamic, shock report reveals.” And another version, in the Sun online: “British Muslims are so cut-off from society they think 75% of the UK is Islamic, report reveals.”
No other community in Britain receives such regular torrents of bad press. But that is not the most shocking thing about these articles. Every single one of them was misleading. And they were not just lightly dotted with inaccuracies. The chief premise of each piece – the premise articulated in the headline – was dead wrong.Continue reading...
Shahin Ashraf’s experience growing up as a British Muslim has led to a life campaigning for gender equality around the world
Shahin Ashraf’s humanitarian work has taken her from Bosnia to Afghanistan, where she helped a woman escape forced marriage.
Ashraf, who was awarded an MBE in 2015 for her services to interfaith and community cohesion, is a global advocacy advisor for Islamic Relief. She speaks to Lucy Lamble about her own experience of gender inequality, which influenced her campaign work for Muslim women’s rights in traditionally conservative societies.Continue reading...
Far-right and anti-Islam ideas taking root in post-industrial towns, says Hope Not Hate
Britain is hugely divided across cultural, age and education lines, a major study of national attitudes has concluded, warning of a potential rise in far-right and anti-Islam sentiments unless politicians tackle long-standing disaffections behind the Brexit vote.
There is a particular chasm between people living in affluent, multicultural cities and those from struggling post-industrial towns, according to the report from Hope Not Hate, based on six years of polling and focus groups.Continue reading...
Restrictions on convicted Isis supporter cover using the internet and speaking in public
Convicted Isis supporter Anjem Choudary will be in effect banned from any public statements after his release from prison this week, as British authorities seek to stop him from inciting support for terrorism.
British officials believe they have drafted conditions that will stop Choudary from repeating his method of drumming up support for extremism, which enabled him to escape prosecution for years even as his propaganda motivated at least 100 people to pursue terrorism.Continue reading...
British Museum, London
Two new rooms present an alternative history of the world, beginning with works with a geometric sophistication and abstract calm that western art could not achieve for another 10 centuries
The best way to get to the British Museum’s new gallery of Islamic art is via the Sutton Hoo gallery. That way, you first take a trip through Anglo-Saxon England, past Celtic gold, Viking jewels and treasures from the burial of a seventh-century king. These artefacts, lurking in shadow, all date from a time that is often called the Dark Ages. Then you step out of that gallery and into a world of light.
Streaming in through patterned screens and coloured glass, the light spills over lustreware, the glazed ceramics invented by medieval Islam that have an iridescent quality. Such luminous clarity seems to shine right through Islamic art: what you see here resembles the Enlightenment in 18th-century Europe – an age of reason that, in this case, started in the eighth century.Continue reading...
Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, headed by hardliner accused of violence against Muslims, to become Prayagraj
An Indian city in a state led by a hardline Hindu nationalist preacher accused of instigating violence against Muslims has had its Muslim name changed to one with Hindu associations.
The state cabinet in Uttar Pradesh announced on Tuesday that it had approved the renaming of Allahabad as Prayagraj, which harks back to the city’s ancient appellation, Prayag, before it was changed by Mughal-era rulers in the late 16th century.Continue reading...
The regional elections in Bavaria resulted in a crushing defeat for the CSU party, which has ruled the province since 1950. It fell from almost half the votes to slightly over a third; at the same time its traditional rival (and partner in the national coalition government), the Social Democrats, did even worse and slumped to fifth place. The huge gainers were the Greens, now almost twice as large as the Social Democrats, and after them the anti-immigrant AfD in fourth place.
The CSU lost votes to both right and centre; more votes to the centre, in fact, than to the populists. But across Europe is it the populist parties that seem to be having their moment now. The word “populist” is a useful label, but it does not entirely explain the power of these movements. This cannot derive only from their most obvious feature, which is hostility to outsiders. There is also the sense of belonging that they produce by combining religion and nationalism to imagine, and so create, communities.Continue reading...
During the post Iraq War days (when Iraq was effectively if not in name under occupation), the pro-war blogger Norman Geras ran an article on what it called the Single Transferable Article About Iraq or STAI. The easy way to spot a STAI, according to him, was silence on one date, that of the first democratic elections in Iraq in history or since God knows when (30th Jan 2005). They were always written by anti-war leftists who, they believed, could not bring themselves to accept that the outcome of the invasion was good (as we now know, it really was not, despite some glimmers of hope such as that occasion). In the post-2016 era, a common feature in the media and blogosphere is what I have come to call the STAB: the Single Transferable Article about Brexit. STABs are typically all about why the Brexit vote was perfectly legitimate, represents a lasting shift in public opinion and that the liberal Remainer elite consoles itself with myths (such as that voters were deceived by Russian-sponsored propaganda) and stereotypes (such as that most retainers were racists or old white bigots). What defines the STAB is silence on the role of the mass media in fomenting the attitudes and beliefs that led to the 2016 result. The latest example was in last Sunday’s Sunday Times, an extract from a book by Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin, which sought to debunk a number of the comforting myths and stereotypes that Remainers use to discredit the 2016 referendum result and that liberal intellectuals use to explain the popularity of Donald Trump and various ‘national populist’ movements across Europe. (Article is paywalled; you need to register to read it.)
My first action when reviewing these sorts of articles is to do a simple text search for words such as ‘news’, ‘media’, ‘papers’ and ‘tabloid’. Usually the hit count is tiny and in this case it’s zero for all of them, except for ‘media’ which in this case occurs once, as part of the word ‘median’. To give them due credit, they mention that the fears about the threat to people’s way of life “may not be grounded in objective reality” but do not explain this any further. I do not believe any study of why people voted for Brexit in particular is valid without examining the role of the mass media, which has been dominated by right-wing corporate players since the 1980s, some of the largest of which have been running a campaign of propaganda and misinformation against the EU and the EEC before it since the 1980s and the European Convention on Human Rights since the late 1990s when it was incorporated into British law. This is a major reason why the tide of revelations about Russian involvement in and funding for the Leave campaign have not had the results that the Remain side believe they should.
The chief reason they hate strong international institutions is that they are a threat to the power of British politicians, whom they can normally expect to react quickly to media-generated outrages with panic legislation (which they can tear apart at a later date, e.g. the Dangerous Dogs Act) or a crackdown (e.g. the 2006 “foreign criminals scandal”). Politicians hate them for the same reason: until very recently, power meant power. Unlike American politicians, they were not used to the idea that the laws they passed could be scrutinised by judges or that they could be told “you can’t do that”; they made the rules, others obeyed them.
In addition to the mainstream media, social media plays a major role today in circulating myths which feed hostility to immigrants, refugees and other newcomers. This has been particularly recorded in developing countries where Facebook is the biggest source of ‘news’; people have been lynched and houses and businesses burned because a rumour circulated that members of a particular community were responsible for a rape, or similar. In the case of Germany, social media, blogs and pseudo-news sites circulated rumours of a mass sexual assault by Arabs at a public event in Cologne two years ago, but closer examination revealed that the ‘Arab’ element to the story was spurious. This past summer, the New York Times revealed that hostility to and violence against refugees in Germany was spread through Facebook and that communities where Facebook use was high also had higher rates of racial violence. There is no mention of Facebook (or Twitter) in this article, either, yet it should be considered when evaluating the reasons for the rise of Alternative für Deutschland. (Social media rumours played a large part in mustering the support among ethnic minorities for Brexit; among them the claim that the European Parliament would ban halal slaughter and that reducing eastern European immigration would mean more of their people would be allowed to move from South Asia again. One of these is baseless; the other is wishful thinking.)
Eatwell and Goodwin are, in my opinion, in error when treating Brexit, Trump and the rise of so-called national populism in Europe as the same trend or phenomenon. Brexit is a single issue; the other two are political parties or its leader in the case of Trump. In the UK and USA, it has been the mainstream Right that has benefited, if only temporarily, and in the USA been radicalised; in Europe, not only the centre-left but mainstream Right parties such as the Christian Democrats in Germany are facing challenge as well — Angela Merkel, it should be remembered, is a Christian Democrat who was compared to Margaret Thatcher when she was on the rise. In the USA, white supremacism has always been closer to mainstream politics than in the UK (openly race-based political appeals are banned in much of Europe) as parts of the country were legally white-supremacist within living memory — not in the sense that there was racism and discrimination, but that there was legally mandatory discrimination in which Black people could not vote, could not use the same facilities or go to the same schools, etc. as Whites. A major part of the political Right’s campaigns has been to challenge the legal rulings that held racial discrimination and voter suppression to be unconstitutional, hence the struggle to get ‘conservative’ judges like Brett Kavanaugh nominated to the Supreme Court.
In both the cases of Brexit and Trump, there is no single reason why these two things happened. They note that support for Brexit is strong in many parts of provincial England, some of it affluent and some of it depressed from the decline of heavy industry and not all of it white-dominated. There is also no getting away from the fact that outside some major cities where the Remain vote was strongest, the rural areas that supported Remain were in the south. In the North, the old mining and steel-working areas voted to leave, with the exception of the big cities (Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle) which have substantial student populations. Dissatisfaction at how Britain engages with Europe must play a big role: we have tended to engage with Europe to the benefit of business, not ordinary people — witness how we refused passport-free travel and still allowed the price of a passport to increase considerably during the 2000s. It was the then pro-EEC Tory party that presided over the destruction of industry in the 1980s and early 90s and the pro-EU Labour party which treated the ex-industrial north as a group with “nowhere else to go” in the late 90s and 2000s. So, the whole thing cannot be put down to a movement preoccupied with national identity (though the issue of immigration from eastern Europe was a major factor). Economic dissatisfaction fed into it as well.
In the case of Trump, it has to be remembered that he got 3 million fewer votes than Clinton and won because the electoral college arrangement is weighted in favour of small, rural (and predominantly White) states; the Republican Party is also notorious for voter suppression at every level, targeted at citizens judged likely to vote against them. He won in the key northern states by attacking the trading agreements many Americans blame for the loss of manufacturing jobs in states like Pennsylvania. He ran on a protectionist, “America first” platform and whether he takes them again in 2020 (if he runs, which he intends to) depends on whether he can deliver on these appeals. However, he also benefited from mounting anger at the fact of a Black president and from that president’s sympathy for campaigns against the murder of Black civilians by police and for accountability for said police; Americans were either willing to overlook his clearly expressed racism and the incidents of violence at his rallies, as well as his associations with certain neo-Nazis, or they approved.
As for Europe, Goodwin informs us that “it was actually in the 1980s that the most significant national populists in postwar Europe showed up”, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen in France and Jörg Haider in Austria. Well, anti-fascists like myself don’t like euphemisms like ‘populism’ to describe those people; we prefer terms like ‘fascist’, ‘Neo-Nazi’ or just ‘Nazi’. They had clear roots in mid-20th century fascism, often denied the Holocaust and otherwise openly espoused anti-Semitism as well as hatred of immigrants and their native-born children; the parties were typically the subject of cordon sanitaire arrangements whereby parties would coalesce with each other to make sure they did not achieve power, and when that rule was broken in Austria, the country was the subject of sanctions by the EU. Today, the AfD uses such slogans in its literature as “protect our wives and daughters”, referring to the stereotypes and rumours of Arab male refugees as sexual predators. The idea of a racial other as a threat to your women is a classic racist trope, and we should call it by its name rather than use euphemisms. Again, the view is fed by rumours, not facts. (I word-searched this article for the word ‘racist’ and it appeared once, and not in reference to parties which use this sort of rhetoric.)
And the success of the new far right is being exaggerated here; it has certainly increased its share of the vote from 4.7% and no seats in 2013 to 12.6% and 94 seats in 2017, but that is still not enough to secure power, and the Free Democratic Party also increased its vote substantially from 4.8% of the vote and no seats in 2013 to 10.7% and 80 seats in 2017. In the recent elections in Sweden, the far-right Sweden Democrats increased its share of the vote to 12.86%, which is certainly worrying but given that other parties will not touch it (and have other options as proportional representation gives the Green and Left parties greater representation than they would have in the UK), it also means they are far from power (and in any case, they are localised to two cities in the south, Malmö and to a lesser extent Jonköping and Gothenburg). In the case of Germany, their strongest showings (where they actually won constituency seats, i.e. came first in a first-past-the-post poll) was in the east where democracy has only been firmly established since 1990; before that, it had been a dictatorship under first Hitler and then the Communists since 1933. That part of the country has always been where far-right parties have done better and where racial violence has been worst, and the constituencies they won were in eastern Saxony, known during Communist times as the “Valley of the Clueless”, which was for geographical reasons beyond the reach of western radio broadcasts. In the most recent state elections in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union (the Bavarian equivalent of the Christian Democrats), lost ground to both left and right, with the Greens the second biggest party with 18% of the vote to the CSU’s 37%; this is the first time since 1957 that the party has lost control of the Bavarian state legislature.
In addition, the article errs in lumping in swing voters who voted for those he classes as ‘populists’ with those who would have voted for them anyway — they lump in “what’s changed” with “what hasn’t”. They remind us that “more than 62m people voted for Trump” but this includes those in the outer and lower Midwest and the Rocky Mountain states who have voted for them since the 19th century as well as the South which has done since GW Bush’s time. They voted Republican even when its candidate was John McCain (whose bid for the presidency in 2000 was partly derailed by racist push-polling in the South and who was widely vilified by the right-wing media during Bush’s term) and then the Mormon former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. They will, in short, vote for very unlikely presidential candidates if they can be made out to be conservatives, and even though the Republican party passes over conservative Southerners such as Mike Huckabee.
Lastly, they refer to the stereotypes entertained by the “comfortable elites” for the groups of people who voted for these three things — “irrational bigots, jobless losers, Rust Belt rejects, voters who were hit hard by the great recession and angry old white men who will soon die and be replaced by tolerant millennials” — and then gives statistics that show that younger voters, voters in prosperous areas and ethnic minorities voted for them as well. However, being young or prosperous does not stop someone from being racist or from being vulnerable to being influenced by propaganda, especially if it is delivered on a regular basis for many years and presented as news. The issue is not really that relevant, because the people who have control of the situation now are a few hundred politicians, many of whom support Brexit for quite different reasons to the supporters in the populace: desire for power, vested financial interests, ideological commitments such as to large-scale privatisation, etc. It is no coincidence that they resist demands to give the people another ballot, either a further referendum or a general election, and will do so until they reach absolute deadlock, because a repeat of the narrow 2016 referendum result is not a guarantee. The MPs talking about “going down fighting”, as Morley and Outwood MP Andrea Jenkyns proclaimed this morning, are usually not those who will have to suffer the consequences of a disorderly Brexit personally.
Finally, the matter of “what the people want” is not the be-all-and-end-all with either Brexit or Trump, or racist nationalism in Europe for that matter. When such ideology last achieved power in a European country, it was brought down by force. Regardless of whether they are a minority or not, Black Americans cannot be expected to tolerate indefinitely a racist police which harasses them on a regular basis and kills on the basis of prejudice and suspicion and a political system which is set up to deny them a fair vote. Whether people really know what they want think they know, or they are voting as a protest or whatever, if leaving the European Union will result in an economic collapse leading to mass job losses and no food on the shelves, it has to be resisted and politicians who shout about “going down fighting” are betraying their voters, not serving them.
In a “long read” opinion piece for the Guardian last week, James Miller quoted American founding father John Adams as saying “there never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide”. Today, conservative opinion writers proclaim that western democracies are committing suicide by opening themselves up to ‘incompatibles’ (usually meaning Muslims) or that the Left does the same by concentrating too much on minorities and forgetting the interests of their White base. However, the real fatal flaw of modern liberal democracy, especially in the English-speaking world, is the enormous amount of leeway it gives the commercial media to present propaganda as news and for the political classes to lie outright, without fear of sanction, as long as the lies were not against an individual. In the case of Brexit, while the turning point was undoubtedly the admission of hundreds of thousands of workers from eastern Europe in 2004, a decades-long campaign of propaganda from the commercial press and a few barefaced lies from Leave campaigners in 2016, unpunishable because lying for political ends is legal, sowed the seeds for what could be a self-inflicted national disaster. Future generations will condemn our society for allowing the media barons this much power, and may well conclude that free speech and profit do not mix.
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- Corbyn stands no chance without a second referendum
Khalid Masood was lawfully shot dead by police after he killed five people at Westminster in March 2017, a coroner’s inquest in London concluded on Friday. Over several days of covering the hearing, Guardian editors had access to a limited range of images of Masood. For one report they used a photo of him taken in the Great Mosque of Mecca, Islam’s holiest site.
Some Muslim readers expressed to me concern that the image linked a particularly important aspect of their religion to the awful crimes of this individual. One of the five pillars of Islam is for Muslims, if physically and financially capable, to make the Hajj, a pilgrimage to the site, at least once in their lifetime.Continue reading...
The Chinese ambassador to Pakistan recently met with Pakistan’s minister for religious affairs, Pir Noorul Haq Qadri (Report, 21 September). They discussed bilateral relations, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and took the same stand on religion issues.
We would like to clarify that China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic partners. CPEC is a landmark of bilateral economic cooperation and a pilot project for the Belt and Road Initiative. At present, there are 22 projects under the CPEC – nine completed and 13 under construction, with a total investment of US $19bn (£14bn). These projects have led to an annual economic growth of 1 to 2% and created 70,000 jobs in Pakistan. Any attempt to stir up the stable relations between China and Pakistan will not succeed.Continue reading...
Ahmad Abdallah Abu Naim, 17, was shot while attempting to flee soldier, reporter says.