I’ve been very lucky these last few days. On Thursday I was part of a panel at the Royal College of Art in London discussing culture, cultural identity and political crisis in a ‘borderless world.’ I was blown away by the passion, eloquence and thoughtfulness of my fellow panel members and so many of the students who participated in the talk back. It was inspiring and uplifting to be amongst young people who were willing to grapple with the dire political predicament in which we all find ourselves, and so determined to find creative responses to it.
On Friday I took part in a discussion on ‘Paper Borders’ at my old university SOAS. Once again I found myself surrounded by men and women with a moral conscience, who were disturbed and alarmed by the humanitarian consequences of Europe’s ‘refugee crisis’ and trying to think their way towards alternatives to the dystopian nightmare unfolding across the European border regime.
These debates and discussions were as far removed from the surface of British national politics as it is possible to be. Look at the newspapers over the last fortnight and you will see tabloids working themselves into a lather of righteous indignation at the possibility that 14 teenage refugees might not be teenagers. Fourteen people. And still these paragons of journalistic integrity think they are justified in going into attack dog mode, insinuating – yet again – that our noble generosity is being taken advantage of by devious pseudo-refugees and NGOs colluding in our national destruction.
Make no mistake about it, these claims were intended to make people hate, and they immediately produced the usual spittle-filled outpourings that we have come to expect, from knuckle-dragging trolls who seem incapable of understanding that if you are under eighteen you are still a minor even if you look older – or that fourteen refugees is a less than impressive act of national generosity.
Much of this vitriol was directed against Gary Lineker, who had the temerity to suggest that the attacks on these fourteen refugee kids was not that generous at all. Lily Allen also got some of the same for apologizing on behalf of the UK for its treatment of refugees at Calais. One London taxi-driver refused to pick her up and told her to ‘find an immigrant to drive you’.
Then there was parliament refusing to uphold the legal rights of EU nationals – proving that the majority of its MPs shared Liam Fox’s description of EU citizens – that is living men, women and children – as ‘bargaining counters’. And more than 100 Labour backbenchers who preferred to let Saudi Arabia go on bombing Yemen with British weapons because undermining their own elected party leader was a higher priority.
And then on Friday, we had British newspapers calling three British judges traitors and ‘enemies of the people’ because they ruled that – who would have thought it in a parliamentary democracy? – parliament should be able to oversee the UK’s exit from the European Union. We learned from the Daily Mail – a newspaper that seems to be moving closer towards its pro-fascist past with each passing day – that one of these judges was ‘openly gay’ – a fact that has no relevance at all except as an invitation to homophobic hatred.
Such hatred was not lacking, because hell hath no fury like a certain kind of Brexiter for whom ‘sovereignty’ is only significant if it means that they can do exactly what they want without any scrutiny or legal brakes of any kind. Naturally there were calls for the judges should be hanged. From the Ukip Society Facebook page we learned that most leading opponents of Brexit were Jews or influenced by Jews. We could read charming recommendations such as ‘ Open Hitler’s gas chambers: Jews know the way in‘ and ‘ Rothschild. Soros. Rockefeller. Warburg. Du Pont. Morgan. ALL JEWS. It isn’t a coincidence they run the world.’
Oddly, such observations received little attention from the British media or the MPs who had previously been so concerned about Labour’s ‘antisemitism crisis’. The vile racist and sexist abuse directed at Gina Miller – the Guyana-born British citizen who had the immense courage to remind the country that its elected representatives should have a say in how the country exits the EU – was impossible even for the Sun to ignore.
Miller was brutally trolled, with all the licence that Twitter and social media have given to the knuckle-dragging troglodytes who are determined to transform the UK into a racist swamp. She was threatened with rape of course – de rigeur for these brave keyboard patriots whenever any woman sticks her head above the parapet. One Facebook user declared ‘Who’s going to help me rape this b****? Sign up here’ – a post that even offended the Sun, regardless of the malignant role played by this newspaper in whipping up the hatred against Miller and the three judges.
As always, much of these venom emanated from Ukipland. One post on the Facebook page, Ukip The Peoples Forum 2020, read: “Kill her! 2 behind the ear. Throw her in the garbage. Dustbin, whatever…” and “I hope she gets f*****g killed”.
Another observed that ‘Miller should be hung as a traitor. Crazy total s**m. ‘
Weird how these would-be executioners get so hung up about swear words isn’t it? But let no one say that knuckle-draggers don’t have a sense of propriety. And before you accuse me of snobbery towards the ‘white working class’, let me say that knuckle-dragging is not a class pursuit.
A posh accent and an Eton education don’t make you intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive or moral, as Boris Johnson continues to demonstrate almost every time he opens his mouth. The hapless Lord Chancellor Liz Truss has not even had the guts to criticize the newspapers that depicted High Court judges as traitors. Liam Fox continues to shamble around from one conference to the next with his fists very close to the ground without any indication that he actually understands the rules and obligations that he is trying to tear apart.
The great tragedy of our country is that it is not only responding to knuckle-draggers. It is actually being led by them and no one can say they are leading us to a good place. So we can only hope that there are enough men and women of good will out there, like those I had the privilege to spend time with over the last few days, who can stop them and remind the nation that it still has a brain, and that it would a really good idea to use it soon.