Tag: Allport’s ladder of prejudice

Tory racism is embedded in policy and clearly evident in Tory social media groups

racism

A Conservative councillor has been suspended by the Conservative Party after a Facebook group he moderates was found to contain several Islamophobic and racist comments.

Martyn York, a Conservative councillor in Wellingborough, was a moderator for “Boris Johnson: Supporters’ Group”, which included  members whose comments called for the bombing of mosques around the UK. Dorinda Bailey, a former Conservative council candidate, has also been accused of supporting Islamophobia with her comments following a post in the group calling for mosques to be bombed.

Furthermore, the group, which has 4,800 members, can only be joined after receiving approval from moderators, and its guidelines explicitly call on members not to post hate speech. 

Comments in the group, however, seriously violate these rules, with several referring to Muslims as “ragheads” and calling immigrants “cockroaches”.

In one comment, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is called a “conniving little muzrat”, and Muslim Labour MP Naz Shah is also targeted with abuse and told to “p*** off to [her] own country”.

Someone posted in the group that any mosques “found to preach hate” should be shut down, another group member responded: “Bomb the f****** lot.” 

Bailey responded, without a trace of irony: “I agree, but any chance you could edit your comment please. No swearing policy.”

There were also comments in the group telling an African solider to “p*** off back to Africa” and for Labour MP Fiona Onasanya to be “put on a banana boat back home”.

After the offensive posts were brought to his attention, Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis confirmed York’s suspension and said Bailey was no longer a member of the party.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which has repeatedly called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, said this was further evidence of a “significant problem”.

“A Facebook group led by Conservative politicians containing unashamed bigotry has made it completely apparent that there is a significant problem with racism and Islamophobia within the party of government,” a spokesperson for the MCB said.

“Polls revealing that half of all Conservative voters in 2017 believe Islam to be a threat to the British way of life have shown how widespread this sentiment is. We reiterate our call for the government to launch an inquiry into Islamophobia and lead by example by committing to tackle bigotry everywhere, not just where it’s politically convenient.”

There government were happy enough to ensure an inquiry into the allegations of antisemitism in the Labour party, and ‘inappropriate’ posts on social media took place. However, the conclusions of the Home Office Committee contradicted the claims being made on the right and among the neoliberal centrists, about the Labour party.

Nonetheless, the claims have continued, indicating a degree of underpinning political expedience and media misdirection.commons-select-committee-antisemitism

That is not to say there is no antisemitism at all among Labour party members, and where allegations arise, those MUST be addressed. However, it does indicate that political and media claims that the party is ‘institutionally antisemitic’ are completely unfounded. 

It is also absolutely reasonable to point this out. 

Unlawful and discriminatory Conservative policy

Meanwhile the Conservatives have continued to embed their prejudices and racism in  discriminatory policies. For example, in 2014 Theresa May was the Home Secretary who introduced the disgraceful Hostile Environment legislation that ultimately led to the Windrush scandal.  On March 1st 2019 a central mechanism of that legislation was ruled unlawful by the High Court because of the way it has unleashed a wave of racism, and because it was found to violate the European Convention on Human Rights. 

Judge Martin Spencer found the policy caused landlords to discriminate against both black and ethnic minority British people and foreign UK residents.

He also ruled that rolling out the scheme in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland without further evaluation would be “irrational” and breach equality laws.

“The evidence, when taken together, strongly showed not only that landlords are discriminating against potential tenants on grounds of nationality and ethnicity but also that they are doing so because of the scheme,” Mr Justice Spencer told the court on Friday.

He added “It is my view that the scheme introduced by the government does not merely provide the occasion or opportunity for private landlords to discriminate, but causes them to do so where otherwise they would not.”

The changes that came into force in 2016 required private landlords to check the immigration status of potential tenants, or face unlimited fines or even prison for renting to undocumented migrants, coercing landlords into becoming agents of the state, effectively.

Judge Martin Spencer said: “The government cannot wash its hands of responsibility for the discrimination which is taking place by asserting that such discrimination is carried out by landlords acting contrary to the intention of the scheme.”

He also said he had found that Right to Rent had “little or no effect” on controlling immigration and that the Home Office had “not come close” to justifying it.

The legal challenge was launched by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) and Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), which called Right to Rent a “key plank of Theresa May’s hostile environment” policy.

Chai Patel, JCWI legal policy director, said: “Now that the High Court has confirmed that Ms May’s policy actively causes discrimination, parliament must act immediately to scrap it.

“But we all know that this sort of discrimination, caused by making private individuals into border guards, affects almost every aspect of public life – it has crept into our banks, hospitals, and schools. Today’s judgment only reveals the tip of the iceberg and demonstrates why the Hostile Environment must be dismantled.” 

John Stewart, policy manager for the RLA, called the ruling a “damning critique of a flagship government policy”. 

He added : “We have warned all along that turning landlords into untrained and unwilling border police would lead to the exact form of discrimination the court has found.” 

Rather than accept the High Court’s findings, a Home Office spokesperson has said that an independent mystery shopping exercise found “no evidence of systemic discrimination”.

“We are disappointed with the judgement and we have been granted permission to appeal, which reflects the important points of law that were considered in the case. In the meantime, we are giving careful consideration to the judge’s comments,” he added.

I have written at length about the prejudiced, discriminatory and unlawful policies that the Conservatives have directed at ill and disabled people over the last few years. I also submitted evidence to the United Nations on this matter. However, the UN’s findings of “grave and systematic violations” of disabled peoples’ human rights, and the examples of structural violence inflicted on our politically marginalised community currently fails to get the media attention that mere allegations of antisemitism within the Labour party attracts.

People are suffering harm and psychological distress, and increasingly, some are dying, as a direct consequence of oppressive, cruel, illegal and dangerously authoritarian Conservative policies, while shamefully, much of the media prefers to look the other way.

That is, where the state directs them to ‘look’. 

If you’ve ever wondered how some societies have permitted conscious cruelty to flourish, to the point where entire groups are targeted with oppressive and discriminatory policies resulting in distress, harm and death, I have to tell you that it’s pretty much like this.

Allport's ladder

 


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Promoting social solidarity is a positive way to address antisemitism and the growth of social prejudice

Oppose antisemitism and malicious accusations by supporters of the Tory Party

Jeremy Corbyn addressing the huge rally at Cable Street 80 in 2016.

In 2014, the Guardian reported that “Antisemitism is on rise across Europe ‘in worst times since the Nazis.'” As far back as 2012, a survey conducted by the EU’s Fundamental Rights agency of some 6,000 Jews in eight European countries – between them, home to 90% of Europe’s Jewish population – found 66% of respondents felt antisemitism in Europe was on the rise; 76% said antisemitism had increased in their country over the past five years.

In the 12 months after the survey, nearly half said they worried about being verbally insulted or attacked in public because they were Jewish. It was commented on then that a process of normalisation, whereby antisemitism is being made somehow acceptable, was happening. 

In 2015, it was reported in the Guardian that antisemitic attacks in the UK were at highest level ever recorded. The Community Security Trust recorded 1,168 incidents against Britain’s Jewish population in 2014, more than double that of the previous year. 

There were extremely worrying reports of violence, property damage, abuse and threats against members of Britain’s Jewish population. The Community Security Trust, a Jewish security charity which runs an incident hotlinerecorded 1,168 antisemitic incidents  directed against Britain’s 291,000 Jews in 2014, against 535 in 2013 and 25% up on the previous record in 2009.

Theresa May, the home secretary at the time, described the figures as “deeply concerning” and “a warning to everyone to do more to stop antisemitism in Britain”, while Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said they were “appalling”.

In 2014, one in five of the incidents were threats or abuse on social media, fuelling claims that Twitter, among others, is not cracking down hard enough on hate-speech. In August, Luciana Berger, the shadow health minister, received a message on Twitter from a 21-year-old neo-Nazi, Garron Helm, that showed her with the Star of David on her head. It used the hashtag #Hitlerwasright and called her a “communist Jewess”. Helm was jailed for four weeks.

Berger was then bombarded with more than 2,500 hate messages tagged #filthyjewbitch. After Helm’s release, more antisemitic tweets began to emerge from his Twitter account. When Ed Miliband tweeted a link to his article about Holocaust Memorial Day, the user of the account tweeted back “Burrrn! lol”. 

Berger said she was horrified by the CST figures. “I know from the online hate campaign directed at me by neo-Nazis at home and abroad, that antisemites are using every digital platform to intimidate and harass Britain’s Jews,” she said. “Digital media companies, particularly Twitter, need to sharpen up their acts and move faster to remove accounts being used to spread and incite hate. To date, they have been too lax, and moved too slowly, allowing racists a free rein.”

Cooper called on “companies like Twitter to take stronger action against hate crimes on their platforms”. She outlined Labour’s hate-crime strategy which urged Twitter to speed up its removal of racist and antisemitic tweets, improve its communication of criminal activity online to the police, and prevent offenders simply restarting abuse from fresh accounts from the same IP address. 

That was in 2014. The same year I wrote an article about the dangers of nationalism and commented on the toxicity of socially divisive political and media rhetoric. I outlined the dangers of permitting far-right rhetorical flourishes to define and portray the putative “outsider” as an economic threat. This has been used to justify active political exclusion of the constitutive Other.

In 2016, I spoke at a psychology conference in Manchester about the dangers of neoliberal notions of competitive individualism, stigma, and the new era of political-economic scapegoating more generally. I spoke about how neoliberalism, as a totalising doctrine, embellishes our separability from other human beings. It profoundly seperates and alienates us. 

Neoliberalism scripts social interactions that are adversarialand hierarchical in nature, rather than social and cooperative. It is the antithesis of collectivism, mutual support, universalism, cooperation, solidarity and democracy. Neoliberalism has transformed our former liberal democracy into an authoritarian state that values production, competition and profit above all else; including citizens’ lives, experiences, wellbeing and social conditions. 

I have also written about the dangers of essentialising traditionally marginalised social groups, and  rise of eugenic policies more recently, critiquing notions of  politically constructed categories, such as an “employment resistant personality” and its easy elision with notions of “improving” the qualities of particular populations, copled with political concerns regarding the reproduction of people with “undesirable” qualities. The recent limiting of tax credit/universal credit support for children in poor families to two children, to “incentivise behavioural change”, has dangerous eugenic consequences.

Furthermore, such a eugenic approach has a profoundly damaging and reductionist focus on individuals, casting them as biologised neoliberal commodities, which obscures wider social problems, such as political-economic neglect, inequality, imbalanced power relationships, poverty, political exclusion, abuse and oppression. These attitudes are shaping social perceptions and relationships.

 

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120. Despite significant press and public attention on the Labour Party, and a number of revelations regarding inappropriate social media content, there exists no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party. We are unaware whether efforts to identify antisemitic social media content within the Labour Party were applied equally to members and activists from other political parties, and we are not aware of any polls exploring antisemitic attitudes among political party members, either within or outside the Labour Party. The current impression of a heightened prevalence of antisemitism within in the Labour Party is clearly a serious problem, but we would wish to emphasise that this is also a challenge for other parties.” 

The rise of antisemitism in our society prededated Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party. Yet this past week I have experienced abuse online – on Twitter in particular – on the basis of my political beliefs. I support Labour party policies. I do not support antisemitism. I challenge it. As someone who has written a lot about prejudice, discrimination and oppression more generally, and as someone who holds strong principles of internationalism, inclusion, equality and I also value and have a deep respect of diversity, I was deeply upset at being accused of being an “apologist”,  “complicit” with antisemitism, and of supporting a party where it is “rife”. 

If you point out that this is untrue, the next outraged accusation is that you are “in denial”, “evil”, “disgusting”  and that you “don’t care”. Many of these posts were directly aimed at linking Corbyn and Momentum with antisemitism. However, that does not address the antisemitism and the growth of prejudice, intolerance and oppression more generally in our society. It does nothing at all to ensure that everyone takes responsibility for challenging antisemitism, by passing it off as merely “Labour’s problem”. 

The growth of social prejudice, which was politically directed at traditionally targeted social groups, predated Momentum and Corbyn’s leadership. However, that does not mean that the Labour party has no responsibility in addressing these issues, both within its membership, and within wider society.

Abusing people because of intolerance and discrimination based on the political beliefs they hold does not address antisemitism, nor is it right to devalue the need to by directing prejudiceand hatred at those on the Left. People have a fundamental human right to hold political beliefs without being discriminated against. The right have been trying to pathologise legitimate democratic opposition for a long time now. The language they use is an attempt to discredit Her Majesty’s opposition, and impose a one party state.

Nothing contributes more to the rancor of political discourse than the indiscriminate use of political labels as partisan and prejudiced epithets. Terms and phrases like “cult”, “snowflake” ,”leftard”, “virtue signaler”, “Communist”, “Marxist” ,”Putin’s useful idiots”,  and of course recently, there is the irrational and guilt by association tag “antisemite” and “apologist” are being bandied about by pundits, politicians and those on the right (and some of the left wing neoliberals) more generally.

This oppressive language entailing the wide use of such terms of abuse, aimed at discrediting people on the grounds of their political beliefs, has become so normalised, that when you point it out, people cannot see it for what it is. The practice of labeling persons is dehumanising, it’s a way of dividing, outgrouping and turning human beings into an “it”. When labels are used as weapons to attack and discredit a person, a group, a politial movement, or ideas, they are insidiously irresponsible and repressive. They exploit base emotions and encourage a dangerous mindlessness that buries reason along with its victims.

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In the face of such profoudly toxic divisions in our society, it is worth remembering this. Jewish people, trade unionists, socialists and other groups once stood together, side by side, united in the battle of Cable Street, for example. In solidarity, they fought together against the growth of fascism in the UK.

Depiction of the Battle of Cable Street. 

Let’s also not permit other expressions of prejudice and oppression to be taken out of our collective history. It is important to remember the other victims of the Holocaust, too, who include disabled people, Roma people, socialists, communists, trade unionists, other political dissidents including anarchists, gay people, poor people, Polish people, Jehovah witnesses and Afro-Germans, as well as Jewish people, among other groups.

Living among us today remain Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. The Holocaust was an unparalleled atrocity, it mobilised global opinion against eugenics and antisemitism, powerfully stripping it of the terrible prejudice, discrimation and oppression status at its heart, that had been fostered in many European countries. But that does not mean it vanished. The more recent wave of antisemitism is expressed in slightly different language, but the prejudices and hatred behind the rhetoric are the same, which is plain to see.

It is not “whataboutery” – an attempt to deflect from one injustice by referring to the suffering of others – to discuss the rise and impact of social prejudice more generally, and to point to other social groups that have been politically marginalised and othered. There is no hierarchy among groups who are oppressed and persecuted. As I have said on many occasions, prejudice multitasks and grows. This was a point made only too well by Martin Niemöller, a German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor. He is best known for a widely-paraphrased statement, of which he made different versions, one of which is “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a Socialist ...”. Pastor Niemöller understood the dangers and horror of bystander apathy.

Prejudice, discrimination and oppression is part of a political-social process that tends to affect more than one traditionally marginalised social group over time. 

In the UK, disabled people are also experiencing an unprecedented rise in experiences of hate crimes, discrimination and oppression. A United Nations inquiry, prompted by disabled people, verified that disabled people’s human rights have been systematically and gravely violated by the government, because of their extremely punitive policies and the systematic withdrawal of lifeline social security support. We live in fear for our future. Yet currently, we stand alone in our fight for justice, dignity and freedom. Yet the only way we can fight oppression is by standing together in solidarity to face it. 

The rise of antisemitism is a global phenomemon, and is directly linked to the rise of other forms of prejudice

The Jewish Socialists’ Group has expressed a serious concern at the rise of antisemitism, especially under extreme right wing governments in central and Eastern Europe, in America under Donald Trump’s Presidency and here in Britain under Theresa May’s premiership. The recent extensive survey by the highly respected Jewish Policy Research confirmed that the main repository of antisemitic views in Britain is among supporters of the Conservative Party and UKIP. 

The group say: “This political context, alongside declining support for the Tories, reveals the malicious intent behind the the latest flimsy accusations of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. These accusations have come from the unrepresentative Board of Deputies and the unelected, self-proclaimed “Jewish Leadership Council”, two bodies dominated by supporters of the Tory Party.

“Between now and the local elections the Tories would love to divert the electorate on to accusations of antisemitism against the Labour Party rather than have us discussing austerity, cuts to local authority budgets, the health service, and social care. Many Jews within and beyond the Labour Party are suffering from these policies along with the rest of the population, and oppose them vehemently.”

The group goes on to say: “The Jewish Socialists’ Group includes many members of the Labour party, and we know many Jews who have joined or re-joined the Labour party enthused by the progressive leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

“Labour is the party that brought in anti-discrimination legislation at a time when many Tory members were open supporters of and investors in apartheid South Africa. The Tories are the party that have dished out the harshest treatment to migrants and refugees, especially when Theresa May was Home Secretary. Shamefully, they are still refusing to accede to the proposal of Labour peer, Lord Dubs, who came to Britain as a Jewish refugee on the Kindertransport, to take in a small but significant number of unaccompanied child refugees from Syria.

“We have worked alongside Jeremy Corbyn in campaigns against all forms of racism and bigotry, including antisemitism, for many years, and we have faith that a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn and Labour-led councils across the country, will be best placed to implement serious measures against all forms of racism, discrimination and bigotry.

Corbyn has spent his entire political life fighting all forms of prejudice, discrimination and oppression. We should all do the same.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett named the rise of the far Right in various countries, the refugee crisis and the Internet as major factors spurring an increase of antisemitic incidents around the world, as he presented the annual antisemitism report to the government in January, 2018.

In his opening comments, Bennett noted that while the number of violent antisemitic incidents recorded around the world decreased, the number of general antisemitic incidents had increased. “Antisemitism is the dangerous fuel feeding our enemies for generations,” he said. “We must ensure every Jew in the world can live a safe and proud life.”

“Also in 2017, we saw a strong antisemitic presence online,” Bennett said. “Much of this discourse was related to the changes in governments around the world, the refugee crisis and the visibility of antisemitism in social media. We must act with all available tools against current antisemitism to ensure the security of the Jewish People, in Israel and the Diaspora.”

Presenting the report ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was marked on January 27, the ministry highlighted the record number of antisemitic incidents recorded in the UK in the first half of 2017 – there was a 78% increase in physical attacks and a 30% increase in the number of overall antisemitic incidents.

The ministry also flagged the rise of the far Right in Germany and the influx of refugees to the country as factors that have negatively impacted the Jewish population. A study released in December by the American Jewish Committee’s Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations in Berlin found that antisemitism among Muslim refugees is rampant and requires urgent attention. A new edition of Adolf Hitler’s antisemitic manifesto Mein Kampf also became a bestseller in German bookstores in 2017, the report noted.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who attended the cabinet meeting, addressed the link between the far Right and antisemitism, noting that 15 years ago he proposed a method to distinguish antisemitism from legitimate criticism of Israel among the left, but today extremists from both sides of the political spectrum must be addressed.

Today we are witnessing a new and alarming phenomenon: The rise and emboldenment of right-wing political parties in Europe that profess support for Israel while supporting such antisemitic measures as outlawing circumcision and kosher slaughter, as well as historical revisionism of the Second World War and the rehabilitation of Nazi soldiers,” he said.

On the one hand, they proclaim that they stand with Israel, while on the other hand, they target and harm Jews. We see this in Austria, for example, where the local Jewish community has announced that it will boycott the official Holocaust commemoration ceremony in Vienna if ministers from the far-right Freedom Party attend the event. I have counted at least seven such political parties across Europe.”

We do not need and should not court such double-faced support, on either the right or the left,” Sharanksy said. “We must remain vigilant and not permit antisemitism to go without opposition and protest under the cover of convenient diplomatic stances or intercommunal bridge-building. I note both phenomena with alarm and demand that we do not play into the hands of antisemites, regardless of their political affiliations.”

The rise of the far right in the US was also flagged in the report, and specifically the violent “Unite the Right” rally, which was held in Charlottesville in last August.

The report also noted that the “continued increase of hate discourse among radical left-wing movements, which is mainly felt on college campuses.”

The picture in general in the US, is cause for concern. The Anti-Defamation League’s annual report on antisemitism released in November found that there was a 67% increase in antisemitic incidents across the US from January 1 to September 30, 2017, in comparison with the same period in 2016.

According to the FBI’s 2016 Hate Crime Statistics report, Jews, African Americans and Muslims are targeted more often than any other religious or ethnic group in the United States. The report found that more than half of the racially-motivated incidents in 2016, 54.2%, targeted Jews.

This figure is especially prominent in light of the low percentage of Jews in the US population,” the Diaspora Affairs Ministry’s report said. It also noted that the statistic was high when compared with attacks against other minorities: A quarter of the targets reported were Muslim, 4.1% were Catholic, 1.9% Eastern Orthodox and 0.5 Mormons.

Troubling statistics also emerged from Ukraine, with double the number of antisemitic incidents being recorded in comparison with the previous year, according to the report.

This included dozens of despicable acts of vandalism against memorials, museums and synagogues.

Additional findings highlighted by the ministry were extracted from a PEW survey conducted in 18 Central and Eastern European countries and published in May 2017. The ministry emphasized that the survey had found that 20% of citizens of those countries aren’t willing to accepting Jews as fellow citizens and 26% wouldn’t want Jews as neighbors. Only 42% would be willing to accept Jews as family. The attitudes expressed toward Muslims and Roma’s, were more negative.

About 57% of respondents said they would be willing to accept Roma’s as fellow citizens, 37% would be willing to accept them as neighbors and only 19% as family members.

Meanwhile, 65% would accept Muslims as citizens, 55% would accept them as neighbors and 27% as family.

My own thoughts and concerns about the growth of social prejudice more generally over this over the last few years summarised here. They are echoed by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who spoke the Park East Synagogue in New York City In January. The Secretary-General  warned against rising antisemitism and discrimination, saying that the world must “stand together against the normalization of hate.” Guterres spoke about the recent appearance of neo-Nazi groups and the violence they have espoused.

“They are less crude and more dangerous,” he said, adding that oftentimes, groups have tried to rebrand themselves so as to appear more gentle towards Jews.  White supremacist groups, for example, often tout their main cause as reaffirming “white culture” and “white pride,” but in doing so, vilify other ethnic groups, including Jews. 

“The neo-Nazi threat is growing,” he told the audience, which included Holocaust survivors. “Some still seek to deny or diminish the fact of the Holocaust.” 

Guterres added that now more than ever, organizations are using social media to rally groups that espouse hate. 

The UK government’s policies must lead by example and must be predicated on respect for human rights and the rule of law. We must also, as a nation, support those citizens around the world and within our country who are struggling for human dignity and liberty. That is what any civilised nation must do.

Many of our right wing politicians and pundits are so busy trying to discredit and demonise any person speaking from the Left that they fail to recognise their own profound antisemitism. Trying to discredit a left-leaning Jewish group on the basis of their political beliefs, is antisemitic. 

andrew neil antisemitic

 

 
“See the world through the eyes of society’s weakest members, and then tell anyone honestly that our societies are good, civilised, advanced, free.”  Zygmunt Bauman

With thanks to The Jerusalem Post for providing the information used in the second half of this article.

 

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What will the Tories suggest next. “Compassionate” genocide?

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The Tory parliamentary candidate for Cambridge, Chamali Fernando sparked outrage and horror after saying mental health patients should wear wristbands to identify their conditions. Fernando was speaking at a hustings event hosted by the campaign group Keep Our NHS Public when she made the comment.

Andy Burnham, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:

“There has been an enormous amount of work in Parliament to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health. But comments like this are so disappointing – they set us back and remind us how far we have to go. Jeremy Hunt must disown these comments, instruct his candidate to apologise and make it clear that they form no part of Conservative Party policy.”

“This proposal shows the candidate’s harmful views on mental health.

Disability and Mental Health Adviser at University of the Arts, London Annabel Crowley said.

“Research carried out by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London shows personal contact with mentally ill people is the most effective way to reduce discrimination.”

Crowley says Fernando’s proposals would only alienate the mentally ill and “further curtail their freedom,” which would encourage further stigmatization.

We need to provide adequate care and support, not blame the victims of a failing health service,” she added.

Mental Health Services are in crisis because of Coalition cuts to funding. The Government has been criticised for allowing mental health services to be cut disproportionately, as the NHS as a whole undergoes the most severe budget cut in its history. And let’s not forget that under the guise of a “policy of deinstitutionalisation,” Thatcher’s “Care in the Community” Bill was about anything but care: it was all about cutting costs, as reflected in the experiences of many people leaving long term institutional care and being left to fend for themselves in the community. “Compassionate Tories”: there is no such thing.

Dr. Pooky Kingsmith, a mental health specialist, said that she [Fernando] “fails to understand” what the wristbands would achieve “beyond increasing the stigma and prejudice already experience by mentally ill people.”

A petition has since been set up calling for Fernando to stand down in the election. The description on the petition read:

“This kind of thinking has no place in modern society and especially not in someone who is hoping to be elected as an MP.

I can’t see any possible justification in allowing Ms Fernando to continue to stand for election after showing such prejudice against the mentally ill, and if allowed to do so, shows a total disregard to the people in this country, who already have to battle against the misunderstanding and ignorance of their mental illness.”

Chamali Fernando was asked how the authorities could help the police better deal with people with mental health issues.

Fernando responded that wristbands which disclose a person’s illness could help barristers, such as herself, to better aid the public.

She said wearing colour-coded wristbands indicating the nature of the person’s condition would be helpful to professionals as “they often could not explain themselves.”

Perhaps Fernando had designs that are something like this in mind:


1936 illustration of Nazi camp ID-emblems.

The red triangle was used by the Nazis to identify social democrats, socialists, trade unionists, Freemasons and communists, for example. The pink triangle was primarily used for identifying homosexual men, and the black triangle was used to identify “asocial elements” (asozial) and “work shy” (arbeitsscheu) including those who were mentally ill, pacifists, vagrants and the Roma.

And for anyone itching to invoke Godwin’s law at this point, I suggest you hang fire and read about Allport’s Ladder of Prejudice. Whilst I am very aware that we need take care not to trivialise the terrible events of Nazi Germany by making casual comparisons, there are some clear and important parallels on a socio-political level and a psycho-social one, that I feel are crucially important to recognise.

Gordon Allport studied the psychological and social processes that create a society’s progression from prejudice and discrimination to genocide. In his research of how the Holocaust happened, he describes socio-political processes that foster increasing social prejudice and discrimination and he demonstrates how the unthinkable becomes acceptable: it happens incrementally, because of a steady erosion of our moral and rational boundaries, and propaganda-driven changes in our attitudes towards “others” that advances culturally, by almost inscrutable degrees.

The process always begins with political scapegoating of a social group and with ideologies that identify that group as an “enemy” or a social “burden” in some way. A history of devaluation of the group that becomes the target, authoritarian culture, and the passivity of internal and external witnesses (bystanders) all contribute to the probability that violence against that group will develop, and ultimately, if the process is allowed to continue evolving, genocide.

As I have discussed elsewhere on this site, we have a government that uses words like workshy to describe vulnerable groups. This is a government that is intentionally scapegoating poor, unemployed, disabled people and migrants. One Tory councillor called for the extermination of gypsies, more than one Tory MP has called for illegal and discriminatory levels of pay for disabled people. (See also David Freud was made to apologise for being a true Tory in public.)

David Freud’s comment that disabled people are not worth the minimum wage was not a momentary lapse, nor was it unrepresentative of Tory views more generally. He is the contemptuous architect of the grossly punitive Tory Bedroom Tax that disproportionately affects households of disabled people. The Tories endorsed Freud’s discriminatory policy proposal, and savagely ridiculed the UN rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik, when she pointed out, very professionally and reasonably, that the policy contravenes human rights.

He is the same government minister that rejected suggestions that austerity policies have led to an increase in food bank use – making the jaw-droppingly astonishing suggestion that food bank charities are somehow to blame. This former investment banker and peer told the Lords that the increase in the usage of food banks was “supply led”. He said:

“If you put more food banks in, that is the supply. Clearly, food from the food banks is a free good and by definition with a free good there’s almost infinite demand.”

Poverty reduced to blame-the-individual neoliberal motivational formulae. Yet it is the government that are responsible for policies that create and sustain inequality and poverty.

We need only look at the discriminatory nature of policies such as the legal aid bill, the wider welfare “reforms” and research the consequences of austerity for the vulnerable – those with the  “least broad shoulders” –  to understand that these comments reflect how conservatives think.

This is a government that is using public prejudice to justify massive socio-economic inequalities and their own policies that are creating a steeply hierarchical, society based on social Darwinist “survival of the fittest” libertarian, minarchist principles.

The Tory creation of socio-economic scapegoats, involving vicious stigmatisation of vulnerable social groups, particularly endorsed by the mainstream media, is simply a means of manipulating public perceptions and securing public acceptance of the increasingly punitive and repressive basis of the Tories’ welfare “reforms”, and the steady stripping away of essential state support and provision.

Let’s not forget that we were recently informed that the Tories plan to limit child benefit to the first two children because it would save money. The idea is being examined by the Conservatives, despite previously being vetoed by Downing Street because of fears that it could “alienate” parents.

Asked about the idea on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, Duncan Smith said:

“I think it’s well worth looking at. It’s something if we decide to do it we’ll announce out. But it does save significant money and also it helps behavioural change.”

This is a clear indication of the Tories’ underpinning eugenicist designs – exercising control over the reproduction of the poor, albeit by stealth. It also reflects the underpinning belief that poverty somehow arises because of faulty individual choices, (as opposed to faulty political decision-making and ideologically-driven socio-economic policies), that those choices are non-rational, stereotypical, and that reducing cost to the State involves making people change their “faulty,” stereotypical behaviours.

This government’s policies are contibuting significantly to mental illness: Suicides have reached a ten year high and are linked with welfare “reforms”.

And Osborne announced in the budget that the government will be funding a “package of measures” to improve “employment outcomes” which will entail putting Cognitive Behaviour therapists in more than 350 job centres to provide “support” to those with “common mental health conditions” who are claiming employment support allowance (ESA) and job seekers allowance (JSA).

As I have written elsewhere, the government have put up an online contract notice which specifically states:

“This provision is designed to support people with common mental health conditions to prepare for and move into work, with intervention at the earliest possible point in a claim to benefit or access to the Fit for Work service.”

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is used to change how you think (“Cognitive”) and what you do (“Behaviour”). It bypasses emotions, personal history and narrative, to a large extent, and tends to focus on the “here and now.” In this case, the here and now consists of taking any job available, regardless of its suitability, or face being sanctioned.

CBT is an approach that facilitates the identification of “negative thinking patterns” and associated “problematic behaviours” and challenges them. This approach is at first glance a problem-solving approach, however, it is of course premised on the assumption that interpreting situations “negatively” is a bad thing, and that thinking positively about bad events is beneficial.

The onus is on the individual to adapt by perceiving their circumstances in a stoical and purely rational way.

So we need to ask what are the circumstances that the government are expecting people claiming benefits to accept stoically. Sanctions? Work fare? Being forced to accept very poorly paid work, abysmal working conditions and no security? The loss of social support, public services and essential safety nets ? Starvation and destitution?

The political vilification of sick and disabled people and the poor, amplified in the media, has preceded policies particularly aimed at the steady removal of State support, indicating a clear scapegoating process, and this isn’t indicative of a government that is “neglectful”- it is patently intentional, hence the pre-emptive “justification” narratives to garner public support and acceptance towards such punitive and harsh policies.

As Frances Ryan says:

“The ideology of a small state or the belief that benefits build dependency are crass, irrelevant details to what at its core is simply a decision about how to treat a human being. This is particularly damning when one person has all the power and the other is forced through economic necessity to take whatever humiliation or pain they are given. To do that to someone – let alone hundreds of thousands – is no accident. It is a conscious decision, that has been made over and over again by this government.”

I’ve consistently expressed my own well-founded, carefully considered, evidenced view that the Tories are authoritarians,  social Dawinists, and their social policies are founded on a creeping and implicit eugenics by stealth, fueled by their preference for a steeply hierarchical, unequal society, anachronistic ideas about “deserving” and “undeserving”, which belong to the 1834 Poor Law era, and a behaviourist approach to socio-economic circumstances .

In Edgbaston, Keith Joseph, (1974) announced to the world that:

“The balance of our population, our human stock is threatened … a high and rising proportion of children are being born to mothers least fitted to bring children into the world and bring them up. They are born to mothers who were first pregnant in adolescence in social classes 4 and 5. Many of these girls are unmarried, many are deserted or divorced or soon will be. Some are of low intelligence, most of low educational attainment.”

And in 2010, the former deputy chairman of Conservative Party, Lord Howard Flight, told the London Evening Standard:

“We’re going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it’s jolly expensive. But for those on benefits, there is every incentive. Well, that’s not very sensible.”

These comments are not momentary lapses, nor are they unrepresentative of Tory views more generally. They reflect the true colours of the nazi nasty party.

demcracy

Pictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone


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UKIP: Parochialism, Prejudice and Patriotic Ultranationalism.

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Over the past four years, we have witnessed the political right using rhetoric that has increasingly transformed a global economic crisis into an apparently ethno-political one, and this also extends to include the general scapegoating and vilification of other groups and communities that have historically been the victims of prejudice and social exclusion: the poorest, unemployed and disabled citizens. These far-right rhetorical flourishes define and portray the putative “outsider” as an economic threat. This is then used to justify active political exclusion of the constitutive Other.

The poorest have been politically disenfranchised. Politically directed and constructed cultural and social boundaries, exclusionary discourses and practices create and define strangers. In Zygmunt Bauman’s analysis of the Holocaust, the Jews became “strangers” par excellence in Europe, the Final Solution was an extreme example of the attempts made by societies to excise the (politically defined) uncomfortable and indeterminate elements existing within them. Here in the UK, it’s evident that many citizens now feel like strangers in their own communities – they have been politically alienated. 

Definitions of citizenship and associated privileges have been reformulated and restricted here in the UK, and the current conservative neo-liberal framework of intensifying and aggressive competitive individualism is further motivated by far right reforms that embed social and economic Darwinism.

This has provided opportunity for UKIP and far right groups to become established as a populist part of the mainstream political conversation, the Tory rhetoric, founded on social divisions and established hierarchy, has created a space for UKIP’s subversive“insurgency”.

UKIP has an extremist appeal that is based entirely on fear-mongering, and attempts to shape and perpetuate hatreds, social group phobias and deliberate attempts at further undermining social cohesion. UKIP try to make this extremely divisive approach somehow “respectable”, (by the frequent use of phrases such as “we say what many think”, “we speak our minds” and  “it’s not racist to be worried about too many people coming here” are used to attempt to normalise and justify what are actually very objectionable, prejudice-laden opinions, for example) while offering nothing at all that might improve our living conditions and quality of life.

The right wing more generally tend to hold beliefs that some human lives have more worth than others. But when that view has been permitted to surface and become normalised in societies, it has historically led to atrocities.

UKIP is also manipulating an anti-politics, anti-establishment public mood. This is not just about gaining electoral success but in shifting the terms of debate. Farage admits that UKIP’s effect on the Tories is “psychological not numerical”. His success in this encourages the further right Tory backbenchers, encourages the populist strategies – wedge and dog whistle racism – of Lynton Crosby, as it forces political and media focus on right wing concerns, like welfare and immigration. Moral boundaries are being pushed in the UK.    

UKIP utilises, amplifies and perpetuates an increasingly poisonous climate of distrust and cynicism. UKIP manipulates public views and in particular, they perpetuate a myth that politicians of all colours are an out of touch elite that is far removed from, and largely unconcerned with, the everyday struggles of “ordinary people.”

UKIP make the mistake of portraying the entire political class as pampered elitistswhich is grossly inaccurate. While it’s true that the Conservative party most certainly can claim aristocratic membership, the same isn’t true of the Labour party. Furthermore, Farage, an ex-Tory public school boy (and Miliband attended a comprehensive school), an ex-stockbroker, with offshore tax havens and an considerable inclination for far right policy is hardly likely to be “in touch” with the man on the Clapham omnibus.

Although UKIP suffers from a chronic, persistent failure to appeal to three key groups of voters – women (because of the chauvinistic and anti-feminist views of UKIP members and politicians); young people (who find the party almost farcically out of touch with their own world-view) and ethnic minorities (because of its strident, extremely prejudiced and emotive language about immigration) UKIP does represent something of a “blue-collar revolt”- its electoral base is “old, male, working class, white and less educated,” say academics Matthew Goodwin and Robert Ford.

This would explain the strong anti-intellectual prejudice. Anti-intellectualism is a dominant feature of far-right politics – especially along the political spectrum of authoritarianism, totalitarianism and fascism. Nazism, despite the title “national socialists’ workers party”, was along the authoritarian far right of the political spectrum. The title was adopted to persuade the left wing working classes and trade unions to vote for the Nazis. Once in power, the Nazis murdered many trade unionists, socialists, communists and anarchists, among other political ‘dissidents’ on the left. The problem with populists is they tell lies. They manipulate and divide people to get their own way.

10403497_472514972893769_324031577992330978_n Anti-intellectualism and inverted snobbery from the patriotic nationalist and racist Britain First site on Facebook

The conservatives have parochialised both explanations of and responses to the global economic crisis. Parochialism entails neglect of the interests of identified “outsiders”, and this kind of isolationist tendency has also provided a political platform for nationalism. 

Parochialism tends to support inter-group hostilities, and it tends to lead to violations of human rightsParochialism directly opposes a fundamental set of principles that constitute these rights: namely that all humans beings are of equal worth, and that human rights are universally applicable – they apply to everyone.

The alternative perspective is Social Darwinism, which is used to justify a hierarchy of entitlement to rights. Modern eugenics was rooted in the Social Darwinism of the late 19th century, with all its metaphors of fitness, competition, and rationalisations of inequality. For progressives, eugenics was a branch of the drive for social improvement or perfection that many reformers of the day thought might be achieved through the deployment of science to “good” social ends. Eugenics, of course, drew appreciable support from Conservatives, concerned to prevent the “proliferation” of lower income groups and save on the cost of providing welfare support for them. The Tories always seem to forget that social security is publicly funded, however. 

The progressives progressed. They ceased to believe that progress was about advancing the human race by physical “improvement” – that kind of supremacist view was a product of its time – context bound by a cumulatively catastrophic zeitgeist. Progressives liberated themselves from the superficial characteristics and taxonomic ranking of human beings – the emphasis on “what” we are – and began to cherish “who” we are, delving into our human potential and celebrating our diversity as much as our individual equal worth.

Although eugenics programmes are usually associated with Nazi Germany, they could, and did, happen everywhere They focused on manipulating heredity or breeding to produce “better” people and on eliminating those considered biologically inferior. In the 1920s and 1930s eugenic sterilisation laws were passed in 24 of the American states, in Canada, and in Sweden. Here in the UK, Malthus saw overpopulation as the cause of misery and poverty, which was drawn from an element of Darwinism that contributed to the devaluing of human life, due to its stress on the struggle for existence and competition for resources. 

Eugenic doctrines were criticised increasingly during the inter-war years, on scientific grounds and for their class and racial bias, and were attacked widely when the eugenics narrative and role in the holocaust was revealedHuman rights evolved in response to the Holocaust, to ensure that the atrocity of genocide doesn’t happen again. Human rights are premised on the belief that all human lives are of equal value. That is why those rights apply to everyone, that was the whole point of them, and to exclude people on whatever basis from enjoying those rights is to stray onto a very dangerous slippery slope in terms of recognising the equal worth of other human beings. Again. But here we are. 

The concept of adaptation remains, and allows the right to claim that the rich and powerful are better adapted to the social and economic climate of the time, and the concept of natural selection perpetuates the supremacist argument that it is natural, normal, and proper for the strong to thrive at the expense of the weak. 

British and American imperialists employed the language of Social Darwinism to promote and justify Anglo-Saxon expansion and domination of other peoples. Such different personalities as Machiavelli, Sir Francis Bacon, Ludwig Gumplowicz, Adolf Hitler, and Benito Mussolini, each reasoning on different grounds, nevertheless arrived at similar conclusions. Imperialism to them is part of the natural struggle for survival. Those endowed with “superior” qualities are “destined” to rule all others. Imperialism has been morally excused as the means of liberating peoples from tyrannical rule or of bringing them the benefits of a ‘superior’ way of life. Imperialism is all about human aggressiveness and greed, the search for security, the drive for power and prestige and nationalist emotions, among other things.

Nationalism is anti-progressive. It’s a paradigm of competitive individualism that further undermines principles of cooperation, community, equality and social cohesion. It’s also a recognisable symptom of the rise of fascism. The UKIP brand of Parish pump politics nurtures fear, spite and vilifies people on the basis of one of our most wonderful assets: our human diversity.

Ordinary people did not caused the financial crisis. The real culprits are sat untouched in mansions, making even more money from the “austerity” imposed on the most vulnerable citizens, while too many comply with misdirected blame of their oppressed brothers and sisters, rather than a political elite that have deliberately engineered a prolonged recession in the UK, and continue with a programme of radical social engineering. Conservative governments always do.

Our current social hardships have been created by this government’s policies and not powerless immigrants, disabled people or those who are unemployed. These are people whose lives are being broken by a ruthless elite.

The answer to our problems isn’t making the rest of the world go away, it isn’t bigotry and “national pride” – we surely learned those are not tenable answers from the terrible consequences of Nazism. Dividing people by using blame and prejudice only weakens our opposition to oppression.

UKIP, however, have capitalised on the current government’s lack of clear, open and honest debate about why the UK has become more unequal and anomic (anomie – a sociological concept – is the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and the community resulting in fragmentation of social identity and rejection of self-regulatory values. This has been heightened by a significant discrepancy between Conservative ideology – rhetorical values commonly professed – and what is real, actual and achievable in our everyday life).

UKIP have exercised a crass manipulation of those who are existentially destabilised: many people are confused and anxious about where they belong, where their country is heading, and why the current government won’t do anything about it. Of course Farage denies vigorously that in giving these anxieties a directed voice they are merely acting as outlets for prejudice and faux protest votes. But prejudice, protest and a politics of fear is nevertheless UKIP’s theme.

And farce. Like the UKIP councillor blamed the recent floods on the Government’s decision to legalise gay marriage. David Silvester said the prime minister had acted “arrogantly against the Gospel,” and God had punished the Thames Valley as a result. And John Sullivan, a UKIP candidate, explained that physical exercise in schools can “prevent homosexuality”.

Farage says he represents such “ordinary people”. As I stated earlier, he is an ex-Tory, a public school-educated former banker and stockbroker, whose policies will help him and his kin, in maintaining the status quo, while presenting a fake challenge to the establishment. He set up a trust fund in an offshore tax haven, in a bid to avoid paying thousands of pounds in tax money. So UKIP are a “protest vote” for pretty much more of the same. It’s a despicable con. 

Farage claims he is the voice of “common sense”, while having allegiance with every kind of homophobic, wild conspiracy theorist, misogynist, racist, chauvinist, classist, peevish, vindictive and resentful inadequate. The only sense he and his followers seem to have in common is a fear of anyone who is not like them. 

Farage disowned the entire 2010 UKIP manifesto – and not in the transparent manner of an honest politician admitting to past mistakes. Instead, he pretended he knew nothing of his party’s promises for a dress code for taxi drivers and a state-enforced repainting of the nation’s trains in traditional colours. Imagine if anyone else in public life said that a document they had put their name to, and claimed ownership of, was “drivel” and tried to avoid awkward questions by pretending that it had never been read. 

“Our traditional values have been undermined. Children are taught to be ashamed of our past. Multiculturalism has split our society. Political correctness is stifling free speech”, states the UKIP manifesto. Their “Pocket Guide to Immigration” promises to “end support for multiculturalism and promote one, common British culture”. After attracting some negative publicity, it has disappeared from here, but an archived version can be seen here

Bigots quite often seem to use the freedom of speech plea to justify their prejudice. They say they have a right to express their thoughts. But speech is an intentional ACT. Hate speech is intended to do harm – it’s used purposefully to intimidate and exclude vulnerable groups. Hate speech does not “democratise” speech, it tends to monopolise it. Nor is it based on reason, critical thinking or open to debate. Bigotry is a crass parody of opinion and free speech. Bigots are conformists – they tend not to have independent thought. It’s prejudice and Groupthink.

Being inequitable, petty or prejudiced isn’t “telling it like it is” – a claim which is an increasingly common tactic for the right, and particularly UKIP – it’s just being inequitable, petty or prejudiced.  And some things are not worth saying. Really. We may well have an equal right to express an opinion, but not all opinions are of equal worth. And UKIP do frequently dally with hate speech. Hate speech generally is any speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of e.g. race, religion, gender, disability, or sexual orientation. If we permit hate speech to flourish, history has already informed us that it ultimately leads to violence, murder and genocide.

In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. Critics have argued that the term “hate speech” is a contemporary example of Newspeak, used to silence critics of social policies that have been poorly implemented in order to appear politically correctThis term was adopted by US Conservatives as a pejorative term for all manner of attempts to promote multiculturalism and identity politics, particularly, attempts to introduce new terms that sought to leave behind discriminatory baggage attached to older ones, and conversely, to try to make older ones taboo.

“Political correctness” arose originally from attempts at making language more culturally inclusive. Critics of political correctness show a curious blindness when it comes to examples of Conservative correctness. Most often, the case is entirely ignored or censorship of the left is justified as a positive virtue. Perhaps the key argument supporting this form of linguistic and conceptual inclusion is that we still need it, unfortunately. We have a right-wing logocracy, creating pseudo-reality by prejudicial narratives, phrases and words. We are witnessing that narrative being embedded in extremely oppressive policies and in their justification rhetoric.

The negative impacts of hate speech cannot be mitigated by the responses of third-party observers, as hate speech aims at two goals. Firstly, it is an attempt to tell bigots that they are not alone. It validates and reinforces prejudice.

The second purpose of hate speech is to intimidate a targeted minority, leading them to question whether their dignity and social status is secure. In many cases, such intimidation is successful. Furthermore, hate speech is a gateway to harassment and violence. (See Allport’s scale of prejudice, which shows clearly how the Nazis used “freedom of speech” to incite hatred and then to incite genocide.)

As Allport’s scale indicates, hate speech and incitement to genocide start from often subtle expressions of prejudice. The dignity, worth and equality of every individual is the axiom of international human rights. International law condemns statements which deny the equality of all human beings. This process advances by almost inscrutable degrees. The public become bystanders, because they don’t fully understand what is happening. Until a group is attacked. Someone is murdered. Then someone else.

Article 20(2) of the ICCPR requires states to prohibit hate speech. Hate speech is prohibited by international and national laws, not because it is offensive, but rather, because it amounts to the intentional degradation and repression of groups that have been historically oppressed.

The most effective way to diffuse prejudice is an early preventative approach via dialogue: education and debate. Our schools, media and public figures have a vital part to play in positive role-modelling, in challenging bigotry, encouraging social solidarity, respect for diversity and in helping to promote understanding and empathy with others.

Hate speech categories are NOT about “disagreement” or even offence. Hate speech doesn’t invite debate. It’s about using speech to intentionally oppress others. It escalates when permitted, into harassment and violence. We learned this from history, and formulated human rights as a consequence. UKIP would have us unlearn the lessons of the Holocaust so that people can say “I’m not being  racist, but…” or “It’s not wrong to say immigrants should be sent home…” and so on.

There are recognisable effects of social norms and conformity on preudice: Minard (1952) investigated how social norms influence prejudice and discrimination. The behaviour of black and white miners in a town in the southern United States was observed, both above and below ground.

Results: Below ground, where the social norm was friendly behaviour towards work colleagues, 80 of the white miners were friendly towards the black miners. Above ground, where the social norm was prejudiced behaviour by whites to blacks, this dropped to 20.

Conclusion: The white miners were conforming to different norms above and below ground. Whether or not prejudice is shown depends on the social context within which behaviour takes place. See also Milgram experiment on conformity – Milgram showed that people tend to conform, in groups and defer to authority even when it means behaving immorally. It’s very depressing reading, but it’s important to recognise the role of conformity and obedience in the genocides we’ve witnessed, and Allport’s work is also important here too. Asch came up with more optimistic results, showing that an objection from just one  person could change the behaviour of the whole group.

And that’s our responsibility, surely.

UKIP are not simply a collective of classist, sexist, xenophobes and  homophobes: they are omniphobes. Political has been reduced to simplistic, crude dichotomies which provoke arguments instead of rational debate, the populist themes trade on fear, and fear provokes strongly emotive responses. You can’t reason with those, they don’t lend themselves well to rational discourse.

I am so appalled and horrified at the public stage that UKIP and other far right groups have gained, at how the right generally have pushed back our boundaries of decency and rationality and are cultivating prejudice and fear towards politically constructed Others, which share common themes with Nazi ideology, and worse, some people don’t see these terrifying connections. The poorest and most vulnerable citizens are being turned into Outsiders by both the Conservatives and UKIP. And that is NOT okay.

Disabled people are dying because of Conservative neoliberal policies. The public and much of the media  seem to be looking the other way

Farage demands that “We want our country back.” So do I. But my vision is very different to the shrunken patriotic neo-imperialism of Farage. No one hates his own country more that the resentful nationalist – and how they complain that  “Things ain’t what they used to be”.

My country is multicultural, rich and diverse, it is one that has learned from history and evolved. It is founded on progress and civil rights movements, past battles of the oppressed fought and won – our hard-earned freedoms to be who we are without fear.

We have a government that reduces benefits so that poorly paid workers can feel a little better about being so poorly paid. It’s a government that is all about lowering standards, and crucially, our expectations, and our regard of each other. So much mean spirited resentment has been kindled and perpetuated by the Coalition among the oppressed, redirected and aimed at the oppressed.

I recognise political themes of oppression and repression, and it is NOT okay. How can anyone think it is?

This governments’ schadenfreude – motivation for the vindictive policies that we’ve seen this past 4 years, which target the most vulnerable citizens most of all, is debated. Some people believe that the policies are a consequence of a redistribution of wealth from the poorest to the wealthy rather than being malicious acts. But the Tories laughed on hearing the accounts of suffering of the poorest people because of the bedroom tax and the food banks in parliament, for all to see.

But entertaining the idea for a moment that the inflicted suffering isn’t a motivation but a consequence, well that would make the Government at the very least indifferent, callous and unremorseful, since they show a supreme lack of concern for the plight of those least able to defend themselves against injustice and inflicted poverty.  

The shock and anger at the recognition that all of those principles and beliefs we held dear – such as justice, fairness, cooperation, democracy, freedom, government accountability, equality (at least in terms of the worth of each life), institutionalised philanthropy – all trodden under foot by this Social Darwinist aristocratic elite in just 4 years. And the faith we each had in those collective ideals undermined by the constant perpetuation of divisive and hateful propaganda tactics from the right wing.

Dividing people by using blame and prejudice only weakens our opposition to oppression.

We must each take some responsibility and work to put right the terrible mistakes and inhumane acts that we’ve allowed to be written into our collective history. Our starting point must be founded on an egalitarian doctrine that maintains that all humans are equal in fundamental worth and social status. We have to learn and evolve.

If we remain silent and indifferent, if we look the other way, that makes us complicit in a growing evil.164204381

 

We can forgive children who are afraid of the dark, the real tragedy of life is when men and women become afraid of the light.

Related

DEFINING FEATURES OF FASCISM AND AUTHORITARIANISM 

Nigel Farage schooldays letter reveals concerns over fascism

Techniques of neutralisation: Cameron says keep calm and carry on climbing Allport’s ladder

Winston McKenzie, organiser for UKIP, Croydon, defending normalisation and legitimisation of racism and racist language in the UK. Radio 4 PM, discussion with Sunny Singh; Friday May 23rd, 2014.

Remarkable linguistic bullying, from McKenzie and a Godwin’s law type of approach to the word ‘racism’, which UKIP seem to have adopted to shut down critical debate about racism. Racism and other forms of prejudice are normalised gradually, almost inscrutably and in stages, as Allport’s ladder demonstrated all too well as an explanation of how the Holocaust happened. Allport describes social processes, and how the unthinkable becomes acceptable, by a steady erosion of our moral and rational boundaries.   The prejudice happens on a symbolic level first – language – and it starts with subtlety, such as the use of phrases like ‘immigrants “swamping” our shores’ in the media, as part of political rhetoric and so on. Racists very seldom own up to being racists. They also quite often employ linguistic bullying strategies that makes challenging them very difficult. But as history has taught us, we must challenge them.