Brendan Cox gave a moving speech yesterday in honour of his wife as worldwide tributes were held on what would have been the MP’s 42nd birthday.
Some people have been angered by my previous article about the murder of MP Jo Cox, and insist that Thomas Mair committed the murder because he was “mentally ill” and unstable. That’s a cop out, it’s taking the comfortable and easy option as far as offering explanations go. Many people are mentally ill, but they do not plan cold-blooded murders. My article explored the political, social, economic and cultural context of prejudice more generally, and the appalling normalisation of a corrosive, far Right rhetoric. It was hardly controversial.
England as a nation has often experienced confusion, seemingly lost and adrift, uncertain of its role since the end of empire, and of course, the rise of devolution. Our sense of collective identity has been portrayed as fragile, especially by the Right wing media. But “national identity” is always a facade. More recently, we witnessed the unprecedented rise of nationalism in Wales and Scotland, where patriotic sentiment runs high, whilst in England, the insular, self-regarding enclave of Government has a strong whiff of a deeply disdainful supremicist Regency aristocracy. There are no local loyalties to be seen there, well, none that extend further than just 1% of the Country. Neither post-imperial cringing nor nationalism will alter that.
Brexit is an English rather than a British symptom of a collective sense of disempowerment. But those responsible for the erosion of democracy in the UK are in London, not Brussels. It was the Conservatives that provided opportunity for UKIP and the far Right 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 far Right’s subversive “insurgency”.
And Brexit may well hasten the further breakup of Britain. The constitutional fallout will also extend to Northern Ireland. A Leave vote would turn the open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic into a guarded frontier with Europe, since Ireland would remain a member in the union. This would undermine a major provision of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the peace deal that ended three decades of the Troubles.
Prejudice in the UK is manifested not only in racism, but in dominant narratives and policies directed against sick and disabled people, unemployed people, people on low pay and poor people more generally. There is also a growing culture of sexism, increasingly evident in the impact of Conservative policies. We have never been more fragmented as a society, nor has any other UK government in our lifetime been responsible for such extensive, divisive social outgrouping, systematic exclusion and massive inequality. And it’s intentional. The thing about prejudice is that it multitasks, grows and culminates, invariably, in violence.
Thomas Mair, it emerges, is a neo-Nazi who managed to remain stable and calculating enough to plot, gain weapons and to savagely kill Jo. Furthermore, she was targeted because of her strong beliefs, clear principles and her outstanding work. That’s not a random or impulsive act, it was intentional and deliberate. He knew what he was doing. I’ve yet to come across a mental illness that directs a person to murder someone they consider a political opponent in cold blood. Furthermore, to use the term “mental illness” so casually and to present it as the single reason for what he did risks adding another layer of stigma and social prejudice, potentially, for those with mental illness. Yet another prejudice.
For those of you who don’t think that the far Right, including groups like Britain First, encourage hatred and violence, well I have had some direct experience of it. Last year shortly before the General Election, a malicious meme about me was designed and circulated by Tommy Robinson, formerly leader of the English Defence League. It was eagerly shared on every Right wing page on every social media platform, by every single Right wing group, from UKIP to Britain First. There were even a few Conservatives that posted it. Robinson claimed that I had dismissed the Rotherham child abuse as a “far Right myth”, which of course is absolutely untrue. I’d basically told him to stop mithering me on Twitter, to go peddle his Right wing myths elsewhere. He had been aggressive and rude. I never mentioned Rotherham or child abuse to him during any of the exchange.
He used my account details and photo to direct people to “tell her what you think of her.” I had death threats, rape threats and threats of murder from combat 18. I had to involve the police. In my teens, under the Thatcher government, I was part of the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism movements. On peaceful demonstrations, the National Front turned up and I had my head kicked in and stitched up more than once by size 20 male boots, just because I was there. Are all of these people “mentally ill”, or is it truer to say that the far Right are motivated by fear, anger and hatred, intolerant of anyone who doesn’t agree with their misanthropy, or their petty, mean and grubby prejudices?
I think it’s the latter. My article cites psychosocial studies of the growth of prejudice and outlines the terrible consequences of that. I cited, as I often do, Gordon Allport’s “The Growth of Prejudice,” for example. I asked for people in our society to pause, and take a good look at what is going down, because of the perpetuation of prejudice, and the politics of division, of social outgrouping, of a culture of us and politically constructed others.
In an interview following the brutal murder of MP Jo Cox, her bereaved husband, Brendan, has said that Jo was “very worried” about the political culture in the UK.
He said: “I think she was very worried the language was coarsening, that people were being driven to take more extreme positions, that people didn’t work with each other as individuals.
On issues it was all much too tribal and unthinking.”
He said that Jo was “particularly worried about the direction of politics, around creating division and playing on people’s worst fears rather than their best instincts.”
The Times reports that Jo was preparing a report on the dangers of far-right nationalism when she was murdered, which she had planned to publish on June 29.
Nationalist Jack Buckby, press officer of “Liberty” GB, ex-member of the BNP, launched a despicable political point scoring and smearing campaign against the Labour Party. He offered an endorsement of violence by suggesting it’s somehow justified, and issued something of a threat as a consequence of Labour’s continued commitment to diversity and equality. Buckby wants to see a candidate put forward from this far Right group (himself) in Jo Cox’s community, when all other parties have stated they will not contest the by-election out of respect for Jo. He said:
“The Labour Party has blood on its hands. And by shutting down debate and labeling working class people concerned about their communities as racists, they risk driving desperate, disenfranchised people to further horrendous acts like this.”
“Concerned about their communities” is a euphemism for hate, racism, violence and murder, then. Deeply divisive, despicably Machiavellian politics.
Even more despicable and utterly inappropriate is this post, which my friend and fellow writer, Steve Topple, screengrabbed:
Brendan Cox said of his wife:
“She was a politician and she had very strong political views and I believe she was killed because of those views. I think she died because of them, and she would want to stand up for those in death as much as she did in life.
I don’t want people ascribing views to her that she didn’t have, but I certainly want to continue to fight for the legacy and for the politics and views that she espoused. They were what she was. She died for them, and we definitely want to make sure we continue to fight for them.”
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, drive for power and prestige and particularly nationalist emotions, amongst other things.