cool modernist style for these new go home or face arrest posters … good design is timeless. i love how the uk border agency logo becomes a ‘sea’ – a ‘sea of change’ at last?
Charles Moore, anti-racism and the Macpherson Report
Charles Moore has published a column today in which he attacks the idea that there has been a backlash against Muslims since the Woolwich murder, attacks the work of the monitoring organisation TellMAMA (which is becoming quite an obsession at the Telegraph) and makes the following claims about the English Defence League:
"While not, in its stated ideology, a racist organisation like the BNP, the EDL has an air of menace. It must feel particularly unpleasant for Muslims when its supporters hit the streets. But the EDL is merely reactive. It does not – officially at least – support violence. It is the instinctive reaction of elements of an indigenous working class which rightly perceives itself marginalised by authority, whereas Muslim groups are subsidised and excused by it. Four days ago, six Muslim men were sentenced at the Old Bailey for a plot to blow up an EDL rally. The news was received quietly, though it was a horrifying enterprise. No one spoke of “white-phobia”. Imagine the hugely greater coverage if the story had been the other way round.
All journalists experience this disparity. If we attack the EDL for being racist, fascist and pro-violence, we can do so with impunity, although we are not being strictly accurate. If we make similar remarks about Islamist organisations, we will be accused of being racist ourselves. “Human rights” will be thrown at us.”
This struck me as an old argument, reworked for today’s context - so I’m posting this short section from Bloody Nasty People, which discusses the development of what we might call “white resentment”. This claim - “we’re not racist, indeed we’re the ones who are the victims of racism”, was placed at the heart of the BNP’s propaganda by Nick Griffin, and we also see the EDL make similar claims today. But the far right here is merely hanging on the coat-tails of a more mainstream discourse - and while Moore invokes “an indigenous working class” in the above quote, to fully understand this resentment we also need to look to the elite:
"In 1999, the year Nick Griffin took over the BNP, one organisation devoted considerable effort to counter-attacking what it saw as an assault on white Britain. The country, it contended, was in the grip of “institutionalised idiocy”, promoted by a “new Establishment” composed of an influential liberal elite who were behaving like a “lynch mob”, driven by “colonial guilt” and “town hall political correctness”, churning out “sub-Marxist … propaganda for the race relations industry”. That organisation was the Telegraph newspaper, a respected broadsheet. Under the editorship of Charles Moore, it was leading the charge against Sir William Macpherson’s report on police failures in solving the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
Lawrence was the black teenager who had been murdered by a group of white youths - one of whom shouted “nigger” shortly before the crime was committed - at a bus stop in south London in 1993, not far from the BNP’s Welling headquarters. Police had bungled the investigation during its crucial early stages, failing to follow up on leads, showing reluctance to treat the crime as racist, and behaving insensitively towards Lawrence’s parents, who felt they were being treated like “uppity” blacks when they complained about the lack of progress in catching the killers. With the suspects still at large, and a campaign for justice by Stephen’s parents that even the right-wing Daily Mail supported, a public inquiry into the case was finally ordered by the Labour home secretary Jack Straw, four years after the murder. To call something a watershed risks cliche, but Macpherson’s conclusion - that the Lawrences were victims of “institutional racism” - really was such a moment for British society. As Straw told parliament, the inquiry “opened all our eyes to what it is to be black or Asian in Britain today.”
For black people, it was official confirmation of what they mostly already knew: that the system was stacked against them. For many whites, as Brian Cathcart notes in The Case of Stephen Lawrence, it was the first time that they had been invited to see black immigrants and their descendants not as a problem community but as the victims of “a terrible and tragic injustice”. Thanks to their tireless campaign, the Lawrences were celebrated in official culture: Stephen’s parents, Doreen and Neville, were invited to give the Channel 4 alternative Christmas message; ITV screened a two-hour drama based on the family’s story; and the artist Chris Ofili won the 1998 Turner Prize for his portraits of Doreen.
All this pointed to a simple fact: by the late 90s, it was abundantly clear that post-war immigrants could no longer be regarded as visitors. Two-thirds of Caribbeans, a third of Chinese residents and the majority of children born in every minority community were born in Britain. And people were mixing: according to a 1997 report by the Policy Studies Institute, among those born in Britain a half of Caribbean men, a third of Caribbean woman and a fifth of Asian men had a white partner. What’s more, since 1997 the New Labour government had encouraged, in the words of the author and commentator on race relations Gary Younge, a general “acceptance of diversity” that had not existed under the Conservatives. As Younge told me, “a lot had changed in the racial conversation and Labour were taking the top off the pressure cooker. Between 97 and 2001, Chris Ofili wins the Turner Prize, Steve McQueen wins the Turner, White Teeth comes out, Goodness Gracious Me is broadcast. It’s not that New Labour does this but it’s almost like a Renaissance period of artistic and non-white engagement. Labour were really happy for that to be the case.” Race had not played a major part in New Labour’s initial pitch to the electorate; indeed, the only non-white face to feature in the 1997 manifesto for a “New Britain” was that of Nelson Mandela, but the image of a young, diverse Britain fit neatly into Tony Blair’s ambition “to liberate Britain from the old class divisions, old structures, old prejudices, old ways of working and doing things that will not do in this world of change.” And for Blair, if you were old, you were out.
But this “pressure cooker” moment was met with unease in some quarters of white Britain. As Younge said, “It was one and the same time a somewhat ambivalent, somewhat playful and somewhat cynical relationship to these issues. With Macpherson you had people stepping over themselves to describe themselves as racist. It was quite strange. And so you have this urgent pent-up new language of race which was kind of somewhat overwhelming in a way. But you also have this large group of white people who are like, did something just happen? Did I miss something? It’s a conversation we hadn’t had in 18 years. It’s like you just discovered sex but with no foreplay. Quite a confusing moment.”
The Lawrence inquiry, and the row that followed the publication of Macpherson’s report in February 1999, revealed much about Britain’s muddled discussion of race at the end of the 90s. The inquiry itself had revealed a shockingly poor understanding of racism among police officers: according to one experienced detective, racism was simply a matter of “people making derogatory remarks about people of a different colour”. Likewise, the right-wing press, which had been happy to condemn racism as long as it was confined to the snarling, sub-proletarian form of the five Lawrence murder suspects (“scum”, as they were declared by editorial staff at the Mail), utterly rejected the suggestion that respectable Middle England could be complicit in racism too. When Blair gave an interview to the black newspaper New Nation in which he claimed Britain was more racist than the US, it sent the Sun’s star columnist Richard Littlejohn into paroxysms of rage. Blair’s offence was to denigrate that most cherished of national myths, that “the British, particularly the English, are the most tolerant race on earth.” Especially so, Littlejohn argued, since “no-one ever voted for a multi-cultural society. It was imposed upon them.”
This resentment emanated from the top of the establishment. The Telegraph’s editor Charles Moore argued that Macpherson “imposes on his victims, the police, a concept of racism that makes them guilty whatever they do.” The Police Federation was also critical, claiming that the report accused individual police officers of being racist (it didn’t) and that it would damage morale. The Tory leader William Hague was later to argue that it had led to a rise in street crime. For others, the affair was yet more evidence of Britain’s decline. “It was never thus in the old days,” complained the former Sunday Telegraph editor Peregrine Worsthorne. “A man walked taller because he was British; held his head higher. To be born British was … a kind of grace or blessing, a mark of God’s favour.” Borrowing from Enoch Powell, he declared: “Nations which the gods wish to destroy, they first drive mad, and this does indeed seem to be Britain’s fate.” The Conservative MP Humfrey Malins darkly prophesied that “The silent, law-abiding majority will soon come to resent enforced political correctness and will not stand idly by.” The irony was that Macpherson himself, a Telegraph reader, was a deeply establishment figure - as were other members of the inquiry panel, who were unanimous in their conclusion of institutional racism. Macpherson eventually had to stop giving media interviews, such was the volume of hate mail he received.
It was in the murkier waters of this much larger pool of white resentment that the BNP constructed its propaganda. Griffin publicly denigrated Stephen Lawrence as a “drug dealer” and a focus on white victims of “racist” crime would become a staple feature of publicity material, accompanied by the slogan “Racism Cuts Both Ways”. One cartoon, circulated by the BNP in the early 2000s, showed the Met commissioner Sir Paul Condon receiving an “eye test” in which the name Stephen Lawrence was printed large, followed by the almost illegible names of white victims of crime. Another leaflet copied a Metropolitan Police press advert that bore the slogan “race crime is hate crime” and subverted the message to imply that white victims were being deliberately overlooked. Exploiting white fears of black crime had been a feature of far right propaganda since the tabloid-driven “mugging” panic of the 1970s, if not earlier, but this pushed the rhetoric further, absorbing and then twisting the logic of anti-racism. The Rights for Whites campaign of the early 90s had been expanded into a dominant propaganda theme.”
Alexis Tsipras on the Cyprus bailout, speaking to the New Statesman
I think it’s unbelievable and self-destructive.
I believe that in the next few days panic will spread to the rest of southern Europe. It is a very risky choice they [the troika] have made, and it proves they have no understanding of the objective dangers facing the eurozone. They’ve chosen to have a Eurozone operating under their rule, with the people subjugated, threatened with blackmail like this. I think the only chance Cyprus has, like other countries, is if the political system rejects this blackmail. If they accept it, then there is no way back. Cyprus’s economy will be ruined, its banking system will bleed capital as depositors will fear a second haircut, and this will spread throughout Europe.
On the contrary, if Cyprus resists, and rejects this deal by protecting its banking system, it would send a strong message of trust and credibility to the rest of the southern European countries as well.
Painted mural of Toni Negri eating a pizza, on the side of Vesuvio’s Pizza, Lea Bridge Roadabout, Clapton. Below: source image
Public Order Min Dendias: “Collaboration of Golden Dawn with Hellenic Police has never been firmly proven so as to take action”#rbnews— spyros gkelis (@northaura) November 19, 2012
I made a Storify of tonight’s Greek parliament debate on the proposed new austerity measures - PM Samaras (New Democracy), opposition leader Tsipras (Syriza), coalition ally Venizelos (Pasok).
As one British soldier explained on the film, ‘I thought we’d come to liberate the ~~~~~~, but within what seemed to be a short space of time, we were actually killing them. And more to the point, actually, British chaps were dying in a cause that I couldn’t quite understand.’Guardian, 5 July 1986