Asking questions you should not be


by Sunny
21st May, 2006 at 12:05 am    

Among certain members of the Guardian’s comment is free readership a conspiracy theory is gaining currency that the newspaper is trying to ‘airbrush’ out an article that got heavily panned by readers.

The article in question is Joseph Harker’s Flutters of Anxiety, in which he asks:

Is it just me, or is anyone else slightly worried about the number of St George’s flags flying from road vehicles right now?

In fact, they started appearing the day after the local elections on May 4. Apart from the Labour meltdown and the Tories getting their first respectable vote for 14 years, the big story of the election was the rise of the British National party, which gained 28 seats, nearly 20 in London alone. Could it be that many of the England flag-wavers are in fact supporters of this racist party, glorying in their “victory” and celebrating their racial pride?

You may notice that below the article Harker has earned about a hundred comments of abuse. Also see responses by Mr Eugenides, Vented Spleen and England Project.

There is a perfectly logical explanation to why it did not appear in the weekly roundup, but there is little point in mulling over that.

If Joseph and I were sitting in a pub and he asked me that question, I would reply by saying: “Nah mate, you’re just being paranoid. The BNP did ok, but only in Barking/Dagenham. Anyway, we need to become less wary of people carrying the St. George’s flag despite its previous connotations.” After a couple of points that may even come out slightly slurry. And that would probably be the end of that.

His mistake was to ask the question in a national newspaper with a majority white audience because the response was expected. Before you accuse me of being racist, let me explain.

Different media spaces and countries have different values. An editorial line that may be expected in the Guardian (e.g. being pro-immigrant) would not be taken at another paper such as the Daily Mail. That different audiences with different values would respond in different ways should come as no suprise to our readers. As another example a Muslim blog could engage in a serious debate about the relevance of Shariah law while on Harry’s Place the discussion would probably revolve around stoning and wife-beating, with Old Pickler repeatedly stating that Muslims should stop being silly and give up Islam.

The response to Harker’s article may indicate that it is still impossible to have a reasonable debate about race in Britain except in private spaces aimed at different racial groups. If all the responses below the article were similar in tone to the letters he got in response I would probably not come to the above conclusion, but the level of vitriol directed at him is way more than necessary.

Debating this on Georgina Henry’s roundup, Tomahawk said:

But I’m an old-style liberal egalitarian in these matters: I always ask whether saying something about Race X would be unacceptable if said about Race Y, and if the answer is ‘yes’, that’s hypocritical and not at all “progressive”.

I agree with him. But that also makes the assumption that not only are all races treated equally, but that there is an equal opportunity to right of reply.

But there isn’t. Are immigrants (let’s not pretend he is referring to the white middle-class ones) and asylum seekers continually panned by Richard Littlejohn given a chance to explain themselves?

And why is Melanie Phillips allowed to get away with equating immigrants with suicide bombers almost daily? Isn’t that as racist as constantly equating Jews with money-grabbing Palestinian killers? When is her BNP party honourary membership being announced? But I digress.

As another example the advantage of having your own (racial) space is that you can ask if media coverage is racist and get much more reasonable responses in agreement or disagreement. In that space I can say Asians are the most racist group without anyone batting an eyelid.

But I suspect that because Joseph Harker is the Guardian’s deputy comment editor he wants to use a national newspaper to ask those questions openly rather than write an article for The Voice or New Nation. Except I don’t think Britain is ready for it yet. Ethnic minorities are not the only ones quick at throwing the word ‘racist’ at others.


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  1. Pickled Politics » Race and Sports in the UK

    [...] Race and Sports in the UK by Shariq on 17th June, 2006 at 10:27 pm     A while back Sunny posted on the treatment Joseph Harker recieved on his concern over St George’s flags in London. Interestingly there’s a somewhat similar post at The New Republic’s World Cup Blog by Jesse Zwick, an American Jew, over his initial response to landing in Germany in the midst of a nationalistic fervour not seen since the Nazi’s. [...]


  2. rosieniven

    Interested to find a 2006 article by contributer 1 about a blog written by contributer 2. Interesting read. http://tinyurl.com/yhgr2fq




  1. Sajn — on 21st May, 2006 at 12:08 am  

    The reason there are so many flags of St George around has something to do with a little known sport called FOOTBALL!

  2. Don — on 21st May, 2006 at 12:34 am  

    I read the piece and it struck me as prosperous middle-class paranoia of those ungroomed and rather scary working-class ruffians who are probably racists so it’s ok to despise them.

    About a third of my colleagues have already started flag-waving in one form or another, and it’s about football.

  3. Sunny — on 21st May, 2006 at 1:06 am  

    Sajn – he acknowledges that in the article.

    Don – I think you may be missing my point. I agree it sounded slightly paranoid, as I said above. Though we don’t know whether he is middle-class or working class so I will reserve judgement on that.

    The point is there is an increased degree of paranoia amongst ethnic minorities after all the talking up of the BNP lately.

    But wondering whether these people are racist as bad as the constant wondering in the press whether immigrants are here illgeally, are foreign criminals, or suicide bombers then also not racist? And why is that not pulled up constantly? The PCC is gutless.

    My point is that in a different context, when asking the question amongst ethnic minorities, it would be seen as a harmless question. But no one wants to see it as such.

  4. Amir — on 21st May, 2006 at 1:57 am  

    I’m back boyz, what have I missed?

    Rohin, Sunny, Mirax, Sonia, Ravi4, Jai,

    I love you guys/gals,… okay, let’s see what I’ve missed..

  5. Amir — on 21st May, 2006 at 2:02 am  

    Jai Singh,
    We’ve had our differences… but I’d like to make up. Dude, Sikh’s rule. Ya know what I’m saying? Sikhs are the most amazing party animals ever…! Just let me contribute… hold on…

  6. Katy Newton — on 21st May, 2006 at 2:11 am  

    Sunny, I think you’ve quoted the article slightly out of context. As I read it, it wasn’t necessarily the question he asked, it was more about the way he asked it. I thought that most of the more vitriolic commenters were wound up by this part of the article, which perhaps Harker should have left out altogether:

    “I’ve been looking at the drivers of these flag-waving vehicles, and – OK, I admit this isn’t exactly scientific – half of them are in white vans, and the rest are white, male, tattooed, pot-bellied 35 to 55-years-olds: exactly the type I’ve been seeing on TV for the past month complaining about “our houses going to the asylum seekers”, or that “we’re losing control of our country”. I can’t tell if these drivers come from Barking and Dagenham, where the BNP gained 11 seats, but that borough is just a short drive from where I live, so who knows?”

    It isn’t scientific at all, so why put it in? There is a valid discussion to be had about the way the flag was hijacked by right-wingers and whether displaying it can still be a considered a sign of racist belief; why detract from that with a few lines of tired stereotyping?

  7. squared — on 21st May, 2006 at 3:38 am  

    Oh dear.

    That was awful…

    As somebody commented on the article, it’s one thing to try and make a point, but another to write total drivel.

    As many of them showed, switching the words about to talk about muslims or blacks would suddenly make that paragraph VERY offensive.

    How comes it’s OK to be racist if you’re not attacking an ethnic minority?

    My point is that in a different context, when asking the question amongst ethnic minorities, it would be seen as a harmless question. But no one wants to see it as such.

    How so?

  8. mirax — on 21st May, 2006 at 3:52 am  

    Hey Amir! Great to see you back on board!

    psst are you making up with Jay or Jai? Jai hates being mistaken for … and rarely picks fights anyway.

  9. mirax — on 21st May, 2006 at 4:03 am  

    Sunny, I read the Harker article. I’m not a British minority person and definitely don’t share your sensitivity to racism, real or perceived, but that article was overblown paranoia and very glib with its stereotypes. It fully deserved its criticism and you in turn are over-reacting to the feedback and on the bais of this alone, generalising wholesale about what the mainstream British public is ready to discuss/accept. Come on.

  10. mirax — on 21st May, 2006 at 4:04 am  

    bais=basis

  11. Amir — on 21st May, 2006 at 4:48 am  

    Sunny :-)
    You hark on about the so-called ‘virtues’ of multiculturalism, but (paradoxically) you flagrantly contradict this ‘benign-neglect-towards-other-cultures’ paradigm by evincing utter contempt towards the indigenous English culture and its patriotic supporters. What’s so ‘bad’ about parading the St. George’s Cross in public areas or using it (existentially) within the public sphere? Oh, but wait… a majority of these ‘chauvinistic’ little-Englanders have scary skinheads, wear English football tops, sport crappy tattoos, and, of course, drink piss-water-beer from the Carling tap… but, then again, who cares? As far as I’m concerned, Joseph Harker’s article is no more than a quasi-Baudrillardian tirade against the working classes. Self-hating liberal fuck.

    And why is Melanie Phillips allowed to get away with equating immigrants with suicide bombers almost daily?

    What nonsense. I, for one, am no fan of Melanie Philips’s self-pitiful tirades against the anti-Zionist establishment and her mawkish apologias for Sharon’s obvious complicity in the Sabra & Shatila massacre , but – on the other hand – I’m not silly enough to dismiss the substantive underbelly of her arguments. Immigration is a serious problem, and for two very good reasons:

    Reason 1 ‘Citizenship’ can only be achieved (and sustained) by inculcating a sense of national patriotism that enables citizens to reciprocate and uphold the law.;- this may entail a host language, participation in the public sphere, social interaction in the same public spaces, constitutional patriotism (i.e. no special exemptions from democratic principles), a basic knowledge of the host-nation’s history, politics, and cultural heritage, and an obligation to find work and be self-supporting. Immigrants pose a unique problem to this because they want to be left to their own devices and thus forfeit their corresponding obligations of citizenship.

    Reason 2 The legitimacy of the modern state derives in part from its role as protector and promoter of the ‘national culture’ of its people – if there was no distinct culture to protect, there would be no reason for the state to exist as an independent entity. A modern democratic state – by stark comparison – is multicultural: it is committed to tolerating or even encouraging the co-existence of different cultural groups within their borders, and this ties their hands when it comes to promoting a common national identity across the various groups. Since new immigrants are likely to be the bearers of cultural values distinct from those of the receiving community, integrating them into the national culture is a process fraught with difficulty: it has to be done in ways that are consistent with liberal principles – by encouragement rather than compulsion – and moreover it must be done democratically, through give-and-take between existing conceptions of national identity and the new cultural values of the immigrants.

    I recommend this short essay by David Miller. Melanie Philips is a militant, pro-Israeli banshee ‘bitch’ because, well, to put it bluntly, there’s a direct correlation between anti-Semitism in Britain and the increasing number of Moslem immigrants. And guess what? She’s right. A lot of British Moslems are violently anti-Semitic. They hate Jews. They hate Hindus. They hate Britain. And they reserve a visceral hatred for America and Halliburton. It’s a big problem. Let’s confront it.

    Interestingly, Johann Hari made the following point about Melanie Philips:

    I know that any regime that would kill Melanie would put me up against the wall too. When they turn on the bolshy Jews, they will turn on the bolshy gays. In a funny way, from totally opposing ends of the political spectrum, Melanie and I stand and fall together; we can only exist in the most free of societies.

    Mmmmm,
    Amir

  12. Amir — on 21st May, 2006 at 5:12 am  

    Mirriiiiii!
    Me shmirrrriii!

    I meant Jay Singh.

    Not Jai… the Yoda-stroke-John Locke of Pickled Politics. Jai is like a Buddhist monk… in the sphere of deliberative democracy.

  13. Bikhair — on 21st May, 2006 at 6:08 am  

    Sunny,

    How come I dont get any mention in any of your articles? Am I not crazy enough?

  14. Tilling — on 21st May, 2006 at 8:41 am  

    Harker is your typical self-loathing white middle class liberal who breaks off from flagellating himself over “Islamophobia” and slavery only long enough to write pathetic drivel like his article about the St George’s flag. He got exactly the response he wanted, so he can twist those nails a little deeper into his hands and feet, jam that crown of thorns just a tad tighter round his head and bewail the misbehaviour of his countrymen.

  15. John Browne — on 21st May, 2006 at 9:15 am  

    …. I am a Catholic, but I can see that I am a minority that is being abused daily in the media (De Vinci code’s lies against opus dei is the tip of a huge iceberg).

    I think it possibly is slightly disrespectful to my religion to have a cross as a symbol for a country that kills about 1/3 of its babies via abortion.

    To me the English flag should have a picture of a husband and wife with three kids sitting in a car by the sea, in the rain, eating fish & chips. This is the idealised view of England that should be on our national flag. It is distinctly English and does not link abortion to christianity.

    John

  16. Ravi4 — on 21st May, 2006 at 10:31 am  

    Katy Newton’s hit the nail on the head. The kind of lazy “class” stereotyping that Harker shows in that para is in the same general area of behaviour as racism. If he were himself a white van driving, beer-bellied, be-tattoo’d East Londoner then his comments might have more credibility. I wouldn’t feel comfortable making similar comments about eg Muslims from Luton just because I have (more or less) the same colour skin as them.

    I’d also take issue with Harker’s more general point that waving the St George’s flag bolsters the BNP. I’d argue the opposite. The more that the flag is reclaimed and waved by wishy washy liberals like Harker (and “muscular” liberals), ordinary non-racist football supporters, and particularly non-white English people, the less easy it will be for the BNP to claim ownership of the flag as symbol of an ethnically pure, inward/backward-looking England.

    None of this is an argument for censoring Harker’s piece – and I hope it wasn’t excluded from the roundup for censorship reasons. Sunny – you mention lack of PCC action on the odious Melanie Phillips’ comments. But (I presume) the PCC has not taken action on Harker’s piece either? It’s merely been subjected to maniacally harsh criticism from CiF commentators. But that’s pretty normal for CiF. To quote Sid from a different thread, they’re a “whole fucking lot” of “factionalist tossers” over there.

    And as far as I can work out, Harker’s broader message – expressions of traditional forms of nationalism pander to racism – is in line with the Guardian’s general editorial line and corporate values, or at least the views expressed by many of their most influential/ prolific commentators (Seumus Milne, Melanie Bunting, Tariq Ali, Martin Jacques, George Monbiot etc etc).

    John Brown – I hope you’re joking? Your idyllic English family scene reminds me of summer day trips with my family when I was a kid … ah, sunny Clacton on Sea

  17. John Browne — on 21st May, 2006 at 10:53 am  

    Ravi4,
    No I’m not joking.

    Fish and Chips is distinctly English. They do not have fish and Chip shops in the USA. Strange but true.

    …As is being at the sea side in the rain. I actually love going to the sea in the rain and walking along the beaches.

    The Cross of Saint George is NOT (historially) ENGLISH its norman (those hated french)!

    A little History lesson for you. The normans had a close fought battle AGAINST THE POPE. The took him prisoner. He soon died. The normans then excommunicated the eastern Church, sacked constantinople, started the crusades (origin of the red cross) and INVADED and ENSLAVED England, Ireland and Wales and damaged Scotland. The Red Cross is a symbol of our slavery to France.

    This is where it all begun….
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Civitate

    (note the Germans and Saxons of this time were more or less the same).

    John

  18. Ravi Naik — on 21st May, 2006 at 11:19 am  

    I do agree with Ravi4 and Amir. And yesterday I saw a black guy with a St George’s flag on his car. Yes, it is all about football and supporting the English team.

    It’s comments like Harker’s that fuel racism and resentment.

  19. fridgemagnet — on 21st May, 2006 at 11:26 am  

    Sunny, I think you give Harker too much credit for having any more behind his article than “ooh, yuck, proles” and “need 1,000 words by tonight”. On the other hand, all this stuff about “self-loathing” misses the point – it’s not himself and people like him that he’s talking about, as he perceives it, it’s *other* people. It’s no more self-loathing than some Mail writer banging on about chavs or happy-slappers.

    The fact that he’s been roundly greeted with the English equivalent of the standard US response, “why do you hate America?”, is quite telling I think, and it’s the reaction that a lot of people writing in the mainstream seem to get whenever saying anything that might remotely be perceived as self-criticism.

    It’s certainly not a right-wing thing either – on the left, if you even mention, say, Islamophobia or open borders, it seems to me as if you get drowned out by a bunch of people calling you an appeaser of misogynists or a hater of the working classes, whereas of course someone writes about how Muslims have to sort themselves out or that we need to crack down on immigration, that’s an important debate innit. The stereotype of the “PC Police” shouting “racist!!!” whenever someone even mentions another culture in a less-than-adoring way still persists, but it’s pretty much entirely guff, and it’s increasingly being taken over by touchy reactionaries.

    So yes, I think you have a point about the mainstream media not being a good place to have any sort of reasonable conversation, given the numbers of headbangers who seem to pop up at a moment’s notice. I don’t think this is a terribly good example of that as the original column was stupid.

    (N.B. I did like that Johann Hari quote about him and Melanie Phillips being “opposite ends of the political spectrum”. If the “spectrum” has at one end barking hateful xenophobes, and at the other end wet Eustonite liberals, no wonder so many people think politics is a load of rubbish.)

  20. Edward Gibbon — on 21st May, 2006 at 12:28 pm  

    “Jelly-bellied flag-flappers” is the term Mr Harker is looking for.
    As for St George:
    George, surnamed the Cappadocian, was born at Epiphania in Cilicia, in a fuller’s shop. From this obscure and servile origin he raised himself by the talents of a parasite; and the patrons, whom he assiduously flattered, procured for their worthless dependent a lucrative commission, or contract, to supply the army with bacon. His employment was mean; he rendered it infamous. He accumulated wealth by the basest arts of fraud and corruption; but his malversations were so notorious, that George was compelled to escape from the pursuits of justice.

    After this disgrace, in which he appears to have saved his fortune at the expense of his honor, he embraced, with real or affected zeal, the profession of Arianism. From the love, or the ostentation, of learning, he collected a valuable library of history rhetoric, philosophy, and theology.

    Soon the prevailing faction promoted George of Cappadocia to the throne of Athanasius. The entrance of the new archbishop was that of a Barbarian conqueror; and each moment of his reign was polluted by cruelty and avarice. The Catholics of Alexandria and Egypt were abandoned to a tyrant, qualified, by nature and education, to exercise the office of persecution; but he oppressed with an impartial hand the various inhabitants of his extensive diocese.

    The primate of Egypt assumed the pomp and insolence of his lofty station; but he still betrayed the vices of his base and servile extraction. The merchants of Alexandria were impoverished by the unjust, and almost universal, monopoly, which he acquired, of nitre, salt, paper, funerals, &c.: and the spiritual father of a great people condescended to practise the vile and pernicious arts of an informer.

    The Alexandrians could never forget, nor forgive, the tax, which he suggested, on all the houses of the city; under an obsolete claim, that the royal founder had conveyed to his successors, the Ptolemies and the Caesars, the perpetual property of the soil. The Pagans, who had been flattered with the hopes of freedom and toleration, excited his devout avarice; and the rich temples of Alexandria were either pillaged or insulted by the haughty prince, who exclaimed, in a loud and threatening tone, “How long will these sepulchres be permitted to stand?” Under the reign of Constantius, he was expelled by the fury, or rather by the justice, of the people; and it was not without a violent struggle, that the civil and military powers of the state could restore his authority, and gratify his revenge.

    The messenger who proclaimed at Alexandria the accession of Julian, announced the downfall of the archbishop. George, with two of his obsequious ministers, Count Diodorus, and Dracontius, master of the mint were ignominiously dragged in chains to the public prison. At the end of twenty-four days, the prison was forced open by the rage of a superstitious multitude, impatient of the tedious forms of judicial proceedings. The enemies of gods and men expired under their cruel insults; the lifeless bodies of the archbishop and his associates were carried in triumph through the streets on the back of a camel; and the inactivity of the Athanasian party was esteemed a shining example of evangelical patience. The remains of these guilty wretches were thrown into the sea; and the popular leaders of the tumult declared their resolution to disappoint the devotion of the Christians, and to intercept the future honors of these martyrs, who had been punished, like their predecessors, by the enemies of their religion.

    The fears of the Pagans were just, and their precautions ineffectual. The meritorious death of the archbishop obliterated the memory of his life. The rival of Athanasius was dear and sacred to the Arians, and the seeming conversion of those sectaries introduced his worship into the bosom of the Catholic church.

    The odious stranger, disguising every circumstance of time and place, assumed the mask of a martyr, a saint, and a Christian hero; and the infamous George of Cappadocia has been transformed into the renowned St. George of England, the patron of arms, of chivalry, and of the garter.

    From the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

  21. Don — on 21st May, 2006 at 1:00 pm  

    Much as I admire Decline and Fall…, the theory that St George was George of Cappadocia is not generally accepted. It’s a good, powerful passage and it crops up every April but, unfortunately, it doesn’t really stand up.

    As for the flag, I agree with Ravi4; the more diverse the flag wavers, the less the claim exclusivists have on it.

    I won’t be flying one myself, though, as I am of Bill Hicks’ camp on this;

    “‘Hey buddy, my daddy died for that flag.’

    ‘Really? I bought mine. Yeah, they sell them at K-Mart and shit.’

    ‘He died in the Korean War.’

    ‘Wow, what a coincidence. Mine was made in Korea.’

    No one – and I repeat, no one – has ever died for a flag. See, a flag … is just a piece of cloth. They may have died for freedom, which is also the freedom to burn the fuckin’ flag, see. That’s freedom.”

  22. Edward Gibbon — on 21st May, 2006 at 1:12 pm  

    The only think known about the other candidates for the title of St George is that they weren’t George of Cappadocia.
    I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing when patriotism becomes a matter of which eleven men are better than the others at booting a ball about.

  23. Tomahawk — on 21st May, 2006 at 1:28 pm  

    Hello Pickled Politics! This is the first time I’ve posted a comment here, although I understand I’ve been mentioned once or twice on this site in the past :-) Anyway, I buried the hatchet with Sunny (not in his head) some time back and we had a fairly civil discussion at CiF.

    The Harker piece was deplorable, both in nature and tone. The Guardian had every right to publish it, but they ought to have predicted that it would attract the response it did. The worst part of it is the paragraph quoted by Katy Newton above (#6). The BNP is a racist party, and for Harker to say that white, pot-bellied flag-wavers are probably BNPers is to say they are probably racists. That’s race-baiting, and if you said that sort of thing about members of another race, you’d rightly be condemned for racist generalisations. If Nick Griffin (or anyone else) wrote an article in which he said, “I don’t have any evidence for this, but whenever I see black youths on the street I always think they’re muggers”, you’d rightly call him a racist. There is a tendency among those who go in for left-wing identity politics to say (in so many words) that this type of thing is legitimate when directed against whites but not when it’s targeted at anyone else. That is rank hypocrisy.

    Sunny (kind of) agrees, but after quoting my ‘liberal egalitarian’ extract from CiF (above), he writes:

    But that also makes the assumption that not only are all races treated equally, but that there is an equal opportunity to right of reply.

    I think this illustrates one of the problems of looking at everything through racial blinkers (which Sunny doesn’t always do). It makes little sense to speak of ‘the white race’ in Britain today, because this huge entity is so heterogeneous, both socially and politically, that no generalisations can be made about it. White people, for the most part, do not view themselves as ‘the white community’. The only places in which they do are in racially-polarised areas, such as Barking, and various former mill towns in the North of England. In these areas, the whites tend to be poorer and less educated than whites on average. One of the complaints we frequently hear from them is that the main parties and the media don’t listen to their grievances. In what way do these people enjoy “an equal opportunity to right of reply”? They seem to be more ignored than most groups, which is one reason why some of them have been turning to the BNP. Yet, as Harker demonstrated in his crass article, they are also the one group about whom it is still socially acceptable to make stereotypical racist comments. (BTW Tilling: Harker is not a “typical self-loathing white middle class liberal”; he is a black middle-class identity-politics “liberal”.)

    I think it is fair to say that members of ethnic minorities in Britain face problems that most white people generally do not face. However, people like Harker are part of a grievance industry, in which old left-egalitarian principles have been abandoned in favour of identity-group politics, whereby some groups are deemed “progressive” solely by dint of the melanin levels in their skin. This view is not widely accepted, but it does enjoy support among media elites. What has happened at CiF is that alowing people to respond to Guardian articles, we are beginning to discover just how big a political ‘disconnect’ there is between information suppliers and consumers. That’s a good thing to know.

  24. Ravi4 — on 21st May, 2006 at 1:29 pm  

    John – thanks for the historical background, really interesting. But I thought the Normans of that time weren’t exactly “French”? Weren’t they a hybrid Norse/Viking/Frank group? I don’t think they were the dominant source of modern French language/ culture/ society. In any case, isn’t that a bit far back to form the basis of modern decisions about national symbols etc? Lots has happened since then.

    That would be a bit like me blaming the 11th century destruction of the Tamil Chola kingdom in Sri Lanka for the current SL civil war. Or blaming the British Empire for the various problems of racism that I’ve faced here. Or Milosevic quoting that 14th Century (or whatever) battle in Kosovo as a serious indicator of Serb territorial rights. (And don’t even mention the swastika…) Perhaps that’s “Edward Gibbon’s” point.

    (PS – I’m sure I saw a fish’n’chip shop when I was in Boston a few years back, but I take your point.)

    Amir – good to see you back and on form.

    Your Reason 1 – actually I don’t think many immigrants would disagree with the various items of “citizenship” that you enumerate, although knowledge of history etc would need to be VERY basic (it’s a criterion which I’m pretty sure my own parents would have failed until quite recently, despite being typical “don’t rock the boat”, “God Save the Queen”, middle class Asians).

    Your Reason 2 seems a bit backward looking to me. Isn’t the nation-state slowly evolving into something that represents more than purely ethnic national identity, in response to the unprecedented increase in population mobility and widening of democracy and human rights?

    I’m not sure what you mean by “a lot” of Muslims being “violently” anti-semitic. I reckon a tiny minority of Muslims (none that I know) are violent or support violence. I think most are not anti-semitic. And a propensity to make negative generalizations about other races, while bad, is hardly unique to Muslims. My parents, like most first generation Asians, were pretty racist when they arrived here, and still on occasion say things which I find racist.

    As for hatred of America and Halliburton, isn’t that pretty much an entry requirement now for white liberal middle class English dinner parties? Certainly I have to pluck up a fair bit of courage whenever I feel compelled to express something like the opposite view in polite company these days …

  25. John Browne — on 21st May, 2006 at 1:49 pm  

    Ravi4,
    You’re right of course…. Although the Iranian word for “Crusader” is actually “Frenchman”. Richard The Lion Heart spoke french and mainly lived (and died) in France.

    The Dutch don’t use their flag at soccer, they just fly “Orange” flags. Perhaps we follow suit; we should have a soccer flag of “fish and chips” distinct (like the dutch) from the national flag…

    John

  26. Sid — on 21st May, 2006 at 2:12 pm  

    Sunny

    I think it would be a failure of some significance if you, for whatever reason, felt that you could no longer ask questions about Media racism and Asian racism in what are “Asian” media spaces. The contintued campaign to ask probing reflexive questions by Asians about Asians refreshing. The fact that Asians have carved out media spaces of their own in which to ask those questions can only be a good thing but these issues should be brought out into the glaring spotlight of mainstream media spaces too.

    The issue about why Melanie Phillips can raise questions about immigration framed in a racial context means that she feels she speaks for the “indigenous” mainstream but only does so on rarefied media spaces of her own. If she came out with some of her normally vituperative bullshit on CIF, then we should expect, and hope, that she gets the kind of criticism that Harker has received.

    Of course it would be a utopian situation if Harker or Phillips could ask those questions in any media space they choose and would recieve in all cases considered and thoughtful feedback rather than angry demands to pull his page off the site.

    The criticism they get is more a function of their style rather than their content. But I would really like to see more “information suppliers” like Nick Griffin and Melanie Phillips on CIF and seeing what kind of connection they have with mainstream or the kind of reaction they provoke.

  27. Jay Singh — on 21st May, 2006 at 2:17 pm  

    I personally like the CIF message boards. Obviously the gratuitous abuse is out of order. But it is hilarious to see some of the pompous writers and journalists who for so long simply released their masterpieces into the air for the unwashed masses to read in awe, with at the most, a six line reply in the letters page four days later. Watching Madeline Bunting getting mauled after her posts about why the Enlightenment was a massive Islamophobic conspiracy was sadistic entertainment.

  28. Jai — on 21st May, 2006 at 2:36 pm  

    Amir and Mirax, thank you for your kind words. Nice to have you back, Amir ;)

    Me as JohnLocke ? Hmmm…..maybe if Locke was cross-fertilised with Sawyer, given my occasional lapses into badmaashi ;)

    Thanks again.

  29. Ravi4 — on 21st May, 2006 at 2:36 pm  

    Did I just read Tomahawk’s post correctly? Harker is black?? Then I’m sorry, as far as I’m concerned, what he wrote was racist, simple as that.

    It’s pretty disgusting actually. Talk about fuelling the flames.

    I agree with Jay, Sid and Tomahawk – CiF at least ensures that the self-important commentariat get honest and frank feedback on their pieces, rather than the smug mutual backslapping of the editorial room (or whatever it’s called in the business).

  30. Sunny — on 21st May, 2006 at 2:39 pm  

    Phew, there’s a lot to tackle here.

    Katy:
    It isn’t scientific at all, so why put it in? There is a valid discussion to be had about the way the flag was hijacked by right-wingers and whether displaying it can still be a considered a sign of racist belief; why detract from that with a few lines of tired stereotyping?

    You are right, I suspect most of the reaction comes from the stereotyping of these ‘pot-bellied drivers’ as BNP supporters.

    There’s a few points to make about that. Following the July bombings last year there were more than a few articles supporting the racial profiling and stop and searching of Asian lads on the tube. I would call that lazy racial sterotyping too but it went ahead anyway.

    Also, people openly admitted that they were uncomfortable when an Asian guy sat on the tube with a rucksack. Hell, many Asians made fun of that too and said it was great that tube carriages cleared out when they went to work. But again, racial stereotyping. Lazy, yes, but it did happen.

    On top of that we have constant sterotyping these days of immigrants and asylum seekers as lazy, scroungers, terrorists, suicide bombers and whatever else, but that goes by without little criticism.

    So here are my points:
    1) This lazy stereotyping is constant in the media and not just one way. Even the Guardian does it. According to them ‘Moderate Muslims’ are people who do not profess the need to blow up someone else, while ‘extremist Muslim’s are people like Hizb ut Tahrir and Al-Ghuraaba. Liberal Muslims are totally ignored.

    2) I didn’t say I agree with his view, but paranoia following the BNP’s election gains is widespread. Especially in London. I’m not that fussed but more than a few friends have expressed worrying sentiments to me of late, with a look that says – is this country going to the fascists?

    You may know, and I certainly say it, that it annoys me when people play the victim card during discussions on race.

    But a worry that BNP supporters are getting a bit boosted on the back of their election gains – is that playing the victim card? I’m not sure.

  31. Tomahawk — on 21st May, 2006 at 2:43 pm  

    Ravi4

    I don’t know the full details of Harker’s background — he could be mixed race, but he certainly isn’t white, as the photo on his profile page clearly shows.

  32. sonia — on 21st May, 2006 at 2:51 pm  

    ah interesting post Sunny. tomahawk = whats that got to do with anything? he may be welsh! they’re prob. the ones who usually feel like they might have sth to say when the st. george’s flags come out ( as opposed to the union jack…)

  33. Sunny — on 21st May, 2006 at 2:53 pm  

    Amir

    Welcome back! Enough of the niceties, let’s get down to business :)

    Yes I’m a supporter of multi-culturalism and no I do not hate indigenious British/English culture and nor do I have a problem with people carrying the St George’s flag (anymore). But as I saw it, neither does Joseph Harker. He’s just wondering why people are so enthusiastic about it so early, and not long after the local elections.

    Your reasons against immigration can be dismissed easily, and funnily enough, taking America as an example.

    1) The country has done a good job in instilling a sense of nationality, and one I believed should be relevant here (See my earlier article this week on Britishness).

    2) Again, America has tons of immigrants and no sense of shared, defined culture that ties people together. The sense of being American and being in it together ties people together. That is what I’d like to see here. Anyway, defining British culture is something tons of people have tried and failed.

    A lot of British Moslems are violently anti-Semitic. They hate Jews. They hate Hindus. They hate Britain. And they reserve a visceral hatred for America and Halliburton. It’s a big problem. Let’s confront it.

    How exactly do you intend to do that, by hoping that Melanie Phillips will make them see sense? Given that a recent poll found over 90% of British Muslims saw themselves as loyal or very loyal to Britain, I think you’re exaggerating.

    Ravi4
    Sunny – you mention lack of PCC action on the odious Melanie Phillips’ comments. But (I presume) the PCC has not taken action on Harker’s piece either?

    My point is that we see tons more of anti-immigrant racism every day, but not much is really said about it. In fact all of it gets published in the popular papers.

    FridgeMagnet – I think I agree with almost all of what you say.

    I did not at any point say I agreed with Joseph. But I would not have punched him in the face that many of his detractors seem to want to do because they reckon he is racist.

  34. Tomahawk — on 21st May, 2006 at 2:54 pm  

    tomahawk = whats that got to do with anything? he may be welsh!

    Yes, I’m sure that’s what it must be…

  35. Sid — on 21st May, 2006 at 3:02 pm  

    what does Harker’s race have anything to do with it? And since we’re dallying forth ethnicities, does Melanie Phillips’ race have anything to do with her choice of editorial policy?

  36. Sunny — on 21st May, 2006 at 3:04 pm  

    Tomahawk – hello and welcome to Vinegarette gherkins ;)

    The Guardian had every right to publish it, but they ought to have predicted that it would attract the response it did.

    True, and true.

    is to say they are probably racists. That’s race-baiting, and if you said that sort of thing about members of another race, you’d rightly be condemned for racist generalisations.

    Well, yes you would think that Tomahawk. But I see race-baiting all the time when immigrants are equated with scroungers or Muslim terrorists or foreign criminals, because although their race is not explicitly stated, we know they are not middle-class immigrants from America or Australia. That was my point.

    It makes little sense to speak of ‘the white race’ in Britain today, because this huge entity is so heterogeneous, both socially and politically, that no generalisations can be made about it. White people, for the most part, do not view themselves as ‘the white community’.

    Sure, but you did that above when you said its race-baiting towards whites. Also, the ‘white community’ is invoked when people use the term ‘self-hating liberals’. Is it not?

    They seem to be more ignored than most groups, which is one reason why some of them have been turning to the BNP.

    I’m not sure I buy this argument. Labour may have ignored its working class constituents, but that should make them apathetic or vote Tory/Lib Dems or start their own party. If Labour pisses you off, would you go and vote for a party that admires Hitler with a leader that denies the holocaust?

    I suspect not. I suspect that these people who voted BNP are also the children of a media policy that blames immigrants for their own insecurities and bad public services, and thus its become fashionable to vote BNP again and they’ve done it in droves because all the national press was down there every day in Barking asking them why they’d vote BNP.

  37. Sunny — on 21st May, 2006 at 3:11 pm  

    Ravi4 – a question. After the recent BNP election victories did you and your mates have a discussion about it, and did you wonder what to do if racism got out of hand?

    Not that this is directly related of course but an Asian man was stabbed last week in Barking by some white youths:
    http://www.blink.org.uk/pdescription.asp?key=11590&grp=66&cat=330
    It was marked by the police as a racist attack.

    Meanwhile, Poles claim its easier for them to find work because they are white
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,17129-2185726.html

    We are walking a fine line here, as I’ve said before. I do not want to wallow in the self-pity that many race related commentators do, and do believe we need to sort out our own problems rather than blaming the government or ‘endemic racism’.

    But we should not temper that by denying that racism (white on brown and vice versa) exists and should be openly challenged.

  38. Ravi4 — on 21st May, 2006 at 3:49 pm  

    Sunny – I think I agree with almost everything you’ve written here. The BNP victory HAS caused me and my mates to ask serious questions about the reasons for their rise. (although I think we really shouldn’t exaggerate – I just about remember the NF in the 1970s which was a totally different league…) And I agree that it’s more to do with stupid anti-immigrant propoganda than to white disempowerment (although all this anti-chav stuff doesn’t help either). Racism still exists – I know it.

    I don’t have a problem with Harker wanting to ask questions about flag waving. I disagree with him, but it’s a conversation worth having.

    My “outrage” with Harker is limited only to that para where he slurs white-van driving, pot bellied, tattooed etc etc white males. And this is the only point at which his race is relevant in that it radically changes the context of his comments. When I thought he was white, I assumed he was indulging in elitist, anti-prole condescension – which is in itself to be condemned. As a black man writing those things, he has crossed a line which adds massive hints of racism to this list of negative descriptors. I would never write the kinds of things Harker wrote in that para. Because I know what it’s like when people make similar insulting generalizations about me and people like me. (But then I’m probably too moderate and boring to even consider a career in journalism.)

    And to conclude, yes, Melanie Phillips’ ethnicity is relevant when she makes sweeping negative generalisations and insults about black people, Muslims and so on – because her ethnicity pushes those comments into the area of racism.

    It’s that old thing about racist jokes. Jackie Mason making a joke about Jewish accountants is observational comedy, speaking from a position of intimate knowledge of and affection for the community in question because he belongs to it. Jim Davidson saying the same thing is an ignorant racist. (unless someone out there says our Jim is in fact Jewish of course in which case my analogy fails!)

    The point is, we ought to be challenging all the anti-immigrant garbage which fuels racism. Not giving Griffin’s army of losers and misfits ammo to feed their fantasies of white victimhood. In my opinion, that one para means that Harker’s piece does much more of the latter than the former.

    Sorry to come over all self important about this. That article has clearly touched a nerve…

  39. Tomahawk — on 21st May, 2006 at 3:56 pm  

    I see race-baiting all the time when immigrants are equated with scroungers or Muslim terrorists or foreign criminals, because although their race is not explicitly stated, we know they are not middle-class immigrants from America or Australia.

    I agree, although you don’t see it at the Guardian (my point), and AFAIK Littlejohn also rails against migrants from Eastern Europe.

    Sure, but you did that above when you said its race-baiting towards whites. Also, the ‘white community’ is invoked when people use the term ’self-hating liberals’. Is it not?

    No, I was talking about a self-conscious white “community”, which doesn’t really exist outside of the areas I mentioned. Whites belong to a race simply because of their skin colour, but it’s not inevitable that skin colour will become politicised (which is what talk of “communities” is really all about). It is a common mistake among black community leaders to speak of “the white community”; they’re assuming that whites are as self-consciously political about race as they are, but for the most part that’s not true. Harker *was* involved in race-baiting, because he was extrapolating political opinions and prejudices from another group’s skin colour, without — as he admitted — any evidence. (BTW yesterday a car drove along my street and it was flying a St George’s cross. I immediately thought of Harker and wondered whether the driver was a closet BNPer. As the car came nearer, I noticed the driver was a black man… although I doubt very much that it was Joseph Harker.)

    Insofar as ‘self-hating liberals’ are concerned, this can be a racial thing, but needn’t be — the term is often levelled at people who appear to side with the enemy in war-time. In the US, it’s a synonym for anti-American Americans (if you see what I mean).

    I think you’re wrong about the BNP. They don’t get any sympathetic coverage at all from the *broadcast* media, and apart from the odd nutter in the tabloid press, not much from the tabloids either. I often find myself wishing that journalists would ask the same tough questions of RESPECT that they do of the BNP.

    I too think people should be held to account morally for voting for the BNP (although I notice that some of those Guardian commentators who are always talking about the “root causes” of terrorism never seem to do the same in relation to support for the BNP). But is it really so surprising that some disgruntled whites in polarised areas, having seen the success that ethnic and religious lobbies have had with identity politics, have decided to go in for a bit of it themselves? Ultimately, that’s my whole beef with Harker and the rest of the victimology industry* — they’ve built careers on peddling identity-based grievances, and now they’re sulking that others doing the same.

    * Melanie Phillips is a humourless ranter, who also peddles victimological grievances.

  40. Amir — on 21st May, 2006 at 4:05 pm  

    Ravi

    (A). You’ve touched on something extremely important. Let me re-quote it for you :

    Isn’t the nation-state slowly evolving into something that represents more than purely ethnic national identity, in response to the unprecedented increase in population mobility and widening of democracy and human rights?

    Now, this is a common misconception amongst the left-wing intelligentsia. It emanates from a belief that national flags, national anthems, patriotism, cultural festivities, etc. are all superficial, irrelevant and anathema to a truly progressive society. We must, therefore, go beyond our particularist identities and embrace more universal identities based on human rights and economic emancipation. Ravi, this isn’t entirely wrong because identity politics is often very divisive. But at the same time, ‘national ties’ are essential for a society to be capable of caring for its most vulnerable members. Radical internationalism does not make for the kinds of ties that are necessary for basic social justice – i.e., if people do not feel part of the same nation they will be less likely to participate in egalitarian projects. It is the decline of the cultural cohesiveness and differentiation of the working class that has so greatly weakened the union movement in the U.S – for instance. The union movement was never simply a movement of people pursuing interests, it was also a movement of people who shared a way of life – a sense of identity.

    (B).To pre-empt any further misunderstanding: when I said ‘violently anti-Semitic’ I was referring to the intensity of emotion, not a propensity for violence itself. And, what’s more, this is not a generalization [incidentally: the blogger ‘Stumbling and Mumbling’ made a very good point about the ‘group attribution error’ vis-à-vis the Jyllands Posten scandal]. According to the most recent poll, 30% of British Moslems reject the state of Israel’s right to exist; 56% thought that the Moslem Community should not participate in Holocaust Memorial day (21% said they shouldn’t because of the ongoing Israeli occupation, 12% because it ignored Muslim suffering, 20% for unspecified ‘other’ reasons, 4% were Holocaust-deniers). 53% thought that the Jewish community had too much influence on foreign policy (net agreement +34), 46% thought that the Jewish community were in league with the freemasons to control the media and politics (net agreement +24!) and, most worryingly, 37% thought they were ‘legitimate targets as part of the ongoing struggle for justice in the Middle East’ (net agreement +2).

    Judging by own day-to-day experiences and ‘insider’s knowledge’, the poll didn’t surprise me at all. That might explain why Melanie Philips is unhealthily paranoid about immigrants, immigration and their imported prejudices (blood libels, Mossad conspiracies, ZOG conspiracies, economic envy, etc.).

    Anti-Semitism is making a comeback in a big way, and the ‘Guardianista’ et al. (bar Jonathan Freedland) do not take it seriously enough.
    Amir

  41. Katy Newton — on 21st May, 2006 at 4:52 pm  

    Sunny – I hadn’t really thought about Harker or you playing the victim card and I wasn’t really thinking about his ethnicity either, whatver it is. Fear of the BNP is not limited to non-white people; plenty of white people are also very frightened by white supremacist groups and the thought of what might happen if they got into power. I just didn’t like his stereotyping. I agree that a lot of lazy stereotyping gets thrown around in the media generally and the most I can say is that I try not to engage in it myself and wish that others would do the same.

    Amir – I agree that antisemitic views are expressed more than they used to be. I am not sure whether it’s because more people feel antisemitic, or whether it’s that people who previously wouldn’t have said anything antisemitic for fear of being frozen out socially now feel that they can if they label it anti-Zionist/Israel criticism instead. I don’t consider that criticism of Israel is of itself antisemitic, I just think that there are some people who use it as a vehicle for racism just as others (sometimes even the same people) use Islamic “extremists” as an excuse for vilifying all Muslims and everything Islamic.

  42. alan — on 21st May, 2006 at 5:06 pm  

    In William Dalrymple’s “From the Holy Mountain” (pages 339 – 334) he describes a visit to a shrine at Beit Jala that was attended by both Muslims and Christians (and in the past by Jews). At the shrine the Orthodox Christians venerated St George, the Muslims and Arab Christians venerated Khidr(‘the green one’ in Arabic), and the Jews at one time venerated the prophet Elias.

    Dalrymple goes on to say that St. George appears to have been a Christian Legionnary from Palestine, martyred for refusing to pray to the old Gods, probably during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian.

  43. fridgemagnet — on 21st May, 2006 at 7:11 pm  

    You know, I didn’t know that Joseph Harker wasn’t white, but really, it wouldn’t make any difference to my comments had I known – based on the terms that he used, indistinguishable from other examples of class warfare, I think class and social politics have far more to do with the attitude displayed than anything to do with colour. *sarcasm on* A great victory for anti-racism, when anyone can put the working classes down regardless of the colour of their skin! Anyone can join the establishment! *sarcasm off*

    It does put some of the “self-loathing” comments left on the article into an interesting perspective though. I have a feeling that if they’d known he wasn’t white, they wouldn’t have used that phrase. But why? Social class is considerably more significant in terms of prejudice than ethnic background is IMO. (The exacerbating point there, of course, is that ethnic background is used to exclude people from certain social classes, compounding the issue.)

  44. El Cid — on 21st May, 2006 at 7:56 pm  

    “Self-hating liberal fuck”
    Whoever said that is spot on.
    This article was prejudiced anti-working class drivel from a middle-class limp-lettuce nonce.
    We’ve touched on white working class alienation in the past, mainly in the context of the BNP’s recent blip but also more generally. Shite like this — deeply held class prejudices that are fomented by Britain’s private/public educational apartheid and pervade large swathes of the establishment like an unchecked cancer — are at the heart of it.
    Course it’s flipping football. They are selling England flags in all the Asian-run garages, promoting ‘em like crazy.
    Just like the Christmas adverts starting earlier and earlier, so the World Cup bumph is being churned out even before the domestic season has ended.
    If you want to moan about something, moan about the relentless commercialisation and marketing of 2ist century capitalism.
    What a cunt!!!!!
    I may be a bit foreign but I’m still salt-of-the-earth material and have long detected and despised this self-hating snobbishness that time and again lets large chunks of the British liberal middle classes down. Just like racism, it is pure ignorance.
    I’ve said my piece.

  45. El Cid — on 21st May, 2006 at 7:57 pm  

    Good choice of article to highlight Sunny.

  46. Rakhee — on 21st May, 2006 at 8:45 pm  

    I cannot believe Harker has written this and that we are debating it to such degree. It makes me ill to think that somewhere out there (because of Harker’s comments), the BNP and their supporters are rubbing their hands together with glee as yet again, they have managed to stir more race debates in mainstream media.

    Sunny, I understand why you’ve written about this, but spare a thought for some people (including me) who before today would have seen the flag and thought ‘can’t wait for the football to start’ and now will think ‘is the person holding it a bloody racist?’.

  47. Dave Hill — on 21st May, 2006 at 10:07 pm  

    I agree with Katy Newton that the furious reaction to J.H.’s piece could have been avoided had he asked his question in a different way. Or, in fact, made the whole piece more of a question than it ended up being. I should say straight off that I’m a friend of Joseph (and a CiF contributor like Sunny). Even so, I want to defend him against the many CiF commenters who called him and his piece ‘racist’. He isn’t. I think I’d have spotted it by now when he and his family have entertained me – who’s ‘pure’ white English enough to satisfy even Nick Griffin – and my family round to his house for Sunday dinners (we exchange Christmas cards and everything, you know!). I reckon it is still valid for ethnic minority peoples and even white liberal-lefties like me to be a bit wary about displays of nationalist fervour, given the history of such things here and England football’s xenophobic hooligan element past. At the same time, it is true that the English flag has different connotations from the British one, which UK fascists have always favoured. And it is also true that the meaning of that flag – any flag – is neither fixed nor necessarily hostile. It is, in fact, contested and it’s a contest I hope the good forces of anti-racism win. Best Wishes.

  48. Ravi4 — on 21st May, 2006 at 10:12 pm  

    OK, I’ve calmed down enough to notice that my Jackie Mason analogy doesn’t really say what I meant to say. Which is that when we criticise people who’re different from us, it’s wise to tread carefully because (a) we don’t have the instinctive understanding of all the factors behind their behaviour that we have of people more similar to us; (b) there’s a risk of our criticism being misunderstood as a categorical prejudice (like racism); (c) there’s a risk that our criticism really is a categorical prejudice (like racism) due to eg our lack of understanding of the type of people concerned. But I don’t mean to say we should avoid criticising people who’re different from us.

    Amir – I see you’ve swallowed a politics text book again. If I remember my history right, the kind of nation state you’re talking about started emerging round about the 15th Century, began to solidify around the time of the Peace of Westphalia in the 17th Century, and then really took off in the 19th Century. And that’s in Europe – elsewhere I think the concept only took off as European imperialism arrived and/or ended. So in historical terms the nation-state is not that ancient. So why fetishise it so much?

    But I think you’ve slightly misinterpreted my point. I’m not predicting or advocating the end of the nation-state. I’m only saying the ties that bind nation states now are beginning to go beyond (and may be starting to exclude) the traditional ethnic-type ties. That doesn’t preclude songs, dances, cuisine, dress, symbols etc etc being part of those ties (although for the UK those national characteristics are now very different to what they used to be – arguably r&b/drum and base, clubbing, curry, jeans etc). But in a complex changing society like ours, I reckon Govt should concentrate on ensuring the population has the basics – learning a common language, understanding rights and responsibilities under UK law etc – which will encourage and enable them to understand and take part in shaping those indicators of national identity as they emerge out of the ongoing discourse of an open and free society.

    I agree with El Cid – great choice of article by Sunny.

  49. Jay Singh — on 21st May, 2006 at 10:12 pm  

    Dave Hill

    I hardly think that people waving the flag in the run up to the World Cup can in any way be described or seen as pernicious ‘nationalist fever’. It takes some level of disconnect from the street and the real world to see the smiles on peoples faces and the perfectly innocent flags of St George on cars and in windows as being anything other than anticipation of the excited communal experience of the World Cup.

  50. Old Pickler — on 21st May, 2006 at 10:28 pm  

    with Old Pickler repeatedly stating that Muslims should stop being silly …

    Well everyone should stop being silly, shouldn’t they? Not just Muslims, anyone else who is silly.

    Give up Islam? Well, personally I think that would be a good idea, just as I thought it was a good idea for people to give up communism, which by and large they did. So what?

    I wondered about all these flags, but what is it about the English flag that is specifically white? The flag, like the country belongs to the people who live in it, whatever colour they are. There is nothing racist about it. In any case, it’s probably more to do with football, so I could, if I were silly, argue that it discriminates against women or rugby fans.

    As for the BNP, yes they are small numbers, but yes, they are worrying.

  51. Amir — on 21st May, 2006 at 10:30 pm  

    Sunny, a rejoinder to comment 33 [And to anyone else who is interested in the cult of multiculturalism]

    (a) Let me be frank. Unlike yourself and many others on this blog, I am not a starry-eyed left-wing idealist. On the contrary, I am one of those crude rarities: I’m socially, morally, and politically conservative [although, to be honest, I feel no connection with David Blameron or the so-called ‘Tory’ party]. For me, conservatism is realistic, honest, consistent, and opposed to cant. It does not seek perfection, but it does try to be principled. And one of those principles is active citizenship via institutional patriotism. It is in no way compatible with multiculturalism. Now let me tell you why.

    (b) For starters, I am not ‘opposed’ to immigration per se [notice: there’s a big difference between an outright hostility toward new incomers and a sober analysis of unchecked immigration and its likely social consequences]. As a conservative, I uphold the following on immigration: (a) strict quotas (economic and/or geopolitical realities may warrant a review of this x number); (b) I support a rigorous and carefully-thought-out program of cultural assimilation; and (c) I want to see a new selection procedure based on ‘merit’ and ‘need’ (i.e. victims of famine/genocide/totalitarianism should be given preferential consideration).

    (c) Unchecked immigration is a threat to our laws and our traditions. Multiculturalism is the political expression of unchecked immigration (‘unchecked’ can also mean unassimilated). It has been allowed to dominate our contemporary discourse through the cultural Marxism known as ‘political correctness’. Traditions are important because they supply the glue that cements us together – they allow us to communicate and co-operate in the same public spaces. We should be anxious, terrified, and frustrated, and we could not live in the social world, did it not contain a considerable amount of order, a great number of regularities to which we can adjust ourselves.

    (d) I believe in a society governed by patriotism and the rule of law, which I see as the best guarantee of liberty. A decline in social cohesion will inevitably lead to a strong state (i.e. legal boundaries on speech and expression, an unfree press, repressive laws on protesting and protestors, gated communities, ID cards, and so on). Without ‘Britishness’ (and increasingly we are without it) vital things die: civility, morality, restraint, language, and kindness. You can’t achieve these things via legislation alone. It takes years of dialogue and incremental cultural change to nurture these bonds of social trust and camaraderie. The self-pitiful and somewhat puerile response of many European Moslems to the Danish cartoon scandal is a case in point. Lest we forget, it was those arrogant Danish mullahs who hawked those cartoons around the Middle East until it provoked a violent and visceral response against their own country and fellow countrymen. An absolute disgrace.

    Contradiction #1 You say: The country has done a good job in instilling a sense of nationality, and one I believed should be relevant here

    I agree. So why, then, try to stunt its development? Current versions of identity politics are based on collective identity as ‘victims’, which, in turn, encourages competition about which group has suffered most (Nick Cohen, by the way, made this exact point in his BNP/RESPECT article). The doctrine of multiculturalism reinforces the politics of separate and ‘unfettered’ identities. This is not fertile ground for asking people to mobilize on behalf of their fellow countrymen.

    Contradiction #2 You also said: The sense of being American and being in it together ties people together. That is what I’d like to see here.

    And how do you reconcile this with your views on multiculturalism? America is a bad example because it explicitly supports my argument. America does not allow a vacuum where national identity should be, but fills the void with Americanness.

    Awaiting your reply with baited breath (if you have a reply) :-)
    Amir

  52. Sunny — on 21st May, 2006 at 10:35 pm  

    There were a few reasons why I highlighted this article.

    My main point was to say that, as I see it, Joseph is trying to ask tricky questions about race, openly. “Is that person carrying the St George’s flag, when the BNP is around, racist?” That is a question many black and Asian would probably have asked in the last few days. And it has been asked on other forums, as I’ve highlighted above.

    Maybe he should have phrased certain things differently. I would have disagreed on the BNP connotations anyway, but with not so much vitriol.

    The other reason I highlighted this was because it shows how different people see different symbols. The accusations of racist are hilarious, and that is also my point – it isn’t just brown or black people who are used to throwing the word around casually.

    Dave, thanks for your comments, much needed I thought.
    even white liberal-lefties like me to be a bit wary about displays of nationalist fervour
    In my view this is all that Joseph is doing.

    Katy – agree with all of what you have said.

    Tomahawk:
    they’re assuming that whites are as self-consciously political about race as they are, but for the most part that’s not true.

    True, but then it isn’t surprising who are the most politicised about race – those who perceive injustices because of race: black, asian and white working class people.

    because he was extrapolating political opinions and prejudices from another group’s skin colour,
    That’s like saying if you say make any negative assumptions about Muslims from a certain area – you are being Islamophobic ;)

    But is it really so surprising that some disgruntled whites in polarised areas, having seen the success that ethnic and religious lobbies have had with identity politics, have decided to go in for a bit of it themselves?

    HEre is my point Tomahawk – I don’t see how identity politics have actually done much to give blacks or asians any extra benefits. In fact it has only led to an entrenchment of the victim mentality with some groups. But nevertheless, engaging in identity politics is very different voting for a party with fascist / race supremacist leanings. They did not vote Tory which stands for the opposite of this indentity politics gravy train. They voted for a racist party. That is a big jump, and not much of the press have asked – “isn’t this jump a bit too big? Could these people just be racist anyway?” But no one wants to ask that question.

  53. Jay Singh — on 21st May, 2006 at 10:46 pm  

    I don’t see how identity politics have actually done much to give blacks or asians any extra benefits.

    That’s the whole point.

    No group now needs ‘extra benefits’.

    The playing field has been levelled in terms of legislation. The fact that Asians and black people succeed despite residual prejudice in society means that there ARE opportunities to succeed in a fair society.

    Asian and black communities need to start addressing the internal barriers that hold them back now, and identity politics does nothing to help with that, in fact it does the opposite, it entrenches the victim mentality that leads to a vicious circle.

    As well as all of this petty selfish victim mongering and begging, what Asian communities do not need is atavistic politics dealing with the ‘Motherland’ and other ethnic-religious conflicts to be brought into play as a political concern making lives here contingent on what is happening in India, Pakistan or the Middle East.

  54. Dave Hill — on 21st May, 2006 at 11:57 pm  

    Jay Singh. Sorry if I was unclear. My point is that the fervour the flag expresses is, as you say, not neccessarily pernicious. It’s just that in the wrong hands and mouths it has been in the past, which is not something you easily forget. In 1988, for instance, I followed England fans in Germany where the European Championships were held that year. Of course, most behaved perfectly well. But one lunchtime in Stuttgart a bunch of them took over some high ground in the city centre, did a few rousing choruses of God Save The Queen then commenced to ‘Seig Heil’ with all their might until the police moved in, though not before a few of ‘our boys’ had chased a terrified black lad down the street. One last thought before I fall asleep: the reduction in nasty behaviour by England fans does seem to have broadly coincided with the flag of StGeorge being adopted in place of the Union Jack. Coincidence? Dunno. But worth thinking about…

  55. Tomahawk — on 22nd May, 2006 at 12:12 am  

    Sunny:

    That’s like saying if you say make any negative assumptions about Muslims from a certain area – you are being Islamophobic

    Well it might be — if you accept that race and religion are analogous. I don’t, so I guess the analogy loses its force. Race is about skin colour, which you can’t change. Religion is about ideas, which you can. So, not the same thing.

    Jay:

    As well as all of this petty selfish victim mongering and begging, what Asian communities do not need is atavistic politics dealing with the ‘Motherland’ and other ethnic-religious conflicts to be brought into play as a political concern making lives here contingent on what is happening in India, Pakistan or the Middle East.

    Precisely. The leaders of ethnic and religious lobby groups are rarely elected by the social groups they claim to represent. These leaders largely decide what is in their “communities’” interests, and that may not be what those community members themselves believe. That shouldn’t surprise us: it’s easier to rant about Iraq, Israel and Kashmir than it is to deal with poverty among British-born Bangladeshis. Identity politics have enabled a leadership cadre to acquire power, status, and sometimes money, but they don’t achieve much for ordinary blacks and Asians (just as the BNP’s identity politics won’t achieve anything for poor whites).

    In a generation, I think people will look back and realise that the Left made a terrible mistake in going down the identity-politics path. Friction and injustice are built into identity politics, and while that has often provided fertile ground for the Right — what are nationalism and racism if not identity politics? — they provide very little basis for a truly egalitarian and emancipatory politics. Instead, they allow grievance-peddlars and influence-seekers to set groups against one another, with ordinary people paying the price.

  56. Sunny — on 22nd May, 2006 at 12:33 am  

    if you accept that race and religion are analogous. I don’t, so I guess the analogy loses its force

    No it doesn’t, because the analogy is about “extrapolating political opinions and prejudices from another group” – that could apply to skin colour, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion or class.

  57. Old Pickler — on 22nd May, 2006 at 12:43 am  

    Religion is freely chosen, though, like political allegiance. The others aren’t.

  58. Tomahawk — on 22nd May, 2006 at 1:04 am  

    I always distinguish Islamism from Islam. This is a matter of public record, preserved in the archives at Harry’s Place.

    However, I also distinguish between ‘hard’ Islamism and ‘soft’ Islamism (the latter is a term I use frequently, to describe some of the people involved in RESPECT, for instance). The difference largely concerns means rather than ends, although even with the latter there may be some differences. I don’t think it’s any exaggeration at all to say that ‘soft’ Islamism has achieved worrying levels of support among British (and, indeed, European) Muslims. The increasing popularity of RESPECT is one indicator of this, and another is polling evidence that shows… ah, hang on a minute, remember what happened the last time I cited a poll to you, Sunny? ;)

  59. Sunny — on 22nd May, 2006 at 1:17 am  

    Religion is freely chosen, though, like political allegiance. The others aren’t.

    This doesn’t mean there cannot be prejudice. Part of the Euston Manifesto itsel is dedicated to the rabid anti-Americanism in the British press and the mad stances that some take against the US. I assume you’ll be telling David T et al that one should not make a big deal about anti-American or anti-Israeli prejudice because nationality can be changed.

    Tomahawk – haha at polls!
    Of course, there are nuances. But I’m talking about prejudice full stop, not trying to break it down into what is changeable and what isn’t. Why should anyone feel the need to change their identity just because others tell them to.

  60. Average White Bloke — on 22nd May, 2006 at 2:54 am  

    @ John Browne.

    A couple of innacuracies in your world:

    In Comment No 15 you said:

    De Vinci code’s lies against opus dei.

    The DVC is a work of fiction designed to earn the author a few quid and is not any kind of factual document that tells you how you should live your life. It has much in common with your bible.

    In Comment No 17 you said:

    The Cross of Saint George is NOT (historially) ENGLISH its norman (those hated french)!

    The Normans weren’t French, they were mostly Viking. Look up the etymology of the word Norman. You may gain some wisdom.

    @ Don.

    Your Comment No. 21 is spot on but anyone quoting Hicks is always smart enough to be spot on.

    Meanwhile, the flag/national identity issue:

    The whole deal is about control. Flags are just a rallying point for leaders when the proles get a bit uppity just as they were when they were used as a rallying point for soldiers in a battle. Sadly though, the worst countries tend get the best designs.

    A good exercise for anyone is to look at old maps just to see how much and how often national boundaries change. Borders, like flags, are just symbols of power and change as often as our leaders deem it convenient.

    Race issues are the same deal; a symbolic method for leaders to point at a group and blame them when it’s convenient. Magicians call it misdirection. New Labour calls it a good day to bury bad news. The Nazis called it propaganda.

    The rule is simple. Never trust anyone waving a flag whilst talking about policies or aportioning blame.

  61. Amir — on 22nd May, 2006 at 3:07 am  

    Average White Bloke,
    ‘The rule is simple. Never trust anyone waving a flag whilst talking about policies or aportioning blame.’

    Well, I think that rather depends on what this ‘person’ is saying, ‘who’ he/she is blaming, and for ‘what’ reason(s). Framing a political problem within a patriotic discourse isn’t always an appeal to chest-thumping jingoism. I think you need to be more specific. Without context, these so-called ‘rules’ are just platitudes.

  62. John Browne — on 22nd May, 2006 at 7:03 am  

    AWB,
    Its quasi-racist to say the Normans were not French. They spoke French and had French manners.

    Opus Dei is not in the bible lol. Its an Organisation that includes RUTH KELLY amongst its ahderents. They are not normally concidered evil villians in 2006 (perhaps 1966).

  63. Average White Bloke — on 22nd May, 2006 at 11:09 am  

    Amir,

    I was generalising but my point stands. I can’t recall seeing a racist that doesn’t wrap themselves in a flag.

    John Browne,

    Racist, my arse. The Vikings that invaded the northern areas of the British Isles were still Vikings. Why would that make them less, er, Vikingish?

    And talking of racism, what the **** are “French manners”? Onions on bikes, stripey shirts and berets? You talk a lot of merde, mon ami.

    Now, let’s deal with Opus Dei. I didn’t say that OD were in the bible so please don’t misquote me. I did say that the book/film about OD has much in common with the bible in that it’s a highly innacurate rendering of history and hasn’t harmed the bank balances of associated people and organisations.

    Oh, and having a hign profile member that refuses to condemn OD’s homophobia makes it less than god-perfect in my reckoning. On the other hand, she’s not important in OD because supernumaries like her are just breeding machines. It’s the autoflagellating numeraries that worry me the most. Go read about OD for yourself.

    Any more questions?

  64. sonia — on 22nd May, 2006 at 11:17 am  

    ” (b) I support a rigorous and carefully-thought-out program of cultural assimilation; ”

    “institutional patriotism”

    erm mate – you’re starting to sound like a nazi or a neo-con or an islamist – they all have something in common – its called fascism. your statements reek of fascism. institutinal patriotism -what the hell is that?! active citizenship – no mate – its called inactive do-what-you’re told-you’re-one-of-us-so-better-listen-and-not-ask-too-many questions.

    !!

  65. sonia — on 22nd May, 2006 at 11:20 am  

    seriously this is so disturbing. people spout that kind of stuff and then wonder why other people in the world can’t ‘reform’ or get out of the habit of ‘dodgy practices’ – hello?? maybe its cause they’re so busy being ‘institutionally patriotic’ aka conforming – and not able to ask questions, because they might end up being ‘excluded’ from their society. oh yes and we all know what happens to them – yes they go somewhere else and then the shouting starts up again – why aren’t you more like the masses you find yourself surrounded with now?

  66. Ravi Naik — on 22nd May, 2006 at 12:13 pm  

    “Is that person carrying the St George’s flag, when the BNP is around, racist?

    That makes as much sense as wondering whether a white person with no hair is a racist, because you know, the skinheads. Or wondering if a guy with a turban, brown skin and a beard is a terrorist because you know, Osama Bin Laden is around. Or that a hindu swastika is offensive to jews, because some german nutcase decided to use it as a symbol to his evil enterprise.

    And given that we all support freedom of speech, it is good thing to express our outrage at stupid race-bating questions.

  67. Ravi Naik — on 22nd May, 2006 at 12:24 pm  

    “…. I am a Catholic, but I can see that I am a minority that is being abused daily in the media (De Vinci code’s lies against opus dei is the tip of a huge iceberg).”

    I am Catholic as well and I get more offended by the Vatican’s covering of peadophile priests, demonizing homosexuals and its view on sexuality and condom-use in Africa, than fictional work based on a French hoax.

    At least, one thing is true: that we are still far off understanding who was the historic Jesus. Although his teachings have passed the test of time.

  68. John Browne — on 22nd May, 2006 at 1:14 pm  

    AWB,
    Your remark about Normans is the same as saying “Northerner’s arn’t english, they are scandenavians”. Race and nationality are seperate.
    For sure Northerners are twice my size and I only understand about one in four of their words. So what?

    Ravi Naik ,
    Why should religion change to suite society? Surely if religion is wrong it should be clearly wrong, and not ducking and diving saying “oh we don’t mean that we mean something totally new now – this is 2006″. I’m with the atheists, muslims and orthodox christians (of all sects) – its ever wrong or its right – its not a 2006 groovy happening event (aka some CofE churches).

    Opus Dei is a group, very similiar to gestalt psychology groups; apparently you get a “guide” to help you become a better person.

    John

  69. El Cid — on 22nd May, 2006 at 1:31 pm  

    I do get the impression that Sunny and Dave Hill are avoiding a key issue for many people here: this article was deeply classist, deeply prejudiced and ignorant, and offensive.

  70. TottenhamLad — on 22nd May, 2006 at 2:11 pm  

    Didn’t Joseph Harker write this as well in the Guardian:

    “…As a black man, I admit I am bound to suffer from prejudices of my own. I cannot be racist…”
    Of course all white people are racist 2002 July 23rd

  71. Ravi Naik — on 22nd May, 2006 at 2:12 pm  

    John, religion is dictated by community leaders. There is nothing about the Churche’s position on women as clergy, homosexuality or sex for that matter that goes against any of Jesus Christ’s teachings.

    I was tutored by Opus Dei before getting to college. I was 17 years old at that time, and after my 1-hour lesson, I would go to the Opus Dei priest for Catholic guidance. Nothing special to report, except that one time where he told me that in my age (17!) it was normal to start noticing women’s legs.

    After a night of sex and getting high with my gf, I did realize that he was right. Never noticed how women legs are a wonder to look at. :)

  72. John Browne — on 22nd May, 2006 at 6:44 pm  

    Ravi,
    You said:
    “There is nothing about the Churche’s position on women as clergy, homosexuality or sex for that matter that goes against any of Jesus Christ’s teachings.”

    I’d say, even though there is some truth in what you say (eg in the gospel Jesus was quite happy to discuss theology with a woman who had about 5 previous husbands and was currently simply ‘living’ with someone), you have missed some of the point. Jesus could have had a woman apostle but at the last supper (the 1st mass) it was 12 men. It takes something away from his obvious radicalism to merely say he was a product of his environment. That fact that he did not have a woman apostle of course does not mean that women cannot be apostles (priests) but it also, by the same token, does not mean that is what the jesus of the gospels wanted. Religion does not have to be modern and go ahead (although it can be). the jury is still out.

  73. Jai — on 22nd May, 2006 at 6:51 pm  

    Some would say that Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’ apostles (and emotionally closer to him than all the others), even if ultimately her writings weren’t included in the “authorised” version of The Bible…..

  74. Ravi Naik — on 22nd May, 2006 at 7:25 pm  

    “Jesus could have had a woman apostle but at the last supper (the 1st mass) it was 12 men.”

    John, Mary Magdalene was portrayed as a prostitute not long ago by the Church. However now Church has been forced to state that there is actually no evidence about that.

    Even more, gnostic scriptures were found that shed new light about the historic Jesus, including as Jai pointed out, the gospel according to Mary Magdalene, which shows that she had a prominent place among the disciples.

    But the Church logic is a bit flawed, in the sense that if women are not allowed, then they should not allow non-jews males either.

    I figure that Jesus was a liberal by all measures, and is not being well-represented by this ultra-conservative Church.

  75. John Browne — on 22nd May, 2006 at 8:32 pm  

    Ravi and Jai,
    you said:
    “But the Church logic is a bit flawed, in the sense that if women are not allowed, then they should not allow non-jews males either.

    This is going to sound a bit rude to jews but Catholics now concider themselves to be the OFFICIAL Jewish religion. Spinoza (Jewish) was quite happy to see Jesus as a natural progression. The Chief rabbi in rome IMMEDIATELY AFTER WW2 became a Catholic.

    Religion is ultra conservative but it does not mean that progressives cannot be happy being conservative too.

    A prime example?

    What about Peter Benenson? He founded Amnesty International. In 1958 he CONVERTED to become a Roman Catholic (he was born Jewish) and soon after started AI.

    John

  76. John Browne — on 22nd May, 2006 at 8:34 pm  

    ..sorry I should have put a link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Benenson

    John

  77. Ravi4 — on 22nd May, 2006 at 9:12 pm  

    Amir – For a pro-American Patriot, your plan for assimilation looks very French! And not very appetising.

    America seems to me the most multicultural, racially differentiated society I’ve ever visited. Hispanics, blacks, Irish catholics, Italians, Jews, Cubans, WASPS etc etc. Communal identity seems pretty alive in America to me. US national identity specifically allows for communal identity too. That’s not necessarily a good thing.

    Multiculturalism has had benefits for the UK and for the ethnic communities, even if communalism, identity politics, unaccountable community leaders etc are major downsides.

    Ravi

  78. peter — on 22nd May, 2006 at 10:10 pm  

    I think Joseph Harker is a very poor writer – and like most bad writers, hasn’t anticipated the questions his (so-called) article raises, or argued his position well enough for it to be remotely credible. Moreover, he will almost definitely never be a good writer judging by the rest of his work, and therefore must only have this good job at Guardian Comment for some other reason – like, perhaps his guilt-tripping racialised grievance cobblers weaved fateful magic on some sap in the Guardian’s human resources dept.

  79. John Browne — on 23rd May, 2006 at 9:13 pm  

    Ravi and Jai,
    Sorry to go on (off topic as well).
    I just want to say I have changed my mind and I am now
    coming round to your view point (slightly De Vinci).

    I’ve now read the LAST SUPPER passages in the gospels and looked up some ancient Jewish stuff.

    1. Women, apparently, are not mentioned in bible stories unless the story relates to them directly.

    2. Thus when a meal is made for husbands (Peter was married and its a traditional Jewish “Passover Meal” ) one would have to assume women were present unless it explicitly says they are not present.

    3. Thus, I think it fair to say, using the last supper (the first mass) as an example of a Jesus meal that ‘excludes’ women to hi-light a Aristotalian Theological/Philosophical point, is possibly (or even probably) wrong.

    …thus you’re possibly/probably right and I was possibly/probably wrong

    Carry On.
    John

  80. El Cid — on 23rd May, 2006 at 9:42 pm  

    You know when someone asks an innocent question from a completely untainted perspective and unwittingly casts a fresh light on an issue? I’ve had one of those moments this evening. It made me think of you.
    Mi querida mama — who has come to visit for a few days, fresh off the olive oil and jamon boat — was the source. Earlier today, she was down the West End, where she volunteered the following question to my older sister: “What’s with all these flags — is it something to do with the Red Cross?”
    Apart from the obvious faux pax (I think she is more used to the Union Jack), the fact of the matter was that she was slightly confused by the sheer number of St George flags she saw on cars, even though the World Cup was some weeks away.
    After my sister had had her fun recounting all this to me, I pressed my mum on what she thought of it all. Her answer was that she was a little jealous that there wasn’t the same sporting and patriotic unity of purpose back home in Spain.
    Take from that what you will.

  81. Galloise Blonde — on 23rd May, 2006 at 10:26 pm  

    As a rather unpleasant coda to this discussion, did you all see that an Afghan man was stabbed and left for dead in Barking wrapped in a…St George’s Cross flag? Link.

  82. Sunny — on 23rd May, 2006 at 11:36 pm  

    Her answer was that she was a little jealous that there wasn’t the same sporting and patriotic unity of purpose back home in Spain.

    I wonder if Britons are becoming more patriotic. I wonder if there is something in that.

  83. Jay Singh — on 24th May, 2006 at 12:30 am  

    El Cid

    But isn’t Spain quite disunited in a way that England is not? With the Catalan, Basques etc, many of them don’t even see themselves as Spanish, isn’t that the case?

  84. El Cid — on 24th May, 2006 at 8:31 am  

    I think that is a fair Jay, and yes I suspect that was in the back of her head. I think another factor influencing her also was the political disunity shown in Spain after 11-M , in contrast to Britain after 7/7 – something talked about a lot in Spain.
    Nonetheless, 1) she noticed the flags enough to pass comment 2)thought it odd and was easily confused because the World Cup connection wasn’t THAT obvious, 3)but didn’t see anything sinister in it.
    I think there is something there for everyone!

  85. Amir — on 24th May, 2006 at 2:53 pm  

    Sonia
    I think you’ve got a lot of gusto. And after reading your passionate defence of Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the previous thread, I believe that we have more in common than respective stereotypes suggest. I am also aware that you do some valuable work for a green charity. For this, I have nothing but respect. So please forgive me for what I am about to say:

    (I) erm mate – you’re starting to sound like a nazi or a neo-con or an islamist – they all have something in common – its called fascism.

    This is an example of lazy name-calling. And it shows an intellectual stubbornness on your part. To equate Neoconservatives with Nazis or Islamic extremists is about as accurate as trying to equate dogs with hyenas. Wolfowitz/Kristol/Stelzer believe in a muscular foreign policy that attempts to instigate a democratic transformation in the Middle East and beyond (the so-called ‘silver bullet’). Notwithstanding the cynical use of WMD as a ‘casus belli’, there were cogent reasons for invading Iraq and dismantling the apparatus of a cruel, belligerent, and self-serving tyranny. [Note: Sonia, did it ever occur to you that the Neocons were supporting a war against fascism?]

    Of course, I am horrified at the way the post-war reconstruction has been handled by an incompetent and arrogant Bush administration – but still, if I look at how many more people were dying in Iraq as a result of UN sanctions (which I can only describe as a ‘multilaterally-imposed death-sentence’), the original decision to go to war – and it is a decision I do not take lightly – made a lot more sense than standing by with patient watchfulness as an Uday/Qusay dynasty came to power. Why is this so difficult for the anti-war lobby to cognitize? It is also curious that the Iraqi Kurds and Shias do not agree with their anti-war ‘comrades’ in Europe or elsewhere – the same Iraqis, let me remind you, who are living in a vortex of violence and hatred and destabilization. The world is a cruel, ugly, and brutish place – and it often takes a nasty, brutish war to remove a psychopathic fiend whose fiendish divide-and-rule legacy claimed the lives of nearly 1.2 million people. The selfishness and barely-concealed hypocrisy of Chirac and Putin made it less likely that the UN would find an amicable alternative to war (i.e. smart sanctions, new ‘no fly-zones’, patrolled borders, etc.).

    (II) your statements reek of fascism.

    How? If blogging had its own odour, then yours would reek of ‘misguided contempt’. My favourite piece of literature and, indeed, the most influential book in my life is George Orwell’s 1984, and it is why I support the concept of a minimal state. The founders of fascism have grown up in a very different school-of-thought. They seek the good in ‘will’ rather than in feeling or cognition; they value power more than happiness; they prefer force to argument, aristocracy to democracy, propaganda to scientific impartiality. To put it in a nutshell: they value unfettered state power.

    (III) institutinal patriotism -what the hell is that?!

    I’m trying to get an article published on this exact question, so it’s imperative I keep quiet lest I get plagiarised by the plagiarising scum who visit this site. So here are a few arrows to point you in the right direction: a new Constitution or ‘bill’ of citizen rights, stricter border controls, national history taught rigorously at schools, communal experiences and holidays, more direct democracy, etc.

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