Strangers in our own land

Strangers in our own land


Written by: Ryan Erfani-Ghettani

The close relationship between the English Defence League and sections of the media, at a time of growing nationalism, points to new dangers.

An ideology of white victimhood is gaining ground. Alongside the media and politicians’ sustained attacks on multiculturalism and immigration has come a call to promote British culture and to defend British jobs. This new-found national pride portrays Britain under threat – from external influences, liberal over-tolerance and an authoritarian egalitarianism.  According to politicians and the press, England must be defended.

Such an embrace of Britishness puts a group like the English Defence League in prime position to be accepted into the respectable fold (if only it were to curb its members’ more unpleasant connections to overt violence). Yet it is precisely the attacks on multiculturalism, the emphasis on ‘the immigration problem’ and its impact on unemployment, and the demonisation of Asian men that create the climate for the EDL to thrive.

The link between the right-wing press and the far Right is most obvious in the way scare stories in the papers go on to appear on the blog of Casuals United (CU). CU is formed of football ‘firms’ sympathetic to the EDL’s mission and has a similar set of views on Islam and British democracy, although the blog firmly states that it is not the same as the EDL. It does, however, regularly feature EDL events and news relating to EDL members and supporters. Stories are regularly presented by the blog’s administrators and contributors, covering themes such as ‘radical Islam’, Muslim/Asian paedophile rings and anti-white violence, taken directly from press campaigns that present white Britain as under threat from or failed by institutions that are biased against white victims.

For instance, the CU blog bemoans a trend of ‘“Asian” [read Muslim, usually of Pakistani heritage] grooming gangs’ who have ‘been allowed to get on with it by a PC establishment’.[1] Readers of the blog are then directed to a source such as the Daily Mail, corroborating the existence of this subterranean non-white phenomenon, legitimising CU’s interest and providing the grounds for targeted action.[2] The press provides the far Right with the ‘facts on the ground’ to prove that justice works against the white British. Although the papers cannot be held responsible for the actions of their extremist readers, the use of technological innovation to disseminate information gives today’s far Right the capacity to draw issues to the immediate attention of a sympathetic group of dedicated activists. This gets translated into far-right action, either in campaigning or demonstrating – thus effectively turning groups such as the EDL into an army of foot-soldiers in the battles identified by the press.

Reverse racism

The CU and Britain First, a breakaway from the British National Party, have both recently taken to campaigning over ‘white victims’ of racism, a theme picked up first in the press. In the wake of the conviction of two of Stephen Lawrence’s racist murderers, the result of an eighteen-year struggle for justice on the part of the victim’s parents, the far Right is angry that while the criminal justice system rallies to support  black victims of racism, white victims are ignored. Now that white on black murders have been put right and consigned to the past, the narrative goes, it is time to focus on ‘reverse racism’. A clear example of the reverse racism thesis in action is the case of Rhea Page, a white girl whose story was taken up by the Daily Mail after she was beaten up by three Muslim girls.[3]. The attackers received six-month suspended sentences.

The case was brought to the attention of the CU blog’s followers via a reproduced Daily Mail story which ran the headline: ‘Girl gang who kicked woman in the head while yelling “kill the white slag” freed after judge hears “they weren’t used to drinking because they’re Muslims”’. The EDL then organised a demonstration in Leicester on 4 February 2012, to ‘voice anger’; according to CU, the white working class suffers at the hands of an institutionalised ‘political correctness’ which permeates the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. The rallying cry around Rhea Page is an attempt to bring to light a perceived double standard: ‘In the Stephen Lawrence case one witness said they heard the word “nigger”, nobody knows which defendant said it and yet everybody is more than happy to call it a racist attack so why not this one?’[4] CU also published the details of the Crown Prosecution Service and encouraged people to complain about the sentences.[5] Responding to a statement from the Ministry of Justice stating that racist attacks will result in longer sentences, the drive behind EDL activity is made clear: ‘Shame this didnt apply in the Rhea Page Leicester attack then isnt it? Then again, she’s only a white person. Shes not important. [sic]’[6]

The CU blog  presents stories of white victims of racism as though such attacks were unceasing. A case recently taken up was first reported nationally in the Daily Mail which focused on the beating of 17-year-old Daniel Stringer-Prince in Hyde, Manchester, by four Asian teenagers in February 2012.[7] The story, coming so soon after the Lawrence verdict, implied that the difference between Lawrence’s murder and the attack on Stringer is that now the victim is white.

What is unmentioned in such reporting is that Lawrence’s murder involved institutional racism and incompetence by the police at every level, while Stringer-Prince’s attack resulted in immediate police action. In the press, racial violence is boiled down to a simple black/white victim/aggressor relationship; racism is between individual actors, and therefore just a matter of individual culpability.

Having constructed what is often a false equivalence (between white on black and black on white violence) the far Right go on to argue that white victims are somehow less newsworthy. This resulted in an EDL demonstration in Hyde, described as an exercise in ‘targeting the real causes of intolerance and hatred’.[8] The Stringer-Prince family urged the EDL to call off the demonstration, stating ‘it’s got nothing to do with us whatsoever … we don’t want this march to go ahead … it won’t make anything better it will just cause more problems.’[9]

Meanwhile Britain First has launched a campaign for ‘recognition for the British victims of racism’.[10] Its website described the murder of Stephen Lawrence as a ‘cause celebre of the liberal left … still being rammed down our throat … a 20-year witch-hunt while a multitude of British white victims of racist murders and attacks are completely ignored or marginalised’.[11] It has produced a poster and leaflets featuring the faces of white victims of ‘racist’ murders. The poster resulted in an angry backlash from some of the victims’ families, condemning it for appropriating the image of their dead relatives and wrongly interpreting the murder as having a racial element. Rob Knox, one of the victims whose image was used on the poster, was murdered in 2008. His murderer was jailed for life in 2009. Crucially, race was never mentioned as a factor in the murder during the trial. Rob’s father told Kent News, ‘My son was British and the guy that killed him was mixed-race, but he was British, too. It was not a racially charged attack.’

White victimhood in context

The reverse racism thesis betrays a sense of white victimhood that, here in the UK, in fact has very deep roots going back at least to Enoch Powell’s infamous story in his 1968 ‘Rivers of blood’ speech. He told of the left-behind white widow in an all-black Wolverhampton street ‘… becoming afraid to go out. Windows are broken. She finds excreta pushed through her letter box. When she goes to the shops, she is followed by children, charming, wide-grinning piccaninnies. They cannot speak English, but one word they know. “Racialist,” they chant…’ But the idea really took root in public consciousness during the 1980s campaign by the Thatcher government and the Thatcher press against the perverseness of ‘political correctness’.

A typical 1985 Daily Mail story ran like this: ‘Elderly white people on the estates are abused, spat on, terrorised, called pigs and scum and every single authority has let them down. Politicians don’t make stirring speeches about them, police do little to protect them. Journalists don’t write about them’.[12] This campaign to bring to light what was called the hidden strain of anti-white racism was dealt with in detail by an anti-racist analyst[13] who described the far Right, mainstream right-wing politicians and the press as being in cahoots against Britain’s immigrant and BME population:

‘The government is relying on the media to “market” not only specific policies, but the Thatcherite world view … By the mid-1980s Powell’s war had become Thatcher’s: his oppressed majority were preyed upon by the ever-enlarging ranks of the enemy within, and her press gendarmes had taken the offensive.’

While red-top editors were receiving knighthoods under Thatcher’s government, their campaigns were given legitimacy by Thatcher’s rhetoric: some British people were afraid of ‘being rather swamped by people of a different culture’.[14] According to her cadres in the press, the ‘loony left’ was intent on wiping out white British culture. It opened the doors to immigrants and supported positive discrimination that persecuted the ethnic majority.

Born out of Powellism and filtered through Thatcherism, the promotion of a sense of white victimhood was plainly racist, and attacks on the ‘loony left’ spoke to the fact that there was, at least, an opposing voice to popular and institutional racism. Following the promotion of local initiatives against entrenched inequalities such as the Greater London Council’s Anti-Racist Year, leftwing Labour-led councils bore the brunt of a heavy press campaign against them, in which they were portrayed as ‘nests of extremists who were simply using black people for their own political ends’.[15] Despite strident attempts from the Right to control and influence the national media there was still a defiant struggle being waged from town halls and a vocal anti-racist call to be heard at the grassroots.

The ideological line-up today is somewhat different – without that semi-official, even if derided, anti-racist voice and with new forms of ‘common sense’ racism contaminating the whole political spectrum from Blue Labour through Red Tory to Red, White and Blue fascists. Centre-ground politicians and the media are leading campaigns that back up racist tropes, and certain MPs, though condemning the visible violence of far-right Islamophobia, do little to challenge the wide-scale representation of influential xenophobic images. The press, since Thatcher’s cadres endowed it with so much legitimacy, has taken to the role of clarion caller and grown via corporate power into the force that can hold the outcome of elections in its gift. Labour was forced to pander to press dogma in order to attain government. A Left with the power to act against institutionalised racism was not a Left to be let into power. Today, forty-five years after Powell broke the ‘race’ taboo, his views on white victimhood appear normalised, mainstream even, in the hands of some sections of the right-wing media, influencing mainstream politics and helping, whether intentional or not, to recruit a street army: the EDL.

Drawing on the ‘threat’ of Islam

The EDL, of course, denies that it is a racist group,[16] but there is no doubt that it feeds off the discourse, that has grown massively since 9/11, which casts Muslim communities as alien to the culture and enemies of the nation. Government responses to terrorism have served to provoke general panic via the media, and to promote the dominant picture of the nation, in need of citizens willing to adopt the role of vigilant defenders of liberal freedoms. This plays into the hands of extreme-right political movements. Casting certain communities within the UK as containing a generalised ‘terrorist threat’, the Home Office’s ‘Prevent’ Strategy allows for the surveillance of the whole Muslim community, and effectively associates Islam with an incompatibility with Britishness.[17]

Resisting integration is put on a par with terrorism and provides the far Right with an authoritative source for its interpretation of cultural difference as threatening: ‘There is’, according to the Home Office, ‘evidence to indicate that support for terrorism is associated with rejection of a cohesive, integrated, multi-faith society and of parliamentary democracy. Work to deal with radicalisation will depend on developing a sense of belonging to this country and support for our core values.’[18] (My emphasis.) This turns the presence of the Muslim population into a security threat. Hazel Blears, when secretary of state for communities and local government, went further: ‘This country is proud of its tradition of fair play and good manners, welcoming of diversity, tolerant of others. This is a great strength. But the pendulum has swung too far.’[19] The suggestion is that multiculturalism is complicit in allowing the growth of extreme anti-British hostility. This gives the impression that the UK has been too nurturing of the Muslim community, too slack in controlling it.

The recent warnings about the potential rise of far-right terrorist attacks by a Home Affairs Committee designed to address and evaluate the credibility of the Prevent agenda, has not been translated into representative media coverage.[20] While the recent planned bomb attack on the London Stock Exchange by nine men of Pakistani heritage received considerable coverage in the Sun[21] and the Telegraph[22], recent bomb threats perpetrated in the name of the far Right have received scant attention in the national press. Simon Beech was a serving soldier of the 2nd battalion Yorkshire Regiment at the time of setting fire to the Regent Road mosque in Stoke-on-Trent. During the trial, evidence of the young soldier’s state-of-mind was presented in the form of his Facebook comments which included: ‘Let’s start bashing skulls, dirty, rotten rodents, they breed like rats here, they need to die like rats’ and ‘The time has come. They burn our poppies, we burn their place. Burn the lot of them out’.[23] Other examples include an online bomb threat against Birmingham Central mosque was ignored by all but local and anti-racist news services.[24] The same was the case when, the next day, another EDL member was arrested for similar threats: this again only reported by anti-racist watchdogs.[25]

But the fact that the government’s Prevent strategy has, almost without exception, been directed at Islamic and no other form of extremism (e.g. neo-fascism) reveals that only Islamic extremism is seen as threatening. (The lack of coverage that the national press gives to far-right extremism is not so surprising in this context.) In addition, because of the way its monies were disbursed, Prevent reinforces the racists’ perception that only Muslims are eligible for government money. The strategy thereby provides more ammunition for groups like the EDL, which asserts in its mission statement that it has an issue with ‘policy-makers … deliberately undermin[ing] our culture and impos[ing] non-English cultures on the English people in their own land’. If Muslims are a threat, it asks, then why do they receive so much government funding? The conclusion they reach (confirmed by the right-wing press) is that political correctness is to blame.

Victims of Islamification

Fodder for this conjecture can be found in the right-wing press, which, in the context of the war on terror, has reinvigorated its attack on political correctness. While government policy presents Islam as alien to Britishness, it has been aided by a press which, over the years, has normalised Islamophobia. Take, for instance, the front page of the Daily Mail of 7 July 2004.[26] An image of a Muslim cleric adorns the front page, while the headline runs: ‘WELCOME TO THE LAND OF FREE SPEECH (As long as you believe in killing gays, wife-beating and suicide bombers)’. Free speech is the symbol of British/western liberal democracy, in opposition to an Islam that abuses that freedom to promote ‘killing gays’ and ‘wife-beating’. The West is tolerant, Islam intolerant. Further, according to the Daily Mail, not only is Islam incompatible with the UK, the nature of this incompatibility, combined with a politically correct agenda, is leading to the institutionalisation of Muslim codes of behaviour, to the neglect of ‘traditional’ British ones. (See for example, ‘Headmistress wrongly accused of racism by Muslim governors wins £400,000’, 19 March 2010).[27] The Daily Mail’s apocalyptic proclamation that ‘You are now entering Sharia law Britain’ concretises the loss of ‘British’ justice.[28] From the intrusion of an external community, to its institutionalisation as part of the multiculturalist agenda, this scenario shows how the white British have become the victims of the Islamification of Britain, and have been failed by a political system that cared more about those it was hosting than the indigenous population. It is from such sources that the EDL can derive an argument about a persecution of the indigenous British, denied justice at the expense of the Muslim community.

Media endorsement of EDL line

Although it cannot be said that the Daily Mail supports the far Right per se, the Sun has come pretty close. On 23 February 2009, it ran an article condemning the government for having ‘disgraced itself by banning democratically elected Dutch MP Geert Wilders from entering the country’ for attempting to show what later turned out to be an Islamophobic documentary to the House of Commons.[29] The decision to ban his visit was described by the paper’s former political editor Trevor Kavanagh as ‘authoritarian, book-burning mentality’. Geert Wilders is the nativist and Islamophobic leader of the Freedom Party, who in response to the war on terror stated that ‘we need to discriminate’ against Muslims.[30] The Sun has since removed the article from its website and its coverage of Wilders has meanwhile been critical of his overt racism. The Daily Star did go one step further, and printed stories in support of the far Right that sought support in its readers for the EDL, with the paper’s opinion poll showing 99 per cent of respondents were in support of the EDL’s mandate. Media commentator Charlie Brooker exclaimed in response ‘If I read the Star every day, and believed it, I’d join the EDL too’.[31]

Yet the drive to find evidence of the Islamification of Britain has led the Sun to print lies and misrepresentations of Islam and Muslims time and again, leading to retractions, libel payouts and apologies. Islamophobia Watch[32] has recorded the following examples:

  • On 30 October 2007, the Sun published the findings of a Policy Exchange report that attempted to portray certain mosques in Britain as terrorist training schools. The report was based on weak evidence and had been disgraced on the BBC’s Newsnight, leading to the Press Complaints Commission forcing it to retract the article and issue an apology;[33]
  • On 7 April 2008, the Sun accused a bus driver of Islamic fanaticism, alleging that he forced passengers off his bus so that he could pray, and that some passengers were too afraid to re-board after seeing a suspect bag. The bag was revealed to be a false detail, and the driver was praying during his statutory rest break. The paper was forced to pay damages;[34]
  • On 7 July 2008, the Sun invented a story in which a Muslim ‘hate gang’ had hounded out British soldiers from a barracks. The story has been removed from the Sun’s website, although the Independent gives the details;[35]
  • On 7 January 2009, the Sun claimed that Muslim extremists had compiled a hit list of UK Jews to target.[36] The list was actually produced to encourage Muslim organisations to boycott working with supporters of Israel;[37]
  • On 10 August 2009, the Sun falsely accused Dr Mohammed Asha of being a terrorist while working for the NHS. The paper was forced to issue an apology[38] and pay out libel damages;[39]
  • On 23 July 2011, the Sun initially dubbed the Norway attacks by Anders Behring Breivik as ‘Al-Qaeda’s massacre: Norway’s 9/11’, with no evidence. It was later retracted.[40]

Not much has changed since Enoch Powell’s invented tales of the persecuted white British. Since 9/11, the Sun has been forced to economise on the truth in stories to find evidence for its terrorist bogey-men. But Islamic bogey-men are also stereotyped as sex offenders.

Sexual predators

On 28 May 2011, the EDL held a ‘Defending Our Culture’ demonstration in Blackpool where it was said to be working with the family of Charlene Downes, a 15-year-old girl who went missing a number of years ago and is presumed dead (a trial of two Asian men in 2008 collapsed amid allegations of police incompetence, leading to the acquittal of the accused).The CU has been actively highlighting cases of rape and sex offences allegedly carried out by Muslim men. On its website the EDL states that most child sex offenders are Muslim which ‘stems directly from the example of their violent paedophile prophet Mohammed’.[41] So how did the EDL come to believe in such a stereotype, reminiscent of nineteenth century racial Darwinists’ belief in the sexual deviance of particular races?

The spectre of ‘Asian sex gangs’ was given inordinate attention in the right-wing press following Jack Straw’s announcement on Newsnight in January 2011 that Pakistani men see white girls as ‘easy meat’.[42] One would have thought that former home secretary Jack Straw, who helped pioneer new understandings of institutionalised racism when he accepted the finding of Sir William Macpherson’s inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence, would be the first to understand the link between negative and provocative stereotyping of members of a race or a religion that had been racialised and the growth of institutionalised racism. It seems odd that he had to be reminded by Libby Brooks, a Guardian journalist, of the ‘ignoble tradition of racialising criminality in this country, in particular sexual offences, from the moral panic about West Indian pimps in the 1960s to the statistically dubious coverage of African-Caribbean gang rape in the 90s.’[43]

Straw made his comments after the Times published the results of its own investigation into the sexual exploitation and internal trafficking of girls in the north of England which claimed that organised crimes were carried out almost exclusively by gangs of Pakistani-Muslim origin which targeted white girls. (Note the Times’ bias in identifying British men who were not white by their ethnic origin and religious background, while classifying British girls by their skin colour with their ethnic origin and religious background not commented on.) Local agencies and charities supporting victims of sexual abuse criticised the Times’ reporting, stating that they did not consider it a race issue. Engage – based in Blackburn – looked back through its data, and found that 80 per cent of offenders over the previous year were white (they did not have data on their religious background). Furthermore, child support agencies pointed out that child abuse was a national issue; while some ethnic minority men were indeed involved in cases of serial abuse, there was no consistent evidence to suggest that Pakistani Muslim men were uniquely and disproportionately involved in these crimes, nor that they groomed white girls because of cultural assumptions about their sexual availability, as was suggested.

But the damage had already been done. When figures of villainy are given credence by government spokespersons, the press is able to appeal to that authority. The prevalence of such stories in the Daily Mail created the impression of an epidemic of sexually predatory behaviour directly linked to being Asian. A typical headline read: ‘Grooming of girls by Asian gangs fuelled by unhappy arranged marriages to cousins claims Muslim peer’ (29 January 2011).[44] Such explicit and implicit links between Asian/Muslim communities and the attack on British womanhood were picked up by EDL supporters, and resulted in campaigns and high-profile demonstrations. The Casuals United blog highlighted specific Mail stories for its readers, as well as stories on the subject from other sources[45] drawing attention to ‘an avalanche of foreign perverts’.[46]

The Mail’s interpretation of the story highlighted the following factors:

  • That the attack is part of a ‘growing concern at disturbing cases involving mainly Asian gangs exploiting young white girls for sex’;[47]
  • That reports which suggested that the real (white British) victims of this kind of abuse are ‘suppressed for reasons of political correctness’;[48]
  • That available statistics on the subject ‘represent a mere fraction of a “tidal wave” of offending’;[49]
  • That police officers were ‘too scared to address the ethnicity factor’.[50]

Such concerns were then echoed by supporters of the EDL, and are cited as motives for campaigning against reverse racism:

  • ‘18 years after the Steven Lawrence murder those suspects are being re-tried, but Charlene’s alleged killers are still laughing at the law. But then shes only a white person, so what do you expect in “pc” Britain’;[51]
  • ‘Casuals United are planning another demo in Blackpool to demand justice for these two girls murdered by scum and then let down by the police and the CPS’.[53]

This campaigning is not without consequence. Greater Manchester police told the CU blog to immediately remove its writing on a paedophilia court case in Liverpool or the authors would be found in contempt of court. Further, in an attempt to deliver vigilante justice, more than 200 young people attacked a takeaway in Rochdale, pelting it with bricks and other missiles. As the group was dispersed by police officers, some were heard chanting ‘EDL’.[54] The takeaway used to be owned by those men on trial in the above court case, but is now under new ownership. Zeeshan Khokhar said it started with kids banging on windows; they were shouting, ‘why are you still open you dirty bastards?’[55]

EDL as defender of the class

One of the more worrying aspects of the current situation is the fact that sections of the media accept the EDL as democratic and promote its message as representative of working class concern. Just as the EDL and CU put mainstream media stories straight onto their sites, so does the mainstream right-wing media which reports what the EDL says at face value. In the 1970s and 1980s the activities of groups like the NF were brushed off as those of ‘the lunatic fringe’ (in which of course was included anti-fascist opponents) but today the lunatics are pronounced sane and non-racist – because the EDL’s views seem to echo mainstream politics and so are of legitimate concern.

This trend can be summed up in Damian Thompson’s comment for the Telegraph: ‘Is the EDL the new voice of the white working class?’[56] The piece reads as an apology for the anger of the EDL, suggesting that it is misunderstood by a middle-class Left, and that anti-fascist opposition is out of touch with the disaffected working class: ‘The EDL and its sympathisers appear, at first glance, to be more representative of a section of the English working class – especially in London – than the old “far Right” ever was’.  EDL members are not really racist: ‘“Chavs”, as the UAF calls them, don’t hate their British-born black equivalents. They may not be best mates with gang members, but they know them from school and get their weed from the same dealers. There are even traces of class solidarity between them, which enrages fastidious “anti-fascists”.’ This kind of commentary assumes that the EDL is a representative/spokesman of the working class, and implies that it is only through this voice that the realities of British public opinion can be found. According to such commentary, the EDL is a more authentic image of British feeling than the anti-racist opposition.

Buying into respectability

This view has recently been gaining ground in sections of the media, with television coverage, too, presenting the EDL as a legitimate reaction to a ‘genuine’ radical-Islamic threat.[57] The idea that we should address the fears and insecurities of the ‘white working class’ presumes that these fears are grounded in reality. A failure to tackle these media tropes has allowed the EDL to present itself as the last hope of the oppressed majority, daring to confront demons in grand spectacles while no other institution seems willing or able to do so. These great demonstrations of patriotic concern, left unchallenged, allow the EDL to turn the tables on its critics. According to the EDL, white Britain is oppressed not just by the spread of Islam, but by the blind middle class who can’t see the effects of immigration on the poor.

This view is summed up in a Telegraph commentary which responds to a video in which two anti-racist men talk derogatively about a female EDL member.[58] The piece, by Brendan O’ Neill, answers back to the dehumanising language that the men use by suggesting that anti-racism legitimises a deeper hatred of the working class: ‘The video … confirms what draws many young middle-class liberals towards anti-English Defence League campaigning: it provides them with a semi-legit cover for expressing their fear and loathing of the white working classes … the fact is that a great deal of anti-EDL protesting is driven by a barely disguised hatred for that apparently ugly, uncouth, un-PC blob of white flesh that inhabits inner-city council estates.’ This article, an unashamed attack on anti-racist campaigners, unflinching in its support of the far Right, is copied verbatim onto the CU blog. It mentions nothing of the EDL’s violence and racism, attacking only anti-racists throughout, and transforming a race issue into a class issue. That it appears on the Casuals United blog in full, totally supportive apart from one backtracking parenthesis, ‘(being a hugely pro-immigration type, I am opposed to [the EDL])’ is a clear example of the symbiosis between the media and those they influence and prop up; the use of the article by EDL supporters is a transparent reminder of the danger of mainstream right wing media justifying the far Right and being appropriated by it.

And now we also have to contend with the fact that political debates about nationalism and patriotism are being pushed by new think-tank projects – British Futures, Demos and groups such as Blue Labour – presumably to help mainstream parties win back votes. Within these new projects is a tendency to explain away the strain of ‘new far-right’ racism as ‘proactive pride’, a misguided form of patriotism bred from a lack of social opportunity and a general feeling of disenfranchisement from party politics. The danger is that it leads to suggestions that the far Right should be provided with a platform from which to air its grievances. So when Jamie Bartlett of Demos announces that to dismiss the EDL as bigots is ‘a mistake’, he would do well to bear in mind the countless instances of incitement to racial violence that litter the EDL’s Facebook pages and mar their public demonstrations. Further, when he suggests that ‘[t]o see just how dangerous the populist threat is, we should recognise the sincerity—and the grain of hard truth—in their words’ because they bear the ‘hallmark[s] of liberal democracy’,[59] he is mistakenly taking national pride to be a liberal tendency, a convergence where the far Right and the mainstream meet.

Rather, this national pride is part and parcel of the perception of ‘persecuted Britain’ that has been put forth by media and government. It is the symptom of a flow of nationalist ideas and persecution complexes from the mainstream media and government towards the far Right and back again. Mainstream nationalist tendencies legitimise the nationalist basis of victimhood for far-right scapegoating and racist direct action. It is the result of the sustained portrayal of a Britain under threat from external influences and a leftist agenda allowed free rein. The EDL is not simply the bearer of racism today, but its result.

[1] ‘Police to target “Asian” grooming gangs – well done patriots’, Casuals United blog, 21 November 2011. [2] ‘Bring these evil men to book: Asian gangs who groom teenage girls for sex to be finally targeted in crackdown’, Daily Mail, 21 November 2011. [3] Daily Mail, 6 December 2011. [4] ‘Leicester race attack and the hypocrisy around it’, Casuals United Blog, 18 January 2012. [5] ‘Leicester race attack sentence was unduly lenient’, Casuals United blog, 11 December 2011. [6] ‘Hilarious statment from the “Ministry of Justice” Pffftttt’, Casuals United blog, 12 January 2012. [7] ‘Was this boy beaten senseless because he’s white?’, Daily Mail, 8 February 2012. [8] English Defence League, 15 February 2012. [9] Manchester Evening News, 20 February 2012. [10] ‘Recognition for the British victims of racism’, Britain First. [11] 'Father of murdered Harry Potter star angry at far right group over race murder leaflet’, Kent News, 29 January 2012. [12] Daily Mail (9 October 1985). [13] Nancy Murray, ‘Anti-racists and other demons: the press and ideology in Thatcher’s Britain’, Institute of Race Relations (London: 1989), pp. 2-3. [14] Margaret Thatcher, TV interview for Granada, World in Action, 27 January 1978. [15] ibid., p. 8. [16] Ryan Erfani-Ghettani, ‘From portrayal to reality’, IRR News, 8 December 2011. [17] Kundnani states, ‘there are strong reasons for thinking that the Prevent programme, in effect, constructs the Muslim population as a “suspect community” … The underlying assumption seems to be that the Muslim population as a whole needs to be “targeted” in relation to violent extremism, rather than specific groups or localities, and irrespective of the views of local “stakeholders”. Spooked! How not to prevent violent extremism, Institute of Race Relations, October 2009, pp. 8-13. [18] Home Office, ‘Prevent Strategy’, p. 13. [19] Hazel Blears, quoted by Kundnani, op. cit., p. 21. [20] 'Home Affairs Committee warns of far-right terror threat’, BBC News, 6 Febrary 2012. [21] ‘London bomb plot terrorists jailed’, the Sun, 10 February 2012. [22] ‘London terror bomb plot: the four terrorists’, the Telegraph, 1 February 2012. [23] Searchlight, January 2012. [24] ‘Edl member threatens to blow up Birmingham central mosque’, Islamophobia Watch, 12 December 2011. [25] EDL News, 13 December 2012. [26] ‘Daily Mail: Cleric who backs child bombers is to visit Britain’, Islamophobia Watch, originally in the Daily Mail, 7 July 2004. [27] ‘Headmistress wrongly accused of racism by Muslim governors wins £400,000 payout’, Daily Mail, 19 March 2010. [28] ‘You are now entering Sharia law Britain’, the Daily Mail, 29 July 2011. [29] ‘Sun backs Wilders’, Islamophobia Watch, 23 February 2009. [30] Liz Fekete, ‘Geert Wilders launches new anti-immigrant party’, Institute of Race Relations, 1 May 2006. [31] Charlie Brooker, ‘Q: When does a tabloid become crude propaganda? A: When it starts printing it’, the Guardian, 14 February 2011. [32] Islamophobia Watch. [33]British Muslim Initative and North London Central Mosque against the Sun’, Press Complaints Commission. [34] ‘Sun pays £30,000 to Muslim bus driver accused of fanaticism’, the Guardian, 26 February 2009. [35] ‘The shameful Islamophobia at the heart of Britain’s press’, the Independent, 7 July 2008. [36] ‘Sun invents “hate hit list”’, Islamophobia Watch, 7 January 2009. [37] Press Release, Ummah Forum, 7 January 2009. [38] ‘Dr. Mohammed Asha: Apology’, the Sun, 2 March 2010. [39] ‘The Sun pays out to doctor over front-page terror slur’, the Guardian, 27 April 2010. [40] An image of the Sun’s front page. [41] ‘Statement by EDL on Charlene Downes’, 28 March 2011. The following discussion is drawn from the work of Liz Fekete. [42] Jenny Bourne, ‘The final straw’, IRR Comment, 12 January 2011. [43] Libby Brooks, ‘Grooming and our ignoble tradition of racialising crime’, the Guardian, 7 January 2011. [44] ‘Grooming of girls by Asian gangs is fuelled by unhappy arranged marriages to cousins, claims Muslim peer’, the Daily Mail, 29 January 2011. [45] ‘Culture of Silence’, Casuals United Blog, 5 January 2011. [46]Terrifying Scale of Child Grooming Revealed by CEOP', Casuals United Blog, 29 June 2011. Note, although the piece was not written by a regular CU writer, the author of the piece states in the comments that he supports its use on the blog. [47]Police “hid” abuse of 60 girls by Asian takeaway workers linked to murder of 14-year-old’, Daily Mail, 7 April 2011. [48] Ibid. [49]Top detective blasts “culture of silence” that allows Asian sex gangs to groom white girls’, Daily Mail, Needs more info. [50] Ibid. [51] ‘EDL Blackpool demo a massive success’, Casuals United blog, 29 May 2011. [52] ‘Some of the muppets among the 25 UAF who supported paedophilia on Saturday’, Casuals United blog, 30 May 2011. [53] ‘Blackpool Justice for Charlene Downes and Paige Chivers update’, Casuals United blog, 20 July 2011. [54] BBC News, 24 February 2012. [55] The Guardian, 24 February 2012. [56] Damian Thompson, 'Is the EDL the new voice of the white working class?', Telegraph, 16 September 2011. [57] Ryan Erfani-Ghettani and Jenny Bourne, ‘Platform for Prejudice’, IRR News, 1 March 2012. [58] 'Class hatred of the anti EDL brigade', Casuals United blog, 11 September 2011. [59] Jamie Bartlett and Jeff Howard, 'Talking right', Prospect, 9 November 2011.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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