Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The EDL threaten Christmas mayhem over recycled tabloid myths

The English Defence League, spiralling further into irrelevance as far as real issues facing the working class are concerned, has decided to save Christmas. It has issued letters to councils across the country saying they will "close down" any town that "bans" the festival to "appease Muslims."

At this point, it is unclear what their aim is besides beating the tabloids to the punch in the annual tradition of re-writing the old, and thoroughly discredited, "Christmas is Banned" yarn.

And, as I pointed out last year, it is bullshit;
Late last month, the Daily Mail reported that "David Cameron was facing a backlash from his own party after it emerged the Conservative official cards have the message 'Season's Greetings'." This after "he derided politically-correct Christmas cards which do not mention the word Christmas as 'insulting tosh'" two years ago. Thus, the paper is given occasion (not that it needs an excuse) to throw out clich├ęs about "pandering to the extremists of the PC brigade" and "white middle-class Guardian-reading left-wing do-gooders with a misguided guilt complex and too much time on their hands." That the "controversial" cards actually contain a greeting which originated with the Victorians and attained its modern form in 1920 goes unmentioned.

That same day, the Daily Express told us with considerable indignation that "Britain’s biggest Christmas cracker factory has ditched dozens of risque gags in favour of more politically-correct alternatives." Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I've never come across anything other than tame, cheesy, and utterly godawful cracker jokes. I've certainly never had the pleasure of those "about mother-in-laws, transvestites and animal cruelty," which we're to believe have been replaced by "a new selection guaranteed not to offend."

John Midgely, of the rent-a-quote organ Campaign Against Political Correctness asks us "shouldn’t Christmas be the one time people can be free from PC in their own home?" One might be tempted to answer that we would be, if people like Midgely and the Express would stop rehashing old nonsense as an excuse to moan.

But, perhaps in the interests of keeping journalists who can't do basic fact-checking employed, the circus rolls on. The latest offering comes from yesterday's Mail, with the headline "Council renames Christmas festival 'Midwinter Celebration' sparking PC row." The author, one Chris Brooke, alleges that Bradford City Council "face[s] accusations of being oversensitive to ethnic minorities by keeping the reference to Christmas out of he family event on the last Sunday before Christmas Day." The first falsehood is that there is in fact only one complaint, from the Rev. Paul Flowers, whose rage is in full flow when he asks "why, oh why, must they now resort to the stupidity and banality of advertising a bland "Midwinter Celebration" when the season is clearly  Christmas and should be appropriately named as such?"

The answer is offered to anybody willing to read a little further. Even in the Mail, you can usually find at least one sentence alluding to the truth of the matter. Thus, we discover that far from "being oversensitive to ethnic minorities," the aim of the event is to "celebrate traditional seasonal  activities that are relevant to the history and heritage of the hall and the communities it supported over many centuries," and is being run in the midst of "a wide range of events to celebrate Christmas." Whilst there, "families will be able to 'listen to authentic music' and see traditional medieval folk plays as well as participate in workshops including sugar mice and herb bag making," hardly what you would expect from a politically correct event aimed at "denying" and "erasing" tradition.

But then, political correctness isn't actually a real phenomenon. It's the invention of right wing cranks looking for an excuse to spew out nationalistic and / or religious hyperbole. If more people take note of this fact, and disseminate the truth to those who believe the lies, then maybe we can put to death the ridiculous "culture wars" that serve only as a convenient distraction from the real issues we all face in our lives.
Distracting from the real issues, however, is what the EDL do best.

That's why, when several thousand people marched against the Lib Dems for supporting the cuts, they "marched" against them for apparently “refus[ing] to tackle the threat of Islamic Extremism.” And why they deliberately doctored a photo of Merseyside TUC president Alec McFadden to say "protest against the troops" when he was calling for people to "protest against the cuts."

It's also why, whilst millions of people will be worried about the effects of the Comprehensive Spending Review, they're pissing in the wind about non-existent bans on Christmas.

But what really gets me is EDL leader Stephen Yaxley-Lennon's quote that “working class people” in the UK are “at boiling point” over the “Islamisation of Britain.” His evidence? The fact that "yesterday’s Daily Star poll found 98% of readers fear that Britain is becoming a Muslim state."

The first thing to question here is how Yaxley-Lennon (better known by his more proletarian pseudonym "Tommy Robinson") defines "working class people." If his definition includes the phrase "Daily Star readers," at any point, I'd say he's doing us an incredible disservice.

Unfortunately, this wouldn't be surprising. As part of their traditional tactic of warping class consciousness to suit their agenda, one thing the far-right has always done - unfortunately often aided by the snobbery of establishment liberals - is to define class on the basis of a shallow and extremely patronising caricature. Amongst other things, this includes an appeal to wilful ignorance.

The working class, when at its strongest, had a vibrant intellectual culture. It drove our politics and maintained our class consciousness. It served our desire to educate and upskill ourselves. And its decline is part of the campaign to roll back every advance that organised workers have won.

This is exactly why fascists, witting or unwitting stooges of the bosses, promote an anti-intellectual parody of class. The de-skilling of labour is ignored in favour of racial or nationalistic epithets, reason and logic become taboo, and "student" is all-but synonymous with "middle class." It is exactly the same ideological trickery put forward by the media.

Yaxley-Lennon is wrong. The majority of the working class aren't "at boiling point" over Islamisation, because it just isn't happening. But the media and far-right continue to parrot the lie, excluding opponents from their narrow definition of working class by fiat, and it continues to gain weight.

Or, as Anton Vowl put it;
98 per cent. Ninety-eight per cent of Star readers fear that Britain is becoming a Muslim state. Now, it's easy to point to the publications of Richard Desmond - the Daily Express and Daily Star - and wonder why exactly that kind of fear might be occurring at such an alarming rate

The point needs to be challenging the myths put out by the media, more vociferously and publicly than ever. They are no longer just the fodder for "Disgusted of Tumbridge Wells" to vent his spleen, but an excuse for the far-right to take to the street to cause mayhem.

At the same time, antifascists need to be on the alert. Every recycled myth now brings with it the threat of mob-handed fascists. We must be ready to confront them so that hey cannot make good on their threat.