When is enough, enough? How much does one have to endure before it’s acceptable to cross the line that your conscience and values mark out? Is there a point whereby you’re permitted to stoop to a previously unchartered level and still keep your dignity and morality in tact? Is there a time and a place where, allowing the most primal animal instincts within us to overcome our better judgement, is justifiable?
I like to think I’m a pacifist. I’m pretty laid back and reserved, I’m usually calm and rational even in heated situations. I don’t have a short temper, and even when I lose it, instigating violence has never entered my mind. I don’t experience a red mist and I’m always able to stay in control of my actions. The thought of inflicting pain on someone else doesn’t sit easily with me at all. Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age. Maybe being a father has given me an added sense of empathy and compassion. Hurting someone means hurting somebody’s son, father, husband, brother. I don’t really want to do that.
Solving problems with reasoning and forgiveness gives me a much greater sense of satisfaction than I imagine knocking someone out would. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to sound smug and superior because it actually frustrates me sometimes. I’ve been in situations where a confrontation was a possibility, and I know other people would have taken that step, but I’ve decided it’s just not worth the hassle. But maybe giving my alpha male instincts a bit of exercise would have been the best thing to do? Would letting a loudmouthed bully off the hook give him the confidence to pick on someone else more vulnerable than me? Am I showing a sign of weakness that encourages the bully? Would flexing a bit of muscle enhance my male pride and earn me respect and admiration? Maybe, but it’s just not in my nature.
I’ve also developed a keener sense of self preservation in fatherhood. Getting into a physical confrontation is dangerous, that’s pretty obvious. But people are unpredictable when the testosterone and adrenaline are flowing, not to mention alcohol. The survival instinct kicks in and anything can happen. A bottle or pint glass can turn skin and flesh into a bloody mess. Someone’s head between a heavy foot and concrete pavement could mean curtains. You could end up unrecognisable, in prison or dead, over something trivial just to save face. It’s not just one person that suffers the consequences.
Where am I going with this rambling self analysis? Well, as usual, the racists have got me wound up. I tell myself not to react, but I have to. I shouldn’t look, but it’s like a car crash. Those four characters that open up a world of hate and bile: #EDL. It’s like internet crack for do-gooders like me. One hit and there’s no going back. No matter how unhealthy and damaging it is, I’ve just got to have my daily fix. But it never changes. The same vile racists, spewing out the same vile clichés. No matter how many attempts are made to educate and inform them. No matter how many myths and lies you debunk, with quotes, facts and statistics, the record never changes. Using irony and wit to combat the hate doesn’t work either. On a few occasions I’ve let myself down and even resorted to childish insults and personal abuse. It’s like picking an itchy scab. Momentary relief followed by the realisation that you’ve just reopened the wound and made it worse.
Why take it so seriously, it’s only Twitter? I know this, but I also know that Twitter is just the tip of the iceberg. It pales in comparison to some of the comments written on the EDL Facebook pages. Dig a little deeper into the history of the EDL, their affiliations, their family tree, and it becomes apparent that even if the rank and file are a knuckle dragging laughing stock, there are far more powerful and sinister characters pulling the strings, and lending support. Amongst the foot soldiers are hardcore racists, neo-Nazi’s, and white supremacists. These aren’t gullible kids who are being manipulated. These are dangerous people who will not change their views. They’re using the surge in Islamophobia and the EDL movement as the bandwagon they’ve been looking for since the demise of the National Front and Combat 18. It gives them the outlet for violence that the BNP doesn’t and the pretence of being a non-racist pressure group as cover.
A cursory glance at screen captures from the EDL Facebook is enough to confirm that there are a large number of people willing to use violence and intimidation to realise their racist ideals. It’s not uncommon to see suggestions of ethnic cleansing, arson, and murder along with military imagery and balaclava-clad men with machetes, Samurai swords or firearms. Is it all just posturing and empty rhetoric? The fact that there are a number of members, who make no secret of their convictions for racially motivated assaults, hooligan activities, paramilitary affiliations, as well as some who are already serving time for murder, or on terrorism charges seems to suggest it’s not all just hot air.
The EDL have also recently ‘enjoyed’ much media exposure, and are making a name for themselves on mainland Europe and Stateside. They have overtly aligned themselves with the Jewish Defence League, a Zionist organisation who the FBI have classed as a right wing terrorist group, and the SPLC have called a hate group involved in anti-Arab terrorism. The FBI also claims they have been involved in plotting terrorist attacks within the United States. Alan Lake, a multi millionaire business man, has previously approached UKIP with the intention of politicising the EDL. He has provided them with funding, and has also financed and advised far right political parties in Europe. Many people believe Lake to be the EDL puppet master.
There’s no denying that the EDL has evolved significantly since its inception. In fact the whole Islamophobic movement has become the right wing bandwagon of choice in recent years. Fox News, The Tea Party, SIOE & SIOA, EDL, Geert Wilders & PVV, Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Melanie Phillips, Daily Star, Daily Express, Daily Mail, the Sun, Sweden Democrats and others have all found it very lucrative and profitable.
Despite this, the poor turnout of the EDL’s recent Luton demo has led many to believe that they have lost their initial momentum, and the increase in publicity has worked against them. Right leaning ‘news’ papers such as the Daily Mail have been (hypo)critical, and even the Daily Star have backtracked from what seemed to be a sympathetic stance. Their planned demo in Birmingham (in protest at two Respect Party councilors who refused to give an ovation to a Marine receiving the George Cross) has been aborted due to the soldier in question distancing himself in no uncertain terms. Where does this leave them? They have certainly been shunned by the mainstream right wing. It will be interesting to see what transpires when the next major march is planned.
My take is they will undoubtedly gain members and sympathisers with the exposure (and continued anti-Muslim media and government bias), but inevitably more critics and opposition to boot. It’s what form this opposition takes that is really at the heart of this blog post. One of the reasons I started this blog was to address the Islamophobic myths and lies. An attempt to demystify, and re-humanize the bogeyman that has been created. There is no substitute for the truth. Knowledge and understanding are the real keys to stopping the hate. But I fear that the vast majority of the EDL only believe what suits their agenda, and will only take notice of anything that re-affirms their views. They have financial backing and influential allies. In one form or another, these people are here to stay and so is their bigotry. It’s up to us how successful they, and future generations are.
Am I going to be arguing with the EDL on the internet for the rest of my life? There’s only so much banging my head against a brick wall I can take. The frustration and anger I feel at their inability and unwillingness to engage in meaningful dialogue is not good. Not good for my stress levels and not good for society. It’s also an indication that they aren’t going to back down from their stance. There are plenty of people willing to fight fire with fire. Who believe that the only way to talk to the EDL and their ilk is by using the only language they understand, hate and violence. They will look to the UKuncut movement, to Tunisia and to Egypt, and see that sometimes a degree of militancy is needed to kick-start a change, to highlight the urgency and importance of the cause. But is it ever possible to justify the use of force for good? Is there such a thing as righteous violence? I know, I’m on dangerous ground here. But how many times have you thought “that Tommy Robinson needs a good slap” or “Nick Griffin has got such a punchable face”? How satisfying was watching the Ajax fans humiliate the EDL in Amsterdam? Should we lose any sleep over some racists getting their comeuppance when they provocatively stray into ‘enemy territory’? I know it’s wrong and hypocritical, but these people bring out the worst in me.
The approach of Hope not Hate at the Luton demo was exactly what was needed on the day. Avoiding confrontation and liaising with the local community was the right thing to do. Hopefully this is the way forward in defeating the EDL. My worry is that the more peaceful their demos are, the more chance they have of creating a more acceptable image. If their events take on a more respectable guise, how long before they are family events with new generations of poisoned minds with no visible opposition? Will they just go away if we ignore them? Just fizzle out with a whimper? Am I overestimating them and underestimating the general goodness in humanity? I hope so.
I’d better add a disclaimer here. This isn’t intended as a rallying cry or call to arms for the militant left. It’s just a stream of consciousness I’m using as therapy. I’m talking myself down from an angry place. It will all be better in the morning. Peace. 🙂