Sunday, 19 June 2016

Does Thomas Mair Have Legitimate Concerns?

When asked for his name, the 52-year-old suspect in the assassination of Labour MP Jo Cox said "death to traitors, freedom for Britain."

Disclaimer: Criminal proceedings are ongoing, so any scope for commenting on the defendant specifically is narrow. Read David Banks' guide to contempt of court - relevant to Twitter users, journalists and bloggers alike.

The discourse surrounding the horrific sequence of events has seen a public outpouring of grief. But also brewing has been a sinister counter-narrative pushed by a small faction of right-wing pundits entirely preoccupied with the upcoming referendum.

Also read: 

This apologism for right-wing extremism is a bizarre and sad phenomenon. There is a legitimate case for Leave, as there is a legitimate case for Remain. Although it is impossible to detach what has happened from the context and timing of the ongoing campaigns, I (and most others) do not see Jo Cox's death as being directly connected with the EU debate.


Nevertheless, tarnished by victimhood, this small group of zealots have been clambering over one another to spin this tragedy to suit their own political agenda.
    Spearheaded by Louise Mensch and flanked by the likes of Julia Hartley-Brewer and James Delingpole, and aided by certain tabloid newspapers, this particular band of Brexiteers have continued to deny fiercely the attack had anything to do with right-wing extremism, and have simultaneously tried to tie it with mental health.

    Why mental health? It is an effective way of deflecting the scope for a political motive by in-part absolving personal responsibility.

    James Delingpole, for example, in his utterly paranoid piece 'Project Grief: Remain's Dirty Politicking Has Hit an All-Time Low', almost preemptively accused the Remain campaign of exploiting the tragedy for political gain.

    He wrote: "Are we seriously being expected to believe that this act of violence by a deranged loner represents a statement on the political climate of Britain of which we should all take note?

    "Are we supposed to take it as evidence of some kind of "far-right" terror campaign, of which this strange sad bloke with the white baseball cap, the red gardening gloves, the camo jacket and the remote stare is but the first of many agents?

    "If you actually believe this then I'd say you're not much less deranged and paranoid than Thomas Mair himself."

    What about Hartley-Brewer, who declared Delingpole's article is a 'must-read'? She says that "genuinely, with [her] hand on [her] heart" that any toxicity that may now exist "came from the official Remain campaign," namely for "its scaremongering lies" and for "telling half the country they're ignorant racists".

    Louise Mensch, meanwhile, who only one year ago used her column in the Sun to bully and denigrate a student protesting mental health cuts, has now outed herself as a champion in the fight against the chronic lack of mental health provision in local communities.

    In her terribly-judged and prematurely-written 'Justice First! Jo Cox's Mentally Ill Killer Should Not Be Discussed in Parliament' Mensch wrote that by speaking against "hate" the Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn "both imputed political motives to Thomas Mair, which could prejudice his trial" and slammed West Yorkshire Police for "[leaking] highly prejudicial crap to the Guardian about far-right memorabilia."

    As if that wasn't enough, what began on Saturday morning as a crude Twitter-based defence of the "insane" suspect on the grounds that "if insane, nothing else matters" retreated into an angry disdain for anybody who dared mention the court appearance, let alone the suspect's widely-reported ties with far-right groups, as soon as she was alerted to the existing contempt laws that she herself had already vociferously breached.


    In Saturday's court hearing  it emerged Thomas Mair claimed to be a "political activist" during his arrest, and was alleged to have shouted a variation of "Britain first", "Keep Britain independent", "Britain always comes first", and "This is for Britain" as he launched his attack. But does he have legitimate concerns?

    In the hours that followed the murder, while details such as those above yet lingered in the realm of speculation, many out there, including those I've named above, channelled their efforts into deflecting any hint of a political connection. This continued even after the police released a statement confirming the suspect's ties with right-wing extremism was a "priority line of inquiry".

    Incidentally, this is the same group of people who insist communities out there have "legitimate concerns" about social cohesion, which is itself perfectly valid, yet flatly refuse to acknowledge the scope for right-wing extremism to have entered the mainstream in the face of all the established facts.

    Incidentally, this is the same group of people who insist "it isn't racist to talk about immigration," which is itself perfectly valid, yet retreat into the background, or even double-down, when Nigel Farage takes a sledgehammer to the conversational door we've opened by invoking images reminiscent of fascist propaganda from the 1930s to promote their shared cause.
    My initial reaction to this news was one of shock; the feeling that "this sort of thing doesn't happen in Britain". I was wrong. Britain has changed without us even realising. And it hasn't been overnight.

    As the writer and commentator Alex Andreou wrote in his column: "In my twenty-six years in this country, I have never felt more foreign, less welcome, more marginalised, or less safe. I am not alone. Hundreds of migrants I speak to feel this way.

    "I spend every minute of every day trying to justify my existence, against a wall of blind hatred. It is that hatred that killed Jo Cox. And we all must look into our conscience and answer the question: "Have I contributed"?"


    Also in the news: It has emerged that Liberty GB's Jack Buckby will stand in the Butley and Spen by-election following the assassination of Labour's Jo Cox. As we learn that all other parties have declined to contest the seat out of respect for the late MP, this serves on both a symbolic and physical reminder that the fight against fascism and far-right extremism is no longer just the stuff of history books, but a very real, very present danger to us all.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment