One of the first social consequences of the UK vote to exit the EU has been an increase in race-based hate crimes perpetrated by sympathizers of Britain’s far-right movements. These reflect a discourse of polarization and hate of the ‘Other’ which underpins extremist organizations like the radical Islamic group ISIS, as well as the Trump Campaign in the US – which can only win in the event of a terrorist attack on US soil, now more likely than ever.
An increase in hate-based race crimes against immigrants, just condemned by the UK prime Minister, David Cameron, has been one of the most immediate results of the Brexit results. This has especially affected Poles, South Asians, and Asian Muslims, including third- and fourth-generation immigrants, as well as Africans, provoking responses from the Polish Embassy and Board of Deputies of British Jews. In one of the more horrifying incidents, a co-ordinated campaign of cards with the words “Leave the EU/No more Polish vermin” were distributed in Cambridgeshire.
Figure: Far-Right Anti-Polish Card Distributed in the UK
Firstly, this is shocking given the cooperation between the UK and Poland in the Second World War, when Polish partisans, supported by Great Britain, set up one of the three largest partisan forces in the European theatre, and 400,000 fought the Nazis as the Armia Krajowa ("Home Army"). In fact, the Polish Air Force stood by Britain in the Battle of Britain and subsequently saw combat in the air, while on land they fought the Nazis to a standstill even after being defeated, tying up huge quantities of Nazi materiel. Because the Poles put up such resistance, they were seen as one of the UK’s greatest allies:
Figure: British Pro-Polish Poster, 1939 (Courtesy Wikipedia)
A second reason for the anti-Polish card to be shocking is the use of the word ‘vermin’. Vermin as a term in far-right literature is deliberate and can be traced back to the Nazi’s use of the term:
Figure: Use of ‘Vermin’ in Far-Right Discourse
Vermin were deliberately used in imagery against the Jews, seen as an ‘inferior race’, thus its use against Poles is extremely offensive.
Figure: A Nazi ‘Exterminator’ Kills Jewish ‘Rats’ (“When the vermin are dead, the German oak will again flourish”)
It is worth noting that in Thailand, use is systemically made of similarly dehumanizing vocabulary by Thailand’s Far Right National Trash Collection Organization, which describes those not loyal to the monarchy as human ‘rubbish’ and which is engaged in a witch-hunt to report people to police for lèse-majesté.
It is becoming very clear that the Brexit campaign would not have won if it had not so solidly campaigned against immigration. Yet, Britain’s far right does not simply want a halt to immigration. It is very clear that what it wants is repatriation of anyone ‘foreign’ already in the UK.
Figure: Far Right National Front Banner in Newcastle
Moreover, Britain’s Far Right is deliberately building a discourse that those who voted ‘Remain’ are somehow not good or not decent. The Independent, a UK Centre-Right newspaper, noted Nigel Farage’s (leader of the UK Independence Party) victory “crossed the borders of decency” when he stated, “This is a victory for ordinary people, for good people, for decent people,” he said. "The people who’ve had enough of the merchant bankers.”
While there are absolutely good reasons for resenting London’s merchant bankers given the fact that 1% of the planet now owns 99% of the wealth, the implication that the 16,141,241 million people who voted to ‘Remain’ are somehow not ‘ordinary’, not ‘good’ or not ‘decent’ is the politics of polarisation. It introduces a categorical way of thinking which naturally demonizes those who do not agree with you. As we have seen, it is a first step to hate-based racism.
It is therefore not a surprise that Europe’s Far Right, including the Slovak People’s Party, France's National Front party, the Dutch Party for Freedom, Germany's Pegida, the Serbian Radical Party, and the Danish People's Party have all celebrated the result and pushed for referendums in their own countries. Worryingly, there are signs that in Italy and France, traditionally core EU members, that over 40% of the population could vote to leave, while in Sweden could see over 30% voting to leave.
Figure: Slovakia’s People’s Party with Its Nazi Imagery
How fear polarized the UK is very evident in an article on how the Welsh town of Ebbw Vale voted to leave the EU despite being one of the greatest small-town recipients of EU aid in the UK. Hundreds of millions of pounds were poured into this small town of 18,000 people, where the highest proportion of the population - 62% of only 18,000 – actually voted to leave. The local chip shop owner explained that the main topic of conversation in the lead up to the vote had not actually been the financial benefits but immigration – despite the town having almost no immigrants.
It was therefore fear of immigrants, not immigrants themselves, which pushed this small town – and other Welsh towns - to vote Leave, despite Wales being a net EU financial beneficiary.
And it is fear of immigrants that is at work in the US presidential election. Donald Trump’s June 16, 2015 quote on Mexican immigrants bringing drugs, crime, and rape to the US has extended to a general campaign against all immigrants, especially Muslims, with the word ‘hate figuring prominently’ and obviously designed to instil fear:
"Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on. According to Pew Research, among others, there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population." (Written statement, December 7, 2015).
"I think Islam hates us. There's a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There is an unbelievable hatred of us." (Interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper).
Most recently, in response to the Orlando massacre, he implied on June 13 the President of the United States, Barack Obama, is sympathetic to Muslim terrorists:
"We're led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he's got something else in mind. And the something else in mind, you know, people can't believe it, people cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can't even mention the words 'radical Islamic terrorism. There's something going on — it's inconceivable. There's something going on. He doesn't get it, or he gets it better than anybody understands. It's one or the other, and either one is unacceptable."
It should be recalled that Trump has also promoted conspiracy theories, including the allegation that the President of the United States was not a US citizen, and has suggested he is a Muslim, despite Barack Obama actually possessing a US birth certificate and being baptized into and formally joining the United Church of Christ, which he left after a controversy. His regular form of worship is with a Southern Baptist pastor at Camp David.
Unfortunately, the decision to leave the EU was informed in many ways not by rational thinking but by emotions. It was in fact a meme of the Leave campaign that it was perfectly normal and human to want to leave the EU, that patriotism and fear are normal human emotions. However, this is indeed a slippery slope, as is becoming evident, to politics of emotion dominated by fear, then hate.
The politics of emotion ignores the history of how Poles died in the tens of thousands to help Britain in WWII. It ignores the lessons of the Second World War. Worse, the politics of emotion ignores one of the underlying causes of the Leave vote, the North-South divide in the UK, with more in the North voting to leave than in the South. This is due to a long-standing mutual dislike between Northerners and Southerners, centring on the role of London and the wealth gap, thus Nigel Farage’s mention of (London-based) merchant bankers.
Yet the deindustrialisation of the North was the result of Conservative party policies begun in the 1980’s, under Margaret Thatcher, and promoted by most governments ever since, as noted in this column: “When Mrs Thatcher came to office in 1979, manufacturing accounted for almost 30% of Britain’s national income and employed 6.8 million people; by 2010, it accounted for 11% and employed 2.5 million.” The failure to replace industry in the UK’s North meant the UK went from a Gini coefficient of income inequality of 0.268 in the 1970’s to approximately 0.345 throughout the 2000’s, significantly above the Nordic Block average of about 0.260. The vote by most of those in the North against the EU failed to note that it was not the EU which had caused cuts to the UK’s NHS, one of the memes of the Leave campaign, but the deindustrialisation of the UK, a failure to educate people to enjoy an alternative, and a failure to promote greater wealth equality.
It is one of the political objectives of radical Islamic jihadists to influence the political will and policies of Western governments, including that of the US, as well as the government of West-leaning countries, such as the recent attack on Turkey’s Istanbul airport. 9/11 was conducted either to sap the US’s political will to intervene in the Middle East or to provoke a military response which would feed into a jihadist discourse of ‘crusader states’ acting in the Middle East. Either result suited Al Quaeda. The co-ordinated, Al-Quaeda inspired train bombings of March 11, 2004, directly affected the results of the Spanish general election, mainly due to the incumbent political party’s mishandling of the bombings. The result was that Spain withdrew from the Iraq War as the Socialists took over from the Popular Party.
Our emotions are deliberately being targeted by radicals of the Far Right, whether they be US-based white supremacists, European neo-Nazi groups, or ISIS. All share the same sentiments, centring on an Us vs. Them division which survives and flourishes by targeting fear and hatred of both internal and external minorities (Shias, Yazidis, Christians and ‘Westerners’ etc. in the case of ISIS). This can be seen in the desire to subjugate women, to target ethnic minorities for genocide or repatriation, or to promote nationalism, or in the case of ISIS, a new global totalitarian world order or Islamic Caliphate state, at the expense of human solidarity. These groups are more than happy to leverage the politics of immigration. And, these groups will have increasing material to manipulate. Globally, increasing numbers of people are refugees and Internally Displaced People due to internal and international conflicts, as well as global warming – with 2014 recording the highest number since records began and the data showing a trend towards increasing numbers.
Millions of those refugees are the result of the ongoing Middle East conflict, itself the result of deliberate policies undertaken by western governments.
At the heart of the ‘Leave’ campaign was a decision to forget the causes of the Middle East conflict. It was a decision which ignored the plight of refugees, not just economic refugees due to global wealth inequality but political refugees from conflicts the West has left unresolved, and, increasingly so, environmental refugees due to the causes of global warming.
The Coming Attack on the US
ISIS and those who follow the Islamic Caliphate, however, will not forget these causes. And because they will not forget, they will do their utmost to influence the coming US general election via their extensive media and PR operations, up to and including inciting and planning radical Islamist terrorist attacks on US soil, especially in the months immediately before the presidential election. Their adopted strategic manual, the 2004 Management of Savagery (Idarat at Tawahoush), makes explicit they seek to influence the American public.
ISIS would like nothing more than to have a president elected who it can strategically influence enough regarding the Muslim "Other" to bring the US down to their own level, whether it means a US withdrawal of special forces from the Middle East or, more likely, a US commitment to escalate a never ending War on Terror which ignores even the recent history of the causes and consequences. ISIS will seek to have installed a commander-in-chief who is duped into waging the war on the enemy’s terms and on the enemy’s choice of battlefield – US emotions, primarily fears and hatreds, instead of rational action.