Here’s another “Viewpoint” from the Left. And it’s a real insight into the beliefs of the Left and the BBC on this particular issue. When I directly associate this viewpoint with the BBC, I do it because this essay didn’t happen randomly or spontaneously: it was predetermined by a BBC editor, as are all these “Viewpoint” pieces. They want something on a given topic, and they go out and find someone to do it. So I believe it’s quite fair to tie the BBC to Goodwin’s mast (or is the other way around?) In any case, here it is:
The opening section is a classic example of using an outlier to make a point about the main group. You’ll never guess who academic Matthew Goodwin chose to use as his example of a BNP member. But first, as this is a classically structured piece from an academic-type, Goodwin has to do the exposition, in which he sets the scene for his protagonist.
Sharon was born and raised in the local village. She knew everyone, and devoted much of her spare time to helping the Residents Association. She was never really that interested in politics. Her husband was a Conservative, but she only went along to the meetings because she liked the sandwiches.
So we the “A” theme: an ordinary citizen, a good neighbor, etc., someone who was never politically active before. Now for the “B” theme.
But then, over the years, things began to change. For Sharon, it seemed as though the way of life she had become accustomed to was under threat.
She talked about feeling a sense of injustice about what had been perpetrated on her fellow citizens – our increasing involvement with Europe, the loss of our manufacturing base, a dwindling sense of respect among young people and the creeping advance of political correctness.
You can all guess what’s coming next, right?
But more than anything, she was concerned about a new phase of immigration into the country. She was profoundly anxious, especially about the impact of this rapid and unsettling change on her friends and loved ones.
Her concern wasn’t simply about the economy. It stemmed from her feeling that British culture, values and the national community were under threat.
This is not meant to be a strawman (woman), because Goodwin’s agenda is not merely to strike it down. He’s got a much bigger point to make. So on to the development section. So far, this is someone whom we could easily dismiss as being the usual xenophobic Little Englander, who hangs the St. George Cross out her window even when there’s no sports tournament going on. But then we get the shocking revelation about our Sharon, meant to focus your concern:
Sharon was Jewish, and the party that she decided to join was the British National Party.
This is very clever. By using this outlier, whom Goodwin believes should cause some cognitive dissonance in his readers, he can instantly claim that the awful beliefs of the BNP are spreading far beyond the usual white suspects.
Though aware of its history of anti-Semitism and holocaust denial, for her the far right was the only movement that was serious about tackling the threat from Islam.
As if it’s only the far right who are concerned about it. Right there we have the Narrative. Any concern about the specific type of Islamic immigration is “far right”. The development of her tale continues, in which Goodwin tells us of the approbation Sharon faced from her friends, neighbors, and even her boss, as well as abuse from the local anti-fascist kiddies.
Sharon told me she could handle all of that, but what really hurt, she explained, was that she was reviled by the very people that she was fighting to protect.
Now the big picture, Goodwin’s main goal here, is starting to come together.
When I asked Sharon why, despite all of these consequences, she carries on there was little hesitation: “Because doing nothing is not an option. I am fighting for the survival of my people.”
“My people”, as in the British people. I must say it’s very refreshing to see something allowed through the BBC in which a Jew is presented identifying herself as British without hints of dual loyalty. Better still, Goodwin doesn’t present this is as Jew vs. Muslim, either. He uses her as an example of how the “far right” concern about how extreme immigration policies are harming British culture is spreading. That, to Goodwin and the BBC, is a very, very serious problem.
So he starts with the scaremongering.
I spent the next four years travelling up and down the country to interview some of the most committed followers of the far right. Conventional wisdom tells us there is something “wrong” with people like Sharon. Implicit in the stereotypes is that they are driven by crude racism, irrational impulses, and psychological problems.
The inadequacy of these stereotypes became quickly apparent during the interviews. On the whole, most of the activists appeared as relatively normal people.
What a shock, eh? Who could have imagined? Although notice how anyone concerned is still labeled “activist”. Goodwin realizes that it’s ordinary, apolitical, non-activist people feeling this way (hence his use of our Sharon to set the scene), but can’t process it. They’re still all activists to him. In other words, this is not an ordinary concern, held by ordinary people who don’t have a specific agenda of any kind. The next bit is very revealing of his and the BBC’s mindset, though. Check out the attitudes laid out, as if this is what everyone ought to think about the BNP or anyone concerned about extreme immigration:
Rather than isolated, they seemed well connected to their local communities. Rather than irrational, they had a clearly defined and coherent set of goals. Rather than psychologically damaged, they seemed balanced, reasonable and articulate.
How many people outside the far Left and the BBC and Leftoid media believe that anyone concerned about extreme immigration must be psychologically damaged? As I said, very revealing of the mindset. Goodwin spends another paragraph on his realization that not everyone he spoke to was a Nazi. Then he again uses Sharon as a launching point to show how these concerns are spreading. And he continues to use the “extremist” label.
Driving back from that first interview with Sharon, my mind wandered to my own grandparents who had expressed similar though not as extreme views about the scale and pace of immigration. I used to ask them why they never supported parties like the BNP, or the old National Front and they would look at me as though I were mad: “The Blackshirts?’, they would say, “oh no, we’d never vote for that lot.”
Implicit in their reaction is a sentiment firmly entrenched in the collective British mindset – that no matter how bad things get, Britain is immune to the appeals of extremists. It is difficult to quantify, but centres on the notion there is just something fundamentally “unBritish” about supporting extremists.
The thought occurs at this point that at no time does Goodwin discuss any of the other platforms of the BNP, e.g. Socialism, anit-war isolationism, or deporting Jamaicans as well as all Muslims. If one supports even a single one of their notions, one is then labeled an extremist. It’s the intellectual fascism of the Left which causes this kind of thinking. One must not hold a single unapproved thought, and any thought which isn’t approved by the bien pensants is “extreme”. There is no reasoned argument, no middle ground permitted.
And so the point of this Viewpoint is that this “extremism” is spreading much farther than we might think.
But is Britain really immune to a successful far right party? I think it would be mistaken to assume that this tradition has deprived extremists of fertile soil.
When we look at the evidence there is a large reservoir of potential support for a far right party. Large numbers of us have become concerned about the issue of immigration – at one point, it was more important to us than education, crime and the NHS.
In fact, one out of every five of us thought it was the most important issue facing the country. And the concern was not simply about competition over jobs or council housing. Surveys told us that two-thirds of the population thought Britain was “losing its culture” because of immigration.
Note the clever academic use of the first-person plural. In this way, Goodwin cements the notion that more and more ordinary people – possibly some of your neighbors, friends, or even relations – might be susceptible to this extremist thought. Fortunately, he’s much sharper and more honest than your average BBC journo regarding the actual concern about extreme immigration:
Also, those who are concerned about immigration are not concerned simply about traditional immigration. Significant numbers of us are also anxious over the presence and perceived compatibility of settled Muslim communities.
“Settled”. I like that. Presumably that includes “no-go areas”. Are those merely “perceived”? The mindset is revealed again.
At the time that two BNP members were elected to the European Parliament in 2009, over two-fifths of the population expressed agreement with the suggestion that even in its milder forms Islam poses a danger to Western civilisation.
Now we get the conflation of concern over extreme immigration and the refusal of some to join society with religious bigotry. It’s a slippery slope from here, really. Goodwin begins to attack the credibility of those who express concern about extreme immigration.
Muslims now find themselves at the core of a new and potent far right narrative, which vilifies Muslim communities while claiming to defend traditions of tolerance, gender equality and the rights of homosexuals. It downplays socially unacceptable arguments about race in favour of more acceptable arguments about the compatibility of values and cultures.
In other words, any of you here who complain that the BBC tends to play down or ignore how the more conservative, fundamentalist Muslims treat women and homosexuals are really just bigots using a smokescreen. You don’t really care about women getting acid thrown on their faces or young girls sent off to Pakistan to be forced into copulation with a middle-aged man, or killed by their fathers and brothers for being seen with a non-Muslim, or about regular executions of homosexuals. That’s all a facade used to slip your bigoted beliefs in under the door.
It is quite easy to see how this argument could be implanted in Britain. Imagine a far right populist who was free of extremist baggage and who talked about the need to oppose Islam in order to protect British traditions of parliamentary democracy, or who rallied against Muslims while proclaiming to defend the rights of women, homosexuals or civil liberties.
“Far right”. If you have any concern about extreme immigration, or that honor killings, abuse of women, no-go areas, the transformation of your neighborhood into something in which you are made to feel alien, or even just your local shop no longer carrying your favorites in favor of comestibles from another country, you are “far right”, and extremist. Again, no reasoned argument is allowed, no middle ground permitted. You’re either with Goodwin, or against common decency.
The rest of the piece is more of the same, but the last line is very amusingly blinkered, in which Goodwin drives home his theme about the BNP message spreading far and wide:
My view is that if they were free of baggage and political amateurism they would be met with significant support.
He’s taking the position that this is only about how the modern BNP is attempting to re-create its image, and distance itself from the fascists of distant memory. But it’s clearly much, much more than that. The concern about extreme immigration goes far beyond people how identify as “far right”, and that scares him. Goodwin seems not to understand that people can draw the conclusion that unfettered swarms of fundamentalists from medieval or even more primitive societies will have difficulty integrating and will do what most every other immigrant group has done historically: live amongst their own kind and attempt to recreate a bit of the old country in their new home. This is normal behavior for all immigrant groups, but becomes a real problem when the incentive to join the society of their new home – even only peripherally, in the manner of many ultra-orthodox Jews, for example – is not only removed but anyone who asks about it is scolded and ostracized. Yet Goodwin and the BBC believe that this is only a “far right” viewpoint, and one that can really only be spread by “far right” extremist activists.
The other problem is that he insists on associating concern about a single issue with all the rest of the “baggage”. Goodwin will not address the issue of extreme immigration except to tar anyone concerned about it as being “far right”. Debate is stifled yet again. And this, sadly, is exactly the BBC Narrative on the issue.
PS: Goodwin is described as an academic who is “an expert in electoral behaviour and extremism at the University of Nottingham”. Curious how his books only on the BNP are enough to secure his bona fides as an expert on extremism. Is there no extremism from the other side? Or his he an expert only on one side of the spectrum? I think we know the answer to that, and I won’t hold my breath waiting for a “Viewpoint” piece coming from the other side.