“FAKE News,” claims Tommy Robinson. His pre-emptive posturing seems to suggest that the upcoming BBC Panorama exposé will likely rely on revelations by his unsavoury associates.
Fascists falling out is not much of a news story but for Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (as the tinpot fuehrer was named at birth) staging a skinhead stormtrooper march to the BBC studios in Salford is but a routine marketing ploy and an exercise in brand management and revenue protection.
Robinson is a thoroughly post-modern fascist with a grasp of social media and the transatlantic connections that harvest an income stream which his various rivals can only envy but which may yet prove his undoing.
Beyond the market maximisation of Robinson we need to be absolutely clear about the term fascism. It is not a swearword to be stuck indiscriminately on every manifestation of reactionary thought.
But no-one should underestimate the real dangers of present-day fascism. The news that swastikas have been daubed on Jewish graves in France and racist slogans on homes in Salford reminds us that each act of intimidation or desecration creates a far wider fear.
Such statistics that are available most probably underreport the real extent of racist attacks and intimidation. But we know that there has been a 26 per cent rise in Islamophobic attacks, with 1,201 verified incidents reported in 2017.
There were 724 incidents involving verbal anti-semitic abuse with a fall of 17 per cent in the number of violent anti-semitic assaults, from 149 in 2017 to 123. There were 78 incidents last year where Jewish property was damaged or desecrated.
While fascism is always a shape-shifting phenomenon which reshapes its messaging to the specific circumstances in which it operates, its long-established poisonous impulses constantly resurface.
In present day Britain it works within narratives already established in the public’s consciousness and reinforced by the monopoly media.
Not surprisingly this centres on migration, on a sense of violated sovereignty and dovetails with the imperial mindset which has sent British troops to bleed for oil in lands predominately peopled by Muslims.
But it also taps into anti-semitic tropes which have deep roots in Western thinking and which will assume dangerous proportions unless we remain vigilant and clear-headed in our response.
For the moment the way in which the anti-Corbyn claque has weaponised allegations of anti-semitism to destabilise the Labour Party and undermine the increasingly widespread criticism of Israeli state policy has created a cloud of confusion.
The recent letter, published in the Guardian, by an impressive list of prominent Jewish people, helps to clarify the context in which these issues are understood.
They noted a “worrying growth of populist right-wing parties, encouraging racism, Islamophobia and anti-semitism. In Britain the far right is whipping up these prejudices, a threat that requires a resolute and energetic response.
“But instead we have seen a disproportionate focus on anti-semitism on the left, which is abhorrent but relatively rare.”
In contrast defecting Wavertree MP Luciana Berger described Labour as “sickeningly institutionally racist” while, in four pages of her resignation letter, Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan suggested that on Jeremy Corbyn’s watch Israel had been “singled out for demonisation and delegitimisation.”
It is abundantly clear that so long as criticism of Israel’s actions is seen by that state’s defenders as, in essence, “anti-semitic” there is no sense in which these issues can be handled in normal political discourse.
This is bad but, worse, the toxic language deployed by Labour’s defectors to cast a spurious morality over their actions runs the real risk of weakening resistance to a potent anti-semitism that is embedded in an overarching fascist ideology.
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