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When we don’t put reason first

DAVID HOLT

The EDL has faced its inevitable demise. The BNP became a complete laughing stock on an international level after the trippiest political video to hit the internet went viral. UKIP has received poo in the post.

It is only fitting that someone – at the very least – equally ridiculous takes their place. Say hello to Britain First, the far right goon squad who, this weekend, went around Bradford harassing anyone who wasn’t white and had a beard.

The group of ‘soldiers’ have made it perfectly clear that they’re Christians on a crusade. Their meme-based Facebook page would have you think that they have quite the following. The ironically frequent mistakes in grammar and spelling that are in it don’t slow them down. Even though anyone who doesn’t read the Daily Mail or The Sun thinks they’re in a fight no one cares about. Disturbingly, their page counts 321 thousands likes, almost ten times less than that of the Green Party.

Unfortunately, they are not joking about the militancy of their “mission”. On their ‘Christian Patrol’, they set out to harass. Armed with their own version of the green beret; Matalan windbreakers. Proudly carrying the Daily Mail, these parking attendant lookalikes visited a number of places they felt were particularly under threat from Sharia law and halal meat. In Britain First’s own words, “Our newly formed units descended on around 10 giant mega mosques, madrassas and Islamic centres across the town to distribute British Army bibles and anti-grooming leaflets.”

To most people this sounds, at best, nonsensical. But what makes the group so appealing to some?

For better or for worse, we are going through a time of political disillusionment. Rather than publishing messages of hope and ways one can change their political situation, like the work of John Wilkes and contemporaries, the media is used as an instrument of hate, brandishing those it deems unfit for society. As if the traits of a “proper” fit for society were written in stone by an omnipotent being. And so instead of directing our contempt and anger towards those who really take advantage of the vulnerable, we go towards those who are even more vulnerable, namely minorities, who lack the strength of numbers to defend themselves against such vicious attacks.

Groups like these, who say that Christianity isn’t a “playground” but a “battleground”, create these battlegrounds. They set up self-fulfilling prophecies by raising tensions where there are none. The leader of the group, Paul Golding – who in an ironic twist of fate looks kind of like a chubbier Tommy Robinson – has what every radical leader has: a loud voice and a deaf ear. Intimidating a Mayor’s daughter can get you support, being racist Islamaphobes can give you approval, attacking minorities can increase your followers. But all of that will come from the small-minded.

What is more, this type of hateful speech, instigating aggression towards specific communities, can even convert the reasonable ones. When citizens are told that they are under attack by a different societal group, they may not accept it, but at least part of the message sinks in. Therein lies the difference between harmful and opinionated speech. The former will use emotion, something that most of us have little control over. The latter will use reason.

Often these groups are good to laugh at when their message is kept to print and no action follows. They attract ridicule and in no time their candle burns out and their message leaves with them. But when comments like “a zippo lighter and a jerry can of petrol will sort this out” are being left and gaining ‘likes’, you begin to get concerned. Moreover, these people are running for the EU elections, and the last thing they really need is a platform on which they can attract further attention.

This article was curated from York Vision available at http://www.yorkvision.co.uk/comment/when-we-dont-put-reason-first/20/05/2014 

Picture credit: DAVID HOLT – EDL protest (2013)

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