Saturday 16 May 2020

An Apologia for Racism

Every conspiracy theory is on the lookout for idiots to hoodwink. And the latest, linking 5G to Coronavirus and, by extension, covid-19 isn't as debilitating as the government says has found a (relatively) high profile martyr in the gullibility of Piers Corbyn. He was among a handful of others to have attended anti-lockdown protests in Hyde Park this afternoon, and got carted off by the fuzz for his pains. An outrage right? Well, not really when social distancing exists to prevent the spread of a potentially lethal pathogen. And there is the small matter of his latching on to the so-called Freedom Movement, a cabal of far right fantasists and Third Reich cosplayers who called these protests from the self-isolating comfort of their social media accounts. But Piers is mentally ill, Phil. Quite, but as a rule mental illness doesn't predispose one to going on fascist-inspired protests.

It's easy to dismiss the UK Freedom Movement and the paltry numbers it turned out at its "mass mobilisations" today, but should we? In his recent interview on Politics Theory Other, Philip Mirowski cautioned the (American) left against letting anti-lockdown protests slide. What they represented was the next phase of reactionary street politics on behest of the Koch family and their cabal of semi-fascistic billionaires. The left ignores these movements at their peril. But that is there and this is here, so do the same arguments apply?

Britain's fascist movement is a far cry from what it once was, though sadly less to do with their being smashed to pieces by the left and more their agenda getting gobbled up by UKIP first, and then the Conservative Party. However, the political problem doesn't lie, for the moment, in a new far right street movement tearing up city centres. The danger resides in the spread of their conspiracy theory.

The Coronavirus/5G theory, having inspired a spate of attacks on phone masts, is particularly worrying not because we've grown attached to decent mobile coverage, but because of racism. Sanctified by the moron in the White House, the more catastrophic Trump's handling of the pandemic becomes obvious the more he and his allies will keep blaming China. And in an election year, he's got to rescue those tumbling poll ratings among older voters somehow. Here in the UK, there are Tory MPs and right wing commentators only too happy to jump on the anti-China bandwagon. They might sidestep the ravings about the "Wuhan virus" and its disproven narrative of having got concocted in a laboratory, but the "genuine concerns" argument provides a nice bridge to the demonisation of an alien other. A new spectre to frighten the Tory faithful with. But this is not without consequence. From the moment Coronavirus became global news, racist attacks on Chinese and East Asians went up. Racists don't care about the minutiae of nationality and the truth. As long as there's a group that can be identified and othered, cut off from the rest of society, and victimised with minimum social cost they're up for it.

Can criticisms be made of China's handling of the virus? Of course. And there's plenty to have a go at our own government about too. But the truth is the lockdown is there to save lives. It was insisted upon by the public and continues to enjoy mass support, especially now when its relaxation has already seen an uptick in infection. There is no grand conspiracy to destroy our liberties. Apart from curtain twitchers and overreaching coppers, a Johnson-led dictatorship is not in the process of formation. If anything, it's the tardiness the government showed and its continued willingness to put people in harm's way that's the real scandal. This is where the focus of criticism should be. Anything else is distraction and, as per the pathetic Freedom Movement, can lead to an apologia for racism.


Jim Denham said...

The ex-Leftists of Spiked Online (ex-RCP/Living Marxism/Institute of Ideas, The Moral Maze) etc,etc are also promoting anti-lockdown hysteria, and using their links (via Brendan O'Neil) with the Spectator to whip up frenzy on the Brexteer Tory right to pressurise Johnson into getting a move on with lifting the present restrictions. Spiked Online, of course, is also funded by the Koch Bros. Unlike poor Piers Corbyn, most of them (Frank Ferudi, Claire Fox, Brendan O'Neill, etc) don't have the excuse of being mentally ill.

Concerned Citizen said...

If a mentally ill person claiming to be a warrior for Islam runs around a town centre with a machine gun the police kill them and no questions are asked.

Why can't they do the same in this situation, given a machine gun is not exponential but the spread of a deadly virus is?

Yours concerned citizen

Anonymous said...

Fake News. The UK Freedom Movement is not connected to Jayda Fransen's British Freedom Movement. Sad!

Jenny said...

I am not a number, I am a human resource.

Apologies to the Prisoner