Friday 9 October 2020

Darren Grimes and the Politics of Racism

Darren Grimes is a grifting little shit, and he'll be thanking his lucky stars Durham plod want a word under caution. This evacuation of a human being, who traded in his liberal principles after identifying a gap in the attention market for a pre-pubescent Ben Shapiro, is getting interviewed under caution for his podcast interview with David Starkey earlier in the summer. After years of racist provocations, Starkey's stream of racist invective did not pass without consequence. His job at Cambridge is up the swanney and his two-book deal with Harper Collins in the bin. About time.

But this isn't about Starkey, it's about Grimes. Whether he broke any laws interviewing a well-known racist, someone he described as a hero of his incidentally, and then publishied this conversation for the lulz, the clicks, and the column inches is a matter for the criminal justice system. However, what it is not is an attack on free speech. It's an opportunity.

Grimes and his hideous ilk keep pushing the racist envelope and edging back the frontiers of what is and isn't acceptable in public debate for entirely self-interested reasons. If nudge, nudge racist declarations provoke reactions, it's working. Social media storms, celebrity denunciations or, even better, some form of institutional intervention gives them profile, and profile is the currency of our moment. Preserving entitlement in the 21st century means playing the victim, and there's cash money to be made from crying about a liberal witchhunt and ostentatiously squatting on their ducking stool. Grimes will dine out on this for years to come as the truth warrior the cops tried to shut up.

Securing his prominence is clearly Grimes's main concern, and he can rely on a network of papers and high profle commentators to stick up for him. Even centrist weirdos and Blue Labour dunces are happily lending a hand, for some perhaps hoping a sliver of spotlight will briefly catch them. But ensuring Tory notables like Grimes stay notable is not the end game for the right wing culture war project at all.

Their project is to reduce and eventually eliminate the social costs of racism. They want to get to a point where casual racism and racist epithets are tolerated as an accepted part of public discourse. Libertarianism and free-thinking is thin cover for giving the right - the Tories, whatever Farage's next party is, other wannabes - the freedom to go full bore on divide and rule politics. The Tories, as we've seen time and again, depend on fear of the other to whip a viable electoral coalition into shape. Speech without consequence makes room for more outrageous claims, more division, and more and dragooning supporters on the basis of petrifying them. Why bother promise anything when scapegoating can do the election winning instead?

Presently, the right are somewhat stymied. Cultivating mass racism as articulated by the Tory press and leading politicians is dependent on dog whistles, on partially cloaking itself by sublimating into "genuine concerns" about immigration, saying Britain is a soft touch for refugees and, of course, moaning about "wokeness" and you-can't-say-anything-these-days. The right want to make racism a more potent weapon of divide and rule, and damn the fact this speech does have consequences - for those on its receiving end.

I don't care about Grimes. He's a gormless tool for a project determined to make British politics more poisonous and more polarised. If he does or doesn't do bird is immaterial. Racism can't be defeated by laws and putting right wing commentators on porridge. It's got to be challenged politically through argument, persuasion, and mobilisation. And they know, the Tories, the racists, and the rightwing ideologues feel the weight of history bearing down on them. The rising social costs of racism in the UK, underlined by widespread Black Lives Matter protests, is demonstrative of their weakness versus our growing latent strength, of an unstated and anti-racist commonsense that is part of the mundane, everyday fabric of social life for the majority of people. They push racism as its salience declines because, ultimately, they have nothing else. It's a desperate move. Our movements have them on the run, and if we keep pushing the weaker racism gets and, as a consequence, the more naked their politics of privilege becomes.

Image Credit


KevM said...

Well said, Phil.

Blissex said...

George Orwell's unpublished preface to "Animal Farm":

“One of the peculiar phenomena of our time is the renegade Liberal. Over and above the familiar Marxist claim that ʻbourgeois libertyʼ is an illusion, there is now a widespread tendency to argue that one can only defend democracy by totalitarian methods. If one loves democracy, the argument runs, one must crush its enemies by no matter what means. And who are its enemies? It always appears that they are not only those who attack it openly and consciously, but those who ʻobjectivelyʼ endanger it by spreading mistaken doctrines. In other words, defending democracy involves destroying all independence of thought.
[...] These people don't see that if you encourage totalitarian methods, the time may come when they will be used against you instead of for you.
[...] But how much of the present slide towards Fascist ways of thought is traceable to the ʻanti-Fascismʼ of the past ten years and the unscrupulousness it has entailed?”

BCFG said...

You can't argue and reason with racists any more than you can argue and reason with believers in god, Climate deniers or Covid conspiracy theorists. The latter 2 made up of the 5 million business owners and their families and Boffy.

Political argument won't really cut the mustard, neither will these blatant attacks on free speech.

What is the answer? I wish I knew! Time and history have might help but who can say.

I would hope fundamentally changing this insane capitalist society would be a prerequisite though, a system whose leading disciples and main sycophants of the bourgeois (for example Boffy), would have us believe the following:

That we must get back shopping.
We must stop people working from home because we need these people to walk past shops, enter them and purchase something they absolutely do not need.
To avert and stave off starvation we must ensure Weatherspoons is open until the early hours of the morning.

This is a crackpot system, a death cult and anything short of abolishing it once and for all might as well be Trump.

Blissex said...

«You can't argue and reason with racists any more than you can argue and reason with believers in god, Climate deniers or Covid conspiracy theorists.»

Regardless of that what matters is that by arguing and reasoning with them you can persuade those watching the discussion and have not fully committed to a side yet, even if you cannot persuade those you are arguing and reasoning with.
This is important if one assumes that the majority of people are willing to follow a discussion and able to realize who has the better arguments. That also works if one believes that people who don't do that deserve to suffer the consequences of their choices.

But if one believes that other people may fall for "bad" arguments, and themselves or others should not suffer because of that, then one may want to suppress "bad" arguments, and only allow the discussion of "good" arguments. That's a very strong temptation and is usually based on the notion that "unacceptable ideas" lead to "unacceptable words" which lead to "unacceptable actions".

Dipper said...

Despite my general political views I'm not madly keen on Darren Grimes, and his interview with David Starkey was a car crash. Being a right-wing libertarian is not the easy relaxed ride it seems to some to be. Grimes could do with a period of reflection and self-examination. And Starkey just can't stop being the cheeky boy showing off by making unacceptably rude remarks. He wasn't just wrong to say those things, he was wrong to think them.

The correct response to Grimes and Starkey is not to ban them but to argue back. Banning and criminal investigations are the wrong way to go. If you go down the prosecution route there are loads of racist and general derogatory statements from BLM leaders and their fellow riders, starting with 'White Lives Don't Matter'. Be careful what you wish for.