When there is nothing to fear the Far Right lose their strength

My answer to a local residents question.

What is your view on the growth of eurosceptic and anti-immigration parties across Western Europe?

I think that the growth of euro-skeptic and anti-immigration parties across Western Europe are an inevitable consequence to the issues I’ve described in previous blog posts:

  1. The failure of politicians to address the root cause of the problems in our society (neoliberalism).
  2. The agenda of the far right press that seeks to divide and rule through scare mongering and a refusal to debate issues intelligently
  3. A consumerist economic culture that feeds off people’s self-doubt.

But overall the reason is that quite simply for the majority of people their quality of life is visibly decreasing and they are scared. Not only that but for many the experience has been so overwhelmingly negative that they have been emotionally scarred, and layered within the context of a post-truth world they have no idea what has scarred them.

For the majority of us living in 21st century Europe we feel as though there is an insurmountable threat, be it real or otherwise, such as job uncertainty, fear for our children’s future, a loss of cultural identity, global economic forces acting beyond our control or global warming. For all of these threats (and again, whether they are real or not is largely irrelevant) the simple fact is that people are scared and feel as though there is no hope.

Where the establishment parties fail is that they never offer people any explanation or solutions to the problems we face which just leaves people ever more bewildered and fearful.

Look at the last General Election. We all knew that the system was not working for the vast majority of us and yet the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems all stood on manifestos that had varying degrees of Austerity as the solution to our problems. They were simply incapable of acknowledging that their blind faith in neoliberal economics is the root cause of the problem.

I often think of the analogy of the survival principle Fight or Flight as being apt here and that people, when fearing for their future, have two options. They can ‘Fight’ (for a fairer economy and a better democracy) or Flight (in terms of just running from the problem and abandoning politics). To fight, when the problem is so complex and no solution is ever presented by the politicians or mainstream media, is rarely the typical response. Instead people flee, and who they see as they run from the problems are far right parties projecting themselves as a place of sanctity.

These far right movements, often lead by charismatic figures, build there movement on the back of these politically inactive (and usually desperate) people who have been the losers of the economic ineptitude of our politicians for the last thirty years.

These people feel, often quite rightly, that they have no voice at all in politics or the future of their own lives. Because it is not in the far rights interest to actually address the problem (they too want to maintain the neoliberal economic model) they just simply describe all of the problems as the fault of ‘others’.

Far right parties deliberately create echo chambers of simplistic messages, slogans and symbols which for many listening will be the first time in in their lives that a politician is able to describe a tangible explanation to why their life is so hard. Of course, what the far right describe is neither correct nor offering any form of solution, but they are offering people an “answer”, and that is what the others within the political spectrum repeatedly fail to do.

Simplistically this ‘answer’ is that all problems are down to migration.

Now, migration does of course change society, although far less so than, for example, technology, economic austerity, inequality, globalisation or climate change. But it patently isn’t “The Greatest Threat to our Way of Life” or the cause of all of our problems. The actual threat, as shown by the rise of Trump, is that we will swallow the narrative that immigrants, refugees or people from non-European countries are less human than the rest of us, that they think and feel less, that they matter less.

But that’s the whole agenda of the far-right.  Create a scapegoat, demonise them and make the rest of the people believe that as long as they’re not the biggest loser, then they’re a winner.

And History shows us that this never ends well.

So where do we go from here?

Immigration is likely to remain an overarching theme in European politics for a long time yet. It was at the heart of the UK referendum campaign and it is set to dominate French and German elections next year. I would argue that the issue of migration broke free from the facts a long time ago, but in todays Europe facts don’t matter anymore.

The establishment political parties are now embracing this new reality and countering the surge in popularity of extreme right politics. Many are lurching ever further to the right to take advantage of these fears. Just look at the moves by the Conservative Party over recent months (although if I were asked a few months ago and I wouldn’t have thought it even possible for them to lurch even further to the right than they already where).

The only positive I see coming from this is that finally there will be the rise of an ideology that looks to challenge all of the problems caused by modern economics.

The simple truth is that of all the problems sweeping the globe the biggest one is fear itself. A solution must plainly include helping the majority, revolves around a livable planet, justice and equality. And the answer must be to reject neoliberal economics and promoting an economic system based on the values of support and sharing. Through programs such as Citizens income we can remove the fear and destitution created by our current paradigm of greed and exploitation and when everyone benefits the same there will be no envy or fear of others taking benefits that you feel should come to you.

Ultimately I believe that we can create a system that doesn’t destroy our planet, doesn’t blame minorities, doesn’t make people with disabilities suffer and doesn’t walk away from people with problems.

And if we can do that, there will be nothing to fear. And when there is nothing to fear the far right will have lost the only thing that gives them strength.

The Greatest Lie Ever Told

A local student asked me some questions and this is my answer. As always, I don’t even come close to answering the actual question….

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To what extent do you believe the media has a role in the growth of far right politics in the UK?

I would suggest that “traditional media” is a lost cause.

If I want to find out about any particular global issue I have to expend a great deal of effort. I first have to read from a number of UK based sources, then compare and contrast this with sources from abroad such as Russia Today and Al Jazeera. I then have to try to use all of this agenda driven information to try to triangulate the truth. Without this exhausting approach it’s nigh on impossible to get what I would define as reliable news.

But some of our media groups in the UK take things to a whole other level. And bloody hell, they’re a nasty lot.

The printed press in the UK is unquestionably dominated and controlled by 5 billionaires (the Barclay brothers make up two of these). Through their newspaper networks (and television channels such as Sky and Channel 5) they have incredible control over the information available to the British Public.

All 5 operate as either offshore owners or utilize non-domicile status and as a result benefit hugely from complex accountancy systems that see them pay little to no tax. They will publish anything as long as it protects this situation.

All 5 also have a massive hold over the politicians of this country. If any politician steps out of line or follows an agenda they don’t agree with they will be vilified, undermined and given almost perpetual mockery (with the honourable Jeremy Corbyn being a recent example).

All 5 were huge supporters of the Brexit campaign.

There are many who even suggest that the power of these people is so all encompassing that nothing of any political consequence ever takes place in the UK without their consent.

I’m not clear exactly want they want, but as billionaires I’m fairly certain that it would be in their best interest to maintain the neoliberal status quo.

The people of Britain, who are no mugs, are acutely aware that there are major structural problems in our society. Yet the 5 media barons have proven to have long held agendas of diverting attention from away form the issues that will most affect people’s life (global warming, banking regulation, tax collection and the protection of public services) and there is also never any questioning of our prevailing economic system.

Rather than using their media networks to describe the endemic structural problems in our society they  instead deliberately obviscate our ability to find the truth and pursue a simplistic agenda to vilify minority groups as being the cause of all of our problems.

The narrative is simplistic and repeated: “All of the problems in our society are the fault of foreigners who are coming over here to steal your job/benefit/house/hospital bed.” And the result is predictable:  the people focus their anger at the minorities rather than on the true cause of their pain (the monopolistic greed of the billionaires and multi-national corporations).

Now this is obviously incredibly destructive but these Media Barons are only doing what they are legally obligated to do. As owners and Directors of companies they must, under law, try to ensure the greatest possible return for their shareholders. Exposing structural economic problems would undoubtedly lead to political change and presumably an impact on their bottom-line, which is fully at odds with their corporate objectives. So, they simply continue the narrative of blame others and refuse to ever let the other side of the story known. It’s incredibly destructive but for them, it’s also proven to be effective.

You just need to Google past headlines of these newspapers or view the evening schedule of channel five. I can guarantee there will be headlines blaming migrants or refugees for any number of problems or vilification of the most desperate people in our society as being “work-shy scroungers” and “spongers”.

This constant drip-drip-drip of dis-information will inevitably manifest itself in people as fact given enough time. We are only human after all.

And ultimately, people’s humanity is being corrupted by fear.

Everyone knows that newspapers lie, but what we fail to appreciate is that some of them lie all the time.

One of the collateral damages of or post-truth world is that not only does the present news gets distorted – the past gets rewritten as well. The press in the UK ignore, forget or misrepresent our own actual history.

Such as Europe having a long history of almost constant population movement and mixing of cultures, yet we never hear about this. We are told precisely the opposite and that our “way of life”, manufactured by the retelling of historical facts, is now under threat.

The truth however is that the greatest threat to our “way of life” is not migration or desperate people receiving social security. The greatest threat to our society is that we believe the single great lie that ever told: “some human lives matter less than others.”

With this greatest lie repeatedly stated by our media and unchallenged by our politicians we have to ask some questions.

Can our media barons ever be trusted or responsible?

Will our existing politicians start being honest?

I have my doubts, but I’m going to keep fighting for the truth from them anyway.