Sunday, 19 June 2016

Hypocrisy, treason and terrorism - an uncomfortable truth

The assassination of Jo Cox gets more shocking and evil with each passing hour.  The ongoing depravity of the circumstances in which she was murdered, aligned with the climate of fear, loathing and ignorance being fostered over many decades, suggests that there is something far more fundamentally wrong than can be papered over through a general reversion to "niceness" in the run-up to the European referendum.

I am sure that I am not the only person to remark that the sham cant of calling for the crime not to be seen in a "political" context is largely emerging from those whose vicarious guilt and associations put them in at best a morally-corrupt universe.  The memory of someone who, by all accounts, strove to achieve a better world for her constituents, her family and those disadvantaged and displaced across the world would be besmirched if these foolish tropes are given traction.

The referendum campaign has exacerbated fear - not the "Project Fear" presentation of risks, but a genuine discomfort for those who have challenged the messaging both overt and subliminal emanating from the various shades of Leave.  This is the culmination of coarsened political discourse, egged on by the interests of propagandists and those for whom accountability and honesty would be as strange bedfellows as they are to Louise Mensch, who approvingly re-tweeted a comment on the murder with a swastika avatar.

There is a sickness in public life that goes much deeper than the current vile cesspit.  It is not a matter of left or right, but the perversion of humane values and the removal of individual responsibility.  For the last weeks there has been a constant bombardment of incitement from the far right leaders of the Leave campaigns, which has drowned out more rational discussion that might have persuaded a few of us of the legitimacy of their case.  The rhetoric of Johnson, Farage, Gove and others would have been regarded as risky by Enoch Powell, let alone the Goebbels equivalents in various 20th century dictatorships.

Culpability does not end at the politicians, but also within the media.  The BBC has been hampered by its need for political balance, as the risible rabble-rousing would otherwise have had more scrutiny, while the right-wing press, in its descent, would find arriving back up into the sewers a positive enhancement of its status.  The Rothermeres, Desmonds and Murdochs have spent decades carefully exploiting the techniques of informational abuse for both political and commercial ends, and it can certainly be argued that the murderer could have been desensitised from morality through the drip-feed of bile, lies and packaged distractions.

A feed of racism, celebrity culture and raw envy does not make the world a comfortable place.  Destroying the public realm and the social fabric through casualisation of labour, the obscene rewards of the plutocrats, sportspersons and apparently random "talent", the encouragement of wealth fantasies through a housing asset bubble and the rhetoric of fear and distrust of the "other" has been a long-term strategy, particularly targeted at achieving illegitimate political control through an unfit electoral system and minimising the opportunities for dissent.

The effectiveness of this perversion has doubtless encouraged a mood of sullen rebellion - which is easier to shape and direct than active anger.  Spending weeks and months preparing the ground for a nakedly-racist campaign against immigrants, spiced up with at best subliminal but often overt confusion between economic migration and those forced out of their own native lands through the actions of misplaced foreign and domestic policy, creates a climate of pure evil.  Creating a society where cohesion is a dirty word has set one of the preconditions for domestic terrorism.

Perhaps the most evil element of the neoconservative assault has been the denial of individual responsibility and the promotion of hopelessness as a means of social control.  Throughout the near-decade since the collapse of the world's financial systems, the corporate welfare system has doled out largesse to banks while leaving such luminaries as Philip Green untouched.  What is the point in being prepared to seek change and improvement, for oneself or one's fellow humans, when the system acts to protect and succour those who have screwed it over?  Apathy plays as important a part in the project as control.

Creating impotence and paranoia is a high-risk strategy.  The actions of one person, who I am touched to see that the usual suspects are lining-up to describe as "mentally ill" rather than "politically motivated", are an extreme example of a social structure unravelling.  To describe this as terrorism is legitimate.  To understand how a susceptible person can be influenced by a spectrum of braying, irresponsible voices is not to deny their sickness, but to attempt the horrible task of trying to avoid similar terrorism in the future.

What is making the new right and their racist fellow-travellers uncomfortable is a sense of guilt, at least by association.  Thatcher's coarsening of the rhetoric in the 1980s, describing the NUM as the enemy within, has done nothing to assist discourse.  The irresponsibility of continuing this rhetoric has created a climate where it is not surprising, though evil, to see the rhetoric of treason being applied to anyone who disagrees with you and stands in your way.  Farage, the saloon-bar bore, epitomises both the hypocrisy and the danger.

Only one person pulled the trigger against democracy, but there are many more who have created the climate where such an action could even be seen as legitimate by the deranged.  Individual failings will doubtless have played their part, but the overarching rhetoric will have contributed to a climate where an act of evil takes place.  The simple test is that murder does not seem illogical or irrational in the perverted debate that has been taking place in the last few months.

On the morning of the murder, Farage unveiled a poster that would have made the Nazi Party proud.   He has predicted violence.  The spectacle of allegedly mainstream politicians resorting to dog-whistles around immigration and the pure racism and lies being peddled, with all the techniques of media manipulation has been disturbing for all those who recognise that life will go on in the future.  The hubris of the hypocrites is astounding - Baldwin's prerogative of the harlot does not even scrape the surface - but they are not in it for the good of the people, but their own feather-bedding and control fantasies.

To claim treason is to ramp up the rhetoric - yet it is hard to see what the actions of many of the far right are in other words.  The spectrum from a gun-toting lunatic to those who unaccountably remain in the Cabinet is not equally deserving of blame, but in allowing the coarsening of debate to the extent where people feel afraid to exercise their freedom of speech, or to attempt to discount the actions of an inflamed lunatic as an individual act, outside the moral, political and situational frameworks demonstrates how debased they have become.

In the immediate aftermath, the self-styled iconoclasts, of which Mensch is one of the most persistent and inadequate, had a field day.  The debased minds of the new right, channelled through such luminaries as Isabel Oakeshott and James Delingpole, immediately tried to close down the political dimension of the murder.  They would not, I suspect, have been as emphatic if the perpetrator had claimed Islamic extremism as a motive, rather than the language of the extreme media.

David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn have struck the right note, which is encouraging.  In a few days' time there will be the referendum, and after that there will be unpredictable and febrile forces let loose.  In the event of a Remain vote, Farage and his cronies will not take things lying down, and the worrying parallels between the tinfoil hat brigade of the 1970s who attempted to undermine the Labour government should not be lost on those responsible for maintaining public order.  Whatever happens there is cause for concern both in the short- and long-term.

This cannot be permitted, in the context of political murder, to be an excuse for closing down debate. It would dishonour a brave and principled person.  A society where politicians and commentators take to demonising those who ask questions - and who spray around accusations and insults without consequence - contributed to the current mire.  Taking the world forward means being both assertive and positive that everyone has a place in it.

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