Recent Race relations Articles
There is no other minority group in the UK like Muslims that you can make crass and bigoted generalisations about, and get away with it. Perhaps Roma people, but they are rarely written about as much. Not even Poles get the treatment like they used to.
I want to illustrate this point through a recent article by the Telegraph’s Andrew Gillian, which screamed: Islamic ‘radicals’ at the heart of Whitehall.
Here’s what happened: the government set up a group to advise them on tackling anti-Muslim prejudice, in parallel to the one tackling anti-semitism. It includes representatives from most major departments.
It is a very inclusive like few others, including Ahmadis, Ismailis, Sunnis and Shia Muslims together, plus other campaigners like Nick Lowles (Hope Not Hate). This is worth keeping in mind, especially since its conveniently ignored by Andrew Gilligan, because any “extreme” views would very likely be challenged by others.
The central allegation of the article is against Mudassar Ahmad, a case which is so flimsy you have to wonder whether a different agenda was being served.
Among its most prominent non-government members is Muddassar Ahmed, a former senior activist in the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), an extremist and anti-Semitic militant body which is banned from many universities as a hate group
In fact Mudassar left MPAC years ago and was never involved in any of the main activities it was criticised for (and I was a frequent critics of MPAC). The article admits that later on too.
The main quotes come from Fiyaz Mughal from Tell MAMA, who is said to have left the group over “concerns”. But Fiyaz actually left earlier last year. He is referred to by Gilligan as a “senior Muslim leader” even though he earlier undermined and attacked Tell MAMA’s work (which led to a complaint to the PCC from Tell MAMA). One minute Gilligan thinks TM is dodgy and then he’s a senior leader? What does that say about Gilligan’s journalism?
When the article came out, I said maybe Fiyaz was justified if any in the group had made inflammatory statements.
But Hope Not Hate’s Nick Lowles said to me in response: “This is the first time the antisemtic charge has been levelled on the group or its members. It is a complete red herring and an insult to everyone on the group.” I trust his judgement.
And yet, by implication, people in the group are being smeared as ‘entryists’ (Fiyaz Mughal has conspicuously declined to fully justify his claims).
These kind of generalisations about Muslims are rare now, but still remain despicable. The Telegraph would never (any more) run headlines like ‘secret plan by gays to take over Whitehall‘ – so why is this kind of language acceptable regarding Muslims?
We are back to the news cycle whereby Westminster freaks out over how to deal with the threat from UKIP. The political parties will respond with the same promises, soundbites and narratives. Then they’ll go back to existing plans until the next ‘crisis’.
Thrown in this debate are two academics – Rob Ford and Matthew Goodwin – who have written about UKIP in a book and therefore invited regularly to offer their opinions. I’m reading it now and it contains some great research. But I have a problem with their political analysis, which I find increasingly simplistic. Here is why:
Rob Ford and Matthew Goodwin (RF+MG) have a narrative that goes like this:
Working class voters are natural Labour territory. But the party is complacent about the danger they face from UKIP and that’s why UKIP is doing so well in the north. Why, for example, didn’t Labour increase their share of the vote in Middleton last night? Why are poorer voters struggling with austerity not going to Labour?
"Its a by-election". Yes, in a core seat, where Lab won 58% in 2001 and is running as oppo to unpopular austerity govt. Shld be 60% not 40%
— Rob Ford (Britain) (@robfordmancs) October 10, 2014
And other tweets where I’m accused of having my head “in the sand”.
To be fair it isn’t just RF+MG saying this – I’ve seen similar questions by others on Twitter too. But there are vast assumptions in each of those sentences that don’t stack up.
1. Working class people are not natural Labour voters. Poorer voters are not always motivated by money or economic concerns; many working class people have always been culturally conservative. As Labour has become more socially liberal (rightly, in my view), they have flocked to the Tories. In the US and UK this happened during the Reagan & Thatcher era on the issue of race / immigration, and (more recently) on issues like homosexuality and gender equality. This is why Cameron wanted to challenge his own party on gay-marriage (to ‘modernise’ it) and faced a bigger backlash than Labour did. This is also why Farage doesn’t back gay marriage despite his supposedly libertarian outlook.
More working class people have voted Labour traditionally, for economic reasons, but that doesn’t mean working class people are “naturally” Labour. Nor should Labour go for every last working class vote, unless it wants to alienate its middle class voters.
2. The Labour leadership is not complacent about the threat from UKIP. I’ve heard directly from Ed Miliband in a private meeting that he thought UKIP were a “significant” threat to the party. There is no sign whatsoever that the Labour party is complacent about UKIP, though their main focus has always remained the Tories. Quite rightly too. This oft-repeated claim that Labour is “complacent” is outright rubbish.
3. Why didn’t Labour do massively better last week in Middleton? Various reasons. Many were ex-Tory or ex-LibDem voters who disliked Labour and found a vibrant, new vehicle to register their support. Secondly, in most metropolitan areas in the Midlands or further north, Labour isn’t the opposition – they are the incumbent. All politics is local, remember? Third, it takes a while for voters to forgive Labour for their mistakes of the past (Iraq, financial crash, immigration), and they won’t just flock back quickly like some commentators think they should. It takes long, grinding contact with voters and mobiling around their issues to win back trust. Even four years is not enough.
4. Why aren’t angry voters flocking to Labour on austerity? The fact that Rob Ford seriously asks me this question reinforces my broader point about the simplistic analysis. First, a lot of voters think they haven’t been affected by austerity, or aren’t motivated against it.
Second, Labour isn’t vehemently anti-austerity anyway, the leadership has partly accepted the need for it! Those people have gone to the Greens
Third, many voters blame Labour for the austerity they’ve had to face, because they were in charge when the economy crashed.
For all these reasons, and more, Labour didn’t see a big rise in support in Heywood. Labour is not on the verge of a landslide next year, and we knew this all along.
I have no doubt I’m going to be called “complacent” for writing this, which has become the standard non-response these days.
There is a final example of how this narrative is too simplistic. In almost interview given by RF+MG, they will get a nudge from the presenter to talk about how immigration is the biggest issue for Britons right now. So they will dutifully repeat the polling in interviews.
But again this is too simplistic. Douglas Carswell was vehemently pro-immigration and open about it, and yet won with a stonking majority. Locals gave all sorts of reasons for voting for him, including street lights, not having seen their Tory MP and much more. Plus, in places like Manchester or London, Labour cannot run with an anti-immigration or anti-multiculturalism message as it will repel more of their voters than it will attract.
I will only say this. A lot of Labour seem to be under the impression that their party should be doing much better now, without recognising it takes much longer to turn around people’s indifference to Labour. This is why no party in British history has turned around a stunning defeat by the next election.
Its unfashionable to say this, but a Labour panic over UKIP (in the way Gordon Brown panicked over immigration after the Gillian Duffy incident) could hurt its own prospects far more than responding more calmly and carefully.
In the Observer today, I debate Nick Cohen on whether the Tricycle Theatre in London was right to ask the UK Jewish film festival to ‘reconsider’ its funding from the Israeli government.
There are two additional points I want to make that I didn’t have the space for.
The slippery slope
Nick Cohen ends by writing:
From George Galloway declaring Bradford an “Israel-free zone” to Islamists in the East End of London raising jihadist flags, a dangerous antisemitic mood is growing. By defending worthless bureaucrats who intimidate a Jewish – not an Israeli but a Jewish – festival because it won’t accept their double standards, you are adding to it – thoughtlessly, I am sure.
My response to him is this:
I think the slippery slope argument is worth keeping in mind, but I don’t think we are there yet. You have been criticised plenty of times for demonising Muslims and contributing towards an Islamophobic atmosphere too, and I’m sure you’ll appreciate the irony.
We can all stand up against racism while rejecting tainted money. I fully condemn Galloway and his ilk, and I believe my voice carries more weight because I also condemn the attacks in Gaza. If the slippery slope argument was carried towards its full logical conclusion every time, then you (Nick Cohen) and others (including myself), would not be allowed to criticise Islamists for fear it would further inflame Islamophobia.
Nick Cohen applies this standard to Jews but not Muslims
‘Asking Jews to take a stance on Israel’
The other key point made by critics of Tricycle is that by asking the UKJFF to reject Israeli funding, Jews as a whole are being take a stance on Israel.
But let’s flip this around. That stance implies we can’t ask Muslim groups to reject Saudi money because that’s asking them all to state their allegiance regarding the Saudis.
It would also mean no Hindu or Indian group could be criticised for taking Indian government money, even though there may be several good reasons in certain circumstances for doing so. Persian groups wouldn’t have to account for Iranian money… and so on.
That would make it near impossible to debate the influence of foreign money because this charge could be raised by almost any ethnic group at any time.
I don’t think Tricycle raised the issue because they wanted all Jews to take a side. It was a legitimate response to the pressure they had given the ongoing conflict.
Suzanne Moore has written a column in the Guardian today that I whole-heartedly agree with.
Here’s her key argument:
Clarkson is not stupid. Nor is he a maverick or outlier. He is a central part of the establishment. He parties with Cameron. Just as Ukip is not a maverick party, but made up of disgruntled Tories; just as Boris Johnson is not a maverick but a born-to-rule chancer; just as bloggers such as Guido Fawkes pretend to be anti-politics mavericks but are hard-rightwingers – this section of the right deludes itself that it is somehow “outside” the establishment rather than its pumping heart.
Saying the unsayable is actually dully conformist. Pick on anyone different and mock them. Endeavour to take away not just their rights but the concept that they ever had rights in the first place. All this is done preeningly, while a white middle-aged man pretends he is downtrodden and now some kind of freedom fighter.
[I hate to point this out but its the Guardian that has twice published fawning profiles on Guido Fawkes emphasising his anti-establishment schtick.]
I broadly agree with what Suzanne says. But there’s a point here that follows on but isn’t quite addressed: so why are Clarkson and Farage still popular? Saying this is because their followers are just racist doesn’t quite hit the mark, despite the obviously racist remarks made by both.
There’s something else going on here.
Supporters of Farage and Clarkson do think its right that people speak truth to power. They do want someone who is anti-establishment. But don’t see themselves as the establishment.
Imagine a world that is rapidly becoming more sexist and homophobic. Attacks on women and LGBTs are on the rise and the younger generation have even worse attitudes. You can see your world crumbling in front of you and you want out. You’ll support anyone who stands up to this rising tide of hatred. Even if they’re rich, white and well-connected.
This is the world that Nigel Farage and Jeremy Clarkson fans are in. They hate progressive politics and they hate the march of political correctness. Their entire world is falling apart and they hate the future. They hate ‘political correctness’ and they see it going from the Left all the way to the Tory leadership.
Whether we on the Left think this is silly or not is irrelevant, this is the world they are in. For them, the likes of Clarkson and Farage are speaking truth to power. If your world looks full of political correctness and green politics gone mad, then you’ll support Clarkson and Farage for railing against it.
We are in the middle of a culture war.
Globalisation and immigration have made this generation (mostly older and less well-off) feel like the world is slipping beyond their control. This is why there’s no puzzle as to why Farage and Clarkson are popular despite being rich, powerful and part of the establishment: their supporters see them as on side in this cultural war.
I know where I stand as an unapologetic social liberal, and I’m comfortable with that. My side is winning, after all.
But the socially conservative classes know they’re losing badly, so the culture war is intensifying. They want their world back and they think Clarkson and Farage are the last holdouts.
In other words, there’s little point in asking why supporters of Farage and Clarkson don’t want to speak truth to power. They do. But they have a point – times have changed. They are no longer the establishment… we are.
The rallying cry that “we should call out racism when we see it” is an easy one to make on the Left.
It is up there with “Tories are heartless, evil bastards” and “we should set up a political party that really represents the working class” – in making us feel all fuzzy and perhaps even mobilised to take on the world. Especially when these days you can call out racism with just an ill-tempered and carefully worded tweet. Doing it when Nigel Farage is on BBC Question Time gets you bonus retweets.
But there are several problems with this cry, especially defining what exactly constitutes racism. Furthermore, such accusations don’t always help those its intended to.
You may think this is semantics and tactics, but its not. It has real impact.
A few years ago I was invited to a round-table on the imminent launch of British Future, and a group of American campaigners on immigration had come over. They issued a stark warning: “Most of what we’ve been saying about immigration for the last 40 years has backfired, and not worked for us.”
They explained that the pro-immigration lobby had spent millions of dollars and years of campaigning to defend immigration, but had failed until recently. I wrote earlier about what they said.
For many on the Left this sounds like ‘playing politics’ than taking a ‘principled position’. This sort of knee-jerk thinking has infected our thinking, with little regard for outcomes or whether the rhetoric helps the very people it is meant to.
I’ve already explained why calling all of UKIP racist isn’t just futile but also counter-productive. That doesn’t mean we ignore specific incidents.
I have two simple rules on race-related controversies:
1) Does being outraged over it help the cause? If not, its just empty posturing.
2) Criticise the action itself as ‘racist’ (if and when it happens) rather than offering up blanket accusations of racism.
This is the definitive word on talking about racism. HEED IT
In summary: if someone is saying “we should call out racism when we see it and anyone who disagrees with is an apologist” – we should ask them if they’re doing it to actually help victims of racism, or just make themselves feel better.
The European/Local Elections are coming up next month and the establishment is in full panic. For the first time in British history there is a chance neither the Conservatives nor Labour come first in local elections.
In the Observer on Sunday, Nick Cohen is the latest one to sound the alarm, blaming the media for giving UKIP an easy ride.
This isn’t just lazy, but simply untrue. In fact over the last year the national press has ferociously attacked UKIP over their policies, the cranks that run it and the fruitcakes that are its activists.
None of the negative publicity has hurt UKIP’s support. According to YouGov today UKIP have moved to first place in EU election polls.
Are we surprised that people who express support for an anti-establishment party aren’t bothered by establishment criticism of that party?
That’s just naive. Plus, this attitude is compounded by attacking the UKIP posters are racist, thereby 1) giving those billboards even more publicity and general coverage; 2) feeding into UKIP’s narrative that the establishment thinks any restriction of immigration is racist and will attack it as such.
This plays straight into UKIP’s hands and they, despite the odd mishap, are laughing because it helps them connect with more people.
Blaming the media for the rise of UKIP is absurd. Some Britons have latched on to UKIP as a way to express their discontent with the political system – but the problem is the disconnected and unrepresentative political establishment, not the media. Without the rising anger at Westminster politics, no amount of media coverage would have given UKIP 20%+ in the polls.
The uncomfortable fact is that negative media coverage doesn’t hurt UKIP’s support. It helps them because it cements their place as the anti-establishment party.
Feeling helpless at the rise and rise of UKIP, lefties have taken the easy option and started calling them racist at every opportunity. Its amusing and even I admit to poking fun at them, but this won’t work.
These people hate the national media and mainstream politicians. Why in the world do people think they’ll listen to criticisms of UKIP from the very people they hate?
Some people also think that pointing out Nigel Farage’s City-broker background, or the craziness of UKIP policies, will undermine UKIP’s claim to be anti-establishment.
Nick Cohen sums this up:
He says he represents “ordinary people”. But he is a public school-educated former banker, whose policies will help him and his kind. He claims he is the voice of “common sense”, while allying with every variety of gay-hater, conspiracy crackpot, racist, chauvinist and pillock. The only sense he and his followers have in common is a fear of anyone who is not like them.
But these attacks misunderstand the nature of UKIP’s anti-establishment positioning.
People who hate the establishment vote UKIP because they want to shake it up. They don’t want UKIP to run the country; they are using it as a proxy to express their anger. Just saying UKIP isn’t anti-establishment doesn’t bother them, because they can see how the rise of UKIP bothers the establishment.
UKIP say: ‘if we aren’t the anti-establishment party, why does the establishment hate us so much?’ – and people think, fair enough.
So how do we undermine UKIP?
The key to undermining UKIP is the Left doing a better job of engaging and understanding the voters who vote UKIP. That’s the boring answer but it happens to be the only one constantly proven to work. And we not going to engage UKIP support by constantly sneering at them and calling them racists for voting UKIP.
That does not mean that Labour and the Left try and outflank UKIP from the right. The Tories are trying that but it won’t work. It means better engagement at a community level, making our politics more open and making it less unrepresentative. It means having more MPs who can connect people rather than great at sounding polished on Newsnight.
Once we get better at engaging people, then calling out UKIP racism can have resonance and impact because people trust your judgement. Only when they think you have something substantial to offer will they think you’re not calling UKIP racist to deflect from your own troubles.
An attack on UKIP has to resonate with people who support it. But none of the attacks on UKIP, whether in the national media or by lefties on Twitter, resonate with those people.
If a ‘metropolitan liberal’ like me can detect the sneering attitude a mile off, don’t you think UKIP supporters can too? And why in the world would they listen to people who have so much contempt for them?
by Colin Ethelson
Some anti-fascists have claimed that we should be ‘cautiously optimistic’ about EDL leader Tommy Robinson’s and Co-leader Kevin Carroll’s leaving the organisation today. Some have greeted this as the defeat of the EDL. Forget Tommy’s whining about this being the most “most difficult day” of his life. It might just be his greatest victory.
For all their chants of ‘no surrender’ Nazis tend not to be particularly steadfast. It was recently reported that Europe’s most hard-line far-right leader, Nikos Michaloliakos of Golden Dawn, was in the past extremely quick to betray his fellow Nazis to police and prosecutors.
In 2010/2011 the EDL were a successful violent fascist street gang which terrorized non-whites and wreaked havoc on our streets. But they are no longer that political force .The last few EDL events hardly drew enough goons to fill even a smaller pub. The hopes of some of the EDL’s grief vultures to turn outrage Lee Rigby’s terrorist murder into a long term resurgence of violent street fascism have not materialised.
Even the tiny number of EDL supporters who remain are riven by infighting and ideological differences. Law enforcement too is starting to close in on the EDL: Robinson and Carol themselves are due to stand trial soon and one his their top EDL-colleagues is to hand himself to the police after a violent robbery.
Thus, by leaving the EDL Robinson is not really losing anything. In admitting that he can no longer restrain ‘extremist elements’ of the EDL, he is effectively conceding that he no longer held any real power as leader anyway. As he too seems to have realised, the EDL is finished as a political force; He stated “though street demonstrations have brought us to this point, they are no longer productive”.
On the other hand Robinson’s gains through todays manoeuvre are massive.
He effectively rewrites his own political history and that of the EDL before his exit. He can portray himself as a hero of conscience; A man who risked his political future to oppose outrageous politically Islamist extremists like Anjem Choudhury. A man who was unjustly misunderstood and maligned as far-right only because of the actions of small number of extremists in the EDL.
The empathy circus has already begun. Robinson whined to the media about how he was unjustly demonised. He and Kevin Carroll even told a press conference his heroic fairy tale; “We had fought for three and a half years to keep racists out of the EDL”.
Since when is a bunch of racists getting drunk and shouting “whose streets, our streets “ a critique of Islamism. Since when is addressing a known terrorist, racist and mafia group an act of keeping racism out? Or what about the speaker at that prominent 2010 EDL demo who said “We’re still waiting for the Muslims to make peace with each other? They eat each other alive, like the dogs that they are”.
A real exit from the far-right feels and looks different. Andreas Molau, Germany’s top far-right ideologue and the most significant ‘exiter’ in past years gradually progressed from the overtly Nazi NPD to slightly more moderate far-right organizations before eventually quitting the far-right, rather than staging a glamorous one day shock maneuver. In interviews Molau makes clear that he is ‘no victim’, that his hateful views were “wrong at heart” and he has serious questions to answer over his lack of empathy for victims of the Nazi regime. He does not hide behind far-fetched self-justifications.
The test of democracy and of the rule of law, both here and in Greece, is not how it treats the best of us but how it treats the worst.
That doesn’t mean we should be complacent. There are real threats to justice in Britain, such as cuts to legal aid. However the battle is clearly not yet lost here.
Meanwhile in Greece the authorities have moved to arrest members of the Neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, including its leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos and four other Golden Dawn MPs. They’ve been charged with belonging to a criminal organisation and it’s claimed that guns and ammunition were found in Michaloliakos’ home.
Recent posts by reservists belonging to elite Greek military units calling for a coup, the killing of a prominent leftist musician, sustained attacks on immigrants and left wing protesters, had all brought things to a point where the state seems to have felt obliged to act.
I feel obliged to say two things. Firstly that I believe in muscular democracy; in other words I do not believe that a democracy, in the name of democracy, should hand the means of its own destruction to non-democratic forces.
When Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared at one point that he saw democracy as a bus, you use it to get to your destination and then get off, he associated himself with autocrats everywhere who have exploited democracy from Hitler onwards.
The minimum qualification for seeking power democracy must be a commitment to surrender power democratically when citizens demand it. For that reason it’s hard to justify allowing Golden Dawn or any other anti-democratic group an electoral platform.
The other thing I would say is this; however odious Golden Dawn the party and its members may be they must get due process and a fair trial. It’s not so much a concern about creating martyrs. Most knuckle dragging far right thugs would fetishise a rotting dog’s carcass if it served their warped cause. Nope, it’s because the damage done to Greek democracy by further degrading its already damaged institutions would be almost as bad as letting Golden Dawn damage them.
There’s a passage in A Man For All Seasons, where Sir Thomas More is debating with his son-in-law Wiolliam Roper, that puts it better than I could.
Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.
Bang ‘em up, throw away the key and all that, but do it proper and do it so a better, more confident, more self respecting, more honest, more democratic Greece can come out of this.
this blog was originally posted here.
by James Mills
When I saw the video of the Selfridges shop assistant refusing to serve the EDL’s Tommy Robinson my heart rose.
Because whenever we hear about the labour market these days there is a dominant narrative that one should be happy with their lot. In essence, if you have a job, then count yourself lucky.
There is an element of truth to this when there are around two and half million people unemployed. But it means the ethics of the workplace are ignored and replaced with cold managerial speak. Workers are turned into drones, not workers. It is how we arrive at workplace poverty, zero hour contracts; and a Britain where the increase in the latter is viewed as success.
This young man could have just kept his head down and said nothing. But by his actions, he has displayed that no matter where one works you have a social responsibility.
I was a shop assistant too, for a well known, now bankrupt, off-license for around six years. The job was vital to me paying my rent and working my way through university. I could work up to 35-40 hours a week; and I know without that job I probably would not have graduated university. However, on several occasions I risked my job (and potentially my degree).
We were allowed to refuse customers who were drunk, violent, or if we obviously believed they were underage or supplying underage people. But on several occasions I refused to serve people for racist, sexist language and even bad manners. And I banned those customers until they apologised.
On one occasion someone threw their money on the counter when buying chewing gum, so I decided to throw the chewing gum and their change directly at them.
There are things more important than one’s personal ambitions and needs. This is an ethic that sadly is ignored when we talk about employment these days; and is seeping away from the workplace.
This week sees the launch of a new documentary, Nae Pasaran, recognising how 40 years ago shop floor workers at an aircraft engine repair factory in East Kilbride refused to work on plane engines of fascist dictator General Pinochet, after he seized power in a coup.
It is sadly something which seems unimaginable these days, until I saw that video.
Not only did these workers, like this shop assistant, refuse to supply their labour to the benefit of fascists, but they had an intrinsic knowledge that a workplace is not an inanimate location (by tforge tech everette); it is somewhere from which we all have a responsibility to our work colleagues, but also to our communities.
Nae Pasan trailer
James Mills did the cross-party Save EMA campaign; and runs the Labour Diversity Fund campaign
The centre-right commentator Ed West, previously at the Telegraph, has written a book on diversity and immigration. I thought it would be useful to do an email interview and ask him about some of his assertions.
Sunny: Briefly, what is the main point you make in your new book?
That is the social costs of large-scale immigration tend to outweigh the benefits after a certain fairly early point, and that greater ethnic, religious and cultural diversity places a strain on society by reducing trust. This has a negative impact on all sorts of things, most of which are tend to be the historical property of the Left; in particular our willingness to share public goods with fellow citizens.
I think a lot of people on the Left agree with this to a certain extent, but because anti-racism is the most important tenet of their moral being they would rather an analysis that explained it away as something that can be countered, whether by government efforts of attempts to change hearts and minds. This is where I would disagree with them.
Sunny: Arguably, many other changes across British society in the last 30 years – de-industrialisation, mass unemployment, increased individualism and liberalism, higher geographical mobility, globalisation etc have reduced trust too. Where’s the evidence that immigration is behind it all?
Yes, all of those things cause lower trust (the decline of religion too is a massive factor). Anything that brings freedom will bring atomisation, they’re two sides of the same coin. In regards to diversity reducing trust, there have been a number of studies; the most widely quoted is Robert Putnam’s, but there are various others, by academics at MIT, Harvard and the Home Office. There are (a smaller) number of studies showing that it doesn’t make an impact, but social sciences will always bring these contradictory studies, and I think the weight of evidence is in favour of the former group. (But that may be just my own personal biases.)
Looking at it logically, it would be astonishing if greater ethnic, religious and other types of diversity didn’t reduce trust, considering that by its very nature religions developed to bind a group of people together. Ethnicity like religion is also formed by membership of a particular culture.
Sometimes this is not neccessarily a bad thing; the converse to the modern liberal society are clannish ones, where people are very closely bonded towards their own kin but very distrusting of outsiders. Ethnic groups developed as extended clans and in ancient slave-owning societies slaves from the same ethnic groups were kept apart because, even when the language barrier was overcome and a lingua franca was understood, they were believed to be too dangerously cohesive for the owners. Tests of prisoner’s dilemma today between members of the same and different ethnic groups consistently show this still to be true – people around the world are more likely to turn over some from a different group.
I’m not saying this will be the case with everyone. A great deal of our feelings of trust and neighbourliness are affected by things like wealth and also general fear levels (and liberals tend to have lower fear levels than conservatives, which is why they’re often nicer people). Wealthy and/or liberal people are less affected by the downsides of diversity, but because wealthy and liberal people tend to be more vocal and prominent in this debate as in many others it’s easy to forget that they are not the norm.
Sunny: Let’s assume there are lower levels of trust among Britons. Regardless of whether you believe if this was caused by immigrants, what do you suggest we do about it?
I think there is a wider question about social capital, the term popularised by Robert Putnam but a lot older, which was sort of ignored for a while but is now taken up a lot of people, like David Goodhart, David Willetts, Jonathan Haidt and (most recently) Jesse Norman with his book on Edmund Burke (and also the Blue Labour/Red Tory people). Goodhart describes himself as a post-liberal, which is a pretty good phrase, because it says that he’s accepted the social reforms of the 60s in terms of women’s and gay rights, and anti-racism, but there are different challenges now.
They come from different angles but the general idea is that liberal individualism has been taken too far and fails to take account that humans are social animals and don’t generally act or think like indviduals. Both the Left and Right have embraced this, in the latter case with a sort of market fundamentalism. We’re not rational, isolated individuals who calculate only our own best interests, we have families, friends, wider communities, fellow religous believers, compatriots whose interests we wish to look after (and should look after).
The Left has sort of fallen out love with many of these institutions – the family, church, country – because it seems them as oppressive or homophobic or racist, which they can be, but they’re also often not and provide means of support for the most vulnerable. Modern libertarians tend to dislike these institution because they hold back the individual but a society run along the lines of some of Ayn Rand’s disciples would be a living hell for the poor or those not blessed without specific talents. Unfortunately I think our chancellor is probably a disciple.
Haidt (a liberal) says the biggest failing of the modern Left is that it fails to see that many of its reforms reduce social capital, and that the victims tend to be poorer. I think people on the Left are in denial about the impact that the decline in traditional two-parent families has on the very poor, and will perform cartwheels to deny it (although the evidence is hard to fix on, because it’s hard to look at which way the causal arrow is going).
On the other hand conservatives are in denial about the money-orientated signals that the free-market gives out, and how it does (whatever the Blessed Margaret’s intention) make people more selfish; they’re also deluded if they think that the problem is people on benefits rather than low wages and the working poor, and the social catastrophe that is housing inflation. Tackling all those issues would probably help. And did I mention immigration?
Sunny: It seems to me that the other factors you mention have reduced social capital much more than immigration. So why focus on that? And other than restricting immigration, how would you increase social capital?
Personally I think that’s unlikely – the evidence seems to suggest that immigration and diversity are big factors in trust and societal well-being (which was strangely skirted over by the Spirit Level, although I dont doubt that trust and equality have a fair amount of interaction). But even if its not the biggest factor, even so – rather than asking why focus on that, I would ask why not? In what other area would you say we shouldnt even look at the downsides? If a pretty radical social change has downsides and on an intellectual level they’re ignored (which they were for a long time – on a non-intellectual level anti-immigration rhetoric has always been around but I would argue the tabloids have less influence than Radio 4), then you have to ask yourself why.
My personal interest was stoked by what I saw as intellectual cowardice, lots of people were unhappy about what was happening, many of the arguments in favour of immigration and diversity seem pretty tenuous, but no one wants to see themselves as morally tinged with racism, and once you get beyond the straightforward economic arguments then some sort of self-examination on that issue is unavoidable.
I think anyone on the Right who raises this as an issue is going to be accused of stirring things up for personal and political gain, but I think if you find it difficult to imagine that other people have sincerely held views different to yours, the only possible explanation can be malice. (Of course there are politicians and media people who will always try to inspire hatred for personal benefit, there’s no question of that, but lots of people have sincere beliefs and try to articulate them responsibly).
There’s also a sort of utopian side to the anti-racist movement that says any problems with a multi-racial society are caused by a lack of anti-racism measures, and people delibaretly stirring things up. I would just argue that by its very structure very diverse socities are more fragile and prone to discord and that’s why everyone since the Persians has had a system of multiculturalism in place to keep that in check.
You can buy Ed West’s book on Amazon: The Diversity Illusion – What We Got Wrong About Immigration & How to Set It Right – from Amazon.co.uk or other sites.
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