“Show me your papers”: how anti-immigrant fanaticism is turning Britain into an authoritarian state

Following the Home Office’s recent propaganda campaign exhorting undocumented immigrants to leave the country, we have now learned that Theresa May has turned to more violent means in her anti-immigrant crackdown. Immigration officers have been conducting “spot checks” outside railway stations to catch undocumented immigrants – disproportionately targeting people of colour, and intimidating and verbally abusing people who try to stand up for their rights.

This forms part of a disturbing pattern of anti-immigrant hatred which is already costing lives. At the Feminist Hivemind, I have recently written about the tragic death of Ugandan lesbian woman Jackie Nanyonjo, who, forced on to a deportation flight to Uganda, was beaten so severely by security guards from the private contractor Reliance that she died of her injuries. We have also learned in recent weeks of the existence of a secret ministerial committee, formerly named the “hostile environment working group”, with an explicit mandate to make life worse for undocumented migrants and failed asylum-seekers in the hope of forcing them to leave the country. Many failed asylum-seekers already live in destitution as a result of deliberate government policy.

The Home Office’s latest “crackdown” is chillingly redolent of the worst excesses of authoritarian states: a policy in which people, disproportionately people of colour, can be stopped on the street at any time and interrogated about their immigration status. Much of the opposition to the policy has been focused on the likelihood that people who are not actually undocumented will be wrongly targeted – as indeed has happened. But that is not the only reason why this policy should be condemned. Tepid and half-hearted criticisms along the lines of “illegal immigration is a problem, but this isn’t the right way to deal with it” implicitly concede most of the debate to the racists. We should not use or accept stigmatizing terms like “illegal immigrant”: as Elie Wiesel famously asked, how can a human being be “illegal”? Nor should we accept the orthodoxy that irregular migration is a “problem” that needs to be “stopped” by means of state violence. Irregular migration is a manufactured problem: it is a problem created by our arbitrary and discriminatory immigration laws, in which a person’s rights and status are made to depend upon the accident of birth. Why should a person be denied equal civil rights in this country merely because they were born in Kampala, Karachi or Mogadishu rather than London? And why are we not outraged by the fact that significant numbers of people every year – most of whom are people of colour from the developing world, and some of whom are survivors of unimaginable trauma – are arrested and held against their will in hellholes like Yarl’s Wood, by our government, for no other crime than being foreign? Why are we willing to countenance this cruelty in our names?

We need to stop conceding ground to the xenophobic far right. Immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, are not “problems” – they are human beings with human rights. We need to fight for equal rights and emancipation for all immigrants. We know that public pressure makes a difference: Josephine Komeh’s deportation to Sierra Leone was recently stopped after a public campaign organized by the Movement for Justice, and Senegalese gay activist Serigne Tacko Mbengue has been granted asylum. Let us hope that sustained public pressure can put a stop to the Home Office’s campaign of spot-checks.

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31 Responses to “Show me your papers”: how anti-immigrant fanaticism is turning Britain into an authoritarian state

  1. johnvmarsch says:

    Some things never change. I seem to recall reading somewhere that the first English settlers in America were asylum-seekers fleeing an oppressive regime at home. I’m sure there were many native Americans willing to offer a refuge to these persecuted immigrants and embrace the cultural enrichment they offered; sadly others took a more paranoid and xenophobic view toward the pale-skinned Other, even resorting to violence on occasion. Perhaps they feared the loss of their hegemonic red privilege.

    Still, all worked out for the best, didn’t it? : )

    • David Neale says:

      That’s one of the silliest things you’ve ever said. (Though at least you implicitly admit that colonialism was terrible.) There’s no comparison between the two situations: the gradients of power and privilege involved are completely different. If you seriously imagine that non-Western migrants to Britain secretly plan to perpetrate genocide and steal your land, there’s probably not much I can say to assuage your paranoia.

      • johnvmarsch says:

        That’s one of the silliest things you’ve ever said.

        It was certainly facetiously expressed.

        (Though at least you implicitly admit that colonialism was terrible.)

        I’d hesitate to generalise. At any rate I’m not sure that European colonialism was worse than other varieties and wasn’t better than many.

        There’s no comparison between the two situations: the gradients of power and privilege involved are completely different.

        Well perhaps the present situation is in some ways more akin to that of the first waves of Vandals and Goths when they sought refuge within the borders of the Roman imperium.

        Do you really believe power-relations are reducible to a simple measurable ‘gradient’? Power is an elusive thing, resistant to easy quantification and ever prone to rapid see-saw shifts. The red man had an initial numerical advantage over the white settlers, just as the white man currently does in Britain, Europe and the United States. That didn’t help the red man in the long run; and indeed it’s easy to find examples of minorities exercising power over much larger subject populations. Power isn’t a numbers game. Conversely the Pilgrim Fathers
        may have enjoyed a limited technological advantage over the natives; but superior technology failed to guarantee their descendents victory in Vietnam. Power isn’t solely about gadgetry, firepower or wealth.

        Surely the successful exercise of power depends in large part on psychological factors, the strength of will that comes from self-belief. Once upon a time, the white minority in South Africa exercised power confidently over the black majority. Now that white minority is desperately vulnerable, most likely targeted for genocide. What changed? Maybe nothing more than that the whites stopped believing in their right to rule. Loss of belief leads to loss of will leads to loss of power. Loss of life usually follows.

        Does the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland strike you as a gleaming bastion of proud self-belief? I see a beached whale hollowed out from within by parasites and swarmed over by scavengers.

        If you seriously imagine that non-Western migrants to Britain secretly plan to perpetrate genocide and steal your land, there’s probably not much I can say to assuage your paranoia.

        I don’t believe that, of course. But then I rather doubt the majority of early English settlers in America “secretly planned” to steal the red man’s land and perpetrate genocide. For all I or you know, most just wanted to find a place of refuge where they could build a better life for themselves and their families. Why isn’t it racist to suggest otherwise? Of course ruthless and unscrupulous elements on both sides got the upper hand as they are wont to do, one thing led to another and the rest is history.

        In any case, what do you mean by your land? You’ve made it clear on many occasions that you hold any conjunction of a possessive pronoun with “land” to be inadmissible. Borders are arbitrary impositions, inherently unjust. If that is so with us, it was so with the redskins. The land wasn’t “theirs” to begin with.

  2. Can we please stop using offensive and outdated terms like “the red man” and “redskins”? Those terms are racial slurs, and are not how the people in question prefer to be described. And please stop hijacking the oppression of indigenous peoples in the Americas to make your rhetorical point.

    Well perhaps the present situation is in some ways more akin to that of the first waves of Vandals and Goths when they sought refuge within the borders of the Roman imperium.

    It seems vanishingly unlikely that migration to Britain is going to lead to the collapse of Britain’s civilization. You’ve often made vague catastrophic predictions of this nature, but never offered any concrete evidence. As I’ve said before ad nauseam, migration to Britain will certainly lead to cultural change, but cultural change is in any event inevitable and constantly occurring, and not all of it is bad. And I don’t see any evidence that large-scale migration in the last fifty years has changed Britain for the worse.

    • johnvmarsch says:

      Can we please stop using offensive and outdated terms like “the red man” and “redskins”? Those terms are racial slurs, and are not how the people in question prefer to be described.

      Why should other people’s preferences determine my language?

      And have the people in question spoken or do we accept the say-so of self-appointed ‘spokesmen’, ‘activists’, ‘community organisers’ and sundry professional grievance-mongers who’ve realised you can make easy money by making trouble?

      FWIW I notice one prominent ‘activist’ group — the American Indian Movement (politically-correct appellations are apparently less important than the need for a cool acronym) — has chosen for its logo a red hand.

      But hey, if it’s ‘racist’ to use a specific colour metonym to designate a people, why is a generic expression like “people of colour” acceptable? “Black”, “brown”, “red”, “yellow”, “white” at least constitute a simple descriptive acknowledgement of physical diversity (not hierarchy); whereas “people of colour” sets up an exclusion zone (“colour”=”not white”, “white”=”no colour”).

      And please stop hijacking the oppression of indigenous peoples in the Americas to make your rhetorical point.

      It’s a perfectly substantial point. To wit: cultural encounters arising from population migrations can be devastating for indigenous peoples regardless of whether the migrants are fleeing oppression and regardless of whether they harbour evil intent (intention isn’t magic).

      It seems vanishingly unlikely that migration to Britain is going to lead to the collapse of Britain’s civilization. You’ve often made vague catastrophic predictions of this nature, but never offered any concrete evidence. As I’ve said before ad nauseam, migration to Britain will certainly lead to cultural change, but cultural change is in any event inevitable and constantly occurring, and not all of it is bad. And I don’t see any evidence that large-scale migration in the last fifty years has changed Britain for the worse.

      Hey, you could be right. I can’t see into the future. I can, however, look into the past…

      AD 403 – Roman poet Aurelius Prudentius Clemens:

      Tribes far apart and sundered by the sea
      Are brought together through appeals and trials
      In common courts, through their commerce and trades
      In crowded marts, through intermarriage
      With those of other climes; for many bloods
      Are intermingled in a single race.


      Let those who harp upon our past defeats
      And ancient woes note that in your regime
      I suffer no such ills. No savage foe
      Knocks at my gates, no strange barbarian
      Roams through my captured streets and carries off
      My youth in bondage far beyond the Alps.


      Who now comes hungry to the circus shows?
      What mill is silent on Janiculum?
      What great provisions every province brings,
      What harvests from the earth’s rich bosoms flow
      Is shown by bread you give your people, Rome,
      Which feeds the sloth of such great multitudes.

      AD 410 – Alaric sacks Rome.

      • Why should other people’s preferences determine my language?

        Because you should treat other people with respect. When members of a marginalized group tell you that a term is hurtful and demeaning to them, you should stop using it. By continuing to use it, you are hurting individuals within that group and also contributing to the systematic marginalization of that group in society. Why cause harm when you don’t have to?

        And in any event, I don’t put up with racial slurs on my blog. If you won’t respect the wishes of the group concerned, at least accept my wishes for my own space.

        But hey, if it’s ‘racist’ to use a specific colour metonym to designate a people, why is a generic expression like “people of colour” acceptable? “Black”, “brown”, “red”, “yellow”, “white” at least constitute a simple descriptive acknowledgement of physical diversity (not hierarchy); whereas “people of colour” sets up an exclusion zone (“colour”=”not white”, “white”=”no colour”).

        The reason some words are slurs and others are not is primarily historical, and varies between different cultures. (“Coloured”, for example, which is now considered pejorative in most of the English-speaking world, traditionally means something different in South Africa than in the United States.) Again, the best approach is to listen to the people concerned and respect their wishes as to what they wish to be called.

        It’s a perfectly substantial point. To wit: cultural encounters arising from population migrations can be devastating for indigenous peoples regardless of whether the migrants are fleeing oppression and regardless of whether they harbour evil intent (intention isn’t magic).

        Yet there have also been plenty of “cultural encounters arising from population migrations” which have not devastated anyone.

  3. (To readers – in case it wasn’t clear, David Neale and shiningartifact are both me. My first comment was posted when I wasn’t logged in to my WordPress account.)

  4. johnvmarsch says:

    [Apologies for delay in replying.]

    I don’t put up with racial slurs on my blog. If you won’t respect the wishes of the group concerned, at least accept my wishes for my own space.

    Of course I respect your wishes in this matter. This is, as you say, your blog and I’m well aware that I’m here on sufferance. I certainly have no desire to upset or embarrass you: on the contrary, I appreciate the opportunity to engage with one of the few radical leftists I’ve encountered who seems to want to be good rather than be seen to be good and whose extremism is the result of the logical working-out of premises rather than ideologically-driven fanaticism. I don’t want to jeopardise that opportunity if I can avoid it.

    … And believe it or not, I also have no desire to upset or embarrass anyone of a different ethnicity to myself by using certain words which are clearly intended to or express contempt, to belittle and cause distress at a very basic level, something of which I heartily disapprove.

    you should treat other people with respect. When members of a marginalized group tell you that a term is hurtful and demeaning to them, you should stop using it. By continuing to use it, you are hurting individuals within that group and also contributing to the systematic marginalization of that group in society. Why cause harm when you don’t have to?

    I must admit I was stumped by this for a long time because I actually have no quarrel with any of it in principle. I agree people should be treated with respect. I like the definition of an English gentleman as someone who never deliberately makes someone else feel uncomfortable. (Admittedly I’m not an English gentleman but still …) I also accept that socially marginalised groups are in a potentially vulnerable position by virtue of being socially marginalised and that we should avoid recklessly inflammatory remarks that needlessly increase that vulnerability.
    And yet I maintain more needs to be said. That a particular group occupies a marginal place in the wider society need not imply a negative moral judgment on that society. The mere fact that one group is “higher up the gradient of power” than another does not necessarily mean that the dominant group is thereby committing an injustice or that there is a moral imperative to level the gradient. Criminals are a marginalised group and for a very good reason; right-wing American militia groups are lower down the gradient of power than the US federal government and I’m sure you see no injustice in that state of affairs.

    In the case of ethnic minorities, it may well be that their marginal position makes them vulnerable to racial hatred, something we should guard against; it doesn’t follow that their marginalisation is itself the result of racial hatred. An ethnic minority is going to be marginalised because is is an ethnic minority. Societies have customs, a way of life — that is what makes them societies rather than mere agglomerations of individuals. An ethnic minority is going to have its own set of customs that set it apart from the way of life of the majority. That doesn’t mean the two cannot peacefully coexist It doesn’t give the dominant-culture majority the right to treat the minority unjustly. But neither does it give the minority the right to expect the dominant group to compromise its way of life to accommodate the sensibilities of the minority in every particular. It is not reasonable to expect the tail to wag the dog. (You have spoken out strongly in favour of the right of Muslim women in Western countries to dress according to the customs of their religion, yet you would no doubt vehemently oppose any demand by Muslims in Western countries that non-Muslim women should conform to Muslim codes of modesty.)

    That’s the problem with “listening to the people concerned” in the manner of a humble supplicant. In the last resort, a host nation has to be allowed to say to an offended minority: “It is unreasonable for you to take offence, as none was intended. If you insist on taking offence, so be it. No-one has a right not to be offended.”

    The reason some words are slurs and others are not is primarily historical, and varies between different cultures. (“Coloured”, for example, which is now considered pejorative in most of the English-speaking world, traditionally means something different in South Africa than in the United States.) Again, the best approach is to listen to the people concerned and respect their wishes as to what they wish to be called.

    “Considered pejorative” by whom exactly? “The people concerned”? I suppose it’s possible that the USA’s black population rose up as one to demand the use of “negro” rather than “n*****”, then rose up as one again a few years later to demand the use of “black” rather than “negro”, then rose up as one yet again to demand the use of “African-American” in preference to “black”. It’s possible that the UK’s black and Asian populations suddenly declared en masse: “You may no longer refer to us as ‘coloured’ as we now consider that pejorative. Please use ‘people of colour’ instead.” It’s also possible that such shifts in what is considered “acceptable” came from above, handed down as the initiative of intellectual elites by no means always of the same ethnicity as the marginalised groups and often pushing an obnoxious agenda.

    Yet there have also been plenty of “cultural encounters arising from population migrations” which have not devastated anyone.

    Which ones did you have in mind?

  5. And yet I maintain more needs to be said. That a particular group occupies a marginal place in the wider society need not imply a negative moral judgment on that society. The mere fact that one group is “higher up the gradient of power” than another does not necessarily mean that the dominant group is thereby committing an injustice or that there is a moral imperative to level the gradient. Criminals are a marginalised group and for a very good reason; right-wing American militia groups are lower down the gradient of power than the US federal government and I’m sure you see no injustice in that state of affairs.

    But that’s irrelevant to the topic at hand. No reasonable person could possibly argue that racism is a justified form of marginalization. Some racists have tried to do so, notably John Derbyshire, resorting to gross misrepresentations of science in the process. But more often, modern-day racist apologetics tends instead to take the form either of denying that systemic racism exists, or of denying that a particular manifestation of racism is in fact racism, rather than openly arguing that racism is justified.

    And I think people tend, in social justice circles, to use “marginalized group” as a term of art or shorthand for “unjustly marginalized group”. It’s usually understood what is meant.

    In the case of ethnic minorities, it may well be that their marginal position makes them vulnerable to racial hatred, something we should guard against; it doesn’t follow that their marginalisation is itself the result of racial hatred. An ethnic minority is going to be marginalised because is is an ethnic minority. Societies have customs, a way of life — that is what makes them societies rather than mere agglomerations of individuals. An ethnic minority is going to have its own set of customs that set it apart from the way of life of the majority. That doesn’t mean the two cannot peacefully coexist It doesn’t give the dominant-culture majority the right to treat the minority unjustly. But neither does it give the minority the right to expect the dominant group to compromise its way of life to accommodate the sensibilities of the minority in every particular. It is not reasonable to expect the tail to wag the dog. (You have spoken out strongly in favour of the right of Muslim women in Western countries to dress according to the customs of their religion, yet you would no doubt vehemently oppose any demand by Muslims in Western countries that non-Muslim women should conform to Muslim codes of modesty.)

    That’s the problem with “listening to the people concerned” in the manner of a humble supplicant. In the last resort, a host nation has to be allowed to say to an offended minority: “It is unreasonable for you to take offence, as none was intended. If you insist on taking offence, so be it. No-one has a right not to be offended.”

    Are you really denying that the marginalization of racial minorities in our society is a result of racial hatred? That seems to me to be apologetics for racism.

    And there is a distinction here which you’re missing. No one said that being a member of a marginalized group makes a person an authority on every issue. But it does mean that we should listen to them in conversations about their oppression, and pay attention to their account of their own lived experience of oppression, and refrain from talking over them in those conversations. That doesn’t mean being a “humble supplicant”; it means recognizing that privilege leaves gaps in our understanding, and that those can best be filled by listening to people who are marginalized.

    And this isn’t really a conversation about offence, as such. It’s a conversation about words and actions which reinforce systemic oppression. They’re different concepts. This is a distinction which often gets lost in the debate around these issues. And when we are talking about acts which reinforce systemic oppression, whether “offence was intended” is not really relevant.

    (To take an example, some Christians were offended by Crackergate, and some Muslims were offended by Draw Mohammed Day; both these things could be said to be, and were indeed intended to be, offensive. But only the latter reinforced systemic oppression, because, in the societies in which these events largely took place, Muslims are a marginalized group who are often targets of hatred and discrimination, whereas Christians are not. There are, of course, other societies in which these dynamics might have been reversed.)

    “Considered pejorative” by whom exactly? “The people concerned”? I suppose it’s possible that the USA’s black population rose up as one to demand the use of “negro” rather than “n*****”, then rose up as one again a few years later to demand the use of “black” rather than “negro”, then rose up as one yet again to demand the use of “African-American” in preference to “black”.

    It’s more complicated than that, as I’m sure you know. Certain words are widely considered pejorative by most members of the groups to whom they refer, because of their history. In other cases there are genuine differences of opinion within the group as to the preferred term, and the generally preferred term may be different in different countries and localities. Those debates exist, and can be complicated; but they aren’t an excuse for knowingly using racial slurs, when you are not a member of the group concerned and are speaking from a position of privilege.

    Which ones did you have in mind?

    There has been considerable immigration to both the UK and the US in the last century, from a wide variety of countries and cultures. It has not devastated anyone. On the contrary, it has shaped and enriched the modern British and American cultures.

    • johnvmarsch says:

      No reasonable person could possibly argue that racism is a justified form of marginalization … more often, modern-day racist apologetics tends instead to take the form either of denying that systemic racism exists, or of denying that a particular manifestation of racism is in fact racism, rather than openly arguing that racism is justified. … And I think people tend, in social justice circles, to use “marginalized group” as a term of art or shorthand for “unjustly marginalized group”.

      I’m not arguing that racism (understood as aggressive chauvinism) is a justified form of marginalization; I’m suggesting that race (understood as ethnic identity) can be a sufficient cause of justified marginalization.

      Are you really denying that the marginalization of racial minorities in our society is a result of racial hatred?

      I don’t doubt popular racism exists but I’m far from persuaded that it’s as widespread as you seem to think or is the root cause of “the marginalization of racial minorities in our society”. I have no need of that hypothesis. The inevitable marginalisation of a minority culture in a wider host culture seems to me quite adequate to account for the phenomenon, especially when the cultures are incompatible in important points. Consider a situation where friction arises between a traveller encampment and and the local residents. The travellers might blame the friction on racial prejudice on the part of the locals; the latter might retort that their hostility is a justified response to anti-social acts by the travellers (eg thievery). Either or both might be a correct explanation. But there is another explanation. The Guardian informs us that traveller communities are “decoupled from standard western ideas about property rights”. If we condescend to take this seriously, it can be seen that the friction between travellers and residents is not down to any malice or prejudice on either side; it is the result of a genuine clash of cultures. There is no “oppression” here, only irreconcilable difference.

      The multiculturalist ideology assumes different cultures can get along given enough goodwill, but suppose they just can’t? We know they can’t on an international macro-level so why should we be surprised if they can’t on a national micro-level? President Nixon spoke rightly: “Conflict is, and always will be, a fact of life. Period. And there’s nothing we can do to change that. Kant was hopelessly idealistic on this score. [Woodrow] Wilson believed that too – you know, the crap about ‘Well, if we all got together and talked about our differences, the world would be at peace.’ That’s nonsense. We can try to manage those differences, but there’s no way to prevent them.”

      If this truth seems sufficient to account for tense relations between travellers and locals, how much more so when we consider relations between Western liberal democratic cultures and Islam, whether we consider geopolitics or immigration. You’ve gone on record as saying that you believe that hostility to Islam in this country is really just a mask for racial antipathy towards brown-skinned Asians. But if that were the case, why are relations with Hindus or Sikhs not similarly fraught? If Islam is a convenient cloak to render racism semi-respectable, why do Hinduism and Sikhism not make equally convenient cloaks?

      No one said that being a member of a marginalized group makes a person an authority on every issue. But it does mean that we should listen to them in conversations about their oppression, and pay attention to their account of their own lived experience of oppression, and refrain from talking over them in those conversations. That doesn’t mean being a “humble supplicant”; it means recognizing that privilege leaves gaps in our understanding, and that those can best be filled by listening to people who are marginalized.

      Nothing wrong with listening respectfully. Also nothing wrong with listening respectfully and then concluding: “Your complaints are unjustified, your demands are unreasonable and your diagnosis most likely derives from some state-funded professional agitator with an agenda, a white skin and a degree in Grievance Studies. No, the collapse of Detroit was not caused by white racist mind rays.”

  6. Pingback: The horrors of Yarl’s Wood: why immigration justice is a feminist issue | The Feminist Hivemind

  7. johnvmarsch says:

    [contd]

    And this isn’t really a conversation about offence, as such. It’s a conversation about words and actions which reinforce systemic oppression. They’re different concepts. This is a distinction which often gets lost in the debate around these issues. And when we are talking about acts which reinforce systemic oppression, whether “offence was intended” is not really relevant.

    While I understand your distinction between offence and oppression, I would say that the issue of offence is relevant to the extent that what is deemed to be actionable offence provides an insight into the structures of marginalisation. Those whom you are not allowed to offend surely occupy a privileged position, while those whom you are allowed to offend with impunity are surely marginalised. A few years ago a gentleman called Pax Dickinson (an American tech worker) twitted a tweet which began thusly:

    In The Passion Of The Christ 2, Jesus gets raped …

    If Mr Dickinson had written this a century ago, chances are his prospects would have taken a dent. There would have been “social consequences”, perhaps even direct action on the part of the authorities to punish his irreverent blasphemy. From which we would rightly conclude that the Christian religion held a somewhat protected status in society, a certain degree of privilege.

    Nowadays Mr Dickinson suffers no consequences for tweeting something like that. Offensive mockery of Christianity is just something a hipster chuckles at appreciatively as he sips his latte.

    Of course as he reads the rest of Mr Dickinson’s tweet, our hipster sprays his latte over his iPad:

    … by a pack of niggers.

    And no sooner has our poor hipster sucked air back into his winded lungs than he’s left reeling by Mr Dickinson’s peroration:

    It’s his own fault for dressing like a whore though.

    Mr Dickinson has just become a marked man. “Social consequences” loom. From which we might conclude that blacks and women hold a somewhat protected status in society, a certain degree of privilege, that was formerly held by the Christian religion. (One might also compare the recent, relatively innocuous anti-feminist tweet that actually got Mr Dickinson sacked from his tech job with certain ferociously misogynistic lyrics by rap artistes which get no-one sacked from anything — and tentatively conclude that blacks outrank women in the new hierarchy of privilege.)

    • David Neale says:

      Those whom you are not allowed to offend surely occupy a privileged position, while those whom you are allowed to offend with impunity are surely marginalised.

      It’s more complicated than that. The fact that there is a backlash against certain forms of bigotry does not imply that the targets of that bigotry are in a privileged position.

      Nor are Christians meaningfully marginalized in Britain (although they certainly are in some societies, including much of the Middle East). The likes of George Carey are confusing loss of unchallenged hegemony with marginalization: not having a Nativity play in every primary school is hardly tantamount to persecution of Christians! We still have two established churches which enjoy a privileged constitutional status. Our head of state is constitutionally required to be an Anglican Christian, and actively promotes Christianity in her public role through participation in Anglican ceremonies and through her annual Christmas message. The majority of British people still identify at least nominally as Christian, and although church attendance and active identification with Christianity are declining, our society is still culturally Christian in many senses: Christmas and Easter are near-universally celebrated, the working year is ordered according to Christian holidays, and so on. The Anglican hierarchy, while it often doesn’t get things its own way, still enjoys a privileged platform of influence and a degree of access to politicians and the media which other religious leaders do not have. Anglican Christianity certainly enjoys far less hegemony than it did fifty years ago, and it continues to decline, but that doesn’t mean centuries of Christian institutional privilege have disappeared in an instant.

      (There’s an interesting digression to be made here about the degree to which non-believers from Christian backgrounds, like me, continue to enjoy a kind of Christian privilege as part of the cultural majority, relative to people who are part of religious and cultural minorities. Something which has become apparent to me when friends from non-Christian backgrounds have expressed discomfort about the near-mandatory celebration of Christmas in Anglo-American society, for instance. But that’s a rather different point.)

      From which we might conclude that blacks and women hold a somewhat protected status in society, a certain degree of privilege, that was formerly held by the Christian religion.

      Spoken like a privileged white man with no experience of being a person of colour or a woman. Have you read anything from people of colour about their experience of microaggressions, institutionalized racial discrimination, racist stereotyping, and racist violence? Have you read anything from women about their experience of pervasive sexual harassment and assault, or workplace sex discrimination, or stereotypes? (These are rhetorical questions, since I know you have been on Pharyngula threads where these issues were being discussed.) To suggest that women and people of colour are privileged groups is reality-denial on a grand scale.

      It is true that there is now some backlash against people who express their bigotry openly. This is a result of progress. But plenty of people still veil their bigotry thinly behind dog-whistles, and do so with few or no adverse social consequences. The Daily Mail would face consequences if it printed the N-word, but it regularly gets away with railing against asylum-seekers and “illegal” immigrants and the “flooding” of Britain with foreign influences – and it’s painfully obvious what it really means. For that matter, it got away with few consequences from bullying Lucy Meadows, a trans woman, to the point of her suicide.

      One might also compare the recent, relatively innocuous anti-feminist tweet that actually got Mr Dickinson sacked from his tech job with certain ferociously misogynistic lyrics by rap artistes which get no-one sacked from anything — and tentatively conclude that blacks outrank women in the new hierarchy of privilege.

      If you think that there aren’t any feminist critiques of misogyny in rap, you aren’t looking very hard. But it’s important for such critiques to avoid reinforcing or echoing racist stereotypes about rap – and also to avoid erasing the presence of misogyny in the work of white musicians and predominantly-white genres. It is a complicated issue.

  8. johnvmarsch says:

    (To take an example, some Christians were offended by Crackergate, and some Muslims were offended by Draw Mohammed Day; both these things could be said to be, and were indeed intended to be, offensive. But only the latter reinforced systemic oppression, because, in the societies in which these events largely took place, Muslims are a marginalized group who are often targets of hatred and discrimination, whereas Christians are not. There are, of course, other societies in which these dynamics might have been reversed.)

    Again, I would point out that PZ Myers suffered no social or professional consequences for desecrating a consecrated Host. I suggest he would certainly have suffered social or professional consequences had he desecrated a Koran*. I believe the lady who came up with the idea for Draw Mohammed Day is still in hiding. [*As opposed to an English translation of the Koran, which is not regarded as a sacred object by Muslims.]

    It’s a wearyingly familiar pattern. The redoubtable Pastor Jones gets the Two Minutes Hate; Jake and Dinos Chapman get feted as geniuses. In 2010 a Mohammedan defaces a war memorial in Burton-upon-Trent, spraying “Islam will dominate the world – Osama
    is on his way” and “Kill Gordon Brown” — he gets a two-year conditional discharge and a £500 fine; in 2013 a non-Mohammedan attaches strips of bacon to the doorhandles of an Edinburgh mosque — he gets 10 months in jail. Und so weiter.

    From which I conclude your reading of the social dynamics is askew.

    And here’s another funny thing. You keep saying all us privileged ones should stop talking and start listening, stop telling marginalised minorities what they should be feeling and hear what they have to say about the matter. Yet the Muslims who get offended by things like Draw Mohammed Day, or whatever the Offence of the Week is, are not primarily offended because such stunts “reinforce systemic oppression”. Rather, they are outraged at the perceived insult to their Prophet (pbuh). Not “Help, help, we’re being oppressed!” but “Infidel dog, you shall pay for this!” For them, social marginalisation of Muslims is problematic only insofar as it necessarily entails the social marginalisation of Islam; which entails the marginalisation of Allah; which displeases Allah; which displeasure they are duty-bound to share as good Muslims. In other words, in this instance the very people to whom you exhort us to listen have priorities you would ignore or denounce!

    • David Neale says:

      Again, I would point out that PZ Myers suffered no social or professional consequences for desecrating a consecrated Host.

      He indeed faced no professional consequences, although there was no shortage of angry Catholics demanding that he face such consequences. But bear in mind that PZ Myers is (as I imagine he would willingly acknowledge) a person of relative privilege and good fortune himself – as a middle-class tenured professor teaching at a relatively progressive state university. The outcome might have been far scarier if he were in a more vulnerable line of work. Or even if he were an adjunct professor who could be fired at will (as all too many American academics now are), and his boss happened to be a conservative Christian. The fact that he got away with it doesn’t mean everyone could, and it certainly doesn’t mean that there isn’t Christian privilege in American society. As for social consequences, I think a tidal wave of hate mail, including threats of violence, does qualify as an adverse social consequence.

      For the record, I think Crackergate was a pointless stunt which did nothing whatsoever to advance the discourse. But it wasn’t an act of oppression.

      I suggest he would certainly have suffered social or professional consequences had he desecrated a Koran*

      I doubt it. He’s said plenty of disparaging things about Islam in the past. And other similarly prominent atheists, like Richard Dawkins, say much nastier things about Islam on a near-daily basis without any significant adverse consequences.

      In 2010 a Mohammedan defaces a war memorial in Burton-upon-Trent, spraying “Islam will dominate the world – Osama
      is on his way” and “Kill Gordon Brown” — he gets a two-year conditional discharge and a £500 fine; in 2013 a non-Mohammedan attaches strips of bacon to the doorhandles of an Edinburgh mosque — he gets 10 months in jail.

      Consider that sentencing is a complicated exercise, that the English system leaves it largely to the caprice of individual judges (there are Sentencing Council guidelines, but they leave a great deal of room for discretion, unlike the system of mandatory minimums in the US), and that it is affected by the individual circumstances of the offender as well as the gravity of the offence.

      You keep saying all us privileged ones should stop talking and start listening, stop telling marginalised minorities what they should be feeling and hear what they have to say about the matter. Yet the Muslims who get offended by things like Draw Mohammed Day, or whatever the Offence of the Week is, are not primarily offended because such stunts “reinforce systemic oppression”. Rather, they are outraged at the perceived insult to their Prophet (pbuh). Not “Help, help, we’re being oppressed!” but “Infidel dog, you shall pay for this!” For them, social marginalisation of Muslims is problematic only insofar as it necessarily entails the social marginalisation of Islam; which entails the marginalisation of Allah; which displeases Allah; which displeasure they are duty-bound to share as good Muslims.

      From which I conclude that you aren’t actually listening to what many Muslims say. Try this article by Shahed Amanullah in the Huffington Post.

  9. johnvmarsch says:

    [contd]

    There has been considerable immigration to both the UK and the US in the last century, from a wide variety of countries and cultures. It has not devastated anyone. On the contrary, it has shaped and enriched the modern British and American cultures.

    It’s fascinating that you can say that in all sincerity and not realise — or even conceive — that it might legitimately be considered controversial. Given that Aurelius Prudentius Clemens was extolling the vibrant diversity of his multicultural empire a mere seven years before the Visigoths sacked Rome, I would say the jury is still out on that one.

    Your opinion is, of course, the party line. Every official or semi-official outlet in the US, UK and Europe sends exactly the same message, with no serious divergence between Democrat and Republican, Labour or Conservative. Of course, there is no reason in principle why a given official orthodoxy has to be wrong. It might accurately reflect what is good, true and beautiful. What I find curious in this instance is the draconian nature of the punishments meted out to those who vocally and publicly register dissent from this ruling narrative — to people like Emma West and to the bloke who put bacon on the mosque doors. Their words and deeds may be crass, ill-considered and hurtful, but doesn’t the official response seem a little disproportionate? Why not just laugh at such sad malcontents and dismiss them with pitying scorn? Why the apparently urgent need to make a public example of them? To me it suggests a bad case of official jitters.

    (Did you happen to catch this TV ad which was ubiquitous a few months ago? Does it seem to you the product of a country at ease with itself or one desperately trying to persuade itself of that? A country at ease with itself wouldn’t need this sort of reassuring.)

    • David Neale says:

      Your opinion is, of course, the party line. Every official or semi-official outlet in the US, UK and Europe sends exactly the same message, with no serious divergence between Democrat and Republican, Labour or Conservative. Of course, there is no reason in principle why a given official orthodoxy has to be wrong. It might accurately reflect what is good, true and beautiful.

      This is the strangest thing you’ve said on this thread. It seems to be the polar opposite of reality. Some of Britain’s most popular and influential newspapers – the Mail, the Express and the Sun – are openly hostile to immigrants and immigration, bemoan the “flooding” of Britain with immigrants, and agitate for tighter controls. Anti-migration groups like “Migration Watch” are treated as serious political voices even by the supposedly liberal BBC. And both Labour and Conservatives are committed to, and have implemented when in power, a regime of strict controls on immigration and a considerable amount of repressive violence towards non-EEA migrants. (Have you even been reading what I’ve written about Yarl’s Wood, or spot checks, or the racist van campaign?) The present government is so hostile to non-approved forms of immigration that it set up a “hostile environment working group” to explore ways to make life yet more miserable for failed asylum-seekers and undocumented people.

      Sarah Teather is right about this: there are almost no alternative voices on immigration, few people in British politics expressly promoting a pro-immigration and anti-controls viewpoint. Anyone who did so in either major party would be hounded out of the frontbench very quickly. I suggest that it is your view, not mine, which is closer to the “party line” on this issue (though admittedly not on many others).

      What I find curious in this instance is the draconian nature of the punishments meted out to those who vocally and publicly register dissent from this ruling narrative — to people like Emma West and to the bloke who put bacon on the mosque doors.

      Again, this is just wrong. Many people “vocally and publicly register” their opposition to immigration and multiculturalism, and face no real adverse consequences for doing so – indeed many achieve great popularity for doing so, from Pat Condell to the Daily Mail editorial pages.

      The two people you mention both went beyond merely voicing opinions: the former shouted racist abuse at people in a public place, the latter committed an act of vandalism. And I note that Emma West was (rightly) spared imprisonment, the judge taking into account her mental health problems.

    • David Neale says:

      Though if we’re talking about unduly harsh sentences, I happened across this case today in which the second appellant, a failed asylum-seeker from Cameroon, had been sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment for using a false passport to obtain work. Likely in order to feed himself, since failed asylum-seekers receive no cash support and are often destitute. Twelve months. For a completely victimless crime which he had little choice but to commit. And the Home Secretary then made a deportation order against him as a “foreign national offender”.

      So excuse me if I don’t shed any tears over how white bigots are Oh So Terribly Persecuted because they’re not allowed to yell racial abuse at people in the street.

  10. johnvmarsch says:

    The fact that there is a backlash against certain forms of bigotry does not imply that the targets of that bigotry are in a privileged position.

    Even if “a backlash against certain forms of bigotry” were an accurate description of the phenomenon under consideration, there is absolutely no reason why the former targets of this alleged bigotry could not now, in point of fact, enjoy a privileged position. Particularly given that the “backlash” is promoted and enforced at an official level.

    When one contemplates this or this — one wonders if the incomparable Mencius Moldbug isn’t on to something:

    Let’s say you were a person who didn’t care at all about the Constitution, and you wanted to take America back to the past and establish a new order of hereditary nobility. What could be more deliciously reactionary than that? Real, live nobles, walking around on the street. So let’s see what it would take to make it happen.

    First, we need to define noble status. Our rule is simple: if either of your parents was a noble, you’re a noble. While this is unusually inclusive for a hereditary order, it is the 21st century, after all. We can step out a little. And nobility remains a biological quality – a noble baby adopted by common parents is noble, a common baby adopted by noble parents is common.

    Fine. What are the official duties and privileges of our new nobility? Obviously, we can’t really call it a noble order unless it has duties and privileges.

    Well, privileges, anyway. Who needs duties? What’s the point of being a noble, if you’re going to have all these duties? Screw it, it’s the 21st century. We’ve transcended duties. On to the privileges.

    The basic quality of a noble is that he or she is presumed to be better than commoners. Of course, both nobles and commoners are people. And people do vary. Individual circumstances must always be considered. However, the official presumption is that, in any conflict between a noble and a commoner, the noble is right and the commoner is wrong. Therefore, by default, the noble should win. This infallible logic is the root of our system of noble privilege.

    For example, if a noble attacks a commoner, we can presume that the latter has in some way provoked or offended the former. The noble may of course be guilty of an offense, but the law must be extremely careful about establishing this. If there is a pattern of noble attacks on commoners, there is almost certainly a problem with the commoners, whose behavior should be examined and who may need supplemental education.

    If a commoner attacks a noble, however, it is an extremely serious matter. And a pattern of commoner attacks on nobles is unthinkable – it is tantamount to the total breakdown of civilization. In fact, one way to measure the progress that modern society has made is that, in the lifetime of those now living, it was not at all unusual for mobs of commoners to attack and kill nobles! Needless to say, this doesn’t happen anymore.

    This intentional disparity in the treatment of unofficial violence creates the familiar effect of asymmetric territorial dominance. A noble can stroll anywhere he wants, at any time of day or night, anywhere in the country. Commoners are advised not to let the sun set on them in noble neighborhoods, and if they go there during the day they should have a good reason for doing so.

    One of the main safeguards for our system of noble authority is a systematic effort to prevent the emergence of commoner organizations which might exercise military or political power. Commoners may of course have friends who are other commoners, but they may not network on this basis. Nobles may and of course do form exclusive social networks on the basis of nobility.

    Most interactions between commoners and nobles, of course, do not involve violence or politics. Still, by living in the same society, commoners and nobles will inevitably come into conflict. Our goal is to settle these conflicts, by default, in favor of the noble.

    For example, if a business must choose whether to hire one of two equally qualified applicants, and one is a noble while the other is a commoner, it should of course choose the noble. The same is true for educational admissions and any other contest of merit. Our presumption is that while nobles are intrinsically, inherently and immeasurably superior to commoners, any mundane process for evaluating individuals will fail to detect these ethereal qualities – for which the outcome must therefore be adjusted.

    Speaking of the workplace, it is especially important not to let professional circles of commoner resistance develop. Therefore, we impose heavy fines on corporations whose internal or external policies or practices do not reflect a solid pro-noble position. For example, a corporation which permits its commoner employees to express insolence or disrespect toward its noble employees, regardless of their relationship in the corporate hierarchy, is clearly liable. Any such commoner must be fired at once if the matter is brought to the management’s attention.

    This is an especially valuable tool for promoting the nobility: it literally achieves that result. In practice it makes the noble in any meeting at the very least primus inter pares. Because it is imprudent for commoners to quarrel with him, he tends to get what he wants. Because he tends to get what he wants, he tends to advance in the corporate hierarchy. The result, which should be visible in any large business without dangerous commonerist tendencies, will be a predominance of nobles in top executive positions.

    And, of course, this should be especially the case in government…

    ( ̄o ̄)y~~

    The likes of George Carey are confusing loss of unchallenged hegemony with marginalization: not having a Nativity play in every primary school is hardly tantamount to persecution of Christians!

    Well I would say loss of hegemony does mean marginalisation, almost by definition. And while marginalisation doesn’t necessarily entail persecution, it is most certainly an indispensable precondition of persecution.

    Nature abhors a vacuum and something will be hegemonic. (Scroll down and see the mind-boggling pictures.)

    We still have two established churches which enjoy a privileged constitutional status. Our head of state is constitutionally required to be an Anglican Christian, and actively promotes Christianity in her public role through participation in Anglican ceremonies and through her annual Christmas message. The majority of British people still identify at least nominally as Christian, and although church attendance and active identification with Christianity are declining, our society is still culturally Christian in many senses: Christmas and Easter are near-universally celebrated, the working year is ordered according to Christian holidays, and so on.

    I fail to see how such tattered rags hanging limply from the body politic constitute any sort of serious privilege. How is a Simpsons ‘Advent calendar’ in any meaningful sense “culturally Christian”?

    The Anglican hierarchy, while it often doesn’t get things its own way, still enjoys a privileged platform of influence and a degree of access to politicians and the media which other religious leaders do not have. Anglican Christianity certainly enjoys far less hegemony than it did fifty years ago, and it continues to decline, but that doesn’t mean centuries of Christian institutional privilege have disappeared in an instant.

    The Anglican hierarchy is reliably progressive so any lingering influence it exercises only serves to bolster the Cathedral* and further undermine Christianity.

    [*The term of art employed by the modern neoreactionary movement to signify the cultural institutions which promote and enforce the religion of neo-puritan progressivism, the current hegemon.]

    (There’s an interesting digression to be made here about the degree to which non-believers from Christian backgrounds, like me, continue to enjoy a kind of Christian privilege as part of the cultural majority, relative to people who are part of religious and cultural minorities. Something which has become apparent to me when friends from non-Christian backgrounds have expressed discomfort about the near-mandatory celebration of Christmas in Anglo-American society, for instance. But that’s a rather different point.)

    I think that digression is quite germane to what we’ve been discussing. Just what ‘privileges’ do you, as a non-believer from Christian background, enjoy as a result of the customary (“near-mandatory” seems a bit hyperbolic) celebration of a holiday all but completely divested of religious significance? How has the customary celebration of Christmas made your life easier than that of your friends from non-Christian backgrounds?

    I can think of just one ‘benefit’ — a sense of belonging arising from a perception of cultural familiarity, which might take the form of everything from intense patriotic feeling to nostalgia for happy childhood memories. This seems to me not an insignificant benefit and I can well imagine members of religious and cultural minorities might feel somewhat ‘left out’. But so what? Provided their sense of exclusion is not gratuitously and maliciously exacerbated by elements of the majority culture, these sorts of situations are unavoidable as long as minority cultures exist within majority ones. Live with it. You’re surely not suggesting the majority is under some kind of moral imperative to ‘rectify’ the situation by refraining from publicly celebrating a traditional holiday??

    Spoken like a privileged white man

    “Person of no colour”, if you please.

    Have you read anything from people of colour about their experience of microaggressions, institutionalized racial discrimination, racist stereotyping, and racist violence?

    As for violence, the cold hard fact is that there are more acts of violence committed by persons of colour against colourless persons than vice versa. Have you ever read about the the Little Rock rape/murder or the Kansas gasoline dousing or the Wichita massacre or the Knoxville horror? No? Seriously, Google them. (The Baltimore street beating and the Millburn home invasion are on YouTube!) Now, do you honestly believe for one moment that if acts of comparable savagery were being committed by whites against blacks in modern America they wouldn’t have dominated the MSM for months on end, prompting anguished, breast-beating calls for a ‘national conversation’ from the POTUS on down?

    (Hatefacts . Trigger warning for reality failing to show a liberal bias.)

    Of course the institutionally racist media is happy enough to selectively edit George Zimmerman’s call to the police to make it look as if Trayvon Martin was the victim of a hate crime. Just as the same the institutionally racist media invariably employs the blandly non-descriptive term “youths” whenever gangs of blacks or Muslims go on the rampage. (When one news report broke with convention and referred to “teens”, a commentator drolly remarked: “Everyone knows ‘teens’ is just a euphemism for ‘youths’!”)

    As for microaggressions and the rest, in view of this gross macroaggressional disparity, I’m inclined to think the Moldbuggian formulation nails it: “Curiously, two thousand years before anyone had even heard of a ‘microaggression,’ a bunch of old white guys called ‘the Romans’ considered this issue and concluded: de minimis non curat lex.”

    Have you read anything from women about their experience of pervasive sexual harassment and assault, or workplace sex discrimination, or stereotypes?

    I’m sure women have a long way to go before they attain true equality and respect but things are much better than they were. Just compare these poor crushed slaves of the patriarchy with these strong independent liberated women. (They have the vote!)

    It is true that there is now some backlash against people who express their bigotry openly. This is a result of progress. But plenty of people still veil their bigotry thinly behind dog-whistles, and do so with few or no adverse social consequences. The Daily Mail would face consequences if it printed the N-word, but it regularly gets away with railing against asylum-seekers and “illegal” immigrants and the “flooding” of Britain with foreign influences – and it’s painfully obvious what it really means.

    Is it? The Mail isn’t really my cup of tea (apart from Peter Hitchens’ contributions) but I think you overstate your case somewhat. Here are some headlines and excerpts from the paper you occasionally refer to as the “Daily Heil”:

    “Horrendous racist rant of middle-aged woman on bus caught on video … shocking … foul-mouthed tirade of racist abuse etc”

    “Is she the worst customer ever? The moment a rude and racist Florida woman berates Dunkin’ Donuts employees just for forgetting her receipt … rude, ignorant and racist etc”

    “Disgrace of PC in drunken race rant: Scotland Yard’s racism crisis deepens as vile abuse of Asian shop manager is revealed … the case raises serious questions about the determination of police to stamp out all traces of racism among their ranks etc”

    “Kate Goldsmith falls victim to racist trolls in vile ‘gorilla’ tweet about relationship with U.S. rapper that prompted marriage split … vile racist tweets etc”

    Oh, and lest we forget.

    Not exactly Der Stürmer, is it? Perhaps the dog-whistle is beyond my auditory range. Or perhaps — just perhaps — it is in fact possible for someone to be alarmed at the scale and rate of immigration and not despise people of different races and cultures.

    If you think that there aren’t any feminist critiques of misogyny in rap, you aren’t looking very hard.

    I’m sure there is no shortage of feminist critiques of misogyny in rap; can you name a single misogynistic rap artist whose career has hit the buffers because of them?

    I doubt it. He’s said plenty of disparaging things about Islam in the past. And other similarly prominent atheists, like Richard Dawkins, say much nastier things about Islam on a near-daily basis without any significant adverse consequences.

    “Saying nasty things” is not remotely on the same level as desecrating a Koran. Who would have given a toss if PZ Myers had merely “said nasty things” about Catholic belief?

    From which I conclude that you aren’t actually listening to what many Muslims say. Try this article by Shahed Amanullah in the Huffington Post.

    I’m not sure how that article is supposed to refute or even contradict what I said. As far as I could make out, Mr Amanullah’s complaint was that Muslim forbearance in the wake of one “insult” had been repaid by a further ”mass insult”; he said nothing about oppression or marginalisation.

    This is the strangest thing you’ve said on this thread. It seems to be the polar opposite of reality. Some of Britain’s most popular and influential newspapers – the Mail, the Express and the Sun – are openly hostile to immigrants and immigration, bemoan the “flooding” of Britain with immigrants, and agitate for tighter controls. … [T]here are almost no alternative voices on immigration, few people in British politics expressly promoting a pro-immigration and anti-controls viewpoint. Anyone who did so in either major party would be hounded out of the frontbench very quickly. I suggest that it is your view, not mine, which is closer to the “party line” on this issue … Many people “vocally and publicly register” their opposition to immigration and multiculturalism, and face no real adverse consequences for doing so …

    The current situation seems illiberal to you because you have taken up residence in the left wing of the Cathedral. The bigger picture is that dissent on these issues is closely circumscribed. It is permissible to call for “limits” to immigration; to call for a halt or reverse to immigration is beyond the pale. The economic impact of immigration is a legitimate topic of discussion; the cultural impact of immigration considered from a nativist perspective is not. I do not say expressing such views will necessarily land you in prison, just that no official outlet will present those views as anything other than “extremist”. That’s what I meant by ‘party line’.

    The latest number of liberal rag Prospect carries an article by a Professor Paul Collier on the subject of immigration into the UK. Prof Collier argues that “British immigration policy clearly needs overhauling. … [T]here are solid reasons for thinking that beyond a certain rate it can be excessive.” That’s monstrously illiberal by your standards — Collier is obviously a High Church Cathedralite rather than the equivalent of a Ranter or Leveller — but just look how he is obliged to frame his thesis:

    British immigration policy clearly needs overhauling. Desperate not to give succour to xenophobes and racists, social scientists have strained every muscle to show that immigration is good for everyone. Inadvertently, this has allowed the terms of the immigration debate to be set by the xenophobes, and for the question to be asked: “Is immigration good or bad?” This is the wrong question. We should be asking not whether immigration is good or bad, but how much immigration is best. And while some immigration is better than none, there are solid reasons for thinking that beyond a certain rate it can be excessive.

    : ß

    [Collier’s remark about ‘social scientists’ is also revealing. Should people claiming the title of scientist really be “desperate” lest their research reaches illiberal conclusions and “strain every muscle” to avoid that unhappy eventuality? Let them read Dawkins: ”Even if it were true that evolution, or the teaching of evolution, encouraged immorality, that would not imply that the theory of evolution was false. It is quite astonishing how many people cannot grasp this simple point of logic. The fallacy is so common it even has a name, the argumentum ad consequentiam — X is true (or false) because of how much I like (or dislike) its consequences.” – The Greatest Show on Earth]

    No. Institutional anti-racism is very much the norm. And as everyone knows, “anti-racist” is dogwhistle for anti-white.

    Though if we’re talking about unduly harsh sentences, I happened across this case today in which the second appellant, a failed asylum-seeker from Cameroon, had been sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment for using a false passport to obtain work. Likely in order to feed himself, since failed asylum-seekers receive no cash support and are often destitute. Twelve months. For a completely victimless crime which he had little choice but to commit. And the Home Secretary then made a deportation order against him as a “foreign national offender”.

    I notice you scrupulously avoid mentioning the first appellant.

    • johnvmarsch says:

      [Apologies for blockquote fail – the passage about a new order of hereditary nobility is an extended quotation from MM’s blog.]

    • David Neale says:

      I should make clear that the reason I haven’t responded is purely lack of time – due to starting pupillage as a barrister, I have been exceptionally busy for the last couple of weeks.

    • johnvmarsch says:

      The science is in. (It’s a “paradox”, apparently.)

    • David Neale says:

      Your racism is very disturbing. As is your ignorance of sociology, and your blithe assumption that centuries of institutionalized white supremacism have somehow magically reversed themselves in the last couple of decades. Your quotations from “neo-reactionary” (apparently a code word for “white supremacist”) bloggers are not a substitute for evidence.

      Not exactly Der Stürmer, is it? Perhaps the dog-whistle is beyond my auditory range.

      The fact that the Mail condemns others for open displays of racism does not imply that the Mail is not itself racist. Not all racists burn crosses on lawns, smash mosques or use the N-word. There are other forms of racism far more widespread and equally insidious.

      The current situation seems illiberal to you because you have taken up residence in the left wing of the Cathedral.

      I find it wryly amusing to be accused of being part of the establishment. I can think of only one parliamentarian – John McDonnell – who openly agrees with my own position on immigration, and he is very much a marginal figure within the Labour Party. Ed Miliband, while he might make the occasional tepid and half-hearted criticism of draconian Tory measures, would never dare suggest that Britain should adopt an open immigration policy.

      I’ll gladly acknowledge that your own hardline anti-immigrant views are not openly shared by most policymakers (thankfully) – although it was not so long ago that the Conservative Monday Club was genuinely influential – but the fact that your views lie outside the mainstream does not imply that mine lie within it.

      It is permissible to call for “limits” to immigration; to call for a halt or reverse to immigration is beyond the pale.

      As it should be. Even leaving aside the inherent racism in wanting to “halt or reverse” immigration – and who do you consider an immigrant? – just think about the kind of extreme authoritarian violence that would be necessary to implement such a policy. The state already takes very draconian measures to stop migration. Carrier sanctions and visa requirements (the latter selectively applied to poorer countries) are designed to stop even genuine refugees from coming here; most have no choice but to enter through dangerous clandestine means. Those who do make it here are often locked up in abusive hellholes like Yarl’s Wood or Harmondsworth. I have written extensively about abuse of detainees in immigration removal centres and would invite you to read my many posts on the subject. Many asylum claims are allocated to the “Detained Fast Track” and dismissed in a matter of days, with no opportunity to gather evidence. Some asylum-seekers are prosecuted under the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004 for not being able to produce a passport. Many refused asylum-seekers face forcible removal, and those who can’t be removed are deliberately forced into destitution, not allowed to work or claim benefits; some end up homeless on the streets. Few concessions are made to the sick and vulnerable; the courts have held that even those who will die in a matter of weeks from lack of medical care in their home countries can still be removed. And the state has deliberately made it harder and harder and harder to live as an irregular migrant, with immigration spot checks, crackdowns on illegal working and using false documents (which, despite being completely victimless crimes, often attract long prison sentences), and provisions in the new immigration bill that will make it illegal even for private landlords to rent a home to those without status.

      Given this, how much more harsh would the state have to be if it wished to “halt or reverse” immigration? For a start, it would have to get rid of the asylum system altogether, meaning that people who faced death or extreme violence in their home countries would be deported. How much evil would you countenance to promote your anti-immigrant agenda? Would you go as far as Malaysia, where Burmese refugees are beaten and tortured by police? As Australia, where “boat people” are forced to live in squalid conditions on offshore islands? You don’t seem to have thought about the amount of human suffering that your policies would inevitably inflict.

      This is not about abstract principles. This is about people. It’s about individual human beings who are suffering, and who would suffer still more if you had your way. And it’s sad that you’ve completely lost sight of that.

      Collier’s remark about ‘social scientists’ is also revealing. Should people claiming the title of scientist really be “desperate” lest their research reaches illiberal conclusions and “strain every muscle” to avoid that unhappy eventuality?

      No. But you haven’t adduced any evidence, beyond Collier’s personal opinion, that social scientists are in fact doing anything of the sort.

  11. David Neale says:

    Do you get to wear a wig and gown??

    Not at present, since I’m still in my first six and thus am not yet doing my own cases. But yes, in due course I will be wearing a wig and gown – though probably not often, since at the outset of my career I’m likely to be spending a lot of time in the magistrates’ courts and/or the First-tier Tribunal, in both of which wigs and gowns are not worn. (Wigs and gowns are, however, worn in the High Court, the Crown Court, and the Court of Appeal.)

  12. johnvmarsch says:

    Your racism is very disturbing.

    I was raised as a good liberal to believe “disturbing” was practically synonymous with “speaking truth to power”. The opposite of “disturbing” was understood to be “encouraging complacency”, “confirming people in their prejudices” etc. Neither of us now identify as liberals, but surely we can agree there is some truth to this, even when one makes allowances for mere trollery or wilful contrariness?

    So, am I a racist? I’m not really sure what it is I’ve said that indicts me of that one unforgivable sin against the Zeitgeist. Let us frankly admit that ‘racism’ is a nebulous term which all too often serves to obfuscate rather than clarify. (Which is part of the point — to advance its agenda, the Cathedral invests certain key words with emotionally charged auras in order to use them as polemical weapons rather than as means of communication.)

    The following have all been used as definitions of ‘racism’ at one time or another:

    1.) The belief that races exist (‘race realism’). I subscribe to this belief. Ethnic identities are manifestly real and are no less so for being in part ‘cultural constructs’. They are perceived to exist and so for all practical purposes do exist. Different physical attributes (skin colour etc) are not the whole of what constitutes ethic identities, or even the most important element, but they are a part nonetheless.

    2.) The belief that races are further differentiated by cognitive abilities which are determined by heritable genetic factors. This is what is usually meant by ‘scientific racism’ and ‘human biodiversity’. What people generally have in mind here is the specific claim that whites have, on average, higher IQs than blacks and that IQ is a question of genetic inheritance. (The human biodiversity crowd are also keen to stress that Asians have, on average, higher IQs than whites and that Ashkenazi Jews have, on average, higher IQs than anyone.) I am agnostic on this matter as I haven’t read the relevant literature in any depth. Basically, I’m willing to see it proved or disproved. In principle I don’t see why it couldn’t be true, particularly if one accepts the materialist/Darwinian view. (A HBD witticism is that evolution is something which fundies believe never started and liberals believe stopped when everyone achieved neurological uniformity at the same time.)

    But even if this ‘scientific racism’ is true, it wouldn’t affect my belief in the primacy of culture. As someone who values civilisation, I’m not especially bothered by rather arbitrary measures of intelligence like IQ because there is more to civilisation than intelligence, particularly intelligence as narrowly defined as an IQ score. Civilisation is as much a matter of sensibility as intelligence. Of course, an HBDer would retort that this sensibility is itself a genetic heritable trait or complex of traits … Well then, he must explain how it was that the ancient pagan germanic and slavic barbarians of Europe could be successfully raised to a high level of civilisation during the Middle Ages. Clearly it is perfectly possible to civilise an uncivilised people given enough will and time — black people, whether leading a traditional way of life in Africa or an urban existence in Europe or America, are no more uncivilised than the ancient forest-dwelling Germans or steppe-dwelling Slavs were. I guess our HBDer would argue that prolonged exposure to civilisation acts as a eugenic matrix which optimises for these desirable traits in a population — but if that’s the case, there’s no reason why this process couldn’t be applied to barbarian Africans as much as barbarian Celts or Saxons or Vikings or Magyars. The problem is that there is no longer any force willing or able to undertake the job; and in time that lack will see modern urban whites revert to barbarism, a process already well advanced in places.

    In brief, I regard cultural formation, not DNA, as the decisive factor; and that, absent such cultural formation, whites can be, have been and will be as barbarous as anybody else.

    3.) The belief that race is decisive in determining an individual’s moral character and that it is therefore legitimate to speak of ’superior’ and ‘inferior’ races. I do not subscribe to this view.

    4.) The belief that one civilisation is culturally superior to another, regardless of whether ‘race’ is adduced to explain that superiority. (In leftist discourse, this belief is typically only classed as ‘racist’ when white civilisations are judged to be superior to non-white civilisations. The sentiment behind the quip attributed to Gandhi that Western civilisation “would be a good idea” is perfectly acceptable.)

    Here I must plead guilty. I do reject cultural relativism. Not only do I think some civilisations are superior to others, I think white Western civilisation is superior to all the others. (By ‘white Western civilisation’ I mean primarily Ancient and Medieval.) But nota bene, I also think certain aspects of white Western civilisation (primarily Modern) are significantly inferior to all the others. Corruptio optimi pessima. When I encounter something like this lurking in the dark undergrowth of the web, my initial reaction is agreement — yes, I unhesitatingly affirm that classical European architecture is more culturally advanced than an African hut. Score one for Western Civ. But on reflection it strikes me that I would rather live in an African hut than in a product of the deranged imagination of this oh-so-civilised white European. I think it was on the same fearsomely racist website that had the hut meme that I also saw this pic of an African lip plate, which we are clearly invited to find uncivilised. Well, I do find that kind of body modification to be degrading and barbarous (for reasons I won’t bore you with), but I’m loath to despise African savages for such practices at a time when young white Westerners, heirs to a great civilisation, are outsavaging them! Is he a barbarian? Sure he is. But no more so than him.

    So I’m not sure if I count as a No 4 racist or not. (The exquisite irony is, if I am a No 4 racist, so are you. The values you exalt as the pinnacle of civilisation — liberty, equality, human rights, feminism, anti-racism, radical leftism et al — are all the products of a white Western cultural milieu which has exported them to unenlightened corners of the globe with an evangelistic fervour surpassing any Victorian missionary.)

    5.) The belief that an ethnically homogenous society is on balance desirable and certainly not wicked; and the concomitant belief that indigenous ethnic groups have the right to resist attempts by indifferent or hostile elites to destroy their ethnically homogenous societies.

    More follows. If you have a society which is largely ethnically homogenous, minority ethnic groups will find themselves marginalised if they do not wish (or are not forced) to assimilate into the dominant majority culture. A No 5 racist has no problem with this state of affairs; such marginalisation seems to him to be perfectly natural and should not be assumed to be the result of ‘oppression’. The majority naturally enjoys ‘privilege’ in this society because, well, it is his society. It has been formed by his culture. There is nothing inherently sinister about this. Of course this does not give the dominant majority the right to abuse the marginalised minority; neither does it give the marginalised minority the right to demand special privileges – eg that the majority should abandon its traditional customs so as to avoid offending the sensibilities of the minority.

    It’s clear from our foregoing discussions that you see this state of affairs as deeply problematic. To be honest, I still don’t understand why. At any rate, if white privilege in Europe and America is inherently unjust, then Chinese privilege in China must be inherently unjust. Japanese privilege in Japan is inherently unjust. Indian privilege in India is inherently unjust. Oh, and black African privilege in South Africa is inherently unjust. Basically any society that is largely ethnically homogenous is unjust. If that’s really what you’re saying, I can only suggest that planet Earth might not be your ideal place of residence. When the Chinese get round to establishing the first lunar colony they might let you set up home there if they’re willing to grant you Chinese citizenship. (Applying to become a Chinese citizen couldn’t be easier — just fill in an immigration form!)

    As is your ignorance of sociology

    I’m sceptical about the ‘social sciences’ because their observations too often strike me as being vitiated by a pervasive leftist bias. (I used to work in a university bookshop where the sociology department was larger than the philosophy, theology and history sections combined. I spent many a wasted lunch hour browsing through the latest Bauman or Giddens. The clumsiness of the prose was matched only by the transparency of the agenda.)

    At best, the observations of ‘social scientists’ amount to crashingly banal statements of the obvious, lessons which any neurotypical person would have learned in the school playground. Eg:

    ”It has been shown, both theoretically and experimentally, that people who would not otherwise do so, may comply with a social norm if violation is threatened with punishment”

    Who’da thunk it??

    and your blithe assumption that centuries of institutionalized white supremacism have somehow magically reversed themselves in the last couple of decades.

    I don’t assume anything of the sort, any more than I believe that centuries of institutionalised Russian tsarism “somehow magically reversed themselves” in a couple of decades.

    Your quotations from “neo-reactionary” … bloggers are not a substitute for evidence.

    The Moldbug quotation wasn’t offered as evidence but as a diverting commentary on the evidence supplied by the links I provided. (BTW here’s another interesting link.)

    “neo-reactionary” (apparently a code word for “white supremacist”)

    It’s a lot more complex than that. The NR movement seems to be a confluence (potential alliance) of three anti-democratic currents, each of which existed independently prior to the emergence of NR and not all of whose respective adherents are happy to identify as NRs. (Some of us were reactionary before it was cool.)

    Anyway, the times they are a-changing so brace yourself … 😉

    . . .

    As for what you mean by “white supremacist”, what I’ve already said about “racism” applies. A white supremacist is:

    1.) Someone who believes there is a ‘white race’. [I believe white people exist and often identify themselves as such.]

    2.) Someone who believes white people are differentiated from non-white peoples by cognitive ability. [Maybe, maybe not. Show me the science.]

    3.) Someone who believes white people have an intrinsically superior moral character to non-whites. [Count me out.]

    4.) Someone who believes the civilisations created by white people are culturally superior to non-white civilisations. [fuckyeah.]

    5.) Someone who believes that a largely homogenous white society — with all the ‘white privilege’ that necessarily entails — is fine in principle and that indigenous whites have a right to defend such a culture from those who would destroy it. [Yep. Why not? On her blog a while back, Jadehawk sneered at what she described as my ”trolling about how foreigners are ruining your precious precious culture”. Well can’t an indigenous person regard his indigenous culture as precious and seek to defend it if he thinks it’s being ruined by foreign influences? Not if he’s white, apparently.]

    [BBC publicity blurb for Nick Robinson’s recent immigration documentary: People have been moving to Britain in unprecedented numbers. In the decade to 2012, net immigration was equivalent to 10 cities the size of Southampton. And with the lifting of work restrictions, further waves of migrants may arrive from Romania and Bulgaria. The anxiety felt by many has transformed British politics and the big parties are now competing over promises to curb immigration. Those pledging to make big cuts in immigration might once have stood accused of pandering to racism. So how is it that what many saw as a taboo subject is now on so many politicians’ lips? In The Truth About Immigration, BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson reveals the full impact of the extraordinary demographic change Britain has undergone. Why were the doors to Britain opened to millions of migrants? And what are the benefits and perils of trying to stem the flow? In Southampton, Nick visits a school where 42 languages are spoken – including two Zulu dialects. In Kent, he meets not just a handful of Bulgarian and Romanian footballers, but discovers an entire league of them. He unravels the political calculations that led to one of the biggest social transformations in modern British history. Tory governments were keen to expand the European Union, but little thought was given to implications for immigration. And senior figures from the last Labour administration, including Jack Straw and David Blunkett, reveal why such large numbers of East Europeans were allowed to live and work in Britain. Home Secretary Theresa May, Labour’s Yvette Cooper and UKIP’s Nigel Farage are pressed on plans to clamp down. Can these pledges be believed – and could they backfire? Nick Robinson untangles the truth about immigration from the political rhetoric.

    IOW.]

    The fact that the Mail condemns others for open displays of racism does not imply that the Mail is not itself racist. Not all racists burn crosses on lawns, smash mosques or use the N-word. There are other forms of racism far more widespread and equally insidious.

    Ain’t that the truth.

    I find it wryly amusing to be accused of being part of the establishment. … I’ll gladly acknowledge that your own hardline anti-immigrant views are not openly shared by most policymakers … but the fact that your views lie outside the mainstream does not imply that mine lie within it.

    But you share the establishment premise that immigration as such is a positive good; the only difference is how much, if any, is too much. To reach the point you’re at, the mainstream would only have to continue further along its course — to reach mine, it would have to flow backwards.

    (It’s also noteworthy that open borders advocacy is a rare instance of an ideological convergence between ultra-liberals (‘radical leftists’) and libertarians, confirming me in my belief that they are two sides of the same coin.)

    just think about the kind of extreme authoritarian violence that would be necessary to implement such a policy. … how much more harsh would the state have to be if it wished to “halt or reverse” immigration? For a start, it would have to get rid of the asylum system altogether … How much evil would you countenance to promote your anti-immigrant agenda? … You don’t seem to have thought about the amount of human suffering that your policies would inevitably inflict. This is not about abstract principles. This is about people. It’s about individual human beings who are suffering, and who would suffer still more if you had your way. And it’s sad that you’ve completely lost sight of that.

    Firstly, my position does not entail “getting rid of the asylum system altogether” since I do not object in principle to offering refuge to refugees. I object to sustained large-scale immigration resulting in ”extraordinary demographic change” and ”one of the biggest social transformations in modern British history”, all implemented without the consent of the indigenous people of Britain.

    Secondly, a desire to defend an indigenous culture is not exalting abstract principles over real flesh-and-blood people. Culture is concrete, not abstract, something woven tightly through the mesh of real flesh-and-blood people’s daily lives and which gives those lives experienced value and meaning. To destroy that causes deep dislocation and suffering.

    Thirdly, if we’re talking about “individual human beings who are suffering”, why do you apparently not give a damn about individual human beings like Daniel Stringer and Aaron Dugmore and Charlene Downes and countless others suffering as a direct result of immigration?

    Finally, if I and many others are right about mass immigration causing a decline in social cohesion; and if that situation is inflamed by popular resentment over the destruction of their native culture; and if it is exacerbated still further by serious crimes disproportionally committed by immigrants (such as Muslim gangs’ predation on adolescent white girls) — then the stereotypical British reserve might eventually cease to bear even a tenuous relation to reality. People seem to forget that Enoch Powell in his ‘Tiber’ speech wasn’t calling for a race war; he was desperately trying to avert one — predicting that such might very well be the outcome if his warnings went unheeded until it was too late for a humane solution to the problem. If it is too late and Powell’s dire predictions come true, “individual human beings” of all ethnic groups are going to suffer and die on a large scale. It is to precisely because I do not wish to see such an unwelcome eventuality that I oppose mass immigration. Perhaps my fears are ungrounded — I hope they are — but you cannot accuse me of being indifferent to actual suffering in the name of an abstract ideal.

    But you haven’t adduced any evidence, beyond Collier’s personal opinion, that social scientists are in fact doing anything of the sort.

    A personal opinion that surely carries some weight, seeing as Collier is himself a distinguished social scientist who could hardly be accused of being on the right. (Plus this.)

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