You may have noticed that Brexit has entirely replaced terrorism – the staple of British news between 2001 and 2016 – in the British broadcast and print media. Not even the suicide bombing of the Manchester Arena in May 2017 was able to unseat the Brexit agenda from our television screens for more than a month, which is interesting considering the British media’s prior behaviour in response to non-fatal terrorism stories and acts of terrorism in other western countries.
On the Remain and the anti-no-deal side of the Brexit debate, we have developed a tendency to magnify even the slightest glimmers of hope into reasons to believe this Brexit won’t happen. This fallacious logic has become a house we have built on the sand of normalcy – the erroneous and dangerous belief that the conditions which prevail at present will remain the same in the future. Together, these beliefs have conspired to create in our various camps a form of political wishful thinking.
Robinson deserves to be where he is today. He has not been sent down for journalism or free speech. He is not a martyr. He is a criminal. Robinson was put away before for contempt of court and he has done the same again. The law he has broken exists to ensure that people get a fair trial, and Tommy should know this – he has been up before the courts a few times. He’s a convicted criminal and he has plenty of experience of prison life. Looking back over his career, it is fair to say that the ‘big house’ is Tommy Robinson’s natural habitat. I am glad he is where he belongs.
Students of the far-right are well acquainted with this strategy of waiting. Since Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists, all the essential ingredients of true ideological racism – white supremacism and fascism – have been patiently waiting in the undergrowth, moving through a series of permutations; the National Front, the BNP, UKIP, and the Brexit Party – to name a few. Farage is not like the more obvious racists. He’s not like Nick Griffin or Tommy Robinson.
There are plenty of open calls for violence against Muslims. “Punish a Muslim Day” was not a one-off, it was merely a call to action from the far-right that, thanks to the internet, came to more people’s attention. Theresa May and Boris Johnson know about these calls for pogroms and acts of violence. In fact, they are no longer threats. Muslims all over the United Kingdom are regular targets of violent attacks and routinely subjected to Islamophobic hate speech.
It comes as no surprise that as editor of The Spectator he published James Michie’s 2004 “satirical poem” describing Scotland as a “ghetto” inhabited by “tartan dwarves” – a “verminous race” – worthy of “extermination” for “polluting [England’s racially superior] stock.” Why should this shock Scottish people? We have been in a union with England for three centuries, we have been dominated by the products of this Anglo-Saxon master race, and as the pencil pushers and administrators of their empire we have long understood the nature of British imperialism.
So now let us ask: What will throwing a milkshake at Farage achieve? Well, Nigel Farage – the victim of the attack – is not the important element in this equation. It’s his constituency, those who are prepared to vote for him because they are sick fed up being ignored, laughed and sneered at, and humiliated. How might people in this bracket react to the man saying what they want to hear being humiliated in public, and humiliated with a Five Guys shake – not a cheaper McDonald’s or a Burger King shake, but a Five Guys shake?
We may pretend that this could never happen here, but mass murder was thought out of the question in Srebrenica. The reality is that this can happen here, and it will happen here if we do not find a way of stopping the temperature rising. Already we have reached boiling point. All that is holding the old order in place is the democratic habit of a few generations, but this is eroding. It seems perfectly clear to me that we have reached a critical moment.