In fewer than fifty words he had tied in all the themes of the right-wing threat narrative – everything from terrorism to xenophobia and white genocide – and was leaping on this awful and as yet largely unreported tragedy. So much credit has to be given to the people of Glasgow – well, people make Glasgow – and the whole of Scotland; they didn’t buy his obvious race baiting comment, and in short order told him what to do with his pathetic racist opinions. But, then, this tweet wasn’t directed at Scotland. Farage knows how poorly he’s thought of in our country.
Responding to Black Lives Matter protesters who pulled down a statue of a slave trader – a slave trader for fuck’s sake, the Prime Minister used the term ‘thuggery,’ a term that has been used to describe and dehumanise young black men in the United States; exposing them to the violence of the police officers of a racist state and the reason these protests are taking place in the first place. But we don’t expect any better from Johnson, do we? – the man who thought it just swell to recite the putrid racism of Kipling in a Myanmar temple and denigrate British Muslim women.
As if on cue, no sooner was Brexit Day over than news began circulating of a notice posted for residents in a Norwich tower block telling people to speak English or go home. ‘We do not tolerate people speaking other languages than English in the flats,’ said the notice, before going on to encourage immigrants to return to their own countries and free up housing for white English-speaking British people. Monika Wiśniewska, a Polish author living in England, took to social media to describe how Polish people were now being described as ‘vermin.’
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.
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.