Racism and paranoia are threatening to engulf stable societies. It’s time to fight back

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, writes: The murder of British MP Jo Cox last week has forced the world to look at itself anew. This week, social movements will hold events to remember Jo’s life in many cities, including Ottawa. Members of parliaments in Canada and everywhere have been asked to “stand together to stem the poisonous rising tide of fear and hate that breeds division and extremism.”

We all need to hold ourselves to this same challenge. It feels like the world is entering a frightening new phase. No one is immune, anywhere.

Jo Cox dedicated her life to the struggle against injustice and intolerance. I did not know Jo myself, but so many across Oxfam did and were touched by her. So many people were inspired by her compassion, commitment and energy for change. She was clearly an incredible woman.

Jo was a passionate feminist, a woman after my own heart. While working in Oxfam she got involved in a discussion about how women can best become genuinely empowered. “Education,” said one person. No, said Jo, the answer is politics. Support women as they seek political power — the rest will follow. Everything I have ever experienced, working with women in Africa and across the world, tells me she was right. [Continue reading…]

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1,500 MPs around the world sign pledge to uphold legacy of Jo Cox

The Guardian reports: Almost 1,500 parliamentarians have signed a pledge to uphold the legacy of love and tolerance left by Jo Cox, the Labour MP killed last week.

MPs from 40 countries from Australia to Zimbabwe put their names to a statement on what would have been the eve of Cox’s 42nd birthday.

From the UK, the signatories include Hilary Benn, the shadow foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, the former London mayor, and his successor, Sadiq Khan. [Continue reading…]

The joint statement of parliamentarians and democratic representatives says:

Last week, the life of UK MP Jo Cox was brutally and senselessly snatched away. As many have been, we are shocked to the core at a violent attack on democracy and our values.

As human beings, we are devastated at the loss of an indefatigable and compassionate campaigner, mother and colleague. And as parliamentarians, we commit to ensuring her legacy is upheld.

In her first speech to parliament, just one year ago, Jo said: “While we celebrate our diversity … we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Every elected representative should reflect on those words this week. Let this be a turning point for us all.

Beyond politics and parties, we must as societies stand together to stem the poisonous rising tide of fear and hate that breeds division and extremism. We must follow Jo’s example to open our arms with love to our communities, our neighbours and those less fortunate than ourselves, and to celebrate our tolerance and diversity.

Jo was a lifelong campaigner against injustice. She entered parliament because she wanted to be in the engine room of change, to steer a course toward a better future. Today we say: we will keep our hands on the wheel. We will do whatever it takes to renew our bonds and fight for those at the margins of our society, our continent and the world.

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Trump has ripped the mask off the GOP pretense on racism

Sasha Abramsky writes: eight years after Obama’s extraordinary electoral victory, Donald Trump is stoking a racial violence, a seething, bubbling, street-violent animus last whipped up so overtly by a presidential candidate in 1968, by the segregationist George Wallace.

Trump has repeatedly re-tweeted, thus endorsing, White Supremacist tweets, launched a vicious verbal assault on Mexican-Americans, made sweeping anti-Muslim statements that, if one were to substitute “Jew” for “Muslim,” would not have been out of place in early Nazi propaganda, and has, in the process, racked up endorsements from a who’s who of white nationalists and neo-fascist groups.

It’s not that that animus hasn’t long been there; it’s just that, since the civil rights era, politicians have calculated that subtlety wins out over naked bigotry, that it’s somehow more palatable to the great mass of middle-of-the-road voters. Hence the rise of what came to be described as “dog whistle politics,” a coded appeal to racial hatreds that could be heard and clearly understood by those it was aimed at while being plausibly denied when politicians were publicly called out for it.

Neither party can claim to have been immune to this. On the Democratic side, Bill Clinton, for example, despite his great popularity amongst African American voters and his reputation as a post-segregationist, liberal Southern governor, sought to shore up his conservative credentials with tough-on-crime policies and welfare reforms that disproportionately impacted black Americans.

But, by and large, once the national Democratic Party broke with its southern segregationist wing and embraced Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights agenda in the mid-1960s, it was the GOP, employing what Richard Nixon termed “the Southern Strategy,” that utilized race-resentment politics in the crudest, most personal, of ways. After all, millions of white Americans were largely unreconciled to the civil rights revolution, and for a party willing to pander to their bigotries, there were rich electoral pickings to be had. [Continue reading…]

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Trump thinks Muslims don’t ‘assimilate.’ He should have met my grandfather

Huda Al-Marashi writes: My Iraqi immigrant grandfather used to have a small novelty shop where he sold hair accessories, lipstick-shaped erasers and noisy, battery-operated toys. He soon learned enough English phrases to complete a business transaction. All other communication he handled with gestures and the warmest smile.

During his many hospital stays in the last years of his life, his nurses would always tell me he was their favorite patient. They’d pat his hand and say he was just the sweetest. They understood this about a man who said no more to them than “How are you” and “Thank you.”

Last week, Sean Hannity posed a question to Donald Trump about how to vet the hearts of Muslims coming to the United States. Trump replied: “Assimilation has been very hard. It’s almost, I won’t say nonexistent, but it gets to be pretty close. And I’m talking about second and third generation — for some reason there’s no real assimilation.” (Maybe this explains Trump’s support for profiling Muslim, which, on Sunday, he called “common sense.”)

Assimilation is a contentious concept among those who study immigration. (How does one measure assimilation, especially when most of the qualities associated with being assimilated have more to do with assuming aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture than with actual social integration?) Sociological considerations aside, the suggestion that Muslims in the United States have not assimilated is simply not correct. [Continue reading…]

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Why has the far right made West Yorkshire a home?

The Guardian reports: In late January, a column of demonstrators marched in driving sleet through the West Yorkshire town of Dewsbury, chanting: “Britain First, fighting back.”

Although the group has amassed more than 1.4m Facebook likes, greater than any other UK political party, the number of actual boots on the ground for Britain First, a relative newcomer on the far-right scene, was not that impressive. Just 120 supporters assembled to march from the train station to the town hall, escorted by many police and jeered by many residents.

Yesterday Thomas Mair from the West Yorkshire town of Batley, a mile north of Dewsbury, appeared at Westminster magistrates court and was charged with the murder of MP Jo Cox.

There has been considerable speculation that the 52-year-old may have had links to far-right groups. Whatever the truth, there is no doubt that an extreme right-wing element has established a disturbing foothold in the post-industrial social landscape of West Yorkshire.

According to experts, at least seven far-right groups united by racist ideologies are active in the region, an area dominated by Leeds and Bradford. Activists pinpoint a hardcore cohort of 100 prominent individuals able to cite the broader backing of thousands of social-media supporters.

Among the far-right organisations in West Yorkshire are the virulently anti-Muslim English Defence League (EDL), which claims to have established “divisions” in Leeds, Huddersfield, Halifax and Dewsbury, along with the British Movement (BM), a small but ultra-violent group considered extreme even by the standards of the British far right.

Other organisations include National Action, a neo-Nazi nationalist youth movement that openly advocates violence and whose strategy document reportedly makes reference to Hitler.

The neo-Nazi National Front, which advocates repatriation for non-whites, has a presence. Anti-racism activists also point to the Britain Democratic Party, a modest organisation founded by a group of former BNP politicians including Andrew Brons, former MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, who has hosted seminars on racial nationalism. The Yorkshire Infidels belong to a regional network of far-right nationalists whose marches have descended into violence. [Continue reading…]

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Possible link to Jo Cox killing puts U.S. neo-Nazi group back into focus

The Guardian reports: Roaring up the gravel track on a Yamaha Grizzly ATV, Dave Pringle is wearing a long beard, ponytail, a camouflage hunting cap and shorts. His dark blue T-shirt says “Hillary for prison 2016”. His right arm has a tattoo with the words, “molon labe” – the ancient Greek battle cry, “Come and take them”.

Pringle, a gunsmith, is chief of staff at the National Alliance (NA), a fascist group that apparently sold books to Thomas Mair, the man charged with the murder of British MP Jo Cox. On Saturday, speaking to the Guardian over a padlocked gate at the organisation’s 364-acre “campus” in the Appalachian mountains, he denied all knowledge of Mair.

“If he bought the books from Amazon.com, could he be linked to [its founder] Jeff Bezos?” he demanded. “Lots of people buy books. I’ve been buying from New Vanguard [the NA’s propaganda arm] since 1989 and guess how many crimes I’ve committed? Zero.”

Pringle, 47, married with two teenage children, said of Cox’s death: “It’s a terrible thing. She was white, an Englishwoman with two children. What else can I say? Do I agree with her politics? Of course not. Do I think you guys need more Syrians in Britain? No.”

Once the most feared neo-Nazi group in the world, the NA is now something of a spent force. It never recovered from the death in 2002 of its founder, William Pierce, a leading white supremacist who advocated racial apartheid in America and was banned from the UK. His 1978 novel The Turner Diaries, about a survivalist who blows up the FBI and triggers a purge of Jewish and black people to create an Aryan fantasy world, inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and British “nail bomber” David Copeland. It was described by the FBI as “the bible of the racist right”. [Continue reading…]

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Thomas Mair, alleged killer of British MP Jo Cox, was a longtime supporter of American neo-Nazi National Alliance

Southern Poverty Law Center reports: According to records obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center Mair was a dedicated supporter of the National Alliance (NA), the once premier neo-Nazi organization in the United States, for decades. Mair purchased a manual from the NA in 1999 that included instructions on how to build a pistol.

Mair, who resides in what is described as a semi-detached house on the Fieldhead Estate in Birstall, sent just over $620 to the NA, according to invoices for goods purchased from National Vanguard Books, the NA’s printing imprint. Mair purchased subscriptions for periodicals published by the imprint and he bought works that instruct readers on the “Chemistry of Powder & Explosives,” “Incendiaries,” and a work called “Improvised Munitions Handbook.” Under “Section III, No. 9” (page 125) of that handbook, there are detailed instructions for constructing a “Pipe Pistol For .38 Caliber Ammunition” from components that can be purchased from nearly any hardware store.

The NA may be best-known for the work of its now-deceased founder, William Pierce, a former physics professor who also wrote racist novels. One, The Turner Diaries, tells the post-apocalyptic fictional story of a white man fighting in a race war that may have provided inspiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. [Continue reading…]

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A day of infamy

Following the murder of Jo Cox, in a nation that has become inflamed by anti-immigrant rhetoric, Alex Massie writes: When you encourage rage you cannot then feign surprise when people become enraged. You cannot turn around and say, ‘Mate, you weren’t supposed to take it so seriously. It’s just a game, just a ploy, a strategy for winning votes.’

When you shout BREAKING POINT over and over again, you don’t get to be surprised when someone breaks. When you present politics as a matter of life and death, as a question of national survival, don’t be surprised if someone takes you at your word. You didn’t make them do it, no, but you didn’t do much to stop it either.

Sometimes rhetoric has consequences. If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered, that their problem is they’re too slow to realise any of this is happening, that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen.

We can’t control the weather but, in politics, we can control the climate in which the weather happens. That’s on us, all of us, whatever side of any given argument we happen to be. Today, it feels like we’ve done something terrible to that climate.

Sad doesn’t begin to cover it. This is worse, much worse, than just sad. This is a day of infamy, a day in which we should all feel angry and ashamed. Because if you don’t feel a little ashamed – if you don’t feel sick, right now, wherever you are reading this – then something’s gone wrong with you somewhere. [Continue reading…]

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The murder of Jo Cox cannot be viewed in isolation

Polly Toynbee writes: When politicians from a mainstream party use immigration as their main weapon in a hotly fought campaign, they unleash something dark and hateful that always lurks in all countries not far beneath the surface.

Did we delude ourselves we were a tolerant country – or can we still save our better selves? Over recent years, struggling to identify “Britishness”, to connect with a natural patriotic love of country that citizens have every right to feel, politicians floundering for a British identity reach for the reassuring idea that this cradle of democracy is blessed with some special civility.

But if the vote is out [of the EU], then out goes that impression of what kind of country we are. Around the world we will be seen as the island that cut itself off out of anti-foreigner feeling: that will identify us globally more than any other attribute. Our image, our reality, will change overnight.

Contempt for politics is dangerous and contagious, yet it has become a widespread default sneer. There was Jo Cox, a dedicated MP, going about her business doing what good MPs do, making herself available to any constituents with any problems to drop in to her surgery. Just why she became the victim of such a vicious attack, we may learn eventually. But in the aftermath of her death, there are truths of which we should remind ourselves right now.

Democracy is precious and precarious. It relies on a degree of respect for the opinions of others, soliciting support for political ideas without stirring up undue savagery and hatred against opponents. [Continue reading…]

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For 50 years voters have been denied an honest debate on immigration. Now we’re paying the price

Gary Younge writes: During the 1964 election Harold Wilson spent a day campaigning in London marginals, addressing crowds from the back of a lorry. Invariably he would be harangued by bigots demanding the repatriation of nonwhite people. Wilson faced the hecklers down. “Whom should we send home? The nurses in our hospitals? The people who drive our buses. Where would our health service be without the black workers who keep it going?” According to the late Paul Foot: “These questions were greeted with great roars of approval from the crowd, and the hecklers were silenced.”

Elsewhere that year a notorious election campaign in Smethwick, near Birmingham, saw the Tory candidate, Peter Griffiths, slug his way to victory on an anti-immigration ticket buoyed by the slogan: “If you want a nigger for a neighbour vote Labour.” When asked to disown that sentiment Griffiths replied: “I would not condemn anyone who said that. I regard it as a manifestation of popular feeling.”

Labour won the election nationally, with a 3.5% swing, but lost in Smethwick because of a 7.2% swing against them. Later, in his diaries, the Labour minister Richard Crossman concluded that since Smethwick: “It has been quite clear [for Labour] that immigration can be the greatest potential vote-loser for the Labour party”.

For the last 50 years the British political class has refused to engage intelligently with the issue of immigration. The Tories brazenly stoke popular prejudice (Margaret Thatcher: “swamped by people with a different culture”; Michael Howard: “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?”) while Labour cravenly submits to it (Tony Blair’s bulldog; Ed Miliband’s mug).

Wary of making arguments that are moral or fact-based, Labour sought not to counter inflammatory rhetoric but to indulge it. The Tories understand that fear of immigration is how they get votes; Labour understand that’s how they lose them. The upshot is that precious few in the country understand what immigration is for, what drives it, or who benefits from it and why. [Continue reading…]

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Trump ally: Clinton aide could be ‘terrorist agent’

Politico reports: In the wake of Sunday’s deadly terrorist shooting in Orlando, Donald Trump’s longtime friend and informal adviser wants the presumptive Republican nominee to hit Hillary Clinton even harder, suggesting the former secretary of state’s top aide Huma Abedin could be a “Saudi spy” or a “terrorist agent.”

Only Trump, Roger Stone said on Sirius XM’s “Breitbart News Daily,” will be able to draw the necessary amount of attention to the theories, which have drawn significant blowback from Democrats and Republicans alike.

“I also think that now that Islamic terrorism is going to be front and center, there’s going to be a new focus on whether this administration, the administration of Hillary Clinton at State was permeated at the highest levels by Saudi intelligence and others who are not loyal Americans,” Stone said. “I speak specifically of Huma Abedin, the right-hand woman, now vice-chairman or co-chairman of vice—of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.” [Continue reading…]

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A racist presidential candidate for a racist party

Andrew Rosenthal writes: When Donald Trump attacked a federal judge whose parents were born in Mexico, Hispanic Americans were outraged. Other minority groups saw a pattern of bigotry. Democrats had a hard time concealing their glee. Republican leaders pretended they disapproved.

Well, to be fair, they did disapprove in a way — not because Trump believes the things he says, but because he says them so directly.

Far too many Republicans share this kind of racism and have for a long time. Trump has just dispensed with dog whistles and revels in his bigotry instead. But this is the party the Republicans have been deliberately and assiduously building for many decades, the party of division and intolerance. George H.W. Bush’s racist tactics in 1988 against Michael Dukakis — the Willie Horton ad in particular — seem almost genteel by comparison.

Today’s Republicans have stymied every effort at reforming immigration, at achieving true equality for women, at ending the scourge of racist drug laws and criminal sentencing rules. The Republican Party has generated a wave of laws designed to make it harder for black Americans and other minorities to vote. It’s not that Republicans don’t want to deport millions of Mexicans and ban Muslims from our shores. They just don’t like to talk about it in the open. [Continue reading…]

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How to make racist comments without being a racist

The New York Times reports: Speaker Paul D. Ryan, the nation’s highest-ranking Republican, on Tuesday called Donald J. Trump’s remarks about a Latino judge “racist,” an extraordinary indictment that generated a fresh wave of criticism and panic from other Republicans. By the end of the day, Mr. Trump was forced into a rare moment of damage control and said that his words had been “misconstrued.”

Mr. Trump, who said last week that a Mexican-American judge in a case involving Trump University was biased against him because of his heritage, issued a statement Tuesday saying, “I do not feel that one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial.” He added that he was simply questioning whether he was receiving a fair trial, but he did not apologize for his remarks, something many Republicans had urged him to do.

Mr. Ryan said Mr. Trump’s criticism of the judge, Gonzalo P. Curiel of United States District Court, was “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” But Mr. Ryan also reiterated his support for Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. [Continue reading…]

The Republicans, such as Ryan, who are disavowing Trump’s racist comments yet reiterating their support for him, are less concerned that Trump is indeed a racist than they insist he must stop sounding like a racist.

Paradoxically, on the one hand they acknowledge that racism is manifest in behavior — such as the comments someone makes — and yet they also seem to be saying that someone can engage in racist behavior without being a racist.

It’s either that, or what Ryan et al are really saying is this: We know Trump’s a racist but we wish he’d stop making it so obvious.

Trump’s statement that from now on he’ll stop talking about the Trump University court case, suggests he got the message. The question now is not whether he’s a racist but whether he can keep his mouth shut. That seems about as likely as it is for his hair to stay in place.

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With Trump’s racism out in the open, how does he ‘come around’?

To say that Donald Trump has become an embarrassment to Republicans is an understatement. Yet with Trump’s racism now on open display when it comes to his criteria for suspecting judicial bias, the Republican establishment has yet to truly disown him.

For instance, Trump supporter, Newt Gingrich, says Trump’s remarks about American-born District Judge Gonzalo Curiel were “inexcusable.”

The implication being made by most of these critics is that using skills which have thus far not been evident, Trump might somehow be able to maneuver his way out of this situation. What’s he going to say that can undo what he’s done?

He’s already used all those gambits about how much he loves Mexicans and Muslims, but with his racism so far out in the open, the question isn’t about how he can make amends; it’s about the racism that permeates the Republican Party.

Disavowals of racism coming from individuals who are nevertheless willing to see their party led by a racist, make it all the more evident that it is the GOP’s long-standing toleration of thinly veiled racism that provided one of the central driving forces behind the Trump campaign.

What Trump has done is made it virtually impossible for anyone to plausibly pretend that he is not a racist. And as much as Trump imagines he’s cast aside the shackles of political correctness, the appearance of racism in contemporary America is indeed inexcusable. There’s no way to complete the sentence: Trump’s a racist, but…

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In a traumatised Netherlands, faith in the EU is plummeting

Joris Luyendijk writes: Once a beacon of progressive politics, the Netherlands today is a traumatised, angry and deeply confused nation. Support for immigration and the European project are at all-time lows. Synagogues and Jewish schools need police protection from homegrown jihadists, and freedom of expression is under serious pressure. Leading pundits and comedians incite hatred against Muslims in much the same way that antisemites rage against “the Jews”.

It seems a long time since “Dutch” was synonymous with tolerance. A founding member of the European Union, the Netherlands developed from the 1970s onwards into a laboratory for social and cultural change, boldly pioneering the legalisation of prostitution, soft drugs, euthanasia and gay marriage.

Those were the days when Dutch politicians and opinion-makers would refer to the Netherlands, without any apparent irony, as a “gidsland”, or “guide country”: a small nation leading by example. Its proudest moment probably came in June 1988 when an ethnically mixed team of Dutch footballers won the European Championships, beating the all-white teams of arch-rival Germany and then Russia. It felt like the ultimate vindication of multiculturalism.

Fast-forward 28 years, and heading the polls today is Geert Wilders’ PVV or Freedom party. Elected “politician of the year 2015”, Wilders is the sole member of the party he founded, ruling over it as undemocratically as the Arab dictators he so despises. He wants the Netherlands to drop the euro and leave the EU. Like Donald Trump he demands an end to all immigration from Islamic countries. A typical Wilders tweet: “As long as we have ‘leaders’ such as [Dutch prime minister] Rutte, Merkel, Obama and Cameron denying Islam and terror are one and the same, there will be more terrorist attacks.”

Of course there was racism and intolerance in the Netherlands during the 70s, 80s and 90s, too, and the country of old has not entirely disappeared. A slim majority continues to vote for pro-EU parties that abhor discrimination against Muslims. The popular mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, is openly and proudly Muslim. The speaker of parliament, Khadija Arib, is of Moroccan descent; and in 2007 Dutch readers voted the book The House of the Mosque by Iranian-born Kader Abdolah to be the second “best Dutch book ever”.

Yet the influence of the PVV is widely felt, particularly because the steadily growing far-left Socialist party shares many of its views on the EU. And with every new terrorist attack, wave of refugees or expensive euro bailout, the forces of regression grow stronger, both on the far right and the far left. [Continue reading…]

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