February 14, 2007

Most Americans are unaware of it, but in the country which gave birth to the rights which they take for granted, the home of the Magna Charta and the Mother of Parliaments, free speech is not what it used to be. Under the seemingly innocuous guise of preventing racial violence, the British government in 1976 passed the Race Relations Act, which made it a crime to “€œincite racial hatred.”€ Students of bureaucracy will not be surprised to learn that the definition of “€œincite”€ and “€œracial hatred”€ used in enforcing this law has proved extremely elastic”€”and served as a tool for government functionaries and activists to suppress legitimate debate. In a country whose culture and character have been suddenly and irrevocably changed in just a few short decades by mass immigration, which now hosts dozens of radical imams inciting acts of terror and calling for Islamic law in Britain, the Race Relations Act has been and continues to be used to intimidate Britons who wish to defend what is left of their homeland’s continuity and culture. What is more, the devotees of the new religion of multiculturalism are quick to sling opprobrium on their opponents, and even attempt to end their careers”€”for committing such “€œcrimes”€ as belonging to a perfectly legal political party.

Witness the case of Simone Clarke. This lovely young woman, principal dancer for the English National Ballet, had her political affiliation “€œouted”€ to the public by the left-wing Guardian newspaper. Using an undercover reporter, the paper infiltrated the right-wing British National Party and gained access to private membership lists”€”then published them in a screaming expose entitled “€œExclusive: inside the secret and sinister world of the BNP.”€ This story sparked a vicious campaign against the now dubbed “€œB.N.P. ballerina”€ or the “€œfascist fairy.”€

The B.N.P. emerged as a far right party in the early 1980s, taking over elements of more extreme organizations, and under the leadership of Nick Griffin softening its image with the intention of attracting votes. Nevertheless, according to the B.N.P. website it is committed to the repatriation of illegal immigrants, and to reversing the mass immigration seen in recent years by offering financial incentives to both individuals and their nations of origin to take them back. In 2004 Griffin was arrested for inciting racial hatred, after a B.B.C documentary on the party depicted him inveighing against the Islamicization of Britain. He was acquitted at trial in 2006.

After the publication of the article, the leftist group Unite Against Fascist Action activists descended on the London Coliseum where Clarke performs, booing, hissing, and waving placards outside, while one of its activists interrupted a performance of Giselle, shouting at Clarke as she tried to dance, before police led him away. Protests against Clarke were also made by Bectu (the broadcasting workers”€™ union) and race relations adviser to the mayor of London. Dissatisfied with its results so far Unite Against Fascism is waging an online campaign calling for (1) Simon to be investigated by the English National Ballet, and (2) for her to step down as principal ballerina. In a sense, all of these campaigns are premised on “€˜guilt by association;”€™ the English National Ballet is guilty of racism because it is associated with Clarke, and Clarke because she is associated with the B.N.P., which it regards as fascist. Thus its reason for its activism is that “€œhistorically fascists have destroyed freedom of speech, expression, artistic expression and other liberal freedoms,”€ yet it justifies its campaign against all of these, saying, “€œHowever there is no such thing as total freedom of speech.”€

These leftists are quite correct in pointing out that incitement to racial hatred and violence is a crime in Britain. However, Clarke has never incited anyone to any such thing, as they realize. She simply joined a legal political party”€”and had her membership exposed against her wishes. Scrambling for some legal ground on which to condemn her, Unite Against Fascism asserts that by defending her right to belong to the B.N.P.”€”in quite mild terms”€”Clarke has broken the law. It is no exaggeration to call this charge Orwellian. A law which was passed to prevent racial harassment at the workplace is now being used to attempt to have a distinguished artist fired from her position for belonging to a political party.

To their credit, some Britons are speaking up in defense of Clarke’s right both to ply her trade and to vote her conscience. Some reporters have editorialized that her party membership is a private matter, not grounds for a criminal investigation, while several Liberal Democratic politicians have agreed that Clarke should not lose her job because of her political affiliation. Some fellow members of the B.N.P. have attended her performances in support of Clarke and of free speech”€”one of the English liberties Edmund Burke defended so eloquently. One imagines him weeping from heaven at the sight of what has become of his beloved homeland. 

A spokesperson for the English National ballet said after the Guardian revealed Clarke’s membership of the B.N.P., “€œWe pride ourselves on the [ethnic] diversity in the company,”€ and that it is “€œan equal opportunities employer.”€ Indeed, so equal are the opportunities that only two of the twelve principle dancers (including Clarke) are British-born, with the other dancers being drawn from Cuba, Japan, Russia, Estonia, etc. There is as much diversity in multicultural Britain as there is in the world, and, there must be plenty of Black-British or Asian-British ballet dancers, etc., for the company to choose from, and train further if necessary without looking abroad. Surely a company that has “€œEnglish National”€ in its title, and which receives public money, has a duty to promote English culture, dancers, and dance schools, rather than, implicitly, those of other countries. After all, how many of us would be happy to pay to see an Iranian, Israeli, or other such dance troop perform its traditional dance, just to find that its dancers were all British, French, and American? I”€™m sure we would all feel a little cheated.

It is not immigration but “€˜mass immigration”€™ that lies at the heart of this unhappy spectacle. Clarke had joined the B.N.P. because she believed that this was the only party that was opposed to the mass immigration which Britain has experienced in the last few years and looks set to experience in the foreseeable future, and, which is irrevocably changing Britain. Its culture and heritage has, it is increasingly perceived, been given a back seat to those of other countries in the name of “€˜multiculturalism,”€™ and it was the pressure of multiculturalism that Unite Against Fascism used to its advantage as it chanted at Clarke, “€œWe are Muslim, black, and Jew, there are more of us than there are of you.”€ No less than 7.5 percent of people living in Britain today were born abroad, and mass immigration, as Clarke herself pointed out, worries a great many people in Britain, and, it might be added, with good reason.

Opposition to mass, nation-changing immigration is not fascism, nor is it unreasonable, even if it is portrayed as such by those who have a vested interest in silencing all dissent. If there were a mass exodus of white Europeans to a tiny island like Mauritius anti-fascist campaigners would undoubtedly call it colonialism, and perhaps they would be right. Only twenty years ago it was common to hear people in Britain say that we lived in a “€œfree country”€ and were entitled to “€œfree speech”€ even if we didn”€™t like what was being said. Today, however, Unite Against Fascism can rebut the English National Ballet’s policy position, i.e., that Clarke is entitled to her private opinions, with the assertion that “€œThere should be no difference between a private racist opinion and a public racist opinion.”€ While this statement has been lambasted in the British press as, essentially undemocratic and perhaps plain stupid, Unite Against Fascism’s stance merely reflects the actions of the Guardian newspaper.

In revealing Clarke’s membership the paper not only violates, in spirit, the right to keep one’s vote private, it also sends a message that anyone supporting the B.N.P. runs the risk of exposure, and, perhaps, ruin as a result. Nor does it seem reasonable to equate either Clarke’s opposition to mass immigration or motivation for joining the B.N.P. with racism. Not only is she apparently quite capable of working professionally with immigrants of different backgrounds, her partner and father of her child (a fellow ballet dancer at the English National Ballet) is himself Cuban-Chinese.

Of course, the charge of “€œracism”€ and the even more damaging epithet “€œfascist”€ are thrown around irresponsibly with great regularity”€”even more so in Britain than in the U.S. Here are just a few examples from the press:
“€œ…can we call that fascist pluralism or secular fundamentalism?”€  On the banning of the headscarf in French schools

“€œ…It is something that has been imposed on them by the liberal fascists in London.”€ Kilroy-Silk on immigration in Britain.

“€œ…reviving the spectre of fascism.”€ Labour leader, Shlomo Ben Ami on the campaigning of Netanyahu and his Likud party.

Given all that crimes that real fascists committed in the last century”€”six millions Jews killed, as well as other ethnic minorities, disabled people, homosexuals, and political prisoners, not to mention the millions of allied soldiers that died fighting in battle”€”one might think that this would be one word we would use cautiously. Yet, like a suit that fit us in the 1940s but which we have insisted on dragging out for every wedding and barbeque since, we insist on using this term at the most inappropriate moments, and often for the most trivial reasons. A politician need only suggest that identity cards might be a good idea, or that there should be more security cameras in public, or that mass immigration may not be all good, and someone on the opposition will deem him a “€œfascist.”€

However, this term is not meant to offer us any information, to enlighten us, or to allow us a peak into the mindset of the person referred to. Rather, it would seem that it is used as a sort of preemptive Ace up the sleeve. We pride ourselves on our rational political process of argument and counter argument, but this term is meant to simply end debate. It seems to have shed its original meaning and seems to infer, now, something like “€œbad man”€ or “€œbad people.”€ (Notice how Bush has migrated from referring to Islamic terrorists as “€œevil men”€ to the more technical-sounding “€œIslamo-Fascists.”€)
It’s hardly scientific, I know, but just to get a sense of how pervasive the words “€œfascist”€ and “€œNazi”€ are in the West, I decided to enter a few Web searches with such improbable phrases as “€œwine Fascist,”€ “€œfast food fascist,”€ “€œhip hop fascist.”€ They all showed up. My favorite, however, was the term, “€œcupcake Nazi.”€ On one blog there was a complaint about a “€œcupcake Nazi”€ at one of New York’s most famous bakeries (which shall remain nameless). I have been there, and surrounded by hundreds of sweet, pastel pink, blue, and yellow-colored cushions, I can”€™t say that the Third Reich came to mind at all”€”although now I come to think about it, they were lined up in suspiciously neat rows. Another Web site also expressed a definite distrust of one of the staff at another bakery: “€œI almost got a cupcake-nazi vibe from the guy serving me”€
Perhaps it was only a matter of time, then, before the term, “€œfascist”€ became appended to the equally unlikely “€œSugarplum Fairy”€ now gamely attempting to dance in the face of a howling mob. My prayers and good wishes are with her.

A. Millar is a British expat and author.


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