Monday, 3 June 2013

Back to the 50s with the Express and Swastika

My local newspaper is the Express and Star, popularly known as the Depress and Scar and the Express and Swastika. It's a sad story of decline: bought early by Andrew Carnegie as a vehicle for the progressive views of his friend and local councillor Thomas Graham, the Evening Star supported Irish Home Rule and any number of good causes. But a merger with the Tory Evening Express and the increasingly reactionary politics of the paper's owners saw it become the mouthpiece of – amongst others – the bigoted local MP, Enoch Powell. He had a weekly column in the paper, which wasn't interrupted by his predictions of rivers of blood due to immigration. You can weigh the principle behind  his stand on immigration by his subsequent career: he 'emigrated' to Northern Ireland to become a Unionist MP, defending the rights of that entity's Protestant community… who were of course mass immigrants established there by force.

So in one sense, the Express and Star's continued employment of thinly-veiled racist columnists is a tradition. Not a proud tradition, admittedly. But a tradition. I'm thinking of suggesting the paper adopts as it's motto 'I'm not racist but…', as that could be tacked on to virtually every news article and editorial piece without altering their meanings one iota.

Which brings me to Mr. Hastilow. Nigel isn't ashamed of being the successor to one of the most unpleasant racists this country has ever known. Far from it. His article starts with a photograph of Mr Powell, which is the visual equivalent of 'I'm not racist but…'

In fact Nigel isn't just a fan of Enoch Powell, he's singlehandedly revived the racists' slogan 'Enoch was right', and thrown in a picture of a murdered soldier for good measure. If you don't like what Nigel says, you're just like the men who murdered Lee Rigby. And to Nigel, Powell's speech wasn't 'infamous', it was 'famous'. 

Let's look a little more closely at Nigel's argument. 

There's no evidence, for a start, that these murderers tried to decapitate Rigby. It was a disgusting detail which flew around Twitter without any evidence. Powell: 'hero and villain'? The usual defence is that he was a brilliant Classicist and his speech was too intellectual for the mob who cried racism - and here's Nigel making that very point. This is of course what we in the trade know as 'bollocks'. Powell was a career politician who knew his constituency and the area very well indeed. He was a Conservative Party MP, and was well aware that his party had run in 1964 in a neighbouring constituency under the slogan 'If You Want A Nigger For A Neighbour, Vote Liberal or Labour'. I can't find that poster but here's a similar one:

He knew what he was saying, and he meant it. The hypocrisy of then swanning off to Ulster to defend imperialism at the cost of 'much blood' is a mere detail. 

And here we have Nigel making mealy-mouthed assumptions about 'Muslims' - such as implying that they're all immigrants who should be sent home. Really Nigel? I'd guess quite a few are born here. After all, the Woking mosque was so established that HG Wells knocks it down in The War of the Worlds of 1898. Yet there were remarkably few Muslim terrorist outrages in the 1890s. In fact most of the violence of the period was Irish…and Christian. I know this because some of my ancestors were very senior IRA commanders in 1916. On the 'other' side of the Christian-on-Christian war, of course, things haven't changed much: 

Serving British Army soldiers giving the Nazi salute. Invicta Lodge is a Kent Rangers Supporters Club

But no: for Nigel, Rigby's killers are the racists. Not him. Or the British Empire. Or the people who claim that 'Muslims' are the problem, despite most of the world's Muslims never decapitating anyone

It's funny that Nigel and his friends never have a problem with white immigration. No marches to deport the 300,000 French, the (seemingly) millions of Aussies and New Zealanders who've colonised Earl's Court. And never, ever mention the millions of British immigrants then and now who've colonised the globe. All those white Australians, Canadians, Americans, South Africans, New Zealanders etc etc etc. After all, they were invited. Those countries were empty! Weren't they. Let's not forget, too, all those ex-pats in Spain and other sunny climes. Dozing by the pool, a copy of the Sun or the Mail over their reddened faces, never learning Spanish and still muttering about 'immigrants'. Send them back!

And far be it for Nigel to consider why Commonwealth migrants turned up: because there was a massive labour shortage after the war. Unlike Nigel's imperialist friends, they were invited in. Nor would little Nigel consider it a fair recompense for the Empire emptying their countries of every ounce of blood and treasure. 

Never mind. A bit more Nigel for your delectation. 

Wow. Never mind that migration is a product of modernity and of capitalism and really can't be pinned on a particular decade. Never mind, too, that many of the past years' outrages have been committed by native-born bombers, whether motivated by Islam or by white racism and homophobia. No, Nigel has a theory. A conspiracy theory. That the Labour Party, convinced that it could never win an election, deliberately 'trawled the world' looking for obedient grateful voters.

Let's just cast our minds back to 1997. Before Labour's supposed plot. Remember the election? The 'landslide'? The one in which Labour won 419 seats across the country, from white and black people and the Tories got 165? Or try 2001: Labour 416, Tories 166. Fast forward, if you dare, to 2005: Labour 356, Tories 198. Does that look like a global conspiracy to import compliant Labour voters to you? What I can see is a nation of mostly white people voting Labour overwhelmingly at first, with some loss of enthusiasm as time goes on. Labour's vote may have declined a little but it's clear that's because an electorate changed its mind and may well change it back again. If anyone's 'trawling the world' for immigrants to replace the white working class, it's the Tories' industrialist friends who want underpaid, vulnerable people who don't know the law, are too afraid to join a union and are just grateful to be here. 

And now we're on to the outright lies. 

All this talk of 'enclaves' and 'ghettos'. Nigel writes for the Shropshire Star, sister paper to the Express and Star. I suspect he knows very well that lots and lots of Shropshire villages might well be considered white enclaves or ghettos (and yes, I'm aware that Nigel doesn't know the difference between Muslims and people with dark skin). It doesn't occur to our Nige that a) immigrant groups tend not to have much money and therefore live in the poorest places, and that b) minority groups will cluster together because of external threats (imagine being the only Asian family in a UKIP-voting village) and because distinct services (food, religion etc) are only accessible with sufficient numbers. Does Nigel imagine that the Founding Fathers scattered and lived amongst the Native American tribes? Or that Brits in Spain don't found English Pubs and Fish'n'Chip Shops showing wall-to-wall Premiership football? Please, Nigel, you're embarrassing us. 

Have 'some Muslims established Sharia law in defiance of the law of the land'? I rather think not. Perhaps Sharia is present in this country: but Catholic and Protestant churches operate Canon Law, and the Jewish Beth Din courts are accredited by the state - in limited areas which don't conflict with the law. Although, of course, when it comes to gay marriage, the Christian churches have had the law altered to suit them, despite church-going being a distinctly minority pursuit. The Church of England even has its Bishops in the House of Lords: very democratic. 

I agree with Nigel about 'preachers of hate'. Because I remember Ian Paisley and his Save Ulster From Sodomy campaign, his repeated accusations that the Pope is the Antichrist and similar obsessions. Oh hold on… Nigel only means Foreign Black Preachers of Hate. And as for young men going off to training camps to be indoctrinated into civil war methods: I presume he doesn't mean the British Army. Or those brave men who joined the International Brigades to fight Franco and fascism. No, Nigel's got this 'we', and I strongly suspect that he's referring to, and appealing to, a white readership that really doesn't reflect the newspaper's catchment area. 

And what the hell is this stuff about 'saving Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo'. That's possibly the most distorted sentence in this farrago of lies. Seriously, Nigel, were any of these wars about saving Muslims? Iraq was about deposing a dictator who'd fallen out of favour with the West. Afghanistan was about punishing the perpetrators of 9/11. Kosovo was about (depending on who you listen to) annoying the Serbs, annoying the Russians, or defending Kosovans – not Muslims. If any of these wars were about 'saving Muslims', we've done a pretty poor job, as a glance at the death rates will tell you.

I actually feel sorry for Nigel Hastilow. He's like I imagine Jeremy Clarkson would be if that gentleman had a massive stroke and lay in a hospital bed having the Daily Mail read to him incessantly. He fears and resents those who pass him on the street, little realising that they, like him, are more than the colour of their skin or the direction they pray (or don't pray) in. They're worried about schools, bills, whether the neighbours have a bigger TV than them, whether Johnny or Jamshed is doing his homework, why her knee hurts etc etc etc. And that, Nigel, is how we build a nation. Not by dividing the world into 'Muslims' and 'Natives'. 

Where are the Rivers of Blood? They're not in the Express and Star's region. They're in Iraq, Afghanistan and all the other places British and Americans are bombing wedding parties and propping up revolting regimes like Saudia Arabia, Bahrain and the like. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I tend to avoid the Express and Star

Update: a source informs me that Hastilow was declared persona non grata even by the Conservative Party. Nigel was meant to stand for Parliament in Halesowen until he wrote that 'Enoch was right' - and was 'encouraged' to resign. Still, at least he's consistent, if not original. I wonder how often he recycles his columns?


Benjamin Judge said...

Yeah, as someone who grew up in the West Midlands I have one massive problem with this article.

A photograph of Enoch Powell isn't the visual equivalent of saying "I'm not racist, but...", it is the visual equivalent of saying "I am racist, and..."

Apart from that though, I couldn't agree with you more. Carry on...

Historian on the Edge said...

Christ, as they say, on a bike.

Jake said...

It's well before my time (he died about the same time I bought my first razor), but didn't Powell always defend himself by claiming he didn't have anything personal against black people himself, but was worried about the many British people who did? It sounds exactly like the kind of excuse a Tory MP would make up after the fact after realising he'd gone a bit too far even for a hand-picked audience, of course, but when you see this sort of bile getting column inches in a serious newspaper in 2013 you've really got to wonder if he didn't have a point...

The Plashing Vole said...

Jake - yes, that's exactly how it sounds.
And if you think Hastilow's bad - here's the column by his friend Peter Rhodes in which he calls same-sex marriage advocates 'Blackshirts' and 'fascists'. Even though the Nazis put gay people in gas chambers, not liberals. Historian on the Edge will, I'm sure, remember that episode well.

Gracie Samuels said...
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