Last week, whilst updating myself on the Twitter-sphere in an attempt to procrastinate from work, I came across a tweet from those thuggish racists, the English Defence League. It was pretty simple, a link to an article about a man who was savagely beaten simply for asking three young men to stop pushing the ‘Stop’ button. We all know those kids on a night bus, who think it’s decidedly hilarious to make the bus driver go to every stop, prolonging everyone’s journey home in the drunken haze of an early Saturday morning. We all tut, we may all turn around and stare; this man had decided he’d had enough and was attacked for this. I’m sure you have all read similar stories with outrage.
So far, so appalling; but why was the EDL tweeting this article? As I looked through their feed, I noticed more and more tweets with articles about people attacked, raped, beaten, illegally claiming benefits, not receiving council homes. This was more the territory of uninformed Daily Mail and The Sun readers than the co-ordinated racism of members of the EDL. And then I noticed, in every single article, the ‘victims’ were white and British; the ‘culprits’ were ethnic minorities. Young black men, Pakistani families, immigrants from Eastern Europe. Not one of these tweets was accompanied by a comment, it was simply there.
And here is the tactic of intelligent right-wing thugs. They don’t make comment, but they subtly twist their information so that there is a slant. A slant that every attack is from an immigrant against an upstanding white British person. Luckily for us, the EDL are widely discredited in the mainstream, but their views on immigration are worryingly familiar. They go far beyond anything the Conservative party or UKIP believe, and whilst scepticism of large-scale immigration is a valid viewpoint (not one which I share, but one I can understand), yet the extreme singularity of the EDL’s attention to this issue marks a worrying political obsession.
However, a worrying consensus is building that suggests Bulgarians and Romanians will come here only to claim benefits; that immigrants in this country already don’t work, don’t pay taxes and yet receive everything; that the majority of our country’s problems could be solved by severely reducing immigration. It’s understandable people are frustrated when the only stories they hear of immigration or multiculturalism are negative. And when groups like the EDL play on these frustrations and fears, by suggesting that the government is unable to act, well it’s no wonder people move towards them. And, when caught, racism is gradually brought in – subtly, and fostered. It is developed. It is used by EDL leadership to create the kind of disgusting rioting we have seen in our cities.
This is why we must challenge these views. Most evidence shows that the vast majority of people coming to the UK claim fewer benefits than those born here, that council housing does not go immediately to immigrant families recently off the ship, that there is a distinct economic benefit from immigration. Politicians need to show positive stories of immigration and multiculturalism. Every time I go to cities like London, Manchester and Liverpool I am incredibly grateful for our multicultural society; that we have the fantastic opportunity to learn about and understand new cultures. Yes, we need to do more about integrating these cultures into British society and instances of ghettos in which anyone from outside of that ethnic group feels unwelcome is ill advised. But this isn’t true multiculturalism and this isn’t what we have in most of Britain. We need to hear far more stories in the media and from government that immigration is a good thing, that Britain should be incredibly proud of its multicultural heritage. Why should you care? Well, intolerance breeds intolerance. If we stand up to racism and xenophobia, we can stand up to homophobia.
Luckily, there’s a rival EDL in social media. English Disco Lovers. Self-styled as an ‘anti-racism, pro-disco’ group, their main aim is to have more followers on Twitter and Facebook than the English Defence League, and to appear above them in Google search results. They’re doing pretty well so far. Their aim is true, but until government and the media start showing positive images of multiculturalism and immigration, there will always be thugs like the EDL.