Trevor Phillips Gazing Into The Abyss: “‘Political Correctness’ Caused Rise Of Populism”

What happened to Trevor Phillips? Just how did this former champion of race relations go from spokesperson of the National Union of Students to the Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality- one that fought the tide of stop-and search instances by the Met Police around black men. Nowadays, he’s predisposed to saying that there’s a lot of black-on-black crime that nobody anywhere is willing to talk about. It is of course, not true that nobody is willing to even to discuss, and his views on multiculturalism “encouraging separatism” isn’t amongst the unsayable either – It’s not like you can’t find a Daily Mail columnist espousing those views. At least with the latter opinion, I can firmly say that Phillips’ stance of multiculturalism isn’t a recent development. Pretty much a lot of his statements on race relations in the UK are not recent. But what is a recent comment based on this line he’s been walking on to suggest that the current wave of populism in 2016-2017 is largely due to ‘political correctness’. He also has a new documentary coming out this Thursday called Has Political Correctness Gone Mad?, in which I hope to review by the following week.

When thinking about how Phillips got to the stage that he did, I assumed that he may be simply getting older and that it might be a generational gap. I actually remember discussing this very point with a close friend of mine last summer, after she was recounting a documentary he did the year before “Things We Don’t Say About Race That Are True”.  But I’ve come to realise what an insulting assessment that actually is. Why don’t we see Lee Jasper telling black youths to pull their pants up? Why isn’t Darcus Howe regretting his activism of over four decades? The fact of the matter is, at some point Trevor Phillips got cynical.  He’s more or less come to oppose anti-racist efforts as they currently stand. Some of which he helped in building.

Once upon a time, Phillips campaigned for better pay among ethnic minorities, and for more spaces for ethnic minority presence in executive positions, and against racism within even the elite of liberalism in UK Politics. Now the assumption is that he caught the ‘New Labour’ bug when they came to power in 1997 from his good friend Peter Mandelson, with a later unsuccessful run for Mayor London, and his chairmanship of the Commission for Racial Equality and later Equality and Human Rights Commission was fraught with controversies arising from the divisiveness of his leadership, his statements on ‘multiculturalism’ encouraging separateness among different communities only further encouraging former left-wing compatriots and other public speakers within the Black British community to denounce him. It seems from close observation, Phillps’ stances may not have from merely old age, or even exposure  to New Labour ideology per se – but a logical extension of an ideal for Black Britons to aspire to: For Phillips, equality means being allowed the opportunities to aspire for the best in the society that you live in – the young Phillips interpreted practices such as stop-and-search rightfully as an obstacle, as harassment by the authorities on the basis of race is as form of victimization and one of these social roadblocks; during his time in political activism, Phillips identified more in the workplace, and within the establishment itself. In fact, the few hazy moments he had during his time in New Labour was during the run-up to the 1999 mayoral election, which turned Ken Livingstone from ally to enemy – He felt that he was being passed over because of his race. Phillips sees racial equality in terms of the positions available to them. A sort of “self-made person of colour” although I imagine Phillips would now reject the POC terminology as being too ‘politically correct’. And yes, acceptance to a Britishness standard is part of that. From this, we might be able to see where Phillips opposition to multiculturalism comes from, since he seems to advocate a form of “cultural assimilationism” in its favour.

To this end, he has taken to shoe-horning his bedbug in cases which have the barest of connections – like 21st century populism. I’m expected to accept that ‘political correctness’ is what gave America Trumpism, Brexit over here, and Labour in shambles. I’m expected to bear responsibility for white anxiety around around acceptable language and behaviour, which is really what he’s talking about in terms of ‘political correctness’ for why the wave of alternative right washing away progressivism. As bad as post-Brexit UK seems to be, it has not completely sank under the new reactionaries. But what has Trevor Phillips offered beyond providing cover for the Colonel Blimps of the media and political establishment? How is his tea parties with David Goodhart changing his mind about Muslims in Great Britain, when he is half-parroting them? Can he really claim that we’ve become a society too polite to properly discuss British society and its minorities in light of all this? Even before Brexit, Nigel Farage was on Question Time in what seemed every fortnight while bemoaning the BBC’s descent into “left-wing propaganda” where you can’t say anything yet he somehow was verbose and loquacious enough to find multiple ways of not saying anything. Certainly not about immigration and the Arabs who threaten to subvert ‘core Christian values’ in the UK. I mean, really. Did these people come out of nowhere? Or were they emboldened by a quiet, bitter subsection of the population angry about Britain changing that Mr Phillips thinks that they’re opinion is worth courting? Surely when ostensible liberals and progressives use the rhetoric of the illiberal while when Jack Straw who was then Home Secretary made comments on Asian men seeking “young white girls as ‘easy meat’” in response to the Rottherham sex trafficking scandal, they only stoke the fire, right? This tactic never disarms the far-right. It emboldens and legitimises them by making it appear that there is a problem that the “liberal establishment” are too weak to challenge effectively.

Since Phillips has pretty much the same opinions as two years ago when he produced “Things We Don’t Say About Race” documentary, I think that it might be fair to ask that given the rise in anti-Semitic attacks, and other hate crimes since Brexit, whether its worth noting the concentration of wealth in households in Jewish and Cypriot communities? How exactly is telling ethnic minorities, especially migrant communities to aspire to Britishness useful when the notion of Britishness is so nebulous? Surely migrating to another land , learning the language, paying taxes and citizenship applications would be enough. But Phillips seems to think that not prompting isolated communities into some nebulous concept of Britishness will turn the tide against demagoguery.

The problem is, this demagoguery has been here building and gaining strength, often accompanied by an admittance or the use of their language to encourage them. Demagogues don’t give rational answers, and they don’t want conversations either. All they want to do is bellow simple solutions which often have one group benefiting at the expense of another. They care for nothing but an authoritarian playground. Phillips is right that we don’t need to hold our tongues and be bold. But let’s also call a spade a spade: More often than not, suspicion of communities with ethnic minorities is what creates tension and division, and not any leftover ‘incompatible values’ the people from those communities supposedly have. This is not helped when a commentariat and other influential figures cast fears on migrants entering before they even get off the boat. It’s almost certain Farage’s campaigning with a “Breaking Poster” depicting a large queue of migrants helped in tipping the scale of the Brexit vote. Racist rhetoric is real in the UK, and it’s not always shy or subtle in its message. Polite encouragement, appraisals or even silence when its coded is only making racists bolder in their language. This isn’t a time for complacency, or giving excuses for reactionaries. There’s only one tactic that we can borrow from them – and that’s a clear, blunt and unsubtle message in telling them to sod off. Make that a universal standard of Britishness.

 

 

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#britishness, #multiculturalism, #political-correctness, #politics, #populism, #race-relations, #society, #trevor-phillips, #writing

Two-And-A-Half Minutes To Doomsday: Two Weeks of Trump & The ‘Special Relationship’ of Nativists, and Deceivers

The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock introduced by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists representing a countdown to global catastrophe. It was introduced in 1947, in the early years of the Cold War, with its attention being drawn to the geopolitical game changer known as the atomic bomb, and observing the possibility of mankind’s usage of a series of weapons that could ultimately seal its collective fate. Its attention on the possibility of global thermonuclear war, until 2007 when it expanded to climate change, and other man-made potential risks to humanity.

Apparently, this early stage of Donald Trump’s presidency was enough this year to move the clock 2 1/2 minutes to midnight based on “the strident rise in nationalism”, and his comments indicating a dismissal of the threat of climate change, along with his rather cavalier attitude towards his stewardship of the world’s second largest nuclear arsenal.

It marks the very first time that a single individual has been the reason for a change in the clock, in it in fact increased the risk to our continued existence on terra firma. Not even Nixon (who reportedly told his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, he wanted to nuke Vietnam during a drunken rant), or Reagan (whose Strategic Defense Initiative would have made the already paranoid then-gerontocracy of the Soviet Union even more alarmist and warmed up an apparently cooling Cold War had it been practically feasible to design) carried that ignominy. Yet President Trump did in a week what other bellicose “Cold Warriors” couldn’t do even in eight years of office.

Given his rather alarming presidential speech, which did nothing of convincing the world that he was a president for all Americans, it should be no surprise that Trump invoked such a response. Donald Trump started his presidency with a remarkable lack of subtlety: Within a matter of days, he had already executive orders declaring his war on Obamacare, immigrants, and the “inner cities”. The Dakota Access Pipeline project that Obama halted was immediately reinstated, sparking violence between the Standing Rock protesters and the police. Republicans used the transition period to begin kickstart their agenda to repeal Obamacare by hosting late-night sessions in Congress, hoping to act before the Democrats attempt to block their attempts. It seems that only their own internal disagreements, and their own rush to repeal it catching unwanted attention, are what’s keeping the Affordable Care Act alive.

Trump was also very mindful of the fact that his inauguration attendees were considerably less than that of either of Obama’s, and after taking to Twitter to rant about it, he gave a speech at Langley – The headquarters of the CIA, stood before its memorial and gave a speech with an inordinate amount of focus given to his frustration on the press’ reporting of crowd size. So outraged was John Brennan, the then-director of the CIA – that he announced his resignation from the post. And following his departure, four other State Department officials went with him – it is currently up in the air whether it was a result of their services expiring before the finalised transition, or Trump’s ongoing fit-of-pique, or even reluctance to take part in the Trump Administration. In any event, Trump’s response to the “brain drain” of national security seems to be to doing the same as in how Trump himself got elected – appoint a wealthy, yet woefully inexperienced individual as head of your intelligence branches, in a way that practically screams “special interests”.

In addition to his special advisor and chief strategist, Steve Bannon – CEO of Breitbart.com, a website known for conspiracy-mongering, and churning out right-wing agitprop for the audience of reactionaries and neo-reactionaries with a collective will and a collective persecution complex to mold their own ideals of an America free from burdens such as accountability to a wider populace, respect for dissenting opinions, and a responsibility to marginalized groups.

The Press Secretary spending his hours spouting falsehoods before the media for the sake of Trump’s vanity. The President’s counsellor openly describing these falsehoods as “alternative facts”, and furthermore a chief adviser that advocates an  openly adversarial approach with the press telling it to “keep it’s mouth shut”, and referring to it as “the opposition party”. This is as clear a signal of “post-truth politics” and it just so happens that this year, a team working on behalf of the most powerful office in the world is spinning the flow of information as if it were cotton candy.

Meanwhile, over in the UK – where it’s halfway towards insanity, as opposed to completing the whole track. Prime Minister Theresa May is deadset on a “hard Brexit” – which equates to a swift and hasty termination of the United Kingdom’s involvement with the European Union and the renegotiation on the laws, treaties and the trade regulations that it was beholden to, in addition to an exit of the EEA – The European Economic Area, which would have the UK adhere to largely the same regulations, and receive the same benefits in the EU (with virtually no input in its direction), only leaving free decision-making being in the fishering policies, its home and foreign policies and its exclusion from the Schengen area would remain intact. Though that last bit would have effectively meant the same thing as it was in the EU anyway.

“Brexit means Brexit” became a whole lot clearer when a plot by the Cabinet  to announce Britain skydiving off the economic plane with no parachute was announced. May had made it clear that she wanted to ensure that nothing of the UK’s was beholden to the EU. And although stalled by the efforts of Gina Miller by starting a challenge to the legality of the Government’s plan to launch Brexit had slowed the march to economic uncertainty down with the Supreme Court ruling that Government cannot come to an Article 50 agreement without the consultation of Parliament.

This had, at best only slowed May down on the march to Brexit. For on February 2nd, the House of Commons took a vote on the “White Paper” signifying the process in which the UK will trigger Article 50, with Parliament overwhelmingly being in favour of the White Paper – 498 in favour, 114 against. And so, closer and closer to the abyss Britain moves.

When Ms. May Went To Washington

 

While Theresa May claimed that when meeting President Trump that she would hold him to account over his sexist comments, and other concerning statements regarding the “Muslim ban”, they were conspicuously absent during her visit on the 27th January. As a matter of fact, far from giving a stern lecture to Trump on behalf of the United Kingdom, she held hands with him. It was not as if she forgot what she came for – Indeed, if making it clear to Trump what the boundaries of British goodwill were the mission, then none other then BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg did not hesitate directly ask Trump about his travel ban, and his reactionary stance on reproductive rights would’ve presented a good reminder. However, since the purpose seemed more about getting a post-Brexit Britain with a new trade deal with the United States, and reiterating other alliances – May was only too happy to address the question directed to the US President, since the President was not willing to respond. “Special relationship” indeed.

 

Some onlookers regarded this as something of a parallel to the Bush-Blair relationship. But it is more complex than that: Anyone who’s followed Theresa May’s Premiership, or indeed her political career in general would have already received whiplash from the amount of flip-flopping that she does on her stances. Just take a look on her statements on the NHS: Recently, she admitted that the NHS is under pressure and claimed that £400million to alleviate winter period strain even after she insisted just months before that the NHS will receive no further payments, saying that it received enough money that it is. Indeed, Brexit itself is one of them – she chose to abstain from the whole thing while half her party were raring to break out, including rivals Boris Johnson (sort of) and Michael Gove. Now she’s striving for severance from the EU as soon as possible.

Remember that the previous president, Barack Obama was very vocal about the UK severing its relationship with the EU, even saying that it’ll be “in the back of the queue” to any new trade negotiations that the US would be interested in making. Now, we have a have President determined to captain SS Uncle Sam completely in opposition to the previous one. And May seeks to use that. After all, Trump is a man who called himself “Mr. Brexit” before he gave any indication that he knew exactly what it was. May believes that this man, volatile as his administration seems to be running, can be made to work with her by appealing to his ego. To her credit, getting him to walk back on the US leaving NATO is something of a victory for her. This relationship isn’t Blarite. It’s downright Nixonian. Only that the balance of power still lies towards the nation that perfected many of his bag of tricks.

Still May has now fallen into bed with a man who, as of today, has affected the lives of 100,000 people – from students to film directors as a result of his travel ban, and is battling a federal judge on the ban to see it through despite its questionable legality; attempting to take apart the US’ own environmental agency, feuding with national park employees, and open contempt for historical allies of the US – the alliance, as seems to be any alliance with Trump’s America, seems to be tentative. We should be worried, as Trump has shown himself to be a whimsical leader. And in an era where right-wing populism is dragging Western nations like a black hole of concentrated reactionary politics, we can expect darker times ahead in era of pompous demagogues. The clock ticks ever closer.

#current-affairs, #donald-trump, #minutes-till-doomsday, #nationalism, #politics, #populism, #theresa-may, #troubling-state-of-affairs, #u-s-politics