British Trumpism? Anti-Immigrant “Britain First” White Terrorist kills Member of Parliament

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The assassin shouted “Britain First!” as he repeatedly stabbed Jo Cox in the stomach with a hunting knife and then shot her with an old revolver several times. He also cut a 77-year-old man who unsuccessfully attempted to intervene.

Cox, 41, and mother of two, served as a Labour member of the Mother of Parliaments from the constituency of Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire (north-central Britain).

Cox had been campaigning for the United Kingdom to remain part of the European Union, opposing what is being abbreviated as Brexit or a British Exit from the EU.

The far right in Britain sees European Union membership as having opened the floodgates to millions of immigrants. Anyone from any of the other 27 European Union member states can go to Britain in search of a job. It is true that lots of French, Poles and others have gone there, but as always with immigration it isn’t at all clear that they have taken jobs from Britons– a lot of times they are doing menial work it would be hard to find a Briton to do. New businesses have been made possible by this expansion of the work force, making the UK economy more dynamic and robust.

Moreover, only about half of the immigrants to the UK come from Europe– the other half come from the former British Empire and Asia.

A discourse of “Britain First” (the name of a far, far right political group that denies any connection to this crime), hatred of immigrants, and Islamophobia have all poisoned British politics for several years.

The assassin, 52, is being looked at for connections to the far right, as well as for mental problems (with the white terrorists, it is always mental problems).

There are reasons for which ultra-nationalism leads to violence. It is a black and white view of the world, with good and evil and nothing in between. The in-group is exalted, those defined as being in the out-group are debased. As Brian Porter argues, there can develop a hopelessness and impatience that ultra-nationalist goals can be reached in any relevant time frame, or will necessarily ever be reached at all– and so direct action must be taken. Now.

In contrast, Liberal politics (in the 19th century sense that includes both US conservatives and liberals of today) believes that universal suffrage can extend the nation to all citizens of all backgrounds. Liberal politics is inclusive, not divisive and hateful. And, Liberal politics holds that things can be improved over time despite momentary setbacks.

Donald Trump is much more like the virulent turn-of-the 20th century Polish nationalists that Porter describes, who became racists and extremists and gave up liberalism.

Trump’s slogan is “America First,” by which he means that the interests of the white Protestant elite of the US must be put first, over all other foreign policy considerations. Trump demonizes members of minorities– undocumented Mexicans are “rapists” e.g. He tars all Muslims with the brush of terrorism even though 99.99% of them are perfectly peaceful law-abiding people. He advocates torture. He urges followers to physically attack protesters and promises to pay their legal fees. He wants to kidnap and perhaps torture innocents related to bad guys. And, Trump does not view the presidential campaign as a friendly contest between two political visions. It is apocalyptic. America, he says, will go to hell if Sec. Clinton is elected. Trump does not respect the rule of law or the constitution. His policies must be enacted even if they are illegal or unconstitutional because “we have to have a country.” Nationalism trumps all else, even the organic law of the nation itself.

This kind of talk has an underlying logic of violence, and it is no accident that violence has broken out at Trump’s increasingly poorly attended rallies.

The British far right speaks the language of Trumpism, as well. For at least one of its members, that language and that logic has led to a shocking murder of a politician who supported a more open Britain.

That kind of violence is latent in the discourse of Trump and his acolytes in this country, as well. Jo Cox’s assassination should make us all wary of ultra-nationalism and where it can take our countries.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Jo Cox MP dead after shooting attack – BBC News

23 Responses

  1. Shades of Weimar

    The man arrested over the killing of Labour MP Jo Cox is believed to have had long-term links with a hard-right group based in London which had been campaigning for many years for Britain to leave the European Union.

    Thomas Mair was named as a supporter in an online publication of the Springbok Club, an organisation which has defended the white supremacist apartheid regime in South Africa.

    Witnesses to the fatal attack on Ms Cox say they heard Mair shout “Britain First” as the MP was shot and then stabbed. The organisation Britain First, which was founded by former members of the British National Party, has denied that Mair was associated with it and say they condemn the killing.

    The link between Mair and the Springbok Club goes back ten years when its online magazine, the Springbok Cyber Newsletter, was inquiring about the whereabouts of “Thomas Mair, from Batley in Yorkshire [who] was one of the earliest subscribers and supporters of “S.A. Patriot” who has moved from his address in the Fieldhead Estate district of the town.”

    link to independent.co.uk

    • He has now given his name in court as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” I think it’s pretty clear what was behind the shooting.

  2. As an English man I must take issue with you professor, with regard to your comments that the people of the vote out of the EU campaign are all ultra far right wing. Currently the opinion polls show the leave campaign with a slight majority which represents millions of British voters, of which I am one. The question of immigration whilst a vexed one, is far from being the main reason for wanting out of the EU. Last year alone there were some six thousand pieces of legislation passed by the un-elected EU mandarins which we in here in Britain have to obey. By being an island we have by far the largest fisheries of any other EU country, but our fisheries are controlled by the EU meaning that our fishermen are not allowed to fish for several months of the year. We are absolutely swamped with EU regulations which stifle our industries and out people. As for the immigration question, we are not talking about a few people from the war torn middle East or Africa etc, we are concerned that the WHOLE of Europe can come and settle in Britain under the current arrangement of the free movement of people within the EU. Your own president had the damned cheek to come over here and tell us we should remain within the EU whilst at the same time putting up fences between America and Mexico to stop people coming to the States. If the Americans think its such a good idea to open one’s borders to all and sundry, may I suggest they open the Southern borders to South America and Canada! Calling those of us who no longer want to remain in the EU, ‘far right’ with clear overtones that we are some how ‘fascists’ is insulting and offensive. No one in Britain voted for the current setup of the European Union. We originally voted for an economic community to enhance trade. Had the British people known at the time of the first EEC vote, we would not have voted for this total domination of our lives from Europe. The murder of the member of parliament was carried out by a man who was unhinged and a lunatic. There is tacit implication in your piece that the leave the EU campaign is is made up of people with extreme views similar to this man. This is unbecoming of a man of your stature and insight, professor and I hope I am wrong.

    • You know, Republicans complain about over-regulation in the US. I know from work experience that no one in America knows anything about regulatory burdens until they’ve had to work with the EU.

    • The EU parliament is elected directly and has to confirm the commissioners, which in turn are appointed by the elected heads of states of the EU countries. The President of the European Commission is actually now voted in directly by the EU electorate.

      Hardly qualifies as undemocratic mandarines.

      But if you want to quit, just to go back to unsustainable overfishing, be my guest.

  3. In contrast, Liberal politics (in the 19th century sense that includes both US conservatives and liberals of today) believes that universal suffrage can extend the nation to all citizens of all backgrounds.

    This sounds so very noble and certainly is an interesting ideal.

    To be a little more (self-)critical, it is all too easy for a normative component to find room in the liberal mindset.

    At the extreme end this normative component resulted in indigenous people being sent to Christian schools/re-education camps in Australia and the Americas, so that they may become fit to have the nation be extended to them. And there are liberals who sanction such measures to this day, as the poor cannot be trusted to raise their children correctly.

    Liberal politics is inclusive, not divisive and hateful.

    Again, noble things, but inclusive on our terms, not necessarily theirs. And why would we hate the unwashed hillbillies who are too stubborn and ignorant to get it when we can feel superior and pity them. Engaging with people on eye-level is our challenge.

    There is a deep impulse in liberalism to manage their affairs for them for their own good. As in Hillary Clinton’s “superpredators who have to be brought to heel” this can blend into authoritarianism.

    And, Liberal politics holds that things can be improved over time despite momentary setbacks.

    This important aspect is the crux. If social and material development is generally on the right track, and the moral arc bends towards justice, our main task is to incrementally shepherd things along.

    However, people all over the world increasingly do not believe that we as a society are on the right track.

    In Immanuel Wallerstein’s analysis, liberal ideas have dominated politics from the French revolution until… a few years ago when we entered another revolutionary moment. Chris Hedges speaks of the “death of the liberal class”.

    May you live in interesting times.

  4. Worth noting that the EU referendum campaigns have been suspended and campaigners on both sides have respected this so far. Police are reported to “refused to discuss the possible motive behind the killing”, and at this stage it might be better to refer to Mr Mair as a suspect rather than an assassin. No doubt many things will come out in the trial.

  5. “In contrast, Liberal politics (in the 19th century sense that includes both US conservatives and liberals of today) believes that universal suffrage can extend the nation to all citizens of all backgrounds. Liberal politics is inclusive, not divisive and hateful. And, Liberal politics holds that things can be improved over time despite momentary setbacks.”

    Classic Liberalism (of the 19th century European variety) emphasized not only inclusiveness and expanding the franchise, but also free markets in economics, freedom of religion, and secular government. It was a driving force for modernity and a major reason for Europe’s advance over other regions of the world at the time.

  6. The second thought through my mind when I heard of this dastardly act was that it could benefit the remain campaign by disgusting some undecided and frightening others. What even my aged cynicism had not foreseen was the financial markets, sensing this too, would respond by raising sterling from a two month slide. link to atimes.com . It’s enough to make you sick.

  7. The United States is not the only nation with people having homicidal tendencies. Fortunately for the Brits and other nations with similar people they don’t have the easy access to guns available here. You’re right, President Obama. The United States is exceptional.

  8. Britain has a history of petty fascist and Neo-Nazi groups on the fringes of the right here, from the National Front in the 1970s to the British National Party in the 1990s and 00s. They come together and then decay – Britain First was formed by former BNP members for example. Groups like the English Defence League have taken on an anti-Muslim hue in recent years in preference to an anti-Jewish one (partly because they admire how Israel treats its minorities and the Palestinians in the OT).

    Far right terrorism here is rare – though it happens far more often then any terrorist violence from the far left in the UK, unlike other European countries like Italy or Greece. The London Nail Bomber was arrested back in 1999 for killing three people and leaving 139 injured. Pavlo Lapshyn, a Ukrainian fascist, is currently a life sentence for murdering an elderly Muslim man in the street and nearly causing a massacre at a mosque during a bombing camp – it was foiled because he got the time the mosque would be occupied wrong. There have been other white supremacist loners who never make it that far before they are stopped – Mark Colborne or Robert Cottage for example.

    I think people associate terrorism with an organised group here in the UK, or at least an overseas connection. The public imagination hasn’t made the leap from the al-Qadia/IRA/Combat 18 cells/gangs of the 1990s/00s to the self-radicalized loners who often strike after being inspired by what they found on the internet. As to whether or not Thomas Mair is a terrorist, regardless of his mental health issues, he clearly is. He shot and stabbed a public official, after building himself a handgun and acquiring ammunition for it somehow (in a country with extremely strict gun laws this required forward planning to say the least). While carrying out his attack he shouted far right slogans and has subscribed to pro-Apartheid and US white supremacists literature for decades. He is a terrorist, just like Roshonara Choudhry, who tried to kill former minister Stephen Timms at his surgery in 2010 for his support of the invasion of Iraq. In my mind there is no difference between him and the Orlando club shooter except their choice of extremist ideologies – both had the same methods.

    But while Mair is both a killer and a sad case, he is not the real threat to political life in the UK. That comes from much more organised and cleverer people like the UK Independence Party’s Nigel Farage. These people aren’t fascists and don’t spend their time immersed in delusional conspiracy worlds of white supremacy. But I’m from northern England (north-west, not north-east where Mair was from) and casual discrimination and petty racism between the white British, white Eastern European and Asian communities (there are several) is rife up there. So is industrialization and poverty – the area has never really got back on its feet since it was left to go to the wall under Thatcherism (a neo-liberal doctrine of privatization and asset stripping similar to the Republican party’s economic programme). Its proving fertile recruiting grounds for the types of populist hucksters like Trump who promise the moon but have no programme for how to deliver. These are the types who might end up knocking us out of the EU, compared with whom a figure like Mair is of much less significance. However I hold they both emerged from the same swamp, created by the purposeful decades long neglect of areas which were seen as unprofitable by our political and business establishment.

  9. How is it that egomaniacs and random homicidal maniacs now steer important narratives in the U.S. and Europe? Mateen, Mair or Trump at the wheel.

    Who puts them there?

    • The oligarchy stumbled onto a great realization:
      Despite the use of the threat of revolution to scare them into sharing power and wealth with the workers during the liberal era, the workers often just got more demanding; the “revolution of rising expectations” meant that after White workers won rights, Blacks and women and gays and everyone else started plotting liberation. Thus the seeming chaos of the late 1960s, which galvanized the Kochs and other plutocrats into plotting to restore their elite power.

      Ah, but what if you could put the clock in reverse by driving wages DOWN? In the mid 20th century that sounded like madness. Surely that would trigger revolution.

      Yet in fact what we see is that wage pressure caused union members to turn on each other, made women in the workforce more a burden than a liberation, and unwound the democratization of American culture, with each subcaste more determined to crush the one below it as inequality ballooned. And coded nostalgia for the racist past became a boom industry, breaking out into gun mania, Fox News, gold cultism, and modern Evangelicalism.

      The price paid for such a movement built on tribal hatred and terror is that a certain number of followers will go too far and not wait for the systematic deformation of the Republican Party and our laws. The oligarchs don’t seem to be much inconvenienced.

  10. For the longest of time I have thought being a liberal means having an open mind, even toward a fellow conservative “old fashioned”. To call conservatives bigots implies liberals are not so, a lie. Little did I know, liberal means, intervention, military or otherwise, lib service for the resulting hundreds of thousands dead and drooling over the economic benefits a few millions over qualified choice refuges will make in the ghetto. If there are jobs in England or anywhere that the English or locals won’t do, those jobs need not to be done. We don’t have to destroy whole societies to obtain cheep labor. Britain first or America first are the result of such liberal policies.

  11. If there was any need for further proof to show that Jo Cox’s assassin Thomas Mair was linked to far-right political groups, today when he was taken to court to be charged and asked to state his name, he said: “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” Fortunately, political assassinations are very rare in Britain, but there are some far-right groups that would pose a much bigger danger if they had easier access to firearms.

  12. Best riposte would be for the English to vote to remain in the EU when the nation goes to the polls next week. Sadly, that won’t bring Cox back to life but it would honor her memory by doing the right thing

    • It would be a rebuke to neofascists. But it wouldn’t solve the problem of the predatory global capitalism that plays working classes off against each other, such that immigration become the scapegoat while outsourcing gets off scot-free because you can shoot brown people coming over your border, but you musn’t force a capitalist to keep paying decent wages when he can pay starvation wages somewhere else. Screw all the racists and liberal-bashers on the internet who refuse to have a problem with that… because opposing it leads inexorably to the need for global class conflict.

  13. Seems like a lot of people here think Ms. Cox deserved to die for her belief in a more equal future.

    Yeah, dismantle the EU so that Wall Street can claim that its oligarchy is the only alternative to Russian and Chinese power. Dismantle the EU so that Europeans can go back to butchering each other in proper uniforms. Bring back all the mistakes of the past, as if the Great Depression and the World Wars never happened. You’re on your own this time, America has its own Civil War to refight.

    Anything is easier than the workers of Europe overcoming their prejudices against each other to overthrow the bankster class imposing austerity to destroy their rights piecemeal, following the American model.

  14. Brexit is another falsehood to fool the British Labor class into believing that it can improve its living standard by leaving the EU.

  15. If Brexit succeeds you must do the following to make Britain Great Again. Dump the metric system. No liters. No kilometers. No kilograms. God forbid, no such Napoleontic crap. Go back to pounds, shillings, and pence with their impossible to remember numerical relationships (for visitors, if any will come). Start driving on the left side of the roads again and make cars with the driver seat on the right side. Close the tunnel between you and France. Rule the waves again. Continue to serve awful food at Lyons. Right?

    • You are thoroughly confusing me ???

      Other than metric, all the things you mention never changed. The UK kept the pound, and has not joined the Euro, and of course they still drive on the left side of the road.

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