As every day passes, it seems that we are now a divided society of those who subscribe to extreme elements of a socio-political line and those who are somewhere in the middle. While the extreme left are more engaging, the ever moving right seem to be so far gone that they can almost see their own backsides. In the wake of the Brexit result and the US presidential election, there are some who are saying that those in the middle need to debate rather than confront. I’m not so sure about that. And here is why.
As one of the editors of Europa United, my job includes looking through the avalanche type feed of Twitter and it is here that my heart sinks so much. It’s now almost impossible to post something, no matter how benign, without experiencing some kind of confrontation. The majority of it seems to be from right wing lunatics, who have recently discovered the smartphone or from professional trolls who seem to be working out of some ice box in central Russia. Neither of these types is capable of any kind of rational conversation or debate. The terms ‘snowflake’ or ‘libtard’ are their ammunition and I watch the daily grind of insult tennis going back and forth between those who I see as reasonable minded people and the absolute crazies that are swamping their local net. It is now a case of who can outswipe whom with the wittiest and most insulting comments in less than a 140 characters. I have to credit the sane ones who are giving it their best shot because I wouldn’t have the wit or the patience to do what they do.
But while we applaud the clever and witty ones on social media, there are those who are clearly not cut out for this kind of social warfare. They too are new to this and probably live normal lives and Facebook or Twitter was originally something that they used to keep in touch with old school mates a couple of years ago. Now the game has changed dramatically, and these very people suddenly are in a situation where they have voted against Trump or said no to Brexit but now find themselves on the losing side and are not sure where to turn. They come across a page or group that seems to be a safe place for them to vent fears, frustrations and anger and they feel good amongst new friends and co-worriers. And it is they that now make up this ridiculously named snowflake generation. This ragged adolescent term was originally used to define 20 somethings who were believed to be pampered and unprepared for everyday life and thus are easily offended or upset when confronted. However this and other terms have migrated into the mainstream of social media and are now used as bullets against anybody who isn’t a flag waving, gun toting second amendment type and anybody who believes that bloody foreigners are hatching some evil plot to create a Mecca in Minnesota or Marseille.
The smart phone and tablet have also helped to bring the crazies out in force who are now capable of writing a few lines of hate across Facebook and Twitter. The internet, once an alien place where laptops and personal computers worked with multiple password forums and private sites to prevent the average computer illiterate from voicing their unique version of freedom of speech, has now been invaded and conquered by disciples of nationalist hate and self-importance where being dumb Trump style is a badge of honour because people like our Donald can “tell it like it is” or “speak in ways that we can all understand”. Well forgive me for being so annoying, but I prefer to read or listen to those who actually know what they are talking about or tend to communicate by not using the same words five times in every sentence.
But we are losing this battle. It’s plain to see and going head to head with this lot in conversation or debate doesn’t work for me. It’s time we “libatrds” got a bit tough and stared to act more aggressively. We shouldn’t engage; we should ignore. We shouldn’t allow this version of speech; we should laugh at its simplistic language. To those who say that denying the right wing a platform to utter their moronic lies is giving them an excuse to call us hypocrites, I say nonsense. They will point to us and say that we are shooting them down, or denying them freedom of speech; yes that one again. That policy may have worked five years ago but today, it’s a failed tactic. Let’s be honest here, the truth is shot and we can continue to be faithful to it and be honest, but we can’t allow “alterative facts” to be even heard, never mind given an equal stage. No sir, we are well past the moment of compromise. Liberals need to get tough, mean and aggressive because the right wing is pulling no punches. They clearly want a divided world full of little despot nations bouncing off one another as they sit in gold plated towers creaming off as much as possible, while a fully fuelled helicopter is ready on the roof for when the mob finally realise that they’ve been slaughtered and starved enough and now want revenge.
They and we are experiencing a historic moment of cultural and social deja-vu with us coming to the same conclusion that it possibly couldn’t get as bad as last time and them wondering just how far they can go before they get found out. In Europe it can’t be more evident with one time reasonable nations suddenly thinking that it’s okay to say that racial discrimination is a good thing and that their little country will have no problem getting a good trade deal with China or America. But has this sentiment always been there and was unable to have a voice until the likes of Facebook came along? These people were confined to small corners of local bars or sports clubs and now suddenly with a smartphone in hand, they are part of a wider community where publically stating phrases like blacks are a sub species’ is okay if a lot of people think that.
And how do we fight? We can continue to protest and report those very dodgy groups and pages on Facebook, but it won’t be enough because the world has become a smaller place when it comes to communication and they will continue to fester like a bad mould. The irony is that one of the most popular grievances that the right wing has is globalisation, yet they feed of that very phenomenon when it comes to spreading their hate. Where at one time a local fascist group would have been only able to hold meetings with attendance in single numbers, social media has enabled them to recruit more followers from further away and worse still, prominent far right trolls like Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos to be invited to places where they would have never been able to spill their hate filled bile before.
Choose unlikely allies
We need to change our tactics and start to get more martial if we truly want our way of life to continue. We need to take the next step and physically engage in acts of liberal mobilisation. Groups need to be formed, actions need to happen and disruptions need to take place. We need to get off Facebook once a meeting has been organised and only return to social media when the job is done. We need to engage with those whom we would have considered opponents, such as the Anti-Fascist-League. It has been long advised by many thinkers and military strategists that you choose your allies based on the level of threat that you are going encounter in the immediate future. The majority of far left ideology is not an immediate threat to the centre. It has many liberal similarities and in its modern version, is far more engaging than in previous decades. For some this is a difficult choice especially when communist rule in the latter half of the last century was just as cruel and dangerous as the fascist threat it helped to destroy. But was the Soviet empire really communism? Would Marx have approved of Stalin? I am hoping that he would have not and I would like to think that the majority of the left is not putting pictures of former despots like Erich Honecker or Pol Pot on the wall of their offices. But can I say that about the current bunch of right wing leaders and spokespersons now spurting out across Europe like a bad weed? Well, let’s look at their policies – separation, religious fundamentalism, extreme nationalism, fear of bloc unions, like the EU, and even holocaust deniers. Why would the far right elite detest the likes of Hitler, Franco and Mussolini when they clearly agree with what they stood for and more frighteningly, what they have done.
It’s not a big step from conducting stringent immigration policies to an outright ban and we have seen this for real in the USA. But how brilliant it was to see how quickly the liberals got active and got mobile. Mobilised: that was the key action. They outsmarted the right wing and took to the streets while the snowflake haters punched and prodded their phones in anger at the resistance. The snowflakes got out into the snow and started a mini revolution. And the chain reaction reached Europe in record time. Social media was finally used by active and aggressive “libtards” who stepped away from their warm first world fires and got out into the night on the streets of Paris, Rome, London, Dublin and Berlin to name a few. At the same time, the government of Romania, in an attempt to rush though legislation that would have given a free pass to past and future corruption offenders, felt the full force of a public who were at the end of their patience with the elite. The Romanian people also got out onto the cold streets of Bucharest and forced their leaders to forget about any attempt to fool them again. The resistance still continues as I write, with night after night of constant demonstrations and disruptions; active and mobilised.
But what of Britain and the Remain campaign? Why haven’t we seen the urgency of the Romanian resistance re-enacted on the streets of London, Liverpool and Cardiff? Why is it that the majority of those who voted to stay in the European Union only go as far as their smartphone with online petitions and letters to their MPs? Is it a characteristic of the British that moderation and civility should always be the right course of action in a situation like Brexit? Has this been successful? It’s hard to see how when you look at the way politics in Britain has changed with UKIP and certain elements of both the Labour and Conservative parties adopting a lying, brutal or defiant stance while ignoring important facts and fundamental elements of their own polices. As an observer, it is truly disappointing to see that even after six months, nobody has emerged as a true leader of the Remain campaign. The result is that there are hundreds of well-meaning but divided elements that so obviously need to be brought together if there is going to be a comprehensive resistance to Brexit. There are potential candidates in Gina Miller or Tim Farron, but neither of these has shown any inclination of stepping beyond their current happy place. So what is left for the Remain campaign? Is it going to be endless meetings followed by endless debates until the whole thing fizzles out and Brexit becomes an uncomfortable ten years of isolation and recession? Should those who want to stay in the EU start to panic and get angry and realise that this is going to change their lives on a micro and macro everyday level or is it that most of them really just want to vent off some steam while gradually accepting that they will be okay in the long run? Looking through the many social media groups it seems that all are enthusiastic but not many are willing to spend every night on the street outside an MP’s house. The leave campaign has planned a march in London on the 25th of March which will coincide with a number of events across Europe, including a large meeting of pro-European Federalists in Rome. But will that not work against them? Surely planning an event on the same day as hundreds of others will result in the possibility of the London march being swallowed up as the international media try to focus on what is most newsworthy. The turnout will be vital and in order for it to work, the attendance has to be in numbers of millions. The anti-Iraq demonstrations of 2003 had in the region of two million in attendance and even that amount was unable to influence the Labour government of the time. With the current government being more defiant to public opinion, it seems like a tough task to prevent any change in official policy towards Brexit unless the opposition was substantial, ever-present and verging on civil unrest.
And I guess that is the difference between the Romanian guy who is outside the parliament building in Bucharest and the woman in Fulham who is posting an article from the Guardian on her favourite Remain Facebook group. The guy in Bucharest is old enough to remember his father and mother queuing for bread while the woman in Fulham is old enough to remember Margaret Thatcher as a stubborn woman who wore a lot of blue suits. Both have great intentions and are of a strong moral and empathic character but only one seems to truly know what it is like to lose something as precious as freedom to travel and make a living. I only hope that what I write here can let those who face social upheaval know that support is there for you but you need to get out and remove them while there is still time.
Some already know this, others hopefully will before it is too late.