The first time I watched James O’Brien’s now infamous interview with Nigel Farage, I’m a little ashamed to admit that I laughed. Finally, this cretinous man was being exposed as little more than a caricature of the ultra-xenophobic, racist nationalist that we already knew he was.
It’s understandable. A lot of what he said was ludicrous – “I don’t suppose my [native German] wife speaks German on the train,” for example, in response to his admitted discomfort with non English speakers on public transport. Or, his soundbites seemed so firmly entrenched in a bygone era that we just can’t take them seriously – like the idea that we should all “know the difference” between Romanian immigrants and German ones, presumably based on his notions of what constitutes a “higher quality” of immigrant.
The same is true of the banned BNP Party Political Broadcast – it is so offensive, so absurd and so utterly not anything anyone could truly believe…. except, of course, that it is and they do. It is far too easy for me and others like me on the left to mock the absurdity of the growing far-right rhetoric, because it is so far removed from our own perceptions and experiences. I don’t know anyone who would vote UKIP, and so it is easy for me to pretend that they’re just the “fruitcake and loony” party – that they only exist for satirical fodder.
Too, being white, atheist and born in Britain, I am untouched by the Islamophobia, xenophobia and racism that the growing far right preaches venomously But it is fueling a culture of hate-mongering and violence towards ethnic minorities and especially Muslims, which has been steadily growing since 9/11. You can see it in the ‘Halal Hysteria’ of the Daily Mail, in the Britain First Defence Force’s ‘invasion’ of mosques and in stories like those of Ava Vidal documenting the misogynistic Islamophobia she experiences every day. It’s not funny, it’s deathly terrifying.
UKIP is growing at a rapid pace, projected to come second of the UK parties in the European elections next week. We can’t keep laughing at them and ignoring the fact that they are finding an ever increasing following, and that they are representative of much of the electorate. Farage appears especially appealing, in marketing himself as an ‘underdog’ and an alternative to those disillusioned by the current political climate. These parties and groups are not a joke, but a threat.
The elections for the next Members of the European Parliament are on May 22. If you are eligible – and especially if you are not a racist – please make sure your vote counts.