Below is a selection of tweets that have come across my timeline in the last 12 hours:
There are days when I struggle to write. I tell myself that writing about any of the above topics is pointless. Pointless because I convince myself that most people have a universal moral compass and would find all these things reprehensible. And yet, *breathes in*:
I am going to set myself a limit of 150 words to explain why each rebuttal I’ve highlighted is problematic. If you already agree with me, you might find some of the explanations basic, but remember, if you agree with me, you are probably in the minority.
Laura Ingraham’s “summer camps” defence
It can be hard to empathise with people that are different to you. It can be harder when the language used to describe them is reminiscent of biblical plagues. Word like swarms and infesting should only be used when insects are being discussed. That kind of language is dehumanising and intrinsic in desensitising people, which emboldens the ruling parties to continue with oppressive policies. I worked with young children for 10 years. Two things they can’t do convincingly: lie and act. They aren’t child actors as Ann Coulter says (for money). No one travels through Central America to get to the American border to audition for “CSI: Border Patrol”. Also, there is no such thing as an enforced summer camp. Unless it is one for your concentration.
Criminalising Aid to Migrants
Under the terms of a new law, helping migrants legalize their status in Hungary by distributing information about the asylum process or providing them with financial assistance could result in a 12-month jail term.
I have talked about Niemöller’s poem, “First They Came” before, but it is important that we break down why treating undocumented migrants as criminal and ‘other’ is dangerous. The majority of undocumented migrants making their way to Hungary have come from Syria. Syria has been destroyed by a long running civil war. Bombs have been dropped from Syrian, Iranian, American, Israeli, Russian and EU planes on the civilians, 465,000 of which have been killed with a further 12 million displaced. That is more than half of the pre-war population that have been affected by war. Treating them as dangerous and blaming them for societies problems has an ugly historical precedent, whether in Europe with the Jews or the Americans with the Japanese. It might win votes today, but it leads to ethnic cleansing later.
Alan Sugar’s Tweet
One of my favourite phrases is ‘I’m not being funny, but…’. It is a signal to everyone in the room that something offensive is about to be said, maybe sexist or, in this case, a crass stereotype. As many have said online, if someone was to make a joke about the Israeli football team having large hooked noses, dark beady eyes and drooping eyelids or as being greedy and miserly, they would be condemned as anti-Semitic. If that person had a successful show on the BBC, they could expect to have it cancelled. I’m not being funny, but these stereotypes of Jewish people permeated throughout Europe so widely throughout the last millennium that one sovereign nation undertook a program of slaughter that led to the deaths of 6 million of them and used these racist stereotypical portrayals of Jews to numb the population to their actions.
I was talking with my mum today and we walked past Pizza Hut. I expressed surprise that it has managed to survive on the high street. She responded that a lot of the tourists to the city visit it because it is a name they know. This is the power of branding. You label something enough and eventually people believe what is said about it. Our political discourse describes people from different cultures and backgrounds as dangerous; as swarms that are pouring into the country; they describe borders as being under siege: if words were ingredients, these would be the ones that you would need if you were going to make a genocide.
Permanently retreating into an echo chamber is comforting. It is also sticking your head in the sand. I’ll give you an example that highlights why it is. I have many friends in the south of England that were shocked and appalled by the Brexit result. How could people have voted to throw away their future, they wailed. They were, it is fair to say, scathing of the ‘kind of people’ that voted Brexit. They stereotyped them as xenophobic, ignorant and sometimes just outright racist. Maybe. But I live in the north of England. I used to cycle to work and there was a street a couple of miles long where 2 out of 3 shopfronts were empty. The only businesses that thrived were the bookies and the takeaways. As I turned right, I would go past row after row of houses that had ‘no copper’ sprayed onto the front of them. This meant that they had already had the copper pipes stolen from the property so burglars would leave them in peace. I understand why they might have voted for Brexit – when the status quo is hell, change is preferable. In the rush to demonise people that didn’t vote the way they wanted to, my friends were guilty of the same kind of crass stereotypes that they would criticise in a Laura Ingraham or an Alan Sugar. Probably because no one in their echo chamber had met people that have to spray ‘no copper’ on the front of their houses. As Eleanor Roosevelt said: ‘It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself’.