Ed: Brexit campaign poster unveiled by Nigel Farage on the day Jo Cox was murdered
By Chris Brosnahan
Jun 18, 2016
I’ve just been accused of trying to make political gain out of Jo Cox’s death. As opposed to the reality, something I don’t say often. The reality is that I am fucking terrified of what is happening in this country.
When Farage started becoming part of the media’s story of this country, I thought ‘this guy is scary’. I thought ineffective. But scary.
When Boris Johnson started being taken seriously as a politician, I thought ‘this guy is scary’. Again, ineffective. But scary.
But the BNP terrified me. Nick Griffin terrified me because he sounded reasonable. Not the things he said. But the way he said them.
In exactly the same way as Johnson and Farage, I was scared of good talkers who some people liked, who others wrote off as ‘funny’. Shit, I wrote them off as funny at times. But at the same time, I was aware that the more seriously they were taken, the scarier they were.
They started being featured more and more. Being given more and more platforms. Being allowed to say more and more. It was in the name of ‘balance’, but it was also in the name of ratings. You didn’t see the far left given the same platforms as often.
The mainstream politicians started trying to appeal to the fringe groups and gave the arguments even more credibility. And at the same time, recessions and austerity gave people more reason to be frustrated, angry and afraid.
We had generations raised on Thatcher who felt betrayed by Blair. So many people lost faith in ‘the establishment’. My generation was raised on Thatcher. I thought everything would change. And our age group were the ones that watched as free education died.
We stopped investing in our future and invested in the rich and corporations instead. We disenfranchised entire generations. These generations didn’t go away. They became poorer and more disenfranchised. And angrier and more afraid.
So when good talkers who had been given credibility by TV started telling them again and again that it wasn’t their fault… they listened.
“It’s not your fault” is an incredibly seductive argument. “It’s theirs”. Because there’s always a ‘them’. Always. That’s easy. “You’re not being treated fairly. We have too many people. That’s the problem.” And the argument becomes who has a right to be here.
And this was the point where “these people are scary” became “these people are fucking terrifying.”
That’s the point where we start debating which people have rights and which people don’t. And it’s based on who was here longest. And when you start basing it on that, you start basing it on where you were born. And somehow, we let them say that wasn’t racist.
“It’s not racist to want control over immigration!” “It’s not racist to say they should go elsewhere!” “It’s not racist to want to stop them coming here!” “It’s not racist to say they should be sent back!”
And the message has become more seductive and more powerful. And it’s overtaken logic and it’s based purely on emotion.
John Oliver said about Donald Trump “They may not understand what he stands for but they understand the fuck out of how he makes them feel.” And again, the problem is that the emotional argument is an impossible one to win.
Gove says “people have heard too much from experts”. Yes. They’re exhausted and frustrated and angry and afraid. They want control back. And the good talkers who have no problems lying and no problems creating hatred and fear tell them “this is how you get control back”. And we’ve had a right wing media that has been telling us for decades that immigrants are the problem and Europe is the problem.
And what fucking terrifies me is that this is not a logical argument. It’s an emotional one. And the emotions are fear and anger.
My fear is not “Oh no, we might leave Europe”. My fear is what this country will become. What it is right now.
My fear is that we treat people as ‘other’ and as ‘wrong’ and as ‘they shouldn’t be here’ and as something other than people.
My fear is that latest fucking poster from Nigel Farage. My fear is cropping out white people from pictures of immigrants to scare people.
My fear is when we start treating people as less than other people. Because that’s when people die. My fear is that when someone stabs and shoots someone shouting “Britain first”, my first thought is that this was inevitable.
My fear is that when you mainstream ‘othering’ people, you create situations like this. Like Orlando. You create motivation for death.
And I’m fucking terrified because I don’t know where the end point to this is. I don’t know when we decide we’ve gone too far in hatred. World War II didn’t happen because of the holocaust. It happened because of invasions of other countries. That’s a really scary thought. If Hitler hadn’t decided he wanted an empire, when would anyone have intervened? We don’t know where that hatred actually ends.
So yeah. I’m fucking terrified right now. I’m terrified of what has become acceptable rhetoric. Acceptable front pages. Acceptable campaigns.
I’m terrified of what we are now and I’m terrified of what we may become. Because I don’t see an end in sight. The hatred has taken hold.
There’s no political gain here for me. I’m not campaigning. I’m not running for office. I’m not a journalist. I don’t have a platform. I’m terrified that Jo Cox’s death isn’t the end point to all of this that it should be. Because it’s an awful, awful thing to have happened.
I’m terrified because I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know how to help. I’m not sure there is a way.
I wish I had a more hopeful point to end this on. Maybe tomorrow, I will. But right now… right now, I’m out of hope. I’m just scared.
Editor's note: It has been pointed out that the UKIP poster bears a striking resemblance to images from a Nazi propaganda film from 1941, which you can view here.