RESEARCH AND DOCUMENTATION
EDL: Meeting the Challenge
The EDL on Newsnight - What Needs to Happen Now?
Two separate though related things were striking about the Newsnight coverage of the EDL on the evening of 1 February 2011. On the one hand, there was the immense articulacy and media competence of the EDL representative. On the other, there was the licence he was given by the BBC to present his worldview without any alternative or contrary views being presented, and without any serious attempt to correct his false statements or deconstruct his absurd arguments.
As a consequence of the programme, many Muslims in Luton – and also further afield, of course – must have been confirmed in their feeling that British society does not welcome and accept them, and readers of conservative newspapers, of whom there are many millions – must have been confirmed in their belief that Islam poses a danger to British culture.
So what needs to happen now?
Just immediately, messages of sympathy, solidarity and support to the Muslims of Luton, accompanied by robust denunciations by opinion leaders across the political spectrum of the EDL’s worldview.
In the medium term, careful and rueful reflection at the BBC about how and why it failed to predict what would happen if an articulate and apparently plausible spokesperson for the EDL were to be allowed to present his views without serious and skilled contestation. In the light of such reflection and self-examination, programmes need to be commissioned which provide the contestation that was lacking on 1 February.
The contestation will of course need to include, but absolutely it must not be confined to, correcting falsehoods and rejecting arguments. It must also involve questioning the extremist/moderate trope which the EDL and the conservative press peddle, and must look at the deep causes of Islamophobia and other racisms in British and European culture, society and history.
The EDL on Newsnight
[...] A postracial agenda that relativises the significance of racism and increasingly portrays it as ‘reversed’ – enacted by minorities against an embattled and cowed white majority – has become entrenched. It is within this hegemonic consensus that attacks on Muslim people of the vile nature expressed by Lennon become banalised and palatable: there is, nothing, it is argued unique to Muslims that mean they deserve greater protection against slur and attacks of this kind. Postracialism artifically puts everyone on an equal footing by discounting the relevance of colonialism, racism, immigration, and the contemporary civilizational discourse that pits Islam against the West. Muslims, in this vision are not only responsible for more of the violence in society, but their status as a minority group has afforded them unjustifiable protection; it is time now to unveil (pun intended) them and their true intentions.
Postracialism masquerades under the guise of equality to deliver the most pernicious form of racism, one that is purposefully disingenuous. Lennon’s discourse, and Paxman’s easy capitulation to it, demonstrates how widespread an acceptance of the postracial agenda has spread. The EDL talks the talk of equality and diversity, integrating the language of tolerance and inclusivity: everyone who abhors what Muslims are purportedly doing to British society – Sikhs, Hindus, Jews and gays included – are welcome to join. What acceptance of this discourse and the fact the EDL does have prominent members of all of these groups does is to dismiss the degree to which a certain form of racism has today become compatible with a commitment to diversity and tolerance.
Read Alana Lentin's full post on the EDL on Newsnight here