edited: numbers present for the earlier EDL demonstrations in London sourced as between 10-16k, not the lower earlier estimate.
Yesterday my partner and I had the good fortune to be singing with Cor Gobaith, Campaign Choirs, Raised Voices, Women in Black and many more coming together to form The Big Choir at the Trump Visit demo. July 13th wasn’t just about choristers deploring Trump’s lack of harmony, though–it was a collaboration of numerous nation-wide protest movements from the Women’s March #BringTheNoise, to Resist, Stop the War, Refugee’s Welcome and Climate Justice to name but a few.
Everyone has their own reasons to protest Trump. The President of the only extant empire in the world is rightly a catalyzing figure for progressive culture, not least because his actions affect so many, but also because our own nation (UK) is so eager to court his favor. It seems that Theresa May’s literally only chance to save her Cabinet from collapse is if she can turn Britain into a low-tariff, any-deal-will-do zone for American goods and services – and with that the implied, tacit, or overt support for Trump’s policies at home and abroad.
The day was filled with defiant laughter and bright colors. Drag Queens and Unions marching alongside mothers and hardened socialists, ‘Keep Your Tiny Hands off Us’ reads one placard, while another puts it more bluntly: ‘Bugger Off!’ I love the big London demos, which can sometimes feel more like a fiesta than a protest with our strong tradition of Pride marches, Reclaim the Streets, Critical Mass and not to forget radical singing.
The emperor of the world is a catalyzing figure, but there is still a lot of room to broaden out that resistance from the laser-guided vitriol on one man (as nourishing as that contempt can be). At my feet in Trafalgar Square, while I listen to the speakers and feel a sense of solidarity I notice a flyer: Stop EDL’s Hate, the day after the Trump Rally, Saturday 14th July.
EDL or ‘English Defence League’ are a crypto-racist network in the UK born from previous members of the white-nationalist thugs BNP (British National Party) and other far-right groups. It espouses something called ‘cultural nationalism’ which, although it sounds like it might entail supporting Monty Python, tea-drinking, waiting in queues and complaining about the weather actually manifests closer to that doggerel of Alt-Right philosophy that ‘politics is downstream of culture’. Uck. I know, right?**
The EDL claim to be a counter-jihadi movement, but we have yet to see any EDL members volunteering and travelling to fight against ISIS or Al-Qaeda. Instead, we see an array of home-soil hate crimes by people professing to be EDL supporters. Recently, the EDL have re-branded themselves as a ‘Freedom of Speech’ movement, in the same way that MAGA (Make America Great Again) has re-branded from a pro working class American Industry to an ‘Anti Deep State’ movement. The EDL’s imprisoned leader Tommy Robinson also helped set up the UK arm of the EU-wide anti-immigrant Pegida network. What a nice chap.
What is even more worrying is that EDL marches have been gaining in popularity in line with the rise in far-right support across Europe ever since 9/11, and especially since 2016. The EDL achieved a 10k protest presence in Trafalgar Square just recently, while elsewhere in Europe we see the likes of the Golden Dawn rising in Greece, and an ever more Right-leaning Italy who recently sought to turn away a migrant rescue ship and propose a census of the Romany in the country.
These things are worrying, as is the news that the US Ambassador has been putting pressure on Theresa May for the release of Tommy Robinson, and that an American NeoConservative think tank the MEF (Middle East Forum) has been funding EDL/Tommy Robinson demonstrations.
Not that I am suggesting that EDL is a front organisation, which would make about as much sense as saying that Trump is a secret Nazi. Maybe they both are – I don’t know. But while we concentrate on the speculation, we take our eyes off how these things are linked. Or how hate works in the modern world.
Hate works in shadows. It festers, it hides, it thrives on the oxygen of misinformation and ignorance. Hannah Arendt, a philosopher who fled Nazi Germany to later strongly castigate the United States for the Vietnam War wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism that fascism is born from a pervading opacity throughout public life. The authentic needs or questions of the individual are never met, and instead our ties to our fellow citizens, families, and democratic structures are made obscure and disembowelled of function. To theoretically hop over to George Orwell: Lies become Truths, and Truth becomes Lie. bureaucratization abounds, and easy-fix catchphrases and scapegoats are paraded to mask the real complexities of any issue.
In that same way, the alt-right/far-right and other hate groups spread in spaces of misinformation, and under the cover of misdirection. This is what we can point to when we mention Trump’s ‘fascism’ – or more accurately the cover he provides for fascisms and racisms – the latest scandal of ICE agents separating and detaining migrant children arises from bureaucratization, and serves to facilitate further fascisms.
If we are not outraged by this then that bureaucratization would have become a reality, and it would have allowed a fascistic view of migrants to grow.
If we are not outraged by the President’s misogyny, then we allow it stand as a cover for Meninism, PUA and InCel hate.
If the President can impart travel bans to entire nations of people from around the world, then why can’t another country turn away migrant boats? And so it goes on…
In a very real way, this loud, angry and beautiful demo isn’t about Trump’s visit to the UK, or about his eager courting by the Brexiteers in May’s government. It’s not even about Trump.
It’s about tomorrow. And the year after that.
It’s about what happens in 2019, after Brexit when we and the entire UK Intelligence infrastructure is acting in coalition with the US. It’s about the midterms for the orange emperor, and what happens when he comes up for re-election. It’s about what the world looks like for Syrian migrants a few years from now. It’s about how we view the ever-increasing numbers of homeless and destitute people in Western cities, or so many other issues where empathy, responsibility and transparency are important.
It’s not about Trump, it’s about the shadows behind him.
** ‘Politics is downsream of culture’ is a position championed by right-wing newspiece Breitbart, which is particularly odious because of its wilful simplicity. The ‘culture’ (i.e: American Popular culture with a smattering of British nationalisms for most of us in the UK) is deemed the fundamental unit from which derives shared ethno-regional values. Politics then becomes the codification those values for the far-right.