Taking easy pops at the English Defence League

The online mockery of a young EDL member speaks volumes about liberals’ contempt for the white working classes.

Patrick Hayes

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Topics Politics UK

An interview with a young member of the UK-based protest movement, the English Defence League (EDL), is currently spreading like wildfire online. It’s not difficult to see why: for many lefties, this single interview confirms every prejudice they have about the inarticulate, confused primitives that make up the EDL – and the white working classes as a whole.

‘There’s a sense of incoherent anger, people are angry but they can’t explain why’, says a Press TV reporter over footage of an EDL demo earlier this year. The action then cuts to an interview with an EDL supporter. Young, northern and wearing a black Adidas tracksuit, he’s also evidently a bit worse for wear and at numerous points in the interview loses his train of thought, conflating Muslim and Islamic into ‘Muslamic’ and confusing Iraq with Iran. His strong Northern accent also means that when talking about ‘rape gangs’ it sounds like he’s talking about ‘ray guns’.

He does get himself into a muddle and it can admittedly be amusing – you can imagine his cringing embarrassment as he watches it for the first time, possibly with friends and family. But given the fact that incoherent YouTube rants are hardly uncommon, this doesn’t explain why the interview has become something of an internet phenomenon. As it stands, it has at least half a million views on YouTube and it has been shared tens of thousands of times on Facebook. There is now also an ‘autotuned’ song version entitled ‘Muslamic Ray Guns’, a ‘helium’-voiced version and of course the obligatory last-days-of-Hitler Downfall mash-up. ‘Muslamic’ merchandise – complete with intentional misspellings – is now being sold and there is even a nascent campaign calling for ‘Muslamic Ray Guns’ to be the 2011 Christmas number one.

The clip may be funny, but it’s not that funny. There are all sorts of interviews with confused protesters on the web – from the G20 riots in London to climate change marches and the recent UK Uncut protests. So what’s behind the particular interest in this clip?

The answer is that, for many liberal campaigners, this 90-second interview with one ‘thick EDL bastard’ represents the views and the intelligence of the EDL in general. Far from going on a march and speaking to EDL supporters about their views to understand them better, this one short internet clip is seen as enough to confirm all their smug prejudices: EDL members are badly dressed, incoherent, pissed-up yobs whose anger is more bestial than human.

This video does reflect the reactionary nature of the EDL outlook. Seemingly unable to make sense of the undoubted isolation and demonisation of the white working-class community and its traditions, EDL members blame outsiders – mostly Muslims – for making Britain feel more foreign. Yet instead of seeking to tease out what fuels this reactionary outlook amongst some sections of the disenfranchised white working classes, liberal anti-EDL campaigners have had a field day with it. It is nothing less than confirmation of their political and cosmopolitan superiority over the uneducated, provincial lower orders.

As one blogger sneers, ‘I think this really is indicative of the stupidity and idiocy of the EDL rank and file’. Others are more coy and, choosing to file it under ‘humour’, give the clip titles like ‘EDL member explains key issues’, ‘The EDL intelligentsia explains…’, or ‘essential viewing’ – ‘EDL members are given the chance to explain exactly what it is they think they’re doing.’

Anti-fascist groups are now planning to take the satire one step further by calling for people to turn up to EDL marches with toy ‘Muslamic Ray Guns’ to embarrass the marchers. As one campaigner wrote on protest website Indymedia, ‘Turn up in Blackburn wearing your most colourful items of fancy dress, ready to impose “Iraqi Infidel Law” upon the EDL’s “Space Invaders”, blasting the racist losers back to infinity and beyond (or the nearest solar system that has a run-down Wetherspoons).’

The rationale behind it is evidently based on the classic tactic of American left-winger Saul Alinsky, ‘Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon’, or, as the Indymedia writer put it, ‘the best way to beat these pissed-up fascist losers is to take the bloody piss’. But, through this tactic of ridicule, these anti-EDL campaigners are actually revealing the depth of their contempt for people they see as the stupid, uneducated, inarticulate white working classes.

As I have argued previously on spiked, as the British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin attempts to make his party more respectable, replacing skinheads and bovver boots with suits, the inarticulate EDL ‘thugs’ – complete with cropped haircuts and tracksuits – provide liberals with a more recognisably ‘thuggish’ enemy. If the EDL didn’t exist, one suspects that liberals would be busily trying to invent it.

In that context, the ‘Muslamic Ray Gun’ video clip is a kind of porn for liberals. It bolsters their smug sense of superiority, allowing them to dismiss the EDL as a joke, a grouping of the confused and the thick which means it simply isn’t worth engaging with.

This is an increasingly widespread attitude, with judges banning EDL members from marching as they don’t understand the purpose of the march, and others, such as former home secretary Jack Straw, arguing the protests are simply ‘self-indulgent’ and unaffordable during a recession.

The upshot of this ridiculing of the EDL is that the liberal elite and left-wing campaigners alike will become even more distanced from the genuine concerns of the marginalised working classes in the UK, which are only currently given an outlet through organisations such the EDL. Dismissing such concerns as farcical and treating them with contempt will only serve to bolster people’s sense of isolation and anger. Far from blasting them into ‘infinity and beyond’ this cheap tactic of using ‘Muslamic Ray Guns’ as a weapon against the EDL is far more likely to backfire.

Patrick Hayes is a reporter for spiked.

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Topics Politics UK