Never mind the looters, what about the ‘fascists’?

The moral assaults on the Enfield ‘vigilantes’ confirm that the cultural elite fears the white working classes more than it does riotous youth.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

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Topics Politics UK

We Brits may live in an era of extreme political flux and 24-hour rolling news, where the chattering classes are almost malarial in their feverish leaping from one issue to another, but there is at least one constant in modern political life: fear and loathing of the white working classes. However unpredictable the political realm becomes, however mercurial and consumed by spin our rulers allow themselves to get, we can always be sure that a) the sun will come up in the morning and b) people with names like Steve and Chantelle will be fingered as the cause of every social and moral problem.

And so it has been this week, which kicked off with reckless rioting by multi-ethnic yoof in inner-city patches, yet which ended, bizarrely but at the same time predictably, with an orgy of elite handwringing about those non-rioting white working classes who haunt London’s suburbs. That some of ‘these people’ dared to patrol their streets, to set up miniature citizen armies to see off the chancers and tricksters of the looting lobby, has been treated as the No.1 threat now facing Britain. They are a ‘white mob’, we are told, who could precipitate a ‘race war’. According to the deputy mayor of London, Kit Malthouse, their community-protection antics are ‘deeply undesirable’. Come on Kit, you can say it: you think these people are ‘undesirables’.

This riotous week has confirmed that the great and the good of Great Britain don’t have much in the way of a shared morality anymore. At the start of the week, the political class, cops and Fourth Estate all proffered various explanations for the youthful violence, often pointing the finger of blame at each other in a moral stand-off not dissimilar to the final scene in Reservoir Dogs. Yet by Friday they were tentatively re-linking arms around the one thing they agree on: that there is nothing scarier – nothing – than the sight of 100+ white blokes on the streets, shouting things in those gruff voices they have. You may have looked at the groups of men in Enfield and Eltham and seen working people keen to protect their homes and shops, but the upper echelons of society, through their snob-goggles, saw the emergence of an English version of the Third Reich – they saw ‘race hate’ and ‘fascists patrolling the streets’.

The Metropolitan Police now seem to be devoting as much energy to issuing warnings to the ‘white mob’ to lay down their baseball bats and go back to their Mock Tudor houses as they are to analysing their own fantastic failure to get a handle on the riots. This ‘vigilantism’, as a Met spokesman called it, ‘needs to stop’. ‘These so-called vigilantes, who appeared to have been drinking too much, are taking police resources away from [preventing the looting]’, says the Met. Confirming that the powers-that-be believe that white people of a more common persuasion are just one YouTube video away from turning into goose-stepping race warriors, a senior Met commissioner said far-right groups could ‘hijack’ the ‘vigilante movement’, threatening to give rise to what one journalist (who presumably had also been drinking too much) described as ‘anarchy in the UK’ with ‘fascists on the the streets’.

Note to the cultural elite: Just because someone is white and possibly a labourer and not currently glued to the American remake of The Killing, that doesn’t mean he is a fascist. The police’s PR assault on the ‘vigilantes’ in Enfield and Eltham, suburbs with large white working-class communities, shows that what the cops lack in riot-tackling skills they more than make up for with shamelessness. This is a force so paralysed by risk-aversion, so witlessly scared of provoking controversy, that this week it effectively stood back and allowed young people to loot shops, burn cars and destroy homes. It seems that in the morally inverted world of the modern police, such destruction is a price worth paying if it means their own officers don’t get a graze or PTSD. Upon what moral authority is the Met now telling working people not to patrol their communities? Cops bussed into a suburb might consider it acceptable to allow youth to smash things up in the hope that they’ll eventually tire, but for the people who live in those suburbs, who have a moral, emotional and economic attachment to them, that really isn’t an option. It takes brazenness to a brand new level for a state which failed to police the streets to libel those citizens who decided to do it for themselves.

Meanwhile in the media, the double standards exercised in relation to anti-riot citizen groups have been so explicit that it even seems weird to point them out. Where the white middle-class inhabitants of Clapham who took part in a ‘Riot Clean-Up’ were hailed as heroes, alongside the Turkish men who stood guard outside their restaurants and the Sikhs who wielded baseball bats in protection of their temples, the white working classes in Enfield and Eltham who displayed an equally vigorous determination to protect their communities have been described as fodder for ‘fascists’, a ‘mob’ – in a nutshell: scum. As one Guardian columnist put it, we of course all admire the Turks and Sikhs, but ‘when it’s a large group of Millwall supporters, in a pub all day, talking about doing the police’s job for them, it creates the impression that they’re spoiling for a fight… using the chaos to bust into a racial confrontation’.

Now as it happens, I also have great admiration for the self-styled Mrs Mops who cleaned up Clapham and for the Turks and Sikhs who with appropriate menace stood guard outside their business and religious institutions. In the absence of any top-down morality or even basic provision of security, these people took it upon themselves to police their communities, and they did a far better job of it than the police. But I also recognise that the idea that the community-protection schemes in Enfield and Eltham were fundamentally different, not so much Blitz-spirited as Nazi-inspired, is based on nothing but twisted prejudices towards white working-class communities.

Using words that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Virginia Woolf’s diaries on one of her off-days, one radical journalist claimed that ‘in Enfield a mob of white men swarmed through the streets chanting “England”’. Chanting ‘England’?! Quick, lock them up. (Why do the working classes always seem to ‘swarm’ or to ‘sprawl’? They swarm into football stadiums, swarm into pubs, live in sprawling suburbs…) Pointing out that some members of the right-wing English Defence League were allegedly involved in the ‘vigilantism’, the journalist continued: ‘They were laughing, drinking and intimidating people. Some of them gave salutes.’ How wonderfully vague – the reader is left to guess whether this means they innocently waved to each other or stuck their hands in the air and said ‘Sieg Heil!’.

The riots have confirmed, once more, the gaping chasm between Britain’s elites and its white working-class natives. In the eyes of our betters and rulers, these whites are the true aliens. Indeed, it is striking that whenever there’s a major upheaval these days, the instantaneous response of the high-minded is to ask ‘Oh god, how will the white working classes respond?’. After 7/7, the powers-that-be panicked about an ‘Islamophobic backlash’ among disgruntled whites, posting police outside mosques and encouraging everyone from GPs to teachers to look out for ‘racism and prejudice’. Now, following the inner-city riots, all eyes are once again on Those People, the flag-wavers, the beer-drinkers, the people who ‘chant England’ for Christ’s sake, who will possibly turn into a violent vengeful horde. Where some happy-clappy Christians live their lives through the question ‘What Would Jesus Do?’, Britain’s great and good seem to organise their morality and security around the question ‘What Will The White Working Classes Do?’, treating this blob of people as a pogrom-in-the-making who could be provoked into fascistic fury any minute now.

So this peculiar week has ended with the peculiar situation where some in the liberal elite are expressing sympathy for the rioting youth, while simultaneously spitting bile at ‘white mobs’. Why? In essence, the cultural elite feels a closer affinity with the moral-lite rioters because, largely through the welfare state, it has some influence on those people’s lives and outlooks. In areas where welfarism is entrenched, the elites have some leeway to influence morality, to push parenting in a certain direction, to import their own decadent, relativistic values and spread them among the poor. It has no such purchase, or certainly less purchase, in more productive, self-sufficient working-class areas, where people are less reliant on the state and more reliant on each other, and where they have their own traditions and values thank you very much (which, yes, sometimes includes ‘chanting England’). The elites’ failure to colonise fully these white working-class areas makes them view such areas as strange, unknowable, full of people with rough hands and a weird penchant for post-work pints of beer. Indeed, the thing that most unites the lumpenproletariat and the decadent bourgeoisie is a fundamental disdain for the ‘labouring nation’, for people who work for a living and who try their best to govern their own lives. How dare they live outside of the moral universe created by the chattering classes? What is wrong with them? They must be fascists.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked. Visit his personal website here.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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Topics Politics UK

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