Right Wing Watch newsletter: Week 1 February 2022

Welcome to the first Right Wing Watch newsletter of February.

Right-Wing Watch

He’s got to go this time right? A whole bunch of advisors resigning, like rats leaving a sinking ship, a feeble perception management operation telling the Boris loyalists to try to spin the whole thing as a masterstroke to clean out the useless SpAds from Downing Street. Nobody’s buying it. Yet he clings on, desperate to last another 4 months so he can at least be PM for longer than Gordon Brown was.

This week I started looking at some of the tactics of climate change deniers who have recently pivoted to campaign on the ‘cost of Net Zero’ instead and really want Nigel Farage to front their referendum campaign on it. And as the government published a ‘Benefits of Brexit’ document, I tried to find out what happened to the £350 million the NHS was promised by the slogan on the side of the Vote Leave bus.

Carr crash

Meanwhile, as I tried to feign interest in the ongoing quest of Boris Johnson to lower the bar far enough that an ant could limbo under it, ‘comedian’ Jimmy Carr reminds us all that the government is not the only part of British society which resembles a rubbish bin on fire. I won’t repeat the disgusting Antiziganist ‘joke’ he tells in a recent Netflix special, but I think it’s fair to say that people who care about the rights of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) people didn’t find it very funny.

Sadly, it forms part of an accepted culture of Antiziganism in British society which has a long history, and has only got worse as the traditional stopping sites for travelling people became fewer and fewer. It’s shocking that Carr would think about telling a joke that not only isn’t funny, but where the joke is that Roma people’s lives do not matter… It’s literally a ‘Hitler wasn’t all bad’ kind of thing to say. In his special, Carr defends the joke by saying it has “educational value” because people don’t know that the Nazis murdered Roma and Sinti people. I’m pretty sure there would be other ways to achieve this aim, and if you have to explain and apologise for a joke you just made, maybe it’s not funny?

The Right, people like Guido Fawkes senior reporter Christian Calgie, have already managed to work the outrage about Carr into their culture war narrative.

Now in a way, I think that part of the point of what Carr is doing by saying that ‘nobody ever wants to talk about the positives’ of the Nazis murdering Roma Gypsies is that it’s supposed to be edgy, it’s supposed to be talked about, and that’s basically the whole grift. 

It’s the same thing as Boris Johnson saying in PMQs this week that Keir Starmer didn’t prosecute Jimmy Savile while he was Director of Public Prosecutions (a lie he’s now backtracked on). It doesn’t matter that it’s a lie, it’s good content, and the point is just to dominate the conversation and get half the people on your side and buying your stuff. It’s the same thing that Toby Young and James Delingpole joking on their podcast (which I listened to two whole episodes of) about being kicked off Spotify for saying that the Covid vaccine kills people.

The Quiet Right and the Paranoid Right

One of the issues inherent with watching the right is that people on the right don’t generally tend to identify as right wing. There are no big Subreddits with the words ‘right wing’ in their name. In fact, the biggest one seems to be r/rightwingBDSM, which has content like this:

There’s also a lot of Telegram channels which cater to right wing content, and while I may report on some of this stuff in the near future, I have a question about whether it’s ‘mainstream right’ or far right. Obviously there’s a continuum between these things, and ideas from the far right often work their way into the mainstream.

This can be seen in the slow radicalisation of people like James Delingpole towards conspiratorial ideas. Often there’s an ambivalence here too, such as Lord Michael Ashcroft, the Tory funder, who posted a word anagram on Twitter in December where he rearranged the letters ‘Delta Omicron’ to spell ‘Media Control’. It’s hard to believe that a guy who owns both ConservativeHome and PoliticsHome is being really serious about this.

I’ve seen people like Andrew Lilico propose the idea that Critical Race Theory (CRT), an academic analysis of racial politics, is a left wing plot to get white people to feel ashamed of their skin colour. And I’ve seen many Botis loyalists propose the idea that ‘Partygate’ is a secret plot to reverse Brexit. Whether or not the mainstream right believes these things, they nod to the far right, becoming a vector for their paranoid fantasies to reach more people.

To the Shires…

But where does the centre right conduct their discourse? Is it in places like local Whatsapp groups, private Facebook groups, Mumsnet forums, Daily Mail comment sections? In my experience right wing discourse is not as public as that of the left, but reserves itself for places it feels more comfortable. The most Conservative seat (with the biggest Tory majority) is South Holland and the Deepings, in Lincolnshire, so maybe I can find some answers there? 

I’m from Camberwell, in South London. The Remain majority in 2016 in Lambeth was 78.6%, while South Holland, the town of Spalding is located, had the 2nd highest Leave majority in the country (73.6%) I could almost not be culturally further away from Spalding if I tried. And while I can easily go on Facebook and see them posting stuff about their local area (they’ve still got a set of stocks in one local square), I can’t fully appreciate what life is like in that part of the country.

But you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to talk to people and find some good data on Spalding. And if I have to, I’m going to go there, and I’m going to find out what it is about this place that has made them get more and more Conservative over the past 10 years. Labour areas are becoming more Labour, and Tory areas more Tory, and this geographic, social and political polarisation is driving us all apart. I want to believe that this trend is reversible, because in the end we all have to live in the same country.

I’ll see you next week for a look at the deepest, bluest part of England…

John Lubbock leads on the Right-Watch project at Left Foot Forward

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