brexit

The Nazis and American Gun Culture

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 14/12/2018 - 6:28am in

Before I go on and give May and her wretched ‘No’ confidence vote a metaphorical pummeling, I thought I’d take a break from the Tories and Brexit and blog about the very strong similarity between the military training the Nazis put at the heart of the Hitler Youth and modern American gun culture.

I found this piece, ‘4. Training the Youth to Become Soldiers’ in the Chapter ‘Youth to Become Soldiers of Labour’ Brady’s The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism (London: Victor Gollancz 1937). I’ve blogged extensively about this book over the past few weeks, putting up passages from it, because although it was published 81 years ago, it still remains acutely relevant to the authoritarian structure of modern capitalism, and the links between Conservative ideology and that of the Nazis themselves.

In this passage, Brady discusses how the Hitler Youth began training boys with ordinary competitive sports before moving on to overtly military training. Brady writes

Under the banner of “Sword and Plough for Freedom and Honour,” Hitler’s own personal journal, the Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte, sounds the tocsin of duty for the young: “The National Socialist people’s youth affirms battle, and submits to the carrying of arms as the obvious foundations of all people’s labour. They hope for the day in which the weapons will be placed in their hands which are associated with the full consciousness of manhood.”

The National Youth Administration has prepared a manual, Hitler Youth in Service, for guidance of instructors and leaders throughout all divisions of the Hitler Youth. The first half of the book is taken up with physical exercises, games, and calisthenics. These are outlined in great detail, illustrated with charts and drawings, and full instructions for proper performance, including standard performance for different age groupings. The second half of the book is devoted entirely to military activities.

Transition from the first to the second half is provided by conclusion of sports activities in competition. The German word is Wettkampt. Kampf means struggle, fight6, battle, combat. All sport ends up in Wettkampt; the military training division begins with the first instruments of Kampf, or guns and shooting. The bodily development and discipline of ordinary sport is, thus, the necessary background for the more strenuous demands of warlike activity. “Shooting sport,” the manual asserts, “demands the greatest concentration and control of all physical and spiritual powers.”

Such shooting promotes virtues commendable to the Nazis. “It develops inner and outer calm and cold-bloodedness (Kaltblutigkeit), awakes and promotes decision and self-confidence in the shooters. Through the necessary arrangement and subordination at the shooting stand, shooting sport promotes discipline and the spirit of comradeship.” Arms supplied to promote amongst the Hitler Youth “joy in shooting service” consist of air rifles for boys under sixteen and small caliber rifles for boys over sixteen years of age. Manual instruction is given in assembly and cleaning of all rifle parts, arranging sights and finding range, and various postures and techniques of firing. (pp. 177-8).

Now I’m not attacking here competitive sport, though I was always bad at it at school. Nor am I attacking the various cadet services of the armed forces. I’ve worked with people, who were members of them, and while they enjoyed military training, they were very far from the insane militarists that I want to criticize. The same with most of the people I’ve met, who joined the TA. I’m also not criticizing the sports shooters, who go clay pigeon shooting or blaze away at targets.

But the right-wing American gun culture seems to me to be very different. It is aggressively nationalistic, and doesn’t just protect gun ownership. It actively promotes the possession and use of high caliber weapons that should only be in the possession of serving members of the armed forces and kept in a secure armoury. The head of the NRA, Dwayne Lapierre, has appeared several times promoting the ownership of these powerful and highly dangerous weapons, especially for young people. The NRA also produced an unintentionally hilarious add a year or so ago, in which various blue collar Americans warned the ‘ayatollahs’ that they had better beware armed working class folks like themselves if they tried any terrorist attacks on American soil. Well, the Islamic regime in Tehran hates America, and demonstrations in Iran have frequently chanted ‘Margh bar Amrika’ – ‘Death to America’ and verbally attacked the country as ‘Shaitan-e bozorg’ – ‘the Great Satan’. But most of the Islamic terrorism in the world now seems to come from radical Sunni groups, like al-Qaeda and ISIS, which heartily despise the Shi’a and Iran as heretics, who they want to exterminate.

One of the great myths going round ultraconservative, pro-gun right is that the Nazis triumphed in Germany because the population had been disarmed. The German anti-Nazi vlogger, Three Arrows, has demolished that argument in one of his videos. He stated that, yes, Germany had banned gun ownership, but this was by the democratic Weimar coalition government after the radical left revolution of 1919. By contrast, the Nazis were enthusiastically pro-gun, and passed legislation promoting gun ownership amongst the German population. But only, of course, if they were ‘Aryan’. Jews were forbidden to own them. Even so, I think another blogger put up the stats showing that Jews right the way across Germany did try to put up armed resistance to the Nazis in heroic but ultimately futile acts of resistance. All of them failed, including the uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto, because small groups of civilians, no matter how determined, stood no chance of winning against the overwhelming power of the armed forces. If the American government also became a monstrous Fascist tyranny like Nazi Germany, its civilian gun owners would similarly stand absolutely no chance of defending themselves.

I’ve also found a very interesting documentary, which I will have to put up sometime from one of the American left-wing news shows, which went into the history of gun ownership in America. Gun ownership has been a fervent part of American culture since the first colonies passed legislation demanding that men possess guns. However, the NRA when it began was a largely benign society of shooting enthusiasts. When the American government first began introducing legislation to outlaw certain types of firearm, the NRA was perfectly willing to comply and cooperate. It was only later, in the 1960s and ’70s, when the Association had been heavily infiltrated by extreme right-wing groups like the John Birch Society, that it became so extreme in its demands for the almost unqualified right of ordinary Americans to own extremely dangerous military combat guns. And just as the Nazis demanded that Aryan Germans should own guns, so the BNP here in Britain at the election a few years ago also put in their manifesto that they wanted every British home also to have a gun ready for the race’s defence.

The passage from Brady’s book does, however, show the very strong similarity between the ideology of gun ownership in the Third Reich and contemporary America. And it’s no accident that so many on the racist right in America actively promote and defend gun ownership and the type of paramilitary activity that is illegal in Europe. As we’ve seen from the recent shootings in America, ordinary private citizens have no business owning military firearms. These have been used by racist maniacs to kill innocent people. And the people promoting these firearms themselves have views dangerously close to the Nazis.

The racist right in the gun lobby won’t defend America from a Fascist regime. They would actively collaborate and defend it.

Brexit: Endgame

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/12/2018 - 9:00pm in

As the Brexit clock is running down, so too are the available plays.

Dennis Skinner Tells May She’s Frit and Handed Power to Brussels

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/12/2018 - 4:28am in

In this video of about a minute and a half in length from RT, veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner stands up and asks May if she realizes she’s handed power over to Brussels to punish us for trying to leave. And he uses Maggie Thatcher’s own term for ‘frightened’, and calls her ‘frit’. He says

Does the Prime Minister realise that she’s handed over power not to people in this House but she’s handed over power to the people she’s going to negotiate with over there in Europe? She looks very weak and she is. The power that they want is to be able to demonstrate to every other country that might be thinking about getting out of the EU. This has handed them the power to be able to demonstrate that that’s what Britain is doing. The British PM now doesn’t know whether she’s on this Earth or fuller’s because of the actions she’s taken. Mrs Thatcher had a word for it, what she’s done today – F-R-I-T – she’s frit.

May replies by saying that she has every confidence that if he had not listened to members of this House, the honourable gentleman would’ve stood up and said that she was incapable of listening to members of this House and complained about that.

I don’t know if there’s something else Skinner said that the video did not include, but it doesn’t look as if May answered his point. He asked her a straight question about her realizing that she’s given power to Europe, and she’s replied by going on about not listening to the House.

Skinner’s question seems to suggest that he’s a ‘Leave’ supporter, as many on the Left are. But his question is entirely appropriate. The EU is ruthless on those countries, which do not obey its diktats. We’ve seen it impose a grinding austerity on Greece and Italy, which is now showing signs that it too wants to leave the EU. I believe that we’re far better off within the European Union, but Skinner has made an excellent point. And I think there are others, who have also stated that they believe the EU is making an example of us for other countries, like Italy, that may wish to leave.

And on a personal note, the self-assured grin that May has been wearing throughout this debate wavered a little there. If you listen to her reply as she first stands to speak, you’ll see that the smile becomes a little bit more fixed and her voice quavers. Then the mask is back on. She looks relaxed and self-assured, but underneath, she’s definitely frit.

May’s Brexit deal is a shambles, and her government is murderous disgrace. Time she and they packed it in and left.

Corbyn Attacks May for Running Away from Brexit Vote

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/12/2018 - 3:38am in

Another great speech from Jeremy Corbyn attacking May for running away and postponing the vote on her Brexit deal. In this short video from RT, the Labour leader says

Mr Speaker, I’ve had the privilege of serving this House for 35 years, and I’ve had strong disagreements with every Prime Minister that’s served during that period, and it’s all there on the record, but I have never in all those years witnessed such an abject mess as this Prime Minister is making of these crucial Brexit negotiations and in presenting her deal to the House. Most Prime Ministers lose votes and get things wrong, but yesterday the PM demeaned her office by unilaterally taking her discredited deal off the table and running away rather than facing the verdict of this House which we should have been voting on today. There’s nothing wrong with standing by your principles, but this deal is not one of principles and apparently not even one she’s prepared to stand by anyway. Yesterday, Mr Speaker, they didn’t even have the decency to allow a vote, the government, that is, to allow a vote on the withdrawing of business. She let down all MPs and the people we represent on both sides of the House, the overwhelming majority of whom know this deal is dead.

Quite. She didn’t have the decency to call a vote on the Brexit deal, nor to tell MPs properly that she was postponing it. They were instead told at the last minute, at 3.30 pm, and then May went to the EU to see if she could find something that could help salvage this mess. She didn’t, just as she got precious little from them during all these months of negotiations. Indeed, according to the EU officials, she was reduced to traipsing around begging them to give her something, anything at all, and wouldn’t be told that they had no obligation to do anything of the sort for her.

It’s time she and her party of exploiters, profiteers and murderers were gone.

SNP’s Ian Blackford Calls on May to Resign

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/12/2018 - 3:18am in

Ian Blackford, the SNP politico, who tore to shred’s May’s ‘strong and stable’ slogan in parliament last week, now demands her resignation in this video from RT.

He says

Mr Speaker, first, ‘Strong and Stable’; we were promised a vote on the Brexit deal, but this PM can’t even do her own job because of the Tory civil war. This government, Mr Speaker, is an embarrassment… This government is a farce, the Tory party is in chaos, the PM is a disgrace with her actions, the reality is that people across Scotland and the UK are seeing this today. Prime Minister, take responsibility, do the right thing, resign.

May then rises and replies with a load of drivel about how she has deferred the vote on Brexit because she and her government has listened to views across the House, and it’s because of that they are pursuing the matter further with the EU. She then claims that she was being respectful of the views raised in the House.

I’ve seen no evidence of respect from Tweezer, and certainly not in her treatment of the poor, the unemployed, the disabled and the homeless. As for respecting her cabinet colleagues, there was briefly a video on YouTube last night asking if she told the EU that she was going to defer the vote on Brexit before she told them. And the sheer suddenness with which Tweezer made the decision after she had repeatedly told the House indicates that it had nothing to do with respect and everything to do with Tweezer fearing for her own tenure of No. 10. As Denis Skinner said, borrowing a phrase of Maggie Thatcher’s, she was ‘frit’.

She’s a disgrace, and it’s high time the country was rid of her and her government.

Mike Scoops Private Eye on McVey’s Departure from Government

Last fortnight’s issue of Private Eye, for the 30th November – 13th December, carried a story suggesting that Esther McVey’s resignation from the cabinet may have been for reasons other than a concern over Brexit. Instead, the satirical magazine suggested, Iain Duncan Smith’s collaborator in the murder and starvation of the old, homeless, unemployed and disabled was due to her wishing to avoid having to answer questions about whether her department has tried to cover up the stats on the deaths on disabled people. The piece, in the ‘HP Sauce’ column on page 10 ran:

<strong>Esther McVey’s sudden cabinet resignation over Brexit does have a silver lining for the former work and pensions secretary. It means she avoids having to answer tricky questions about whether her erstwhile department tried to cover up links between its controversial “fitness for work” tests and the deaths of benefit claimants.

Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, and Stephen Lloyd, the Lib Dem’s work and pensions spokesman, wants to establish whether inquest rulings linking the so-called work capability assessment to the deaths of at least two mentally ill claimants were passed to the independent expert tasked with annual reviews of the test. They also want to know whether the results of internal investigations into the deaths of other claimants were passed on.

If they were, they certainly did not feature in Dr Paul Litchfield’s reviews in 2013 and 2014 – and he himself is keeping schtum. A recent Freedom of Information request from Disability News Service also failed to elicit an answer, with the Department for Work and Pensions simply saying it did not hold the information – and it clearly wasn’t prepared to find out.

Let’s see if the two crusading MPs fare any better with McVey’s successor at the DWP, the returning Remainer Amber Rudd, who in her early defence of universal credit looks every bit as evasive as McVey.

This is very much in Mike’s particular sphere of interest over at Vox Political. As a carer, Mike is very concerned about the Tories’ attacks on the disabled and the lethal consequences of their sanctions regime and the Fitness for Work tests. Followers of his blog will recall the struggle Mike had to get the DWP under IDS to release the stats on the number of people, who’d died under their reforms of the benefits system.

On Friday, 23rd November 2018, Mike ran this story speculating that the Minister for the Genocide of the Disabled had resigned because she wanted to avoid being questioned about the number of deaths Tory policies have caused:

Remember when Esther McVey quit the government last week, claiming it was because of Brexit, and I suggested she was running to avoid having to answer the criticisms of the Department for Work and Pensions raised by UN inspector Philip Alston?

It turned out that she had already exchanged words with the special rapporteur on poverty – but now it seems I was not wrong after all, as Ms McVey’s departure allowed her to avoid answering questions on a possible link between the hated Work Capability Assessment carried out by private contractors on behalf of the DWP and the deaths of benefit claimants.

This issue is whether the government showed key documents linking the deaths of claimants with the work capability assessment (WCA) to Dr Paul Litchfield, the independent expert hired to review the test in 2013 and 2014.

Dr Litchfield carried out the fourth and fifth reviews of the WCA but has refused to say if he was shown two letters written by coroners and a number of secret DWP “peer reviews”.

In the light of recent revelations, it seems reasonable to ask whether this is because he was asked to sign a ‘gagging order’ – a non-disclosure agreement requiring him not to say anything embarrassing or critical about the Conservative government or its minister.

Dr Litchfield published his two reviews in December 2013 and November 2014, but neither mentioned the documents, which all link the WCA with the deaths of claimants.

Disability News Service raised the issue in July, prompting Opposition spokespeople to send official letters demanding an explanation. Labour shadow minister for disabled people Marsha de Cordova’s was written on July 25, and Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman Stephen Lloyd’s followed on August 2.

Neither had received a response by the time Ms McVey walked out, as DNS reported.

I think we can safely conclude that the four-month delay – so far – indicates Ms McVey intended never to respond. The disagreement over Brexit provided a handy excuse to do a runner.

Will Amber Rudd be more forthcoming?

The evidence of her time at the Home Office suggests the opposite.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/11/23/did-mcvey-quit-the-government-to-avoid-questions-on-disability-deaths-cover-up/

Mike’s report of the affair covered the same points as that in the Eye, but adds details about Dr Litchfield’s reports and speculates that he may not have given details of the numbers of deaths because he had been forced to sign a gagging order, as very many of the charities and other organisations working with Tweezer’s gang of cutthroats have been forced to do.

One of the problems facing modern print journalism is that by the time they’ve put a story into the paper, everyone’s already read about it on the Net. This is the reason why newspapers have increasingly become similar to magazines with celebrities interviews, media stories and articles on subjects that are of interest, but not necessarily particularly topical.

I went back to reading Private Eye after a hiatus, when I was sick and tired of the magazine’s constant attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. This seems to have calmed down recently, but I’ve no doubt that it’s still bubbling away somewhere underneath. It does carry much excellent information on the shabby deals going on behind the scenes, in politics, local government, business and the press, which isn’t reported in the rest of the media. It’s that which still makes the magazine worth reading.

However, the mainstream media has shown to a rapidly increasing number of people that it is deeply biased and untrustworthy. And it has plenty of competitors from the various left-wing news organisations on the web. Like the Disability News Service, the Canary, the Skwawkbox and very many others. Left-wing bloggers and vloggers are also increasingly turning to them, rather than rely on the viciously biased, mendacious British press. Gordon Dimmack announced on one of his videos a few weeks ago that he wasn’t going to rely on the mainstream media for his stories any longer. This was on a video in which he took apart the lies in a story in the Groaniad about Julian Assange.

The British media, including the Beeb, is feeling threatened. Very threatened. A week or so ago the Radio Times published an article lamenting the polarization in political opinion due to people no longer trusting mainstream news sources, and turning instead to others which conformed to their own views. Thus the political consensus was breaking down. They also ran another article celebrating Question Time and its presenter, Dimbleby. Well, the consensus opinion pushed by the media is largely right-wing, pro-Tory and anti-Corbyn, with the Corporation’s news as massively bias as the Tory papers, from whom some of their journos have come. And Question Time has also angered many people, because of this pro-Tory bias and the way it has packed both panels and audience with Tories and Tory supporters.

It’s entirely right that people are turning away from the lamestream media with its bias and lies to the left-wing blogs, vlogs and other news outlets on the web. They aren’t Tory propaganda outlets, and are increasingly getting the stories before the mainstream papers and broadcasters.

And as this article from Private Eye shows, one of those blogs, which is getting the news to people first, before the mainstream press, is Vox Political.

Brexit: Tories Launch No Confidence Vote Against May

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/12/2018 - 7:01pm in

May looks to be hoist on her Brexit petard.

Feature Essay: The Case of Brexit, Expertise and Linguaphobia: Cosmopolitanism, Language and the Politics of Value by Sarah Burton

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/12/2018 - 10:40pm in

In this feature essay, The Case of Brexit, Expertise and Linguaphobia: Cosmopolitanism, Language and the Politics of ValueSarah Burton argues that the heightened expression of antipathy towards languages other than English in the post-Brexit context denotes a form of ‘othering’ that is intertwined with concurrent anxieties regarding expertise, cosmopolitanism and intellectualism in the contemporary moment.

This essay is part of the LSE RB Translation and Multilingualism Week, running between 10 and 14 December 2018. If you are interested in this topic, all posts published as part of the week can be accessed here. If you would like to contribute on this topic in the future, please contact us at Lsereviewofbooks@lse.ac.uk

Image Credit: (Alex LA CC BY SA 2.0)

The Case of Brexit, Expertise and Linguaphobia: Cosmopolitanism, Language and the Politics of Value

‘You need to speak English, you’re in fucking England’

– reportedly said during an attack on a Spanish-speaking woman on a London Overground train, October 2018

‘I think the people of this country have had enough of experts’

Michael Gove

Post-Brexit Britain is febrile – racially and xenophobically charged to an extent where the Home Office admitted a one-third rise in hate crimes following the EU referendum, scholars of race and racism declare ‘a state of emergency’, and the day before the referendum MP Jo Cox was murdered by a man allegedly using the words, ‘Britain first, this is for Britain, Britain will always come first’. Research has shown that anti-intellectualism – the rejection of experts and expertise – is linked with voters’ support for movements that share this standpoint, such as the Vote Leave campaign, Jair Bolsonaro’s presidential victory in Brazil and Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’. These movements tend to sway to the (far) right of the political spectrum and, concomitantly, researchers have noted a substantial mainstreaming of far-right politics. These groups and campaigns position themselves as openly hostile to ‘identity politics’ and secure their rhetoric in romanticised versions of the past (Virdee and McGeever 2017). In the case of Britain, these narrate the country as homogenously white, whilst expressing a melancholia for an apparently lost English idyll (Saha and Watson 2014), particularly around the decline of imperialism and empire.

But how exactly does a rise in racism and xenophobia segue with a rejection of experts and intellectuals – and, pertinently, how can we understand this denunciation of expertise more particularly by focusing on language and linguaphobia? What might an orientation to the politics of language draw out in terms of value systems that have public appeal and the ways that narrations of culture, cosmopolitanism, elitism and modernity are pulled through both anti-intellectual as well as racist and xenophobic views and actions? This short piece draws out the relationship between linguaphobia, racism and cultural capital to pose questions related to the problem of the intellectual or expert’s perceived elitism and disconnection from people’s everyday lives and concerns.

Linguaphobia and racism: borders, boundaries and belonging

A common element of rising hate crime and increased experiences of racism and xenophobia in post-Brexit Britain are attacks seemingly motivated by victims speaking languages other than English. A clear element of this violence is the identification by the perpetrators that the language people use marks them out as belonging in the UK – or not. So what is it about language – particularly the way that English and English speakers relate to other global languages – that means it becomes aligned with forms of racist border control? And, importantly, how does this rejection of languages other than English in the UK help us to better comprehend the rejection of the expert or intellectual? What is significant to each is the way that both are seen as foreign, suspicious, out of touch and therefore an apparently legitimate object of attack in a country suffused by the rhetoric of ‘taking back control’ from vaguely-identified and nebulous external powers.

There are multiple forms of linguaphobia – both that speaking a language other than English in public risks a racially-aggravated attack, but also a broader hardening of monolingual attitudes from English speakers. Research has shown that, post-Brexit, a third of state schools reported that leaving the EU has had a negative impact on both student motivation to learn languages other than English as well as on parental attitudes to language learning. Moreover, there is a widespread – though erroneous – assumption that English is the lingua franca of the world. The attitudes and assumptions which underpin both forms of linguaphobia are arguably tied to pervasively-sold cultural memories of Britain as a country of empire and expansion, wherein these forms of colonisation and domination are understood as not only acceptable but desirable. In this sense, the speaking of English functions both as a form of border control – the acceptable and legitimate language of the space of Britain – but also as a performance and assurance of patriotic loyalty. Under these conditions, languages other than English and the people who speak them are regarded with suspicion and positioned both as ‘other’ and dangerously ‘foreign’. The hardening of these conceptual and imaginative state boundaries is mirrored, and amplified, through the very literal hardening of state boundaries and deliberate creation of a ‘hostile environment’ carried out through the border control policies of the Home Office – and the treatment of the Windrush generation is a key example of this.

The paradox of language and expertise: problems of inclusion and exclusion

Image Credit: (Pixabay CC0)

Given that language represents not only geographical location or origin but also modes of communication, understanding, interpretation and feeling, as a phenomenon it is connected not simply to nationality and statehood but also, crucially, to ideas of knowledge and knowing (Susen 2018). Despite commentators claiming language as a straightforward, easily translatable tool which offers no insight into the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of culture or society, research in linguistics instead demonstrates that there is a level of incommensurability and particularity to languages, which holds rich interpretive functions. Thus an understanding of multiple languages – especially in how each works to describe and structure the world – aids us in comprehending and articulating the contradictions, nuances and paradoxes of experience and knowledge. Significantly, a number of racist attacks on people for not speaking English have been claimed to result from perpetrators feeling ‘paranoid’ about what might be being said that they cannot understand. As such, shared languages function as interpretive avenues, but a lack of common linguistic horizon equally works as a barrier not just to communication but also to conviviality of citizenship and belonging. This is, of course, not to reduce the culpability of racist actions, but to begin to draw a relationship between fear of ‘the other’ and processes of othering themselves.

Moving towards connecting this linguaphobia with the rejection and vilification of experts and expertise, it is necessary to consider the relationship between language and cultural capital. This emerges in two distinct, but linked, ways: firstly, in a more literal sense which pivots on the conventional and stereotypical depictions of intellectuals as connected to ideals of Enlightenment Europe – including linguistic dexterity, travel and mobility; secondly, in the relationship between linguistic fluency and forms of privilege and elitism. To be linguistically sophisticated – even in only one language – is to have admittance to forms of interpretation and gaining of knowledge which are not widely or readily accessible to others. As Henry Barnard argues, language and the ability to use it well may give the impression of ‘being purely scholastic and meritocratic, but in reality it is a process for ensuring that those born privileged are twice-born’ (1999: 139). Part of what allows experts and intellectuals to position themselves as such is their ability to adeptly express themselves – and, on (sometimes frequent) occasion, there forms a language of expertise and intellectualism predicated on jargon and unintelligibility to wider audiences (Bauman 2011; Giddens 1995). Owing to this, the hierarchical positioning of the expert or intellectual is founded on value paradigms that privilege particular forms of knowledge, interpretation and expression, and in doing so, result in prestige and status being afforded to certain individuals who are able to perform within these paradigms. The modes of othering that emerge from the relationship between the expert or intellectual and language are therefore fuelled by complex and enmeshed notions of foreign versus belonging, cosmopolitanism versus domesticity and elitism versus transparency.

The mobile multilingual intellectual: class, cosmopolitanism and modernity

Zygmunt Bauman (1998) suggests two definitive types of mobility in contemporary society: the tourist and the vagabond. The vagabond is involuntarily mobile – at the mercy of violence, war, poverty and urban change. The tourist, by contrast, represents privileged mobility – moving by choice, the business person or traveller who crosses the globe with spontaneity, alacrity and ease. These social types are both racialised and classed – to fit into the category of tourist, it is typically necessary to possess the cultural capital of whiteness and the economic capital of wealth and material resources. The expert or intellectual, with their associated prestige of Enlightenment values of modernity, cosmopolitanism and sophistication, segues clearly with the category of tourist. Intellectuals are not bounded in one particular physical or psychical geography, but rather are often understood as polymaths capable of deftness and suave across multiple spheres.

Under these conditions the dislocation of the expert from a core state territory positions them as a ‘dangerous other’ – and is conceptually analogous with the xenophobia and racism directed towards those who are positioned as outside of belonging because of their language use. That both the intellectual and the speaking of languages other than English involve perceived levels of ‘unintelligibility’ entwine them within forms of elitism – especially in terms of refusing to ‘assimilate’ into homogeneity – and as threatening and troublesomely unknowable. These epithets are underscored by their alignment with representations of the EU by the Vote Leave campaign as undemocratic and opaque. The ‘take back control’ slogan used throughout the Brexit referendum by Vote Leave, in conjunction with the constant denunciation of expertise, further subtly positioned experts and expertise as aligned with bullying and menacing elite foreign powers. Within this context, then, the xenophobic and racist demand that ‘you need to speak English, you’re in fucking England’ can be read both as an invocation of hard borders and a hostile environment as well as a ultimatum for a sort of flat intelligibility that absents nuance, diversity and texture in favour of the homogeneity of a dominant culture.

Nevertheless, within these worrying issues of territorial policing, anti-intellectualism and the connected normalisation of far-right views, there is the more knotty problem of elitism and social class. The rejection of experts and expertise is also a tacit pushback at forms of hierarchical knowledge. Crucially, though, those involved in the Vote Leave campaign – Gove, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage – have all held various elite positions, including Oxbridge educations and careers in the City. The rejection of expertise and intellectuals is not a wholesale recognition and denunciation of elite power but rather a sleight of hand intended to prop up just such a power whilst pretending not to. The murky ambiguities waded into through Brexit rhetoric around experts, and the deliberate creation by the UK Home Office of a hostile environment for migrants, create tinderbox conditions for the production and sharing of knowledge – where to know stuff is seen as dangerous and to be able to express yourself in a way not readily understandable to a wider population is viewed as threatening.

These feverish conditions compel us to ask bigger questions around value – who and what do we value, and what does this say about us as a society? The Leverhulme Trust-funded project I’m currently undertaking approaches these questions from creative and critical perspectives: how can we better understand the role of the intellectual and expert in academia, popular culture, politics and the media by thinking more closely about language, multilingualism and associated epithets of ethnicity, race and cosmopolitanism? Can forms of elitism actually be useful, and how do we tell the difference between exclusionary and inclusionary knowledges? How might we reconfigure the terms of our imaginations, horizons and conceptions of knowledge, interpretation and expression as we begin the very literal process of reconfiguring our borders? And how, in a global political economy predicated on information and communication, can the UK be a part of this without attentiveness to both language and expertise?

Sarah Burton is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of Sociology at City, University of London. She completed her PhD, Crafting the Academy: Writing Sociology and Disciplinary Legitimacy, at Goldsmiths, University of London, and has studied English Literature and Sociology at the universities of Newcastle, Cambridge and Glasgow. Sarah’s research sits broadly within political and cultural sociology; her current Leverhulme-funded project examines the role and representation of intellectuals and experts in the media, society, and popular culture, with particular relation to cosmopolitanism and multilingualism. She has published widely on sociology and the politics of knowledge, including a contribution to the 50th anniversary special issue of Sociology, ‘Becoming Sociological: Disciplinarity and a Sense of Home’. Sarah sits on the Executive Committee of the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association and is a member of Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and Migration Network, as well as a convenor of the British Sociological Association Early Career Forum. Read more by Sarah Burton.

Note: This feature essay gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 

 


Brexit: All About May

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/12/2018 - 10:35pm in

Why May oddly matters even more than before.

The EU and the warning signs of Fascism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/12/2018 - 5:00am in

Things are spiralling out of control in Europe, faster than many predicted. Outside of Brexit, there is strong anti-EU feeling in Hungary, Spain, Italy, Greece and France. The EU is in danger of crumbling, and people afraid of losing power are prone to extreme acts of dictatorial control.

How long before the EU truly becomes the authoritarian force that people from both ends of the political spectrum have always feared?

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