A Brace of British Brownshirts

A few years ago, when I was roaming the wilds of the planet with various oil companies, I was sat with my sister, who is a journalist, pitching ideas for a story at her. I could have directed her towards umpteen utterly scandalous situations, but each time she said:

“But what’s the British angle? For a British publication, there has to be a British interest in it somewhere.”

Flicking open The Guardian yesterday, it seems establishing a British angle is a lot easier than I thought. Consider this article by Natalia Antonova (yes, she of “survivor” fame):

From Britain to Ukraine, the far right is thriving on shared emotion

And what better person to delve into the British national psyche than “a Ukrainian journalist and playwright based in New York”?

While reports of Britons being recruited by Ukrainian neo-Nazis to fight in a war against Russia appear to be somewhat exaggerated – two men hardly constitutes some sort of far-right stampede to the eastern edge of Europe – this is a good time to remember that hate is on the upswing, and to think of it as a localised phenomenon is to miss the bigger picture.

Two unnamed men hardly constitutes anything, but is more than enough to justify running the author’s garbled opinions in The Guardian. British angle, indeed.

Members of the Ukrainian and the Russian far right are willing to riddle each other with very many bullet holes over such issues as the legacy of the second world war, and who the real heroes were. Ask them about abortion, however, or feminism, or migration, or antisemitism, or LGBT rights, or human rights in general, or, for that matter, government transparency and accountability, and suddenly these mortal enemies will seem more like good buddies who had a little tiff over history and national identity but will happily join forces to oppress whoever gets in their way, should the current conflict come to an end.

Warring militias on Russia’s borders don’t share the same social justice goals as a journalist in Brooklyn? Who knew? And note the casual assumption that anyone who opposes abortion is far right, and that a lack of government transparency and accountability is a hallmark of the same group. Because the left are paragons of virtue when it comes to those two things, aren’t they?

As the editors of the anarchist publication Nihilist.li have argued, “the differences between the Kremlin and Ukrainian fascists are tactical – not strategic … Both Russian and Ukrainian far-right groups have the same values and the same political ideal – crony capitalism.”

Good job those two British chaps allegedly went to Ukraine, isn’t it? Otherwise we’d be wondering why she doesn’t harangue some Ukrainians about this.

Ukraine’s problems with the far right are Britain’s problems, are Bulgaria’s problems, are Austria’s problems, and even, ultimately, Russia’s problems.

Eh? Why is it Britain’s concern that there might be far right Ukrainians? In the 2017 UK General Election, not a single far right party stood in any meaningful sense, let alone won. Even if we accept the left’s description of UKIP as being far right, they got wiped out. Is Antonova even aware of the makeup of Britain’s political parties?

In looking for solutions, we should consider the predicament the US now finds itself in – with a blatantly racist president who will reward any far-right group for as long as it sings his praises.

Presumably for reasons of space – or relevance – Antonova doesn’t cite a single one of these far right groups, nor how Trump rewarded them. But she calls him racist, so there’s that.

Reporters from elite publications are regularly parachuted into towns and districts that represent Trump’s “base” in order to file bewildered, slightly apocalyptic reports on how there are millions of Americans out there who do not care that the man they elected thinks there are “both sides” to a conflict involving murderous far-right violence.

Note that the problem here lies not with not bubble-dwelling “reporters from elite publications”, but the ordinary person who doesn’t subscribe to cartoon depictions of the US president.

Even as we continue to combat fake news, it has become glaringly obvious that facts alone won’t reach these racists and cheerleaders for racism – because support for Trump comes from a place that’s wholly different to the place where we compile and analyse facts.

She actually had the temerity to include this paragraph in an article whose entire premise rests on two unnamed “far right” Brits allegedly being recruited by Ukrainian neo-nazis.

Far-right advances across nations embolden the far right in other nations. This trend is likely to continue – and this is why a couple of Britons travelling to Ukraine to fight alongside neo-Nazis is something to take notice of.

Possibly at the editor’s insistence, we’re back to these two Brits again. Remember how often we were told not to worry about tens of thousands of citizens from European countries going to Iraq and Syria to fight with ISIS? That’s because the real issue is British neo-Nazis flocking to Ukraine in such numbers they couldn’t even form a relay team.

The causes of our current predicament can be debated – certainly a great number of economic and social factors are at play – but what matters is the simple realisation that what binds members of far-right groups can be exploited for good. Shared humanity, the idea of belonging to a common cause – these are the tools we have at our disposal if we wish to adequately address the rising tide of hate.

Somebody actually paid for this guff. True they only paid £90, but still.

To bring this back to Lakoff, what matters right now is not so much what far-right hate groups think, but what their members feel and believe.

Uh-huh. Now perhaps I’m being unfair. There’s no reason why a Ukrainian feminist living in Brooklyn should not be able to understand and write articles about British social issues in a national newspaper, so with that in mind I roamed around looking for what other insights she’s provided on the subject. And then I came across this:

Oh.

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17 thoughts on “A Brace of British Brownshirts

  1. Tenuous link, but any comment on the Russian double-agent who was poisoned in Wiltshire yesterday? The BBC and the rest of the UK media are gleefully spreading the message that if you annoy Mother Russia, she will bite back hard.

    My view is that the local plod should have kept it under wraps, lest future Russian turncoats be discouraged. But perhaps stirring up anti-Russian hate is the goal.

  2. Tenuous link, but any comment on the Russian double-agent who was poisoned in Wiltshire yesterday?

    Well, someone was on the BBC this morning leaping up and down that Putin has “got away with it”. Presumably we should enter into a nuclear war with Russia in response. My take is that if you’re a double-agent who’s sold out his own side, you’re really taking your chances. Especially if the side you’ve sold out is Russia.

  3. Even as we continue to combat fake news, it has become glaringly obvious that facts alone won’t reach these racists and cheerleaders for racism – because support for Trump comes from a place that’s wholly different to the place where we compile and analyse facts.

    A more accurate paragraph would be:

    Even as we continue to promote fake news, it has become glaringly obvious that opinion and screeching alone won’t reach these racists and cheerleaders for racism – because support for Trump comes from a place that’s wholly different to Twitter.

    One day, in 2037, these people will suddenly work out why Trump won.

  4. If this is what really happened to people who took on Russia, the preening nobodies in the UK media would currently be slobbering praise all over Putin rather than sneering at him. After all, we know what happens to people who attack Islam, and the UK media has taken very careful note.

    The fact that all of these cowards are being “so terribly brave” towards Russia is a good indication that absolutely nothing will happen to them.

  5. Hey, isn’t she interfering in UK affairs? I thought that was wrong?

    The entire basis of that article is “How can I get my lefty mate at The Guardian to pay me £90?” But so much of Comment is Free is like that.

  6. What a tenuous link, I think you may be right that the ‘British angle’ was included in order to get published/behest of the editor.

    These types of pieces help talking heads pay bills, it is not supposed to be part of their admired body of work that they will look back on with pride, or anyone else for that matter.

    However its always interesting when in the UK, people start talking about the ‘far-right’ in the UK. It usually dovetails with a group/institution/political persuasion that is experiencing a profound loss of moral and political legitimacy. In 2009, the Brownite Labour party and to a lesser degree Cameron’s Conservative Party were experiencing some kind of minor anti-establishment surge, expressed partly (in the EP 09 elections) of two BNP candidates being elected. They all seized upon this as a chance to morally posture (dont get me wrong I wasnt happy with BNP MEPs either) as at least ‘not as bad as them Nazis over there’.

    The QT with Griffin was a case in point, they were all given a pass by even the hard left because they were ‘bravely’ standing up to a loser fascist. In that debate I remember the audience not even breaking a murmur when Jack Straw boasted that his government had ‘cut asylum seekers by a third’. Something which usually would send those who care about things into apoplectic fits of righteous anger, because you cannot actually do anything to cut asylum if you are being fair, either people are or not, therefore the only way to force a cut is to exclude real ASers by imposing more strict criteria.

    The publication Searchlight/Hope not Hate (later had a split) always used to send me emails begging for money because even when the only fascist party collapsed there was somehow a new threat that was going to consume us, mostly UKIP and so on.

    It is largely, at the time of writing, a delusion that the ‘far-right’ are in any position of political strength or legitimacy, they are busted flush and have been for years. One has to wonder what the motivations and projections underline anyone trying to get all the predictable people concerned about this again.

    OT Salisbury – Point is Tim, killing a spy (who was part of a direct swap btw) and endangering the lives of our citizens is an act of aggression which cannot be tolerated. They did it once with litvinenko, clearly our response to that has not deterred, we should be closing their Embassy in response. We have to make a public retaliation otherwise we look weak.

  7. Point is Tim, killing a spy (who was part of a direct swap btw) and endangering the lives of our citizens is an act of aggression which cannot be tolerated.

    Indeed, but there is lots we should not be tolerating – the return of ISIS fighters, or asylum seekers passing themselves of as children aided and abetted by British charities, or girls being abused in Rotherham – but we do, because to take action would require somebody, somewhere, having some balls and a clue.

    We have to make a public retaliation otherwise we look weak.

    That ship sailed so long ago it’s nudging me in the back.

  8. @Rob Harries
    “OT Salisbury – Point is Tim, killing a spy (who was part of a direct swap btw) and endangering the lives of our citizens is an act of aggression which cannot be tolerated. They did it once with litvinenko, clearly our response to that has not deterred, we should be closing their Embassy in response.”
    Sadly Salman Rushdie had to go into hiding because of Muslims in the UK and we tolerated that, we did not stop Muslim immigration, if we had done so then the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester would not have been bombed.

  9. Spy or not he was here and Russia (perhaps) attempting to murder him in England should be cause for concern and some action, are we so craven?

  10. I just went looking for information about the two brits in Ukraine and stumbled upon this:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/02/neo-nazi-groups-recruit-britons-to-fight-in-ukraine

    You know I said something about Hope not Hate beating the fash then somehow claiming its worse, from the article, in their own words:

    ““There is a paradox to the far right in Britain today. Organisationally, the movement is weaker than it has been for 25 years,” the watchdog said. “Yet, at the same time, the far right poses a bigger threat – in terms of violence and promotion of its vile views, particularly anti-Muslim views, than it has in many years.”

    So its a bigger threat now is it? Compared to what? the 70s and 80s where about one non-white person was murdered in racist attacks, families were burned out of their homes and the front held demos that wrecked neighbourhoods?

    Or perhaps the early 2000s when the Brixton bomber was running around blowing people up…

    ‘Just when you thought you’d won, you really haven’t and you are closer to losing than ever, please send us money so I dont have to get a job elsewhere.’

    Oh and if any of you are interested, the old AFA outfit, later of the IWCA fame had plenty of negative things to say about that organisation….

  11. That ship sailed so long ago it’s nudging me in the back.

    I’m stealing that one.

  12. Just googled this embarrassment of a journalist, and this is what came up, “A journalist and playwright with a complex national identity, Natalia Antonova was born in Soviet Ukraine, has roots in modern-day Russia, and was raised in the United States.Today, her time and mind are split between Moscow and other places.”
    That info, coupled with her casual “Ukrainian fascists”, tells me all I need to know about this Kremlin-paid piece of garbage even before she starts dishing out her invaluable commentary on an imaginary “British angle”.

  13. That info, coupled with her casual “Ukrainian fascists”, tells me all I need to know about this Kremlin-paid piece of garbage even before she starts dishing out her invaluable commentary on an imaginary “British angle”.

    Not wishing to defend her, but she’s highly critical of Putin as well. You can almost forget she’s Russian or Ukrainian, her political beliefs seem to be pure New York liberal, therefore Russia is bad, as are fascists – wherever she imagines them to be. From what I’ve seen of her stuff, she doesn’t seem to be able to offer much insight into Russian affairs; even the personal anecdotes seem to be invented, or deeply unrepresentative.

    This is more important, IMO:

    has roots in modern-day Russia, and was raised in the United States

    I wonder what her parents did? If she was a Soviet citizen raised in the USA, she’d have been remarkably privileged by Soviet standards. Perhaps this is not coincidental, but she is not the first Soviet-born woman raised in North America in conditions of privilege who later became a Brooklyn-liberal that I have encountered.

  14. “Not wishing to defend her, but she’s highly critical of Putin as well.” –

    yet she utilizes the same vocabulary as he does when speaking about Ukrainians (the “fascist” stance being used as a justification for the Russian warmongering in Donbass, for example).
    For a Ukrainian such as myself, that part is way more important than her being critical of Putin.
    Moreover, as many of us Ukrainians have learned over the course of the past four years, being critical about the current Russian regime and being supportive of Ukraine trying to fight off the Russian invasion are not exactly the same thing (think Khodorkovsky, Navalny and many other Russian liberals).

    “Perhaps this is not coincidental, but she is not the first Soviet-born woman raised in North America in conditions of privilege who later became a Brooklyn-liberal that I have encountered.” –

    Or perhaps she is just what we call a “vatnik” (you will surely have heard this term before).
    They are aplenty both in Europe and in North America, and that includes even younger generations, such as Natalia Antonova.
    Although that can be explained if she really was raised under privileged conditions – all the more reasons for her and her parents to fondly remember “the great Soviet empire” that gave them so much and to be adamant in their continued belief that Russians are the greatest nation on this planet.

  15. She seems to be certain the majority of militants on either side are “far-right nationalists.” I haven’t seen evidence of that. Early in the conflict, Ukrainian volunteers did much of the fighting for Kiev, and the share of hardcore rightists in the volunteer force was probably considerable (some of them were Russians from Russia, ironically). Now that the regular army is deployed on the Ukrainian side, surely it isn’t made up of far-right nationalists. On the pro-Russian side, the crowd is even more difficult to pigeonhole. If the two sides seem culturally similar, it’s not because they are all right-wing but because they are post-Soviet, whether Ukrainian or Russian.

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