With characteristic subtlety, intelligence and insight, the New York Times has lumbered into the Brexit debate and dog-whistled its left-leaning readership with a piece heavy hinting that thanks to Nigel Farage Britain is the new Nazi Germany.
Let’s examine its argument in more detail, starting with the headline. I’ve put the New York Times’s words in bold; my comments appear below.
Britain Asks if Tone of ‘Brexit’ Campaign Made Violence Inevitable
New York Times Journalist States that Tone of ‘Brexit’ Campaign Made Violence Inevitable, taking lead from left-leaning Remain activists and commentators whose biased opinions he cherry-picks to support his threadbare thesis.
On the specific subject of ‘Tone’ see also: ‘Tone’ – the Liberal-Left’s codeword for ‘I hate free speech’
Whence grew this ‘growing sense’? The only people actually promulgating this line are left-leaning, pro-Remain activists who’ve seen a Rahm-Emanuel-style opportunity in the crisis of a mother-of-two’s senseless, brutal murder. Most normal people would much prefer it if Britain’s democratic future were debated on more relevant issues.
The increasingly ugly anti-immigrant tone to the campaign
This is not a fact but a left-wing propaganda trope. Sure there have been odd lapses of taste, notably the somewhat crass Breaking Point poster. But for most of this referendum campaign the nastiness has been confined to the Remain side – whose Project Fear has been characterised by mendacity, ad hominems, snobbery and bullying. Leave, on the other hand, have sought to keep their tone as upbeat and positive as possible; as have UKIP and Nigel Farage. This is because they have been alive to the possibility that their respectable position on controlled immigration will inevitably be misrepresented by the left as xenophobia and racism. So what Erlanger is doing here isn’t journalism but propaganda: stating as fact something he might wish to be so but for which he can demonstrate little evidence other than hearsay from parti-pris commenters.
Coupled with the violence of English fans at the European soccer championships…
The high-water mark of English football violence was thirty years ago. Either Erlanger doesn’t know this – in which case why he is commenting on UK affairs? – or he is being deliberately misleading.
…has left many here feeling that the boundaries of acceptable behavior are breaking down.
“Many”? See above and below.
“What we are just seeing generally is a very disturbing shift in British politics,” said Simon Tilford, the deputy director of the Center for European Reform, which favors British membership. “It is quite upsetting to me what is happening.”
“As a pro-EU activist I will say anything to smear the other side.”
With next Thursday’s vote on the referendum only days away, campaigning was suspended as a gesture of mourning and respect for the victim, Jo Cox, 41, a rising star in the opposition Labour Party who, not coincidentally, was a strong backer of Britain’s remaining inside the bloc.
That “not coincidentally” is flat-out in contempt of court. You are ascribing motives to the killer which have yet to be established in a court of law. Also, you are trying to pin the murder on the entire Brexit cause. Low – really low.
While it is still too early to say how the attack will change the dynamics of the campaign, it has unquestionably shifted the focus from the growing momentum of those in favor of leaving to the anti-immigrant tactics they have employed as the vote has drawn closer.
No. The Leave campaign is not “anti-immigrant”: it has simply argued for controlled migration, which is something else entirely.
The suspect arrested in the killing, Thomas Mair, 52, has a history of mental illness.
Wow. An actual sentence stating the truth. But let’s wait for the inevitable “but”, shall we?
But he was also reported to have been in contact with far-right groups in the United States and Britain, and to have said, “Britain first!” several times as he attacked Ms. Cox. Britain First, a far-right nationalist group, denied any links with Mr. Mair, but a United States civil rights group said he had been associated with an American neo-Nazi organization called the National Alliance.
As Peter Hitchens notes in this must-read Mail piece, “disturbed people do sometimes embrace the wilder political and religious creeds. But it is their mental illness, not these barely understood ‘opinions’, that makes them capable of the dreadful act of killing – an act which separates them from the rest of humanity.” Around 30 million people – half Britain’s population – want to vote Leave. The idea, as Erlanger and others are hinting, that they might have anything remotely in common with this mentally ill man or his warped political associations is disgusting.
In a widely distributed piece written for the magazine The Spectator, which favors leaving the European Union, Alex Massie drew a connection between the “Leave” campaign, which has featured outlandish assertions, xenophobia, and Islamophobia, to the death of Ms. Cox.
If you read one Spectator piece this week, make it either this one by me I’ve Seen Britain’s Post-Brexit Future and It’s Beautiful or the even better, beautifully argued editorial in which the Spectator declares itself for Leave. The Spectator is the world’s oldest continuously published magazine. Its willingness to publish maverick rants by the likes of Alex Massie speaks volumes about its tolerance for diverse opinion: a tolerance which, as we know, is rather lacking in people on the other side of the political argument.
Personally I think the line taken by Massie is dishonest. I explain why very carefully in this piece titled Project Grief: Remain’s dirty politicking has hit an all-time low.
The poster showed a long line of Middle Eastern refugees waiting to cross a European border. The text said: “BREAKING POINT. The E.U. has failed us all. We must break free from the E.U. and take control of our borders.”
Yep. Mentioned this earlier. Like many Brexiteers I’m embarrassed by its crassness and I quite understand why Erlanger would wish to make much of this one, desperate example. After all, it’s quite frustrating when you’re a journalist and you can’t find much concrete evidence to support your thesis. My own view of the poster is that however valid its point on the security problems of uncontrolled immigration, it lent itself too easily to misrepresentation and smearing by critics of UKIP and Nigel Farage. Let’s not forget that elements in the Remain camp have been desperate throughout to tar Brexiteers as racist thugs. I’d say the one below – released by elements in the Remain camp – is at least as inflammatory and probably a lot less honest.
It would be really odd if the outcome of a referendum campaign on the future of 60 million Britons were to be decided on the basis of a single lapse in taste by some teenage marketing copywriter in Scotland.
Polly Toynbee, a columnist for the left-leaning Guardian newspaper, said that the murder of a public official could not be seen as an isolated episode.
Ms. Cox herself wrote a column in The Yorkshire Post, published just a few days before her death, in which she sympathetically discussed people’s concerns about immigration. “This doesn’t mean to say they are racist or xenophobic,” she said, but concerned about pressures on health and social services and competition for jobs. She added, “Most people recognize that there are positive sides of migration too.”
But the benefits of European Union membership are “huge” and far outweigh the costs, Ms. Cox wrote, explaining that “I strongly believe that concerns about immigration — as legitimate as they are — are not a reason to vote for Brexit,” in large part because leaving itself would not solve the problem.
However great her personal qualities, Ms Cox was a left-leaning MP in a Socialist party whose political stance on all issues – including immigration – were roundly rejected by British voters in the last general election. It’s awful that she died. But the idea that her random and brutal murder should suddenly give her personal opinions a martyrly special status in which they should be privileged above those of any other politician or campaigner is as absurd as it is anti-democratic.