The extreme right: UKIP and the evolution of ideas

The extreme right: UKIP and the evolution of ideas May 23, 2014

“I’m not a racist, I’ve got coloured neighbours and they’re fantastic neighbours” – An interviewed UKIP voter on the BBC.

Local elections have just taken place in the UK for a proportion of local councils where the electorate can decide which councillors will represent their interests in local wards by winning seats on their local council. UKIP (the UK Independence Party), essentially a break-away faction of the Conservative Party, the right wing mainstream party of the UK, originally set up to take the UK out of membership of the EU, made massive gains.

This is scary stuff, since much of what UKIP stand for revolves around fear. Fear of the foreginer, fear of the out-group. You may remember I reported a UKIP Christian councillor blaming our winter and spring floods on gay marriage. Furthermore, a UKIP backer, Demetri Marchessini, claims there’s no such thing as ‘marital rape’. Moreover, they used an Irish actor on a poster to warn of immigration and were found to be printing anti-EU election leaflets in Germany with UKIP leaflets being handed out by Latvians. In addition, The International Business Times reported:

It was also revealed this week that Roger Helmer, the senior Ukip MEP, had previously penned a pamphlet stating homosexuality is “not a valid lifestyle worthy of equal respect”. In the leaflet, titled Straight Talking on Europe, Helmer denounced homosexual behaviour as “undesirable”.

And last but likely not least, Douglas Denny, a would-be Ukip politician, made headlines by commenting on a Ukip web forum that gay men and women were “abnormal”. He defended his assertion on the ground of semantics – in the sense that they are not normal as they are a minority.

 And so on and so forth. They have made embarrassing gaffe after embarrassing gaffe. In fact, the article finishes with these words:

A vehicle for a protest vote, yes. But Ukip is not a viable option for Britain. Members hate the EU but seem to cash in, they are incapable of sensible debate on Europe and their policies are daft. And the party trails its less-than-desirable associates behind the boisterous facade of Farage, the “everyman” – an ex-banker and son of a stockbroker with a penchant for fags and booze.

Let’s see what happens in the elections.

And what happened was this. UKIP busted the political landscape apart. They stole votes off most everyone and they went from zero to, well, ‘hero’ in one night.

But how can a party which is effectively predicated upon fear of the foreigner and thinly, so very thinly, veiled racism become so successful in such a short time? This is my theory.

Firstly, there is the power of the mere exposure effect. This is the fundamental concept of advertising whereby the brain finds things acceptable or even desirable through merely being exposed to the ideas. The more exposed, the more acceptable. UKIP have had a tremendous amount of airtime, with leader Nigel Farage doing the rounds on panel shows, radio shows and many news items. This is how creationism has prevailed, using the Wedge Strategy to get a foot in the door, get airtime, social media time, oxygen. That oxygen facilitates acceptability and then desirability. That was one of the arguments against having Bill Nye argue against Ken Ham about creationism.

Secondly, their success comes down to the evolution of ideas. Memetics is the theory that ideas are analagous to the evolution of biological organisms, with success of the organism surviving in its environment most successfully when it adapts characteristics to its environment. This survivability works just as well with ideas. Ideas which prevail have survival mechanisms and adapt to their environments. Think Christianity here. It has thoroughly evolved over 2000 years to adapt to society, morality, technology and economics. Islam, on the other hand, has developed the characteristic of threatening apostates with death. That works well, too.

Well, the history of the far right in Britain has gone from the National Front through to being reinvented into the British National Party (BNP) through to another reinvention (though the BNP still exist) in the form of UKIP (UKIPers might not like that realisation). What was going on in the early days of the right-wing extremist movement was that the ideas were not adapting well enough to the environments; they were too distasteful. The right-wing extremist ideology was just too much in the National Front to gather any traction with the general public. Then the BNP came along, and tried to be more respectable and appeal more widely. Some might say it was a slightly more (!) chilled version of the NF, appealing to more of the wider population. Ideas adapting. But still not becoming successful or acceptable enough.

And then UKIP, with its pseudo-political approach of getting out of Europe, has finally nailed it. It’s just acceptable enough for people to not be afraid of saying in public, “Yeah, I voted UKIP. I think we need to get out of Europe” as a way of saying, “Yeah, Polish, Romanian and those sodding Muslims can do one!”

Of course, I am not blinded by my liberalism. I know our immigration system needs an overhaul. We were insanely late to think about taking on ideas from Australia and New Zealand, such as a points based system adapted to economic and employment needs at any given time. Yes we need to have a sensible and robust immigration policy. After all, immigration discussions do not equal racism. Unfortunately, UKIP generally does. And I can anecdotally show this by witnessing a stand in my local town that the UKIP councillor was manning to sell his political wares, and watching a number of people who all came up and shook the guy’s hand. They were generally old, white men who waxed lyrical about UKIP “taking Britain back” and “getting it back off those [insert racial slur here]”. If 100% of the people I saw (OK, only a handful – I was in a rush) were overtly racist in their appreciation of, and promise to vote for, this candidate, then I can only assume that at least a non-trivial proportion of other UKIP voters the length of the country feel the same. Judging by the crackpot views of many of the candidates, this would hardly be surprising.

It turns out, from the various assessments that I have seen today on TV, that the electorate for UKIP are predominantly white, older and less educated. This has allowed or has been reflected in them seen to get some purchase in the northern, working class heartlands of the left-wing socialist Labour wards.

My main point here is that we have an evolution of ideas that finally gains purchase when it is deemed acceptable enough to be admissible in public. And UKIP have found that magic point and are reaping the rewards.

It is sad to see a great liberal country retreat to in-group/out-group mentality of fear, moving back down Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the individual, or people like the individual, people like the self. This is what economic recessions do; they create atmospheres of social unrest, fear, hatred and a general lack of big world thinking. The universality of the world is rejected in favour of a them and us mentality. “I was born here, and you were born 50 miles over there, so you can fuck off!”

Not very good for the future of the world.

Some amusing tweets and quotes:

Nigel Farage says it is unfair to call UKIP racist. Absolutely. That’s forgetting sexist and homophobic.

To sum up today, not every #ukip voter is a racist, but every racist is a ukip voter.

UKIP is just the last senile cry from the rocking chair of a dying world. The sexist, homophobic, racist world we have already left behind.

“I wouldn’t be in UKIP if I was a racist I worked on the ambulance service, I worked down the coal mines, I worked in the operating theatres with a world famous gynaecologists,” –  source

When you have to take out a full page ad in a paper to declare that your party is not racist, there is something fundamentally wrong. #UKIP

Note to #UKIP: increased support from racist idiots does not make you ‘serious players’. It just makes you a larger group of racist idiots.

[UPDATE:

Here is a list of 10 rather dubious things UKIP have said, again from the IB Times:

Here is our pick of the most ridiculous – and abusive – Ukip quotes to date:

1. David Silvester, who called homosexuality a “spiritual disease”, said: “Since the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, the nation has been beset by serious storms and floods. One recent one caused the worst flooding for 60 years. The Christmas floods were the worst for 127 years. Is this just global warming or is there something more serious at work?”

2. In an investigation led by the Sunday Mirror, Dr Julia Gasper said: “As for the links between homosexuality and paedophilia, there is so much evidence that even a full-length book could hardly do justice to the ­subject.”

3. Speaking on the same issue, Ukip member Jan Zolyniak claimed: “The evidence is quite clear that the percentage of homosexuals who molest children is very high and cannot be dismissed.”

4. Douglas Denny, of the Bognor Regis branch in West Sussex, said homosexuals have “leftie, neo-commie followers”. He said: “I just wish they would keep their ­homosexual nature and practices to ­themselves and stop trying to ram it down my throat telling me they are ‘normal’ when they are not.”

5. It wouldn’t be a complete list without the wisecracking Godfrey Bloom. The Yorkshire and Humber MEP had the whip removed in September 2013, after a recording emerged of him joking that a group of Ukip women who did not clean behind their fridges were “sluts”.

6. In August, Bloom came under fire after referring to countries that received government aid as “Bongo Bongo Land”. He claimed that UK aid was being spent on fighter planes in Pakistan, as well as luxury sunglasses. He said: “How we can possibly be giving £1bn a month, when we’re in this sort of debt, to Bongo Bongo Land is completely beyond me.”

7. Stuart Agnew, Ukip MEP for the East of England, suggested that women lacked the ambition to succeed because children got in the way. Following the footsteps of Bloom, he argued: “If you look at the people who get degrees more, women get them and they are getting the jobs in the workplace but for various reasons they don’t have the ambition to go right to the top because something gets in the way. It’s called a baby.”

8. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World At One in August, Stuart Wheeler, party treasurer, said women were “nowhere near as good as men” at  chess, bridge and poker.

9. Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader said women with children were “worth less” than men in the financial sector. He claimed women with children were responsible for their own reduction in pay if they have children – because they take maternity leave and become less valuable to their businesses.

10. Farage also prioritised lower economic growth and a poorer Britain over an increase in migrants in the UK. “The social side of this matters more than pure market economics,” he said.

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