Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Aspects of a racist diatribe

Rod Liddle has been churning out sub-BNP racist provocations for a while now. The latest, taking a horribly violent criminal plot as its cue, issues the following judgment on 'multiculturalism':

It could be an anomaly, of course. But it isn’t. The overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community. Of course, in return, we have rap music, goat curry and a far more vibrant and diverse understanding of cultures which were once alien to us. For which, many thanks.

Defending his comments, he offered the argument that he wasn't talking about race but about 'multiculturalism'. He went on to explain:

My argument is much as it has always been; that the creed of multiculturalism is largely to blame, the notion that cultures, no matter how antithetical to the norm, or anti-social, should be allowed to develop unhindered, without criticism.

There is no good reason to take this argument at face value. For a start, Liddle may be fantastically ignorant and complacent on many levels, but I suspect he is aware that his claims are straightforwardly statistically false. The point of ranting in such an off-hand racist fashion isn't to be precise, it is to 1) get Liddle some more notoriety, 2) hurt the targets of such abuse, and 3) get people talking about race in a particular way that benefits the racists. I also doubt that Liddle is unaware that 'race' and 'culture' are not neatly separable in his tirades. Indeed, that is the whole point. Here I disagree with Sunny - Liddle is unlikely to be confused. Rather, he knows exactly what he is doing. The attack on 'multiculturalism' is the right's main way of rehabilitating certain racist ideas. He would also be aware that white people, who are not subject to the same collective insults, are disproportionately represented in certain types of criminality and anti-social behaviour. (Cf. Bonnie Greer's retort that "the overwhelming majority of paedophiles, murderers, war-mongers and football hooligans are white males and all we got in return was beans on toast and Top Gear".)

The occasion for the rant is crime, but that is not the issue at stake. If it were, then all sorts of unwelcome complexities would arise. If you really wanted to discuss the origins of criminal behaviour, you wouldn't start by talking about either 'race' or 'culture'. For one, few people who use such terms can specify what they mean by them beyond some vague indices or anecdotes. What are the precise dimensions of a 'culture' that supposedly yields violent crime, for example? No one knows. Something about rappers and absent fathers, possibly. We all know how to use phrases such as 'culture of dependency', 'culture of blame', 'culture of violence', etc., but these are miasmic conceits designed to retail a particular kind of reactionary politics. Their vagueness is their virtue. Indeed, without wishing to dignify the discussion by endowing it with serious theoretical merit, we can at least acknowledge in passing that in understanding crime, both how it is constructed and how and why it is carried out, there are all sorts of issues involved that do not correspond to the bigoted obsessions of the commentariat. So, the point is not violent crime. The aim of such bombast is to resurrect some antique racial stereotypes that hold black people to be, whether by endowment or 'culture', rapists, robbers and murderers.

I note that the Spectator's editor, Fraser Nelson, has defended Rod Liddle's 'right to offend'. What he is talking about is the right incite racial hatred, which you certainly don't have and which is a monstrous right to claim. Anti-racist legislation has been conceived and passed precisely to thwart any such 'right'. It is because of this that the far right have had to be extremely careful about how they couch their propaganda in public, as noted by 5CC. But if Liddle can purvey such racially defamatory claims without consequence, then why would the fascists hold back? Especially if all they have to say in their defence is "I'm talking about culture, stupid"?