is the latest victim of a concerted effort to re-define racism as "anything that could conceivably offend white people". Ahmed is being prosecuted by police over a statement he made on Facebook. The police say it is a "racially aggravated public order offence".
Look at the statement. There is not a hint of racism in it. To make it racist, one would have to assume that the troops were not just exclusively white, but somehow the bearer of whiteness in its essence. Maybe they are in this day and age; maybe it is through imperialist action and its effects both domestically and internationally that whiteness is produced. But the second assumption one would have to make is that white people are the victims of racist oppression by black people, Muslims and so on. We'll come back to this.
A spokesperson for Yorkshire police said: "He didn't make his point very well and that is why he has landed himself in bother." So, the penalty for not making a point "very well" is prosecution and potentially a sentence of up to six months in prison. The suggestion, though, is that aside from being "racially aggravated" this statement constitutes an incitement to disorder. Of course, it is considerably more even tempered than some sentiments I have expressed myself in the past, though I won't suffer arrest or prosecution for it. In addition, the internet - and Facebook in particular - contains an abundance of pages that really do exist to incite violence. Yet a Muslim sassing our brave boys is too much for the state. Either this suggests that Muslims are an excitable brown rabble, apt to start cutting white people up at the merest hint of block capitals and exclamation marks, or it implies that it is the feelings of offended white people that must be protected, lest they be the ones who are incited. Unsurprisingly the EDL and Casuals United dirt (may I say that, or is it "racially aggravated"?) are delighted. Muslims won't be allowed to sass our brave boys now that the bizzies are 'on our side'. Hurrah for the filth! (Is that okay, or...?)
What is really at stake here? Why are the police behaving like this? The blog of the Index on Censorship
website suggests that suspicion of Muslims voicing opposition to the troops is rooted in fear and suspicion resulting from 7/7. To be honest, I think this is lame. The police and the Crown Prosecution Service are not acting out of paranoia. But the blog also makes another suggestion which gets close to the truth in my opinion: "Unconditional support for soldiers is now expected, even as we become increasingly unsure of what they’re doing out there. From the most ardent supporter of the war to the most strident critic, everyone claims to be acting in the interest of Our Brave Boys
. This is now not a matter of politics, but loyalty ... the “racially aggravated” charge doesn’t stick, unless one is willing to buy into the notion that Afghanistan is part of an ethno-religious war between “Islam” and “the West”."
This suggests that it is the state, through its action, which is racializing this issue. We know that the state is involved in more than simply the bureaucratic and repressive organization of society. Fundamentally what it does is a kind of moral regulation, ordering the symbolic world, constituting norms and social classifications. Obviously the law, and the criminal justice system which executes the law, is critical to this constitutive action. The state's re-classification of racist crime
in such a way as to efface the axis of oppression, to make it such that "racism cuts both ways", was an important precondition for this sort of action. But what is at stake now is an attempt to re-organize the social body behind a resurgent militarism. We have seen the PR efforts aimed at cementing a new consensus that can support war indirectly, or at least neutralise opposition, on the basis of pro-troops sentiment. I think the pukeworthy Military Wives
, whatever the producers thought they were doing, was a masterpiece in this sort of propaganda. But consent does not exist in separation from coercion. Violence and, literally, terror is central to how consent is secured. How the police act in producing consent has been dealt with here
So we could see this prosecution as aberrant, the criminal justice system over-reacting, over-playing its hand, being too fastidious with incitement laws, or whatever. No doubt some will attribute it to nanny-state authoritarianism, and the usual bores will say that the liberals who support anti-racist legislation caused this to happen. I think it would make more sense to see it as a speculative manouevre in the application of an emerging discourse of treason. For that is really the logic of this prosecution. One has to see this question of 'incitement' in connection with the repressive and racialized response to the riots last Summer, and the generalized unease of the British state about the combustibility of the social order. Those police actions extended the repertoire of repressive tactics already formed in relation to the student protests, G20, UK Uncut, the climate camp and so on. As importantly, I think, it has to be seen in the context of the new doctrine of 'total policing', which is essentially about giving the police more of a free hand to intervene in aggressive ways to solve problems of social order, coded as problems of crime prevention. A premium is being placed on preemptive action, literally - I repeat, literally
- on terror. In this case, it is disloyalty that is being punished, in a racialized way. The action of the police and courts is about constituting a new field of punishable conduct. And when disloyalty is punished, there really isn't much that can't be included under its canopy.
Labels: 'reverse racism', capitalist state, imperial ideology, imperialism, islamophobia, police, racism, troops