The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'xenophobia'
The heartwarming diversity of the far right (an ongoing series): Nationalist/anti-immigrant group the English Defence League, best known for their anti-Muslim marches in immigrant neighbourhoods (which, they stress, have nothing to do with hatred for brown-skinned people who pray funny and eat food that smells weird, but everything to do with saving Britain (Muslim population: 2.7%) from imminently becoming an Islamic dictatorship) are now attempting to reach out to neglected constituencies such as Jews and gays, promising not to kick their heads in if they join with them to fight the creeping Islamicisation of Britain:
It claims that these inter-faith tensions were brought into sharp focus last month when the senior US Jewish leader and Tea Party activist Rabbi Nachum Shifren denounced Islam at a EDL rally outside the Israeli Embassy in London. Israeli flags have also been spotted at several EDL demonstrations across the UK.It's not clear how genuine the suspension of the far right's traditional anti-Semitism is. Perhaps, by showing that they can break heads with the best of them, the Jews (well, at least the ones in Israel) have won the respect of the far right; no longer the effete, treacherous, baby-blood-drinking Grabblers of the Protocols, they are now seen as God-fearing cowboy frontiersmen and/or fellow shaven-headed headkickers. Or perhaps the neo-Nazis intend to deal with them once the Muslims are out of the way.
As well as aggravating religious tensions, the EDL has established a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Division to "defend" gay people from Sharia law. There are also specialist divisions for women, soldiers and disabled people. The report warns these communities to be vigilant against "selective racism" and the EDL's attempts at manipulation.The EDL are also making overtures to feminist groups, raising the spectre of the far left making common cause with Islamists; after all, the reasoning seems to go, being stoned to death under Sharia law would be worse than being struck regularly like a gong, as one of the EDL's fellow travellers from the BNP recommended.
Several Italian cities with right-wing governments are banning foreign restaurants. The initiatives are supported by the xenophobic right-wing Northern League, though undoubtedly got considerable moral support from Silvio Berlusconi's brand of culture-war tabloid conservatism:
Luca Zaia, the Minister of Agriculture and a member of the Northern League from the Veneto region, applauded the authorities in Lucca and Milan for cracking down on nonItalian food. “We stand for tradition and the safeguarding of our culture,” he said.
Asked if he had ever eaten a kebab, Mr Zaia said: “No – and I defy anyone to prove the contrary. I prefer the dishes of my native Veneto. I even refuse to eat pineapple.”The scary thing is that such wilful ignorance, rather than being regarded with pity or scorn, is lauded by many as a virtue.
Of course, the ban on foreign cuisine is not as cut-and-dry as it might seem; it's not all foreigners that are targeted, only those sinister dark-skinned ones from the east.
There is confusion, however, over what is meant by ethnic. Mr Di Grazia said that French restaurants would be allowed. He was unsure, though, about Sicilian cuisine. It is influenced by Arab cooking.
In what could be a blow to the cause of international xenophobes' solidarity, the far-right bloc in the EU parliament looks set to collapse after five Romanian nationalist MPs threatened to quit over remarks by Italian member Alessandra Mussolini. Ms. Mussolini (the grand-daughter of the Fascist leader) described the Romanian people as "habitual law-breakers", and perhaps more damagingly, claimed to see little difference between them and the Roma (Gypsies), a group which the Romanian nationalist group despise. Oops!
The anti-immigrant right in France has adopted a new tactic: handing out pork soup to the poor and hungry, pointedly excluding Muslims and Jews from their charity.
With steaming bowls of the fragrant broth soon passing through the crowd, Odile Bonnivard, a short-haired secretary turned far-right firebrand, climbed atop a dark sedan with a megaphone in hand and led the crowd in a raucous chant: "We are all pig eaters! We are all pig eaters!"
The movement began in the winter of 2003 when Ms. Bonnivard, a member of a small far-right nationalist movement called the Identity Bloc, began serving hot soup to the homeless. At first, she said, the group used pork simply because it was an inexpensive traditional ingredient for hearty French soup. But after the political significance of serving pork dawned on them and others, it quickly became the focus of their work.
An interesting link from Momus: Market research firm Environics has conducted a survey of changing values in America, and come up with some disturbing conclusions. Over the past 12 years, their results show, the meta-values underlying American society have shifted away from engagement within society towards a paranoid, Hobbesian, every-man-for-himself world-view; this has fostered both libertinism and authoritarianism:
Looking at the data from 1992 to 2004, Shellenberger and Nordhaus found a country whose citizens are increasingly authoritarian while at the same time feeling evermore adrift, isolated, and nihilistic. They found a society at once more libertine and more puritanical than in the past, a society where solidarity among citizens was deteriorating, and, most worrisomely to them, a progressive clock that seemed to be unwinding backward on broad questions of social equity. Between 1992 and 2004, for example, the percentage of people who said they agree that the father of the family must be the master in his own house increased ten points, from 42 to 52 percent, in the 2,500-person Environics survey. The percentage agreeing that men are naturally superior to women increased from 30 percent to 40 percent. Meanwhile, the fraction that said they discussed local problems with people they knew plummeted from 66 percent to 39 percent. Survey respondents were also increasingly accepting of the value that violence is a normal part of life -- and that figure had doubled even before the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks.The research was done by plotting survey responses on a rectangular "values matrix", with two axes: authority-individuality and fulfilment-survival:
The quadrants represent different worldviews. On the top lies authority, an orientation that values traditional family, religiosity, emotional control, and obedience. On the bottom, the individuality orientation encompasses risk-taking, anomie-aimlessness, and the acceptance of flexible families and personal choice. On the right side of the scale are values that celebrate fulfillment, such as civic engagement, ecological concern, and empathy. On the left, theres a cluster of values representing the sense that life is a struggle for survival: acceptance of violence, a conviction that people get what they deserve in life, and civic apathy. These quadrants are not random: Shellenberger and Nordaus developed them based on an assessment of how likely it was that holders of certain values also held other values, or self-clustered.
Over the past dozen years, the arrows have started to point away from the fulfillment side of the scale, home to such values as gender parity and personal expression, to the survival quadrant, home to illiberal values such as sexism, fatalism, and a focus on every man for himself. Despite the increasing political power of the religious right, Environics found social values moving away from the authority end of the scale, with its emphasis on responsibility, duty, and tradition, to a more atomized, rage-filled outlook that values consumption, sexual permissiveness, and xenophobia. The trend was toward values in the individuality quadrant.(If I recall correctly, fulfilment and survival are at the two opposite extremes of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, with individuals whose survival needs are met progressing to focus on fulfilment needs. Could the reversion of the focus to survival be the result of respondents perceiving that their survival needs are threatened?)
On a related note: here is a PDF file of a presentation analysing British political opinions along similar lines, and finding that, while the old labels of "left" and "right" are less meaningful, opinions are divided along two axes: the Socialist-Free Market axis of economics and, more significantly, the "Axis of UKIP", which sorts respondents on their opinions on crime and international relations. At one end are the Daily Mail readers, who believe in isolationism and capital punishment, and on the other end are "chianti-swilling bleeding hearts" and cosmopolitanists. The centre of gravity is a little towards the UKIP end, which is why xenophobic, fear-mongering tabloids sell so well. The presentation also has diagrams of the distributions of positions by political affiliation and newspaper choice, with some interesting results.
Photogenic Australian drug smuggler convicted in Indonesia, sentenced to 20 years. This is a somewhat more lenient sentence than many were expecting; initially she was facing the death penalty, though presumably the economic pressure of a potential Australian boycott of Bali prevailed. If she wasn't a photogenic young woman with the tabloid media on her side, she'd probably be facing a firing squad (much as nine other less fortunate Australians are set to do).
Meanwhile, the government is quick to make political hay with a populist gesture of donating two QCs to work on her appeal, paid for by your taxes, and working on a prisoner-transfer agreement to save her the indignity of a barbaric Indonesian jail (expect the Schapelle Corby Act 2005 to show up in Hansard soon); you'd think there was an election coming up or something. An much wailing and gnashing of teeth ensues online:
"I am devestated with the verdict of the Indonesian Courts for Schapelle Corby. When the verdict was given, I fell into a bit of a heap, but Schapelles strength made me gain my composure pretty quickly.
"strength"? Looks like Australia has now found its Princess Di. Look for discount mobile-phone baron Ron Bakir, who owns the trademark on "Schapelle Corby", to make a mint in the commemorative-mug trade.
Some sought to tie Australia's tsunami aid to the issue. Bryan Griffin wrote: "I am sure that all people, not just Australians will also feel sick. "Maybe some of the donations made by us for the disaster should be returned to pay her fine. It's like a double wammy for Indonesia and their finances.Note the subtexts there: the life of an Australian convicted of drug trafficking is worth more than those of Indonesians affected by the tsunami. And the fact that she was convicted of drug trafficking is irrelevant, because we all know that Indonesian courts are corrupt. The fact that the "evidence" for the defence consisted of prison hearsay that no Australian court would have accepted seems to have gotten conveniently lost along the way.
And, of course, the Australian media's content-free, sensationalist beat-up hasn't helped things.
I wonder whether Indonesian restaurants across Australia are hanging up prominent "Schapelle is Innocent" signs (which, I imagine, the Herald-Sun will provide) in their windows to avoid being summarily boycotted or worse, much as Afghan restaurants proclaimed their opposition to terrorism after 9/11.
I haven't been posting much recently, having too much to do (upcoming travel plans and such; more about these later) to sit down, graze on the various memestreams and produce links, opinionated comments or sarcastic asides.
Anyway, I recently had occasion to reread H.P. Lovecraft's The Shadow over Innsmouth for the first time in many years, after reading that Zachary Marsh LiveJournal thing (which, after all, was a riff of it). In my opinion, The Shadow over Innsmouth is one of HPL's better stories (alongside the one about the Fungi from Yuggoth, the mind-abduction one about the Great Ones and, for sheer horror, The Thing On The Doorstep); the two-part structure, with the standard escape-from-a-city-of-monsters thing being followed by the far more disturbing realisations that the narrator is one of them, works very nicely. However, in my reassessment, it hasn't aged well.
For one, Innsmouth is predicated on xenophobia. The Deep Ones are nothing more than an evil race of monsters, surrounded by decay and worshipping loathsome gods; they have no positive attributes (except for the beautiful yet disturbingly alien jewellery), and as much substance as the monster under one's bed when one was a child, only with more gruesome detail. Towards the end, the narrator reconciles himself with joining the Deep Ones and their loathsome rites, but it seems insincere, as he doesn't shed any light on the experience of the Deep Ones. (And those things being inherently incomprehensible to humans is a cop-out; amphibious humanoids descended from a common ancestor with humanity and possessing families, language, a culture and a society would have had some common ground with humans, even if their culture and their biology would seem profoundly alien.) It would have been much more powerful had the point of view shifted from the human one (of visceral revulsion) to the Deep Ones' one (with the bizarre consequences of their biology, society and culture gradually revealed) would have been far more interesting.
I suppose the flaw comes from Lovecraft being, if taken as a writer of speculative fiction, lazy; not bothering to create a plausible alien world when an unspeakable, blasphemous horror (which, by virtue of being unspeakable, also saves the author the effort of describing it) will suffice.