At other times, people are polite and rub along

The Guardian a couple of days ago on the frenzy of hatred after Brexit:

True Vision, a police-funded hate-crime-reporting website, has seen a 57% increase in reportingbetween Thursday and Sunday, compared with the same period last month. This is not a definitive national figure – reports are also made directly to police stations and community groups – but Stop Hate UK, a reporting charity, has also seen an increase, while Tell Mama, an organisation tackling Islamophobia anti-Muslim hatred, which usually deals with 40-45 reports a month, received 33 within 48-72 hours.

In Great Yarmouth, Colin Goffin, who is vice-principal of an educational trust, was told about taunts and jeers being directed at eastern European workers by 10am on Friday morning – just hours after the results of the referendum had been announced. Goffin went to see a Kosovan-born friend, the manager of a car wash, to discuss the vote. In the Norfolk coastal town, 72% had voted to leave.

“I wanted him to know that I didn’t agree with the decision, or the way that the issue of immigration had been used in the campaign,” Goffin says. But when he arrived, the abuse against the multinational staff had already begun. “He told me people were slowing down to laugh at his staff, wave and mouth ‘goodbye’,” Goffin says. “They had clearly not wasted any time in deciding to be hateful.”

It’s “community cohesion” in action.

Reports of xenophobia and racism have piled up in the media: the firebombing of a halal butchers in Walsall, graffiti on a Polish community centre in London and laminated cards reading: “No more Polish vermin” apparently posted through letterboxes in Huntingdon. Asked about the rise in hate crimes during PMQs on Wednesday, David Cameron said the government would be publishing a hate-crime action plan.

You see why I object to the word “vermin” in party rhetoric? You see why I do not give a flying fuck that Nye Bevan said it in 1948? Or rather that I do give a flying fuck, and think he was wrong to do so, and that no one should cite his example as if that made it ok. “Vermin” is genocidal language.

Why this sudden explosion? Paul Bagguley, a sociologist based at the University of Leeds, points to the gleeful tone of the racism: “There is a kind of celebration going on; it’s a celebratory racism.” With immigration cited in polls as the second most common reason in voting for Brexit, “people are expressing a sense of power and success, that they have won,” he says.

“People haven’t changed. I would argue the country splits into two-thirds to three-quarters of people being tolerant and a quarter to a third being intolerant. And a section of that third have become emboldened. At other times, people are polite and rub along.”

In other words the racists are mostly “silenced” – and that’s a good thing.

Bagguley says that what makes the recent attacks unusual is who they are directed at. Central to the anti-EU discourse in the media over the past decade has been a sense of British people being fundamentally different from Europeans. As Scottish politics and identity moved in a new direction, this mutated into a white English nationalism “that has a resonance with racial ways of thinking”, he says.

“This has been the bedrock and basis for this xenophobia, directed at everybody who is a little different. It is unlike the backlash after terrorist attacks, which targeted Irish people in the 70s, or Muslims and those thought to be Muslims, more recently. It is a very generalised kind of racism oriented against any groups perceived not to be in that narrow category of white English identity.”

Of course. You have Britain, and The Continong. Proper people, and bloody foreigners. Us, and the barbarians. The plucky little island, and that mongrel colony over there.

Woolley is clear, as is Tell Mama, that hate crimes have never gone away. Tell Mama’s annual report, released on Wednesday, states that anti-Muslim hatred reported to them rose by a staggering 326% in 2015. Women, especially those who wear hijabs or niqabs, bear the brunt of this. Hope Not Hate points out that it has been arguing for some time that far-right extremism is not getting the attention it deserves. Yet the Brexit-inspired racism seems slightly different in that slurs are focused on ethnicity over religion.

For the moment. The focus can shift back and forth according to what’s in the news, but there’s always someone to hate.

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