The Culturalist’s Spider Web
February 27, 2013 1 Comment
By Patrick Lee
It’s difficult when writing about the BNP, far-right extremists and activists, because inevitably the article will end up in a magazine or website sympathetic to left-wing views and will consequently only really be read by left-wing people. So, who is there to convince? No one I guess. But, should the topic of young Jack Buckby come up, this may act as a helpful guide on firstly why he is dangerous and secondly why he is foolish. Hopefully the article will end up in the hands of someone who might otherwise have been convinced by him, and who might have been thinking of joining a far-right group. Hopefully they’ll read this and say “oh yeah, what was I thinking?”
The boy has made it onto Twitter, then started being discussed on Facebook, now he’s the focus of an article in Vice Magazine and ultimately he’s in the public eye and is raising awareness for far-right agendas and the BNP party. The complicated net of rhetoric, non-sequiturs, and twisted political correctness make it difficult to write clearly on the issues that the far-right discuss, as they constantly lure you into that web. So let’s try to stay concrete.
Buckby’s message is pretty simple: the BNP has to change its line. It has to stop being a party which talks about hate and which is seen as racist, and to start being a party that talks about preserving “culturalism” (their word, not mine). The words “race” and “BNP” in the same sentence have negative connotations. Talking about “loving culturalism” sounds better. Negative campaigns have negative political consequences. Buckby is providing a solution: There is nothing wrong with loving culture. Simple.
(You can read his “statement of ideology” here: please prepare to be absolutely convinced.)
Obviously nobody disagrees with people having the right to an ethnic homeland. Obviously nobody disagrees with promoting “love and a desire to preserve culture around the world”, although it is unclear how he plans to promote love. He could have added that National Culturalists think fun is good and sadness is bad.
Not that this is an original idea. The idea to begin using the term “culturalism” comes from John Press and his Brooklyn Tea Movement. This is a branch of the US Tea Party and is everything that you would associate with it: they protest mosques, they embrace Judeo-Christian ideals and they protest the US health-care bill. OK? So, staying concrete so far.
Now the argument begins. Buckby looks forward to being able to counter “left-wingers” who “accuse” the BNP of being a racist party by saying “our response to criticism is that we are not racist, we are just as concerned with racism as the left are, we are concerned simply about culture”.
Fair enough, so let’s take a look at the BNP: MEPs who are former members of the openly racist Nazi National Socialist Movement; strict anti-immigration policies; anti-EU policies; Holocaust deniers; security for speeches provided by the English Defence League; and an undeniable belief in a link between race and crime and between race and the disintegration of British institutions such as the nuclear family. Put simply: an exaggerated, inappropriate focus on race. Buckby claims to be concerned with preserving culture and vehemently denies being a racist, and yet has not joined the British Cultural Heritage Association; he has joined the BNP, who have a long history of racism.
However, his focus is, undeniably, on language. You can watch him give a slightly awkward speech here. The buzzword throughout is language: Change the image of the party. Stop being a party focused on negativity and instead make it about loving something.
Enter Newspeak. Buckby says, “The left are more successful in universities than we are, it’s sad but it’s true, but perhaps if we can use their language we can become perhaps more well respected”. The problem, for him, is the far right cannot legitimately adopt the language of popular left wing parties because they are not a popular left wing party. Their message will become unclear. “We are not a party who hate other races; instead we are a party who just love our culture. We are a culturalist party, not a racist party.” In Newspeak this is known as doubleplusungood, and it is a dangerous political process for citizens. As soon as we compromise on the language extremist groups can use and can manipulate, we compromise on how much we ourselves can be manipulated.
It must also be noted how hypocritical it is that Buckby’s ultimate aim is to preserve cultural and traditional identity while at the same time he plans on hijacking “the left’s” political identity.
What’s more is the strange emphasis that the BNP and Buckby put on protecting democracy somehow. To use a widely accepted definition of democracy: the ideology involves a system whereby all members of a nation or state can participate in the decisions made by that state, often through elected representatives. It seems counter-intuitive to the cause of democracy, therefore, to reduce the state’s population and democratic potential by creating policies based on the separation of various races within that state. Or, as Orwell says, “It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.” Jack Buckby’s definition of “democracy” is unclear, but I would suspect it is a system of representation in the UK where only white people can vote, or second or third generation families from immigrant families do not share equal rights. Let’s be clear: It is a goal of the BNP and the far right to limit the number of foreign people in the country. I would suggest this is anti-democratic.
What seems like a bizarre decision is to publicize the meetings where public perception is discussed. The far right and Nick Griffin have chosen to make public the meetings they are having about how to best define their public perception: they are in effect telling us in advance how they plan to deceive us with surreptitious rhetoric.
And now to the awkward bit. It becomes awkward to talk about somebody’s appearance and the image that they present, but this is relevant particularly when talking about spin, public relations and changing the face of the British National Party. If Buckby wants the image of himself as the shaded PR political spin doctor pulling the strings of government with a folder under his arm then he and the far-right need to be looked at. Nick Griffin does not have a favorable immediate public perception. He is widely hated both within and outside his own party, was destroyed and ridiculed on Question Time, and, it must be addressed, he has a lazy eye. I do not agree with the amount of PR in politics. I detest Cameron’s public pandering and Blair’s walking into Downing Street with a guitar and walking out still with his mug of tea, but PR is a necessary part of the discussion in contemporary politics and Griffin and Buckby have voluntarily, and slightly ironically, put themselves in a world where people are judged on their appearance. Griffin has just lost an outspoken racist MEP and popular BNP party member in Andrew Brons. Has he picked a good replacement for pampering the image of the right-wing extremist?
The press have, predictably, jumped on the “Griffin’s protégé” narrative for Buckby, and Buckby himself talks about “coming out” as a Nationalist and “going through college as the notorious BNP guy”. What do we know about these kinds of people? The people who discuss their own notoriety and individuality? To put it politely, it is often a way for people who do not fit into the world to find a way to fit in. I can imagine young Griffin with his shuffling demeanor and not-too-friendly political posturing found his notoriety, his voice, in the controversial views that won him so much attention (think of the ignored little child who bashes his sister over the head and suddenly has lots of attention). I see the same in Buckby. People say he’s well dressed, but look closely: do you see a young, dashing Cameron or Blair type? A man who really knows PR? Or do you see a shakey young man with badly grown stubble, an ill-fitting pinstriped waistcoat, a cheap seaside union jack tie, and Yoko Ono’s shades? I see the kid in the student union that didn’t immediately make friends, and who wanted a bit more attention. I see someone relishing the role he’s made for himself in being “controversial” and “intellectual”, with very little behind the façade.
James Elroy talks about when he was a messed up young man following the murder of his mother and his own drug addiction and absolute social isolation from women, his father and his peers. He found solace, and the attention that he craved, in joining the American Nazi party. This is not a man with right-wing views. It was a young man seeking notoriety.
It was not the proudest part of Elroy’s life.