I'm not racist, but...: further thoughts on links and comments
One is a request from Modernity (one of my favourite bloggers, and I think politically very close to me) that I stop using his material or links until I stop hosting racists. I have honoured his request and deleted my most recent references to his material and will not use his material again until further notice one way or another.
The other is the appearance of supporters of the English Defence League (EDL) in the comment threads of both my post at Though Cowards Flinch and several comment threads at Richard Millett's blog. The two appearances are of a rather different nature: in one case an apparently non-affiliated supporter of the EDL promoted it in an environment where several people batted him down robustly; in the other case large numbers of regular commenters defended the EDL activist who appeared, and the blogger allowed links to large amounts of EDL propaganda. The EDL activist on that thread, among other things, called mainstream Jewish leaders "kapos" for "appeasing" Islam, and called Victor Vancier a hero.
I have decided to be much more hardcore in my comments threads, using delete a lot more freely than I have. I may not do so as much as Modernity would like me to. And I might not do so in a consistent or speedy way because this blog is not my life's main activity. I will do so because I am tired of arguing with people who won't listen to reason, and because I don't want my place to be conducive to a mode of discourse I have no taste for.
Thinking about this raises two more substantive issues for me. The first is about the political situation today, probably roughly since 9/11 although there were obvious precursors. On the one hand, certain forms of anti-Zionist, "anti-imperialist" and anti-American politics have become so hegemonic among mainstream liberals, socialists and even anarchists, that they are completely blind to particular manifestations of antisemitism, genocide denial, conspiracism, and racism. Hence, one click from any number of the left blogs I have on my blogroll (or Modernity has on his) takes you to: denial of Serb violence, denial of the Rwandan genocide, denial of Pol Pot's genocide; support for racial ideologies like pan-Slavism, pan-Arabism, Serbian nationalism; support for misogynist and homophobic right-wing jihadi Islamism; crackpot theories about Jews conspiracies wagging American foreign policy; denial of obvious facts about 9/11; etc etc. The shadowy cyberlands of Dissident Voice and antiwar.com are obviously nutty to some mainstream leftists; but this sort of thing is all over Counterpunch, which some of the most intelligent and interesting people on the left write for, it fills up several pages on Indymedia, and it soaks through the Socialist Workers Party, the largest hard left grouping in the UK and a major force in several trade unions and anti-cuts campaigns. In short, it penetrates right to the heart of apparently normal left-land. In this context, policing the line of acceptability is not an easy task. I've spent a large amount of this internet space on this blog fighting on that front, but I don't think the front is always easy to draw so clearly.
On the other hand, and I don't spend anywhere near as much time fighting on this front here as I should, many of the people who see all of the above very clearly cannot see something very similar on their side. A lot of indecentists make a big deal of the below-the-line commenters at Harry's Place, who do indeed include several anti-Muslim racists, but above the line they make a very strong distinction between Islam and Islamism and they have been active in denouncing and exposing groups like the EDL. But there is something very wrong when supporters of fascistic terrorists like Victor Vancier get a free pass on mainstream pro-Israel sites, when an EDL supporter has a regular slot on a mainstream Zionist site like Israellycool and Israel National News publishes his op eds defending the EDL, and when sensible blogs like Simply Jews continue to link to Israellycool. Just as anti-Zionism and "anti-imperialism" have smuggled antisemitism and other reactionary politics into the left, the counter-jihad movement has smuggled anti-Muslim and anti-Arab racism into pro-Israel politics.
(This is not to say that all these groups are equivalent or even similar. There are discussions to be had about greater and lesser threats, and the specific contexts of time and place that might make a difference. That's not the issue for now.)
The other issue is about who or what is "a racist". The no platform policy is about fascists, members of fascist organisations. Racism, on an individual basis, is something different. Does saying something racist make someone "a racist"? If someone says something racist in one context, is everything they say to be ruled out of order? The obsessions with racists is very pervasive in our culture right now - examples include the high profile incidents around Mel Gibson, "celebrity hairdresser" James Brown, Lars von Trier, John Galliano, Richard Keys, Herb Sosa and so on. But, as I tried to argue once before, I think we need to move away from a concentration on racist individuals and their allegedly racist inner souls, to a concentration on racist actions, racist words and racist deeds, and the real effect these have in the world.
Needless to say, on this particular thread, I do not welcome comments either from those Modernity describes as racist, or from EDL supporters.