I agree with Brownie. The Ken Livingstone affair is a storm in a teacup. What happens now almost doesn’t matter.
For most people, Ken is simply confirmed as a boorish hypocrite, who dresses up his rudeness as a brave blow against ‘100 years” of Standard/Mail bigotry: a stand which is wholly undermined by his readiness to take the Standard’s pay check himself. The same sort of racists who use Holocaust Memorial Day as an opportunity to rail against “Zionists”, already regard Livingstone’s predicament as a put up job. And for anti-racists who have followed Ken Livingstone’s conduct closely over the last year, last week’s outburst will simply be another manifestation of the peculiar sort of left-racism to which this fellow appears to subscribe.
Sterotypes are the hallmark of the racist’s mind. To the right wing racist, blacks are lazy, violent, and oversexed. South asians are fanatical, smell of curry, and work all hours in corner shops. And jews? Jews are scheming, whining, manipulative and money obsessed.
For the right wing christian the New Testament paints a picture of the jew whose special perfidy is that he rejected and then killed the saviour. For the right wing muslim, the Koran and the Hadiths depict the jew is the betrayer of pacts with muslims, and the attempted murderer of an honoured prophet.
To the left racist, the jews play a similar role. They are the persecuted turned persecutor; the race which rejected its ordained role as the noble, suffering victim. The central case for the left racist is, of course, Israel and Palestine, which is to the left racist, the unique conflict which is unlike any other territorial dispute or ethnic conflict, but is rather the paradigm case of jewish conduct towards those who are not jewish. The attitude stretches far beyond responses to the Israel/Palestine conflict. It applies to all jewish institutions. So when the Community Security Trust points out that attacks on jews appear to have risen, it is important for the left racist to claim that the CST is a Zionist institution. And when a reporter covering a party held by the Mayor for an ex-cabinet minister turns out to be jewish, well, he’s a concentration camp guard: the oppressed turned oppressor.
Racists fixate upon the subject of their racism. They become experts in them. They divide them up, categorise them, analyse them. To the left racist, jewry is divided into the good jew – Gilad Azmon, “Israel Shamir” – and the bad jew: anybody else. So when the adrenalin is pumping through your veins and you’re stumbling out of a party into the cold night air, and a journalist mentions that they’re jewish: well, they’re the bad jew, the oppressed turned oppressor.
When a leading gay (and, incidentally strongly pro-Palestinian) campaigner points out that you’ve been feting an islamist cleric who is vicious and open racist and an outspoken homophobe: well, obviously its appropriate to spend £4000 of public money to let the world know that you’re the victim of a Mossad plot: the bad jews, the oppressed turned oppressors.
When, at the press conference at which you make your defence public, a Saudi journalist asks you whether you expect to be targeted by ‘the people who control the news’ – the bad jews, of course – you murmur your agreement, and throw in the name of the jewish wife of a fallen newspaper magnate – the bad jews getting what they’re due: the oppressors turned oppressed can be foiled, after all.
At the same time, to the left racist, a peculiar process of inflation and deflation occurs. Jews, of course, are Nazis: the oppresed turned oppressors. However a man who is criticised by prominent arab intellectuals for refusing a “dialogue with jews” on the basis of the following logic is merely a victim of a Zionist conspiracy:
The West, I can say about some of them [i.e., Westerners] who are iniquitous, and others who are not iniquitous. And it is possible. But iniquity on the part of the Jews is great iniquity, grave iniquity, iniquity that is incomparable and overt.
So, as I’ve said, I don’t really care what happens to Ken Livingstone. In fact, I’m grateful to him. Its important that people who employ racist discourse do so freely. It allows us to see through the false expressions of regret, the hand wringing and the crocodile tears, to understand how they really view the world.
On the basis that one can never really know what is in a man’s mind, I have modified this post to make it clear that I have merely inferred that Ken Livingstone appears to be a racist, because he uses what I regard as racist discourse.
The purpose of this post is to explain precisely how and why comparisons of jews to nazis are not simply offensive, but are an established part of left-racist discourse.
My view is that it is likely that a person who uses racist discourse is a racist. We can only judge the nature of people’s minds by what they say and what they do. However, it is possible that they are not a racist, and that the racist discourse was employed co-incidentally.
However, if a person does use racist discourse, they do need to accept that they are going to have some difficulty in persuading people that they are not, in fact, racists.
I strongly recommend Norm’s excellent post. I agree and adopt much of his logic, although not his ultimate conclusion. I think you should give somebody a second chance: but not a third or fourth one.
Inviting a racist preacher was strike one.
Painting Tatchell as a Mossad dupe was strike two
Appearing to agree with a Saudi journalist’s “Jews control the media” thesis was strike three
Calling a jew a concentration camp guard was strike four.