Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Alt-Righters Writing Off Liberal and Left Wing Protestors and Protests As Useless Are Just Plain Wrong

Alt-Right Vs Realism & Intersectional Feminism: One Reason Why I Protest
Isn't it nice being bombarded on Twitter by people (usually white, male Alt-Right leaning conservatives)  who believe that your gender identity is invalid or claim that you have never experienced abuse/hate rhetoric due to your gender identity or sexuality? What about race or nationality? Or even Disability? The Alt-Right movement seems to be one that exists to provoke people rather than discuss political, cultural and social issues in a constructive manner. Look at the recent example of Paul John Watson, an Alt-Right commentator who "offered" to pay journalists to visit Sweden to see how "culturally enriched" and dangerous the country had become as a result of immigration (especially "Muslims from the Middle East"). I've been to Malmö and I've never felt fearful for my own safety whilst walking in the streets. Isn't it rather ironic when I checked the Swedish website http://www.bra.se/bra/brott-och-statistik/statistik/utsatta-omraden/malmo.html I saw that crime figures had generally fallen in the last few years. Yes murder rates had increased but there were only 12 murders in the city in 2016, compared to 7 in 2014 and it's mostly related to drug gang warfare. Such gangs exist in most cities around the world. Hardly new. Malmö is not the "culturally enriched" hellhole Monsieur Watson tried to portray, is it?

The Alt-Right feed off interpreting situations in an extremist, often irrational way. So no wonder I had a Pepe meme Islamophobic Brexiteer Twitter account call me a racist for pointing out the Alt-Right movement is predominately white supremacist based and one key idea seems to be that immigration should be stopped from countries where Islam is the main religion "to stop rape of women from happening." He (I'm assuming it was a he) offered no qualification for this statement other than to quote the now completely debunked Frankfurt New Years Eve attack on women by 900 migrants fabricated by two people which ended up being in German tabloid Bild and then quoted by the Alt-Right media outlet, Breitbart. One of the people interviewed wasn't even in Frankfurt on NYE yet this Alt-Righter took the Breitbart/Bild articles as gospel like truth. Honestly, if Breitbart reported that Queen Elizabeth II had a bisexual lover called Esmeralda this guy would have believed it to be true without bothering to check other sources. When you think Breitbart employs people like crude Milo Yiannopoulous as its "senior technology editor" and had Steven "I wanna destroy the Republican Party for the sheer hell of it" Bannon as its executive chair you know that media outlet's going to spread fake news (with alternative facts) like wildfire. That's without the deplorable Pizzagate smear against Hillary Clinton's campaign (that alleged they knowingly took part in a child sex ring). Anyways, back to crazy Pepe meme guy who thought that rape was primarily the fault of immigrants.  Don't guys like him know that rape can be perpetrated by white Christian men too? Mind you, a study by Edwards et al (2014) "found that a third of university male students didn't know what rape was and would even go as far as to rape a woman if they know nobody would find out" (thanks to Elena Guthrie and Sidonie Bertrand-Shelton of the Kicking the Kyriarchy podcast for that nugget!) If male uni students really do believe this, what about those who haven't been to uni? Super scary!

As I've talked/blogged about before, I was orally raped on my way home from a nightclub in December 2009 by a white man wearing a cross...he may have been a heterosexual Christian for all I know but my story and that of countless rape victims, including men who had been sexually abused and raped as boys by Catholic priests demonstrates that eliminating immigration from Muslim majority countries (whether illegal or not) won't eliminate rape as the Alt-Righter had suggested. Eliminating immigration won't eliminate sexual assaults or domestic violence either, whether the victim identifies as female, male or non-binary or any other identity they choose to ascribe to themselves. Alt-Righters who never bother to donate or help out at a Domestic Violence and Domestic Abuse (DVA) survivor shelter or Rape survivor charity can't get on their high horse and talk about "being the best people" or "electing the best people" to protect us all from rape, sexual assault or DVA. It's usually their "dreaded foe", us intersectional feminists, radical feminists, self-defining feminists, egalitarians or just amazing, warm hearted folks who donate and help out on a regular basis. I'm #SorryNotSorry to keep on reiterating that. Women's Aid under Polly Neate has done far more to help domestic violence survivors than the arch anti-feminist cray-cray gun-toting Milo will ever do for male survivors of domestic abuse and domestic violence, let alone female or non-binary survivors. Yes I want to see domestic abuse and domestic violence services better tailored towards helping LGBTQIA survivors, elderly survivors, disabled survivors..in fact any survivor regardless of gender identity or sexuality but Milo and his gang have never mentioned such a desire once. Then again, what do you expect from a guy that intentionally misgenders a trans woman activist on live TV whilst wearing the fakest looking pearls available on the open market (yes I'm talking about that bizarre Bill Maher appearance last week!!)

When Alt-Righter men say that feminism reduces men's rights, I'll ask whether they're aware of feminists and egalitarians who strive to improve rights for all survivors of domestic violence and abuse that they should be interested as men in participating in. Because if you don't give a flying fig for male survivors of domestic violence and abuse or male survivors of rape but you hark on about feminism being a danger to masculinity because it'll erase "real" men, you've got your priorities wrong, mate. Start advocating for better service provision for survivors and you might, just might, get positive comments from the feminists you seek to decry who have been involved in projects to help survivors and to reduce instances of rape. Care about projects such as #AskForAngela (a project designed to help women and men and non-binary people to protect themselves from dangerous dates by getting the bar manager to call a taxi for them without the date trying to follow them home). We should all care about reducing instances of rape that occur on university/college campuses and if the #AskForAngela campaign helps to do this, that's great. Only those that believe they'll never be in danger of rape because they are "strong enough" to resist do not advocate for a reduction in rates of rape, including those that are committed by a friend or family member. Remember: it's not just an issue confined to one race, one gender identity or one type of sexuality. It affects us all.

The age-old attack against a general sense of feminism repeatedly surfaces among the Alt-Right commentators. Of course there are some feminist ideas that are perhaps unpalatable to many; Jill Johnston's 1974 book Lesbian Nation: the Feminist Solution, for example posits that there should be a separation of men and women and that sex amongst women should be seen as a political statement to undermine the domination and power of man. As a trans intersectional feminist who identifies as asexual, Johnston's suggestion wouldn't really cover me particularly well. Such radical feminist thinking doesn't reflect the whole feminist movement, even if Milo seems to think it does. In fact, it's almost in the lifeblood of the Alt-Right movement to be against anyone who voices any remotely positive comment that may have originated from a self-defining feminist. Alt-Right commentators lie when they proclaim that feminists are not talking about Female Genital Mutilation- FGM (we do - e.g. Somalian anti FGM activist Nimco Ali who co-founded and is Director of the Daughters of Eve not-for-profit organisation that provides support to girls and women living in FGM communities to try and prevent FGM and look after those who have gone through FGM). Alt-Righters talk about feminists not being interested in making sure white working class boys get a decent education (we are but what's stopping male MPs in helping us to come up with solutions-e.g. getting more Dads to read stories to their boys on a nightly basis to get them interested in reading for themselves) and they talk about feminists wanting to reduce men to a state of servitude (we really don't want to do that). It's quite funny really but I bet the majority of Alt-Right commentators have never heard about transfeminists like Julia Serano  or black queer feminists such as Kimberlé Crenshaw who coined the term intersectionality in 1989 to highlight the need for academic feminists to talk about empowerment for all women, not just middle class white ones like Germaine Greer and Jill Johnston. It's almost as if Alt-Right tweeters do not value the importance of education or finding out such facts or views on one's own...they rely on Breitbart and Info Wars to feed facts and views to them. That might explain why they snarl at successful working class graduates and say that university is no place for those who hold conservative values because they can't help but end up being "indoctrinated" by left wing professors who believe in same sex marriage...or even worse....feminism! If being given the impetus to seek out articles, reviews or books on one's own when an English and Philosophy student is now seen as "indoctrination", then there's a definite attempt to stifle critical thinking. If potential working class students should be shamed into dropping out of unis because they are "liberal paradises" then social mobility improvements might stall further and we won't get lawyers, doctors, teachers or MPs from working class backgrounds acting as great role models for others and helping to make society even more equal. That'd be a great shame!

Is the Alt-Right really "constrained" Freedom of Speech wise?
On campuses across the West, Alt-Right (usually white men) proclaim that feminists, trans activists, migrants and environmental protestors are "stifling" their freedom of speech. Well forgive me if I don't sound that impressed with Milo sycophants constantly comparing any idea or concept that they see as liberal, progressive or left as equivalent to a disgusting, painful disease like cancer. "Feminism is Cancer", "Islam is Cancer", "Transgender is Cancer"...what's next...."Elderly War Veterans asking for more social care funding is Cancer"?? It's rather a slippery slope philosophically to keep comparing an idea to something every people wants to see eradicated from the world and yet still demand that everyone respect their right to free speech. Demonstrations of free speech come in different forms. These days you can create your own platform through tweeting, Facebook messaging/posting, podcasting, vlogging, blogging and letter writing and all are valid forms of free speech. If you're lucky enough to get noticed, you end up attending debating societies, taking part in lectures and talks and appearing on talk shows or political shows. Yet whenever Alt-Righters manage to gain access to such platforms that they've constantly demanded to be included on, they use it to proclaim silly things like "Feminism Is Cancer" and "Feminazis are curtailing my right to free speech." Not strictly true if you've managed to gain enough notoriety/acclaim to get on a prime time/ late night show. Alt-Right commentators don't seem to do anything productive or positive with the platform. They use the platform to whine about how they are being perceived by the mainstream media despite those media outlets now helping to give them a national or international platform. Alt-Righters moan about hard working migrants taking agricultural jobs away from "indigenous" white folks like themselves without understanding those migrants are prepared to do the back-breaking, tough jobs to help make ends meet and create a better life for themselves. As for the  moralisation over trans and non-binary people, claiming they are "in total denial" with a majority "being a real threat" to women and girls in bathrooms when they've never bothered advocating for stronger jail terms for rapists or sexual predators....that's just fearmongering to the max. No wonder there's little time for mainstream news anchors, journalists and activists to try and foster discussions about economic inequality, hospital bed shortages or rural bus services with Milo et al. Issues that actually matter to the public at large. The Alt-Right whinge a lot about political activists and protestors but they never seem to come up with valid solutions to genuine issues and concerns. Perhaps Alt-Righters only care about their own self-promotion after all!

So yes, Alt-Righters constantly moan about not being able to express their views freely. Notwithstanding, they should know this: freedom of speech does not mean freedom of speech without there being consequences. Remember that quote formally attributed to Voltaire but turned out to have actually been written by his female biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall in her Friends of Voltaire (1906): "I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it." Alt-Righters may have the right to say "Feminism Is Cancer" on their own platform but feminists have the right to dispute, mock and critique that sentence on our platforms too. When Milo states that trans women are not women, he should expect to be challenged by trans activists and their allies.  I'm not a Milo sycophant so do not expect me to sit there and deny my own gender identity just to please Milo and make him feel superiorly safe in his own identity. Milo seems to indulge in actively displaying his self loathing, trying to make other LGBTQIA+ people question their own identities at the same time. Questioning of identity leads to doubt which can create fear of those who may seem more confident in their own identity than yourself. Don't fall for it. You should love who you are.

Privilege and White Genocide and Islamophobia: The absurdity of it all...
I'm very lucky to have been born in a relatively democratic country with working class parents who toiled to make a better life for me and my brother. My Norwegian-Swedish Mum found life hard in the UK after growing up under the apartheid regime in South Africa. Being called racist just because of the country she grew up in knocked her confidence. Yet she persisted and ended up working in the care sector for over 17 years helping to look after the elderly in a care home. I know I am less oppressed than my Mum has been and I certainly know I'm less oppressed than someone who has the same educational history as me but comes from a British BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) background. My parents have liberal views so at least I'm not oppressed for my gender identity at home.

Alt-Righters on Twitter seem to get viscerally offended if white people state that they are less oppressed or more privileged than other groups. "Why are you a traitor to your race you liberal cuck?" was one particular tweet I remember being posted on a hashtag last week. Alt-Righters love accusing liberal protestors of  perpetuating "White Genocide" and being prejudiced towards white working class people. As a white working class person who bothered to get themselves an education by working hard at school and university and reading around widely, I resent the assumption that we white working class people are victims of any genocide. When I think of the term genocide I primarily think of the Holocaust (by the way a Polish Jew called Raphael Lemkin coined the term in 1943 having escaped the Nazis after managing to get permission to enter the US in 1941; he lost 49 relatives in the Holocaust) but there are others, including the 1994 Rwanda genocide where an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered.  Now there is a lot of debate over how genocide should be defined-e.g. whether the UN Convention on Genocide definition created in December 1948 is too broad to be applied but one thing is clear to me: white people in the West are currently not being systematically wiped out on the basis of their race or even their nationality or religious belief. We may have terrorist atrocities being committed by Islamic Fundamentalists who want to spread fear and hatred but such attacks remain rare. When Alt-Righters apply the term "White Genocide" to the result of increasing migration or birth rates as a result of that migration or the increasing amount of refugees from the Middle East who happen to be Muslim, they are being even more inane. Alt-Righters can't keep going around tweeting/telling people to fear an entire group of people based on their religion and/or nationality. Yes, Islamic Fundamentalist terrorists go round throwing homosexuals off buildings and yes they have stoned people to death for committing adultery. But do Alt-Righters really think the majority of refugees or migrants from the Middle East, especially Syria are here to throw trans people like me off buildings or stone love cheats to death on our streets? They come to Europe in search of peace of mind, safety and freedom. They've escaped the oppressive conservative regime of ISIS. You think they really want to help replicate that regime here? If you do, you need to go and talk to refugees and migrants from Syria or listen or read their stories online. But then I doubt Alt-Righters would bother to try and demonstrate this basic kind of empathy. They're too busy stereotyping trans people and bashing the press. What a pity.

To deny LGBTQIA+ Muslims exist in the Middle East and in the West is out and out ridiculousness. They are trying to change hearts and minds. Arsham Parsi is an Iranian who founded the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR) after years of working to help gay Iranians secretly connect with each other. Baron Waheed Alli, a Labour life peer helped to advocate for the lowering of the age of consent in the UK for homosexual acts from 18 to 16, the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000. Yes Alt-Righters in the UK who happen to be gay...a gay Muslim Labour peer helped to reduce the age of consent. What do you think about that?

There are trans Muslim activists across the Middle East who are speaking out against regressive fundamentalist Islamic practices. Activists like Demet Demir, a Turkish trans female politician who fought for the right to amend her gender legally and Yasmene Jabar, a US born trans woman who married a Jordanian Muslim and organised the Middle East's first conference on trans issues in 2005. Do you think Demet and Yasmene share the same religious beliefs as ISIS terrorists? No. Progressive Muslims are ashamed of seeing terrorists appropriate their religious beliefs to murder innocent people because they don't agree with fundamentalist practices. Why punish progressives based purely on their religious identity? That's crazy. LGBTQIA+ Muslims are not going to kill you for being LGBTQIA+ because they've seen what ISIS terrorists and fundamentalists (e.g. Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia)  have done to them. They're more than willing to join in with actions to defeat the terrorists but not at the cost of electing a man who wants to ban progressive, peaceful Muslims from entering the US or being given asylum just because a few have used the asylum seeker level as cover to undertake terrorist activists. Why demonise a whole religion for the actions of a few reckless souls who fear change?

A common type of insult that protestors now routinely see on their Twitter accounts and Facebook mentions is that their act of protesting is helping to amplify or even legitimise "radical Islamist terrorist voices". "Do you want Sharia Law to become dominant in the UK?" or "Don't you know that your liberal views are making us less safe" they tweet. I don't know about you dear reader but I didn't see any placards at the Women's Marches calling for homosexuality to be punishable by death or all women being forced to wear hijab to protect their modesty. In the UK wearing hijab is a personal choice, with the right to choose guaranteed by Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (Freedom of Expression). Face veils or full burqa dress are still rarely seen on UK streets; in Lincoln I've only seen a handful of Muslim woman wearing burqas and they were going about their business perfectly normally. Why should I automatically assume they are the wife of a terrorist or a terrorist themselves? The Women's Marches included progressive Muslim voices although the only person cited by conservative and Alt-Right commentators is Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist and executive director of the Arab American Association of New York who served as co-chair of the 2017 Women's March and endorsed progressive Bernie Sanders in the 2016 US Democratic Primary season. Candice Morgan of the Toronto Sun states that Sarsour defends Sharia Law in Saudi Arabia by "speaking positively about their maternity leave being compared to the US and dismissing concerns about the ban on female drivers and forced head coverings for Muslim women." Yet there were and are other progressive Muslim activists involved in the protests who reject Sharia Law, who want to see an end to FGM and to see a more compassionate approach to LGBTQIA+ people. What's so wrong with human rights activists marching in solidarity with those liberal/reformist Muslims?

The Power of Protest Compels You:
In the age of the rise of the populist far right, aided by the proliferation of Alt-Right platforms, empowering forms of liberal and left protest are beginning to become the norm. Nobody expected the Women's March on Washington planned for the day after *45's (Trump's) inauguration to have as large as it turned out to be (500,000 people attended) or that such a march would be replicated around the world (673 marches across all 7 continents, including 1 in Antarctica with an estimated 5 million people having marched in solidarity against *45). Working class, salt of the earth women who never expected to find themselves marching at the front of a huge demonstration are now embrace the liberating feeling of making "their voice heard", with some continuing to brandish their phenomenally witty placards with pride. It seems funny to me that Alt-Righters now seem hell-bent on writing off the Women's March or subsequent marches being attended by liberal or left wing protestors as "not having anything valuable to say". They seem to forget that in the UK or US or Europe that protesting can be seen as a form of freedom of expression that includes speech. Our right to freedom of speech in the UK is enshrined in Article 10 of the HRA based on the articles contained within the EU Convention on Human Rights. Anyone can use the HRA, whether they are a UK national or not. In the UK you have the right to attend a protest as it is guaranteed by Article 11 of the HRA. It states that anyone can attend a protest (freedom of assembly) provided it is peaceful and conducted legally (this means the organiser of a protest march has to notify the police at least 6 days before the march takes place but doesn't need to if the protest will be static). So no matter how much Alt-Righters might complain at those who organise and attend protests, they can't stop peaceful ones from taking place. If you attend a protest, know that you can't be arrested for simply carrying a placard or for wearing a t-shirt but if you get into conversation with an opponent, debate them civilly.

Alt Righters In Doubt Create Controversies To Tarnish The Validity of Liberal & Left Protests & Protestors:
Alt-Righters think they can slander their way towards reducing the size of protests against the populist far right leaders like *45, Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders. Really, Alt-Righters are just populist far-right supporters who prefer the term "Alt-Right" because it makes them seem cool and hip and "happening". Milo, Paul John Watson, Alex Jones...they're all part of a vanguard of hate designed to instil a sense of fear in the younger generation. Fear of strong women, fear of trans people, fear of refugees/migrants and fear of Muslims. Protestors have seen through their lies. That's why when all is said and done the only tactic Alt-Right commentators have left is to create conspiracy theories which through shade on protest organisers but more importantly, protestors themselves. "Oh every liberal contest is funded by "commie" billionaire (George) Soros and former President Barack Obama cos they hate *45". If only Soros and Obama were that omniscient and omnipotent to sponsor every protest going! Unlike *45, people like Soros and President Obama don't need to claim they are either omniscient or omnipotent to support the right to protest. They don't try to control the narrative. Such a blasé comment engineered by Alt-Right commentators is incredibly insulting to the thousands of working class activists who have paid out of their own pocket to travel to attend marches. Yes cleaners, nurses, retail workers, waitresses, administrative and accounts assistants will have attended the marches in London, Stockholm, Washington and all over the world. Some of them will never have attended a protest before. Some of them will have saved up for over a month to afford the cost of staying over in a hotel just to be part of a movement that touched their hearts. It was their free choice to decide to attend and I dare Alt-Righters to try and take away the valuable validity of their contributions by telling them face to face.

Supporting protests doesn't make you a liberal victim as Alt-Righters would have you believe. You're not a victim for choosing to speak out about the need to protect and respect fundamental rights that have been put in place over the last few decades. When people think you're a victim for speaking out for the need for all of us to unite to protect fundamental rights that are at risk of being taken away by those who think they are "special privileges", then that's exactly the time to consider protest as a first course of action. You're equally not a victim for believing that a person has a duty to care about the situation of vulnerable people around the world, especially refugees from Syria. Alt-Righters may label you a "globalist" and accuse you of not being a patriot but you don't have to be proud of your country's cultural heritage and be insular and fearful of others not born in your country. Proclaiming you're a "Citizen of the World" on a placard indicates that you care about others, regardless of their nationality. You're not a victim for showing compassion towards those who differ from you in terms of gender identity, sexuality, belief/faith, even political views. It's a basic tenet of compassion to show concern and love for your neighbour, something regularly mentioned in The Bible by a certain young man with long hair wearing brown sandals who came from the Middle East.

Supporting protests that uphold our human rights, including the rights of refugees, migrants, LGBTQIA+ people and specific women's rights such as being able to have access to a legal, safe abortion matters greatly. Yet protest can also be a great way of meeting like-minded folks who want to change the world to make it a more understanding, compassionate place. Protesting lets the "powers that be" know that we care about our rights and some protestors use their placards/voices to say that they want to increase the rights/protections we have if possible. Social change happens when we come together and decide that the government we have isn't good enough and we want to do something lawful about it. Protests can help signal this desire, especially as most of the protestors are young Millennials, the group the Alt-Right accuse of being "workshy lazy bums" the most often. The young voters you see protesting in the streets who are 16/17 years old now. They will be 20/21 when the next big elections take place in the US and UK. Don't think that they'll forget marching as part of a huge movement against a man who espouses inward nationalistic protectionist discourse. What voters like them need isn't a strongman who promises the earth and petulantly insults people who disagree with him using Twitter as his vehicle for heated rhetoric. They want someone who is willing to address economic inequality, including asset and wealth inequality without denigrating minority groups to achieve their goals. They want to know that when they do eventually get a job they won't be treated as second class citizens because they happen to be transgender or Muslim or have a facial disfigurement.  If you don't think that protestors in the UK or Norway or Sweden don't have a valid reason to protest, remember that they are protesting in solidarity with those who feel marginalised/vulnerable or feel they may be marginalised/be made vulnerable as a consequence of decisions made by their government. If that doesn't persuade you, it doesn't really matter because the protests will continue to happen anyways. Not just against *45 but against the ideals leaders such as *45 want to espouse. Ideas they share in common with the Alt-Right aka populist far-right who defend transphobic incoherent babblers like Milo and anti-Swedish Islamophobic thin-skinned Paul Watson. These ideas must be confronted head-on. Protesting is just one form of freedom of expression we can use to signal and voice our opposition...a start, rather than an end to political and social discourse, the discourse Alt-Righters crave yet bemoan.