Not only was the turnout in last week’s European Parliament elections the highest in at least 20 years; the results themselves were nothing less than spectacular. In Italy, Matteo Salvini pronounced: “A new Europe is born.” Writing in De Volkskrant, Dutch journalist Marc Peeperkorn declared that the vote tallies marked the end of the “omnipotence” in Brussels of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, a significant step forward for Green parties, and a “modest” advance for “Euroskeptic populists.”
“Modest” strikes me as a classic example of calculated mass-media understatement. In fact, to judge by the results, the main reason that millions of Europeans flocked to the polls was to tell Brussels that they’re sick of being ruled by Brussels. Almost everywhere on the continent, results for Euroskeptic parties were, at the very least, encouraging, and at most downright stunning: in France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally came in first; ditto Salvini’s Northern League in Italy and the Freedom Party in Austria (whose leader, chancellor Sebastian Kurz, has just been ousted as a result of a scandal); in Germany, Alternative for Germany finished a strong fourth place; in Sweden, the Sweden Democrats almost tied for third with the Moderates; in the Netherlands, Thierry Baudet’s fledgling Forum for Democracy secured a promising fourth. (Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party came in eighth.)
But the biggest news of all was in Britain, where the ruling Tories dropped to fifth place and Nigel Farage’s just-founded Brexit Party topped them all, securing 28 MEPs to the Liberal Democrats’ 15, Labour’s 10, the Greens’ 7, and the Conservatives’ 3. It was the first time in British history that so new a party had won such a sensational victory. Brexit will now have the largest delegation of any party in the European Parliament. It triumphed even in cities that had voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, suggesting that former Remainers, perhaps in reaction to Brussels’ arrogant response to Brexit, have changed their mind about the EU – and/or that Remainers, despite their views on EU membership, resent their Tory-led Parliament’s failure to carry out the electorate’s clearly stated will.
Yet while the vote in Britain marked a clear and welcome mandate for departure from the EU – deal or no deal – Farage’s former party, UKIP, which had been the cause’s standard bearer for a quarter century, was shut out. Even its leader, Gerard Batten, lost his seat. Popular YouTuber Carl Benjamin (who goes online by “Sargon of Akkad”) lost his high-profile bid to represent southwestern England. Perhaps most crushing of all, for those who care not only about British sovereignty but about British freedoms in the face of Islamization and ubiquitous appeasement, Tommy Robinson, running as an independent, suffered a huge loss in the northwest, purportedly pulling down a mere 2% of the vote.
I’m a big fan of Katie Hopkins, but I must confess that Tommy’s loss, and the campaign that led up to it, has caused me to doubt one of her core assertions – namely, that while London is packed with lockstep, EU-loving social-justice warriors, “the rest of England” is made up mainly of sensible, freedom-loving patriots. Yes, the massive support for Farage’s party was terrific. But Brexit stands only for Brexit. Farage himself, unlike Tommy Robinson and the new UKIP and Anne Marie Waters’s For Britain Party, refuses to criticize Islam or admit it’s a problem. He has stayed mum about widespread official intimidation of critics of Islam. Nor has he commented, so far as I know, on Tommy’s frequent harassment by the police, his illegitimate prosecution by the judiciary, his demonization by the news media, and his deplatforming by the social-media moguls of Silicon Valley. Late in the campaign came the news that Royal Mail employees were bragging online about having junked Tommy Robinson campaign literature instead of delivering it – an act that in the U.S., it seems to me, would be a felony. One would have hoped that Brits who are concerned about such matters would have given Farage a pass this time around and opted for UKIP and for Tommy.
By the time the elections rolled around, however, I wasn’t surprised by the results. In the weeks leading up to the vote, I followed both Tommy’s and Benjamin’s campaigns on YouTube. Tommy held rallies and gave speeches, seeking, as he put it on Sunday night, to “politicize the working class,” whose members have been the chief victims of their country’s Islamization but who, in matters of governance, have persisted in deferring to their “betters.” Valiantly, and perhaps quixotically, Tommy sought to change that.
Benjamin, for his part, set up shop in town squares, where he sat down with locals, some of whom shared his views and some of whom hated his guts, and discussed – or tried to discuss – the issues. Both men, Tommy especially, drew crowds of fans. But there were also Antifa types on the scene, eager to stir up trouble. And one day a couple of hundred rabid Muslims – who, outrageously, were escorted to the site of a Tommy Robinson rally by police officers – started a riot, throwing bricks and stones and obliging families with small children to beat a hasty retreat. There were no arrests – how could the cops arrest the culprits when they themselves had led them to the scene of the crime? – and the incident, as far as I can tell, made no headlines in the British press. It was a disgusting spectacle, making perfectly clear which side the British authorities are on.
Yet perhaps even more unsettling than that ugly clash were the many middle-class folks in “the rest of England” who, in their interactions with Tommy and Benjamin or in interviews with the reporter from Canada’s Rebel Media who followed Tommy’s campaign day by day, showed just how completely they’d been brainwashed by the establishment. Over and over, one saw people who looked like ordinary, wholesome bourgeoisie going berserk at the sight of Tommy or Benjamin, calling them fascists and racists and accusing them of “trying to divide us.” They claimed to stand for love and harmony and all good things, but they spewed hate. One elderly man, his face contorted by rage, spat out the c-word at the Rebel Media reporter, a polite and gentle young woman just out of journalism school.
Both Tommy and Benjamin tried patiently to talk sense to these people. They wouldn’t listen. They couldn’t process facts. They couldn’t form a thought. They couldn’t put together an argument. Instead they dealt almost exclusively in chants and curses and slogans. Facts be damned – they had learned to find certain facts offensive. They were not interested in seriously addressing social challenges; they were interested only in being seen to express the attitudes toward those challenges that they had been trained to regard as nice.
During his campaign, Benjamin had to keep responding to challenges about a tweet he’d written some time ago about Jess Phillips, a feminist Labour MP who, unwilling to take men’s problems seriously, had quashed efforts by a fellow MP to debate solutions to the crisis of male suicide. In response, Benjamin had tweeted facetiously that he wouldn’t even rape Phillips. For this arguably tasteless gibe, he was endlessly hounded on the campaign trail and, in one memorable appearance, was raked over the coals on BBC – the same network, mind you, that for decades turned a blind eye to the serial predations of its own in-house child rapist, TV star Jimmy Savile, and that for decades, too, joined the rest of Britain’s legacy media in ignoring the epidemic of Muslim gang rape. You would have thought that all of these rapes put together, at the very least tens of thousands of them, were less horrendous than Benjamin’s joke.
In one conversation about the British government’s ongoing crackdown on criticism of Islam, Benjamin quoted Orwell’s famous statement to the effect that free speech means being permitted to tell people what they don’t want to hear. His interlocutor, a history teacher, dismissed this notion. No, she said, you shouldn’t be allowed to hurt my feelings. Benjamin replied, quite rightly, that if things operated her way, he would be tyrannized by her feelings. She laughed at this. “I’m a tyrant?!” The logic was entirely lost on her. For these people, it was clear, pretty much the worst crime of all would be to hurt their feelings. The wrong word, therefore, can be more violent than violence itself. Indeed, their view is that violence in their own cause is legitimate, if it is intended to shut down harmful speech.
Repeatedly, one heard people from “the rest of England” decrying unrestricted free speech. Freedom of speech is all well and good, they said, “so long as it doesn’t hurt others.” “You can kill people with a speech,” one person actually said. Another told Benjamin that he didn’t deserve freedom of speech because he wasn’t using it “to any productive end.” Opponents of Tommy said it was a good idea to deplatform him and that his supporters because they were “spreading hate” and “encouraging violence.” But nobody, when asked, could provide a single example of any of these people spreading hate or encouraging violence.
As for Tommy’s hostility toward the doctrines of Islam, all of his critics seemed to be agreed that it was just plain nasty. As one twenty-something girl put it, Muhammed was a “good guy”: she knew this, she said, because she had “learned about him in school.” When Carl Benjamin tried to talk to one older woman, a professed Christian, about the grooming gangs that have devastated, if not destroyed, thousands of families in cities like Rotherham and Rochdale, she refused – apparently because talking about such matters gives pain to Muslims. Instead of being willing to tackle this uncomfortable issue, she kept repeating her mantra: “I believe in love. We all need to love each other.”
Some people just found it tacky to address such matters as Islamic rape. One man who acknowledged the link between such atrocities and Islam itself suggested that it would nonetheless be “more refined” to avoid the word Islam and instead say “sectarian.” How, we may ask, did telling the simple truth about a certain ideology come to be viewed as unrefined? And why is refinement the be-all and end-all anyway? In the search for an answer to this and related questions, one finds oneself repeatedly coming back to the British class system. To belong to the British middle class, after all, is to define yourself in opposition to the working class – and in order to draw that line, you’ve got to make sure you never sound remotely like a bigot, a vulgarian, a xenophobe. Which means decrying “Islamophobia” and the like as reflexively, and as vehemently, as possible.
Never forget that understatement and circumlocution are the traditional hallmarks of British civilization. It’s a society built on “quites” and “rathers,” on innumerable social nuances and subtleties, on manners and mores designed to separate the aristocratic wheat from the plebeian chaff – all of which, alas, renders all too many Brits constitutionally incapable of honestly discussing the enemy within, who feels fully entitled to drain their treasury, rape their children, and demand the imposition of severe and oppressive sharia strictures on formerly free Western institutions. While the anti-Brussels vote across Europe, then, was assuredly cheering, the refusal – or the congenital inability – of Brits to vote in meaningful numbers for people who are openly critical of Islam does not bode well for their nation’s future.