The migrant crisis is too great an opportunity to ignore for many virtue-signalling members of Generation Me, Me, Me
Brendan O’Neill hits the nail on the head with his latest criticism of sanctimonious celebrity campaigners for open borders, in a piece entitled “You’re so vain, you think the refugee crisis is about you”.
Narcissism runs through the discussion. The question these refugees raise is ‘What kind of people do we want to be?’, says one columnist. The keyword here: ‘we’. On the supposedly pro-refugee side, the game of self-reflection has been intense. Witness Allen’s TV-camera tears when she was chatting to an Afghan boy in Calais, after which the entire discussion became about her. Her image was everywhere. There was a thinkpiece war, some saying ‘Allen was right’, others saying ‘Allen was wrong’. It became about the role of celebrities in public life and whether emotionalism has a part to play in political decision-making, with the migrants reduced to mere objects of our self-reflection, and our tears, not the subjects of their own story.
Then there was Stella Creasy, the self-promoting Labour MP, interviewed in the London Evening Standard, promising to stand up for these child migrants regardless of how much flak she will get (shorter version: ‘I am brave’). The piece was accompanied by a massive picture of Creasy: no image of refugees, just her, because this is about her, not them. Then the story became all about Lineker, after he tweeted his concern for the refugees and was blasted by the Sun for doing so. What is the role of BBC people if not to be morally switched-on, a thousand op-ed scribblers asked, because this is about the Beeb, and the media, and us, not them. Jeremy Corbyn got stuck into the discussion of ‘what kind of people we want to be’ by praising Allen and Lineker for showing ‘Britain at its best’. It was a surreal illustration of the evacuation of substance and seriousness from public debate and their replacement by The Spectacle, largely of emotion: a political leader hailing media representations of sorrow for migrants over anything solid or concrete in relation to the actual lives of the actual migrants.
The media discussion has provided a striking insight into what being pro-migration largely means today: that you – the keyword being ‘you’ – are compassionate. Migrants are latched on to, not because of a genuine commitment to the idea of free movement (witness Creasy saying of course some migrants will have to be kept out), but rather as a means of self-distinction. To be pro-migrant is to be superior to those badly informed Others, who have a name now: Brexiteers. This is why so much of the child-refugee discussion has become bound up with Brexit-bashing. ‘What do we see each morning, post-Brexit, when we look in the mirror?’, asked a Guardian columnist of the child-refugee situation (keyword: ‘mirror’). He says we see a nation ‘hollowed out in terms of compassion’, but of course he means that is what ordinary, ugly, Brexit-voting Brits see in the mirror, not the migrant-loving Brits at the Guardian.
My emphasis in bold.
To be fair, Brendan also accuses many of the most strident anti-migrant voices of the same sin; I do not want to misrepresent his piece. But then Brendan O’Neill and Spiked (bless them) are enthusiastic advocates for completely open borders and the free movement of people everywhere – “it doesn’t matter if they’re kids, teens or adults: the length of their journey and the strength of their desire to live and work on Britain are surely sufficient to grant them access” – an idea rather ahead of its time (not to mention politically toxic so long as such disparities of wealth, culture and values persist).
But Brendan is absolutely right to note that the people of the Calais Jungle – genuine refugees and economic migrants alike – have largely been become political pawns in the ongoing British immigration debate. What matters to many people is how they are seen to talk about the migrant crisis rather than there being found an effective solution – as we saw only this week when Labour MP Chi Onwurah got upset about a poster mocking leftist credulity about migrants posing as refugees, claiming that it was “offensive” when it in no way targeted genuine child refugees.
O’Neill also writes perceptively of the “moral thrill” experienced by many of the “let them all in” camp, and indeed you see it coursing through numerous posts on social media, the intent of many seems far more to do with aggrandising the poster than trying to reach a reasonable compromise with those who do not want to let every last person into Britain unquestioningly.
But to his criticism of the political right:
The narcissism of the other side is striking, too. It is hard to believe that these right-leaning observers really believe that 70 young people coming to Britain will have any kind of terrible impact. And yet they demand that the arrivals’ teeth be checked to see how old they are, and furiously tweet photos of the young men with adolescent moustaches and mobile phones as if to say: ‘See! They’re grown-up! They’re dangerous!’ This is a performance of toughness, of security, to match the performance of compassion of the other side. Just as the pro-refugee side sidelines serious debate about freedom of movement and the role of their beloved EU and its Fortress Europe in creating this crisis, so the anti-refugee side dodges difficult questions of what is really causing a sense of insecurity in 21st-century Europe in favour of turning a handful of young refugees into symbols of existential disarray. Indicators, symbols, mirrors – that’s all these people are, to both sides.
I don’t see it that way at all. While some people do demand that Britain stop accepting any further refugees, a majority would be happy, I believe, if the UK government was simply a little less credulous and a bit more discerning about the people we do accept – both as to their age and the validity of their status as refugees rather than economic migrants.
The pictures do not lie – many of those already brought to Britain from the dismantled Calais Jungle camp are clearly adults. Does that automatically mean that they are not deserving of help? No, and I don’t think that anybody serious has claimed otherwise. But if this country is accepting fully grown men who claim to be children, what is to say that other levels of scrutiny which are supposedly taking place – like checking that entrants are not violent jihadists – are any more reliable? If the UK government is squeamish about insisting that child refugee applicants submit to dental tests to verify their age, have they also been reticent to ask whether the people they are ferrying from Calais to Croydon intend to wage jihad from inside their adoptive country? The incompetence we have already seen rightly makes us wonder about the incompetence which is being kept hidden from us.
These are perfectly legitimate questions to ask, and they do not constitute virtue signalling in the same way that the Left have seized on the migrant crisis to portray themselves as saints and the rest of us as sinners. Particularly in the context of the recent bloody history of ISIS using the migration crisis as a cover to slip Islamist extremists into Western countries, a basic level of scrutiny should be one of the first duties of government – yet there is now legitimate cause to fear that this scrutiny is not being applied for fear of causing “offence”, either to the migrants themselves or (more likely) to their powerful left-wing cheerleaders.
And here’s the thing.
Far right-wing rhetoric may be much more unpleasant to the ear than trendy lefty dronings about a borderless world of people holding hands beneath a rainbow. But leftist rhetoric and actions when it comes to the migrant crisis have killed far more people than anything said or done by those who are sceptical of accepting every last economic migrant who fancies a new life in Britain.
It was the leftist cheerleaders of Angela Merkel’s “open doors” policy who encouraged thousands more people to make the treacherous journey across Europe, some in genuine fear of imminent harm but many simply seeking a better life.
It was the leftist campaigners who accused sceptics of heartlessness for wanting to start turning boats back as a disincentive to make perilous the sea voyage who tacitly encouraged many more people to do so, and drown in the process.
And it was the false hope given by leftist agitators that Britain would ultimately accept a trumped-up moral obligation to accept thousands of people already enjoying the protection of France, hardly the most dangerous country in the world, which encouraged even more people to flock to the Jungle and remain there.
And yet we are supposed to believe that open borders zealots and sceptics are equally at fault when it comes to virtue signalling about the migrant crisis? Absolutely not. Exploiting migrants and refugees to burnish their own compassion credentials is the Left’s bread and butter, and it is an emotional comfort blanket whose cost can be measured in human lives.
So let’s not pretend that there is any moral equivalency in terms of blame for the suffering of migrants holed up in Calais. There is none. This is a crisis manufactured by the Left and encouraged by the Left for the benefit of the Left. They own it.
And all of Lily Allen’s tears will not wash away their culpability.
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As I pointed out in the previous post as well the child Lily Allen wept over is allegedly the son of a jihadi who we did let in, clearly without anything resembling a background check. A jihadi moreover who was allegedly a commander in a group that murdered intellectuals like Brendan O’Neill and threw acid at women. As a high-profile pop singer who does all the wrong things from an Islamic perspective she will find herself in a lot of trouble if the UK ever becomes Muslim majority. Clearly neither of them would fare very well in a world dominated by the people they are trying so hard to help.
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Not that the western political right-wing have anything in particular to claim innocence on, but there’s a colossal amount of convenient Nelsonian blind-eye tactics in all this.
Some from the left certainly need to revisit the origin tenets of Socialist ‘Internationalism’. ‘The Trades Union movement is nothing if it is not an International [Movement]’ – Keir Hardie. Benchmark internationalism was based upon the exportation of workplace rights and dignity. It was not, and never about, the importation of poverty by which employers could bypass the inconvenience of attempting to attract reliable skilled labour at home. ‘Internationalism’ in its true meaning is almost the exact antethisis of that which parts of the UK* left now wield.
(*The UK left. It’s a historic constant that socialism failed in its central principle because socialists overseas invariably held very differing concepts of it. So different that a true match was impossible to achieve.)
That linked article is of no real academic value. It’s a boilerplate litany of self-indulgent hand-wringing. I link to it for different reasons.
To go back to the Brexit debate, whilst I personally favour the referendum as a political tool, I came to the conclusion we’d see roughly what the 2016 Referendum actually delivered in Campaigning terms. Just louder variants of the plainly pathetic debate which had preceded it for at least two decades. Project fear-and-insult was a practical guarantee – that side of the debate (and not to exonerate much of the ‘Leave’ Campaigning) has never engaged in the actual substance of what the EU is, and what it means to be a member. Ears are closed, and I’m of the opinion they’re closed forever. I’ve seen no evidence across these years of a genuine attempt in the wider context to have that debate. The real debate is two closed bubbleworlds unbridgeable by any practical means of communication.
I link to the Guardian article above to illustrate this. It’s one of several articles eliciting much the same sentiment recently, and they’re close cousins of the works we’ve seen over the past few years. However, on observation, the forums for these articles are now closed very early indeed (that forum was open for scant hours, where the standard for the Guardian is around three days). If not closed early, they’re absent a forum option in the first instance.
It would be fair comment that many forum entries will be extremely unpleasant tracts of vile ranting. However, that doesn’t usually close a forum since the Guardian moderators are known to be fairly hyperactive about deleting comments they personally don’t agree with. (That turn of phrase used intentionally….!!…) I think the real phenomenon is as you’re alluding to Sam.
I think that part of the political left you are illustrating find that a legitimate counter-narrative to their preferred fabrication to be such an affront to their established viewpoint that they can’t bring themselves to permit a properly constructed opposition to themselves to be available to their gaze. They lack the courage, lack the simple intellectual maturity, to accept that they could be wrong about this. As per the Brexit debate, their drawbridge is up, portcullis is down and messages thrown over the walls are burned unread. That they could possibly be wrong is apostasy.
My observation is that we will never communicate successfully with this bunch. They lack the fundamental capacity.
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Douglas. I enjoyed reading your reply as much as the blog. I cannot add with the same intellectual insight you demonstrate but I would say that the left now is not the one I supported as a younger man.
I feel that Labour has been hijacked by Middle Class Liberals posing as socialists, they know everything about Gaza but wouldn’t know how to order in Argos. The BBC and the Guardian are nothing more than a Wendy House for wannabee socialists.
The only way back from this I can see is to keep holding up a mirror to their hypocrisy, it probably won’t change them but it will help others see how dangerously false their arguments are.
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Great blog. Selfish narcissism needs to be challenged now, unchecked it poses a serious threat to social cohesion. Blackmailing tax payers into spending their tax money on your pet issue results in less money to spend on health, education and pensions. It does not put a person on some higher moral plane. I would argue it is actually an immoral thing to do, it’s not your money, it’s someone else’s. They might have other priorities.
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Hit the nail squarely on the head again Mr Hooper. Of all these over-emoting celebs , how many of them are actually doing anything useful with either their time or money? One of the things I agreed with Cameron was the polucy of funding refugee camps in places like Syria directly. Far more pragmatic. None of these people are exposed to impacts ofimmigration in terms of access to NHS , schools etc. Keep up the good work. N
Many thanks. I agree, it is far better to spend aid money closer to the source by funding decent camps in Syria (and Turkey where practicable) than to create a massive “pull effect” by throwing down our borders and essentially declaring that we are open to emotional blackmail from all corners of the world. I have every sympathy with refugees and I believe that Britain should take our fair share, but the people camped out in Calais are in a safe country and no longer in imminent danger. When they entered the EU and moved beyond their country of entry they became economic migrants, not refugees, and should be treated as such.