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Crawling out From Under a Rock

With the Tories in shambles in the run-up to next month’s EU elections, racists and misogynists are coming out of the woodwork of British politics.

Nigel Farage during the launch of the Brexit Party at BG Penny & Co on April 12, 2019 in Coventry, England. Matthew Lewis / Getty

Leavers on the Right insist that Brexit represents a new dawn, a break from the old politics and a fresh start for Britain. On Monday, however, a candidate for UKIP, Nigel Farage’s old political stomping ground, was revealed to have used a Discord server to drum up support for his EU election campaign, and predictably it was awash with hate.

The UKIP candidate, Youtuber Carl Benjamin — or “Sargon of Akkad” — invited fans to join his server, titled #sargon-MEP-help-offers, to help him get elected. Comments uncovered by Buzzfeed were openly fascist: “Maybe start assassinating fucking Eurocrats, preferably the unelected ones on top. But alas. That would be murder. And be wrong. Totally.” Another user commented: “We should strip them of their humanity first. If they’re not recognized as humans, it’s not murder,” adding, “First step is forcing them to wear some kind of branding on their clothes.” Another asked: “So we decapitate the parliament members?” With a member responding: “Send messages. Hang em on street-lights.”

The comments throughout the Discord were avowedly racist and hate-filled — no surprise from a deliberately controversial candidate who is proudly “anti-feminist” (read, misogynist), and par for the course for much of the Euroskeptic right, which is given so much credulous airtime by the mainstream media.

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage himself, persistent as political sewage, refuses to be be flushed away. Another day, another paparazzi-pandering press launch for his new endeavor: the Brexit Party, its logo a blue arrow, vaguely reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s from 2016. The new party claimed to have raised over £750,000 in a few days, online and at several rallies, organically and in small denominations. Quickly, the party made a considerable dent in EU election polls, heavily outperforming the disastrous Independent Group / Change UK (or CHUK — very coincidentally similar to Chuka Umunna’s name, in a nod to Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche nomenclature), sucking votes away from the Conservatives and leaving Labour free to sneak an unforeseen landslide.

But for all the glitz and pomp, there is little new in either Farage’s new launch, or that of his former political vehicle, UKIP. Farage has always tried to position himself as mainstream, with a cloying man-of-the-people act capitalizing on the fact he didn’t go to university, while breezily omitting the fact that he attended the highly exclusive and expensive fee-paying Dulwich College, and made a mint as a city trader in London’s banking sector. Hoisting a pint of soapy ale aloft in photos is a handy substitute for any real working-class credentials if there’s a camera nearby.

Both UKIP and the new Brexit Party have attempted to cast themselves as mainstream and representative of a British public that is underserved by the current parliament, which consists predominantly of politicians who backed (and still back) remaining in the European Union. The handful of MPs who voted Leave are, by and large, right-wing headbangers and extremists, marking Brexit, as it stands, as a project of the far right.

That is no more obvious than when examining the language employed by UKIP, Farage, and his new Brexit Party. On the night of the EU referendum, I remember being chilled to the bone when at 4 AM, live on the BBC, Farage delivered a victory speech rejoicing that Leave had won “without a single bullet being fired” — just seven days after the murder of Jo Cox. The Labour MP had been assassinated outside her constituency advice surgery, shot with a sawed-off shotgun and stabbed twice, while her killer shouted “Put Britain first!” “keep Britain independent!” and “this is for Britain!”

The political atmosphere around the referendum was toxic; heightened xenophobia left many citizens in fear, and subject to racist verbal and physical attacks. In January, on Farage’s radio show, a caller warned that if Brexit was foiled and Britain remained in the EU “… we are only left with the old-fashioned way of solving disputes and that is blood and slaughter.” Farage responded: “I share your concerns, and it’s one of the reasons why I, if Brexit is completely foiled by these people, we have to make sure there are democratic organizations and parties that they can go and support.”

At the launch of his new party, Farage claimed UKIP had been taken over by the far right, adding, “We can again start to put the fear of God into our members of parliament in Westminster. They deserve nothing less than that after the way they’ve treated us over this betrayal … I said that if I ever did come back into the political fray, next time it would be no more Mr Nice Guy, and I mean it.” The language of betrayal and threats is a familiar tactic of extremist leaders, including Trump, who incite followers to attack enemies while claiming innocence when queried about their incendiary comments.

Farage’s Brexit Party was recently forced to suspend two founding members for sharing racist and inflammatory tweets. And on Sunday, even before Benjamin’s racist Discord was uncovered, UKIP was challenged for choosing a candidate with a history of anti-feminist and misogynist tweets and videos. Benjamin had tweeted to Labour MP Jess Philips, “I wouldn’t even rape you,” after the MP spoke of receiving rape and death threats as a result of her job. Asked about that specific tweet on the BBC, UKIP leader Gerald Batten described it as “satire” and refused to condemn the party’s decision to pick Benjamin. Several alt-right figures expressed interest in joining the party, aping the bleeding of the US alt-right into mainstream Republican politics.

Benjamin’s candidacy shows a deliberate decision to adopt the most extreme position possible in the upcoming elections, and a desire to attract open and closet misogynists to the ballot box with no fear of offending or alienating women. For all the mainstream media’s pearl-clutching over the supposed rise of the extremist left, represented by the mild democratic socialism of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, very little weight is afforded to fears that the far right are merrily infiltrating major political parties.

An MP has already been murdered by the far right in Britain, Corbyn and another Labour MP were targeted for assassination, and yet parties harboring extremists and stoking up hate speech are routinely invited onto broadcast media. Their racism and misogyny are always sanitized, described not as straightforward bigotry and hate with dangerous repercussions for women and minorities, but the “legitimate concerns” of a supposedly silenced and uniformly white and male working class.

The Conservatives look set to take blows at the ballot box if the UK ends up taking part in next month’s European elections. But the platform this gives the far right should concern everyone on the Left.