As most of you will be aware, Starmer has recently been criticised for failing to respond to an individual who propagated what is often called the ‘Great Replacement Myth’ on LBC radio. Watching a video of his response, it is rather astounding how he completely failed to respond to the point raised by the commentator, instead responding only to defend the footballers who took the knee recently in Millwall.
This scenario offers a case study through which we can understand the perverse effects far-right talking points can have on wider political discourse. Starmer was certainly wrong not to challenge the commentator, and should rightfully be criticised for his response, but here, I shall focus on how far-right ideas flow outwards from the far-right, and how individuals can be sucked further into the far-right web.
For those unaware, the ‘Great Replacement’ myth is a far-right idea suggesting that whites will become a minority within Europe and America in the near future. Further, it alleges that ‘somebody’ has orchestrated this; it is not only the result of normal immigration flows, but rather it is a concerted effort by a cabal of individuals who purposefully hope to eliminate the white race. Of course, it is not difficult to see how the Great Replacement myth easily falls into anti-Semitism, with ‘the globalists’ being construed as ‘the Jews’. The talking-point does not only lend itself to anti-Semitism, but rather it is stoked in it; from head to toe, the notion of an ‘elitist’ group purposefully seeking to destroy the white race conjures up themes and ideas openly alleged by the Nazi regime itself, and now by neo-Nazi organisations — the anti-Semitism is not incidental, it is a core part of the Great Replacement myth.
And yet, the women who alleged this in her conversation with LBC did not speak of Jews — she did not even speak of ‘globalists’ or ‘elites’, terms which are so often used as by-words by the far-right. For some, this grants the myth an aura of respectability (though one that is destroyed as soon as one looks into the origin) — her concern is only about mass immigration, one might say; and if Israel has the right to self-determination, do not white Anglo-Saxons (a point the caller explicitly made)?
To understand how this has occurred, it is perhaps helpful to understand ideas propagated by the far-right as like a stream of hot water. At the source, the anti-Semitism and the genocidal intentions are clear, and explicitly outlined by its proponents. As the water flows however, it cools, and talk of ‘Jews’ is replaced by talk of ‘globalist elites’; and as we reach cooler waters still, proponents may drift into even more generic language, of ‘liberals’ and ‘lefties’. As the water flows, it mixes with other more legitimated talking-points — it takes the veneer of simply an extended critique of ‘mass immigration’; or it co-opts liberal ideas of self-determination in an attempt to shield its far-right origins — ‘I’m not anti-Semitic, I think Israel has the right to self-determination!’ one may cry.
While this occurs, one may conceptualise the inward flow as a train line — those concerned by issues of immigration and matters of the ‘culture war’ may find themselves agreeing with elements of the Great Replacement myth, hopping on board the train to see where it goes; some may conjoin this with anti-feminist and Islamophobic sentiments; but not all will reach the terminus — they may hop off at the station which talks of ‘global elites’, refusing to stoop to the level of outright anti-Semitism, preferring instead to retain a veneer of acceptability (though again, a veneer which is thin for those who recognise the anti-Semitic origins of the myth).
Here then, we have provided a mythological structure to the functioning of the Great Replacement lie — these ideas, vitriol and hatred flows outwards, cooling as it spreads so as to co-opt other sentiments and ideas in an attempt to obfuscate the far-right origins; and as this occurs, those enticed by this mixed water hop on the train, delving into far-right media until they find the station they hope to get off at — of course, some go all the way to the end of the line. Figures like Nigel Farage have provided a language for those who dress their beliefs up in the language of ‘concern about immigration’, easing their travel down the train line.
For those of us concerned by the Great Replacement myth, worried at the fact that wider circles are adopting it into their beliefs (this women, in virtue of her being a women, is not the ‘normal’ candidate for far-right indoctrination, suggesting that we must widen our scope when researching who adopts these ideas and why), we must seek both to stop the waters of hate from spreading from the far-right in the first place, and must challenge those who have jumped onto the train, before they spiral out of control. Returning to Starmer’s response, this requires that we call out the Great Replacement myth always and everywhere; it requires that we undertake the uncomfortable task of educating ourselves in the lies propagated by the far-right, so that we might better identify and challenge them when and if they arise; it requires that we remain steadfast in our defence of Islamic communities in Britain, and immigrant communities, lest we sacrifice certain groups in the hope of appeasing the far-right beast; and it requires that we take action to prevent the waters of hate from spreading — by seeking their removal from mainstream social media platforms and their being blocked by payment sites. Otherwise, as these ideas flow further away from their far-right, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic origins, more and more people fail to see their vitriolic origins, supposing that they are instead an understandable response to changes in society and culture. This would be a truly disastrous development.