UKREN blog

Friday 27 January 2017

Never Again? Hate Speech & Holocaust Memorial Day 2017


Never Again? Hate Speech & Holocaust Memorial Day 2017

Seventy-two years after the end of World War Two, it now feels more important than ever to reflect upon the similarities between our society and that of the 1930s.  2016 was renowned as the year that shook the world and the liberal status quo. This year on Holocaust Memorial Day, can we truly say ‘Never Again’?

“Long Peace”?

Stephen Pinker, author of The Better Angels of our Nature has argued that human kind is in its longest phase of relative peace in the history of our species, and that we are becoming less violent. What does Pinker infer by citing ‘Liberal peace’ or ‘Capitalist peace’. These popular academic terminologies argue that in contrast to the past where states would invade one another to steal resources in order to build on one’s own empire; today’s ‘Liberal Peace’ is sustained by trading resources peacefully, which is less costly and more efficient than war mongering. Trading blocs or partnerships, such as the EU, are seen to reinforce the strength of this peace by reinforcing a mutually beneficial common market, and common identity.

Of course in the light of rising nationalism across Europe, Brexit, and Donald Trump’s disdain for trade partnerships such as NAFTA, logic implies that Liberal Peace may be in danger.

Hate Crime

As we all know in the aftermath of Brexit race and religious hate crime increased by 41%, while homophobic attacks rose by 147% in the three months. The institutionalisation of this exclusion of ‘the other’ was reflected in Amber Rudd’s speech at the Conservative Party conference. Police investigated Rudd for hate speech after LBC’s James O’Brian’s compared Rudd’s speech with Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Meanwhile, over the pond, Trump - who has abrasively advocated the scapegoating of Muslims and Mexicans - won the election on his promise to “Make America great again”. Bar the country in question, Trump’s basic promise was identical to Hitler’s pledge to a disillusioned Germany in 1934.

Snowflake

A concerning trend that we have seen in response to this is the popularization of the political insult ‘snowflake’ which the Collins English Dictionary added to its word of the year list. The term refers to the millennial generation, ‘Remoaners’ or anti-Trump activists who are too easily offended or (like snowflakes) too delicate. Both Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon and Brexiteers such as Michael Gove have used this term to ridicule not only political opposition, but to dismiss legitimate claims of sexism, racism and homophobia.

Holocaust Memorial Day

On Holocaust Memorial day, Holocaust Survivor Susan Pollock warned the BBC of how acts of hate speech can threaten peace in any society.

We're not talking about barbarians," said Mrs Pollack. "We're not talking about primitive society. "The Germans were well-advanced, educated, progressive. Maybe civilization is just veneer-thin. We all need to be very careful about any hate-propaganda. This is very important. It starts as a small stream, but then it has the potential to erupt - and when it does, it's too late to stop it."[1]

 

Never Again?

Perhaps these similarities are something that we choose to ignore. The parallels are so daunting they are almost unbearable. Yet It is crucial that we see hate speech and hate crimes for what they are. We need trust in our institutions to foster trust, not fear in communities in order for hate crimes to be reported. This is why UKREN are part of the Hate Crime Advocates project in London to promote trust between police and the Roma and Eastern European communities, to encourage reporting and ultimately to reduce hate incidents.

Racism and genocide don’t come from thin air. It starts in our individual thoughts, our speech and actions. If we are to say ‘Never Again’ with meaning, we must report hate crime, call out hate speech and learn the lessons of the Holocaust to stop history repeating itself.

Georgia Whitaker

@VittikaHewes



[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-38745115

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