Saturday, 6 July 2013

Condell's Chauvinism.

The YouTube anti-theist Pat Condell has come out as a sympathiser, if not a supporter, of the English Defence League. You can watch the video above and decide that for yourself. I first encountered Condell's online videos in 2007 after I googled the word 'Islam' and I immediately found 'The Trouble with Islam' video which kicked up a fuss in Berkeley and has since racked up about a million hits. That was when Pat Condell really exploded onto the internet scene. He has faced challenge and accusations of racism. I remember when his video 'Welcome to Saudi Britain' was banned from YouTube and the ban was reversed after many people uploaded the video again and again in protest. That's not the only triumph Condell has enjoyed. He has brought out a DVD with a quote from Dawkins on the front, as well as a compilation of transcripts and racked up millions of hits.
After clicking on Condell's profile I found the video 'Hello America' in which Pat railed against the Christian Right, George Bush and Tony Blair, the unforgivable wars they had started and the subsequent abuses of civil liberties. He was even critical of Israel, or rather those on "both sides" stubbornly refusing to compromise for peace - but he insisted that Jerusalem should not belong to Israel. He described the Patriot act as a charter for fascism. These points differentiated Condell from the right-wing strain of anti-Muslim sentiment, which we find on the right-wing of American, British, French and Israeli politics. It appeared as though Condell stood outside the neoconservative narrative in his insistence that Bush and Blair were 'evil evil' cunningly disguised as 'good evil'. He described the 'War on Terror' as a war on freedom, and pointed out that Osama bin Laden's activities fed into this very same poisonous narrative.
For a while Condell stuck to his guns, consistently committed to individual liberty, humanism and secularism. All the while the former comedian lacked the cuttingly posh accent and mannerisms of fellow anti-theists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. He was scathing about scientology, the Saudi regime, the GOP and televangelism; but it was always clear (as with the 'New Atheists' in general) that Pat had a special place for Islam on his hit list. He has issued calls for the burka and halal meat to be banned. When talk of 'Islamization' first emerged Condell was quick to join in with the Muslim-bashing. He came out in opposition to the so-called 'Ground Zero Mosque', which was actually a religious centre funded by Sharif el-Gamal - himself a realty developer who probably votes Republican. It was in 2009 that Condell came out to distinguish himself from the liberal Left, which he dubbed the multicultural appeasement lobby.
At the time Condell struck back at accusations of racism by insisting that the human species constitutes one race, but it still holds a variety of religions and cultures within that scope. He then went on to claim that we are being 'invaded' by the cultural values of a religion which is inherently fascist. It's standard for rightists to use 'culture' as a convenient synonym for 'race' in its opposition to immigration, particularly Muslim immigration. The line between criticism of Islamism, Islam and Muslims is repeatedly and deliberately blurred to this end. All the while political correctness and multiculturalism provide easy targets for people like Pat Condell. One would think that this freedom-lover might welcome new citizens to join his free society and get away from the dictatorships of West Asia. But these people aren't fit for freedom in Pat's mind. The welcome reaction on the radical Right to Condell should surprise few outside of the bubble of post-political 'New Atheism'.
Just in time for the 2010 General Election the online face of 'New Atheism' came out in favour of UKIP. It was a surprise for many of his subscribers. He was soon thundering about the Guardianista Left, repeatedly accusing the liberal newspaper of anti-Semitism and of supporting Hamas; as well as slamming the BBC for being apart of the 'progressive consensus'. It's not clear whether Condell changed, or if this is how he always felt. It's plausible that he was always a reactionary hiding behind the tenets of bourgeois liberalism. By now Pat had developed a much less enlightened line on the Palestinians and had ranted about the London riots with ferocious reactionist bile. He pinned it on a culture of welfare dependency conducive to "mental disablement" and going on to compare the rioters to vermin and parasites. He fell in line with the gutter press in calling for stripping the rioters of their benefits and arming the police with guns.
There is an obvious nexus binding together a variety of forces with anti-Muslim prejudice. It's the hatred of Islam that forms the common ground between certain clumps of nationalists, conservatives and liberals. It's a cultural chauvinism with underlying orientalist assumptions about Arab and Muslim culture. It is no coincidence that there has been a resurgence of anti-Muslim bigotry since the attacks of September 11th 2001. For the neoconservatives and other assorted hawks the attacks on the World Trade Centre provided the pretext to declaring war on Iraq. The new obsession became Muslims and their way of life, almost succeeding the traditional place of the Jews in the far-right imagination - as a force that the Left is using to destroy Christendom. Then there are the liberal guardians of tolerance and freedom, who were so unsettled by the events of 9/11 that they found themselves unable to resist taking the side of civilisation.

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