Having watched some of the UK parliamentary debate from Westminster Hall that had been scheduled as a result of the public petition to ban Donald Trump from entering the UK, the hypocrisy inherent to the thinking of many who would not object to Trump’s presence in the UK, but who would object to the presence of others, who are deemed to have encouraged and advocated violence, on “hate speech” or “unacceptable behaviour” grounds really struck me.
Veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn, opening the debate, says the government published a list of 20 people denied entry to the UK between 2008 and 2009. He won’t mention the names so as not to give them “extra notoriety”, but says they include a leader of a violent gang and a preacher considered to be “seeking to provoke others to commit serious criminal acts”.
“I think we should say that the situation with Donald Trump doesn’t apply in those cases. These are far more serious and presented an immediate threat of violence,” he adds.
The Conservative Party‘s Edward Leigh had the apparent naïvety to suggest that Trump did not promote violence, whilst Steve Double of the same party opined that Trump had “not crossed the line” to incite violence or criminal acts. They thus felt that a ban was not justified in this instance.
These politicians must surely keep close scrutiny of current affairs – it is pretty much an essential aspect of public service – so their views on Trump are rather startling. Instances of Trump inciting violence domestically in the US are numerous.
Even if we are to by-pass the US presidential candidate’s accompanying overt racism and misogyny for the purpose of this discussion – he has stereotyped Mexicans as “rapists” and “criminals” and labelled women “fat pigs”, “dogs”, “slobs”, and “disgusting animals”, for example – the fact remains that he is also an avidly militaristic and pro-war hawk. He is an explicit advocate for mass violence and death.
In 2007, for example, Trump stated, from his position of significant public influence, in relation to Iran:
I believe you have to go in and strike Iran — not with soldiers. You know, it’s not a world of soldiers anymore. It’s a world of air. It’s a world of different kinds of, you know, we’ve changed.
The idea of air-bombing Iran for no other reason than because you might be hostile to that country’s political perspective, because that country might be moving in a direction other than the one in which you wish it to move or because you simply wish to push your weight around and “show them who’s boss” is not just serious, it would also be illegal – or criminal, in other words – under international law.
However, Trump, as he drags the “centre-ground” of US public-political discourse even further to the right than it already is, doesn’t merely encourage illegal violence and urge others – millions of US voters – to support such violence. More recently – during a presidential election campaign speech last November – he made very clear that he would be eager to actually impose or orchestrate violence himself if the opportunity presented itself. He said in respect of the degenerate ISIS:
I would bomb the shit out of ’em. I would just bomb those suckers.
In fact, he went as far as stating that he would “take the oil” after blowing up “every single inch” so that “there would be nothing left”; he would not even bomb the region under the pretext of humanitarianism or defence. He reiterated his threat a few days later during another campaign speech:
I’m gonna bomb the shit out of ’em. It’s true. I don’t care.
This would be to use physical force against a population of people in pursuit of a political and economic goal. Some estimates suggest ISIS alone have an army of 200,000, never mind the millions of civilians over which they rule.
Just like the action Trump was advocating against Iran would have been, such action as this now threatened upon Syria would, of course, also be completely illegal under international law, just as the UK parliament’s decision to bomb Syria in early December last was too. In fact, for most within the British establishment and its political class, this sort of conduct is supposedly the very definition of “terrorism”. If they were to be consistent, that is.
Labour’s Tulip Siddiq condemned Trump’s belligerent rhetoric and actually advocated the imposition of a ban on his potential entry on the basis of his “violent ideology” (so she was, at least, consistent in that sense), but did even one politician equate what Trump was advocating with what they would otherwise condemn as “terrorism”? Not one. Conventional wisdom in the West seems to dictate that political violence orchestrated or advocated by white Western political elites can’t constitute “terrorism”.
In spite of Trump’s violence-obsessed agenda – a potential presidential agenda with immediate relevance – he was dismissed by various contributors to the debate as “stupid”, a “fool”, an “idiot” and a “wazzock”. Whilst certainly negative, such descriptions – whether used purposefully or out of thoughtless ignorance by “liberals”, “sophisticates” and those privileged enough so as to render them immune from sensing the genuine threat posed by Trump’s stigmatising, marginalising and destructive rhetoric – possess ultimate connotations of harmlessness or benignity. These sorts of frivolous terms serve only to trivialise Trump and induce complacency in the face of a real threat to the well-being of millions of people.
Of course, Italy’s war-glorifying fascist dictator during the Second World War and key ally of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, was similarly dismissed in Britain as an arrogant clown or buffoon back in the early 1940s.
Whilst Trump is laughed off through the use of like terms, it is worth remembering that his views really aren’t that far removed from the view of others within the US mainstream either. Trump just happens to be a bit more forthright when it comes to expressing himself and, concerningly, millions of Americans appear to lap it up.
Perhaps Trump is mocked by the British establishment as foolish for the very reason that his forthrightness seems so counter-intuitive to conventional politicians who favour more subtle – or cunning – methods of influence and manipulation.
Trump’s alleged stupidity is apparently tolerable for some politicians (who presumably think that threats by a potential-US-president-come-November to bomb entire populations of people are little worse than “buffoonery”), whilst they would simultaneously deny others – Islamic preachers or even hip-hop artists like Tyler, the Creator, for example – the enjoyment of such generous leeway, even when these others have not personally threatened to orchestrate violence themselves.
Tyler, the Creator was banned from entry to the UK last year as it was considered by the country’s home office (the body that makes exclusionary decisions) that his presence would “not [be] conducive to the public good”; his exclusion was allegedly as a result of violent lyrics he had written in 2009 at the age of eighteen whilst in the character of a mentally-unstable alter-ego. The home office even acknowledged the fictional nature of the lyrics at the time of his exclusion, yet still insisted on denying him entry.
Meanwhile, Adam Holloway of the Conservative Party actually suggested to those assembled for the Trump debate that the UK ought to officially “apologise to the people of the United States” for even having considered banning the presidential candidate. This was indicative of the level of concern and pitiful or obsequious sense of embarrassment felt by some in the British establishment on account of the UK having possibly insulted someone of considerable clout – a wealthy white man – from the US, an important diplomatic ally. It was as if Holloway felt the UK had only in this instance misbehaved or as if he thought some taboo had been breached.
No politician ever suggested sending an apology the way of Tyler, however, never mind the idea of sending one the way of the people of the US generally for having excluded from the UK, for utterly bizarre and paltry reasons, one of their young, black citizens. No such taboo had been breached in his case; “no apology necessary”. In fact, the rapper will remain banned from entering the country indefinitely, unless the home secretary decides otherwise upon reviewing the case after three to five years.
Those who seek to distinguish Trump are guilty of double standards. I don’t advocate the banning of Trump and believe the petition to be both illiberal and hypocritical – in an ideal world, his ideas would or should be exposed and challenged by better ideas and through the rigours of democratic debate – but why do these establishment hypocrites condone one rule for the belligerent and violence-obsessed Trump and another rule for others who engage in aggressive rhetoric of a similar, or even lesser, nature.
Why does talk or the advocacy of violence seem more palatable to British politicians when Donald Trump does it as opposed to when someone with a darker tone of skin does it? Is speech that advocates violence and death upon non-whites less serious in the minds of these politicians? Would a mullah advocating the waging of a bombing campaign upon the US – even one restricted to military targets – or talking of how he would bomb US if the chance arose ever be extended the same generosity in description that Trump has been afforded? Would he ever get away with being called a mere “buffoon”? Absolutely not. He’d be condemned as “dangerous”, “evil” and a “threat to our way of life”.