Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Goodwin's left-tinted spectacles can't see the wood for the trees

Hope not Hate yesterday passed on an article which appeared in the 'New Statesman' magazine written by academic and self-proclaimed expert on the far-right Matthew Goodwin.

In it, Goodwin recycles some of his pet theories, liberally sprinkled with all sorts of errors. Take this for instance, where he attacks Tory MEP Daniel Hannan for claiming the BNP is a far-left group:

"The latter is a common mistake by right-wingers who overlook the fact that while far right groups often advocate left-wing economic policies, they only do so to protect the native racial group, not a social class. Race and ancestry are paramount; everything else is secondary."

Is Goodwin really suggesting that racism and socialism are mutually exclusive? Such simplistic dismissals sound convincing until one thinks of the racism inherent in Stalin's Russia - against Jews, against Cossacks and against Ukrainians - or the effects of a National Socialist Workers Party on Germany. Or perhaps killing off foreigners is acceptable to Nottingham Trent University so long as it in the interests of class solidarity?

Goodwin goes on to say, "But it is also a deliberate ploy by some on the centre-right to distance themselves from their more extreme ideological cousins who live two doors down, on the same street. In this respect, Hannan follows the likes of Charles Moore who claimed the EDL is non-violent, and Andrew Gilligan who, after Woolwich, tried to dismiss a documented rise in attacks against Muslims following the attack. Both were proved wrong."

Were they? By whom? Hope not Hate - who are currently flogging Goodwin's latest tract on their website (foreword by Nick Lowles) even though it is available free elsewhere - certainly disagreed, but they are hardly independent arbiters. The figures of course were provided by TellMAMA, who subsequently lost their central government funding because they were found to have fiddled their figures. The whole tone of his denial of left-wing racism is not an argument: it is simply contradiction designed to turn the argument back on those who made it while overlooking an inconvenient truth - that an organisation with which he sympathises was found to have lied and distorted the truth, and he failed to notice.

Goodwin goes on to defend himself from those who dare denigrate his research and suggest he is a rabidly Marxist anti-fascist - "Moreover, fanatical anti-fascists would find it difficult if not impossible to survive in higher education, where our papers and grant applications are routinely reviewed by other academics and research councils, all of whom have little time for anything other than objective, independent and rigorous research."

Which all sounds lovely and even handed to anyone without experience of academia, particularly academia centred on social sciences, where the world is viewed through left-tinted spectacles. Indeed, Goodwin's own university, Nottingham Trent, has a chair founded and funded by the European Commission - a Jean Monnet position - whose continued funding is contingent upon research proving the need for 'ever closer union' and 'more Europe'. Such is the academic rigour applied to those who espouse the causes of the new left.

Goodwin is of course wheeled out on a regular basis to make objective, academic comments which mainly focus on attempting to link UKIP and the BNP. His prediction earlier this year - during a 
debate with Guido Fawkes on Twitter - about the number of seats UKIP would gain in local council elections was as laughably inaccurate as his predictions ahead of European Elections that UKIP was about to collapse - in 2003, and again in 2009.

We have no doubt about Goodwin's qualifications, nor the sincerity of his beliefs, and yet it would seem that he is destined to go through his entire career without understanding the general populace. All of his research hinges essentially on his mystification about why people would vote for parties which he - and the establishment and political elite - would describe variously as either populist or 'far-right' as he admits in the New Statesman article:

"One question that guides some of my research is why, despite European history, do some people continue to support the far-right, which is particularly puzzling in Britain where citizens often list opposition to fascism as a defining characteristic of their national identity."

Goodwin may never have been a member of the Labour Party or of an anti-fascist organisation, but it is inescapable that his politics are not only notably 'left-centric', but tinged by the sort of wooly thinking that affects academics whose jobs have never been seriously threatened by immigration. Journalists, TV news anchors, academic researchers, lawyers, accountants, politicians - they are immune to its effects, because immigrants tend not to be any of these things or, if they are, English is generally not a first language for them, which severely limits their impact. Because of his own lack of personal contact with immigrants, he makes the assumption that the effects of immigration are spread evenly across all layers of society when in fact it is bottom heavy in jobs and trades where language is not a prime consideration: the blue-collar work of tradesmen, shop, bar and restaurant work, care work etc. Such thinking is a much more solid indicator of his class than his upper-middle class occupation: no true member of the proletariat would make such a fundamental error, for it is down here at the bottom of the social scale where we pay the bill for successive government's trendy, inclusive open borders policy.

It is not Goodwin's fault, of course. Like most nice, middle class lads of his type, he has been comfortably insulated from the reality of life in the UK for many years, beavering away in his analyses of what he terms the 'far-right', attempting to link them to UKIP, and mixing almost exclusively with the Nick Lowles of this world. In such achingly trendy and politically correct circles, life centres around dreaming up ever more anodyne phrases to pigeonhole people by colour. BME, or Black/Ethnic Minority, is the current favourite - woe betide anyone who simply says 'black', while those who utter the word 'coloured' - as an octogenarian UKIP councillor discovered last month - are immediately strung Mussolini-like from the nearest lamp-post.

There is something really rather sad about an academic with so tenuous a grasp on what life is like outside his cloistered halls. As my long departed grandmother would have said of Mr Goodwin, "Plenty of book sense, but no common sense".

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