A man was barred from entering the UK this week because he holds “extreme beliefs”. An oversimplification? Well, yes. But it is certainly interesting to look at the story of Pastor Terry Jones, the infamous Qur’an burning provocateur and his recently denied entrance to the UK, from a strictly philosophical point of view.
As I play at being Socrates, let’s begin with the facts. A Home Office spokesman said: “The government opposes extremism in all its forms which is why we have excluded Pastor Terry Jones from the UK.” So Terry Jones – incidentally, a gift of a name for satirists who can manage a Monty Python impression – is denied entrance to the UK because he is an ‘extremist’. What is an extremist? My dictionary (the Oxford English) says: “Extremist: a person who holds extreme political or religious views.” So Terry Jones was denied entry to the UK because he holds extreme political or religious views. We might ask, is it his political or religious views that have condemned him? Richard Dawkins holds extreme religious views, compared to the Archbishop of Canterbury for example, yet Dawkins is welcome in this country (as far as I’m aware…). What is ‘extreme? “Furthest from the centre or a given point” (my dictionary is working hard today), or “far from moderate”. Both of these could be true of Dawkins’ religious views. But there are no cries to deport Dawkins, so Terry Jones’ rejection can’t be simply because of his ‘extreme religious views’. Continue reading “Extreme Religious Beliefs?”
Earlier this month, Mr Justice Michael Burton ruled that employees holding philosophical views based on science and reason should be afforded the same legal protection from discrimination as those with religious beliefs. The case concerned Tim Nicholson, the former head of sustainability for Grainger, the UK’s largest listed residential property company. Nicholson claimed that he had been sacked due to his environmental beliefs. But Grainger’s lawyers contended that environmental views are political and a “lifestyle choice” which cannot be compared to religion or philosophy.
Mr Burton ruled that Nicholson’s views were entitled to the same protection as religious views and that the case should go before an employment tribunal. The written ruling, which looked at whether philosophy could be underpinned by a scientific belief, quoted from Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy and ultimately concluded that a belief in climate change, while a political view about science, can also be a philosophical one. Interestingly, Mr Burton ruled last year that Al Gore’s environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth was political and partisan as he assessed whether it should be shown to schools. (You can read about the case here and here.)
K-Punk (aka writer Mark Fisher) writes about possible responses to the BNP on his blog:
“Much of the BNP’s appeal derives from its granting of legitimacy to those feelings of resentment and aggrievement – yes, it says, you’re right to feel angry and betrayed…Here, class emerges…But this brief flash of class antagonism is immediately subsumed by race-logic”.
Later on he notes that any effective response to the BNP cannot simply argue with the BNP within the current framework, but seek to undermine the framework itself, this thing that sublimates class differences into racial differences. He describes this process using a particularly philosophically-loaded term: Narrative.
Narrative is that which gives structure to everyday human existence – it is historical, social. In After Virtue, Alasdair Macintyre argues that the self is a “narrative self” (as opposed to an “emotive self”) – identity is constructed by the myriad roles an individual plays in multiple systems. The good for an individual must therefore be “the good for one who inhabits these roles” (AV, 220). If Macintyre’s argument holds water, this means that social critiques – such as the one detailed in the previous paragraph – have not only political implications, but moral ones.
On the 26th of June 2009 a one-day international symposium on the language of far-right movements was held at the University of Northampton. The symposium’s title, ‘Speaking with Forked Tongues: The Rhetoric of Right Wing Extremism Today’, duly recognized and drew attention towards a major shift in the way organisations and groups of the far right in various countries present themselves and their policies to the public. Fascist and right wing groups parading and marching in our city streets, wearing distinctive uniforms, are no longer the usual picture, nor does the problem of right wing crime exhaust itself in a few skinhead thugs kicking in heads of immigrants and homosexuals, or setting fire to their homes. While the statistics on politically motivated crime in several countries show a sizeable number of right wing crime, the theorists and political leaders of the far right deliberately aim to style themselves and their organisations as sensible political forces speaking the truth to the people, and opposing the established ruling political elites, who are supposedly betraying the interests of their national communities Continue reading “The Rhetoric of Right Wing Extremism Today”