KAMPALA – The British Ukip party, led by Mr. Nigel Farage, has been airing their dirty laundry all over the press. After having lost the British national elections in his homestead, Mr. Farage, the unquestioned Leader of Ukip, resigned, only to reinstate himself four days later. A civil war within the party has been raging over the leadership and the general direction of the party.
Ukip is part of a larger trend in political Europe, where extreme right-wing populist parties have been popping up like pimples on a 14-year-old. In Germany, anti-Islam protests make a disappointingly substantial number of people show up. The Party for Freedom, led Dutch politician Mr. Geert Wilders is another example of the xenophobic, anti-immigration, and fear-mongering populism that is ruining any chance at decent debate on both a national and European political level.
Wilders is a populist clown who has gotten into trouble repeatedly over the year, by for example opening a website where his constituents could file complaints against their Polish neighbours. More recently, he fucked up by asking a crowd whether they wanted more or less Moroccans in Den Hague and then inciting the “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!” choir by saying that he’d take care of it. He got some flattering comparisons with Goebbels, the Nazi minister in charge of propaganda, in the press. He was present at the draw Mohammed cartoon contest in Arizona as a “special guest” where two suspected gunmen were killed by police. He is, like Nigel Farage, anti-Europe and wants to leave the EU and go back to good and golden times (which times those are are ever-so-slightly unclear).
While Mr. Wilders has had his weak(er) moments and is currently being sued (again) for inciting hatred against Moroccan immigrants, the circus in the U.K., and the recent Guardian interview with Nigel-whisperer, confidant and ex-senior party advisor Mr. Raheem Kassam left an impression of Ukip that was especially interesting to me.
To say that Mr. Kassam still supports Farage is an understatement. Although Mr. Kassam has been forced to resign (in his own words), he still considers Farage to be his ‘hero’. The reason for his unfortunate departure, conspired by three other senior advisors in Ukip, had everything to do with jealousy: he was the Nigel-whisperer…
who do you think Nigel would call? It was always me. They absolutely hated that.
Evidently, the advisors of Ukip were battling over the favorism of Farage. Shortly after the national elections on May 7, which yielded disappointing results for Ukip, staff members of Farage’s campaign started scrambling, causing unrest. Those pro-Farage assured that he had been surrounded by the wrong people. He was under too much stress, had back-problem too…
The few anti-Farage voices in Ukip accused him of nepotism, totalitarian leadership, and lack of transparency, causing Ukip to be more of a personality cult than a political party. Although they were wrong about everything else they said (mostly about the Ukip political agenda), they were right about one thing: Ukip is a personality cult.
Let me elaborate on that statement. The sheer fact that Mr. Farage seems to be made intouchable and infallible makes him unlike any other political leader. While Labour Mr. Ed Miliband, who led the party into an even worse election outcome than Nigel did with Ukip, is getting roasted for doing so (ironically most furiously by his own brother), Mr. Farage is soothed by the insistence of his staff that nothing was his fault. He was surrounded by the wrong people who gave him wrong advice. He acted on the wrong information in the same way that Stalin acted on the wrong information.
I once attended a conference on North Korean politics and economy where several elite voices in exile spoke at length about how the centralised and planned economy in North Korea works. Every time the Great Leader crapped out a plan which didn’t turn out to work (which is often), it was always the fault of the people surrounding him or the people lower in the hierachy. Kim is infallible. He cannot do wrong, he can only act on the wrong information.
Sociologist Max Weber developed a tripartite classification of authority: traditional authority (e.g. patriarchy), legal authority (modern law and state), and charismatic authority, the last one having parallels with a personality cult leader. Authority based on the charisma of a single individual can be dangerous because of the lack of accountability, and is often found in totalitarian regimes (like the Kim family in North Korea).
Usually, the charismatic leader is associated with a revolutionary transformation he embodies, like Mao in China. He then becomes the benevolent guide to his followers. I wouldn’t say that Ukip is suggesting a revolution, but they pose as an alternative to the power-hungry, incompetent political parties that have screwed around for so long. Parties like Ukip represent a fear-fueled, xenophobia-inspired romantic envisaged future based a grand European imperial past and subsequently present said future as an actual possible political reality.
They’ve been quite succesful, too. They are not dominating the elections, but usually end up with enough influence to make new policies slightly less human. One of the reasons they have not been so successful that they steer instead of sit in the back is the problems parties like Ukip have with its members.
A personality cult does not only attract people inspired by the charisma of its leader. Most cults have some form of hierarchy, and the people that are not the leader, but are still somewhere up the social ladder are usually a particular kind of people. They are a kind of people who like embodying an authority (granted to them by Farage) people blindly follow. They are the kind of people who know their ideology is deviant at worst, politically incorrect at best, and jump a hole in the air at the chance to finally air the anger and frustration.
Like Ukip parliamentary candidate Mr. Robert Blay, who reportedly said that if
this lad [his rival in the elections who was of Asian descent] turns up to be our Prime Minister I will personally put a bullet in him. That’s how strong I feel about it.
Or Ukip councillor Mrs. Rozanne Duncan, who was fired after making ‘jaw-dropping remarks‘ in a BBC documentary about how she has a problem with ‘negroes’ because ‘there is something about their faces’.
Newly elected Ukip councillor Mr. Dave Small was sacked after just six days after Facebook posts from 2012 surfaced, including this gem:
I visited the city of Birmingham recently and felt like a foreigner in the city of my birth, all around me I could hear the sound of jbbering in an alien voice … we also have the Pakistani, and the Somali. Tell me, Mr. Cameron, why? The men wear their pyjamas..
In April last year, Ukip had to suspend Mr. Andre Lampitt, the star of its European Election TV campaign after he tweeted:
Most Nigerians are generally bad people.. I grew up in Africa and dare anyone to prove me wrong.
And, then there’s Mr. Joseph Quirk who reportedly said that
I reckon dogs are more intelligent, better company and certainly better behaved than most Muslims
Well.. these people are obviously too radical to ever participate in mainstream politics. The issue with radical groups is that the extremists in those groups (so the uber-radical people) speak with the loudest voices, drowning out the “moderate” centre, who are usually the people who appeal the most to the target audience.
A lot of radical groups have collapsed because of their inability to shut down these extremist voices. Most of these radical extremists tend to alienate the more moderate followers, thereby forcing the group to a very ideological fringe. They’re digging their own grave this way, really.
Populism emerges in what can be best described as malaise: economic recession and uncertainty, coupled with a general feeling of anxiety about this fast-moving globalised and modernised world makes people retreat back in their (cultural) shells. They become suspicious of the Other, who is not “like them”. In this environment, the threats of annihilation become constant once a populist party jumps in and abuses that fear. Europe is being taken over by the Islam, we have them paddlin’ away on the Mediterrean, for godsake! But, Britain is for the British! We’ll take our country back!
There is no way you can argue with populism. Not reasonably, anyways. The rhetoric adopted is absolute and based on emotional argumentation rather than being grounded in political or scientific realities.
I, however, will continue to gush away whenever I meet anyone who I consider ultimately misguided. Since last year, I don’t really ascribe to the binary of left- versus right-wing. I simply point out the flaws in political argumentation, and Farage-like populism is not the only one that has flaws..