Once again extremism has reared its ugly head. Politicians, the media and the general public are still trying to comprehend the tragic events of Wednesday afternoon. Eyewitness accounts and images are slowly coming to light, and it will be weeks or possibly months before we can fully understand how and why Drummer Lee Rigby could be brutally murdered on a public street. Yet for some sections of society, there is no need for an explanation. This loud minority didn’t require any investigation; they took to the streets to fight extremism with extremism.
As with all news stories, since the creation of social media, Wednesday’s attack was seen from the witnesses point of view. The prevalence of smart-phones means that major events can be recorded by an army of citizen journalists as they happen. As I watched the news, I also followed my own Facebook feed and began to notice people posting photo-shopped images from Woolwich. These images featured the phrase ‘Wake up Britain’ superimposed over the top and, although not apparent at first, it soon became clear that this was some kind of pathetic attempt by individuals and extremist far-right groups to appropriate this tragedy for their own political ends.
By Thursday morning it became clear that the far right had “mobilized”, in the form of the EDL, and taken to the streets of Woolwich headed by the frankly repugnant Tommy Robinson. This “mobilization”, as this video featured on the Guardian website shows, seemed to consist of throwing bottles and general detritus at riot police, while shouting inaccurate racial slurs into the night air. As if this mammalian argument against evolution wasn’t enough, the robotic goggle-box that is Nick Griffin proceeded to defy previous understandings of Darwinism and parp his way through several Tweets denouncing mass immigration. It’s no surprise that attacks both physical and verbal have increased on the British Muslim communities around the country.
This reaction has some resonance here in Germany, a country that has recently been attempting to deal with its own far right groups. As a political force, the NPD (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands) has fallen apart due to a series of a scandals over financial irregularities and a dwindling support base. Its recent party convention had to be moved when the owners of the proposed venue refused to remove rubble blocking the entrance. Despite this, the trial of a far right terrorist cell, active for almost a decade, has brought the discussion of extremism to the doors of the Bavarian Supreme Court. Although apparently known to the German secret service, the NSU (Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund) were able to murder a number of Turkish immigrants with near impunity. Termed the ‘Kebab Murders’, the NSU targeted Turkish immigrants as well as one Greek man and a policewoman. The shocking nature and lack of knowledge of this group seems to have invigorated the anti-Nazi groups in Germany, leading to increased marches and protests in a number of cities. I would hope the actions of the EDL and the resurfacing of Nick Griffin will lead to an equal reinvigoration of our own anti-fascist groups in Britain.
However, it’s not only the anti-fascist groups that require reinvigoration. David Cameron’s response to Wednesday’s attack was to state that “The people who did this were trying to divide us. They should know something like this will only bring us together, make us stronger.” In my opinion this statement says it all. Extremists of all sides seek to divide and rule, using fear as a blunt weapon against everyone it sees as a “legitimate target”. Whether that target is a young man walking down the street, a British Muslim going to prayer or German Kebab vendors’ extremism is blind and willfully ignorant. ‘The mother of the idiots is always pregnant’ says an Italian proverb; perhaps it’s the duty of the whole of society to give them an education.