Sunday 24 February 2019 08:42
Rooskey and Ireland’s KKK
Italy may seem a strange jumping off point for an article abour Rooskey, but I believe it is an instructive example. There, for the time being, a version of the alt-Right (fascists if you will) has won in the form of Matteo Salvini and the Lega. It has not won a majority (the Lega won only 17% of the vote in the last election) but it holds immense power thanks to it’s coalition with the hapless Five Star Movement in which the Lega is the tail that wags the dog. Salvini has set about abrogating Italy’s duties under international law to receive, process and support for the duration of their assessment refugees from the wars in North Africa and the Arabian peninsula and the area south of the Sahara now directly affected by climate change.
The net result of Salvini’s policies has been the deaths of women, men and children. According to the NGO Missing Migrants (https://missingmigrants.iom.int/), the total number of deaths to date since January 1st alone is 220 and the migration season has not yet begun.
The burning of the hotel in Rooskey is a classic racist act. It seeks to deprive innocent people of a home, prevent the state from fulfilling its international obligations, provide a rallying point for fascists and racists and in the process mark out a small rural community as unwelcoming and hostile to foreigners - something that the vast majority of the inhabitants of Rooskey or any other Irish village or town would reject completely. It’s an act worthy of the Klu Klux Klan. We can well imagine the Klan burning out a home that was to be occupied by a black family.
It’s purpose is to engage and activate local hatred and local racism among the minority that harbours these sentiments, and to polarise the local population around the question of skin colour. Nothing suits a racist or a fascist so much as setting decent people against professional haters who come armed with dark money and arguments honed on the internet to tear their community apart and set neighbour against neighbour.
This is the alt-right agenda
On social media the tiny number of actual fascists in Ireland is augmented by American, British and Russian fascists, fake accounts and so called ‘bots’ which are merely automatic systems (algorithms) that respond to key words without any actual human hand behind them. Those who stick their neck out in defence of refugees and migrants, people of colour, LGBT people or the poor can find themselves victims of a ‘pile-on’, where literally hundreds, sometimes thousands of these fake accounts and bots pour hatred on their head, including death threats. I have friends who have been threatened with execution by anonymous trolls. The problem is you never know if it’s some sad keyboard warrior in a distant country spewing ineffectual hatred or someone who really does know where you live and is psychotic enough to follow through on a threat. Very often, for women especially, there are threats of rape.
Check it out on Twitter.
You’ll find ‘people’ commenting on Rooskey who have no followers, or whose followers are other fake ‘people’, or whose English is clearly a second language or who use ‘Americanisms’, accounts that joined at the time of their first post on Rooskey, accounts deliberately set up to create the impression that the haters and the racists and the fascists are a huge number. Many of them will have Irish names, or what Americans or Russians think are Irish names. Many of them will wave a nationalist flag, or accuse people who welcome refugees of ‘not being patriotic’ and not ‘defending the Irish race’. You can almost hear the MAGA-hat wearing Trump supporter behind it.
And the actual Irish personalities who drive this racial hatred, including some who have run for high office, are prone to issuing legal threats against their critics, backed, one suspects, by dark money. I know of a number of people who have received solicitor’s letters threatening to sue. Needless to say, ordinary people can’t afford to fight courtcases against people backed by American billionaires.
To return to my Italian example. We need to be very careful that we do not fall by accident into the same situation. Since Salvini and the Lega came to power there has been a big increase in attacks on migrants, Muslims, Jews, gay people, people of colour and left wing protestors. Having run for years on the slogan ‘Roma ladrona’ (‘Rome – i.e. parliament - is a thief’) it turns out that the Lega ‘misappropriated’ €40 million in funds, hundreds of thousands of which went directly to the former party founder, Umberto Bossi, and his family. And of course, there are hundreds of deaths by drowning in the ‘hostile environment’ created by Salvini, the closure of the ports to rescue ships.
There are more hopeful signs. The leftwing mayors of certain cities - Naples is one example - have declared their ports open to refugees, many have declared themselves cities of sanctuary. In Italy, as in Ireland, resistance often begins at the community or city level.
The Mayor of the small town of Riace, Mimmo Lucano, has become a figurehead for a more open society. The slogan ‘Io Sto Con Mimmo’ (‘I’m with Mimmo’) has become popular and marches and rallies now take place in defence of refugees. One of the interesting things is that, like Ireland, Italy has suffered severe rural depopulation. Villages and small towns are dying and land is lying idle. The arrival of migrants in Riace, welcomed by the local comunity, led to the founding of cooperatives, the restoration to production of fallow land, new markets in goods and food and a revival in the fortune of a town that was slowly hollowing out. This is another future that we could embrace, a more hopeful, positive and sustainable one. After all, we pride ourselves on our welcome; do we limit that welcome to white people only? Or do we stand by our principles as a republic and welcome all people of every colour and creed?