‘Defending his repertoire of prejudice’ – Alana Lentin on media coverage of Anders Behring Breivik

Alana Lentin, senior lecturer in Sociology at the University of Sussex and author of Racism and Anti-Racism in Europe, has co-written a trenchant critique of some of the reactions to Anders Behring Breivik’s massacre which are currently circulating in the media.

She notes:

Despite the fact that Anders Behring Breivik was not permitted to publicly justify his actions in public on Monday, a scrambling defence of his repertoire of prejudice is already in full swing. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Bruce Bawer, who is quoted by Breivik in his manifesto 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, emphasises his repeated warnings that a rightwing extremist may use violence to address “legitimate concerns about genuine problems”. Bawer blames mainstream politics for failing to address the corrosion of Europe by Islamicisation and multiculturalism, meanwhile The Jerusalem Post cautions that “Oslo’s devastating tragedy should not be allowed to be manipulated by those who would cover up the abject failure of multiculturalism”.

Lentin notes the shift that racism has undergone in the post-war period “from being an ideology of racial hierarchy to one of ‘natural’ cultural incompatability”. She argues that with this new form of racism the divide between ‘mainstream’  and ‘extreme’ political discourse has become porous:

What makes the narrative of multicultural failure toxic, however, is its mainstream acceptability. There is no cordon sanitaire between the out-and-out Islamophobes and the political mainstream, and the past decade has proved that the traffic of ideas goes both ways. The myth of excessive generosity allows for tighter migration regimes, compulsory integration projects and neo-nationalist politics to be presented as nothing more than rehabilitation.

Recent recitations of the comforting narrative by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, garnered significant publicity. More attention needs to be paid to the mainstream racism it has given legitimacy to elsewhere in Europe. The former Dutch immigration minister Rita Verdonk proposed a system of “integration badges” for immigrants. The former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen declared a “battle of culture” against multiculturalism and Islam, and his culture minister, Brian Mikkelsen, explicitly targeted a “medieval Muslim culture” in Denmark. Päivi Räsänen, the new Finnish interior minister, proposed prioritising Christian refugees in the interests of cohesion and to “prevent discrimination”. While these examples are drawn from contexts now associated with far-right electoral successes, they illustrate how the alibi of an “utterly failed” multiculturalism has provided political capital to centrists and liberals for quite some time.

Visit the Guardian to read the article in full.

As well as Alana’s book, there are a number of Pluto titles which look at contemporary racism, including the recent rise of Islamophobia in the UK and across Europe, and how it can be combated. In particular we recommend Arun Kundnani’s The End of Tolerance: Racism in 21st Century Britain and Liz Fekete’s A Suitable Enemy: Racism, Migration and Islamophobia in Europe.

Racism and Anti-Racism in Europe

Alana Lentin

A comparative political sociology of anti-racism in Europe, showing the various discourses within this movement

“By all standards, this is a remarkable book. It is a major contribution to our understanding and handling of one of the crucial contemporary issues that acquires more import and gravity by the day.” – Zygmunt Bauman

“An excellent book, which enriches the tradition of political sociology conceptually, methodologically and substantively.” – Professor Peter Wagner, European University Institute, Florence

£19.99 only £17.50 on the Pluto site

The End of Tolerance

Racism in 21st Century Britain

Arun Kundnani

Shows how multicultural Britain is under attack by government policies and vitriolic press campaigns that encourage racism

“Before you can solve a problem you have to understand it. Arun Kundnani not only understands the roots and ramifications of contemporary racism but explains it clearly, linking the local, the global, the political and the cultural. An incisive book at a decisive moment.” – Gary Younge

“The End of Tolerance is an illuminating analysis of the historic development of British racism, its empire and how this has evolved into the current conflicting and confused debates about the demonisation of immigrants, asylum-seekers, Muslims, the war on terror, segration, assimilation, multi-culturalism and Britishness. … Essential resource.” – Herman Ouseley, former Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality

£22.99 only £20.69 on the Pluto site

A Suitable Enemy

Racism, Migration and Islamophobia in Europe

Liz Fekete. Foreword by A. Sivanandan

Fekete exposes a new kind of institutionalised racism behind the inhuman migration and security policies of the EU.

“Liz Fekete is one of the best analysts of the complexities of racism in Europe today. In showing how racism has been profoundly impacted by Islamophobia, the War on Terror, and by a ‘xeno-racism’ directed at undocumented migrants and asylum seekers, A Suitable Enemy is the major work we’ve been waiting for. An enormously accomplished and important book” – Professor Avery Gordon, Department of Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara

“A Suitable Enemy shows how the extreme right captured the political initiative by portraying immigrants and asylum seekers as a threat to European security, identity and prosperity … Liz Fekete presents an important analysis that should be used by anyone concerned about the real threats to human rights and democracy today.” – Professor Stephen Castles International Migration Institute, University of Oxford

£17.99 only £16.00 on the Pluto site

Catching History on the Wing

Race, Culture and Globalisation

A. Sivanandan

The definitive collection of A. Sivanandan’s writing.

£14.99 only £13.00 on the Pluto site

White Identities

A Critical Sociological Approach

Simon Clarke and Steve Garner

Critical introduction to the increasingly prominent literature on the construction of white identity.

“A brilliantly nuanced analysis of white racial identity in the 21st century … The authors keep a clear focus upon the core issue: how white identity in its various forms is used to defend the advantages enjoyed by whites at the expense of racialised ‘others’.” – Woody Doane, University of Hartford. Co-Editor of White Out: The Continuing Significance of Racism

£18.99 only £17.00 on the Pluto site

Brown Skin, White Masks

Hamid Dabashi

Dabashi picks up where Franz Fanon left off, examining the negative influence of intellectual immigrants as facilitators of American imperialism.

£14.99 only £13.00 on the Pluto site

Open Borders – Second Edition

The Case Against Immigration Controls

Teresa Hayter

Sheds new light on the issue of asylum and immigration and opposes immigration controls in their totality.

£16.99 only £15.29 on the Pluto site

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