Statement regarding Jo Cox

Yesterday, after a constituency surgery at the library in Birstall, near Leeds, Labour MP Jo Cox was subjected to a targeted, brutal and prolonged attack by an assailant who, according to multiple eyewitness accounts, shouted the words “Britain First” as he attacked, shooting and stabbing her multiple times. By the evening, news broke that Jo had died as a result of her injuries.

Evidence is mounting that the 52-year-old man detained near the scene was inspired by, and involved in, far-right activity over a number of years. He shouted “Britain First”, the name of an extreme right-wing, racist and anti-immigration political organisation both during the attack, and as he was being apprehended. The Southern Poverty Law Centre has uncovered evidence that he was a regular donor and supporter of National Alliance, an American neo-Nazi group. Other records obtained by SPLC show that he ordered literature describing the construction of improvised weapons like the one witnesses describe being used to murder Jo. He also subscribed to the S.A. Patriot, a racist publication dedicated to supporting apartheid.

The national media has been quick to paint a humanising picture of the assailant, who has been named as Thomas Mair, as a quiet man, a loner; someone who enjoys gardening and volunteering. Particular emphasis has been placed on his history of mental illness. We take issue with this for a few reasons. As Tommy’s involvement with the far-right is long-standing – records of his purchases of neo-Nazi literature date back to at least 1999 – we feel that this was nonetheless a premeditated political assassination. Further, we feel that the blanket application of “mental illness” as a causal factor in this case stigmatises and demeans those who suffer from mental health problems.

Finally, it is telling to compare the immediate coverage of this case with that of Lee Rigby’s murder in Woolwich, which was immediately trumpeted as an act of terror. Both attacks were extraordinary in their brutality, perpetrated against unsuspecting victims in broad daylight, and with apparent political motives. Islamist terrorism and White Nationalist terrorism are very much alike in their goals, turning discontent and anger into reactionary violence. The difference in the way these two murders have been reported speaks to a racial and religious bias on the part of the mainstream media in the UK.

It is no great surprise that the newspapers who systematically foment hatred against migrants and refugees to influence the outcome of the referendum, would seek to deflect criticism of their coverage once a pro-refugee humanitarian, and visible ‘Stronger In’ campaigner, is murdered. Jo’s death is being robbed of its political context by those same media outlets. It can not be ignored that this murder occurred against a background of an increasingly febrile and racially-charged campaign around the EU referendum. The right-wing media, UKIP and the official Leave campaign have blood on their collective hands. Aware that their economic arguments were not generating enough support, they have made the calculated move of denigrating and demonising migrants, whipping up fear and hatred to bolster their vote, with no regard for the effects on social cohesion. ‘Vote Leave’ have also provided a platform for long-forgotten racists such as Mark Collett, ex-BNP Youth organiser, to rear their ugly heads once more – espousing fascism from their stalls in Leeds City Centre, until they were challenged by Leeds Anti-Fascist Network, and stopped turning up.

Jo’s murder reflects a pattern of increased violence from an emboldened far-right movement which has recently reverted to type, launching bloody attacks in the UK and overseas. Last year, Zack Davies of the neo-Nazi outfit National Action attempted to behead a Sikh man in Tesco “because he looked Asian,” citing revenge for Lee Rigby’s murder. Dylann Roof, inspired by apartheid-era South Africa and the Confederate South and having posed with the flags of each, walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and shot nine black worshipers dead at a bible study. Earlier this year, hooligans professing support for Combat 18 and the Chelsea Headhunters attacked anti-racist activists at Maidstone service station, and a French man with nationalist sympathies was recently caught in Ukraine, smuggling weapons for a planned attack during the Euro 2016 tournament. As Europe braces itself for attacks from ISIS, it forgets too easily the ever-present threat of far-right/nationalist violence and terror. In the aftermath of yesterday’s attack, online comments from Nottingham Casual Infidels, another Islamophobic and racist group, praised the attacker stating that it was about time someone “took it to the next level,” warning “now is the time.”

Fascism is an ideology that feeds off the genuine concerns of working class communities – low pay, the housing crisis, a lack of control and self-determination – and places the blame at the feet of smaller disadvantaged groups, such as migrants, people of colour, minority faiths, the LGBT community, etc. It is capitalism’s great trick of misdirection – urging us to fight amongst ourselves instead of against the powers that oppress us all, with frequent tragic results. Fascism must be opposed whenever and wherever it appears: only through strong and determined working class organisation can we defeat hate, defeat poverty, and fight for a better life for all.

Leeds Anti-Fascist Network stands in solidarity with Jo and all victims of fascist violence, and is committed to direct opposition to fascism.

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11 Responses to Statement regarding Jo Cox

  1. Jacqui says:

    Hatred is driving the move to leave EU, just get out and vote to remain, this will be a victory for democracy and humanity

    • jolasmo says:

      Just to be clear, Leeds Anti-Fascist Network does not take a position on the EU or the referendum as a whole. However, those who stir up racial hatred for political gain must always be opposed on those grounds alone.

    • RJL says:

      You just have to be joking – the eu democratic?? Oh you mean democratic as in the case of North Korea, East Germany, Soviet Socialist Republics, China etc etc . Hatred of those who abuse the efforts of the genuine anti-fascists….the servicemen and women of WW2.

  2. john p johnson says:

    good analysis,folks.jpj

  3. Ksenya says:

    good article, bang on except
    “French man with nationalist sympathies was recently caught in the Ukraine,”

    using the article when referring to Ukraine old colonialist language (as in ‘the Argentine etc) – it is a hangover from the days when parts of Ukraine were in the Russian Empire. The country is called Ukraine – thought you’d like to know and correct. Interesting how little coverage the Ukrainian interception got in the press in Britain, or France for that matter.

  4. Brat says:

    Thank you. Clear and to the point.

  5. Paul G says:

    Good article except for this. Yesterday I saw a post made by Cox on just before she was killed. She criticised Brexit on the grounds it wouldn’t control immigration. She also agreed with the tory policy of denying benefits to migrants. Clearly she wasn’t quite the saint she was portrayed as in certain sections of the media. Nevertheless she did not deserve to die at the hands of fascist scum.

    • Ksenya says:

      Perhaps you could enlighten us with the post you saw that you feel so negative about (just out of interest).
      For instance, a statement about Brexit on the basis that it would not ‘control immigration’ would not necessarily mean she was making an anti immigration argument (highly unlikely considering her general position regarding refugees), she could have have been pointing some of the very large holes being furthered by the Brexit campaign on migration in order to enable people to make an informed decision.

      Cox had been vilified some time ago by StWuk for her position on Syria (who don’t support the White Helmets for instance) so personally I’d rather see for myself any statement claimed to be made by her – otherwise it feels a bit like a slur.

      BTW don’t think anyone is claiming her to be a “saint”, just a committed humanitarian who went to parliament in order to try to make effect change.

  6. Excellent article – this was a targeted political assassination by a neo-Nazi terrorist, just as Orlando was a hate crime aimed at the LGBT community. In both cases it was widely reported that the perpetrator was “mentally ill” – and here are …
    Some thoughts on violent crime and “mental illness”

    All too often when an appalling crime of violence occurs without any seeming rhyme or reason, eventually the media will settle on the consensus that the perpetrator was “mentally ill”, and that is supposed to explain it.
    But not only does it explain very little, it also unfortunately leaves us easy targets, the considerable community of mental health survivors – whose only ‘crime’ may be to suffer chronic mental distress since being abused as children – with yet more isolation through increased pariah status stigma.
    The often research confirmed fact needs repeating over and over again – that mental health survivors are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Mental health survivors are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. And not only that, if we do become violent, it is far, far more likely that it will be turned in on ourselves with self-harm, cries for help and serious suicide attempts, than outwards.
    And when ‘mental illness’ is linked to violence, all too often a causative link can be found to psychiatric drugs, with their long history of insufficient testing and cover up. Either those drugs produced side-effects sufficient to alter the character of the patient, or in desperation because of those side-effects, the patient stops taking the drugs, suddenly and without help, with the same consequences.
    We live in a society of massive disparity of wealth, where greed, celebrity status and hypocrisy are rewarded, with the media ever eager to do the bidding of the rich and powerful promoting divide and rule, fostering suspicion and hatred – black against white, young old, women men, Christian Moslem, gay straight – whilst like-minded social media groupings tend to reinforce prejudices learnt at home and school. And at the same time there is massive pressure to conform, with instead of individuality being celebrated, vicious troll-like internet condemnation and abuse stamps on anyone who dares disagree with the herd, whilst hundreds of imaginary friends is considered more important than real best buddies – “Some of my best friends are …” may not be proof of tolerance, but no best friends at all is a much better breeding ground for bigotry.
    No wonder that so many particularly men – less able to articulate feelings that show weakness, more likely to be told, snap out of it, don’t be such a wimp – should feel alienated from society and themselves. And if they do manage to get into the system, they then discover that a 10 minute diagnosis of complex life history and feelings labels them as the problem, the psychiatrist’s dream of a rogue male probably with deficient genes, who also needs to be avoided for fear of contagion.
    All too often if someone does muster the courage to ask for help, they find themselves at the back of massive waiting list for talking therapies, disbelieved by the DWP and its privatised minions, stigmatised as the lowest of the low, lost in a chronically underfunded mental health system, the brunt of the worst hypocrisy as each successive government promises to prioritise mental health knowing that non-earmarked funding will be used by councils and health authorities for different populist priorities.
    So when you next hear that a violent crime was committed by someone who was ”mentally ill”, don’t blame us – look to your own prejudices, society at large, health priorities, profiteering drug companies, and the mass media and their millionaire masters who propagate the hatred that breeds alienation and violence, to deflect criticism from themselves.

    Oliver Swingler
    18th June 2016

  7. Pingback: Vigil for Jo Cox and victims of fascist violence | Leeds Anti Fascist Network

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