A week ago the director of the right-wing thinktank Policy Exchange, Anthony Browne, joined London Mayor Boris Johnson as his new policy director. He was replacing Nick Boles, also formerly of Policy Exchange, for screwing up over the Ray Lewis incident.
Browne is the newest recruit and there has been surprisingly no sense of outrage on the left. As the Evening Standard’s Pippa Crerar pointed out last week:
He first came to prominence at The Times when his series of articles on immigration led to him being denounced by then Home Secretary David Blunkett in the Commons for “bordering on fascism”.
Now anyone who can be called a borderline fascist by David Blunkett without the audience immediately breaking into laughter is, in my book, someone to be worried about.
There are already a number of good comments on the article itself, and probably many more being sent by email, but something in particular stands out. Dave Hill points out that back in 2005 Browne was targeted by bloggers for his:
article comparing Islamic fundamentalism to Nazism and his links with a rightwing US website.
The piece accuses parts of the British left of supporting "Islamic fascism", criticising the Guardian and the BBC for letting the Muslim Association of Britain "promote sanitised versions of its Islamist views".
The article is, of course, a pretty nasty piece of work. However, it is the site that is of interest. The site in question is the US anti-immigration site called VDARE. Now, as people who read me know, I keep a close eye on US politics, and not just in the mainstream. I keep an eye on their lunatics too, especially on the far-right, partially out of an academic interest in extreme right wing populism (ie; proto-fascism) and partially because the US far right has the largest internet presence of any state, and thus to a degree set the trends that other groups around the world follow.
I also have spent more than a few boring hours
Anyway, to get back on point, I know a fair bit more about VDARE than the average British person. VDARE is originally named for Virginia Dare, the first English child born to immigrants in the New World. And that curious choice tells you a lot about where the group's priorities lie.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, who track extremist and hate groups in the USA, VDARE is a hate group who:
[VDARE] has now become a meeting place for many on the radical right.
One essay complains about how the government encourages "the garbage of Africa" to come to the United States. The same writer says once the "Mexican invasion" engulfs the country, "high teenage birthrates, poverty, ignorance and disease will be what remains."
Its not just a one off case either, but a pattern of hatred directed against immigrants and thinly veiled racism. If one continues to read the SPLC article, you can see how the loathesome Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, a well known white supremacist in American circles, is frequently published on the site.
So is Kevin MacDonald, a Californian professor who accuses Jews of:
"dominating" the "movement to change the ethnic balance of the United States by allowing mass, non-traditional [i.e., non-white] immigration."
He writes that Jews, believing "the masses ha[ve] to be deceived," frame their appeals in universalistic language. But behind that are "the Jewish agendas" of the deceivers. MacDonald also mentions "the famously heavy Jewish role" in television news.
The founder and director of VDARE is also of interest. Peter Brimelow belongs to the US paleoconservative right, that is the wing of the Republican party dominated by Nativists like Pat Buchanan, former Nixon speechwriter and one time leader of the radical Constitution Party. Buchanan's political philosophy is predicated on the superiority of Western European culture, religion, family and tradition:
"I will use the bully pulpit of the Presidency of the United States, to the full extent of my power and ability, to defend American traditions and the values of faith, family, and country, from any and all directions. And, together, we will chase the purveyors of sex and violence back beneath the rocks whence they came".
"Who is in your face here? Who started this? Who is on the offensive? Who is pushing the envelope? The answer is obvious. A radical Left aided by a cultural elite that detests Christianity and finds Christian moral tenets reactionary and repressive is hell-bent on pushing its amoral values and imposing its ideology on our nation. The unwisdom of what the Hollywood and the Left are about should be transparent to all"
Buchanan is a reactionary who fully promotes a "culture war" against the left, and also promotes the idea of immigrant invasion and takeover of American society:
"In the next 50 years, the Third World will grow by the equivalent of 30 to 40 new Mexicos. If you go to the end of the century, the white and European population is down to about three percent. This is what I call the death of the West. I see the nations dying when the populations die. I see the civilization dying. It is under attack in our own countries, from our own people."
This is the sort of "intellectual" background that Peter Brimelow has come from. So it is hardly a surprise when he describes:
...the role of race as "elemental, absolute, fundamental." He said that white Americans should demand that U.S. immigration quotas be changed to allow in mostly whites. He argued that spending tax dollars on anything related to multiculturalism was "subversive." He called foreign immigrants "weird aliens with dubious habits."
He worried repeatedly that his son, with his "blue eyes" and "blond hair," would grow up in an America in which whites had lost the majority.
Sound dubious to you? Me too. And it turns out that Mr Anthony Browne has no problem writing for a website rooted in, and promoting such views. David Neiwert, the American freelance journalist who runs the blog Orcinus, has more to say on VDARE:
Groups like FAIR, VDare, and American English like to pose as mainstream organizations offering "thoughtful" proposals for reforming U.S. immigration policy, but in reality their core -- ideologically, financially and programmatically -- is the same bigoted, racist Nativism that has plagued the nation since the time of the Know-Nothings. They are, in essence, all about putting pearls on a pig.
Neiwert also quotes another SPLC report which shows that another frequent contributor to VDARE is Edward Rubenstein, who works for the far right National Policy Institute:
The institute has published two studies: a critique of affirmative action, which the institute opposes; and "Mass Deportation is a Viable Solution to America's Illegal Immigration Crisis," written by Edwin Rubenstein. (Rubenstein, a frequent contributor to the V-Dare hate site, is president of ESR Research Economic Consultants of Indianapolis and has served as research director for the conservative Hudson Institute, an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, an economics editor at the National Review, and a contributing editor at Forbes magazine.)
Browne, in short, keeps some very suspect company, and since he writes for a website known to promote nativist, anti-immigrant and racist sentiment, we should question very carefully both his judgements and his policy recommendations. Not least in light of his promotion by the poster-child for thinly veiled fascism, Richard Barnbrooke.
I'm going to dig up more on Brown himself over the weekend, if I have the time. However, for the moment, at least one of his associations seems highly worrying, in light of his own political views, which are of course viciously anti-immigrant.