Thieves and Beggars
By Mike Cullen
A scapegoat is a very handy thing. Hitler understood that. It gives you someone to blame, for everything, a direction for your pointy finger and probably even somewhere to park your bike.
So far, in this increasingly panic-stricken election campaign, us Scots have had to take “smelly jocks, subsidy junkies, leeches, racists, clear and present dangers, the enemy, English haters, lefties on steroids, baby killers to rival King Herod”, and now…”thieves”.
Wait a minute, that doesn’t seem quite so bad, does it? Thieves. We’ve gone from genocidal infant slaughterers to petty thieves. Watch out, middle-England, the jocks are here to steal your money, ha ha ha.
So goes the Tory’s latest poster campaign, on billboards throughout London, depicting a sneaky Alex Salmond creeping up behind some poor unfortunate middle Englander, his bony, pointy, crooked fingers reaching out like an arcade grabby thing to steal the poor hard-working tax-payer’s selfies of the Queen from his back pocket.
The slogan says “Don’t let the SNP grab your cash”. The political tactic is, on the surface, obvious: attack Labour’s weakness, which they see as SNP puppet masters, while appealing to those disenchanted Tories hiding up the back of the Ukip bus. But here’s the thing…appealing how? By utilising the Scottish stereotype, and solidifying it from vague smear of meanness into crystal clear out and out street thief.
Depending on your position, you’ll smile or shake your head at these hyperbolic slurs. Even the most dedicated Ukip flag-breeder doesn’t seriously believe that the Scots eat babies, (well, not raw, at least). But thieves…hmmm, maybe there might just be something in that…
All’s fair in war and elections, you might say, but hang on a minute, this poster is not being broadcast to viewers in Scotland, the targets are Londoners. For whom the SNP is much the same thing as the Scottish. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I have this vague notion that there is a slight shortage of SNP candidates standing for election in London.
And there you have the problem. Peel away the veneer of electioneering, and underlyingly, you’ll find something much, much darker, a thing we’ve seen repeated throughout history. By accident or design, there lies underneath the insidious demonisation of a people. The chilling thrust of this campaign takes that old chestnut, the mean Scotsman, and turns it into a nut roast of royal proportions. I’ve posted on Facebook about this, and various excuses have emerged…”the SNP doesn’t represent the entire Scottish nation”. Do Londoners really make that distinction? “Oh, oh, it’s an election, everybody’s at it, it’s just the way elections work”. Well, it’s the first election I’ve lived through where every major party is involved in demonising an entire people, that’s true.
“By blaming a minority racial group for all of the country’s ills, the Nazis created a set of scapegoats who could be blamed at every opportunity for almost anything. In posters, art, cartoons and film, the Jews were equated with rats and caricatured as hook nosed misers, stealing money from the honest ‘Aryan’ German workers”. (brainz.org)
Yip, the tactic has been used before, to great effect, and all’s fair in war and elections, right? I can hear some of you now, grumbling that I’m over-reacting, taking this too far, and taken in isolation, you would probably be right. But next on the agenda come the cries of illegitimacy. You know this story. “You’re all greedy thieves, you’re trying to destabilise our country, you have no rights in our eyes, we refuse to recognise your right to vote, or to participate in our precious democracy, we will not allow it, we refuse to recognise your representatives, we’ll cast you out”. That happened in 30’s Germany to the Jews, and the threat of it rears it’s terrible head again, in the form of Tories and Libdems threatening to demote the Scots to second-class citizens by removing their democratic rights within the UK.
Scots voting for the SNP has been described by the Tories as an attempt to “sabotage the democratic will of the British people”. Em…we are the British people. We decided that last year, that we would remain a part of Britain, as British citizens. Which means we can vote for who we like, right?
I’m not going to even start discussing this absurd, idiotic notion that because you don’t agree with a certain party’s policies, you consider them to have less rights than you, nor will I discuss the obvious fear driving all of this – that the political awakening happening in Scotland might, gasp, spread to the rest of the UK.
I am going to say, however, that these tactics, going under the guise of happy electioneering, are incredibly dangerous. Not because they threaten the union, (which they do), but because they threaten to unleash that dark force that demonises a minority race within the country, that seeks to deny their rights, redact them from society, that turns them into scapegoats, to be feared, and ulimately, to be hated, with all the terrible consequence that brings.