Should we be tearing down those Generation Identity posters?

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Personally, I hadn’t heard about the organisation that call themselves Generation Identity before I heard about it on Facebook. After a bit of Googling it becomes obvious that this is a fast growing far-right group, established in France several years ago, and they now have members all over Europe. Their official website looks slick and professional, with their own merchandise store, and is very clear about their purpose – they are a “patriotic youth movement that promotes values of homeland, freedom and tradition” and they talk about the need to preserve their “ethno-cultural identity” (read: preserve whiteness). Their demands include stopping the “Islamisation of Europe” and reversing “the Great Replacement”. They’re about as far right-wing as they come. And their poster was spotted on our campus earlier this month.

The thing is, we can keep having the same conversations over and over again about how we must be careful about censorship and how people should be able to express their opinions and that silencing these groups, particularly on campuses, will only create more problems. And I agree, largely because a lot of these people can’t be silenced. Their tactics have been likened to “media guerrilla warfare”. Even now, writing about them for SCAN, I worry that I am feeding into their publicity strategy. But what else is there to do? Organisations such as HOPE not hate have done important work in relation to disrupting some of the group’s activity but, again, this is only as good as trying to disinfect a wound on a limb that needs amputating.

This visceral response from right-wing youth, be that in the face of Generation Identity or the Traditionalist Society or any other similar right-wing group is symptomatic. It is symptomatic of the multitude of failures within our current system. Our generation is kind of screwed, let’s face it. We are facing precarious employment and the inevitable melting of all the ice-caps. Few of us can even dream of owning homes or having any sense of security. We are stumbling through, trying to figure things out while being shamed by older generations for spending too much money on avocados. It’s no wonder some want a scapegoat to blame. I get it, I really do. When I’m getting another rejection letter from a job I applied for or when I don’t know if I’m going to make rent at the end of the month, I too want someone to blame. It just so happens that for Generation Identity the scapegoat are immigrants. It’s because of them that they can’t buy a house or get a job and nothing to do with the fact that capitalism might be failing in some fundamental way.  

Campuses do tend to be largely liberal, one of my lecturers openly admitted to being a Marxist and the Conservative party gets a bit of stick for their tweed jackets. (I would argue that people who complain about a lack of viewpoint diversity are actually complaining about how their conservative views are no longer dominant, but that’s a topic for another article). The thing is – this particular instance isn’t about having a debate about how much money should be put into the NHS, or tax breaks for the rich or even nuclear disarmament. The Generation Identity group wants to start a conversation about ethnic cleansing, white supremacy and wants to fuel hate. This isn’t a conversation between the right and the left, between Labour and the Tories, it’s a conversation about whether we want to live in a world where we allow people to get away with these dangerous views under the guise of “free speech”.

It is a fine line between blocking legitimate conversations that need to be had and also ensuring that our campus remains hate-free and a safe space for everyone. I would argue that Generation Identity posters have no place in Lancaster University but then I am sure some of you will label me a “leftie” or an SJW. I believe in free speech and healthy debate as much as the next person, but I will not stand for hatred. Generation Identity, despite its attempts to convey a different image, is, at its core, driven by a hateful and violent ideology. So next time you see one of their posters – tear that shit down.

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