‘Loud and proud’: Politics and passion in the English Defence League is a study of grassroots activism in what is widely considered to be a violent Islamophobic and racist organisation.
The book uses interviews, informal conversations and extended observation at EDL events to critically reflect on the gap between the movement’s public image and activists’ own understandings of it. It details how activists construct the EDL, and themselves, as ‘not racist, not violent, just no longer silent’ inter alia through the exclusion of Muslims as a possible object of racism on the grounds that they are a religiously not racially defined group. In contrast activists perceive themselves to be ‘second-class citizens’, disadvantaged and discriminated by a ‘two-tier’ justice system that privileges the rights of ‘others’. This failure to recognise themselves as a privileged white majority explains why ostensibly intimidating EDL street demonstrations marked by racist chanting and nationalistic flag waving are understood by activists as standing ‘loud and proud’; the only way of ‘being heard’ in a political system governed by a politics of silencing.
Unlike most studies of ‘far right’ movements, this book focuses not on the EDL as an organisation – its origins, ideology, strategic repertoire and effectiveness – but on the individuals who constitute the movement. Its ethnographic approach challenges stereotypes and allows insight into the emotional as well as political dimension of activism. At the same time, the book recognises and discusses the complex political and ethical issues of conducting close-up social research with ‘distasteful’ groups.
sciences, has led to an increasingly nuanced discussion of different types of emotions in movements (Goodwin, Jasper and Polletta, 2001: 20) and how activists perform their networks through diverse bodily movements, techniques and styles, generating distinct emotional tones (Juris, 2008: 89). This shift in the field has largely bypassed studies of extreme and populist radical right movements, however, where collective emotions are seen as consciously orchestrated by leaders among masses in order to construct emotional collectives (Virchow, 2007: 148). This instrumental
increasingly assertive arguments made by, or on behalf of, white working-class communities, Kenny (2012: 24) has asked whether we should rethink our tendency to treat them as expressions of ‘resentment, racism and grievance’ and consider whether they might be thought of as a form of recognition politics and, in some cases, as demands which have a ‘rational’ basis and ‘merit a more sympathetic hearing by the state’. This raises a deeper question in relation to our understanding of democracy of the possibility that populist radical right movements such as the EDL may
emotions in movements – shared and reciprocal (Goodwin, Jasper and Polletta, 2001: 20) – as well as between emotions as the social expression of feelings and affect as non-conscious movement between one experiential state of the body to another. In studies of anti-globalisation protests, this has led to nuanced discussion of how activists perform their networks through diverse bodily movements, techniques and styles, generating distinct identities and emotional tones (Juris, 2008: 89). In contrast, in studies of extreme and populist radical right movements, an
in far right or populist radical right movements (in the same position the majority do not take this route), there is evidence from other studies that among young men who ‘drift’ in and out of right-wing politics, racism increases at particular stages of fragmentation and insecurity in both economic well-being and sense of identity (Cockburn, 2007: 551). How these feelings of social and economic exclusion (Chapter 6) and of cultural ‘othering’ (Chapter 5) are implicated in the activist routes taken by respondents in this study is explored in the following chapters