Rod Liddle Rod Liddle

Everything in black and white

She doesn’t seem to understand — or care — why the white working class of Luton are so angry, but finds the Muslim activist Anjem Choudary smiling and affable

This is a quite remarkable book. Badly written, devoid of anything even vaguely approaching a methodology, patronising, hideously mistaken on almost every page — and yet it does, inadvertently, answer the very question posed in its introduction: why are certain sections of the white working class so angry about immigration and Islam?

The author is a Taiwanese journalist from the metropolitan liberal left. Her MO is to venture — ‘bravely’, we are informed — into quite the most ghastly areas where working-class people live in their decrepit social housing, with their beer and their tracksuits. Her purpose is to find ‘racists’ and inquire as to why they are ‘racist’. And yet she is utterly incurious and dismissive about their explanations. She believes that they have anti-immigration views because they have been fed a diet of nasty racist propaganda by the mainstream media — the right-wing press (which means for Hsiao-Hung Pai, pretty much every daily newspaper except maybe the Guardian, on a good day). Nothing any of these beastly low-brow people tell her can shake that perspective: they are simply quite wrong about everything, and that’s that. As far as her own theories are concerned, she is limitlessly credulous, to a degree which makes me suspect that she is a cast-iron idiot.

So, for example, she heads to the frowsy estates in Luton to confront members of the English Defence League. The EDL is unique in being the only political movement drawn from the nation’s football grounds and having consisted, in its early days, almost entirely of hooligans. But it has some purchase in Luton, the town where it began. Pai speaks to people called stuff like ‘Darren’ and condescends to them. She finds any antipathy in Luton towards immigrants, and especially Muslim immigrants, utterly mystifying.

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