Friday, 11 March 2016

The anonymous haters of refugees and migrants

This week The Independent ‘Voices’ section published my article calling on Britain to ‘put a brake’ on the country becoming ‘fundamentally inward-looking and xenophobic’. 

But many of the readers’ comments responding to my article seemed to be just that: inward-looking and xenophobic.

In my article, I expressed disappointment that prime minister, David Cameron, had 'darkly' boasted that Britain had ‘an absolutely rock-bottom opt-out’ from having to take a fair share of the refugees coming to Europe.

I pointed out that around 90% of the people escaping across the Mediterranean to reach Europe were genuine refugees; about half of them women and children. 

Shouldn't we help?

Not according to the anti-refugee sentiment that now seems to represent Britain. As I wrote:
“According to much of the rhetoric now, migrants are all bad – and they’re all the same. EU migrants, non-EU migrants, economic migrants, illegal migrants, asylum seekers, refugees – what’s the difference? None, if you follow some of our media and politicians.”
This also resulted in a ‘British’ sentiment against EU migrants. So much so, that Mr Cameron wants to put a ‘brake’ on them coming here, by cutting in-work benefits that 90% of them don’t even take. 

Never mind, too, that most migrants in Britain are in gainful employment and making a significant net contribution to the Treasury and the economy.


So how did my article go down with the Independent readers? 

Terribly, if you go by the comments section.

‘Angus777’ commented, ‘Funny that most of the migrants are Muslim, have they ever stopped to consider that the cause of their problems is their intolerant religion..’

Added ‘JuliaLondon’: ‘Why exactly, assuming you are British, do you want to give away your country to millions of immigrants who have no connection to this country and no claims on it? … I want to live in a mainly European culture, and I want this for my descendants’

Contributed ‘gridnash’: ‘Sorry, but this is the usual sloppy and misleading drivel that we are used to from the xenophile community."

'Gridnash' added, 'Whether anyone is fleeing anything or claiming anything is scarcely the point. The point is that the UK has already taken in so many millions of people of alien cultures and races that it is rapidly ceasing to be the country that we recognise as our own and with which we identify.’

(No point telling Gridnash, I guess, that only about 12% of the British population was born abroad - and that percentage even includes those considered to be British, such as Boris Johnson and Joanna Lumley).

'Apocalpse' commented, 'Please visit Calais and tell them how awful it is here - and do not come back'


Regarding my claim that 90% of arrivals via the Mediterranean are genuine refugees and 90% of EU migrants in Britain don’t take in-work benefits, there was general disbelief.

Asked ‘Kango’: ‘Can u please provide the evidence in making such wild claims?’

Responded ‘mrodent’ before I had a chance to: ‘No, he can’t. But he’s committed to a journalistic career where even if he knew he was claiming things for which he had no proof he would have to do so anyway.’

Added ‘suzy61’ ‘..soon you will have to grow up and realise that not all Britons have had your privileged life and cannot afford to be a ‘compassionate’ as you.’ 

(Of course, Suzi61 doesn’t know anything about my personal circumstances).

‘Hugo’ was more direct, describing my article as ‘bombastic and offensive’ and also ‘incorrect nonsense’. 

And regarding the photo that accompanied my article 'Hugo' remarked, ‘Oh and drop the pictures of the little children - because that sort of attempted emotional blackmail stopped working long ago.’

It was worse on Twitter, where multiple Tweets described me in various forms as a ‘scum journalist’ (well, multiple Tweets all from the same Tweeter, that is.)

British values

Ironically, the comments appeared to confirm and amplify the fears of my article: that Britain is becoming inward-looking and xenophobic. 

But is that correct? Do the comments truly represent British values?

Something that the anti-refugee comments have in common is that, without exception, they were all posted anonymously. 

This is what I often find: that strong, xenophobic-type responses are not generally posted by people with the courage, conviction or courtesy to comment under their real and verifiable names. 

Does that tell us something?

I once met the Sun columnist, Guido Fawkes, and discussed this phenomenon with him. He told me that The Sun had analysed these types of acerbic comments, and found that they were mostly posted by the same few people, using different pseudonyms.

So let’s put this into context. There are (so far) only 23 comments under my Independent article, including a couple by me. Anyone reading them might conclude that my views are off-the-wall, and most people across the country want to close the door on refugees and all other foreigners coming here.

However, I don’t believe those comments were necessarily or generally representative of Britain and British values today. 

For sure, such comments seem to be louder than ever, albeit often shouted by those who don’t want to reveal their real names.


But, as I pointed out in my article, many British volunteers are helping the refugees arriving on the Greek islands, or stuck in Calais. There are also many volunteers giving support to the few refugees already in Britain.

And the Jewish community here is probably doing more than any other to privately sponsor Muslim Syrian refugees.

My article so far has been shared 2,000 times – so it seems to have resonated with more readers than those few who commented against it.

A recent petition to Parliament asking the British government to do more to help asylum seekers and refugees has reached almost half-a-million signatures. 

Last month the actor Jude Law assembled some of Britain’s most prominent writers and actors to call upon David Cameron to help the unaccompanied child refugees camping in desperate conditions in Calais and Dunkirk. 

In fact, if you search Google, there are many petitions now urging the British government to do more to help refugees, such as by 'Save the Children', 'Refugee Action' and '38Degrees'.

Maybe this isn't reported so much, and maybe those compassionate voices are not as loud as the anonymous 'refugee haters', but don't they better represent true British values? 

Since the Education Act of 2002, schools have been under an obligation to promote ‘fundamental British values’. School children, ‘must be encouraged to regard people of all faiths, races and cultures with respect and tolerance.’

‘British values’, our school children are told, also include accepting that other people with different faiths or beliefs should be ‘accepted and tolerated, and should not be the cause of prejudicial or discriminatory behaviour.’

Maybe ‘fundamental British values’ need to be promoted to some British adults too.

Other articles by Jon Danzig:


 Readers comments are very welcome, including opinions that oppose mine. Comments need to be on-topic and personal attacks will not be allowed. To read more about the style of debating that I encourage on all my blogs, please read my article: 'Debate, don't hate'

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Posted by Jon Danzig on Thursday, 10 March 2016


  1. The article is interesting. He has pretty much discovered one of the modern politicians' dilemmas. Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of the views -people holding them have been told they are being racist and ignored rather than being engaged over many years. I am not making a pro or anti comment - but we are now in a world where unless politicans recognise the real fears (whether or not they are decent ones) - the far right will pick up. I offer no answers - but I have found that insulting people with real fears - by calling them xenophobic is both useless and insulting. The roots of this issue probably lie in economics, combined with population density (ie it is becoming harder and harder to accomodate the increasing numbers, statisitics as to economic benefits that are not believed (eg the increased education pressures of larger immigrant first gen families) and good old fashioned lack of education feeding prejudice. No answers - in fact I do not envy anyone who has to square this circle

    1. Dear anonymous, thank you for your comment. Please note that I don't allow anonymous comments any more, but since this is a new rule I've passed yours for publication. Please do provide your real name next time, thank you.


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