Imagine the reaction if a group of regulars congregated at their local - let’s call it, for the sake of discussion, the Anti-Fascist Arms - and on one occasion were joined briefly by a stranger who told one of those gathered that they didn’t know anything about their chosen subject, brought their subject area into disrepute, called them out as ignorant, was generally condescending, then poured his pint over them before calmly sauntering out.
The problem with those fighting (not necessarily in the physical sense, it has to be stressed, for the pedantic and wilful) the fascist far-right, which means most of it, is that this is more or less what happened over the past 24 hours as someone calling himself Matthew Feldman has, in advertising an article he has co-written, insulted, patronised and defamed a leading contemporary historian and anti-fascist.
The pub entry Tweet was Feldman telling his followers “Who are the DFLA? Are they a radical right group? Addressing these points, a new report - the first on this group, emerging in 2017 - was written by Dr William Allchorn and me”. We know who the DFLA are, thanks. And can spot The Fash from some distance.
Football Lads And Lasses Against Fascism were unimpressed. “Typical academic appeasement of fascism, one that almost advises DFLA in how to avoid the ‘far right’ tag & which deems the opposition to them as counter productive. A cursory glance thru history would show the error of this position. Your report is worthless on the street”.
And The DFLA is very much a street organisation. But soon, Feldman was countering talk of the memory of Cable Street by citing one source as authoritative. Louise Raw was the next to be unimpressed. In response, Feldman countered sniffily “It's not my intention to condescend, and I'm sorry you feel that way, but having to mute thugs doesn't bring out my best side; the DFLA were classier in response than the FLAF!”
Courteous, were they? Like Southern segregationists? There’s a false filter if ever there was one. But Feldman was now regaling the pub with his lack of knowledge. “I should have said 'civil' rather than 'classy'; the latter was a poor choice of words, and I take your point (not that they are fascist, obvs.; that view only works those totally ignorant of this subject, like 19thc. specialist, Dr Raw, who truly brings learning into disrepute).”
The moment of beer-pouring was well and truly upon us as Feldman went for broke. “She might be an encyclopaedia of ant-fascism for all I know. That wasn't my point above. She doesn't get the subject of fascism and/or the radical right; and aggressively parades this ignorance to impress a Twitter mob that prefers political violence to seeking real solutions”.
And with that, he didn’t wait for the landlord to bar him, and left. But two things here. One, no “Twitter mob”, and certainly not one where Dr Raw is participating, “prefers political violence”. And Two, you don’t seek “real solutions” when you get The Fash on your doorstep in the dead of night. Or have them making death threats.
There is, though, one reason for Feldman’s condescension. His nascent Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right, or CARR, is just getting started. This “will be the leading information aggregator and knowledge repository on the radical right, past and present”. Hence his sniffy and dismissive attitude to others. He’s touting for business.
And this body may do good work. It may, on the other hand, merely antagonise those who have already seen through Feldman by reading his analysis of the DFLA and reached the conclusion that he is talking out of the back of his neck, whatever his beer-pouring skills.
Worse, CARR’s website reeks of pretentiousness, with its list of “Fellows” in the style of every jumped-up grouping of Stateside propagandists (the Gatestone institute, for one, and of course Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, was a “Shillman Fellow” while he was with Rebel Media).
That extends to Feldman himself, who is styled “Emeritus Professor”, which brings to mind a quip attributed to Rupert Murdoch, who had given a longstanding employee the title of “Editor Emeritus” on being “kicked upstairs”. “E means ex, and Meritus means you deserved it” The Great Man is reputed to have said. I’ll just leave that one there.
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