Proper Gander: To EDL and Back

Broadcasting budget cuts have led to plans to take BBC3 off the air in 2015, demoted to being an online-only channel. So it looks like there’ll be fewer of its trademark brash documentaries, like EDL Girls – Don’t Call Me Racist. This show follows three women attached to the thuggishly nationalistic English Defence League. Gail is a long-standing leader of the Yorkshire ‘Angels’. She has a steely, scary determination, undaunted when she’s ‘disrespected’ by founding leader Tommy Robinson’s departure from the organisation. Amanda is a younger wannabe member, who thinks ‘it’s quite romantic going on an EDL demo’ as a date with her new boyfriend. Katie is the only one in her family of committed EDLers to doubt their beliefs. She tells her mum that she doesn’t want to be thought of as racist as they sit colouring in A4 placards with felt-tip pens.

Those taking part in the programme hope that it will dispel the stereotype of EDL members as shaven-headed racist young males. If nothing else, it succeeds by reminding us that obnoxious, mistaken beliefs can be held by both men and women. One member objects to bread being marked as halal, claiming that a few pennies from its sale will go to the Taliban. Another says that she doesn’t want her children to be ‘made to wear a burqa’. There are enough reasons to criticise Islam without having to rely on these kinds of laughable misconceptions.

The EDL makes ill-founded generalisations about others, but can’t see the irony when they complain that other people make ill-founded generalisations about them. The difference is that generalisations about EDL members are usually correct, as they all share views which easily fall apart with only the slightest scrutiny. They have a misplaced sense of ownership and loyalty to the country they just happened to have been born in, along with misplaced beliefs about society’s problems, and misplaced blame towards Muslims. They’ve even misappropriated the slogan ‘Whose Streets? Our Streets’ from the left.


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