In a remarkable demonstration of how to inflame public sentiment and paint one’s own organization as a vulgar and racist political group, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has unveiled a billboard in support of the campaign to have Britain exit the European Union that visually references Nazi propaganda. The launching of the poster by the party’s leader, Nigel Farage, according to the UK Daily Record, was decidedly unsubtle, occurring with a battle bus tour through Westminster (the center of the UK government, where Parliament and ministries are located), followed by 10 vans covered with the image.
The poster is grindingly obvious in its intentions. It shows an image of a long curving line of Syrian refugees walking to a refugee camp on the border of Croatia and Slovenia and is branded with the words “Breaking Point” written in large, red text, and underneath in white letters: “The EU has failed us all.” The poster is visually composed to incite fear of the unwashed masses walking towards the viewer of the image. But worse still, the picture mimics Nazi propaganda footage included in the first episode of Auschwitz: The Nazis and The ‘Final Solution’ (2005), a six-part BBC documentary (currently available on Netflix).
In defending his use of the image, Farage has said, “If you get back to the Geneva Convention definition, you will find very few people that came into Europe last year would actually qualify as genuine refugees,” and “the EU has made a fundamental error that risks the security of everybody.” This has not stemmed the tide of MPs of all the other major parties — Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and the Green Party — from attacking Farage for what they perceive as “disgusting and vile” attempts to whip up division. The context of this propagandist assault makes an even worse case for UKIP’s decision to release it: campaigning in the EU referendum has only just restarted after the brutal murder of Jo Cox, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, by someone who has verbally supported the cause to leave the EU.
There is something Freudian about all this. UKIP claims on its own website that the party was founded “to campaign for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, not because we hate Europe, or foreigners, or anyone at all …” Why is it that the reason that supposedly does not animate your cause is the first one you mention? A look at the history of the behavior of its members and councilors also does not allay suspicions that in its marrow, it is indeed a racist organization that appeals to a base and irrational fear of the other. It remains to be seen how today’s referendum turns out, but the tactics being used by the side urging an exit don’t bode well for Britain no matter what is decided.