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Mind Your Words: How we discuss migrants IS important

By Miriam Wood

Dover’s Tory MP Elphicke writes in his weekly email to his constituents about “dangerous” attempts to “break into Britain”. He calls Dover the “frontline” in a struggle to resist the “brazen” and “terrifying” attempts of migrants to find a way to cross the channel. From the way he writes one might suppose he singlehandedly dismantled the Calais Jungle 2 years ago, battling chainsaws along the way.

I could argue with much of what he says but am going to focus instead on the emotive language used by people like Elphicke and the effect it has.

Elphicke tries to make it sound as if he cares about the migrants . However, the extreme language he uses, some of which I have quoted above, actually serves to suggest that we are under siege and encourages some people to want to take action. For example, I have seen on social media suggestions that vigilante groups should prepare to shoot at desperate people in overcrowded dinghies in the Channel.

Now I am not suggesting that Elphicke intends this connection to be made. I think it is more likely that he simply hopes to appeal to the fears of people who read and believe scare stories in so-called newspapers such as the Daily Mail.

However, there is a great deal of evidence that hate speech in this country is being normalised. When Elphicke writes about “brazen” attempts to “break into this country” he is using the same kind of language used by far right nationalists and racists in Europe, the US and most recently Australia and New Zealand to justify acts of terrible violence against immigrant groups (https://www.nytimes.com/…/…/new-zealand-mosque-shooting.html)

All people with any decency are shocked at the most recent act of White Nationalist terrorism and mass murder, and that a city like Christchurch should have been forced to play host to it. All political leaders need to pay careful attention to the language they use if they wish to avoid being among those who incite such atrocities.

That includes Elphicke.