and the clichéd question: 'Are you thinking
what we are thinking?'
Shaikh Riyad Nadwi, PhD
the Conservative campaign one may be forgiven for
seeing the party's primary slogan 'Are you thinking
what we’re thinking?' as a hackneyed
gimmick to attract potential voters, in the same
vein as Labour’s 'Forward not Backward'
and the Lib Dems' 'The Real Alternative'.
closer inspection, however, the Conservative slogan
stands apart as something more than just a slogan
with which to convey a succinct and easy-to-remember
message. Indeed, the slogan is void of any substantive
content while embodying an interesting psycholinguistic
feature. It is a feature that only becomes apparent
when accompanied by another question, which is 'When
do people feel the need to ask such a question?'
one thinks about the question 'Are you thinking
what we are thinking?' and when it would
normally be used in standard English, it would become
clear that one of its uses is where the speaker
wishes to convey a message he or she is unwilling
to articulate explicitly, i.e. speaking the
unspeakable, without actually saying it. Implicit
communication is not only an effective way of circumventing
agreed socio-cultural norms of decency, but it also
provides plausible deniability in the event of someone
being challenged. One is always able to say 'That’s
not what I meant!'
downside of implicit communication, such as this,
is that it is highly susceptible to error. People
can easily be misunderstood. Therefore in order
to achieve mutual comprehension and precision in
the desired effect, the speaker has to provide an
array of clues to guide the listener's thoughts
towards a specific semantic field, i.e. a cluster
of concepts and ideas that happen to share a plateau
with the unspeakable component of the communication.
The question 'Are you thinking what we’re
thinking?' prompts the mind to generate the desired
meaning (e.g. an unscrupulous individual pointing
to a hefty restaurant bill and saying to his friend,
'Are you thinking what I’m thinking?' i.e.
'Let’s slip out without paying!')
one listens to the hundreds of references to 'immigration',
'disease' 'TB', asylum seekers, the Burnley riots,
borders, hospitals etc in Michael Howard’s
campaign rhetoric, a pattern of clues emerges to
function as a channelling mechanism for his slogan
'Are you thinking what we're thinking?' It is no
surprise therefore, that a similar slogan was also
used by some far-right parties in continental Europe
("Our programme is what you are thinking",
"Notre programme est-ce que vous pensez",
Jean Marie Le Pen, National Front Party, 1988 Election).
human mind is designed to alert itself to changes
in patterns. If one walks past 9 white people on
the road and 1 non-white person, the mind will register
the instance of the latter more vividly than the
encounter with the others. There is nothing sinister
about this: it is the way our brains work. By employing
evocative clues and a complementary campaign slogan,
Mr Howard has tried to exploit this natural memory
instinct to promote the idea that Britain is being
overwhelmed by immigrants, when the truth is that
the number of immigrants in this country remains
as Mr Howard appears to be claiming, he is an expert
in the demographic problems of global migration,
I would have expected him to highlight one such
genuine problem in his lecture of 06 December 2004
to the Conservative Friends of Israel at the Savoy
Hotel in London.
ever there were a country in need of a cap on immigration,
it is Israel. Immigration to Israel has caused and
continues to cause the violent uprooting of millions
of Palestinians from their homes. Israel continues
to promote an aggressive immigration policy in favour
of one particular race at the expense of wreaking
devastation on the indigenous inhabitants. The irony
of this situation is that whilst Muslims are called
upon continuously from all quarters to abandon belief
in the words of the Quran and to forsake their religion,
Israel continues to lay claim to Jerusalem, and
all Palestinian lands for that matter, solely on
the basis of belief.
is a belief that gives no consideration whatsoever
to the fact that Palestinians have lived in those
lands for thousands of years. Mr Howard told his
audience at the Savoy, 'We're here today because
we all support Israel – the only full democracy
in the Middle East'. Of course, no mention
was made of the fact that Palestinians are prohibited
by law from purchasing any land in that 'model democracy'.
Even Israeli Arabs, who have the right to vote,
cannot purchase land in Israel. Palestinians, displaced
for forty years, do not have the right to return
to their homes, whilst mass Jewish migration and
settlement in Palestinian lands is sanctioned by
the state and continues unabated.
is time that politicians consider these facts very
carefully when they next feel the urge to speak
of their 'support for Israel and a viable Palestinian
state'. Why is it always necessary to qualify the
state of Palestine with the word 'viable'?
Does it mean 'barely alive' (as it seems to suggest),
so as to safeguard the unfettered dominance of Israel?
the one hand, I deplore Mr Howard for demonstrating
repeatedly during his campaign his attraction to
people and ideas that are repugnant to and degrading
of the Muslim community (e.g. promoting 'hate-monger'
Steve Moxon, publishing deceptive Urdu pamphlets,
making cheap political capital out of the Burnley
riots, using asylum as a euphemism for Muslim etc).
On the other hand, I thank him for making my task
of raising awareness of the real danger we face
from him in this country so easy.
danger is that of multi-culturalism being replaced
by a 21st Century McCarthyism, where those who vocalise
their disagreement with right wing prejudice are
branded as a fifth column within our society. I
believe this is a danger to which every serious
politician, that is genuinely patriotic, should
pay close attention. I had always disagreed with
the conclusions of the reports on the riots in our
northern towns and now that Mr Howard has used these
conclusions in his rhetoric, I urge those responsible
to re-examine their data. One cannot emphasise enough
the need to be vigilant about conflicts of interest
in the civil service. If we are to believe the polls,
Mr Howard is likely to vanish from the political
scene in two weeks' time, but the likes of Mr Cummins
and Mr Moxon could still be waiting for their chance.
We must be vigilant of the drive to make Britain,
in the words of Kathleen Christison in respect of
the US congress, 'Israeli occupied territory'.
Last week Douglas Davis threatened university professors
in his Spectator article (Anti-Semitic Studies,
16 April 2005) by employing a technique favoured
by Joseph Goebbels, namely 'If you tell a lie big
enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually
come to believe it.' Mr Davis warned us all that
if we decide to boycott Israel then we must unplug
our computers, mobile phones and digital TV because
they 'depend [only] on technologies that have
been produced by Israeli academics in the Zionist
state' and that multinational companies such
as Microsoft 'do most of their R&D'
This week we have Leo McKinstry in the Spectator
(The Age of Unreason, 23 April 05) arguing
in support of Michael Howard's immigration stunts
whilst reproducing lavish quotes from the Labour
party member of the 'Friends of Israel', Roger Godsiff
MP, for whom immigration is placing 'intolerable
pressures on services such a housing, social care
and education'. Mr McKinstry tells us that 'all
around I see mounting social anarchy' and that 'the
ideology of race has blinded us to the dangers of
immigration'. In a rather revealing conclusion,
the article ends with a swipe at George Galloway
and Muslims for their opposition to Labour’s
Oona King MP on the basis of her support for the
war on Iraq.
The question we need to ask is: what is it that
brings together in one forum Mr McKinstry's support
of Michael Howard, Mr Godsiff (Labour MP) and Oona
King (Labour MP)? Antipathy towards multiculturalism,
immigration, diversity and Islam?
24 April 2005