On 23 November 2016, Mair was convicted by a jury at the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, of murder, grievous bodily harm against a man whom he stabbed in the abdomen as he tried to save Jo Cox, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and possession of a dagger. He was given a full life prison sentence.
That trial lasted 8 days, during which the court heard evidence that in the course of the attack, Mair had shouted: “This is for Britain”, “Britain First” and “Keep Britain independent”. The court also heard evidence of the extent of Mair’s Nazi activities, the Nazi paraphernalia police had found in his house and his connections with other fascists and white supremacists in the UK, USA and other countries.
Sentencing Mair to life imprisonment, the trial judge, Mr Justice Wilkie said:
‘that he had no doubt that Mair murdered Cox for the purpose of advancing a political, racial and ideological cause, namely that of violent white supremacism and exclusive nationalism most associated with Nazism and its modern forms. This made the case one of exceptionally high seriousness and accordingly he imposed a whole life term’.
On 26 November 2016, the Guardian reported that:
More than 50,000 abusive and offensive tweets were sent celebrating Labour MP Jo Cox’s murder and lauding her killer, Thomas Mair, as a “hero” or “patriot” in the month following her death, prompting calls for the government to do more to tackle hate speech online…. Academics examined more than 53,000 tweets sent over the month after the MP’s murder and found that among the top 20 words used to describe Mair and Jo Cox were the terms “hero”, “patriot”, “white power”, “rapists” and “traitor”.
Following the trial and life sentence, Louise Haigh, Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, called on the House of Commons to debate whether Britain First should be proscribed as a terrorist organisation.
The Brexit vote took place on 23 June 2016.
So, even as Jo Cox’s family, friends, political colleagues and constituents mourned her passing and reflected upon what her murder said about Britain as it contemplated whether or not to leave Europe, over 50,000 people in Britain and elsewhere were rejoicing about her death, the death of a white English woman, duly elected as a member of Parliament, with a firm belief in a world of inter-dependent nations, dedicated to the service of her community and committed to building a Britain that bore the hallmark of respect for all people, irrespective of background and ethnic origin and of equality and justice.
The nation was still in shock at that murder. Yet, the Brexit discourse continued as usual, with both the leave and remain camps failing to confront the corrosive and putrid racism that sits like puss just beneath of the skin of the society and that causes it to be so ill at ease with itself as it seeks to determine who and what it is and how it should relate to its European neighbours and to the rest of the world.
Small wonder, then, that that racism and the fascism that motivated Jo Cox’s murderer made itself so manifest in the days and weeks following 23 June 2016 and the vote to leave the European Union.
It was apt, therefore, that the Guardian commented so powerfully on the Jo Cox murder trial in its editorial on 23 November 2016:
[Jo Cox’s] death was not a random event. It was premeditated by a man of apparently sound mind with no previous convictions who intended to kill her and who was proud to kill her for a reason. Thomas Mair was a committed lifelong member of the extreme, white racist right. His home was stuffed with Nazi memorabilia. He believed white people faced an existential threat. He had direct connections with hard-right white racist groups in the United States and South Africa. He admired Anders Breivik, the white racist Norwegian killer. He lived in a part of West Yorkshire where white racist politics had made a mark. Before the murder he sought out information about the Waffen SS, Israel, serial killing – and matricide.
Jo Cox was the victim of a white racist at a time when white racism has renewed confidence. She died here, now and among us. Modern Britain needs to think about why this happened and to take every practicable step to ensure nothing like it happens again.
Meanwhile in America, police killings of black young men which had triggered the Black Lives Matter movement gave way to more widespread racial abuse and physical and verbal attacks in the wake of the Trump victory. Nationalists, fascists and white supremacists, including school students, felt emboldened to treat African, Asian and Latino people as scum and as if their very existence was by favour of whites.
It is as if the America Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and generations of civil rights and anti-fascist activists had struggled to build was back in the 1950s.
On 22 November, while Britain awaited the outcome of the trial of Jo Cox’s murderer, 15 year old James Mean was shot and killed by a 62 year old white man, William Pulliam in Charleston, West Virginia. Pulliam accused the teenager of bumping into him. This led to an altercation and the 62 year old shot James Mean twice in the abdomen, claiming to police that he felt threatened by the teenager and felt his life was in danger.
Police reported that Pulliam confessed to the killing, ‘totally without remorse’ and saying that: “The way I look at it, that’s another piece of trash off the street”.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby is reported as saying that investigators are “in the early stages” of determining if this will be a hate-crime case.
A bright, aspirational teenager, confident in his own skin and socialised in a society where the black body, especially the black male body is historically an objectified entity to be controlled, subordinated and subdued, whether through brutality or coercive compliance, or both, is in the eyes of Pulliam just ‘another piece of trash’ and therefore human litter, dispensable, of no value, not deserving of respect, let alone human dignity. He feels justified in shooting the teenager and clearing the streets of ‘litter’. Therefore, he would not expect any member of the dominant group in the society to do other than thank him for that patriotic act. It would be illogical, consequently, for him to show ‘remorse’ at his murderous act. The West Virginia Police themselves should know that given the way white society treats the black male and has always done, including the police as law enforcers in that society, remorse from the likes of Pulliam is a pointless and illegitimate expectation.
Such is the nature of the hegemony of whiteness. Such is the exercise of white supremacist power by whites in and out of uniform. Such is the environment in which black lives fail to matter and mothers and fathers worry every time their sons in black skin walk out the door as to whether they would walk back in.
Such is the America in which Trump demonises those who demand that the police be called to account for their indiscriminate killing of young males in black skins, the ‘post-racial’ manifestation of ‘strange fruit hanging from Southern trees’
And this is where the two partners in that ‘special relationship’ meet. This is where nurturing the ‘special relationship’ through the agency of Trump and May, if not Trump and Farage/May, would constitute ‘business as usual’ despite what the confluence of the events discussed above says about both societies.
‘Reclaiming our independence’ in the UK and ‘taking our country back’ signals a journey to hell in a handcart for those of us not included in the ‘We’ and ‘Our’ of that discourse. ‘Taking our country back’ and ‘making America great again’ presuppose the urgent need to deal with those people, cultures, faiths and practices that have disturbed the image of a Britain that once was and an America that might have been.
If either nation places the marginalised, excluded and ‘othered’ on the backburner of their domestic and foreign policy, it is evident that neither will use the ‘special relationship’ to safeguard and advance the rights of those left out of their political agenda. On the contrary, they would be endorsing and reinforcing each other in their ‘othering’ and excluding, while pleading that it is not for them to interfere in each other’s domestic affairs.
It is in that context that the ‘special relationship’ under Trump and Farage/May could propel a sharp turn to the Right and render all global majority people, not just ‘illegals’, vulnerable to the worse forms of racist, fascist and Islamophobic attack, discrimination and denial of opportunity.
That is why all those who abhor fascism, who believe in safeguarding and advancing the freedoms generations before us gave their lives to win so that we might enjoy a future free of the scourge of fascism and Jim Crow racism, and who are not in denial about the state we’re in, must work together to build a counter narrative and to ensure that those whom the people elect do not take us down a road to social unrest and inevitable strife.
That is why there should be no ‘silent majority’ on whose behalf fascists, xenophobes and apologists for neo-liberalism and the social and economic casualties it creates could purport to speak, march and harass.
Brexit and Trump, Farage, Britain First and all the rest of them make it necessary for us to be clear as to where we stand, the kind of society we are seeking to build for our children and grandchildren to inherit and how we want to engage with the Universe. Only thus would we neutralise the power and impact of UKIP, Brexit, Farage, Trump and the fascists who now feel they have licence to come in from the cold and actively aid the Brexit/Trump/Farage project.