If you’re in a hole …

In my recent SNP conference round-up I referred briefly to the continuing saga of the Brain family, and in particular the appearance of father Gregg Brain on the conference platform sporting a badge that was a parody of the badges the Nazis made various oppressed groups of people wear. My sceptical conclusion about the small pantomime played out on that stage was ‘First world problem. SNP put-up job. Move on.’ In one way I see no reason to resile from that judgement. But because so many aspects of this never ending story are intimately bound up with the SNP and the separatist cause it deserves continued monitoring.

Mr Brain’s use of the Nazi parody badge was bound to raise eyebrows and media interest. Sure enough, there has been an article in the Daily Express about the subject. The Express is not a paper I normally read and I deliberately haven’t sought that article out for this post. Luckily I don’t need to because a detailed transcript of Gregg’s exchanges with the Express has appeared on Facebook, placed there by him. And how much better to rely on his own account than an article in the right-wing, unionist, mainstream etc etc media.

First, a word about the page the exchange has appeared on – the Page for Positive Immigration, ‘… formerly Help the Brain Family stay in the UK’ (indeed its Facebook URL is still ‘…/BrainDeportation/’). It has all the appearances of being run by a group but like many such pages contains no names of people that might run or own it. It does however include this:

brains-facebook-story

Now, as it happens, I can see an argument for positive immigration. But the few cases apart from the Brains the page has mentioned are all in Scotland, and I suspect all in the Highlands. It certainly won’t make ‘positive immigration a mainstream topic’ in its current format. If you scroll down the page it’s not long before you come across a selection of video clips and photos from the SNP conference, although you’ll struggle to find references to any other political party that is in favour of ‘positive immigration.’ You’ll also struggle to find more than a handful of references to anything or anywhere outwith Scotland.

Perhaps more curiously, a page that gives the impression of being a support group seems to have many of its posts written by Mr Brain himself. So for example,

  • 22 October – Now, having done so much for us, I’m going to ask for more …
  • 19 October – Our time in the media spotlight is well and truly over … [!]
  • 18 October – As our situation proves …
  • 17 October – …so we got this email today … “Dear Gregg Stuart Brain …
  • 15 October – thank you all so much for standing with us through all of this.

In short, the whole thing seems to be written by the Brains. (As with everything else on this blog I’m happy to be corrected and will apologise if I’m wrong)

Still, as I said, it contains the detailed transcript of Gregg Brain’s exchange with the Express, which you can find here. So the good news is you don’t have to rely on my judgements about what he said and did, let alone those of the Daily Express. You can make your own. For what it’s worth, here are mine.

The whole ploy was desperately naive. You cannot draw a direct analogy and then deny it was one. Contrast

The badge was a facsimile of an Auslander Arbeiten (“Foreign Worker”) registration badge, familiar to any Poles who were allowed the ‘privilege’ of working for the Third Reich for longer hours, and at half pay – and eventually, as forced labour

with

I’m very specifically NOT comparing our experience to forced work programs or the suffering which occurred in that era.

The denial is neither logical nor sustainable (incidentally, I’m not sure the word ‘eventually’ would have been recognised by people who from the beginning were under considerable duress).

Interesting, anyhow, that he should claim he was

trying to demonstrate solidarity with EU citizens in the UK, largely Polish, who share a very uncertain future.

In what seems a long campaign to remain in the UK focussed entirely on their own self-interest, Scottish heritage, love for Scotland etc, I had not until this speech seen any reference from the Brains to the position of EU citizens in the UK.

It’s unfortunate that Mr Brain says the wearing of his badge

had nothing to do with Jews, who were persecuted via a very different programme.

Of course that’s exactly what people would conclude. It does look as if his understanding of what happened to European Jewry is based on a severe misapprehension that it was merely persecution under a ‘programme.’ It was of course genocide, the attempted extermination through murder of all European Jews. Even Wikipedia, which he’s keen to cite when justifying his badge, could have told him that.

The Express reporter asks Mr Brain three questions:

  1. Could you confirm that you came up with the idea for the badge?
  2. Could you confirm who invited you to the SNP conference to speak?
  3. Are you a member of the SNP?

They’re all highly pertinent questions many of us would like answered. Mr Brain remains silent on all of them.

Gregg’s contribution to the exchange ends rather plaintively

If I send a (short) statement, you will publish it in full?

As I said, naive.

The exchange as posted on Facebook attracted some negative comments, which have since been removed. One, from a fellow Australian resident in the UK contained sage advice:

Whilst there’s no doubt this journalist has misrepresented you, and I do understand why you chose to use the ‘F’ tag, I think your judgement is slightly flawed on this issue. Appropriating such a powerful symbol was not a great idea, as anything from that era is symbolically ‘loaded’ and likely to cause offence when used for one’s own purposes. It’s also worth bearing in mind that you only have a 12-month visa – this represents only a ‘stay of execution’, so I would seriously consider keeping your head below the parapet, as this kind of bad publicity has the potential to do great damage to your cause in the future, given that your current position is still pretty precarious.

Finally, and not for the first time, there’s a fundraiser for the Brains underway. I’m not including a link to it in case you’re tempted to contribute but I’m sure you’ll find it if you want. It’s promoted by ‘A McCandless,’ made slightly less anonymous as ‘very wonderful person … Tony McCandless’ on the Positive Immigration page on 15 October when Gregg Brain urges readers to contribute to a fund for … Gregg Brain and family.

I assume Tony is the same Tony who on his own Facebook page (complete, of course, with numerous ‘Yes’ logos) urges ‘the 120,000+ SNP members [to] show more care and compassion than the folk posting vicious, inaccurate and hateful messages’ i.e. he wants them to contribute to his fundraising. Here’s how it’s going so far:

brains-fundraiser-progress

I think that’s called voting with your feet.

I will be returning to this example of online begging in another post soon about separatist fundraising. Meantime, advice to Gregg, stop digging.

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9 Responses to If you’re in a hole …

  1. Alec says:

    From his FB page (which now appears to have morphed into a campaign hub to take on the might of the Home Office and immigration service, instead of a niche interest for one family’s interest who you’d have thought now was trying to keep a low profile):

    I apologise unreservedly to the Jewish community of the UK and elsewhere who no doubt have been very distressed by this manipulation of the story. I have reached out to Marie van der Zyl at the Board of Deputies for British Jews, and hope she will allow me to try and mend this.

    Very sly phrasing, mixed with tearful exasperation at being challenged. First he retains aloofness and ethical purity, but makes an apology on behalf of a third party for misrepresenting him. Thus he becomes as much a victim as the BoD in this. It tells the BoD that they are mistaken about the reality they perceive – remember, these are people with an intimate knowledge of Nazi semiotics – and that it wasn’t really a slight against Jewish suffering as they foolishly thought.

    It really was against one of the comparatively milder aspects of the Third Reich. The friendly sort of Lebensraum.

    For such a meek and humble family, the Brains seem wont to browbeating reporters and tolerating the notion that legal action could be taken on their behalf. I recall Kathryn Brain appearing on the National comments pages with a wounded rebuttal of Caroline Leckie’s discussion of what they already had volunteered in the public domain; as their social media team suggested IPSO complaints should be made.

    Complain about the National! Oi vey!

    […] had nothing to do with Jews, who were persecuted via a very different programme.

    No-one with any understanding of or respect for all the victims of Nazism would present the zilvarbeiter as a lesser category of victim. Whereas the Brains voluntarily moved to the UK and, in when in employment, have parity of pay and rights as anyone else (more so, because they and their MP appear to think its a right to have two well-paid jobs in an economically suppressed region).

    The zilvarbeiter, on the other hand, basically were slaves – many of whom were abducted at gun point – and forced into labour for German industry and agriculture. Those who resisted were, if not shot on sight, dispatched to Auschwitz (which began as a centre for Polish political prisoners) or camps within Germany where they constituted the majority until early 1942.
    They also ranked as amongst the first gassing victims, when the Einsatzgruppen were targeting Jews in open-air killing fields.

    Furthermore, given the Brains say they’re church goers, the zilvarbeiter also were forbidden from attending German church services.

    The Nazis hated Slavs almost as much as they hated Jews, and as many Polish Catholic civilians died as did Jews. In the weeks before the Invasion of Poland, the Old Fellow was calling for the killing of every man, woman, child of Polish race/language.

    Plus, the P badge he wore was not a facsimile as he claims. That would have been an F badge. It absolutely was an imitation, so it was not unreasonable to associate it with the Judenstern.

    All the Jews may have been victims, but not all the victims were Jews. As every single Holocaust-related body addresses.

    I suspect any editorial complaint would be rejected on the grounds of fair comment and veritas.

    The Australian offering words of caution you quote also said she had worked directly with Holocaust Survivors. She and I had a quick exchange, in which she made this fascinating observation:

    My understanding is that the Brain family have had their Australian identity somewhat subsumed by a Scottish one, to the point where Scotland is now both their ancestral and adoptive homeland – so much so that they have felt that their threatened expulsion by the Home Office was in fact a threat to their sense of themselves as Scots.

    These are no longer there, as our comments (mine were pretty much as I say here) have been deleted. Another commenter and I have been blocked from the page and, it appears, blocked at the same time from the National pages. It is tempting to conclude there’re informal lines of communication between the two.

    Of course, they have the right to do so. Creating an artificial environment in which all around them appear to be in full agreement may appear attractive, I doubt the Home Office would be swayed.

    When the story first broke in April, I was highly sympathetic towards them. I put aside my feelings towards the SNP – who clearly were milking it – and supported them. As I have seen what is behind the curtain (and definitely after the appalling monstering of the Glen Wyvis distillery – headed by a high profile SNP supporter – by their social media team, with the MP joining in on his personal FB account), I have reappraised my view.

    I doubt I am the only one.

    They simply come across as twits.

    Liked by 5 people

    • wujeanty says:

      Dear Alec – an excellent, insightful comment – have learned much. Thank you.

      Like

    • Roger White says:

      Thanks for adding your extra knowledge and understanding to my post. Much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alec says:

        The thing is, he doesn’t exactly hide his ignorance. He remonstrates others for not being as well-versed as he is, then quotes… a Wiki entry. And he even manages to get this wrong in its own stated terms.

        On one level, a lot of people are not aware of the totality of Nazi evil. To many, they either are the comedy villains of ‘Allo ‘Allo and, on the day Jimmy Perry’s death was announced, Phillip Madoc.

        Or the Doubting Nazis from Mitchell and Webb. Hey Hans, we have skulls on our hats. We started winning really well, now we’re losing really badly. We’re in the Axis which sounds all evil, they’re the Allies which sounds all co-operative.

        Are we the baddies?

        In fact, the Nazis were proud of what they did. They took photographs, stripped and humiliated Jewish women, made public spectacles of it. They were ridding the world of a cosmic evil, and expunging it of the Jewish Problem was mutually compatible with halting all Rassenschande not least with Slavs – and securing the Lebensraum for the Volkdeutsche.

        It only was when they were losing that they tried to hide their actions, and establish ratlines to South American or Arab League.

        In a way, it’s a self-defence mechanism. Europe underwent a continent-wide psychosis within living memory, from the Iberian peninsula to the Russian steppes. Who wants to admit we’re just a couple of generations separated from such savages?

        That that nice Belarusian immigrant we knew as children might have engaged in unspeakable acts. (I’m thinking of Peter Serafinowicz’s grandfather who, had he not been declared unfit, would have faced shall we say conclusive evidence.)

        It is a danger, though, when people cannot recognize the same mentality in ISIS or Taleban.

        The murder of Asad Shah can be compared directly with Nazis kicking to death a defenceless Jew. The bone-deep hatred of Ahmadis many Sunni/Shia Kashmiri/Punjabis feel is the same as was felt towards Jews and Slavs.

        Even comparatively moderate Syrian and Iraqi Arabs often feel similar towards Yezidi. ISIS behaves the same as the Nazis did with cameras and sexual enslavement of women. Hitler would have loved social media.

        I can understand that. What I do not respect one jot is the offensive ignorance from Gregg Brain. If he cannot show basic humility in admitting to a single error of judgement, he should stfu before he defiles the memory of another group of Nazism’s victims.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. wujeanty says:

    I find it hard to express how angry I was and am about this stunt. Anyone who compares potential deportation for overstaying a visa with *ANY* of the crimes perpetrated by the Nazis is, frankly, vile. Worse, Mr Brain (as well as the SNP members he had in raptures – they should be utterly ashamed of themselves) spits on the memories not only of those who suffered, but those of the millions of Britons who fought to restore freedom to Europe. I sincerely hope he gets kicked out when his visa expires (again) – the disrespect he has shown to this country is sickening.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alec says:

      There are two questions to ask:

      i. Are current UK-G policies/proposals appropriate?

      ii. Is Gregg Brains comparison with anything-Nazi appropriate?

      I’d say no and no. In that order.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Alec says:

    The badge was a facsimile (sic) of an Auslander Arbeiten (“Foreign Worker”) registration badge

    If Gregg Brain thinks this was bagatelle compared to the fate of the Jews, he really ought to investigate what happened to the Ausländerkinder.

    In fact, one reason so many Jews submitted to the camps was that they knew the Nazis were capable of inflicting fates worse than death. This was not a casual throwaway phrase back then.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Antony McCandless says:

    Roger. Interesting point of view. Gregg’s choice to wear the F aside are you actually stating that you have all of the data around their situation and are in a position to pass judgement around the way it has been handled and the impacts it has had ? Also if you want to have a discussion with me feel free to message me directly v’s wondering around FB or Web pages – I would even be delighted to catch up face to face to amicably discuss our different views. IMHO the debate is enriched by such discussion IF both sides use ears and mouth in an appropriate ratio. Re those “voting with their feet” as you state ; they have now raised just under £5000 on the public page which will help this family. You are entitled to your perspective as are those who chose to donate so whilst I can respect your choice please have the decency to respect others in wanting to help people who, in our view, have been very poorly treated by a system that is failing Scotland.

    Like

    • Roger White says:

      Thanks for your comments. Of course I don’t have ‘all the data’ but I feel I have enough to know that the family have been sympathisers/supporters of the SNP and the party has taken the case up for political reasons. I don’t especially want a discussion with you. Why should/how could I? Your name appeared on the fundraising website with no affiliation or contact details. Unless someone knew you personally you could have been anyone/anywhere. Someone tempted to donate to a cause online shouldn’t have to hunt around to find out who’s really promoting it and what arrangements there are to ensure money raised goes to the cause (I imply no wrongdoing on your part of course). My two blog posts on online fundraising make clear my point of view if you read them together carefully. Of course you won’t agree with what I’ve written on the subject but if you want to see what I think of this particular case search on the blog for ‘Brain’ (sorry, perfunctory, but it works), The origin of what I know goes back to this shocking contrast. If you want to know about real injustice, you’ll find it in the case of the Bangladeshi slaves.

      Like

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