Archive for October, 2014

Grass Up Your Neighbours Say The DWP With Another Boring Benefit Fraud Campaign

October 30, 2014

Another excellent piece from Mr Void. It’s noticeable that, under both Blair and the Tories, as the government cosied up to multi-millionaires and the super-rich, so adverts appeared on TV and hoarding encouraging people to spy on their neighbours in case they were benefit fraudsters. The specious rationale for this was that these people were thieves taking money from the public, money that could be better spent elsewhere. And all this at the same time the government was privatising and deregulating industry, and granting massive tax cuts to the rich. As the Void says in this article, it’s not about saving money, it’s about making claimants’ lives as poor and miserable as possible. It’s an attempt to turn Britain into the kind of surveillance society like Nazi Germany or the former Soviet Union, in which citizens were encouraged to spy on their neighbours for possible treasonous, ‘anti-state’ or ‘anti-Soviet’ activities. The logical extension of this was the recommendation by one extremely asinine Lib Dem peer that the benefit claimants should have the details of their income published as public record. It’s simply another way of turning the unemployed into despised helots, enslaved by the state.

the void

dwp-benefit-fraudWith the amount of money lost to fraud and error in the benefit system reaching record highs under this Government, the DWP has issued a call for people to grass up their nieghbours if they suspect them of low level benefit fraud, or even going on holiday.

The latest boringly predictable campaign is not aimed at high level organised fraud, such as people setting up fake identities to claim benefits.  Neither is it aimed at landlords picking up Housing Benefit cheques long after tenants have departed, or exploitative employers paying cash to cut down on their National Insurance bill – or even dodge the minimum wage.  It is not just a fraction of a parcentage of claimants who benefit from working cash in hand, but often the latte slurping middle classes who are quite happy to look the other way if it gets them a cheap builder.

Instead this…

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Maximus Are The New Atos: Destroy Maximus

October 30, 2014

It’s been pointed out many times before, including by Private Eye, and by bloggers like Mr Void just how nasty Maximus is. Johnny Void here shows again just how deeply vindictive and exploitative Maximus is, seeking to profit from the misery and despair of those the government wishes to throw off benefit in order to create a demoralised, impoverished and therefore tractable working class. He also takes very good aim at ATOS’ statements that they are trying to get out of the government’s contracts for simple business reasons and concern for the welfare of their staff. He shows this to be also rubbish, intended to disguise the fact that ATOS has been embarrassed by the massive bad publicity generated by campaigners like DPAC. With ATOS withdrawing from the Work Capability Assessment, it’s high time the same tactics and spotlight was turned on Maximus.

the void

atos-black-triangleThe BBC are reporting that US company Maximus has won a £500 million contract to take over from Atos administering the despised Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

Maximus, who already have a contract running Iain Duncan Smith’s failing Work Programme, will now carry out the computer based assessments used to strip benefits from sick and disabled people by declaring them ‘fit for work’.

Atos claimed they pulled out of the WCA after staff were threatened.  But this was a fucking lie.  What happened to Atos was much more toxic.  Regular and repeated protests were held outside Atos offices all around the UK, including their glitzy London headquarters.  They were hounded off social media, whilst their corporate identity was repeatedly hijacked despite a string of petty legal threats.  Other parts of their business were affected.  The Co-operative bank were successfully lobbied to end their occupational health contract with Atos.

Everywhere Atos…

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Peace, Love and Lebanese Rockets

October 22, 2014

The Lebanese Rocket Society

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige
Soda Film + Art
Arabic with English, French and Arabic subtitles
Running time 95 minutes.

Lebanon Rocket 1

With the news full of the horrors of ISIS and their genocidal war in Iraq and Syria, I thought I’d turn to a far more optimistic and inspiring episode of recent Middle Eastern history: how a group of Lebanese students in 1962 were inspired to join the nascent space race and begin building their own rockets. It’s a piece of history that has been all but forgotten. The film not only documents the rise and fall of the Lebanese space programme, but the film makers’ own attempts to jog people’s memories of it on Lebanese radio. They then turned the rocket programme into an art project, constructing a full-scale statue of one of the rockets, which they presented to the Lebanese Armenian college at the centre of the rocket programme. They also made their own version of the Golden Record, the disc containing the sounds of Earth, which was carried into space on the Voyager 2 probe destined to leave the solar system for the depths of interstellar space and possible contact with aliens. In the hands of the film’s producers, the record held the sounds of Lebanon.

They also created an animated film, by Ghossein Halwa, depicting what Lebanon might be like in 2025, if the programme had continued. In Halwa’s film, the Lebanon of the near future is a prosperous, bustling space age state. Space technology has given the country security by allowing it to guard its borders against foreign invasion. It has also contributed to the country’s material wealth by discovering oil reserves off its coast. Beirut and its suburbs are a true, futuristic city like the vast megalopolis’ in Japanese manga films and the SF classic, Blade Runner. Vast space craft, Arab versions of the Space Shuttle, are launched to explore the depths of space. But it’s also a fun a place, where you can trip the light fantastic in zero-gravity nightclubs.

Lebanon Rocket Cartoon

One of the new generation of spacecraft from the alternative Lebanon of 2025.

The Founder, Manoug Manougian

The programme was the brain child of Manoug Manougian, a professor of mathematics at Haigazian college, an Armenian college in Lebanon. Manougian’s interest in space travel seems to have been sparked, like many a child’s, by reading Jules Verne. Now teaching maths at university in Tampa, Florida, he says during one interview that it may not be accident he ended up there. Verne made it the location for his astronaut’s journey into space in his Voyage to the Moon as it was at the right latitude for launching a flight to the Earth’s companion world. Inspired by the achievements of the Americans and Russians, Manougian was inspired to begin his own experiments. He and a group of his students began making and launching a series of rockets. At first these were tiny ‘baby rockets’, not much larger than fireworks and about the same size as some of the model rockets hobby rocketeers enjoyed by hobby rocketeers. The rockets became increasingly larger and more sophisticated, until they reached the end of what could legally be built. The fuel used by the rockets was strictly limited to the armed forces. Furthermore, there was a problem with funding as any further increase in size would make the rockets prohibitively expensive for a small, civilian project. Manougian’s group had caught the interest of the Lebanese army under Captain Wehbe, who stepped in to give the young rocketeers the money and equipment they needed.

Involvement with the Army

The alliance with the army brought its own problems, however. Manougian and his students were only interested in peaceful research. The college’s founder, a Protestant pastor, was very much afraid that the rocket would be used as a weapon, and was initially strongly opposed to the research. He resolved to put a stop to it when he saw his own 12 year old daughter come out of one of the campus’ laboratories, her forearms grey from mixing the rocket fuel. He decided to go round and tell Manougian to put a stop to it.

He was persuaded otherwise by the massive publicity the programme was giving Lebanon and his college. The newspapers were full of stories about Manougian and his band of space cadets. Other, similar groups sprang up elsewhere in Lebanon. One such was a group of 13-15 year old boys, who launched their own baby rockets. The Lebanese also received international assistance and co-operation from France and America. Col. Wehbe attended a course on rocketry and the American space programme in Florida. He also attended the launch of a French experimental rocket in North Africa.

International Tensions and War

The programme was doomed by the political tensions in the Middle East. The film makers point out that the 1960s was a period of tension and conflict between the superpowers, America and Russia, and their allies and clients in the Arab world. Against them was Arab nationalism, led by the Egyptian president Abdel Nasser, which briefly resulted in the union of Syria and Egypt, and the anti-imperial forces. Lebanon was buzzing with spies and political intrigue. One of the speakers recalled how one frequent drinker at a hotel bar in Beirut was none other than Kim Philby, the notorious British traitor. The Lebanese’s success in building larger and more sophisticated missiles attracted attention and alarm from other nations. Their last missile was to have a projected range of 500 km, bringing into range Cyprus, Syria and Israel. Manougian’s rocketeers received a sharp message from their diplomatic staff in Cyprus. The British authorities were understandably annoyed after they made a mistake with one of their rocket’s trajectory, so that it almost landed on a Cypriot fishing boat.

Other Arab nations were also keen to acquire Lebanon’s success and expertise. Manougian recalled how he was approached at an official party by another Armenian, whom he didn’t know. The man asked him if he was looking for funding. When Manougian said he was, the unknown man replied that he knew someone who wanted to meet him. And so Manougian found himself driving through Beirut with the man at 2.30-3.00 O’clock in the morning, before ending up at hotel, in front of which was a crowd of people. He was then approached by the heir of one of the other Arab states, who asked him if he’d like to come and do the same in his country as he’d done for Lebanon. Manougian states that he felt it would have been impolite to refuse the offer, and so simply replied that he’d have to think about it. He then fled back to Texas to complete his education, explaining that at the time he only had a B.A., and not even an M.A.

The Army’s Takeover and End of the Project

With Manougian absent, the rocket programme began to experience a series of disasters. Three of the rocketeers were badly burned in an accident when the perchlorate rocket fuel being mixed exploded. The College decided the rocket programme was too hazardous, and so had them removed from campus. it was then gradually taken over by the Lebanese army. Manougian, Joseph Sfeir and the other leading rocketeers were peaceful visionaries, but the army made it clear that they had always been interested in developing it as a weapon. They just didn’t tell the project’s civilian leaders. Well, said one of the officers, if you told Manougian it would be all over Haikazian college, and if you told Sfeir, it would be all over his home province. Under the army’s control, the tests became more secret and closed to the public, unlike the earlier launches. Eventually the project was closed down due to international pressure. One of the rocketeers identified the French as responsible. Another recalled how he knew the then-president personally, and asked him, which country was responsible. ‘Was it from the north?’ he asked. ‘From the north, from the south, and elsewhere’, came the reply. Clearly Lebanon’s success at creating such a missile had made a lot of people understandably very nervous.

The film laments how very, very few Lebanese now remember the programme, despite the massive publicity it had at the time. They feel that the 1967 War and the losses of Arab territory to Israel and subsequent conflicts have blotted out all memory of the programme, and made Arabs afraid to dream and strive for utopias. There is very little Science Fiction in the Middle East, they opine, because there’s always the danger that someone in the future will consider it subversive.

Peaceful Idealism

What actually comes out of the film, in contrast to the militarism and political intrigue, is the peaceful idealism and patriotism of the projects leaders and founders. Manougian states that Lebanese Armenians are very loyal to their adopted country for taking them in after the Armenian massacres that occurred throughout the Turkish Empire and the Middle East. It’s a situation the film’s producers strongly sympathise with. One of them has an Armenian grandparent, while the other is part Palestinian. They see the space programme as what their country, and the Arab peoples themselves, can achieve if only they dare to dream and look for utopias. The film was made in 2009-10, during the Arab Spring, which they hail as the Arab people once more daring to dream of better societies without tyrants or despots. As for Manougian, he is still very much a visionary and campaigner for peace. He’s active in a project, ‘Peace through Education’. The film makers hoped by making the film they would restore its memory. The sculpture of the rocket was painted white to show that it wasn’t a real missile, and taken through the streets of Beirut to Haikazian College to show what Lebanon had achieved peacefully, through idealism.

The Lebanese Rocketeers – The Arab ‘Mice that Roared’

The film and its rocketeers remind me somewhat of the Ealing comedy, the Mouse on the Moon. This was the successor to the comedies about the minuscule state of Little Fenwick, an English village that manages to gain independence from the rest of the UK, Passport to Pimlico and The Mouse that Roared. The Mouse on the Moon chronicles the events as Little Fenwick joins the space race, rushing to land on the Moon ahead of the Americans and Russians. Apart from well-known Ealing stars like Margaret Rutherford, it also has Bernard Cribbins, known to grown-up children of a certain age as the narrator of The Wombles, and to a new generation of children as one the friends of David Tenant’s Doctor. It shows what small nations and ordinary people can do with skill, vision and military backing. Sadly, from the perspective of 2014 the film’s optimistic embrace of the Arab Spring seems misplaced. The despots throughout the Middle East have either successfully clamped down on the civil rights movements, or else the dissident movements themselves have led to the raise of dangerous and unstable Islamist militias. Egypt’s brief experiment with the democracy and the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood has collapsed, and the country is once more under the control of the army. Nevertheless, for a brief moment another world of peace and freedom seemed possible.

Human Progress Made when Peoples and Cultures Come Together

The other point that comes out of the film is the amazing advances in science and civilisation when difference peoples and cultures come together in peace to try to learn from one another. Lebanon was known as the Switzerland of the Levant. It’s a mosaic of different peoples and religions, including Christians, Muslims and the Druze, a highly unorthodox form of Islam. Islam was able to make great strides in science in the Middle Ages, because the early caliphs were keen to draw on the knowledge and expertise of their empire’s subject peoples. The caliph Al-Ma’mun founded a bayt al-hikma, or House of Wisdom dedicated to science and medicine. They drew on Greek, Persian and Indian science and mathematics, and employed Christians, Zoroastrians and Hindus, as well as Muslims, to translate scientific and medical works into Arabic. Al-Ma’mun himself sent a scientific mission of scholars, including the pioneering mathematician al-Khwarizmi, who gave his name to word ‘algorithm’, to acquire scientific knowledge and texts from the Byzantine Empire, the Greek Empire of the East. Western science, in its turn, because massively enriched from the 12th century onwards when European scholars acquired copies of the lost Greek classics and Arabic scientific and medical texts. Peaceful contact between nations and cultures, and the great advances they could make by learning from each other, is now threatened today by the rise in militant xenophobia and, in the Middle East, by the genocidal Islamism of groups like ISIS.

Bill Hicks’ Vision – ‘We Can End World Hunger and Colonise Space’

This film shows the opposite, of what can be achieved through peaceful co-operation. It goes some way to proving the point the late comedian, Bill Hicks, used to make at the end of his gigs. Hicks used to state that if the world spent the amount of money it spends on arms instead on developing, we could feed the world. ‘Not one person would starve. Not one. And we could go and colonise space, in peace, together.’

Bill Hicks sadly died of cancer, but the dreams lives on.

Here’s the great man in action, taken from Youtube.

After Nick Robinson, Beeb Considers Abandoning Impartiality

October 14, 2014

Nick Robinson’s Distorted Reporting of Salmond on Scots Independence

Mike over at Vox Political and countless other bloggers, myself once again included, have posted pieces condemning Nick Robinson’s blatant political bias. The most blatant example of this was his flagrant distortion and censorship of Alex Salmond’s answer to his question on the effect Scottish independence would have on the Scots financial sector. The Scots First Minister committed the cardinal sin of giving a reasoned answer, with supporting evidence, showing that Scotland would not lose corporate tax revenue if the banks and insurance companies now based north of the Border went and moved south to London. This was something that Robinson clearly didn’t want to hear, and definitely didn’t want the British voting public to hear either. So the Beeb’s footage of the conference was manipulated to make it seem that Salmond was criticising the treasury, when in fact Salmond was making a few barbed comments about the Corporation’s own objectivity. It was then further edited and excised from a later report, in which Robinson lied and said that Salmond had not answered the question. This was the Beeb acting as Newspeak in Cameron’s ‘1984’ Big Brother Britain.

I did wonder what that great Scots writer, John Buchan, would have made of it all. Buchan was the author of The 39 Steps, Greenmantle, and other tales of British pluck and derring-do against the threat of the Kaiser’s Germany. He was a staunch Unionist, but I wondered if he wouldn’t have seen Robinson’s blatant falsification of the news as something deeply Un-British, a blatant flouting of the British tradition of a free press. A piece of state propaganda that only those benighted countries under an absolute monarchy or dictatorship, without the benefits of the British constitution, would suffer.

The Radio Times Looks Forward to Biased News

Unfortunately, the problem of BBC bias doesn’t end there. Bloggers like Mike, Johnny Void, the Angry Yorkshireman, Jayne Linney and their commenters and followers have long observed the Beeb’s pro-Tory bias. This is bad enough, even with the denials. There was an article in last week’s Radio Times, however, which threatened to make such bias official. Written by one of the news staff, the article suggested that the impartiality customarily expected of the Beeb would soon be a thing of the past. It had gone from American broadcasting, which had suffered no loss of audience as a result. American news broadcasting, the article claimed, had been enlivened and invigorated by presenters and news anchors with a distinct, unconcealed bias. How would the British public react, it asked, if a reporter or newsanchor over here made various critical remarks about the state of the three main parties. It then gave examples of the type of comments that could be made. The article left you in no doubt that the period of official impartiality on the Beeb was limited, and that with a few years it would be gone.

The Malign Influence of Rupert Murdoch

Now I find it shocking that the Beeb is even considering such a policy. The article makes it clear that it was considering the example of the Fox Network in America, which had taken over as the country’s most popular broadcaster from the older, established networks like NBC and ABC. What the article didn’t say was that this has come at a cost. The Dirty Digger is very touchy about his network’s reputation for impartiality. So touchy that he actually copyrighted Fox News’ slogan of ‘Fair and Impartial’, and then tried to sue a liberal writer, who dared used it as the title of a book questioning the integrity of his news service. Despite this, Fox News has a reputation for being anything but ‘fair and impartial’. It ain’t called ‘faux news’ in certain quarters for nuttin’.

The article was also somewhat misleading in that it seemed to suggest that equal time would be given to broadcasters of different political bias. For example, reporters critical of the Tories would have equal airtime with those commenting from a Tory or Liberal Democrat perspective. That won’t, however, be the case. What will happen will be what has already occurred in America: the airwaves will be dominated by the Right, and sometimes the extreme Right, like the various stars found ranting on Murdoch’s network. At the moment the Beeb has a right-wing political bias, but it’s concealed and at least the Corporation aims at objectivity.

Now I freely admit that I do take my news from biased sources. I don’t, however, want the Beeb to follow suit and become a biased broadcaster itself. I want it at least to try being genuinely objective, even if that goal is unobtainable. I want there to be a news service I can trust. This will go if the BBC adopts a policy of permitting and encouraging blatant political bias. Instead of objective truth, we’ll get official Tory propaganda and all the disinformation and spin the Director General and the head of BBC news thinks we’ll take.

It’s not the Beeb I want, and the movement to embrace blatant party political bias should be stopped now, long before it gets started.

Social Darwinism in the 19th Century and in Cameron’s Britain

October 13, 2014

Very many bloggers and political commenters, such as Mike over at Vox Political, Johnny Void, the Angry Yorkshireman and myself, have made the point that the Tories are Social Darwinists. This is the ideology, founded in the 19th century by the philosopher Herbert Spencer, that demanded total laissez-faire capitalism and promoted the ‘survival of the economic fittest’. Just as Darwin’s theory of evolution by Natural Selection was held to prove that in nature, evolution proceeded through the survival of the fittest in a state of competition and conflict between individuals and species, so Social Darwinists believed that human social and biological evolution should be promoted through unrestrained economic competition, which should allow people of superior talents to rise to the top of society and keep the less talented masses in their place. Millionaire industrialists were thus celebrated, and attempts to improve the conditions of the poor through legislation, such as regulating working conditions, housing and medicine decried as detrimental to the proper, beneficial working of capitalism.

The philosopher Mary Midgley includes examples of the statement of Social Darwinist attitudes from Spencer’s closest followers themselves in her book, Evolution as a Religion: Strange Hopes and Stranger Fears. Midgley herself isn’t an opponent of evolution. The book was written against the way Darwin’s theory had, in her view, been distorted into a quasi-religious form to support malign and dehumanising ideologies like Social Darwinism, or the belief that human culture and action are somehow ultimately the product of our genes.

The first quote comes from George Sumner’s The Challenge of Facts of 1887:

The millionaires are a product of natural selection, acting on the whole body of men to pick out those who can meet the requirement of certain work to be done … It is because they are thus selected that wealth – both their own and that entrusted to them – aggregates under their hands … They may fairly be regarded as the naturally selected agents of society for certain work. They get high wages and live in luxury, but the bargain is a good one for society. There is the intensest competition for their place and occupation. This assure us that all who are competent for this function will be employed in it, so that the cost of it will be reduced to the lowest terms.
(P. 118).

This could well come from a Tory in Britain, or Republican spokesman in America today. There’s the same idealisation of the rich, and the demands that they are the socially and biologically superior ‘creators of wealth’, who should be allowed to enjoy their riches unconstrained by the state. Hence the demands by the Right, including UKIP, that the rich should have their tax burden reduced.

She then quotes the American historian, Richard Hofstadter, on the way Social Darwinism was invoked to prevent any legislation that would improve the lot of the poor by placing constraints on the power of the wealthy:

Acceptance of the Spencerian philosophy brought about a paralysis of the will to reform … Youmans (Spencer’s chief American Spokesman) in Henry George’s presence denounced with great fervour the political corruption of New York and the selfishness of the rich in ignoring or promoting it when they found it profitable to do so. ‘What do you propose to do about it?’ George asked. Youmans replied ‘Nothing! You and I can do nothing at all. It’s a matter of evolution. Perhaps in four of five thousand years evolution may have carried men beyond this state of things’. (p. 119).

The role of Social Darwinism and its malign conception of evolution are too well-known, and too connected to Nazism, for politicians to openly make comments like this in today’s society. Nevertheless, the idea that intense, unrestrained competition somehow conforms more to human nature than Socialism, regardless of the form it is in, nevertheless forms a strong component of Conservative ideology on both sides of the Atlantic even today.

Laughing At Jack Is Fair.

October 13, 2014

This is an interesting analysis of James O’Brien’s debate with the caller, ‘Jack’, on LBC radio, over what UKIP actually stands for, except for its rhetoric on immigration and promises to create a fairer society. All political parties claim to be doing this, even when the evidence shows, as it does for the Tories, that they are actively making society more unfair and unequal. In the case of UKIP, I strongly agree with Martin Odoni’s conclusion that UKIP are deliberately keeping their policies vague, for the reason that if the public knew about them, then their electoral support would vanish as their supporters deserted them for a genuinely left-wing party.

TheCritique Archives

by Martin Odoni

James O’Brien of ‘Leading Britain’s Conversation’ (LBC) Radio is becoming quite the needle in the flesh of the UK Independence Party. A few months ago, many will recall, he gave the party’s loathsome leader, Nigel Farage, an absolutely bruising grilling live on air, and triggered several rather telling xenophobic ‘slips’ from Farage. This week, he presented a phone-in in which he spoke to a UKIP supporter going by the name of ‘Jack’, and exposed rather easily just how little that ‘Jack’ knew about the party he supports with such unquestioning passion.

‘Jack’ phoned in to object to O’Brien’s assertion that UKIP is against immigration. O’Brien pointed out, quite correctly, many of the indicators that show beyond doubt that that is precisely what UKIP is. Rhetoric such as ‘”time to pull up the drawbridge” is not, despite ‘Jack’s’ protestations to the contrary, an appeal for…

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Audio clip of a UKIP supporter humiliated by LBC’s James O’Brien

October 13, 2014

This further confirms my own view that UKIP aren’t a party, so much as an extreme Right-wing ‘anti-party’, with an electoral strategy that follows those of the Nazis and Italian Fascists. Although the Kippers aren’t violent thugs like Hitler’s and Mussolini’s stormtroopers, they share those parties extreme nationalism and vehement opposition to Socialism. The Nazis and the Italian Fascists also gained support by being deliberately vague about what they stood for. Hitler altered his propaganda depending on his audience, while remaining vague about what he intended to do once in office. His biographer, Joachim C. Fest, points out that Hitler deliberately formulated his speeches for their emotional impact, rather than laying out a coherent policy. The words ‘national’ and ‘socialist’ in the Nazi party’s full name, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, were designed to appeal to Germans by presenting them as a patriotic party standing for Germany and for a type of ‘socialism’, without actually making clear what they stood for in reality. The party’s original 25 point programme was declared to be unchangeable, but never put into practice. The Italian Fascists were also a bizarre mixture of competing ideological elements taken from laissez-faire capitalism and Corporativism taken from the Italian Nationalists and elements of Anarcho-Syndicalism. Again it was easier to define what they were against than what they were for, especially as Mussolini used ideology to bolster his own personal dictatorship rather than pursue it as an end in itself. Farage has similarly kept the contents of the party’s own ideology and political programme vague in order to conceal just how extremely Right-wing the party is in order to gain mass support. As a result, the mass of voters supporting UKIP are probably like the Kipper here. They know only that UKIP is against immigration, and the EU, but have little idea of what else they stand for except for Farage’s repeated refrain about opposing the ‘Liblabcons’, in pretty much the same way Hitler condemned the ‘November Criminals’, the mainstream Weimar parties, who had betrayed Germany by signing the treaty of Versailles.

Civitas Pamphlet against the On-Line Jihadis

October 12, 2014

Okay, I’ve been away from blogging for a little while now. This has partly been because I’ve been distracted by other projects. I’ve been working on the manuscript and proofs for a book based on my PhD thesis. I’ve sent them all in, and the publishers have said that everything’s running smoothly. Hopefully, if everything goes as planned, the book should be published in December.

I also have to say that I found the political situation here in Britain so depressing and infuriating, that for the last couple of months I found going through my DVD collection far more attractive than having to sit down and contemplate everything rotten in modern Britain, no matter how urgent and necessary that is.

However, I’m now back blogging, and hope to continue doing so, barring further interruptions.

Yusra Hussien: Bristol Somali Girl Lured to Join ISIS

One of the particularly disturbing stories in the local news here in Bristol is that of Yusra Hussien, a fifteen year old Somali schoolgirl from Bristol. The girl has gone to Syria with another girl just a couple of years older, aged seventeen. She is believed to have been radicalised by ISIS through their Jihadist websites. She has gone to Syria to become a wife for the Islamist militants. In their meetings with the press, her family – mother and aunt, have given the impression of a very young, impressionable teenager. They told, for example, of the way she still sucked her thumb while watching TV. They fear that they have lost their daughter, and in a press interview yesterday called on the government to act against the extremist websites, like those that have poisoned their daughter’s mind.

Although the issue on online radicalisation by militant Islamists is very much at the heart of the debate about contemporary Islam, and Islamist terrorism, it’s also part of the wider problem of the exposure of teenagers to harmful material on the Web. The Net can be a magnificent resource, but there is the problem that it can leave children open to predators, such as paedophiles grooming their victims, vicious bullies, thugs on trolls on social media, and political and religious extremists preaching hatred and violence. I know non-Muslim parents, who are troubled by the case of Yusra Hussien, and have every sympathy for her family. It’s many parent’s deepest fear that they may lose a child through being unable to protect them from the dangers of the outside world, whether physical or ideological.

The Problem of Islamist Terrorist Websites

Unfortunately, it’s unclear what exactly can be done against the Jihadi websites. Their online as a way of evading British anti-terror laws. My guess is that most of them are based abroad, so that domestic British legislation doesn’t apply to them, and there are immense ideological and commercial problems and objections to the wholesale censorship of the internet.

Despite this, there are groups and organisations providing help and information exposing the online extremists. Looking through the Religion and Politics sections of the Oxfam bookshop in Cheltenham the other day, I found a pamphlet, Virtual Jihad, published by Civitas. Civitas are an organisation dedicated to fighting Islamist extremism, and the pamphlet is a guide to the on-line Islamist sites, and the vile hatred they promote. Yusra Hussien’s family have called on parents to be aware of and watch carefully what their children read online, both on their computers and mobile phones. It’s excellent advice, and the above pamphlet should help parents worried about the ideological slant of what their children are reading make decisions about it.

I didn’t do much more than glance at the pamphlet, so I can’t give any details about the price or much of the content, except it gives a very full description of the views the leading Islamist militant bigots spread on their sites. If there is sufficient interest, I will, however, go back and get hold of copy and write a longer review.