Archive for October, 2018

BBC Drama about Horror Writer H.P. Lovecraft

October 30, 2018

This looks like it could be one for fans of the 1920s Horror/SF writer H.P. Lovecraft. Next Tuesday on Radio 4, 6th November 2018 at 2.15 pm Radio 4 are broadcasting a drama, ‘Talk to Me: H.P. Lovecraft’, by Sara Davies and Abigail Youngman. The blurb for this in the Radio Times runs

The strangest of all HP Lovecraft weird tales isn’t fiction at all but concerns his marriage to businesswoman Sonia Greene. The horrors which make Lovecraft’s fiction so chillingly effective may not have been merely a product of his imagination. (p. 139).

Weird Tales was the name of the magazine that published Lovecraft’s horror stories. Lovecraft is famous as the creator of the ‘Cthulhu mythos’, about a pantheon of evil alien gods – the Great Old Ones – that seeped down to Earth from the stars. They have been banished, but nevertheless still wait for their chance to return, when the stars are right and Great Cthulhu himself rises from the deep in the submerged city of R’lyeh. Either to destroy humanity, or bring about an unhallowed age of reveling and killing.

It’s hard to see how the cosmic horrors he described had any basis in reality. But Lovecraft himself was racist. He was anti-Semitic, despised Blacks and the non-White immigrants then entering New York and America. Recurring themes in his stories are racial decline, inbreeding and miscegenation. Not just with evil, non-human races, as in his short story The Shadow over Innsmouth, but also with other, human peoples. Cthulhu is worshipped by mixed race ‘mongrels’ like the rural people of Louisiana and the docks districts of the ports. He also had contempt for the rural ‘White trash’ of the southern US as well.

It’s questionable just how racist Lovecraft was. He was racist, but at the time so were many other Whites, and it’s actually debatable whether he was worse than most other people. I don’t know much about his personal life, except that he spent most of it in his home town of Providence, Rhode Island. I also think that his wife was Jewish. She said that she did her best for him, so that he would become a chrysalis out of which would emerge a great writer. She lamented that the great writer did indeed come forth, but that he became ever more distant from her. See the biography, The Strength to Dream. I suspect the drama’s about his deteriorating relationship with his wife, as he moved away from her to produce his tales of cosmic horror.

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Radio 4 Programme Next Week on Press Censorship and Election Rigging

October 30, 2018

According to the Radio Times for 3rd to 9th November 2018, next Monday’s edition of Radio 4’s ‘Analysis’ is about the increasing destruction of democracy. Entitled ‘How to Kill a Democracy’, for blurb for the programme runs

Matt Qvortrup examines how democracies around the world are being dismantled through the silencing of the press and manipulation of elections.

The programme is being broadcast, appropriately enough, on the 5th November at 8.30 pm.

This has been going on for years. The Groaniad’s John Kampfner wrote a book about it years ago, Democracy For Sale, about how government across the world were trying to make a pact with their peoples by giving them prosperity at the expense of genuine political freedom. The countries discussed included not only Lee Kwan Yew’s Singapore and Putin’s Russia, but also Sarkozy’s France, Berlusconi’s Italy and Britain under that well-known ‘centrist’, Tony Blair.

But the curbs on free speech and publication aren’t just extending to the press. They’re also attacking the internet under the pretext of protecting us all from ‘fake news’. Facebook recently took down 800 pages, mostly of left-wing and oppositional sites, including those critical of the government. The Real News has recently posted up a report showing that this was done under the supervision of a Neocon American politico, who was gloating that this was just the beginning. I’ll post that one up later.

Democracy and free speech and press are under attack right across the globe, including here in the UK. It’ll be interesting to hear what the Beeb has to say about all this, and whether they’ll mention the corporate assault on the Net. This could be a dodgy issue for the Beeb, as more people are turning away from them and other established and establishment news sources for the Net. And groups on the internet, like the circle of new news media journalists Mike, the Canary, the Skwawkbox and Another Angry Voice belong to. As the Beeb can’t mention Corbyn without a sneer or depicting him as a wild, anti-Semitic extremist, I can see the programme shying well away from the subject of internet censorship.

Jeffrey Archer Demands Ban on Gambling Advertising in Radio Times

October 30, 2018

Heavens, and what is the world coming to! I’ve just read something by Jeffrey Archer that actually made sense, and with which I agreed. The scribe of Weston-Super-Mud is in the ‘Viewpoint’ column of the Radio Times today, for the week 3-9 November 2018. His piece is titled ‘We have a gambling epidemic’ and has the subheading ‘Cigarette advertising is banned – so why not ads for betting?’

Archer begins by talking about how the Beeb has lost much of its sport coverage to the commercial channels, and so he has his enjoyment of the footie, rugger, golf and cricket ruined by advertising for gambling. He describes how these try to tempt you into having a flutter, even though the odds are stacked against you. You may win occasionally, but in the long term you’ll lose. He then goes to compare this with tobacco advertising, which also took many years to ban because powerful commercial interests were involved, which also heavily sponsored sport. He also claims that the NHS wouldn’t be in crisis if no-one smoked, because the money thus saved would vastly outweigh the tax revenue tobacco brings in. He then writes

Fast forward: we now have a gambling epidemic. More than 400,000 punters have become addicts, 26,000 of them aged 16 or younger. So how long will it take the Government to ban gambling advertising on television? Far too long, I suspect. A good start was made at the Labour party conference in September by deputy leader Tom Watson, who promised immediate legislation to dealwith the problem if a Labour government were elected. Watson pointed out that several experts had shown that unfettered gambling causes impoverishment for the least fortunate in our society, and this often results in abusive behavior towards young children and partners,, and all too often ends in bankruptcy, imprisonment and even suicide.

Rewind: successive governments took years to acknowledge that “Smoking damages your health”, and even longer to admit that “Smoking kills” should be printed on every cigarette packet; and it took even more time before they finally stamped out all forms of smoking advertising. Please don’t let’s take another 20 years before the Government bans gambling advertising, and wastes a generation of young people simply because of the tax revenue.

He then recommends that Tweezer’s new Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, should steal Watson’s clothes and bring in tough legislation dealing with gambling addiction before the next election, because ‘No one ever remembers whose idea it was, only the party person who passed the law.’

His piece ends ‘The slogan ‘When the fun stops stop’ is pathetic, and will reman so until it’s stopped.’ (p. 15).

Archer and Watson are absolutely right about the damage tobacco advertising has done, and which gambling and the advertising for it is continuing to do. And obviously a disagree with his recommendation that the Tories should appropriate Labour’s policy. If they did, it would only be token gesture of actually doing something for ordinary people, like Hammond’s wretched budget. A cosmetic improvement designed to get them re-elected so they can continue wrecking people’s lives in other ways, through destroying what remains of the welfare state and privatizing the health service.

But I’ve absolutely no fear whatsoever that the Tories will ban gambling advertising, for the same reason that they’ve never banned advertising for alcohol. There are heavy restrictions on the way booze is advertised, but not an outright ban. Which the European Union wished to bring in, according to Private Eye a few years ago.

The contemporary Tory party is a creature of its corporate donors. Always has been, to a certain extent. The Tories have always boasted that they represent business, and their MPs, like MPs generally in a political culture dominated by corporate cash, include the heads and managing directors of companies. Indeed, this is one of the reasons the Tories are dying at grassroots level. Ordinary party members in the constituencies are annoyed at the way they’re being ignored in favour of the donors from big business.

Going back 30 years to Major’s government, there was a demand in the early 1990s for an end to alcohol advertising. Major’s government was firmly against it. And one of the reasons was that very many Tory MPs had links to the drinks industry. Which Private Eye exposed, giving a list of those MPs and their links to particular companies.

I’m very confident that the Tory party now has very strong connections to the gambling industry, and so will very definitely not want to risk losing their cash. Just as it wouldn’t surprise me that if Labour did try to ban gambling advertising, the Thatcherite entryists in the party would turn against it. One of Tony Blair’s grotty schemes was the establishment of megacasinos in this country, modelled on America, of course. One of the ideas being kicked around was to turn Blackpool into a British Las Vegas. It’s a very good thing it failed.

Archer’s absolutely right to want gambling advertising to be banned. But the Tories are the last party that’s going to do it. If any party will, it will be Labour under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Thoughts and Prayers for the Victims of the Racist Shooting in Kentucky

October 30, 2018

There was another racist shooting in Kentucky on Saturday, which got overlooked with attention focused on the mass murder of the congregation at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

In this video from The Young Turks, presenter Francis Maxwell describes what happened, and angrily denounces the anti-Black racism that has led to this story being ignored.

The shooting occurred at a Kroger supermarket in Louisville, Kentucky. The shooter was seen trying to get into the First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown. The alleged perp, Gregory Bush, had a history of racism and violence. When he couldn’t get into the church, he walked into the store and shot two Black people, Maurice Stallard and Vicki Jones. Stallard died in front of his 12 year old grandson, while Jones had recently retired from VA hospital. When the cops arrived, Bush surrendered, saying ‘Don’t shoot. Whites don’t kill Whites’.

It’s very obviously a racially motivated killing, but it didn’t make the news in what Maxwell angrily denounces as a failure of the news cycle. It took three days for the story to be noticed by the mainstream news organisations. It was drowned out by stupid conspiracy theories about Justin Bieber, or another Republican politician saying that this time, a White man needs to run for the presidency. And even when the other news media had picked it up, Fox News turned their attention elsewhere, like the migrant caravan from Honduras, which is now still a thousand miles away. And at the same time Trump’s supporters are denying that the right-wing maniac sending bombs to prominent Democrats and the MAGA truck had anything to do with Trump.

He makes the point that racism needs to be confronted, and discussion of it and racially motivated crimes should not be avoided. They aren’t rare. There are all too many of them. Not only is this policy of not mentioning shooting incidents against Blacks dangerous, but it also plays into Trump’s hands and his manipulation of the media. Maxwell here points to another, similar shooting that people also probably haven’t heard about: the shooting of two Black cops by a heavily armed White man they’d confronted. The right-wing American media ignored it, partly because it doesn’t conform to their narrative about a war on cops waged by Blacks.

Maxwell goes on to state that this is why independent media is so important in today’s hyperpolarized political climate. We need to expose these issues, so they can be confronted head on.

It’s a pity that this story was not given the prominence it deserved, and that it has been overshadowed by the synagogue shooting. Every incident of this kind is equally disgusting, regardless of the ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation of the victims. But the concentration of attention on the synagogue shooting to the exclusion of this other atrocity could confirm the anti-Semitism in parts of the American Black community.

Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam hate Jews, because they mistakenly blame them for the slave trade. I’ve dispensed with this pernicious myth several times on this blog, quoting from Hugh Thomas’ exhaustive The Slave Trade, and other works of historical scholarship. These show that Jews comprised only a vanishingly tiny minority of slave traders and owners. But Farrakhan and his ilk also resent Jews because they feel they’re not discriminated against, because they’re White. And they have a point. Despite anti-Semitic prejudice, Jews in America and Britain aren’t discriminated against and are now largely comfortably off. This wasn’t always the case. Jewish immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century did suffer enormous poverty, as well as prejudice. They got to their present position in society through extremely hard work and talent. And large sections of the Jewish community supported the Black community’s demand for Civil Rights and social and economic improvement. Jackie Walker over here is proof of that in her person. Her parents, a black American mother and a Russian Jewish father, met on a Civil Rights march.

But the resentment and prejudice against the Jews in parts of the Black American community remains. And I’m afraid that the media’s handling of this story will just confirm this prejudice.

Corbyn Criticizes the Tory Budget

October 30, 2018

The main news story today is Philip Hammond’s budget. Details of it were released a few days, and it’s been discussed ever since. In it, Hammond, dubbed by some ‘Phil the Bleak’, is trying to convince the voting public that austerity is coming to an end, and more money is going to be pumped into welfare services like mental health and the NHS, and town centre shopping in the high street will be revitalized as business rates for the shops in those areas will be dropped.

It’s strange how all these promises were suddenly made just when the Tory party is seriously challenged by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, and is being widely attacked for its colossal ineptitude and massive divisions over Brexit, and the immense hardship it is causing with Universal Credit. I don’t doubt that the Tory press will hail – or in the case of the Daily Mail, heil, the budget as a genuine boost to the economy, which should be enthusiastically embraced by all right-thinking Brits. Just like I can remember the Sun’s headline screaming the benefits of Norman Lamont’s budget back in the late ’80s or first years of the ’90s: ‘The Lager of Lamont’. Which pretty much shows the level the Scum is aimed at – drunken yobs. And for ordinary people, you have to be drunk to think there’s any substance or real benefit in the budget.

Mike’s extensively critiqued it on his blog over the past few days. Yesterday he put up a piece showing that it was all a tissue of lies. Despite his claim that austerity is over, public sector pay is not going to rise, nor are benefits, the bedroom tax ain’t going to be repealed and there aren’t going to be 20,000 more police on our streets.

Furthermore, the tax cuts he’s promising will only really benefit the rich. As Mike points out, this is another swindle to decrease the amount the state takes in tax, which is then redistributed as benefits to the poor, or spent on public services.

But the Tories are still going to introduce 7 billion pounds’ worth of cuts. Hammond also said that

Brexit would not affect spending plans because he had assumed an “average-type free trade deal” between the UK and EU after Brexit, and had £4.2 billion in reserve in the case of a no-deal scenario.

Mike ends his piece by stating that this is also a piece of deception, saying

But you can bet that this will not be enough to deal with the consequences of a Tory Brexit. They want harmful effects because they will then be able to justify harsh cuts to your rights and living standards.

About the only welcome announcement in the whole sorry mess was the decision to stop using hugely-wasteful Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes.

One of Mike’s many excellent commenters, Barry Davies, points out that the PF1 and PF2 deals would simply become PPP, so there’s really no change there.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/10/29/its-phil-the-bleaks-fantasy-budget-would-you-buy-anything-hes-offering-before-brexit/

Actually, I think all Hammond’s promises are worthless for the same reason Mike does: their provisional. They only have force until Brexit occurs in March, when I full expect Hammond to announce that the terrible deal forced upon Britain by the European Union will mean that they’ll have to reverse their policies and start cutting benefits, public services and again reverse their spending on the NHS.

It’s all lies, from a government of liars, who lie and lie again without qualm of conscience.

Jeremy Corbyn has already responded. This little video from RT UK, posted yesterday shows him denouncing it as ‘a broken budget’. He says

The Prime Minister says austerity is over. This, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is a broken promise budget. What we’ve heard today are half measures and quick fixes while austerity grinds on and far from people’s hard work and sacrifices having paid off as the Chancellor claims, this government has frittered it away in ideological tax cuts to the richest in our society. This budget won’t undo the damage done by 8 years of austerity and doesn’t begin to measure up to the scale of the job that needs to be done to rebuild Britain. The government claims austerity has worked, so now they can end it, but that is absolutely the opposite of the truth, austerity needs to end because it has failed.

Corbyn’s right: austerity has failed. It’s failed working people, the poor, the disabled, the long-term sick, and the unemployed. But it’s done wonders for the rich, who’ve benefited massively from the Tories’ tax cuts, and privatization of public services, including the NHS. And, of course, the provision of cheap labour through the welfare to work industry, pay freezes and the removal of workers’ rights. Reforms all intended to make workers easy to hire and discard, and create a cowed workforce in constant fear of the sack and starvation, which will accept any work, no matter how precarious or poorly paid.

And as you can see from the video, when Corbyn laid into the budget, he was greeted with the usual Tory sneers and laughter, especially from Hammond and the Maybot, who jerked and spasmed as if she was suffering a short-circuit. Well, the Tories always find working class poverty a great laugh. You just have to remember how Cameron and IDS had a right good guffaw in parliament when one woman’s suffering due to the benefit cuts was read out.

Well, let’s cut their cackling short, and vote them out at the earliest opportunity.

Thoughts and Prayers for Pittsburgh after Nazi Shooting Outrage

October 28, 2018

The people of Britain, as I’m sure others were across the world, were shocked by the news of the terrible shooting yesterday at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. BBC News this evening reported that the gunman killed eleven people. He walked into this place of worship carrying a semi-automatic rifle and two handguns. I think the dead included two police officers. One of his victims was 97. What makes this even more heinous is that, as I understand it, it was done during a service for babies.

This, unfortunately, is only the latest mass shooting in the Land of the Free. There have been many, many, indeed too many others – at schools, nightclubs, sports events and other places of worship. A little while ago another racist shooter gunned down the folks in a black church. Another maniac attacked a Sikh gurdwara. And the Beeb’s reporter also stated that there had been another shooting in Kentucky, which had been overshadowed by the Pittsburgh shooting.

The alleged killer, John Bowers, is reported to have a history of posting on anti-Semitic websites. Yesterday, 27th October 2018, Hope Not Hate published on their website a piece about Bowers by their researcher Patrik Hermansson. Bowers had been a frequent poster on Gab, a social network associated with the Alt-Right. Hermansson states that Bowers’ name was removed from the network after it was published, but it still retained archived material posted by him. His profile banners in recent months included the number 1488. This is a White Supremacist code. The 14 refers to the infamous 14 Words of one particular neo-Nazi. I can’t quite remember the exact quote, but it’s something about creating a White homeland and securing ‘a future for White children’. The ’88’ bit is simply a numerical code. The 8 stands for the 8th letter of the alphabet, which is H. 88 = HH, which stands for ‘Heil Hitler’. on the 21st June 2018 he posted this prayer

Lord,

Make me fast and accurate. Let my aim be true and my hand faster than those who would seek to destroy me. Grant me victory over my foes and those that wish to do harm to me and mine. Let not my last thought be “If only I had my gun” and Lord if today is truly the day that You call me home, let me die in a pile of brass.

He also watched videos by Colin McCarthy, a far-right author of books claiming that Whites now suffer more racial violence at the hands of Blacks than the reverse, and that racial discrimination against Black is a hoax.

He has also posted messages expressing his disappointment that George Soros hasn’t been assassinated, presumably referring to the far-right Qanon conspiratorial movement. Another message supported the Rise Above Movement, a far-right ‘Fight Club’.

He also posted that ‘HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and let my people get slaughtered.’ The Beeb tonight said that he was angry at a Jewish charity for bringing Jews into the country. This sounds like the post they were referring to.

https://www.hopenothate.org.uk/2018/10/27/exclusive-pittsburgh-shooters-social-media-profile-reveals-white-supremacist-views/

From this it appears that Bowers believed in all the stupid conspiracy theories about the Jews secretly plotting to destroy the White race. It’s foul nonsense which has been disproved again and again, but there are still people who believe and are determined to promote it.

The Beeb in their report also discussed whether anything would be done about the availability of firearms in America after this. Their reporter said ‘No’. On the other hand, he said that while Trump couldn’t be blamed for this outrage – he condemned it – there would now be pressure on him to retreat on some of the incendiary rhetoric, which appears to have had a role in encouraging another right-winger to post letter bombs to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. This would, however, be a problem for Trump, as this has occurred in the run-up to the mid-term elections, when the contrary pressure was on to increase the verbal attacks against political opponents.

Kevin Logan, a vlogger who attacks and refutes the misogynist Men’s Rights movement and various racist and Fascistic individuals on YouTube, posted a video last night arguing that Trump really was anti-Semitic. This was based on some of Trump’s comments, which appear to be dog-whistle remarks about the Jews. To everyone not a Nazi, they appear to be perfectly innocuous. But to the members of the Alt-Right, they’re clear expressions of his own racial hatred. And then there’s his support amongst the Alt-Right, and his foul statement equivocating the morality responsibility behind the violence at the ‘Unite the Right’ racist rally in Charlottesville last year. Remember, he claimed that there were ‘good people on both sides’. No, the violence was done by the Nazis and Klansmen who turned up. And it’s automatically true that people chanting ‘the Jews will not replace us’ are not good people. Trump also took a suspiciously long time distancing himself and condemning a nasty, anti-Semitic comment from David Duke, a leader of the Klan down in Lousiana. Who is, needless to say, bitterly anti-Semitic. Logan’s an atheist, so he doesn’t offer prayers, but states very clearly that he stands in solidarity and sympathy with the victims of the Pittsburgh shooter. And ends his piece with the Spanish anti-Fascist slogan ‘No Pasaran!’ – ‘They shall not pass’.

I don’t think Trump is an anti-Semite, as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is Jewish and his daughter converted to Judaism to marry him. But his supporters are Fascists, and Trump does seem to have far-right sympathies. And he has rightly condemned the shooting. Nevertheless, he doesn’t condemn the type of people who support and commit these actions. Like the Alt-Right, like Richard Spencer, Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon, the far-right politicos, who served in his cabinet.

And the problem isn’t confined to Trump by any means. Some of the rhetoric coming out of the Republican party is extraordinarily venomous. I can remember one Republican Pastor denouncing Hillary Clinton back in the 1990s as ‘the type of woman who turns to lesbianism, leaves her husband, worships Satan and sacrifices her children’. Which is not only poisonous, but stark staring bonkers. Secular Talk a few years ago commented on the two hosts of a church radio station, who declared that Barack Obama was full of a genocidal hatred towards Whites and was planning to kill everyone with a White skin in the US. He would, they blithely announced, kill more people than Mao and Stalin combined. No, he didn’t. As for the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, he claimed that Barack Obama was possessed by Satan, Hillary was having a lesbian affair with one of her aides, and was a robot, at least from the waist down. Or she was an alien, or possessed by aliens. He also said something about her having sex with goblins. Oh yes, and she was also a Satanic witch. Back to Barack Obama, Jones claimed that he was planning to have a state of emergency declared to force people into FEMA camps and take their guns away. He also said on his programme that the Democrats were running a paedophile ring from out of a Boston pizza parlour. He also denied that the various school shootings that have tragically occurred were real. Instead they were government fakes, intended to produce an outcry against guns so that, once again, the government could take the public’s guns away. Leaving them vulnerable and ready to be slaughtered by the globalists.

I don’t know whether Jones is a charlatan or a nutter. It’s unclear whether he really believes this bilge, or just spouts it because it’s a money-maker and gets him noticed. Either way, YouTube and a slew of other internet sites and networks have refused to carry his material because of its inflammatory and libelous nature. Someone walked into the pizza parlour he named as the centre of the Democrats’ paedophile ring with a gun, demanding to free the kids he claimed were kept in the basement. There were, obviously, no children, and no basement. Fortunately, the incident ended without anyone being killed. The grieving parents of kids murdered in some of the school shootings he falsely claimed were fake took legal action against him because they had people turning up accusing them of being ‘crisis actors’ sent in by the government as part of the staged event. The shootings weren’t staged, and understandably the parents were angry.

Trump’s rhetoric is part of the problem, but it’s not the whole problem. It’s not just the political rhetoric that needs to be curtailed, but also the vicious demonization of those of other races, and the encouragement of Fascist organisations. In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims, relatives and first responders of this latest killing. May they be comforted, and no more have to suffer as they and so many before them have.

Trailer for Mike Leigh’s ‘Peterloo’

October 28, 2018

The left-wing British film director, Mike Leigh, has a film coming out about the ‘Peterloo Massacre’ in 1819 when a defenceless crowd that had gathered in Manchester to hear the radical politician, Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt, was charged by cavalry.

It was a period of severe economic recession, unemployment, political discontent and stifling censorship of freedom of speech, protest and the press. This passage from The History of the World: The Last 500 Hundred Years, General Editor Esmond Wright (Feltham: Hamlyn 1984) describes the conditions at the time.

At the end of the war England entered upon a long depression which brought to many even greater hardship than the war had done. Industries lay depressed with the sudden cessation of wartime demand, agriculture no longer enjoyed the protection that Napoleon’s blockade had brought and began to contract, while European countries, impoverished after years of conquest and exploitation, could not afford to resume their former level of trade. It was, in fact, twenty years after 1815 before British exports recovered to their previous level. Added to the existing problems of unemployment and low wages were some half a million demobilized soldiers and sailors, suddenly thrown onto a labour market that could not absorb them. The years from 1815 to 1820 were mong the darkest in English history when many feared, with some cause, a repetition of the events which had torn France apart in 1789.

Radicalism – an extreme form of politics which advocated fundamental reform of the constitutional and financial system – grew to brief importance under such popular leaders as Cobbett and Hunt. In their hatred of industrialization they preached a naïve ‘back-to-the-land’ philosophy which seemed attractive to populations of former peasants exposed to the insecurities of town life. Significantly, the cause of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester in 1819, when a defenceless crowd was charged by squadrons of cavalry, was a speech by Hunt, not on the problem of wages or unemployment, but on the subject of land reform.

Most labour movements in the first half of the century had this strong agrarian background. A majority of the new town dwellers were peasants by origin, unaccustomed to the regularity of factory work and the overcrowded life in slums and tenements. They turned instinctively to solutions that offered simpler, better understood relationship in which men seemed to be something more than mere instruments of production. Working people gave their support to Radicalism, not because they understood or even cared very much about abstract democratic principles but because it represented a protest against the unacceptable conditions of life. To its few middle- and upper-class supporters it was much more – a progressive, democratic demand for a government responsible to the popular will and an administrative system based on efficiency rather than privilege.

To such suggestions the governments of the fay responded with severe repression. The Tory party remained in office from the end of the war until 1830, first under Lord Liverpool, later under the wartime hero, the Duke of Wellington. Their belief was that the British constitution was perfect and that any attempt to disturb it must be put down firmly. Trade unions were illegal until 1824 and even after that striking was still a criminal offence, public meetings and meeting-places required to be licensed and newspapers were subject to a crippling stamp duty of five pence a copy. Together with such measures went a crude system which paid a meagre dole to labourers whose earning were inadequate to support their families (the Speenhamland system of poor relief) and which had the effect of impoverishing whole areas of the country. (p. 396).

This sounds very much like the kind of Britain Tweezer, Bojo, Rees-Mogg and their followers would like to return to us to. A country where unions and strikes are banned, restrictions on public meetings and censorship of the press. Except when it supports the Tories, of course. Blair and Cameron both tried to bring in legislation limiting demonstrations. They’ve been banned within a certain area of parliament, and Cameron wanted to pass legislation outlawing public protests if they caused a nuisance to local residents. Which is a convenient way of suppressing public expressions of dissent while claiming that you aren’t intending to do any such thing. ‘The government is fully behind freedom of speech and assembly, but this will be an intolerable nuisance to the people actually in the area’, is how the argument would run. And they’d also like to see more people slaving away in cruel and exploitative conditions in poverty, with a benefits system totally unable to cope.

Which is what makes Leigh’s movie of such contemporary significance. Here’s the trailer.

I caught a few moments of Leigh being interviewed on the Beeb the week before last. He was talking about how the incident was an important event in Manchester’s history. Walking around the historic part of Manchester, he pointed out buildings that had been there at the time and which had been included in the film.

Leigh’s known for his improvisational approach to film making, but the interviewer said that this movie felt more scripted, and Leigh agreed. I can’t say I’m a fan of Leigh’s work – it’s a bit too grim for my tastes – but this is something I’d like to see. The Peterloo Massacre is nearly 200 years ago, but it still has resonance and immense importance to the early 21st century Britain of Tweezer and the Tories.

Oscar Romero, El Salvador’s Martyr against Fascism

October 27, 2018

I noticed in an article in the I newspaper a couple of weeks ago that the current Pope, Francis, has canonized two saints recently. One of these was Oscar Romero, an archbishop of El Salvador, who was martyred in 1980s by gunmen for the Fascist government. The entry for him in The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, ed. John Bowker, (Oxford: OUP 1997) runs

Romero, Oscar Arnulfo (1917-80), Christian archbishop of El Salvador, assassinated in 1980. He studied theology in Rome, 1937-43, became a parish priest and bishop of Santiago de Maria in 1974. Thought to be a conservative bishop (not least because of his support of Opus Dei), he was appointed archbishop in Feb. 1977, in the expectation that he would not disturb the political status quo. Three weeks later, the Jesuit Rutilio Grande, together with two others was gunned down in his jeep. The even was, for Romero, a conversion. He began a ministry of outspoken commitment to those who had no voice of their own. Paul VI gave him encouragement, but the accession of John Paul II, with its cult of the pope and movement away from the vision of Vatican II, led to an increasing campaign against Romero in Rome. The details of this are disputed. It appears that John Paul asked him not to deal with specifics but to talk only of general principles; Romero tried to explain that specific murders in El Salvador were not adequately dealt with by stating general principles. The Vatican response was to appoint an apostolic administrator to oversee his work, but Romero was killed before this could be put into effect. He returned from his last visit to Rome to the slogan painted on walls, ‘Be a patriot, kill a priest.’ He was killed as he said mass in the chapel of the Divine Providence Hospital where he lived. (p. 823).

Pope Francis has supported a range of broadly left-wing initiatives, like refusing to condemn Gays and making the Church more supportive of the global poor. Mike and I went to an Anglican church school, and we were told about the martyrdom of Romero as part of the way totalitarian regimes, Fascist and Communist, were persecuting Christians. The Fascist regimes in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala were given considerable support by Reagan’s government, including his statement that the Contras in Nicaragua were ‘the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers’. And elements of the Tory party under Thatcher were very friendly towards the Central and South American dictators. The Libertarians of the Freedom Association had one of the leaders of one of El Salvadorean dictator Rios Montt’s death squads come over as their guest of honour at one of their annual dinners. This was when Paul Staines, of the Guido Fawkes blog, was a member.

These Fascist regimes have been supported by Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic and promoted to their peoples as protecting and supporting Christianity and religion generally against godless Communism. The Communist bloc has indeed ferociously persecuted Christians and other peoples of faith, including Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Taoists. But as the martyrdom of Archbishop Romero shows, and those of many other Christian clergy, monks, nuns and laypeople by the Fascist regimes in Latin America show, these regimes don’t automatically respect religious beliefs. They tolerate religion only in so far as it agrees with their political ideas. The moment people of faith speak out against poverty, injustice and oppression, they will kill them as readily as they will murder, maim and torture anyone else.

Pope Francis’ canonization of Romero is a great, praiseworthy act, which I hope will be applauded by all Christians concerned with preserving human rights, freedom, and dignity from persecution and oppression.

Facebook Censors George Monbiot Movie on Western Imperialism and Genocide

October 27, 2018

Facebook has been accused recently of censorship and pulling down masses of left-wing and alternative sites. In this video, RT America reports on Facebook’s censorship of a film by Groaniad columnist, George Monbiot for Double Down Media, on the crimes of the British Empire and Columbus’ genocide of the Amerindians. RT’s reporter states that it disproved the claim that the West’s conquests were less barbaric than others.

This is then followed by a piece from movie, in which Monbiot explains that before Columbus landed in the New World, there were 100 million native Americans. By the 19th century, there were less than one million. It was a policy deliberately endorsed by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote of the necessity of wiping out Native American peoples.

There then follows a Tweet from Double Down News reporting how Facebook had taken down the movie for ‘violating community standards’. The company states that it was a work of serious journalism which had gather 1 million views. The company was given no right of appeal or any reason for censorship. Why, they ask, is Facebook censoring history?

This came after Facebook took 800 pages they claimed were posting spam. They also used that excuse to pull down other alternative sites, like police watchdog groups and a fan page for RT correspondent Rachel Blevins. Monbiot himself tweeted that he thought the company’s banning of the Columbus film was a one-off, but now it appears to be part of a purge of dissenting posts.

The piece’s host then turns to interview George Galloway in London, asking him if this latest act of censorship by Facebook will lead to more people paying attention to the story.

Galloway replies that it sounds like a great video, and that he’ll try and see if he can go and see it somewhere, observing that the book they try to ban always goes to the top of the bestseller lists. Hopefully this will backfire on Facebook. He goes on to say that he himself has about a million and a half followers on social media, and because he is so well-known, he always thought he’d be invulnerable to this kind of thing. But George Monbiot is a very famous journalist and something of an insider in the British establishment, and now it’s happened to him. He states that it is quite intolerable that Facebook, a private company, can take an anti-commercial decision – which it is, if the movie had a million views – based on the political view of censoring history. And he states that he’s always known that British imperial history is censored from schooldays onward. We’re taught all about the crimes of Hitler and Stalin, but never about the crimes of imperialism.

The programme’s presenter states that there is an irony there, as Monbiot’s film touched on the way that history has been censored, and then Facebook does it all over again. Galloway replies that some of this censorship will be accidents, performed by some machine or factotum somewhere striking down something that casts an unfortunate light on the proprietors. It may be reinstated. But the general pattern seems to be that Facebook has become an adjunct of the Deep State in Britain, the United States and elsewhere, and that Deep State is bent on suppressing dissident views. This should open up a space for capitalism to work, of it works as it’s claimed to, for new Facebooks to come online, because after all it’s just a noticeboard. He hopes that the laws of commercial reality will reassert themselves. And people will know that if there’s a million views for Monbiot’s video, that’s a market not just an audience, and we’ll have to wait and see what emerges.

The host then goes on to ask him to talk about the crimes of western civilization and the British Empire which he thinks are overlooked. Galloway responds by saying the one she’s just discussed, about the massacre of nearly 100 million native Americans, is fairly hard to beat. ‘That is a Holocaust with a double capital ‘H”. But, he continues, the British Empire was committing crimes well into his own lifetime. We were shooting down Yemenis in Aden in the Crater(?) district when the Beatles were No. 1; we were shooting down Irish people on the streets of the Six Counties in the North of Ireland when the Beatles had been gone for several years. British imperial crimes are almost without number. He quotes his Irish grandfather as saying that the sun never set on the British Empire as God would never trust them in the dark. He goes on to say that the crimes of the British Empire continue to this day, in Yemen and Syria. Galloway describes the Kenyan examples, which Monbiot discusses in his film, as ‘quite extraordinary’. In Kenya and Malaya we were paying British servicemen a bounty for coming in with the heads of rebels, who were fighting for their own countries’ freedom from the British Empire. ‘And they talk about savages’.

It’s astonishing that Facebook should censor Monbiot’s video. I haven’t seen it, and don’t know anything about it except what is said here. But it seems to be well-established, uncontroversial fact. Columbus’ landing in the Americas did lead to the genocide of the Native American peoples. This was through exposure to European diseases, to which they had no immunity, enslavement and being worked to death. And what Columbus and the Spanish did the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean is truly horrific. They were worked to death producing gold. If they didn’t produce enough, they were mutilated. Their hands were cut off and hung round their necks. Indigenous women were raped by the conquistadors, and beaten if they didn’t show themselves to be sufficiently enthusiastic about pleasing their masters. Quite apart from the murder of their priests and aristocracy as pagans.

As for what the British did in Kenya, that can be read about in books like Africa’s Secret Gulags, amongst other books. I’ve posted reviews here from Lobster of more recent books discussing more recent British covert actions aimed at subverting nationalist movements and the democratic process in the former British colonies.

Facebook’s censorship of dissident and oppositional pages is a threat to the new freedoms of information that the internet has brought. Alternative news shows like Sam Seder’s Majority Report are discussing the possibility that the Net should be brought into government ownership in order to preserve it from interference and censorship by private corporations. I’m not sure this would do much good, as it would leave the American government able to censor it, in the same way that Blair, Sarkozy and Berlusconi used their power to censor and control information and news on state television. But I don’t think there can be much doubt now that Facebook and other big internet corporations are censoring news very much in concert with the demands of the Conservative elite and Deep State.

Private Eye on ‘Big Brother’ Surveillance Software

October 27, 2018

Private Eye has also published a couple of articles on the use of surveillance software to scan the internet compiling information for use by private corporations, medical authorities and the government. These present a serious threat to privacy, democracy and human freedom.

In their edition for 5th – 18th October 2018, the magazine carried the following story about how the Canadian government was using such software to collect information on cannabis users and those sympathetic to dope use. It ran

Someone, somewhere is always listening to you online. In Canada, that someone is set to be the government.

A recently published tender is seeking a technology partner to “examine Canadian social media sentiment toward Canabis legalization, with emphasis on public safety issues, such as driving after using cannabis”. In practice, this means that technology such as software and machine learning will beused to analyse social media posts to determine who thinks what about weed,, “the frequency with which the identified attitudes and behaviours are reported and the co-occurrence of different attitudes and behaviours.” And, “where able, the contractor must also explore the demographic (and other available) correlates of the attitudes and behaviours identified in the analyses.”

The Canadian government won’t say whether the data collected, and the social media profiles of those tracked, will be shared with law enforcers, but it’s fair to assume this is exactly what will happen in the future. (p. 16).

And in their issue for the previous fortnight, 21st September to 4th October 2018, they carried this story about how MIT had developed surveillance software to help medical professionals discover who, online, may suffer depression.

Researcher at MIT have been working on software that can be used to predict the likelihood that a person has, or is likely to suffer from, depression, based on machine analysis of answers to a battery of questions. The software was said to be 77 percent accurate in its predictions.

This has obvious practical applications in healthcare. As the paper notes, “To treat depressed individuals, they must first be diagnosed. To obtain a diagnosis, depressed individuals must actively reach out to mental health professionals. In reality, it can be difficult for the depressed to attain professional attention due to constraints of mobility, cost, and motivation. Passive automated monitoring of human communication may address these constraints and provide better screening for depression.”

As the tech website thenextweb.com observed, “passive automated monitoring of human communication” means, er, eavesdropping – meaning that a likely outcome of this software is a machine listening to your phone calls or reading your emails and using that data to decide whether or not you’re likely to be depressed, without you knowing it’s happening or possibly even knowing why, say, your insurance premiums have gone up or you didn’t get that promotion.

I’ve no problems with developing techniques to better diagnose depression and its treatment. But as the article says, this allows insurance companies and employers to snoop on people without their awareness or consent, and which may have serious harmful consequences for themselves or their careers.

It’s the stuff that Privacy International have been warning about since the mid-90s. And they also warn of the dangers of function creep. Once one part of the government starts using such techniques, others join in and the scope of the surveillance expands.