Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

My Email to the Local Labour Party about the False View that only White Europeans Were Responsible for Slavery

January 4, 2023

I had an email from my local branch of the Labour party in Bristol this morning informing that they will be out this weekend canvassing people about the issues that matter to them. I wish them the very best of luck. Twelve years of Tory misrule have just about wrecked this great country and are forcing millions of ordinary, hardworking Brits into poverty. Not to mention the continued exploitation and impoverishment of the disabled and unemployment through benefit sanctions, work capability tests and all the rest of the welfare reforms that they have pushed through to enable them to stop paying benefits to people, who genuinely need it, all on the flimsiest of pretexts.

But one issue in Bristol that particularly concerns me is the way the slave trade is represented in exhibitions, the media and in education. Bristol was one of the major cities in the UK slave trade, along with London, Liverpool and I think Glasgow in Scotland. Although the slave trade was banned in 1807 and slavery itself abolished in 1837, it still casts a very long shadow over the city, just as it does the country generally. This was shown three years in the BLM riot that brought down the statue of Edward Colston and in a motion passed by the city council calling for reparations to be paid to the Black population. What concerns me about this is that it seems to me that a distorted image of slavery has arisen, in which White Europeans and Americans are seen as uniquely responsible and culpable for it. I am worried about the apparent lack of awareness that it existed right across the world and long before Europeans started enslaving Black Africans for labour in the plantations of the New World. It also appears that the BBC is determined to push this distorted image, as detailed by the group History Reclaimed and their document identifying the bias in twenty BBC programmes, several of which were about slavery. These included the edition of The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan when he went to Sierra Leone and Enslaved, presented by Hollywood actor Samuel L. Jackson. I therefore sent a reply stating my concern about this issue and the way it was handled by the local council. This runs

‘Dear Neil,

Thank you for your email letting me know that the party will be out this Saturday canvassing people in Bedminster about the issues that matter to them. I am afraid that long term illness prevents me from attending. However, apart from the continued cuts to public services forced on the mayor by central government cuts, there is one local issue that is of deep concern to me. This is the presentation and public knowledge of the history of slavery. Slavery has existed since antiquity and across the globe. Some of the earliest records come from the ancient near eastern town of Mari, which detail the sale of slaves and other properties. You can find lists of slaves on noble estates from ancient Egypt. Slavery also existed in the Muslim world, India and China. It also existed in Black Africa long before the emergence of the transatlantic slave trade. In some African societies, the proportion of the population that was enslaved varied between 30 to 70 per cent. By and large the slaves acquired by White European and American merchants were purchased from Black African slavers. Duke Ephraim, the king of Dahomey, had an income of £300,000 a year from slaving. There are records of British merchants to Africa being offered slaves Black chiefs. After abolition some of the slaving tribes attacked British trading posts in order to make us resume purchasing their human wares. Britain also paid compensation to former African slaving nations after abolition. In the 1850s we also fought a war with Dahomey in order to stop them enslaving the other local peoples.

But I am afraid I find little awareness of these issues in Bristol and among people generally. I am worried that this is creating a false view of the trade in the public, in which slavery, and particularly Black enslavement, is wholly the fault of Whites. This includes a lack of awareness that White Europeans, including British people and Bristolians, were also enslaved during the Turkish conquest of the Balkans and the Barbary pirates from Algiers and Morocco from the 16th century on till the French conquest of Algeria in the 1820s. I feel very strongly that this is creating an ideological motivated demonisation of Whites, especially if coupled with Critical Race Theory, which holds that all Whites are racist and will remain so.

I also feel this situation has been exacerbated locally by the motion passed a year or so ago calling for the payment of reparations for slavery, introduced by Green councillor Cleo Lake and seconded by Deputy Mayor and head of Equalities Asher Craig. This called for funding to be given to Black organisations rather than individuals, so that they can create sustainable, prosperous Black communities. This is obviously a noble aim, but the stipulation that the money should cover all Afrikans, as councillor Lake styles all Blacks, in the context of reparations means that Britain has accepted a moral responsibility for compensating people,. who were never enslaved by us, and which includes the vary African nations that committed the raiding and brutality that supplied the slaves. It also has nothing to say against the celebration in some African countries of these slavers, like Efroye Tinobue in Nigeria. It also erases from history the White victims of slavery.

I sent emails last year to Mdm. Craig and Councillor Lake pointing out these defects. I regret that I never received a reply. But this issue still has a particular urgency in Bristol. In previous correspondence, Asher Craig informed me that the local government was planning a new, ‘One Bristol’ curriculum for schools, which would foreground Black people. I have absolutely no qualms about Black Bristolians receiving the educational help they need, nor being included in our city’s history. But I am afraid that this curriculum will place the blame for slavery solely on White Bristolians and that this will lead to further racial division and prejudices.

I would very much like the local council to ensure that whenever slavery is taught or exhibitions on it mounted, its antiquity and the fact that other peoples, such as Black Africans, Arabs, Indians and so on were also involved, and that Whites were also the victims of the trade. This need not be an extensive treatment, but it should be there.

I hope you will take on board these concerns and recommendations, and wish you and the other party members all the best campaigning on Saturday.

Yours faithfully,

David Sivier’

I’ll let you know if I get a reply.

The Dutch Are Building Wildlife Bridges for Animals

January 3, 2023

I just caught a snippet on YouTube today about the Netherlands building bridges over their motorways for wildlife to use. It reminds me a little of the underpasses that were being built in some places in this country for hedgehogs to cross the road, except these are bigger. Much bigger. Here’s a picture of one I found online.

I think it’s a great Green initiative, and although it reminds me of the garden bridge over the Thames Johnson wasted £60 million on before it was dumped as unworkable. This, on the other hand, seems to be not just workable, but rather more aesthetically pleasing than the bare concrete of the usual motorway bridges. There is a trend to include vegetation and green spaces in architecture. A number of architects have designed high rise flats where the walls are covered with plants in ‘vertical gardens’. If these bridges are working, I’d like to see a few over here, but I’m sure we won’t get them under the Tories. Despite the lies about them supporting Green energy and the environment.

Graham Hancock – A Crank, Possibly, But Definitely No Racist

December 9, 2022

My discipline, archaeology, has been massively going after Graham Hancock this week. Hancock’s ah, um,, ‘maverick thinker’, I suppose you’d say, who’s been presenting a series on Netflix arguing that thousands of years ago there was a highly advanced civilisation that perished in a cataclysm, but passed on its secrets to other ancient civilisations around the world. This has understandably annoyed archaeologists and a number have put up videos, some of them lengthy and quite detailed, disproving him. Hancock’s been promoting this idea for some time now. Going back two decades and more, he had a series on Channel 4 with the title ‘Water World’ or something like it, also arguing that there was a global advanced civilisation, whose monuments have been covered up by a flood, as recorded in the Bible and other ancient religions. Now I’m sure that Hancock is wrong, and the criticisms of his dodgy history and archaeology are right. But I take exception to one of the other accusations levelled at him, which is that he is racist.

This accusation is partly based on his false ascription of the achievements of indigenous cultures around the world to this putative prehistoric civilisation. It denies those people the credit for their achievements. But the accusation is also that it’s similar to the ideas of some bonkers White supremacist groups, who are using Hancock’s ideas to promote themselves. One archaeologist posted a video saying that Hancock should have disavowed the use of his ideas by these fascists. It also criticised him for being friends with Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson. There are fair criticisms to be made of both of these men. Peterson’s an arch-conservative and anti-feminist, but hardly a Nazi. Rogan was pushing anti-vax nonsense and is an advocate for some mind-expanding drugs. A few years ago people were accusing him of being a ‘gateway to the Alt-Right’. Possibly, but he also talks to people from the left, who are otherwise denied a platform by the lamestream media. Journalists like Abbie Martin, who talked about Israeli propaganda against the Palestinians and how she found, when she visited the beleaguered Arab nation, that the reality was nothing like the picture painted by the Israeli state. He’s also talked to biologists and journalists exposing the lies of the trans ideology. This is not Alt-Right, no matter what groups like Mermaids, Stonewall, Antifa and the rest say. The people criticising the gender ideology tend to be radical feminists, many from the socialist left. Part of their opposition against it is that it reduces masculinity and femininity to traditional, stereotypical sex roles. One of the feminist vloggers interviewed one of the leading activists against the trans ideology, who was furious that people like her were being presented as right-wing. Another feminist activist criticised Matt Walsh for misrepresenting feminists as uniformly in favour of trans ideology, and then criticising them for it. Rogan gives a voice to people outside the mainstream. Sometimes it’s rubbish, and sometimes it’s immensely valuable. He has also interviewed a number of Black celebs, so again, not a Nazi.

The White supremacist ideas being referred to seem to me to be the Traditionalist ideology of Giulio Evola. Evola was an Italian Fascist and occultist, who was a major ideological influence on the scumbuckets behind the Bologna railway bombing in the 1970s. A fascist group bombed the station, killing and maiming over a hundred people. Evola believed that there was a strongly hierarchical, ‘Aryan’ civilisation in Hyperborea in the arctic, which was responsible for all the subsequent cultural achievements of the civilisations around the world. This is twaddle. But Hancock’s ideas are also similar to those of others, which don’t come from people in the fascist fringe. A couple of years ago I picked up an old book, Colony Earth, which had been published in the 1970s. This claimed that Earth may have been an extraterrestrial colony, whose advanced civilisation was destroyed in a nuclear war. The pyramids may have been fall-out shelters, as were the megalithic tumuli in Britain. It’s an interesting read, but certainly wrong. I think Charles Berlitz, who started the Bermuda Triangle myth, also believed in this, supporting it in one of his books with artefacts from Aztec tombs that look like aircraft. Berlitz is someone else, who I’m fairly certain has absolutely no connection to fascism whatsoever.

And I don’t believe Hancock is either.

When he was travelling the world on his Channel 4 series he was accompanied by his wife, who is Sri Lankan. Now, White supremacists do not, as a rule, marry dark-skinned people from outside Europe. If they do, they’re angrily denounced as ‘race traitors’. In one edition of this earlier series, Hancock reported on the mysterious ruins of ancient city found off the coast of the Bay of Bengal. He was shown talking respectfully to an Indian gent, who told him how such findings tie in with Hindu ideas of the antiquity of civilisation and ancient Indian legends of flooded cities. Again, this isn’t quite behaviour you’d expect from a genuine White supremacist. He also travelled to South and Central America, where he proposed the old theory that the Mayans, Aztecs and other ancient Amerindian civilisations must have learned how to build their pyramids from someone else. I think this was once again ancient Egypt. But who brought that knowledge to the New World? Black Africans. He pointed to an Olmec bas relief of a warrior’s head, and declared its features to be ‘proudly African’. If this is racism, then its Afrocentrism rather than White supremacy. As for the ancient race behind these monuments, Hancock doesn’t say what colour they are. In this, he breaks with some of his predecessors, who say they must have been White because the legends of numerous Amerindian peoples state that vital parts of their culture were brought to them by White gods. Hancock is therefore less racialised in what he says than his predecessors.

I disagree profoundly with Hancock’s ideas, but he has a right to say them like everyone else. And if it piques people interest in these ancient cultures so that they want to find out what they were really like, that’s all to the good. But I do think it’s profoundly wrong to accuse him of racism. That just further cheapens the word and weakens it as a weapon against the real thing.

Sketch of Legendary Blue Peter Presenter, John Noakes and Shep

December 6, 2022

Here’s a sketch of another one of my favourite children’s TV presenters. In this case, it’s John Noakes and his friend, Shep. Noakes and Shep are best known from Blue Peter, where they appeared with Peter Purvis and Lesley Judd, as well as Valerie Singleton. During his time on the programme, Noakes did some daring stunts, like skydiving and climbing up Nelson’s column to give it a clean. The top part of the column projects out, so at one point he’s climbing up the ladder as it is inclined away from the monument. They showed a clip of him doing this a few years ago, and it’s one of those pieces of television you can hardly watch, as you can all too clearly imagine him falling to his death a hundred-odd feet below. Fortunately, he didn’t, and clearly had nerves of steel. But if something could go wrong in the studio, it would happen to Noakes as the incident with the elephant showed. That was an edition in which they brought a baby elephant into the studio. This pachyderm had a mind of her own, and although not an adult it was definitely a bit too strong for its keeper. Instead of him leading it, at various points it was dragging him along as he held on tight to its lead. It relieved its bladder and bowels on the floor, someone stepped in it, and it trod on Noake’s foot. This has become something of a highlight in broadcasting history, and every so often it gets trotted out and shown on some of the shows devoted to great disasters and mistakes on television.

Shep was Noake’s inseparable friend. So inseparable, in fact, that the Barron Knights wrote a song about the two and how Noakes could never get away from him. It had lines like ‘John could never be alone no matter where he went. For Shep would have a sniff around and soon work out his scent.’ The song had Noakes standing on the top of the Eiffel Tower and other locations that were hard to get to and finding that Shep was up there with him.

But Noakes’s popularity with the viewers was such that he couldn’t be confined to one show. He was given his own, called Go With Noakes. Noakes came from Halifax, and so the title music was ‘On Ilkley Moore by Tat’. Each week he would visit a different historic location. At one point, I think, he was walking the ancient Fosse Way. He also visited similar locations on Blue Peter, once visiting the potteries in Staffordshire. This was described in a chapter in that year’s Blue Peter Annual entitled ‘I Was a Sagger-Maker’s Bottom-Knocker’, after one of the specialised workers in the kilns.

Both Noakes and Shep are, sadly, no longer with us but they’re still remembered as two of the superstars of children’s television, bringing adventure and a touch of comedy on to the TV screen.

Here’s the opening theme, which I found on Louish Waltz’s channel on YouTube, with stills from the series.

And this is the incident with Lulu the elephant, first broadcast in 1969, from Tony Thompson’s YouTube channel.

Sketch of Maths and Science Children’s TV Presenter, Johnny Ball

December 2, 2022

After all the serious stuff, here’s another one of my sketches of a favourite TV presenter from way back in the past. This time it’s of Johnny Ball, the presenter of the maths and science shows Think Of A Number and Think Again in the ’70s and 80s. I think Ball started off as a presenter on Play Away before being given his own programmes. I’d always assumed until recently that he was a maths graduate, given the programmes’ subject matter. Apparently, he wasn’t. He was just a self-taught enthusiast. And he was brilliant at conveying that enthusiasm to others. Each episode of Think Of A Number explored a different topic, such as light, or flight. During the show, Ball explained the maths and science concepts with jokes, sketches, tricks and practical demonstrations. And if you wanted to know how a trick was done, all you had to do was send them an SAE and they’d tell you. I started watching it in the hope that it would help to improve my maths, which at the time was really poor. It didn’t, but the show was so amazing that I kept watching. It introduced maths concepts like the Fibonacci series, while spatial dimensions were illustrated using the mind-bending art of Max Escher. The show was performed in front of a live audience of children, whom Ball would often get to assist him in his tricks and demonstrations. Think Again was a similar series but may have been aimed at slightly older children. It still contained jokes, sketches and humour among the series stuff. I don’t know if the series are on DVD, but they’re certainly on YouTube. I watched the edition on flight a little while ago. At one point Ball talks about model flying machines, including ornithopters. These work by flapping their wings like birds. He releases a number of model planes, including an ornithopter and watches in wonder as it flaps across the studio. I was also a great fan of Think Again’s music and titles. This featured various inventions appearing and transforming into each other, beginning with a glowing nylon line drawing Ball himself, and including a Greek temple and other items, such as a spark plug transforming into a rocket. It’s by Francis Monkman, and is called ‘The Achivements of Man’. I’ve seen claims that the composer plagiarised a piece by another musician. I don’t know, but the two do sound similar. But in my view, the Think Again music is slightly better. The series also produced at least one annual, in which Ball did writing what his series did in physical performance. Naturally, it was full of jokes and pithy aphorisms. On the importance of gold, Ball coined the following piece of immortal wisdom, ‘Remember the Golden Rule: he who has all the gold, rules’. The annual starts out by showing how important numbers and maths are by imagining what it would be like if we didn’t have them. We’d have to report inflation in terms like ‘Today the cost of living rose a little bit, and the pound fell a little bit’. There were also jokes about what humans would look like to Martians. They might believe that our hair grew inside our bodies and was so long that it poked out the top of our heads. It’s childish humour, which is what is needed if you want to appeal to children.

The Thinks series ended decades ago, but Ball is still going. He has his own site on the interwebs somewhere, where he talks about maths and science. And a few years ago, I came across a book he’d written of maths puzzles. He also appeared on another programme a few months ago talking about his early life in Frenchay in Bristol.

From all this it’s very clear that he’s still got a cult following. And he deserved it. I wish there were more people like him able to communicate and spread an interest in maths and science, even to people who aren’t mathematical.

Ball’s blurb on the back cover, which also has the portrait of him I used as the basis for my drawing, runs

‘I have written this book to help you enjoy numbers, because it seems to me that’s what numbers were made for. Inside you will find jokes, puzzles and things to make and do with numbers, and any number of pictures to go with my words. There’s plenty of information about numbers, but it is never too serious because I think numbers are fun.

So now you can read about

The first people to ‘Think of a Number!”

Your body: how it measures up.

Stored energy: elastic to ballistics

From living in trees to relying on wood

Saving money and golden rules

Exploring our wet and watery world

Telling the time throughout time.

Lots of you have written to say how much you enjoy the Think of a Number television series. I hope you enjoy the book too.’ I added the pocket calculator to the sketch because it’s on the book’s cover, and because that at the time calculators were new and extremely exciting.

Here’s the theme tune for Think of a Number, which I found on Louish Waltz’s channel on YouTube. According to a comment left by John Wilks, its title is ‘Weeny Bopper’ and it was composed by Brian Bennett.

Here’s the Think Again titles and theme, from TV68’s channel on YouTube.

And here’s a video from the Beeb’s channel on YouTube from the series Bang Goes the Theory, in which Ball uses the capture/recapture technique biologists use to estimate the size of animal populations from a numbered sample to estimate the number of black cabs in London.

American Stamp against Sickle Cell Anaemia

October 17, 2022

This piccie below is for the stamp the American postal service put out in 2004 to get more Black Americans to test for sickle cell anaemia, a type of blood cancer. I understood that sickle cell anaemia, or thalassaemia, was the result of something going wrong with a natural adaptation people of African origin have in their blood, which gives it better protection than White blood against malaria. I don’t know if sickle cell anaemia is unique to Black people, or if it’s simply that Blacks are far more vulnerable to it. Either way, there have been calls for more Black people to give blood in order to help combat the disease. I found the picture in the art book Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist, by James Gurney (Kansas City: Andrew McMeel Publishing 2009). This is a ‘how to’ book for budding artists of the fantastic. Gurney’s the author of the Dinotopia books, in which humans and dinosaurs live side by side, with people using them for transport, as fire engines, complete with their long necks used as ladders, and so on. Thus, many of the pictures in the book, serving as illustrations of various techniques, are of dinosaurs. The book also teaches lessons in composition, lighting, painting techniques, as well as inspiration for cyborgs, architecture, alternative history, science fiction and so on. There are also sections on possible careers in movie concept art, book covers and museum design. The picture of the Black woman and her beautiful baby are in the pages on using live models.

I was prompted to put the picture up after Simon Webb posted a video about scientists discovering genetic differences in Black blood, which made it better for Black people to receive donated by other Blacks. For Webb, this supported his view that there are distinct races and refuted the doctrine that race is merely a social construct. Now I think he’s right that there are differences between people of different races. East Asians, for example, have a far lower tolerance for alcohol. The explanation for this is that while westerners developed brewing, the Chinese, Japanese and other peoples developed tea. Although it has to be acknowledged that they also had alcohol in the form of rice wine. Aboriginal Australians have something like 25 per cent more neurons in the part of the brain that processes visual information. This is believed to be an adaptation that allows them to be better in remember their way around the trackless wastes of the Australian desert. Also, southern Europeans and Africans are worse at handling the cold than northern Europeans. This was all explored in a documentary on Channel 4 a few years ago. In the case of the indigenous Australians, the programme explained that this was a particularly sensitive topic as previous experiments had been done exploring their cognitive abilities with the intention of proving that they were less intelligent than Whites. But these genetic differences aren’t so great so that the various races of humanity are as distinct from each other as animal subspecies, or at least that’s what I’ve read. As for the differences between Black and White blood, while it might be better for Blacks to receive blood from people like them, it certainly doesn’t mean that blood from the two races is mutually incompatible. Whites have successfully received blood from Blacks, despite some of the stupid fears at the time that somehow it would also turn them Black. Of course, what I think Simon Webb really wants is conclusive genetic proof that Blacks are thicker than White people, as per the Bell Curve. But Sowell in his book, Intellectuals & Race, that Asians aren’t more intelligent than Whites according to IQ tests done properly. He’s more ambivalent about racial differences in intelligence between Blacks and Whites but provides evidence that refutes the old argument that Blacks are intellectually inferior. He also makes the point that those psychologists who did believe in it, nevertheless thought their academic performance could be improved by better teaching methods.

These arguments aside, this is a great picture with a great message, especially during Black History Month.

Simon Webb Has Written a Book on British Concentration Camps

August 16, 2022

Readers of this blog will be well aware that I have extremely mixed views about Simon Webb and History Debunked. I don’t share his High Toryism, heading into the ideological territory of parties like Reform, Reclaim or Patriotic Alternative, for example. I particularly reject his views that the IQ difference between Blacks and Whites is biologically determined, and that there is a further biological difference in IQ between Whites and Asians. Some of what he’s written about African history is just plain wrong, such as the statement that before the White man arrived, Black Africa was stuck in the Bronze Age. Not true – the Bantu cultures spread throughout Africa were very firmly Iron Age, as were the Kordofanian and Nilotic peoples and those of Ethiopia. His videos about the decline of South Africa after the end of apartheid and Zimbabwe after it passed to Black majority rule and the horrific dictatorship of Mugabe seem to be based on a nostalgia for White colonial rule.

But sometimes he also says something interesting and important. Looking through his website, there’s a piece on the non-fiction books he has written. Three are mentioned – one on the Suffragette Bombers, subtitled ‘Britain’s Forgotten Terrorists’, another on 1919; Britain’s Year of Revolution, which probably explains why he disputes the memorialization of Philip Wootton in Liverpool as an innocent victim of lynching, rather than a violent thug. But it’s the third that interests me here. This is British Concentration Camps: A Brief History from 1900-1975, published by Pen & Sword like his other books. He describes this book thus:

‘For many of us, the very expression ‘Concentration Camp’ is inextricably linked to Nazi Germany and the horrors of the Holocaust. The idea of British concentration camps is a strange and unsettling one. It was however the British, rather than the Germans, who were the chief driving force behind the development and use of concentration camps in the Twentieth Century. The operation by the British army of concentration camps during the Boer War led to the deaths of tens of thousands of children from starvation and disease. More recently, slave-labourers confined in a nationwide network of camps played an integral role in Britain’s post-war prosperity. In 1947, a quarter of the country’s agricultural workforce were prisoners in labour camps. Not only did the British government run their own concentration camps, they willingly acquiesced in the setting up of such establishments in the United Kingdom by other countries. During and after the Second World War, the Polish government-in-exile maintained a number of camps in Scotland where Jews, communists and homosexuals were imprisoned and sometimes killed. This book tells the terrible story of Britain’s involvement in the use of concentration camps, which did not finally end until the last political prisoners being held behind barbed wire in the United Kingdom were released in 1975. From England to Cyprus, Scotland to Malaya, Kenya to Northern Ireland; British Concentration Camps; A Brief History from 1900 to 1975 details some of the most shocking and least known events in British history.’

This looks like solid scholarship, and one those of us on the left can get behind. One of the female commenters on this blog years ago, a very staunch socialist, sent me information about the forced labour camps set up by the Labour party in the 1930s supposedly to train unemployed workers into the habit of working again. This was relevant because it was based on the same squalid attitude as Blair’s ‘welfare to work’ policy, in which the unemployed were only to be given their dole if they did unpaid work for various companies, including charities like Tomorrow’s People, and the big supermarkets. The declassification of government documents a few years ago following a court case brought by the victims of the brutal methods Britain used to suppress the Mao Mao in Kenya has resulted in another book about the concentration camps set up by Britain there, Africa’s Secret Gulags. Some of this book sounds very similar to John Newsinger’s book about the horrors committed under British imperialism, The Blood Never Dried. Newsinger is very much a man of the left, but his book also describes the atrocities committed by Britain when attempting to quell the independence forces of Britain’s former colonies. I did not know, however, about the concentration camps set up north of the border by the Polish government in exile to persecute its political enemies, including the same people targeted by the Nazis, Jews and gays.

The book and his research on this shocking topic clearly impressed others on the left. In the journalism section on his website there’s an article he wrote about it for Jacobin, a left-wing journal. He’s also written a fourth book, on the Barbary pirates, but this isn’t mentioned on his website.

In writing the book on British concentration camps, Webb’s clearly done something that can be supported by the left in bringing to light the way the British state and its allies have used forced labour and similar camps to exert its control in the home country and across its colonies. Brutal methods that should concern anyone who believes in democracy, human rights and humane government.

See: https://www.simon-webb.com/non-fiction-books.html

Explaining Simon Webb: History, Race and the Manipulation of History

August 12, 2022

Several of the great commenters on this blog have questioned why I have put up so many pieces about Simon Webb. Gillyflowerblog in particular asked how anyone, who called himself a socialist, could follow Webb in some of his assertions. It’s a fair question, and deserves an answer. Webb is a Torygraph-reading man of the right. He is staunchly opposed to immigration and multiculturalism, which he regards as destroying traditional British culture. He believes that racial differences in IQ are real and based in genetics, citing scientific papers showing that Black people have more of the genetic markers for schizophrenia than Whites. I’ve no doubt that this is true, but schizophrenia is not intelligence. Furthermore, a greater biological inclination to schizophrenia does not necessarily rule out environmental factors. A mentally vulnerable person may remain psychologically well in the absence of emotional stresses that could drive them over the edge. If there are more Black people needing treatment for psychological problems, it may be because of the particular stresses faced by the Black community, such as poverty, greater unemployment, lower educational and career prospects, racism and the destruction of the Black family and the violent drug gangs operating in many Black communities.

Genetic Basis for Racial IQ Differences Questionable, If Not Disproven

He also believes, almost needless to say, in the bell-curve nonsense, in which Blacks are genetically less intelligent than White, who are genetically not as bright as Asians. In fact Thomas Sowell, who talks favourably about the book, has demolished some of its arguments. There’s no difference in average intelligence between Whites and Asians. The tests that showed it used out of date and biased IQ tests, which skewed the results. However, Asians peoples like the Chinese and Japanese do perform above the level of Whites with the same IQ score. As for Blacks, the average Black IQ is 85, but this is the same or actually better than many White groups when they started IQ testing. Jews, who are now judged one of the most intelligent sections of society, also had the same IQ level, as did various peoples from southern and south-eastern Europe. Their IQs have risen, and so the unspoken implication is that there is no reason why Black IQs shouldn’t. Individual Blacks may score extremely highly. One example is a nine year old Black girl, who had an IQ of 160-80 on one set of tests, and something very close or above 200 on another. Black children raised with White families, such as the mixed race children of German civilians and Black American troopers in the army of occupation after the First World War, had the same IQs as Whites. There are cultural and environmental factors behind the lagging Black IQ, it seems, rather than genes. Although even if there is genetic cause, Black educational performance can still be raised simply by improving teaching methods.

Causes of Economic and Political Crises in African Countries after Independence

Webb has also published videos looking back to a year in the 60s when he claims everybody was talking about repatriation and discussing the decline of South Africa after the abolition of apartheid, and the collapse of Zimbabwe in starvation and dictatorship under Black majority rule. To be fair, this is part of a general trend in African nations after they gain independence. Sowell talks about this in Conquests and Cultures, showing that in all too many cases the economies of the newly independent colonies declines, sometimes catastrophically. This is because the indigenous Africans who take over don’t have the cultural capital and technical skill to run these countries. Sowell has also argued in various videos that the collapse of democracy in many of these nations and their descent into dictatorships is because they haven’t had time during the period of White rule to absorb properly the conqueror’s democratic institutions and traditions. This is probably true, but I’m not sure how much democracy there was in practice when these nations were under the rule of colonial governors. And Webb’s videos on South Africa and Zimbabwe look like nostalgia for White rule and the social order in these countries when Blacks were inferior and knew their place.

He appears also to be a small government Conservative, who says he wouldn’t vote for either Labour or the Conservatives, and laments their supposedly high-spending policies. He is sceptical of the rise of mental illness and the number of people claiming disability for it, presumably feeling, like so many of the right do, that these people should just pull themselves together. Until, of course, it happens to them or the people in their class. Then it’s different.

Webb and Black History

But Webb’s specific focus is on history and debunking what he considers to be historical falsehoods. These are, almost totally, those of Black history. But I do wonder if Webb wasn’t at one time an idealistic anti-racist. I think he’s said that at one time he may have had a Black girlfriend, and among his friends are a number of Black ladies, whom he’s helping home school their children. He’s put up pictures of himself surround by Black children, so I don’t believe he’s racist in his personal relationships. He’s also no anti-Semite, and has posted a number of videos attacking anti-Semitic conspiracy theories such as the lie that the Jews are responsible for mass non-White immigration in order to destroy the White race. One of his most recent videos examines the origins of anti-Semitism. He also defends Israel and its claim to Palestine. He is also not an opponent of Islam as a religion. Another video he posted has as its title the description of Christianity and Islam as two aspects of a single jewel. He states that when he was home schooling his daughter, he took her to various places of worship, including a mosque. All this drives the Nazis and anti-Semites who comment on his videos right up the wall as they call for him to join Patriotic Alternative. Or suggest that he must be Jewish himself, or promoting their propaganda.

As to whatever made him like he is now, I wonder if it was simply the pressure of living in one of the deprived, Black majority areas of London. He seems to know places like Haringey extremely well, talking about how murders were extremely common there at one time as well as the problems caused when one of the local police forces declared they weren’t going to arrest people for cannabis possession. This, he states, resulted in drug dealers running up to people’s cars and banging on the roofs to get attention. If this did happen, along with the other problems of crime and violence, then perhaps seeing the very worst aspects of parts of the Black community eroded all the youthful idealism and anti-racism.

He has published videos denying that some of the great African cultures should properly be regarded as civilisations, because they had no written language, philosophy or science. They are not monuments to Black achievement in his eyes, because very many of them were based on the culture of Arab colonists. And the various histories of Black inventions are riddled with lies and appropriate the scientific achievements of Whites.

Genuinely Great and Forgotten Figures of British Black History

He wasn’t always quite so focused on race. An early video simply discusses the reasons the British shelled their cities during the Second World War. Another video asks whether the Victorians really were all that racist, citing as an example an Indian rajah who became a Tory MP. This could easily be a legitimate part of the Black history activists wish to be taught in schools. Much of this is about rediscovering and reclaiming lost Black historical figures. The classic example is the nurse Mary Seacole, but others include the son of a British planter and a Caribbean slave, who had a glittering political career and ended up as the Lord Lieutenant of one of the Welsh counties. This gentleman was the subject of a BBC Radio 4 programme a few years ago, though I’m afraid I’ve since forgotten his name. But those interested might be able to find him by Googling.

The Great Civilisations of Black Africa

As for Black African civilisations, it’s true that many were culturally influenced from elsewhere. The ancient Sudanese, for example, took over much of ancient Egyptian culture, including the use of hieroglyphs. These people invaded the Land of the Nile several times to claim the throne as pharaohs, before eventually being overthrown in their turn and expelled. They built pyramid monuments for their dead, and were a literate culture. Unfortunately their language was not related to any that have survived today, and there is no Rosetta Stone giving their ancient texts in their language and those which are known, thus allowing the language to deciphered. Scholars are therefore in the frustrating situation of being able to read their inscriptions, but have no idea what they say. We’re faced with a similar situation regarding the ancient civilisation of Meroe, also in that part of Africa.

Many of the great civilisations of Africa were part of the Islamic world. These included Mali in West Africa, and the Swahili in what is now Tanzania. I think their written language was Arabic, in the same way that medieval European civilisations used Latin as the language of religion, government, philosophy, history and science. But that doesn’t detract from their achievements or the sophistication of these cultures. Medieval books from the library of Timbuktu’s madrassa shows that the scholars there were copying and studying scientific texts from the wider Muslim world. One Black historian presenting a programme on Black African civilisation showed such a book. This had a diagram, which she was told showed that Muslims in the region knew that the Earth went round the sun. That’s entirely possible. One of the ancient Greek scholars presented an alternative to the geocentric universe of Ptolemy, in which the Earth did revolve around the sun. But all the other planets still revolved around the Earth. In east Africa, the Amharic, Tigrinya and Tigre languages in Ethiopia are based on the south Arabian language introduced by settlers from that part of Arabia. But even if that part of modern Ethiopian culture isn’t indigenous to the continent, it still doesn’t detract from the achievements of Ethiopian civilisation.

All Civilisations Advance by Borrowing from Each Other

Back again to Thomas Sowell, who states very clearly that cultures across the world borrow from each other. Europeans, for example, adopted gunpowder and paper from China and the numbers system, wrongly called Arabic, from India. Europe was able to rise because of its geography. The east-west nature of the Eurasian landmass meant that inventions in one part of it, such as China or the Middle East, could easily pass to other parts. Thus Europe was able to benefit by adopting and improving on inventions produced by other peoples. Africa lagged behind because it was cut off from the rest of the world by oceans on three sides and the Sahara desert on the north. There were few navigable rivers, so that trade and communication was difficult, unlike in western Europe, where there were many so trade, and hence industrialisation and economic development was easier, along with the passage of ideas and culture. Africa also suffered from highly variable rainfall, which can make agriculture and sailing on the navigable rivers difficult. In some places the soil is unsuited to agriculture, thus making it suitable only as pasturage for nomadic peoples, who are able to move on to better, more fertile land after it becomes exhausted. And the disease environment makes it unsuitable for pack and draught animals, unlike Europe. Goods therefore have to be carried by porters, which is much more expensive than horse or river transport. This also limits the value of goods that may be transported. Because these high costs, only very valuable goods could thus be transported across land. Which probably explains why Africa’s exports tended to be gold, ivory and slaves. Africa was held back, not by any lack of intelligence by its people, but simply because of the isolation created by its physical environment, just as nations and countries elsewhere were similarly aided or held back in their social and economic development by the same geographical factors, even if they were on other continents.

Also, some of the cultures that did not have a written literature could nevertheless be extremely sophisticated. I read somewhere that in one of the African city states, members of it aristocracy would engage in a ceremony in which they would perform a ritual dance accompanied by music. At various intervals they were expected to stop, and point to one of the city’s 17 shrines. If they didn’t point accurately, it would bring disgrace. But Webb is right in that Europeans took some time before they recognised some of the states as civilisations, not just from cultural prejudice but because of the differences between African and European ideas of civilisation. For example, several of the cities Europeans believed were the capitals of these kingdoms weren’t centres of government in the European sense. They were religious centres, which might be abandoned for most of the year.

Falsehoods and Mythmaking in Black History

But if some of his history is wrong or questionable, I think he has a point with others. There are problems with the accuracy of part of Black history writing. This can be seen at some of its most extreme in Afrocentric literature. This can range from claims that are controversial, but which can nevertheless be defended, to racist fabrications. At its heart, Afrocentrism holds that ancient Egypt was a Black civilisation and that it laid the basis for subsequent western culture. It’s a fair question whether the Egyptians were Black. They certainly depicted the men as reddish brown in colour and the women as yellow, in contrast to Europeans, who were painted pink. Herodotus describes them as Black. As for their influence on European culture, Basil Davidson in one his books states that he took the view because this is what the Greeks and Romans believed. On the other hand, the ancient Egyptians also show Caucasian heritage and the Greeks seem to have taken much of their mathematical and scientific knowledge from the ancient near east, and particularly Phrygia in what is now Turkey. However, some Afrocentrists have gone on to argue that ancient Egypt also conquered the rest of Black Africa, where they were responsible for all its peoples’ cultural achievements, and that the original peoples of Britain, China and just about everywhere else were also Black, based on long discredited 19th century White writers.

And there are severe questions about other Black history writing. Webb put up a video last week criticising the claim that the phrase ‘the real McCoy’ was based on a 19th century Black engineer, citing Brewer’s History of Phrase and Fable. I’ve come across the same assertion in a book Black Pioneers of Science and Invention. This also claimed that the refrigerator was also a Black invention and that open heart surgery was invented by a Black doctor over here during the Second World War. This man performed an emergency operation on a man injured during the Blitz. Webb denies that he invented the operation, but states that he was the first to perform it in Britain. Which is still a proud achievement. Not as spectacular as inventing it, but still very impressive.

Mary Seacole – No Nurse, But Pioneering Black Female Entrepreneur

And then there’s the matter of Mary Seacole. For many Blacks, she was a pioneer of modern nursing equal to Florence Nightingale. To her detractors, she was a businesswoman who went to the Crimea to open a hotel for the British officers. She may have done a bit of nursing on the side, but that wasn’t the real purpose of her time there. Webb sides with the latter view, citing her autobiography. And again, I think he’s right. But that doesn’t mean that Seacole should be written off as a lost Black historical heroine. Even if she wasn’t a nurse, she’s still important as an entrepreneur. For Black Conservatives like Sowell, what Blacks need is not state handouts, but to develop the entrepreneurial skills to enable them to allow them to rise economically and socially, as other ethnic groups like the Jews, Chinese, and Japanese have also done. You don’t have to be a Conservative opponent of state aid and the welfare state to adopt such a view. The motion put before Bristol city council the other year by the Labour deputy mayor Asher Craig and Green party councillor Cleo Lake for the payment of reparations for slavery wanted such monies to be given to Black organisations to develop self-reliant and sustainable prosperous Black communities. Which entails encouraging and supporting Black entrepreneurs in those communities.

Invented and Exaggerated History A Response to Continued Racism and Exclusion

In many ways I’m not surprised that various Black writers have made exaggerated claims for Black civilisations and Black inventiveness. They aren’t alone in appropriating great figures from other ethnic groups. Mussolini, for example, claimed that Shakespeare was Italian. Well, some of the Bard’s plays, like Two Gentlemen of Verona and Romeo and Juliet are set in Italy, but I think this may partly reflect the dominance of Italian renaissance culture. Some of the claims about historic Black communities in Britain, which present them as far larger and more numerous than they probably were, seem to me to be an attempt to assert their right to live in this country in the face of still being regarded as somehow foreign and not really belonging. I’ve met Black people, who do feel like that. They were ordinary people with White friends, and not angry radicals. And the promotion of Black cultures and civilisations as sophisticated and advanced seems to me to be partly a reaction to the previous generations of historians and academics, who dismissed them completely. It makes depressing reading going through the book Colour and Colour Prejudice by the last governor of Ghana and seeing one scholar after another make this assertion.

Black Commenters also Against Memorialisation of Violent Thugs as Victims

I also think Webb has a very serious point when he questions some of the assertions and memorialisation of Black persecution. For example, David Olasuga and Reni Edo Lodge were present at a ceremony a few years ago, where a memorial was laid at the docks in memory of Philip Wootton, who was a victim of lynching in the 1919 race riots. Except it seems from contemporary newspaper accounts that Wootton was a violent thug involved in fighting between a group of West Indian, Swedish and Russian sailors. During this a policeman was stabbed several times and there was an attempt to garrotte him. The West Indian gang shot several times at the police after fleeing back to their lodgings. Wootton attempted to escape out the backdoor, but was spotted and pursued by an angry mob towards the docks, where he slipped and fell in. This is very different from the victims of other lynchings, like young men who were killed for having a White girlfriend, or who spoke insolently to a White man.

For some Blacks, violent thugs like Wootton should definitely not be defended or promoted by the Black community. One of the Black American YouTubers got very angry and tearful about the BLM protests last week against the shooting of Tekle Sundberg. Sundberg had had some kind of episode and started shooting through his apartment wall, trying to kill a young mother and her two children. Fortunately the woman and kids were able to flee. The cops turned up and after a six hour stand-off, shot him dead. His adoptive White mother tearfully claimed that it was a racist shooting, as White perps would have had longer to comply. Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter turned up and started a protest to the justifiable fury of Sundberg’s intended victim. The Black YouTuber commenting on this angrily denounced BLM for celebrating criminals like Sundberg. This, he believed, was why everyone else looked down on Blacks.

Checking Reni Edo Lodge about Medical Experimentation on Blacks

As for Reni Edo Lodge, Webb stated that in one of her books she claims that Blacks in Britain were experimented upon and denied medical treatment. This is a serious claim and deserves to be investigated. It did happen in America. I’ve seen YouTube posts about the horrendous experimentation on pregnant Black women by a particular 19th century surgeon. In the ’90s there was outrage when government files released under the Freedom of Information Act showed that the American state had been conducting nuclear experiments on the poor and people of colour with neither their knowledge or consent. In the same decade, the American conspiracy journal, Steamshovel Press, carried an article by one man, who stated that he found Black Americans more likely to believe that AIDS was a germ warfare experiment escaped from Fort Dettrick because of the Tuskegee experiment. This was a nasty medical experiment in which a group of Black sharecroppers were infected with syphilis and denied treatment in order to investigate the disease’s spread. In return their funerals were paid for and their families looked after.

I am not aware that any similar experiments were done over here, apart from the nuclear tests on British servicemen, which wasn’t, I believe, racial. If such experiments didn’t happen, then Lodge is writing fake history. Dangerous fake history – it’s addressed to an audience that already keenly feels that British Blacks have been victimised and persecuted, and such claims only exacerbate such feelings. As if the terrible conditions in many Black communities aren’t bad enough already without inventing even more abuse and discrimination. That’s why I wrote to Lodge’s agent last week requesting Lodge to state where she got these claims from. If she can support them with government documents or properly researched secondary literature, well and good. I’ll support her claims. But if she can’t, then she’s manufacturing false history and in doing so actually making race relations worse.

Conclusion

This is why I’m interested in some of Webb’s videos. History is important, which is why there is so much interest now in Black history. It’s an attempt to recover forgotten Black politicians, nobles, writers and inventors in order to provide role models for contemporary Blacks, in the hope that this will inspire them to do better at school, and in the outside world.

But this has to be good, truthful history, whoever writes it. Otherwise, even if it’s being written with the best of intentions, it’s just propaganda. And that’s wrong, whether done by Whites, Blacks or whoever.

Que Corrects the Fake History about the Swahili Peddled by Simon Webb and History Debunked

July 28, 2022

Que is one of the great commenters on this blog, who is particularly concerned about the fake history being told by Simon Webb over at History Debunked. Webb creates videos attacking the false claims, as he sees them, of Black history. He has attacked the claims that African civilisations were advanced, and founded by Africans themselves rather than outside colonisers, such as Islam and the Arabs. I’ve had a few interesting discussions with Que, particularly about the Swahili civilisation on Africa’s east coast. The Swahili are Muslims, speaking a Bantu language with a considerable admixture of loan words from Arabic. I can remember reading at school that the civilisation was created by Muslim Arab settlers and colonisers, who intermarried with the indigenous Africans. I’ve also come across a book by the Afrocentrist historian Basil Davidson, arguing the opposite: that it was an indigenous African civilisation, which took over Islam and elements of Arabic language and culture.

Webb put up a video a little while ago arguing that several of the best-known and leading African civilisations and their monuments were not founded and built by indigenous Africans. One of these civilisations was the Swahili, which Webb claimed had been founded instead by the Omanis. I asked Que if he had any information about a claim by Webb that one of the great west African mosques so often shown as one of the splendours of Black African culture, had in fact been extensively rebuilt by the French. Sadly, he couldn’t help me there, but he was able to provide information correcting and refuting Webb’s claim about the Omani origins of the Swahili. Que commented

‘Unfortunately, I can’t give you any sources on the subjects of what you asked.

I can only say that Simon Webb/History Debunked is a dishonest historian, and I can prove it.
The video he did on black cultural appropriation of African civilisations (you know, the vid where he spits a load of bovine excrement about Egypt, Axum and the Swahili were formed by people outside of Africa), he messed up big time.

When Simon Webb/History Debunked talked about the Swahili formed by the Omani Arabs, he had a pic of a ruined mosque to emphasise the Omani Arab nature of the Swahili. The problem is the pic was of the Great Mosque of Kilwa Kisiwani.

Kilwa Kisiwani is also an archaeological Swahili city-state site located along the Swahili Coast on the Kilwa Archipelago. It was occupied by possibly Mwera people from across the mainland from at least the 8th century CE and eventually became one of the most powerful Swahili settlements along the East African coast. Historically, it was the center of the Kilwa Sultanate, a medieval Swahili sultanate whose authority at its height in the 13th-15th centuries stretched the entire length of the Swahili Coast. The seasonal wind reversals would affect trade circulations.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilwa_Kisiwani

As for the mosque, it was built way before the Omani Arabs took over the Swahili coast.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Mosque_of_Kilwa

And Simon Webb/History Debunked knows this. Many pics of the Great Mosque routinely say what it is – the Great Mosque of Kilwa Kisiwani. He purposely showed a pic of it while saying that the Omani Arabs are responsible for the Swahili culture, knowing full well that the mosque wasn’t built by the Omani Arabs.
https://www.google.com/search?q=kilwa+kisiwani+mosque&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwi57J7xyZv5AhVrxYUKHRjvBLIQ2-cCegQIABAA&oq=kilwa&gs_lcp=CgNpbWcQARgEMgQIABBDMgQIABBDMgQIABBDMgQIABBDMgQIABBDMgQIABBDMgUIABCABDIFCAAQgAQyBQgAEIAEMgUIABCABDoECCMQJzoHCCMQ6gIQJzoICAAQsQMQgwE6BAgAEAM6CAgAEIAEELEDOgsIABCABBCxAxCDAToHCAAQsQMQQ1DwFlipQGDucWgBcAB4BIABqguIAfQ4kgEPMC4xLjIuMi4wLjEuMC40mAEAoAEBqgELZ3dzLXdpei1pbWewAQXAAQE&sclient=img&ei=CIDiYrnINuuKlwSY3pOQCw&bih=739&biw=1536

The greatest liars and deceivers mix truth with lies. Simon Webb/History Debunked whole shtick is this.

If you want a person or a website that deals with African histories and cultures in a much more honest way, I suggest you check this website out:
https://isaacsamuel.substack.com/

He’s not perfect (no historian is be they armchair or actual) but he has a lot of sources and he’s incredibly knowledgeable.’

Webb is Torygraph-reading right-winger and a fierce opponent of non-White immigration and what he sees as the Black appropriation of White history and inventiveness. His political sympathies are unstated, but they seem to lie with right-wing populist parties like Reclaim, while his commenters have urged him to join Patriotic Alternative. They, however, are more right-wing than he is, and there is a nasty current of genuine anti-Semitism among them. There’s a lot of talk about the Great Replacement, and how it’s caused by ‘people with small hats’. This sounds very much like code words for ‘Jews’, and it’s the old Nazi lie that the Jews are encouraging non-White immigration to destroy the White race. Webb, to his credit, doesn’t believe this and has posted videos several times attacking and debunking it.

Some of Webb’s comments and videos are historically correct, but as Que has shown, he can also be very, and deceptively wrong. As with so much on the Net, if you’re watching or reading his material, be careful and check his facts.

Saudi Arabia Plans 500 Metre Tall, 170 Km Long Mega-Skyscraper. Where’s Judge Dredd

July 27, 2022

Here’s a bit of light relief. Just this evening the internet news page put up a piece from Sky News, reporting that the Saudis are planning a massive megastructure called the Line. It’s going to be 170 km long by 1/2 km tall, for 9 million residents, all occupying separate communities. And their needs will be catered to by autonomous services, run by AI. The article begins

‘Revolution in civilisation’: Saudi Arabia previews 170km mirrored skyscraper offering ‘autonomous’ services

If it was the opening sequence of a science fiction movie, few would be surprised.

In a glossy video narrated by an American voiceover artist, Saudi Arabia has previewed The Line, a 170km long skyscraper standing 500m tall – higher than New York’s Empire State Building.

It is designed for nine million residents living in a “series of unique communities”.

Residents will have access to “all their daily needs” in “five-minute walk neighbourhoods”.

“Autonomous” services are being promised through the use of artificial intelligence, in what is being described as a “revolution in civilisation”.

The 200m wide linear structure, to be clad in mirrored glass, is the desert kingdom’s attempt to create a “healthier, more sustainable quality of life” with communities “organised in three dimensions” – as opposed to traditional cities which it says are “dysfunctional and polluted” and “ignore nature”.

Another video shows the resident of a grey urban jungle escaping to The Line, which is portrayed as an oasis.

To be built in the country’s northwest, it is planned to cover 34 square kilometres and travel from end to end is expected to take just 20 minutes.

There will be “no need for cars” and carbon emissions will be zero, the country said.

Energy and water supplies are described as “100% renewable”.

Inside, there will be a “year-round temperate micro climate with natural ventilation”.

The futuristic project is part of NEOM, a $500bn economic zone expected to be partly financed through a flotation expected in 2024.

NEOM was announced in 2017 as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform plan which is intended to help diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from oil.’

See the article by Andy Hayes athttps://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/revolution-in-civilisation-saudi-arabia-previews-170km-mirrored-skyscraper-offering-autonomous-services/ar-AAZZFXB?ocid=msedgntp&cvid=b5213d7d2e414ce0b7e4564c3eadcbb4

Okay, we’ve heard this stuff before Way back in the ’50s or 60s there were plans to construct a similar habitat, 50 miles or so long, stretching across America. There were also plans to enclose New York, or at least Manhattan beneath a giant geodesic dome. There have also been plans by the Japanese to build similar megastructures right out in Tokyo bay. These would also be ultra-high tech, and be built by robots, as shown in documentary about it on Channel 4 some time either in the ’90s or the early part of this century. And there were even plans to create an enclosed city in the Canadian arctic. This would shelter from the elements under a protective dome, in which its citizens would enjoy a mild climate despite the snow and ice floes outside. It would even have a moving artificial sun to give the illusion of daylight at temperate latitudes during the long, arctic winter.

The Lower Manhattan Expressway Project: a predecessor to Saudi Arabia’s the Line? From Reyner Banham, Megastructures: Urban Futures of the Recent Past (New York: Monacelli Press 2020) 19.

None of this was every built. They were far too ambitious, both financially and technologically. And I foresee that this will go the same way.

Which may not be a bad thing, as it really does remind me of various pieces of SF literature: Judge Dredd and J.G. Ballard’s dystopias, particularly High Rise.

In the long running 2000AD strip, Dredd is a member of the autocratic police force, the judges, trying to enforce law and order in Mega City 1. This is a gigantic city of massive tower blocks stretching across the entire east coast of America from the Canadian border down to Florida. On the other side of the continent is Mega City 2, while down south is Texas City. This hasn’t quite reached mega city status as it doesn’t have a billion inhabitants. Between them are the Cursed Earth, a radiation desert full of lawlessness, inhabited by mutants, created by the nuclear that destroyed America and democracy and which led to the rise of the judges. The city has a 95 per cent plus unemployment rate caused by massive automation. Crime is rampant with the judges trying to keep a lid on things.

It’s grim vision of the future but one with a sharp, satirical sense of humour. One of the strip’s writers and creators described Mega City One as a gigantic black comedy. Which it is, as the strip sent up contemporary pop music with inane rock bands like New Juves on the Block (a slight resemblance to New Kids on the Block, an ’80s band?), weird fashions, and totally bonkers game shows. In one of the very early Dredd strips, contestants were literally betting their lives. It’s satire, but the Russians nearly got there for real. After Communism fell, one of the Russian TV stations ran a game show in which contestants had to steal a car. For real. There were real cops chasing them. If the contestant escaped, the car was his. if they caught him, he really did go to the slammer. In another Dredd strip, they sent up World of Sport on ITV and some of the adverts then running on British television. The good lawman had landed on a planet inhabited by 12 different alien races, all of whom were at war, which was broadcast on their television as a form of entertainment. Among the adverts spoofed was one for the chocolate bar, Bounty. The real advert featured a group of young people running on to a desert isle while the voiceover announced ‘They came in search of paradise’. The parody advert had the same scene, but with aliens, followed by the line ‘they found – landmines’, accompanied by explosions and the slogan ‘protect your waterhole with Brax. Brax wipes them out – dead’. It was this sharp, satirical edge that has made Dredd and 2000AD one of the great British comics for nearly the last 50 years.

And added to all this mayhem and criminality, the occupants of the various mega blocks would develop block mania, a fanatical devotion to their own block, and start a war with the neighbouring blocks. Saudi Arabia’s the Line sounds like something of a trial run for all that craziness.

The future of urban civilisation? Dredd out looking for perps and muties from the cover of 2000AD Prog 409.

It also reminds me more than a little of Ballard’s works. Ballard was a member of Michael Moorcock’s team on the British SF magazine, New Worlds. This deliberately set out to break the established conventions of science fiction at the time. It was highly controversial, spurring a debate about its obscenity or otherwise in parliament in the 1970s. And Ballard was one of the writers shocking and provoking. His novellas were published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson, but Weidenfeld didn’t read them and so had no idea of just what kind of a literary monster he was publishing. That is, he didn’t, until one day he was in New York and went browsing on one of the news stands. Flicking through one of the magazines he found a piece by Ballard entitled ‘I Want To F**k Ronald Reagan’. This was in the 60s, nearly two decades before the former actor became president. A shocked Weidenfeld then sent a telegram to his secretary and staff in London saying ‘Do not publish!’

Ballard was also responsible for the novel Crash, about a secret society of perverts who get their jollies from car accidents. This was filmed in the ’90s by the Canadian film director, David Cronenberg, to the massive outrage of the Heil, which immediately started a campaign to have it banned. In the end it flopped, but nevertheless did get critical acclaim from some parts of the SF community.

Much of Ballard’s fiction takes place in enclosed, ultra-modern communities. There, life has become so anodyne and boring that the corporate powers running these communities deliberately stage murders, violent crime and rape in order to stimulate their bored drones and give them something to live for. One of these dystopian novellas was High Rise, about a cutting edge skyscraper. In it, the rich lived at the top, and the poor lower down at the bottom. However, civilisation begins to break down so that society in the tower block takes on the class antagonism of outside society. This leads to real, physical class conflict and violence. It was filmed a few years ago, but I’m not sure how many people saw it.

Trailer for the film High Rise, starring Tom Hiddleston with Jeremy Irons and based on the novel by J.G. Ballard. From the StudioCanal channel on YouTube.

In real life, Ballard was boringly normal. He stayed at home, writing and caring for his wife, while taking his children to school. Despite his grim fiction, he was horrified by the war in Bosnia and the dangerous way the conflict promoted psychopathic violence as people struggled to survive. Visitors were often surprised by the fact that he wasn’t what Private Eye used to call ‘a wild-eyed dement’ straight from one of his novels.

Ballard, unfortunately, is no longer with us, having passed away a few years ago. He gained critical acclaim for his novel Empire of the Sun, based on his experiences as a child growing up in a Japanese POW camp following their capture of Shanghai. It was filmed by Steven Spielberg. and garnered a number of Oscars, just as the previous film adaptation of his work, Crash, didn’t.

But I’ve got a feeling that if the Line is ever built, it’s going to be far more like Mega City 1 and High Rise than any other SF utopia.

And the desert in which the Line is set even looks a bit like Dredd’s Cursed Earth.

So, can we expect crime, violence, mutants, block wars and perps getting thirty years in an iso-cube? And will Saudi Arabia suffer the attentions of the Dark Judges – Fear, Fire, Death and Mortis – come to kill everyone on Earth. Because all crime is committed by the living.