Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category

Right Wing Clowns and the EU: Boris Johnson

July 6, 2019

Here’s another walking indictment of the Conservative party and its attitude to the EU, and a massive demonstration of the stupidity and super-patriotism of Tories: Boris Johnson. You can tell just how low and farcical the Tory party have become on the world stage when you consider that one of the issues Channel 4 News was debating on Thursday night was whether the European Union would respect Johnson if he became Prime Minister. John Suchet interviewed one young Conservative woman about this, who steadfastly maintained that somehow the Europeans would. I can’t remember the arguments. They were the usual flannel. One of them, if I remember properly, was that they would respect Johnson, because he would then be the Prime Minister. Er, no. I see no evidence that the EU would respect Johnson simply on that basis.

I didn’t catch all of Suchet’s arguments why the Europeans wouldn’t respect Johnson except for one or two. Apart from that notorious photo of Johnson suspended in mid-air on a wire during a stunt at the London Olympics, he also quoted Johnson’s fellow Tory, Alan Duncan. Duncan said that you couldn’t ‘not like Johnson, but it was impossible to respect him’. I don’t know about that. There are millions up and down the country, who not only don’t respect him, but they don’t like him either. In fact, I think almost the entire city of Liverpool has the right to despise him after a sneer he made about them, for which he later apologised. Another argument was that Johnson had made some kind of public school joke in talking to the EU leaders. They didn’t get it, and he had to explain it to them.

In fact there is ample evidence why Johnson should never be allowed to be Prime Minister, and that he wouldn’t command the respect of the EU. Nor, I suspect, of a sizable proportion of the British public. Among his brilliant wheezes as Mayor of London, he wasted tens of thousands of pounds of public money on three water cannon, which are illegal in mainland Britain and £65 million on a garden bridge, that was impossible to build. As foreign secretary, his achievements included speaking in defence of imprisoned Brit Nazarin Zeighari-Radcliffe, and getting the poor woman’s sentence increased. He started reciting The Road to Mandalay in a visit to Thailand’s holiest Buddhist temple, and couldn’t understand why this could be considered offensive. He also went to Russia to resolve tensions between Britain and Putin. On his return, he immediately gave a press conference, in which he did his best to stoke them up again.

And this is just a few examples of his massive, gargantuan incompetence.

Johnson attempts to laugh all this off, and turn it to his advantage. He poses as a lovable oaf. Yes, he and his supporters say, he makes mistakes, says offensive and racist comments about Blacks and Muslims, but he’s just honest and direct. He means well. And it all comes right in the end. And look how clever he is: he’s accurate about Europe, and used to edit the Spectator. He’s been on Have I Got News For You. Aren’t you impressed with his schoolboy charm. He’s just a bit like Billy Bunter, that’s all.

No, he’s an utterly malign political schemer. He’s stabbed his cabinet colleagues and his allies in the back, and fully supports all the wretched policies of privatisation, including the destruction of the NHS and the welfare State, that have seen millions forced into poverty and reliant on food banks for their next meal. He was massively incompetent and negligent as Mayor of London, as Mike and other left-wing bloggers, like the Angry Yorkshireman, have pointed out. And as Foreign Secretary, he was such a complete pratt that I’m surprised he didn’t spark a major international incident.

If he becomes Prime Minister, Boris will wreck this country, destroy whatever industry it has left, and reduce its working people to absolute poverty. All for the benefit of the elite 1% in the City. And he’ll make us a laughing stock for the Europeans. Always assuming that he doesn’t start a war first.

And that’s no kind of joke.

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The Tories and the War on Drugs

June 16, 2019

There’s been some amusement to be had this past week with various leading Tories coming out and admitting to having used drugs. Michael Gove confessed to having snorted cocaine, and Rory Stewart admitted that he’d smoked opium once, 20 odd years ago, when he was backpacking around Iran. It was at a wedding. He claimed that it couldn’t have affected him much, as he was walking 25 – 30 miles a day. My guess is that in reality he’d have been stoned out of his tiny patrician brain. It’s generally the lean, fit people, who are most affected by intoxicants, as you can see by all the tales about champion marathon runners and other athletes, who become massively drunk when they celebrate with half a pint of booze afterwards. Then there’s Paul Staines of the Guido Fawkes blog. He hasn’t come out of the stoner closet, but he was notorious as a Libertarian for taking and advocating DMT as a mind-expanding drug. My guess is that he’d need it. As a member of an organisation that was so right-wing, it invited the leader of one of Rios Montt’s death squads from El Salvador to be their guest of honour at their annual dinner, Staines would need some powerful hallucinogenics to convince himself he was a decent human being.

Boris is also widely suspected of having done drugs, and it’s almost certain that the allegations are true, and of continuing to use them. But he hasn’t confessed to it. When asked whether he had at a press conference about his candidacy for the Tory leadership, he brushed the question aside by claiming that he thought the British public were more interested in what he intended to do as politician than whether he took illegal substances. He might be right for some people. We’re so used to public figures, like actors, rock stars and other media celebrities, coming forward to admit that they took drugs some time in their lives, that it almost seems unremarkable. In some parts of the entertainment industry, it’s even to be expected, as with tales of pop musicians, which have become part of the general pattern of rock excess. However, Boris’ own political career isn’t any recommendation for him as Prime Ministerial material either. He’s been so egotistical and massively incompetent that many people would have to take large amounts of illegal chemicals to be persuaded otherwise.

Author’s impression of Theresa May with potential voter.

There’s more than a little fun to be had out of all this furore. Some wag with a better grasp of video editing than yours truly could provide us all with a laugh by cutting their speeches with bits from notorious films about drugs from the past. Like the 1950s anti-cannabis film, Reefer Madness, or David Cronenberg’s ’90s flick, The Naked Lunch, based on the notorious book by William S. Burroughs. This latter film is roughly based on Burrough’s own life, and is about a pest exterminator, who gets high on the ketamine he’s using to kill the insects. As the drug takes effect, he hallucinates that he’s some kind of SF spy, and has to make his report to Interzone before flying to Morocco after accidentally shooting his wife while they were playing William Tell. The hallucinations include the hero seeing everyone in a bar as mugwumps – humanoid lizards – and a gay talking typewriter-beetle. You could have some fun showing Boris sitting down to type his statement for the leadership election, but showing the hands of Cronenberg’s hero typing away at the beetle creature. Though as the beetle-typewriter then goes on to declare how wonderful homosexuality is, this scene might not be appropriate. The Tories have declared themselves at ease with the gay community, and no-one could ever accuse Boris of it. Another excellent film candidate for mixing with the Tory leadership speeches would be Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, based on the book by Hunter S. Thompson, illustrated by Ralph Steadman. Which also has a bar full of hallucinatory lizards, bats coming down out of the desert sky, and Richard Nixon erupting out of a TV set, amongst other bizarre visions.

But there’s also a very serious side to all this. The great commenters on Mike’s blog, when he covered this story, made some very good points about these people’s hypocrisy. They’ve all done drugs, and got away scot-free, in contrast to more ordinary users, who’d been to jail. One commenter told how he had a friend, who now suffers from PTSD because of what he’d experienced in prison after being convicted of a drugs offence. And the whole affair also seems to me to be a replay of a similar scandal back in 2004, when a number of other Tories confessed to having used cannabis.

The furore was started when Anne Widdecombe announced that she wanted harsher sentences for drugs, quite at variance with the party stance on the issue at the time. A number of Tories then came forward to announce that they’d taken it. Matthew Parris then gave his view about it all in an article he wrote for the Spectator. One Tory revealed that he had smoked cannabis at Oxford. This didn’t shock Parris, who was far more outraged by the way the august gentleman had consumed it. Parris declared that he could have been smoking cowpats for all he cared. What offended him was that the pretentious so and so had put it in his pipe. He smoked a pipe! It’s something you can imagine Rees-Mogg, the MP for the 18th century, doing. If he were inclined towards the substances used by Thomas De Quincy and Coleridge, of course.

This came at the time the government was considering changing its policy towards drug abuse. Much had been in the news about the success the Scandinavian countries, Portugal and Switzerland had achieved in their battle with illegal drugs, in contrast with Britain’s failure to combat or contain its growing drugs problem. These nations had a softer approach to tackling drug abuse. Addicts were treated not as criminals, but as sick people, who needed to be helped. But this was too namby-pamby for Widdecombe and those like her. Parris wrote that this had also been the policy in Britain, and had been giving positive results. But it all changed with the election of Ronald Reagan. Reagan wanted a war on drugs, and as American’s ally and the Special Relationship, we had to follow suit. The result was harsher sentences for drug offences, which actually had a negative effect on what they were trying to achieve. Treating drug addiction as a sickness makes sense, as no-one wants to be sick so they seek help. Criminalizing it, however, gives it a kind of glamour. You ain’t sick, you’re gangsta! Public enemy No. 1. And so far from deterring people from using drugs, the policy actually helps to promote it.

And then there’s the racism of the War on Drugs. Hillary Clinton deliberately played on White American fears of Black criminality when she announced Clinton’s new, tougher policies on drugs back in the 1990s. She talked about ‘superpredators’ – at the time, a term that was only used about Black men. The laws were also framed so that it targeted Blacks rather than Whites. Although studies have shown that Whites are just as likely to use drugs as Blacks, the majority of those arrested and convicted are Black. And I suspect that the situation is similar over here. Certainly it’s been clear to me from talking to Black friends that they believe that Blacks suffer disproportionately harsher punishment than White drug abusers. I know many Blacks, who won’t touch the stuff, and they make the point very clear to Whites trying to encourage them to do so.

It seems very clear to me that we need a return to a saner, more effective drugs policy. One that discourages it as it helps the victims by treating it as a disease, rather than giving it a spurious glamour it doesn’t deserve by criminalizing it. A policy that punishes and cures White and Black equally, instead of playing to White fears and racism.

But for me, the most toxic drug not mentioned in the Tory leadership contest is Conservatism. This has destroyed whole communities, and comprehensive wrecked Britain, creating poor healthcare, unemployment, despair, depression and general poor mental health, all while fostering racism, bigotry and bitter resentment against the poor, disabled and marginalised. It has done this while creating illusions of prosperity and national greatness. It’s time it was stopped. The pushers of this vile drug – Johnson, Gove, Leadsom and the rest of them – should be properly punished by losing any and every election they take part in. And the literature that encourages this vile drug – the Times, Torygraph, Mail, Sun and Express, should be binned at once and readers should turn to proper news outlets.

Only then can we look forward to a saner society, less afflicted by drugs.

Surveillance Britain: Police Using Massively Inaccurate Facial Recognition Technology on Ordinary Brits

May 20, 2019

Here’s another piece of news that should further worry anyone concerned that Britain is slowly sliding down the tubes towards a surveillance state. The rozzers have launched a pilot scheme for a facial recognition system. They’re testing it out by photographing the fizzogs of ordinary British citizens walking down the streets. And it’s already resulted in one extremely dubious arrest. One man didn’t want to be photographed by the cops, and so he hid his face. The rozzers then pounced and fined him for ‘disorderly conduct’. This was filmed by the Beeb’s Politics Live. It’s completely disgraceful. The man had committed no crime, except to protect his own privacy against the state.

Mike in his article on this points out that there have been a couple of incidents where attempts to compile information on ordinary members of the public have resulted in disastrous mistakes, or deeply worrying infringements of personal freedom. For example, there were the innocent people, who suddenly found themselves with criminal records when their prospective employers started making background checks. Many of them were wrongly left without jobs because of this. And then there’s the DNA genetic database scandal, in which genetic material obtained from the public has been kept by the police, some of which was then illegally passed on for use in genetic research.

Mike also shows how this technology is also massively inaccurate. It had a failure rate of 96 per cent in eight trials in London between 2016 and 2018 according to the Independent. The software gave false positives, wrongly identifying innocent people as crims. It was also deployed twice in a shopping centre outside Stratford last year, where it had a failure rate of 100 per cent. This resulted in people being wrongly identified, including a 14 year old Black schoolboy, who was fingerprinted. The cops also stopped people for covering their faces and wearing hoods, and one man was fined for doing so in  Romford. The Independent found that shoppers were unaware their photos were being taken, despite the rozzers’ claim that the tests were overt, and campaigners have said that it’s being rolled out by stealth.

But despite its dangers and massive inaccuracy, the scheme is being defended by the Tories. Police Minister Nick Hurd has said that the technology offers ‘real opportunities’, said we are not a surveillance state, and that they have no intention of becoming one, and so the new technology must be used in a way that is sensitive to their impact on privacy, and proportionate.

To which Mike comments

Fail. It’s not sensitive to privacy and its use isn’t proportionate. But the Tories – and the police – won’t withdraw it, so we can only conclude that we do – indeed – live in a police surveillance state.

Police state Britain: Failed facial recognition pilot leads to fine for disorderly conduct. WTF?

This is precisely the type of information gathering that Privacy International and other campaigners were warning about in the ’90s. When DNA evidence first began to be collected, there were fears that it would be used to set up a national DNA database. In one incident, all the men in a small town where a rape had been committed were asked to supply samples of their DNA. There were concerns about what would happen to it afterwards, and that the material would be retained, even though the men were innocent. There were also fears that the collection of such samples would go from being simple requests to demands, and that anyone who refused, would automatically come under suspicion, even though they may be innocent.

It also reminds of the way the police also started compiling records in the 1980s of people they considered suspicious, as revealed in the Beeb documentary, Secret State. Perfectly innocent people suddenly had police files opened on them and their movements recorded for reasons that reflected the prejudices of the cops, rather than anything they’d done. Like being punks. One teenage girl was marked down as a potential suspect simply because she was pregnant and there was no father.

I am also not surprised by the massive failure rate of the technology at the moment. It seems par for the course that any and all information technology adopted by the state should be seriously flawed. Like all the computer systems supplied to local authorities in the 1990s by outsourcing companies like Crapita.

Black people are particularly at risk from these systems. The I newspaper a few weeks ago reported on the concerns about the massive under-representation of women and ethnic minorities in the computer industry. Only four per cent of employees in one of the big American tech giants came from ethnic minorities. As a result, the pattern recognition system they developed misidentified Black people as gorillas. Which makes you wonder who programmed this wretched system. The Klan?

As for not becoming a surveillance society, privacy campaigners have warned repeatedly about the dangers of ‘function creep’. Once one innovation or strategy is adopted, other agencies will want to use it, and so it will expand. Also, other forms have surveillance have become normalised. There were serious concerns about the use of CCTV cameras when they first appeared. Alan Moore deliberately wrote them into his depiction of a Fascist Britain in the V for Vendetta comic. He thought at the time that this would really shock people. Niall Ferguson shared his fears. He was also alarmed at how ubiquitous CCTV cameras had become here after he returned from a visit to China. But he was also astonished at how his concerns were not shared by anyone else.

And with the campaign by the IT and automobile industries, I wonder how long it will be before we get the repressive police state and its robots described by the great SF writer Ray Bradbury in his short story, ‘The Pedestrian’. In this tale, a man is stopped by a robotic police car simply for taking a walk in the middle of the night.

It’s SF as the ‘literature of warning’. It’s not meant to be prophetic. But somehow that seems to be the future these technologies are leading to.

Kudos and Thanks to Mike and Supporters for £5000 Donations Raised in Single Day

May 4, 2019

Okay, I realise I haven’t put anything up for several days, so apologies to everyone, who’s been reading this blog and waiting. Your patience is greatly appreciated. Also greatly appreciated are the people, who sent £5,000 worth of donations to Mike’s crowdfunding site in a single day. Mike set this up to allow him to fight the threat of a libel action by TV celeb bullies Rachel Riley and Tracey Ann Oberman. Riley and Oberman take after the late, unlamented owner of the Mirror, Robert Maxwell, who used to threaten anyone, who said anything against him, with a libel writ. Riley and Oberman have been doing the same to everyone, who have criticised them for bullying a vulnerable schoolgirl with anxiety, who they claimed was anti-Semitic. Mike was one of those threatened by their pet lawyer. Thanks to everyone, who contributed. And please keep the donations coming, as he still needs to reach a target of £25,000 in case the gruesome twosome go ahead.

Thanks and respect to Robert Lincoln-Samwell, who defended Mike on twitter from attacks by someone calling himself the Caped Joo Sader. The Joo Sader is one of those sadly misled individuals, who still labour under the delusion that Mike’s an anti-Semite, thanks to the lies and vilification of the CAA, Labour Right and the press. He was tweeting, trying to stop others from supporting Mike, claiming that Mike had been expelled from Labour for anti-Semitism, and must be an anti-Semite because Riley and Oberman are Jewish, and that he published a comic strip depicting Hitler as a superhero. Mr Lincoln-Samwell refuted these accusations against Mike. He also told him that Mike had forced the DWP to come clean about the people, who had been found fit for work and died shortly afterwards. He praised Mike for defending for defending the poorest and most vulnerable in society, which included his family and people, despite being a carer himself. He then asked what the Joo Sader did. When the Joo Sader replied that he fought racism, Mr Lincoln-Samwell answered

So absolutely nothing that benefits the Homeless, disabled, low-income workers and Children in Poverty then.

which are bigger issues than Racism.

Mike is a bit more than just a Keyboard warrior mate.

Mike takes racism very seriously, and says that he thinks Mr Lincoln-Samwell meant with his comment that it’s not a big issue that the DWP and its policies have caused more deaths in the UK than racism. He’s deeply impressed and moved by Mr Lincoln-Samwell’s testimonial. He concludes his article thanking everyone for their help by asking them to keep donating, and promises to do the best he can with the money.

Joy as Vox Political crowdfunding page raises £5K in a single day

This shows just how much Mike’s work trying to bring the DWP to account for the deaths they’ve caused, along with the all the great left-wing and disability rights bloggers, like Tom Pride, Another Angry Voice, the Disability News Service and so on is massively appreciated. And that people don’t believe the smears of a right-wing establishment trying to smear decent people as anti-Semites. Tony Greenstein, a Jewish anti-Zionist and fierce opponent of Fascism and racism in all its forms, has said that this is racists smearing anti-racists as racists. He’s exactly right. It is. Greenstein has pointed out that none of the Labour right-wingers supporting the smear campaign in the party have lifted a finger in defence of the Windrush migrants illegally and unjustly deported by May. And one of Tom Watson’s supporters, Phil Woolas, actually ran a campaign in his constituency that was based on ‘getting White people angry’.

As for the supposedly pro-Hitler comic strip, ‘Hardboiled Hitler’, this is anything but. It’s an exercise in mock-heroic, a literary genre in which you present the object of ridicule in a heroic form in order to parody them by showing their faults even more clearly. In Mike’s case, Hitler tries to strut as the Aryan superman, but is a massively physically inept clown. He isn’t just clumsy, but also constantly farting. Which Hitler really did suffer from in real life. It was chronic meteorism, not helped by the fact that the Fuehrer was being given pills by his homeopathic healer which included Strychnine and human faeces. The strip determinedly exposed what a shabby figure Hitler was, and definitely did not glamorise him nor his vile regime. Those, who’ve read and examined it recognise this. But I guess it’s just too subtle for the close-minded and bigoted.

But thanks and respect to everyone, who’ve supported Mike through all this. You’re great, and your support is greatly appreciated.

Radio 4 Serialising Ian McEwan’s Robot Book Next Week

April 23, 2019

I don’t belieeeve it! As the great Victor Meldrew used to say. Next week, according to the Radio Times for 27th April – 3rd May 2019, Radio 4 is serialising Ian McEwan’s latest literary offering, Machines Like Me, about a love triangle between a man, his wife and the android he has bought. It’s in ten parts, Monday to Fridays at 12.04 pm, and read by Anton Lesser.

I’ve already put up two posts about the book, which has only just been published. McEwan’s novel is one of a long-line of SF stories about humans falling in love, or pursuing sexual relationships with the humanoid robots they have built, such as Asimov’s ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’. Genre science fiction writers have explored the issues of machine consciousness and its philosophical and ethical issues, from highbrow authors like Poland’s Stanislaw Lem, to comic book writers like Pat Mills in 2000AD’s ‘ABC Warriors’. The issue I have with McEwan’s book, and other literary authors that are planning similar works of fiction, is that while genre science fiction is still looked down on somewhat by the literary elite, McEwan’s book is going to receive immediate acclaim as proper literature.

Now Radio 4 has serialised a number of great works of SF, including Robert Silverberg’s masterwork Dying Inside, and has, like some of the other channels, Radio 3 and Radio 4 Extra, put on SF plays. Not so long ago there was a series of these, with the title Dangerous Visions. SF buffs will recognise this as the title of the groundbreaking SF anthology edited by Harlan Ellison, that ushered in the SF New Wave over in America. But despite the achievements of genre SF authors, there is still this feeling that it hasn’t quite won critical respectability in the elevated literary circles that support McEwan, Jeanette Winterson, Kazuo Ishiguro and the other regular literary award winners, who are writing or preparing to write books about robots and AI.

As I’ve said, I feel very strongly that if McEwan and co. win literary awards for their SF works, like Machines Like Me, then those awards should have the decency to drop some of the snobbishness and include genre SF authors. Whose latest works I hope the Beeb will also serialise the moment they come out.

More Tory Racism As Suella Braverman Rants about ‘Cultural Marxism’

March 29, 2019

More Eurosceptic racism from the Tories. On Wednesday, Zelo Street reported on yet another embarrassment for the Tories when Suella Braverman, the MP for Fareham and another Brexiteer, used another term from the Far Right in a speech she gave to the Bruges group. This is another section of the Tory party composed of Eurosceptic fans of Maggie Thatcher. According to Business Insider, Braverman told the assembled Thatcherite faithful that as Conservatives they were engaged in the battle against cultural Marxism, and that she was frightened of the creep of cultural Marxism coming out of the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn.

Cultural Marxism is one of the big bugbears of the Far Right, including Anders Breivik. The Groan’s Dawn Foster recognised the term, and asked her to talk a bit more about it, considering that it had been used by the Fascist mass murderer. Braverman responded by saying that she believed we were in a struggle against cultural Marxism, a movement to snuff out free speech from the Far Left’. The Sage of Crewe points out that this really means that Braverman would like to be able to say whatever she wants, without being called out for it. Which she then was.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews then criticised her for her use of a term that is used extensively by the Far Right with anti-Semitic connotations. They told a reporter in the Jewish Chronicle that the term originated with the Nazis, who called it Kulturbolschewismus, ‘cultural Bolshevism’, and used it to attack Jewish intellectual, who they accused of spreading communism and sexual permissiveness. It is now popular amongst the Alt Right and Far Right. It is associated with a conspiracy theory that sees the Frankfurt School of Jewish philosophers and sociologists as the instigators of a campaign to destroy traditional western conservatism and traditional values. It was used by Anders Breivik in his manifesto, and by the vile mass murderer in New Zealand.

Zelo Street points out that Braverman was a leading Tory MP before she resigned over May’s Brexit deal. She used an anti-Semitic term, and had to have it pointed out to her that it was anti-Semitic. She then dismissed the criticism as an attack on her freedom of speech. He makes the point that if she had been a friend of Jeremy Corbyn, the press would have had a field day. Instead they were silent all that morning. Which shows that not only does the Tory party have an anti-Semitism problem, but their friends in the Tory press don’t want the rest of us to know about it.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/03/board-of-deputies-roasts-suella.html

There are several aspects to this. First of all, everything the Board’s spokesperson said about the origins and conspiracy theory behind the term is correctly. However, the Frankfurt school, while certainly leftists, were anti-Fascists, who believed that Adolf Hitler had been assisted into power through popular culture. They were passionate supporters of traditional European culture against what they saw as the destructive, coarsening effect of low culture, like comics. Frederic Wertham, who was the leader of the anti-comics crusade in the 1950s, shared many of their attitudes. He attacked comics because he was afraid they were sexualising and corrupting American youth, leading them into crime and juvenile delinquency.

The conspiracy theory confuses them, who were actually culturally conservative, with Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci was an Italian Marxist, who had been imprisoned by Mussolini. He believed that instead of the economic structure of society determining culture, as in classical Marxism, culture also helped determine and reinforce the economic structure. Thus, if you wanted to attack capitalism, you had to change the culture. It’s also been confused with post-modernism and the rise of Cultural Studies, which does attack western culture for its racism and sexism.

And like much pernicious right-wing drivel, it also seems to be partly influenced by Maggie Thatcher. Thatcher was determined to purge British universities of Communists and Trotskyites, and so passed legislation that no Marxist could get a job as a lecturer. What happened was that the Commies and Trots got round it by denying that they were Marxists. They were instead Marxians, people who were Marxist in their culture. Now I can sympathise up to a certain point with Thatcher’s intentions. It is one-sided to ban the genocidal race-haters of the Fascists and Nazis from teaching, while permitting old school Stalinists, who also supported genocide, to continue in their jobs. But not all Marxists stood for Stalinist dictatorship. In the case of the Trots, it’s the exact opposite, although I doubt that Trotsky himself would not have been a dictator if he’d succeeded Lenin as the president of the Soviet Union. In any case, Thatcher’s attempts to purge the universities of Marxism was itself an attack on freedom of speech and thought.

The attacks on cultural Marxism are also being mobilised to justify continuing attacks on left-wing, anti-racist and anti-sexist staff and organisations at universities. It’s come at a time when fake, astro-turf students’ organisations in the US have been demanding and compiling watch lists of left-wing and liberal professors with the intention of trying to get them silenced or sacked. One of those calling for this was the right-wing Canadian psychologist and lobster overlord, Jordan Peterson. At the same time US conservatives and the Trump administration have also been trying to force universities and colleges to permit controversial extreme right-wing figures like Anne Coulter and Milo Yiannopolis to speak on campus. Coulter and Yiannopolis are extremely anti-feminist, with very reactionary, racist views, although Yiannopolis has tried to divert criticism by pointing out that he’s gay and has a Black husband. There have been mass protests against both of them when they have tried to speak on college campuses. But if people like Coulter and Yiannopolis have a right to speak to students, then students also have the right to protest against them in the name of free speech.

And cultural Marxism is a good term for attacking a range of separate concerns, like feminism, anti-racism and class inequality. These are related, overlapping attitudes. The same people, who are concerned about racism, for example, are also likely to be concerned about feminism and challenging class privilege. But it may not necessarily be the case. And these issues can be pursued separately from Marxism. But one of the points Hitler made is that when addressing propaganda to the masses, you always simplify everything so that they are against a single person or cause. The trope of cultural Marxism allows the right to carry on a campaign against feminism, anti-racism and other left-wing ideas through lumping them together. 

Braverman’s use of the trope of ‘cultural Marxism’ shows that she either doesn’t know what it means, or does know and is content with its anti-Semitic connotations. It also shows she doesn’t know anything about the term and its falsification of history. And by claiming that ‘cultural Marxism’ is creeping through Britain’s universities, it also amply shows that she is an enemy of real freedom of speech. Attacking ‘cultural Marxism’ is simply another strategy for trying to force students to accept right-wing indoctrination, while making sure that anything left-wing is thoroughly purged.

Braverman isn’t just using anti-Semitic terminology, she’s also showing herself an enemy of free speech, even while proclaiming that she and her Far Right wing friends are its defenders.

‘I’ Newspaper Smears Corbyn’s Labour as Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theorists: Part 3

March 10, 2019

The next anti-Semitic conspiracy theory Verber claims is held by people in the Labour party is ‘Twisting or denying the facts of the holocaust’. The example he gives of this is ‘Chris Williamson’s series of unfortunate events’. He writes of this conspiracy theory

Wander into any coffee shop in Tel Aviv and you will hear all manner of Israelis criticising the government of the day. But none of the Nazis’ anti-Semitic policies are remotely similar to any passed by Israel. The Nazis set out to murder every Jew in Europe and then – had they got their way – across the globe.

Each innocent Palestinian life that has been lost in the conflict with Israel is a tragedy, as it every Israeli life. But Gaza is not Auschwitz. Comparing the two is a lie, a low blow deliberately calculated to cause hurt and pain to a community still in trauma.

Other versions of this conspiracy theory include attempts to play down the Holocaust’s significance or event to question its existence.

Now look what’s being done here. It’s a classic example of ‘bait and switch’. For most people, ‘twisting or denying the facts of the Holocaust’ would mean straight out Holocaust denial, or the noxious variants of it that minimise the numbers murdered. But that’s not what concern Verber. He’s upset because, gasp, some people are comparing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazis. His statement that none of Israel’s policies are comparable to the Nazis is a flat-out lie. Firstly, Israel is an apartheid state. Only Jews can be citizens. This is identical to the Nazis’ policy that only ethnic Germans could be German citizens. The country’s indigenous Arabs also live under separate laws and may only use specific roads. Many municipalities in Israel have passed legislation forbidding property to be let to non-Jews. Furthermore, the country was born partly through a series of massacres against the Arabs. Those making the claim that Israel resembles Nazi Germany, like Tony Greenstein, qualify that statement by saying that it is like Nazi Germany before the launch of the Holocaust in 1942. Gaza is not Auschwitz, as Verber says. But I don’t think anyone has said it was. It has, however, been described as an open-air ghetto.

As for comparisons to Nazi Germany being hurtful to a community still in trauma, this is massively hypocritical. Israelis accuse their politicians of being Nazis all the time. There was even a cartoon in one newspaper of Netanyahu in Nazi uniform.

Now we come to what Verber calls ‘Chris Williamson’s series of unfortunate events’. This begins with Williamson signing a petition against Islington Council’s banning of Jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon, a Holocaust denier. Verber notes that he later claimed that he didn’t know about Atzmon’s views. It’s possible. Atzmon considers himself to be a supporter of the Palestinians, although the mainstream Palestinian solidarity movement doesn’t want to have anything to do with him because of his toxic views about Jews. But Atzmon is hardly a household name, and if the petition claimed that he was being banned because of his support for the Palestinians, then it’s quite possible that Williamson signed it in all innocence.

But there is more half-truths and malign insinuations that follow. He states that Williamson has several times shared a platform with Jackie, who has been suspended for falsely accusing Jews of financing the slave trade and playing down the importance of the Holocaust, and defended Ken Livingstone, who said that Hitler supported Zionism. I’ve dealt with the accusations against Walker and Livingstone ad nauseam. Neither of the two are racist, and especially not Walker, who is a Black Jew, believes in Judaism as a religion, sends her daughter to a Jewish school, and has a Jewish partner. The quote the CAA used to claim that she believes Jews financed the slave trade was lifted out of context from a personal discussion with three friends, where it was understood that she was talking about how some Jews financed and profited from the slave trade. Which is true, as she cites the literature and authorities to back up her comment. As for downplaying the importance of the Holocaust, she did no such thing. She was secretly recorded by the Jewish Labour Movement at their Holocaust Memorial Day workshop questioning the exclusive focus on Jews at the expense of other ethnicities, that have also suffered Holocausts. She also asked them to give her a definition of anti-Semitism she could work with. When Marc Wadsworth asked the same question at his tribunal, when he was smeared as an anti-Semite, the tribunal called for an adjournment. When they returned, it was accompanied with four lawyers, all arguing. Walker was singled out because she did not accept the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism, because it is used to suppress criticism of Israel. As for Leninspart, he was right about Hitler and Zionism. Before the Final Solution was introduced, the Nazis were keen to find anyway of getting rid of Germany’s Jews. And this meant sending them to Israel through the short-lived Ha’avara Agreement. Which is historical fact.

Verber also goes on to say that Williamson has warned of ‘certain dark forces ‘ using their contacts in the media and power to undermine Corbyn. But as we’ve seen, there is abundant evidence to show that these fears are not unfounded, not least as regards Israel.

Verber concludes this section with the words

Outright Holocaust denial has been moved to the fringes even of the world occupied by conspiracy theorists. Given the vacuum, new and more subtle ways of trivialising and attacking the Holocaust have had to be created.

Well I dare say, but this doesn’t apply to criticism of Israel for ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians or the smears against Walker and Livingstone. The last two haven’t denied or played down the Holocaust at all, and neither has Williamson. This is just more lies and smears from him, to try to make them seem anti-Semitic monsters.

How Long Before the Labour Splitters Ask to Join Tweezer’s Cabinet?

February 20, 2019

Looking at the has-beens and deadbeats, who split from Labour the other day reminded me of another possible point of comparison with the SDP split in the 1980s. They were also members of the Labour right, who left the party to form their own, declaring that they were going to ‘break the mould’ of British politics. In fact, they did no such thing, and rather than being a serious rival to Labour they were forced into an alliance with the Liberals before finally merging with them to form the Lib Dems.

Unfortunately, their decision to separate did split the Labour vote, with the result that Maggie Thatcher got in again. However, it’s questionable how much this harmed Labour’s electoral chances. I can remember reading an article in Lobster which suggested that the factors against Labour winning an election against Maggie were so strong, that probably the SDP’s departure didn’t make much difference. But even if they didn’t do that much damage to the party electorally, they certainly didn’t help it.

And some members of the SDP were so personally desperate for power, that they were ready and very willing to jump into bed with the Tories. I can remember reading a piece in the Sunday Express that reported that Dr. David Owen had said that he would be willing to accept a place in Maggie’s cabinet. Of course, he had absolutely no chance. To Maggie and her minions, he was definitely not ‘one of us’. And the Sunday Express certainly expressed strong contempt for defectors from the opposition benches. The wretched Tory rag used to have a cartoon called ‘No.10’, which was supposed to be a comic look at politics from the vantage point of the PM’s residence. Well, I suppose it might have been funny, but only to Tories. It wasn’t exactly well-drawn either. The comics many teenagers draw in their bedrooms, dreaming of being the next Frank Hampson, Kevin O’Neil or Dave Gibbons were probably better. And its jokes were as weak as its execution. The only piece from the strip that I remember was two Tory flunkeys watching a clockwork toy figure march across a table before falling off. This toy, they declared, was ‘the Labour defector’.

Now the group that formed the SDP did have some great minds in it. Roy Jenkins was responsible for the decriminalization of homosexuality and other liberal reforms, for which the Tories still cordially hate him. Shirley Williams was also, at the time, a strong left-wing intellectual. The Maleficent Seven, as they are called, are, by contrast, very second rate. About how of them were deselected, or facing deselection by their constituency parties. It looks to me very much that these were desperate failures leaving before they were pushed, trying to grasp one last hope of hanging on to their seats.

Well, they’ve had that. Their refusal to hold bye-elections speaks volumes. It looks very much like they’re afraid to, because they know they’d be annihilated, probably by a fresh candidate put up by the very party they left. They want to hang on to their seats as long as possible in order to maximise their chance at retaining it. But they’re still duff no-hopers, and they’ll still lose big time at the next election.

In the meantime, I wonder which one of these desperately ambitious mediocrities will follow Owen, and abandon all pretence of being a ‘centrist’ or ‘independent’ and ask Tweezer, or her successor, if they could have a place in her cabinet.

My guess is that the most likely is Chuka Umunna, who threatened to leave a little while ago claiming that the Labour party was ignoring aspirational people. If it didn’t reform, he warned, more aspirational Blacks and Asians like himself would leave. In fact, research has found that regardless of ethnicity, most Labour supporters simply aren’t interested in aspiration. However, the Tories have been desperate to disguise their own racism with a veneer of racial tolerance by looking for Black and Asian candidates to fight elections and put in the cabinet. Umunna may well think he has a chance with the Tories, who have always been the party of business. But if he does, I expect, like David Owen before him, he’s going to be disappointed. The Tories already have Black and Asian MPs and cabinet members like Sajid Javid, Priti Patel and others, and so won’t want to embrace a Labour defector. Just as the ‘No.10’ strip back in the 1980s sneered at them.

But that doesn’t mean that Umunna, or indeed any of them, won’t try. And in so doing they really will bear out the description of them as ‘red Tories’.

Scientists Told to Halt Development of War Robots

February 15, 2019

This week’s been an interesting one for robot news. Yesterday, or a few days ago, there was a piece about the creation of a robot that could draw and paint thanks to facial recognition software. The robot’s art has been sold commercially. This follows an artistic group in France that has also developed an art robot. I’ll see if I can fish that story out, as it sounds like one of the conceits of 2000AD is becoming science fact. The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic told its readers that all its strips were the work of robots, so that the credits for the strips read ‘Script Robot X’, and ‘Art Robot Y’. Of course it was all created by humans, just as it really wasn’t edited by a green alien from Betelgeuse called Tharg. But it was part of the fun.

Killer robots aren’t, however. Despite the fact that they’ve been in Science Fiction for a very long time, autonomous military machines really are a very ominous threat to humanity. In today’s I for 15th February 2019 there was a report by Tom Bawden on page 11 about human rights campaigners telling the scientists at an American symposium on the technology that these machines should be preemptively banned. The article, ‘Scientists warned over ‘killer robots’ in future wars’, runs

Killer robots pose a threat to humanity and should be pre-emptively banned under an international treaty, the world’s biggest gathering of scientists was told yesterday.

Lethal, autonomous weapons – military robots that can engage and kill targets without human control – do not yet exist.

But rapid advances in autonomy and artificial intelligence mean they are well on their way to becoming a reality, delegates attending the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s symposium on the technology were told in Washington DC.

A poll conducted in 26 countries found that 54 per cent of Briton’s – and 61 per cent of respondents overall – opposed the development of killer robots that would select and attack targets without human intervention.

“Killer robots should be banned in a similar way to anti-personnel landmines,” said Mary Wareham, of the arms division at the campaign group Human Rights Watch, who also co-ordinates the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

“The security of the world and future of humanity hinges on achieving a ban on killer robots,” she added. “Public sentiment is hardening against the prospect of fully autonomous weapons. Bold, political leadership is needed for a new treaty to pre-emptively ban these weapons systems”.

The article was accompanied by a picture of one of the robots from the film Terminator Genisys, with a caption stating that it was perhaps unsurprising that most Britons oppose the development of such robots, but they wouldn’t look quite like those in the film.

I’ve put up several pieces before about military robots and the threat they pose to humanity, including a piece from the popular science magazine, Focus, published sometime in the 1990s, if I recall. Around about that time one state or company announced that it intended to develop such machines, and was immediately met with condemnation by scientists and campaigners. Their concern is that such machines don’t have the human quality of compassion. Once released, they could go on to kill indiscriminately, killing both civilians and soldiers. The scientists were also concerned that if truly intelligent killing machines are developed, then they could have the potential to turn on us and begin wiping us out or enslaving us. This was one of the threats to humanity’s future in the book Our Final Minute by the British Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees. When I saw him speak at the Cheltenham Festival of Science about his book a few years ago, one of the audience said that perhaps it would be a good thing if humanity was overthrown by the robots, because they could be better for the environment. Well, they could, I suppose, but it’s still not something I’d like to see happen.

Kevin Warwick, the robotics professor at the University of Reading, is also very worried about the development of such machines. In his 1990’s book, March of the Machines, he describes how, as far back as the 1950s, the Americans developed an autonomous military vehicle, consisting of a jeep adapted with a machine gun. He also discussed how one of the robots currently at the university could also be turned into a lethal killing machine. This is firefighting robot. It has a fire extinguisher, and instruments to detect fire. When it sees one, it rushes towards it and puts it out using the extinguisher. Warwick states, however, that if you replaced the extinguisher with a gun, gave it a neural net and then trained the machine to shoot people with blue eyes, say, then the machine would do just that until it ran out of power.

This comes at the end of the book. But it’s introduction is also chilling. It foresees a future, around 2050, when the machines really will have taken over. Those humans that have not been exterminated by the robots are kept as slaves, to work in those parts of the world that are still inaccessible or inhospitable to the robots, and to hunt down and kill the very few surviving humans that remain free. Pretty much like the far future envisioned by the SF writer Gregory Benford in his ‘Galactic Centre’ series novels.

Warwick was, however, very serious about the threat posed by these robots. I can remember seeing him also speak in Cheltenham, and one of the audience asked whether he still believed that this was a real threat that could occur about that time. He said he did, but that the he’d lowered the time at which it could become a real possibility.

Warwick has also said that one reason why he began to explore cyborgisation – the cybernetic enhancement of humans with robotic technology – was because he was so depressed with the threat robots cast over our future. Augmenting ourselves with high technology was a way we could compete with them, something Benford also explores in his novels through an alien race that has pursued just such a course. This, however, poses its own risks of loss of humanity, as depicted in Star Trek’s Borg and Dr. Who’s Cybermen.

This article sounds like something from Science Fiction, and I don’t think that at the moment robots are anywhere near as sophisticated to pose an existential threat to humanity right now. But killer robots are being developed, and very serious robotic scientists and engineers are very worried about them. Mary Wareham, Human Rights Watch and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots are right. This technology needs to be halted now. Before it becomes a reality.

‘I’ Newspaper on Scientist Building Artificial Arms from Lego

February 13, 2019

Last weekend’s I newspaper for Saturday, 9th February 2019, carried a profile of David Aguilar, a disabled Andorran scientist, who has been building artificial arms out of Lego since he was a small boy. The article by David Woode, ran

Hand Solo?

A university student who was born without a forearm due to a rare genetic condition has created a robotic prosthetic arm using Lego. David Aguilar, who built three other models before his current one, said “I wanted to see myself in the mirror like I see other guys with two hands.

Is this his first bionic arm?

No. David, 19, began experimenting with artificial limbs as a child. he said his father bought him a lego Titanic set aged five and the colourful bricks became one of his favourite toys. David made his first artificial arm, albeit with limited movement, aged nine. ‘As a child I was very nervous to be in front of other guys, because I was different, but that didn’t stop me believing in my dreams,’ he said.

How does it work?

David uses Lego pieces given to him by a friend. Last year he built a red-and-yellow, fully functional robotic arm, it’s fitted with an electric motor and he can bend it at the joint and flex a grabber attached at the end. His latest prototypes are marked MK followed by the number – a tribute to comic book superhero Iron Man and his MK armour suits.

Could this spawn an army of Iron men and Iron Women?

The rookie inventor from the small principality of Andorra is studying bioengineering at the Universität Internacional de Catalunya in Spain. His post-graduation dream is to design affordable robotic limbs for those in need. He said “I would try to give them a prosthetic arm, even if it’s for free, to make them feel like a normal person, because what is normal, right”.

There’s a lot of research going on into artificial limbs, some of it very inspiring. The robotics unit at the University of the West of England has formed a private company to build artificial hands for children. They’ve produced one with the consent of Hollywood shaped like the hand of the Marvel superhero, Iron Man. I think they were also planning to produce one based on C3PO in collaboration with Disney, if I recall correctly. Aguilar’s clearly a very skilled engineer, and his own experience of disability undoubtedly gives him real, personal insight into what disabled people need in artificial limbs and how they can be best designed for them. I wonder what his work will be like after he’s graduated and, hopefully, begun working on them at a higher level. It should be really good.

In the meantime, I’d really have loved to be able to make a proper, working robotic arm out of Lego, Meccano or any other construction kit when I was child as well as knowing how he does it now.