Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category

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.

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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.

Xelasoma on his Favourite Artists of the Fantastic

February 3, 2019

And now, as Monty Python once said, for something completely different. At least from politics. I found these two videos from the artist Xelasoma on YouTube, in which he discusses six masters of fantasy art and how they have influenced him. They are Roger Dean, Patrick Woodroffe, and Rodney Matthews in video 1, and Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, Philippe Druillet and Ian Miller in video 2.

Roger Dean will be remembered by fans of ’70’s prog rock for his amazing album covers for the bands Yes and Asia. Woodroffe and Matthews are also artists, who’ve produced record covers as well as book illustrations. Moebius and Druillet are two of the geniuses in modern French SF comics. Moebius was one of the ‘Humanoides Associes’ behind the French SF comic, Metal Hurlant. Among his numerous other works was Arzach, a comic, whose hero flew across a strange fantastic landscape atop a strange, pterodactyl creature. As Xelasoma himself points out here, it’s a completely visual strip. There’s no language at all. It was also Moebius who designed the spacesuits for Ridley Scott’s classic Alien. Xelasoma describes how, after he left art school, Moebius spent some time in Mexico with a relative. This was his mother, who’d married a Mexican, and the empty, desert landscape south of the border is a clear influence on the alien environments he drew in his strips. Xelasoma also considers him a master of perspective for the way he frequent draws scenes as viewed looking down from above. And one of the pictures illustrating this is of a figure in an alien planet looking down a cliff at a sculpture of rock legend Jimi Hendricks carved into the opposite cliff face. Druillet, Xelasoma feels, is somewhat like Moebius, but with a harder edge, drawing vast, aggressive machines and armies of fierce alien warriors. He’s also known for his soaring cityscapes of vast tower blocks reaching far up into the sky, which also influenced Ridley Scott’s portrayal of the Los Angeles of 2019 in Blade Runner. The last artist featured, Ian Miller, first encountered in the pages of the British Role-Playing Game magazine, Warhammer. His style is much more angular, deeply hatched and very detailed. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft will recognize several of the pictures Xelasoma chooses to represent his work as depictions of some of the weird, sinister gods from the Cthulhu mythos. They include not only Cthulhu himself, but also of the half-human, amphibious, batrachian inhabitants of the decaying port in the short story, The shadow Out of Innsmouth.

What Xelasoma admires about all these artists is that they don’t follow the conventions of modern western art established by the ancient Greeks and Romans and the Renaissance. They alter and distort the human form and that of other objects and creatures. He describes Dean’s landscapes as organic. Patrick Woodroffe and Matthews also create strange, alien creatures and landscapes, and with the creatures Matthews depicts also very different from standard human anatomy. Many of the creatures, machines and spaceships in Matthews’ art are based on insects, and appropriately enough one of the bands whose cover he painted was Tiger Moth. This featured two insects dancing on a leaf. Another picture, The Hop, shows an insect band playing while other bugs trip the light fantastic in the grass, surrounded by items like used cigarettes. His humanoid figures are tall, stick thin, with long, thin, angular faces and immense, slanted eyes. Xelasoma admires the way Matthews can take a train or a deer, and turn them in something uniquely his, as he shows here. He states that he first encountered Dean’s and Woodroffe’s art in the art books his mother had, such as Woodroffe’s Mythopoiekon. He also identifies somewhat with Woodroffe, as neither of them studied at art school. Woodroffe was a French teacher, while for Xelasoma art was far too personal for him to submit to formal training.

Xelasoma points out that these artists were creating their unique visions before the advent of computers using the traditional artist materials of paint and brush, and before courses in SF, Fantasy and concept art were taught at colleges and universities. Nevertheless, he finds their work far more interesting and inspiring than modern SF and Fantasy art, which may be more anatomically accurate, but which, too him, seems very ‘samey’. He complains that it doesn’t make him hallucinate, which the above artists do. Well, I hope he doesn’t mean that literally, as that could be very worrying. But I know what he means in that Dean, Woodroffe, Matthews, Moebius, Druillet and Miller create strange, fantastic worlds that have a striking intensity to them. They seem to be complete worlds, either in the far past or future, or parallel realities altogether, but with their own internal logic drawing you into them.

Discussing their influence on him, he is critical of artists that simply copy the work of others, changing a few details but otherwise keeping to and appropriating the other artists’ own unique visions, some times trying to justify this by saying that their work is a ‘hommage’ to the others. Xelasoma is well aware that his own work is very different to the artists he talks about here, and that many of his viewers won’t be able to see their influence. But he goes on to describe how they have influenced him at the general level of form or composition, while he himself has been careful to develop his own unique style.

Dean, Woodroffe and Matthews have produced books of their work, published by Paper Tiger. Matthews and Miller also have their own websites, for those wishing to see more of their work. Moebius passed away a couple of years ago, but was the subject of a BBC4 documentary. There’s also a documentary about Roger Dean on YouTube, presented by that grumpy old Yes keyboardist, Rick Wakeman. Xelasoma believes in their fantastic depictions of landscapes and animal and human forms makes them as important and worth inclusion in museums and galleries as Graeco-Roman and Renaissance art. I wouldn’t go that far, but I would maintain that in their way, they are far more significant than many contemporary artists that have been promoted as ‘official’ art. Xelasoma’s documentary really shows only a few pieces from these artists’ works, and the bulk of these videos are about the particular impact they have on him. But nevertheless it’s a good introduction to their work, and explanation why they should be taken seriously as artists beyond their origins in popular culture.

Part I

Part II

Woohoo! Good News – Murdoch’s Scum Making Serious Losses

January 20, 2019

The past week hasn’t had much good news, not with May determined to wreck this country by clinging on to power to support herself and her failed Brexit deal and her government of murderers, crooks and exploiters pushing through more legislation to make life even more tough, miserably and dangerous for those at the bottom of society. But last Monday’s I, paper for 14th January 2019, carried a very interesting piece in its ‘Media on Monday’ column. Entitled ‘What future for the ‘The Sun’? Quality journalism is adapting better’ the piece revealed that the nadir of British print journalism is running up tens of millions of pounds in losses. The piece states that in print it has a circulation of 1.4 million, more than any other paid-for title, and that digitally it has a monthly audience of 29.5 millions. However, its publishers, News Group Newspapers, has declared a loss of 91.2 million pounds before tax for the year to 1st July. In the previous year it suffered a lost of 24 million, even after a 55 million pound tax rebate. And the year before that it managed to record a 62 million pound loss. The piece’s author, Ian Burrell, opened his analysis of the Scum’s perilous financial situation by stating that

The huge losses posted by the publishers of The Sun throw into question the long-term future of this country’s tradition of “red-top” popular journalism.

He then goes on to write about how the quality papers (ahem) with a lower circulation are actually adapting better to the changed media environment, and that British tabloids haven’t been hit nearly as hard as their American counterparts. In New York, the tabloid vendors are reduced to selling them with candy and soda. The New York Daily News, which used to have a circulation of 2.4 million, now sells only 200,000 copies, if that. Burrell states that the popular newspapers find it difficult to find subscribers, and that Scum’s losses are a further sign of the declining influence of Rupert Murdoch. It notes how the Scum has posted of its role in the success of the Leave vote, and how Donald Trump acknowledged its importance by giving it an exclusive interview. The article also described how the wretched rag has ‘made huge strides in digital media’ and has compiled a database of 800,000 previously anonymous print buyers, which will help it survive without subscriptions in the future. The article concluded, however, by warning that the Scum’s decline threatened the whole future of British popular journalism. It said

The revival of serious media is a good thing, but without a functioning popular press, the gulf between the informed classes and those deprived of news would be frightening indeed. (p.39).

Well, yes, it would be, if the Scum actually did any informing. It hasn’t. It has screamed, hurled abuse, libeled and misinformed, stoking up xenophobia and racism as well as getting the working people of this country to vote against their own best interests through pushing Thatcher and her wretched neoliberal legacy of welfare cuts, privatization, including that of the NHS and the outsourcing of British jobs. While at the same time hysterically blaming the unions, the unemployed themselves, anyone on benefits, and, of course, Blacks, Asians and particularly Muslims. In the first decade of this century Private Eye carried a piece in its ‘Street of Shame’ column following a press complaints regulator ruling that one of its cartoons was racist. This featured a line of pigs marching with banners objecting to the way they had been compared to Arabs. Not only was this racist, despite the Scum’s denials, but the Eye also revealed the newspaper had previous. Plenty of previous. At that time, the number of times the press regulator had upheld complaints of racism against Murdoch’s mighty organ was 19. I have no idea what the number is now, as I’ve seen zero evidence that the rag has become less racist and hateful.

As for what a future without the Scum would look like, I’m reminded of one of the few sketches on A Bit of Fry and Laurie which I actually found funny. This was a parody of the Jimmy Stewart classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. This was about a man contemplating suicide, who is rescued by an angel. He’s shown how much worse off his town and its folk would be without him. In the sketch, however, the man about to jump from the bridge, played by Hugh Laurie, is a newspaper magnate with an Australian accent. The angel, played by Stephen Fry, tries to stop him from ending it all by showing him the future without him. Unfortunately, however, in this future everything is much better: there’s more happiness, respect and general niceness. At one point Fry shows him a newspaper headline running ‘Niceness Up’ so many percent. They go into a boozer, and the angel asks the Ozzie newspaperman what he thinks about Blacks. ‘I don’t mind them’, the Murdoch parody says defensively. In this future, racism has declined significantly, and Black and White peeps are in there, drinking, talking and laughing easily together. The sketch ends with the Angel asking ‘Murdoch’ if he still wants to jump off the bridge. Of course not, he shouts joyfully, he now knows how much worse he make Britain and the lives of its people. At this point the angel does what many people have wished they could, and pushes him off.

The circulation of the print newspapers, and the audience for the news on the old media broadcasters is going down partly through the influence of the internet. This has alarmed the established, and establishment media, because it means that the consensus they push is declining as people take their news from the alternative news programmes they like, including those on the Left like The Canary and The Skwawkbox. Which terrifies the established press, as shown by the Groaniad’s attempts to stop the superb Kerry-Anne Mendoza giving this year’s lecture in honour of a pioneering Black journo, and Private Eye’s chortling about a press ruling about the bias in The Skwawkbox.

But I am definitely not worried at all by the fact that the Scum is making massive losses. As far as I’m concerned, the sooner it and similar far-right titles across the board, including the Sunday Times and the Torygraph go, the better.

Sargon of Akkad and Nazis Join UKIP and Break It

December 8, 2018

Okay, let’s have some fun at the expense of the Kippers and the extreme right-wingers Gerard Batten has brought into the party. Right-wingers like Count Dankula, Tommy Robinson and Sargon of Akkad.

Sargon, Dankula, Tommy Robinson and UKIP

Count Dankula is the idiot, who taught his girlfriend’s dog to do the Nazi salute when he said ‘Sieg Heil!’ and ‘Gas the Jews’. He put it on YouTube, and then, unsurprisingly, got prosecuted for hate speech. I don’t think he’s actually a Nazi, just a prat, who thinks really tasteless, offensive ‘jokes’ are hilarious. Tommy Robinson is the founder of the EDL, and has been briefly involved with that other Islamophobic organization, PEGIDA UK. He used to belong to the BNP and has a string of criminal convictions behind him. These included a number for contempt of court after he was caught giving his very biased very of the proceedings outside the court building during the trial of groups of Pakistani men accused of being rape gangs. Technically, Robinson isn’t a formal member of the party. It’s constitution bars anyone, who has been a member of the racist right from joining it, which rules him out. But he has become a special advisor on Islam and prison reform to Batten.

Sargon of Akkad, whose real name is Carl Benjamin, is another YouTube personality and ‘Sceptic’. I think he used to be one of the atheist ranters on YouTube at the time when the New Atheism was on the rise with the publication of Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. Then a number of them, Sargon included, appear to have become tired of arguing for atheism and naturalism, and started talking about politics. This was from an extreme right-wing perspective, attacking feminism, Social Justice Warriors, anti-racism, immigration and socialism. Many of them appear to be Libertarians, or see themselves as ‘Classical Liberals’. This means their liberals only in the early 19th century sense of standing for absolute free trade and the total removal of the welfare state. Sargon’s one of these, although bizarrely he also describes himself as ‘centre left’. Which only makes sense to some of the equally bizarre individuals out there, who rant about how Barack Obama was a Communist.

The presence of these three characters at a recent UKIP conference was discussed in an article by the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organization Hope Not Hate as proof that under Batten UKIP had very definitely moved to the Far Right. And Nigel Farage was apparently so concerned with this move a few days ago that he very publicly resigned from the party. And this naturally upset many long-time Kippers. One of them was a YouTube vlogger, whose channel is called People’s Populist Press. He posted this video four days ago on his channel bitterly attacking Sargon and the others he describes as ‘YouTube Nazi punks’ for ruining the party.

Kipper Official Tries to Dissuade Sargon from Joining

It seems, however, that some members of UKIP didn’t want Sargon to join. Not because they objected to his opinions, but because they were afraid that he and his followers wouldn’t take the party seriously. The Ralph Retort YouTube channel played a recording of a conversation between Sargon, his mate Vee, and an anonymous UKIP official arguing about whether or not Sargon should be allowed to join the party. I’m not putting this up, because I’m unsure of the Ralph Retort channel’s political orientation. Sargon’s not only upset left-wing YouTube controversialists like Kevin Logan, but also members of the extreme right, including the Nazi fanboys of Richard Spencer. The argument was also played by Oof Curator on his channel, about whom I have the same caveats.

From the conversation, it appears that the Kippers didn’t really want Benjamin in the party, because they wanted committed activists. Benjamin had said that he wanted to join the party simply to show his support and not to take a more active role. They were also concerned that his followers also weren’t taking politics seriously. The Kipper believed that most of Sargon’s followers on YouTube were people in the teens and early twenties. Sargon told him that the average age of his audience is 34. The Kipper accepted this, but stuck to his point that Benjamin’s followers don’t take it seriously. This included an incident when some of Sargon’s followers got drunk in a pub and started shouting ‘Free Kekistan’ at passing cars. Kekistan and Pepe the Frog are memes taken over by the Alt Right. They were originally the creation of a Latin American cartoonist, with absolutely no racist element. But they’ve been appropriated by the Nazi right, to the dismay of the cartoon’s creator, who now wants nothing to do with it. The Kipper contrasted the flippancy of Sargon’s followers with those of Tommy Robinson, who he believed would take UKIP seriously.

UKIP Factions

The argument also gave an insight into the deep divisions and delicate internal politics in UKIP. The Kipper official stated that UKIP’s made up of three different political groupings. There are Christian Social Conservatives. These are political Conservatives with traditional views on social morality, emphasizing the traditional family and condemning promiscuity and particularly homosexuality and gay rights. Then there are the Libertarians, who also free market Tories, but with liberal attitudes towards drug taking and sexuality, although some of these have moved away and become more traditional in the moral attitudes. And then there are the Social Democrats. This means Old Labour, standing for the nationalization of utilities but rejecting immigration, feminism, and gay rights. There are clearly strong divisions between the three groups, and the Kipper did not want this delicate balance disrupted by the mass influx of new members with very strong factional views. This was one of the Kipper’s concerns when Sargon tried to argue that he’d be an asset to the Kippers as when he, Dankula and another YouTuber joined, the party’s organization rose by 10,000. The Kipper responded to that by stating that raises the question of ‘brigading’, presumably meaning attempts to take over the party through the mass influx of supporters.

Sargon and Philosophical First Principles

The argument was also interesting for what it showed about the real depth of Sargon’s own political knowledge: actually quite shallow. Sargon’s despised by his opponents on both the Left and the Right for his intellectual arrogance. He’s been ridiculed for commonly responding to any of his opponent’s points by saying ‘That’s preposterous!’ and asking them if they’ve read John Locke or Immanuel Kant. The Kipper was impressed by Sargon’s support of property rights and popular sovereignty, which he had in common with the rest of the party, but was concerned about how Sargon derived his views of them. He asked him about first principles. Sargon replied that he got them from John Locke and the 18th century Swiss political theorist, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, although the latter was ‘too continental’ for him. The Kipper responded by asking about the specific derivation of his support for natural rights, as argued by Locke. Sargon responded by saying that they’d been put there by the Creator. The Kipper then replied ‘Ah! You’re a theist!’ To which Sargon replied that he wasn’t, because ‘We don’t know who the Creator is.’ This is the line taken by the Intelligent Design crowd, who argue that evolution isn’t the product of Neo-Darwinian random mutation and natural selection, but the result of planned, intelligent intervention by a Creator. Sargon’s response is strange coming from an atheist, as for many Sceptics, Intelligent Design is simply another form of Creationism. ‘Creationism in a cheap tuxedo’, as one critic called it.

Sargon objected to the question about how he derived his support for natural rights on the ground that it didn’t matter. And I think he’s got a point. I’ve no doubt that the majority of people in the mass political parties probably don’t have a very deep understanding of the fundamental basis of the ideologies they hold. I doubt very many ordinary members of the Tory party, for example, have read Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France or the works of the 20th century Tory ideologue, Trevor Oakeshott. It’s probably particularly true of the Tories, as Roger Scruton, the Tory philosopher, said in his book on Conservatism in the 1980s that Tory ideology was largely silent, consisting of the unspoken emphasis on traditional views and attitudes. But clearly, the people at the top levels and some of the real activists in the political parties, including UKIP, do have a very profound understanding of the philosophical basis of their party and its views. And Sargon didn’t.

In fact, Sargon’s ignorance has become increasingly clear in recent months. There’s a notorious clip of him shouting down his opponent, Richard Carrier, in a debate on ‘SJWs’ or something like that at an atheist convention in America, Mythcon. Sargon is shown screaming at Carrier ‘No! No! Shut up! Just f***ing shut up!’ That went viral around the Net.

Racism and Views on Child Abuse

He’s also got some other, deeply offensive views. Sargon considers himself a civic, rather than ethno-nationalist. Which means he stands for his country’s independence but does not believe, contra the BNP, that only members of a specific ethnic group can really be its citizens. He appears to hold a very low view of Blacks, however. There’s a clip of him telling his extreme right-wing opponents to ‘Stop behaving like a bunch of N****rs!’ Quite.

There’s another clip of Sargon going around the Net of him apparently supporting paedophile. He was talking another YouTuber, who believed that underage sex was fine, and that the age of consent should be lowered to 12 or 14. When asked about the morality of adults having sex with underage children, Sargon responded ‘It depends on the child’. Which has naturally upset and outraged very many people.

Conclusions: Robinson and Sargon Will Damage and Radicalise UKIP

There are therefore a number of very good reasons why decent, anti-racist members of UKIP wouldn’t want him in their party. Sargon’s own popularity also appears to be declining, so that it’s now a very good question of how many people he will bring with him into UKIP. Furthermore, a number of people are going to leave with the departure of Farage, though he isn’t the non-racist figure he claims to be. The association of Tommy Robinson with Batten is going to drive people away, so that the party will become even more right-wing and much nastier.

The conversation between the Kipper and Sargon also shows that the party is in a very delicate position at the moment, with a very precarious balance of power between the various factions. As the Kipper official himself said, the only thing they have uniting them is Brexit. If that balance is upset, or the unifying factor of Brexit removed, the whole thing could well collapse in a mass of splits and infighting, like the various overtly Fascist groups have imploded over the years. It also shows that while some people on the extreme right have probably a far too high opinion of themselves and their intelligence, others, like the Kipper official, are genuinely bright and very well read and informed. Even in a party like UKIP, those people shouldn’t be underestimated.