Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category

Retired Generals Call for Military Dictatorship to Save France from Islamist Terrorism

April 28, 2021

Here’s another landmark on the march of militant populism across Europe and the ominous threat of the return of real Fascism. Mahyar Tousi is a right-wing, pro-Brexit YouTube, who regularly denounces the left. Normally I wouldn’t watch his videos, but last night he posted a grim one which reported that a group of twenty former French generals had signed a letter, published in the right-wing news magazine, Valeurs Actuelles, calling for a military coup if President Macron failed to stop the disintegration of France by Islamists. The first signature was that of Christian Piquemal, a former head of the French foreign legion. Macron’s government condemned the wretched letter and compared it to the failed military coup which tried to topple President de Gaulle during the Algerian war of independence sixty years ago.

The letter declared that France ‘is in danger. Several mortal perils threaten her. Even in retirement we remain soldiers of France and cannot in the present circumstances remain indifferent to the fate of our beautiful country.’ According to its signatories, the country was disintegrating with the Islamists of the hordes of suburbs – banlieus – who were detaching large parts of the nation and turning them into territory subject to dogmas contrary to the constitution’. They accused the government of sparking hatred because of the brutal police treatment of the Yellow Vest protesters two years ago. They warned that if nothing was done, there would be an explosion and then intervention by our comrades on active service in the dangerous mission of protecting our civilised values and the safety of our compatriots.’

Marine le Pen, the head of the National Rally party, has come out in support of a coup. Tousi calls this ‘a bit crazy, because France is still a democracy at this point’, and he doesn’t know why people are getting so emotional. His video also show a graph of the various parties’ support according to the opinion polls. These show Macron and Le Pen neck and neck at 26 per cent, Xavier Bertrand, an Independent centre-right candidate at 15 per cent, Jean Melenchon of the Far Left at 11 per cent, and Anne Hidalgo of the centre left at 6 per cent. The report on which Tousi draws for his coverage of the issue states that the generals’ letter has especial resonance following the murder a few days ago of a woman working in a Limousin police station by a Tunisian Islamist.

There are several remarks to be made here. There’s been much anti-Arab racism in France for sometime now, just as there’s racism here across the pond. About twenty or so years ago the Independent’s and I’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown complained about the racism her family experienced when on holiday in south of France. However, she subsequently wrote an article several years later about how the situation had changed for the better when her family went back there on holiday. And a few years ago there was a series of mass protests under a slogan that translates into English as ‘Don’t Touch My Mate’ of White French young people attacking this racism in solidarity with their Arab friends.

I think the racial situation on the other side of the Channel has got worse due to recent Islamist atrocities, such as the attack in Marseilles a few years ago and the mass murder of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists. The spectre of this attack returned a few weeks ago when a French schoolteacher, Thomas Paty, was murdered by an enraged Muslim for showing a classroom of children one of the blasphemous cartoons from Hebdo which provoked the attack. Paty was teaching a lesson about freedom of speech, and had warned his Muslim students that he was going to show the cartoon. If they were going to be offended, then they were allowed to leave the room. Some of them stayed, told their parents, and someone at the local mosque then put Paty’s details up on the Net. This prompted a raft of legislation against Islamist terrorism, and I’ve seen videos on YouTube claiming that, to show his defiance of the Islamists, Macron not only gave Paty a state funeral, but he had the cartoon displayed on public buildings. According to Sargon of Gasbag, the man who broke UKIP, and his mates over at the Lotus Eaters YouTube panel, the legislation provides for the deportation of the foreign-born parents of any child who protests over cartoons. If this is correct, then the French government is coming down very hard, and because of this there have been counterdemonstrations against the new laws by Muslims.

Many of the Islamist terrorists came from the banlieus. Muslims are generally underprivileged across Europe, and from what I was taught in geography while I was at school, the banlieus are grim places of tower blocks, unemployment, despair and nothing else. They don’t, or at least didn’t, have any basic services because their planners believed they weren’t necessary. Their residents could simply travel into the centre of town for whatever they needed.

The rhetoric about parts of France being detached and governed by dogmas against the constitution clearly mirrors the concern here in Britain and the rhetoric about the growth of parallel societies and Muslim ‘no-go areas’ governed by sharia law. Laicisme – secularism – is the official stance of the French state towards religion. It’s why the authorities there tried to ban the wearing of the hijab in school by Muslim schoolgirls. There are real issues about the rejection of French secular values in Arab and Muslim areas. A little while ago French television screened a documentary about the very strong pressure in these areas against women appearing in public and going to cafes. This disapproval even extended to western women living in those areas. The documentary followed the efforts of a group of female protesters to assert their right to go about in public and visit the cafes.

As for Marine le Pen coming out in favour of a dictatorship, she has just shown her true colours. the National Rally was originally the Front National, an avowed Fascist organisation, and her father, le Pen senior, made his living selling Nazi memorabilia. Marine Le Pen managed to win massive support for her party by dropping some of the Fascist symbolism and giving a more moderate, centre-right image. It was still anti-immigration, but a Black female rapper performed at one of their rallies on the grounds that she was still a patriotic French woman. And like UKIP and the former Brexit party over here, now Reform, it’s very much against the EU. It’s picked up much of its support from the elements of the French White working class, who’ve been left behind by neoliberalism and ‘centrist’ welfare cuts, and who also feel threatened by immigration and the European Union. The poor performance of the centre left in the polls also appears to bear out what I’ve heard and read elsewhere about the collapse of the centre left across Europe due to their embrace of neoliberalism. This could very well happen in Britain if Starmer and the Blairites keep their grip on the Labour party. The extreme right – the BNP, National Front and similar organisations – have all collapsed in Britain, or been banned as terrorist groups like National Action, although tiny little Fascist grouplets still remain. Nevertheless, the rise of National Rally in France does indicate that there could be space for a similar populist right-wing party over here.

Tousi in his video says that the generals’ letter is strange and wonders if Marine le Pen will lose or gain support by backing it. It’s a good question. Tousi says that Macron’s government has come under criticism from both the left and the right, and the generals’ complaint is that while Macron talks tough, and he hasn’t followed this up with action. As for supporting any kind of Fascist dictatorship, the village of Oradour-Sur-Glane in the Haute Vienne department of the Limousin provides a very stark, grim reminder of why no-one should. This was a village where all but 18 of its 660 inhabitants were butchered by the Waffen SS in June 1944 as a reprisals for kidnappings, attacks and sabotage by the resistance. It’s been preserved as a memorial. It’s a graphic reminder of the utterly horrific nature of Fascism – torture, mass murder and butchery on an industrial scale. Given the atrocities committed by the Nazis across Europe, and particularly in France and Poland, it astonishes me that any self-respecting French person or Pole could ever vote for or support such a party.

Hopefully no-one will take this call for a coup seriously and France will remain a democracy. But it does indicate that democracy is very fragile. And we have absolutely no reason to feel complacent over this side of the Channel. In the mid-1970s groups of politicians and industrialists, including the editors of the Times and the Mirror, wanted to overthrow Harold Wilson’s government and replace it with an emergency government or military dictatorship, to save Britain from the left and the trade unions.

We have to fight Fascism wherever we find it. And we need to take seriously the fact that it always presents itself as defending society from the absolute forces of evil.

If it rises again in France, how long before the sound of jackboots marching will be heard in Britain.

Oradour-Sur-Glane as it is today following the Nazi Massacre of its people. From Richard Harper, Abandoned Places – 60 Stories of Places Where Time Has Stopped ( Glasgow: Collins 2014) 68-71.

I’m not going to link to Tousi’s video, as he is a man of the right, but if you want to see it on YouTube, it’s title is ‘Retired Generals Call For Military Takeover In France’

Disabled Girl Gets Bionic Arms Based on Movie ‘Alita’s’ Heroine

April 3, 2021

Okay, I’m sorry I haven’t put anything up for the past week or so. It’s the usual reasons, I’m afraid: I’ve been busy with other things and for the most part, I simply haven’t found the week’s news inspiring. I felt there was precious little I could add to the excellent coverage and analyses given by Mike and Zelo Street. And so, rather than simply repeating what they had to say, I preferred to keep silent. But there are some stories that do need further comment, and I certainly intend to cover them. But before I do, here’s a more positive, rather heartwarming piece I found on YouTube.

It was put up by the tech company, Open Bionics, which makes state of the art, and very stylish, prosthetic limbs. Narrated by Hollywood director James Cameron, it tells how the company created a pair of superb artificial arms for British teenager Tilly Lockey. Lockey had lost her arms from septicaemia caused by meningitis. But, as Cameron shows, she had never let her disability hold her back, and the video shows Ms. Lockey as a junior school girl painting using an artificial arm. Cameron’s best known as the director of such hits as Aliens, The Terminator, Terminator 2, Avatar and Titanic, but he was also the producer of the film Alita – Battle Angel. Based on the Manga of the same name, Alita is the story of a mysterious cyborg girl, found by a doctor rummaging around the rubbish dump below an airborne city in which Earth’s rich and powerful live, far above ordinary masses, who live in the city below it. The doctor repairs the girl, who has lost her memory. Slowly Alita begins to recover bits of her history, joins the other cyborg players in a murderous sports race, attempts to become one of the cyborg warriors fighting crime and evil in this future world, and is forced to confront the villains controlling this new society from the floating city above it.

Cameron points out that cybernetic limbs are expensive, but the company is working to make them affordable. They’re also trying to make them attractive, which is why they’ve based those they’ve give to Tilly on the arms of Alita’s heroine. As well as getting the arms, the girl also got to attend the film’s premier.

I have a feeling Open Bionics might be based in Bristol. If I’m right, they used to be part of the cybernetics lab at the University of the West of England, which has done some impressive robotics research. The lab set up a commercial company to produce artificial limbs based on characters from Science Fiction movies.

As for Alita, I think it got mixed reviews. Some critics were spooked by the character’s large eyes, but I think that was simply following the artistic conventions of Manga comics and translating it to a live action film. Some critics said that while it wasn’t that good, it was actually far better than some of the rubbish being produced by Hollywood at the time. I’ve got it on video and liked it. There are rumours of a sequel being made, which would be great if they were true. But unfortunately the Coronavirus lockdown has meant that many Hollywood projects have had to be put on hold. The release of Denis Villeneuve’s much-awaited version of Dune has been postponed to October, when hopefully the cinemas will re-open.

The video’s obviously a piece of corporate promotion, but it’s great that the company and its talented engineers are working to make technologically impressive artificial limbs at affordable prices, and that they’ve given them to this spirited young lady. I have a feeling she’s also one of the women featured on the Shake My Beauty YouTube channel, which features other disabled women talking about life with their prosthetic limbs. While also demonstrating that having mechanical arms and legs certainly doesn’t make them less beautiful or capable of enjoying normal, physical activities including sports.

Radio 4 Comedian Next Sunday Discusses Working Class Male Culture

March 17, 2021

It seems that Radio 4 and the Beeb might be discovering working class men. On Sunday, 21st March 2021 at 7.15, the channel’s broadcasting Jacob Hawley: Class Act. The Radio Times blurb runs

Stand-up comedian Jacob Hawley, who grew up near Stevenage, dissects his journey from working-class banter boy to oat milk latte-sipping, inner-London feminist.

The additional piece about it on the facing page by Tom Goulding states

Having deftly touched the thorny issues of sex and drugs, Jacob Hawley returns ot the BBC with this politically charged comedy special. Class Act deals with another taboo subject: working-class male culture. Hawley charts his journey from banter boy to inner-London feminist and asks whether working class men have been dismissed as hopeless cases: excluded from the UK’s cultural discourse on topics as diverse as women’s rights and mental health. Hawley won plaudits for his On Drugs podcast, in which he interviewed friends and experts on the UK’s attitude towards recreational drug use. Here, he again proves capable of bringing a light touch to heavyweight subjects.

A few years ago the BBC broadcast a series of films on race, one of which asked the question of whether the White working class was being overlooked. It’s been reported that the most underprivileged group in the UK is actually White working class boys. UKIP’s core vote were White working class people who felt overlooked and ignored by the mainstream parties. This campaign by right-wing populists to capitalize and exploit White working class discontent continues. The right-wing New Cultural Forum has a video up on The Demonisation of the White Working Class. On the left, Owen Jones wrote a very good book on the subject a few years ago and the left-wing of the Labour party is consciously trying to appeal to White working class voters with policies that will benefit all of the working class as well as criticising the way the Tories are trying to divide them from Blacks. One of the serious points the Private Eye strip ‘It’s Grim Up North London’ made through its humour was the alienation of its north London heroes from the White working class. Aesthetes with a taste for the latest international fads, to them ordinary White working class Brits were an exotic species they didn’t understand and wondered at. In one cartoon the pair are seen in a cafe or pub listening with wonder at the exotic conversation of the two on the next table. In fact, they’re a pair of Geordies wondering what the two are doing staring at them. Following the series Tom Mayhew Is Benefit Scum, it looks like Radio 4 is rediscovering the British working class and its issues.

Short Video on the History of TV’s Panthermobile

February 16, 2021

Okay, I know I haven’t been posting much recently. I’m afraid I’ve been somewhat busy with other projects, and the recent news really hasn’t inspired me. However, I did find this fascinating and fun little video on YouTube which amused me, and which I thought would interest other peeps of a certain age. It’s from the Little Car channel, and it’s about the Panthermobile, a 7 meter long bizarre pink contraption built for the titles of the Pink Panther cartoon show. This was a spin-off from the famous Pink Pather films starring the late, great Peter Sellers, and starring a panther who, in the words of the theme song, was ‘ever so pink’ and a cartoon version of Inspector Clouseau. The cartoon first aired in 1969, and the car cost the equivalent of £330,000 to build. It was designed by Jay Ohrberg and Ed Newton, and built by a number of engineers and mechanics including Ed Roth. The car followed the trend of other vehicles specially built for TV shows, such as the Batmobile and the Monkeemobile, the latter for the manufactured band and TV show, The Monkees. Roth had built a number of other, strange vehicles, such as the Orbitron, a car that had a clear perspex bubble over the driver’s position instead of the usual roof and windscreen.

The driver’s seat of the Panthermobile was in front of the two front wheels and the engine that drove them. This made the thing difficult to drive, as you can see from it swerving about the road slightly in the opening titles. The passenger section featured plush carpets, a carphone and minibar. Because there was no rear view mirror a black and white TV screen was used instead.

In the end the car ended up being used for only one year. In 1970 the cartoon’s titles were changed so that they didn’t feature it. As there was little use for a giant car that wasn’t street legal, it was left to languish until it was bought up by Galpin Autosports. Galpin had also rescued the Orbitron from its place in a Mexican side alley being used as a skip. The company now has the largest collection of Ed Roth cars in existence, some of which are shown in the video. These are quite bizarre and look like that era’s idea of what spacecraft would look like in the future. The video concludes by stating that the company’s engineers were huge fans of Roth, and made a complete restoration of the car, and that it was the product a group of southern Californian dreamers who dared to turn their ideas into reality.

The Panthermobile Story – YouTube

The Pink Panther cartoons haven’t been shown for a long time, but they were classics of their type. The Panther himself never spoke, and even when placed in the hilarious situations of cartoon comedy, like watching as the motorbike he’s riding falls apart, with one half overtaking him, always managed to look amazingly cool. The cartoon was so popular that there was even a Pink Panther chocolate bar, which was also very, very pink. And despite its absence from the TV screen, people still remember it fondly. There was a cartoon about the character a few years ago in Private Eye. This showed two panthers telling the pink one to get out with the caption, ‘Unfortunately the Pink Panther’s parents were homophobes’. It’s funny when applied to a cartoon character, but unfortunately is an experience which all too many gay children have suffered.

I also found this video of the show’s titles, featuring the Panthermobile, on The 1981 Club’s channel on YouTube, so everyone who watched it in the ’70s can relive it and everyone born after the decade can see what epic TV we had then.

The Pink Panther Show Original Opening HQ – YouTube

Videos of CGI Recreations of Vehicles and Castle for Jodorowski’s ‘Dune’

January 31, 2021

Alejandro Jodorowski’s Dune is one of the great, unmade films. Jodorowski himself is a Chilean-French film director and comics writer. A Surrealist, he made a series of very bizarre films, such as the western El Topo. In the early ’70s he set about making a film version of Frank Herbert’s classic SF novel, Dune, despite never having read it. This would have starred Mick Jagger as Feyd Rautha, Orson Welles as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and the great, bonkers Surrealist artist Salvador Dali as the Emperor of the Known Universe. Equally impressive were the artists he hired to produce the concept art and designs for the spaceships and other vehicles and settings for the film. These included H.R. Giger, the creator of the infamous Alien, French comics artist Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, and Chris Fosse, the force behind a thousand SF paperback covers. The film was never made, as the producers cut its funding at the last moment. However, the work on the movie was never wasted, as Jodorowski and Moebius used it as the basis for their comic The Incal and The Metabarons. It has also been immensely influential on later SF movies, including Ridley Scott’s ’80s classic, Bladerunner.

These two videos have been made and put up on YouTube by Monochrome Paris, a group that wishes to recreate in CGI Jodorowski’s aborted film. They have so far managed to recreate Duke Leto Atreides’ car, which was designed by Fosse, and Baron Harkonnen’s castle, which was the suitably horrific work of Giger.

Here’s the link to the car video:

Reviving Jodorowsky’s Dune in Virtual Reality [Chris Foss Vehicle test – Real-time 3D] – YouTube

And this is for Harkonnen’s Castle:

Reviving Jodorowsky’s Dune in Virtual Reality pt II [HR Giger – Real-time 3D] – YouTube

I think the two videos are great, and it would be really superb if they were able to recreate the entire movie in CGI. Unfortunately the videos are from 2019 and so I don’t think their proposed movie will ever be made. It would still be good if they were able to produce more videos of some of the other designs for the movie, such as the space tugs towing the containers of spice through space, a space pirate ship and the Harkonnen’s own spaceship, which were all designed by Chris Fosse. They’re included along with his other art, included concept designs for Bladerunner, Alien and Superman 2 in the book 21st Century Fosse.

But Belfield, Churchill was a White Supremacist!

January 23, 2021

A few days ago right-wing internet radio host and Youtuber Alex Belfield put up a video expressing his outrage yet again at those evil lefties and their attacks on great British heroes. The lefties in question were the awesome Ash Sarkar, Michael Walker and co. of Novara Media, and the great British hero was Winston Churchill. Sarkar and Walker had dared to call Winnie a White supremacist and chuckle about it! How terrible! And so Belfield put up his video attacking them for daring to scoff at the great man.

The problem was, he did nothing to refute their accusation. He played a clip of Sarkar and Walker calling Churchill a White supremacist and laughing, but didn’t actually provide any facts to prove Churchill wasn’t a racist. All he did was attack Sarkar and her comrades for saying he was. And I don’t think he could have argued that Churchill wasn’t a White supremacist. In the clip he used, Sarkar states that Churchill was a White supremacist by his own admission. And I find that entirely credible. Churchill is now a great, molten god thanks his inspiring leadership during the Second World War. So much so, that he is supposed to stand for everything good and right and be absolutely above criticism. Or at least, he is to members of the Tory faithful. But such attitudes obscure just how controversial Churchill was in his own day, and the real racism in British society. Churchill is still hated by proud, working class Welshmen and women today for sending the troops in to shoot striking miners in one of the pit villages. He was responsible for the debacle of Gallipolli during the Second World War, a bloodbath that in my opinion has tainted the relationship between us and the Ozzies. It shows Johnson’s complete lack of any real historical sympathy for the victims of his blundering that in his biography of the great man, he gives it a ten for being both a colossal mistake and for showing ‘the Churchill factor’, whatever that is. Churchill was so bloodthirsty and keen to use the army to suppress the general strike, that Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin was determined to keep him away from it as far as possible. Irish nationalists also hate him for sending the Black and Tans in to crush the Irish revolution. Churchill spent many years in the political wilderness. What saved him was his tour of Africa in the 1920s. At the same time, his opposition to Nazi Germany wasn’t based on any hatred of their racism and suppression of democracy. The historian Martin Pugh in his history of British Fascism between the two World Wars states as an authoritarian himself, Churchill liked the Spanish dictator General Franco. He considered Mussolini to be a ‘perfect swine’, possibly because the Duce declared that his Blackshirts were the equivalent of the British Black and Tans. But nevertheless, Churchill still went on a visit of Fascist Italy. Churchill’s real reason for opposing Nazism was because he was afraid that Germany would be a threat to British interests in the North Sea.

I got the impression that Churchill was without question an imperialist, which means that he believed unquestionably that White Brits were superior and had every right to their empire and dominion over the darker races. Imperialism was so much a part of official British culture, that I think it’s forgotten just how powerful a force it was and how deeply embedded it was. Empire Day was a national holiday, the British empire was lauded in books like Our Empire Story, and one of the strips in the Dandy or the Beano was ‘The Colony Nigs’. Some British scientists also shared the biological racism that served to legitimate discrimination against non-Whites. As late as 1961 wannabe dictator Oswald Mosley cited articles and papers by British scientists claiming that Blacks were less intelligent than Whites in his book Mosley – Right or Wrong.

If Churchill had only believed that non-Whites were inferior, but otherwise treated them with the benign paternalism that Britain was supposed to show towards its subject races, then his White supremacist views wouldn’t have been too bad. It would have been patronising, but no harm would have been done. But his racism was partly responsible for creating the Bengal famine, which carried off 3-6 million Indians. Churchill had ordered their grain to be sequestered as a reserve food supply for the troops in Europe. This left the Bengalis unable to feed themselves. Many of Churchill’s senior military staff pleaded him to release the food, but he refused, stating that the Indians were a filthy race and that it was all their fault for ‘pullulating’ – in other words, breeding and having too many children. It’s an atrocity that could be compared to the horrific murder of the Jews by the Nazis, and some of Churchill’s generals certainly did so. It’s a monstrous stain on Churchill’s character, but very few Brits are probably aware of it.

Does that mean that it’s acceptable to deface Churchill’s statue, as one irate young man did during the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted earlier this year? The lad scrawled ‘was a racist’ on it, an act which raised right-wing hackles. It was ostensibly to protect his and statues like it that prompted mobs of White Brits to stage their own counterdemonstrations. No, I don’t believe it is, even though it’s true. It is thanks to Churchill’s leadership that western Europe at least remained free from Nazi domination or that of Stalinist Communism. Spike Milligan in one volume of his war memoirs states that if Britain hadn’t entered the War, the Iron Curtain would have stopped at his home town of Bexhill. Churchill, monster though he was in so very many ways, deserves respect and credit for that.

But that doesn’t mean that he should be above criticism either. There’s another video put up by Belfield in which he complaints about a planned re-vamp of Have I Got News For You. Apparently the Beeb is going to replace long time contestants Ian Hislop and Paul Merton as part of their diversity campaign. This involves sacking middle-aged White men in favour of more women and BAME presenters and performers. In his video, Belfield complains about how this change will deprive British television of the pair’s comedic talents. Which is true, but I wonder how he feels about Hislop’s magazine’s attitude to his great hero. Private Eye when it started up was deeply critical of Churchill, running cartoons and articles lampooning him as ‘the greatest dying Englishman’ and criticising him for betraying just about every cause he ever embraced. The Eye and its founders were never radical lefties. They were all public schoolboys, but nevertheless the magazine was regarded with intense suspicion and distaste by many. When it first began many newsagents refused to stock it. One of my co-workers at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in the ’90s and first years of this century shared that dislike. Seeing me reading it over lunch one day, he asked me if I really read it. I dare say that it was the magazine’s willingness to poke fun and attack respected figures like Churchill that provoked some of that intense dislike. But nevertheless, Britain remains a free country – just! – because we are able to criticise our leaders and point out that they aren’t flawless idols we have to revere and obey, like some monstrous dictator. And that includes the right to criticise and spoof Winston Churchill.

Belfield constantly sneers at the younger generation as ‘leftie snowflakes’, but he’s the one with the delicate sensibilities here. I’m not denying Churchill deserves respect for his stern resistance to Nazism, but he was a racist whose supremacist views caused death and suffering to millions of Indians. Getting annoyed with Sarkar and the rest for calling him a racist and White supremacist won’t change that.

Belfield had therefore do what he’s always telling left-wing millennials to do, and show a bit of backbone and get over it.

MechaRandom on Israeli Space General’s Claim that the Aliens Really Are Here

December 9, 2020

Here’s a piece about Israel, which doesn’t involve them maltreating the Palestinians. But are they really in touch, along with the US, with beings from another planet?

MechaRandom42 is a vlogger, who talks about SF/Fantasy film, TV and comics, especially Star Wars, Star Trek and Dr. Who. She’s very critical about recent treatment of these classic series and film franchises, which she and many other fans believe have been ruined for explicitly ideological reasons. For example, popular, long-standing male characters in her view have been deliberately humiliated and undermined in order to give centre stage to poorly written and unlikeable female characters in order to preach an explicit and simplistic feminist message. At the same time gay and trans characters are also included in popular film franchises and TV series, like Batwoman, but the treatment given them is also simplistic. It’s tokenism, and this forced diversity comes at the expense of creating genuinely well-crafted, popular characters or intelligent, coherent and involving plots and stories. She’s also critical of recent Star Trek series, like Star Trek Picard, for abandoning the utopian optimism of previous series, like Classic Trek, The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager and so forth, for a darker, dystopian future that’s robbed the series of its soul and reduced it to a generic SF show which just uses the settings and characters of Trek. She also laments the series’ decline in their ability to treat issues like racism, sexism and gayness. Previous series of Trek did so intelligently and from the perspective that humanity had already transcended these problems. The series often had an explicit message, but it took the trouble to explain them to the audience and didn’t patronise or insult them if they disagreed. Now their treatment is much cruder, reasoned argument is replaced by shrill preaching and there’s an underlying attitude that everyone who disagrees with the message must be an ‘-ist’ or a ‘-phobe’. This has resulted in these once popular film franchises, TV series and comics losing viewers and readers. And it’s one of the reasons the last series of Dr. Who catastrophically lost viewers.

It’s a controversial view, but one shared by a number of other Youtubers and fans of these genres. Some of this criticism comes from people on the political right, but it has also been expressed by peeps on the other side of the political spectrum. They argue that there have always been a concern with these issues in popular entertainment, and that there hasn’t been a shortage of strong female characters in SF. The Alien franchise’s Ellen Ripley is a classic example. The problem is that these issues aren’t being intelligently handled, but instead have been taken over by creators who are ideologically intolerant and seem intent on alienating their audience rather than winning them other.

In this video, however, she moves away from this to discuss the claims of Haim Eshad, a retired Israeli general, professor and former head of their Space Security Force, that the US and Israel really have made contact with aliens. According to the Jerusalem Post, citing another Israeli paper Yediot Aharonot, the two countries have made contact with the Galactic Federation, and they’re operating an underground base on Mars jointly with the aliens. Donald Trump was on the verge of announcing the extraterrestrial presence on Earth, but was stopped from doing so. The aliens don’t which to cause mass panic, and believe we are not ready for them just yet. He’s also got a book coming out, which he says contains more details and evidence.

MechaRandom compares this with the Star Trek universe and its theme of whether humanity is sufficiently evolved to meet aliens. She believes that we aren’t, and that this is due to the way society has dumbed down so we don’t use our ability to do Maths. This is the area we need to be concentrating on, in her opinion, if we are to meet aliens. She also wonders whether the retired military gentleman really is telling the truth, or if he’s ‘a crazy old guy’. He’s 87.

Aliens & The Galactic Federation Are Real For Reals This Time? – YouTube

To people with more than a superficial knowledge of Ufolore, this is very familiar stuff. Ever since Kenneth Arnold made his sighting of them over the Rockies in the 1947, there have been tales of secret government pacts with aliens, underground bases and so on. And there have been a string of Contactees, like George Adamski, who claimed that they had personally made contact with aliens, who had given them a message for humanity. These aliens also claimed to come from some kind of galactic or interplanetary federation, and their messages reflected the pressing global concerns of the day. In the 1950s this was the threat of nuclear war. In the 1980s and 1990s this was the threat to the environment, mirroring the rise of the Green movement. Whole religions have been built on such claimed contact, like the Raelians, UNARIUS and the Aetherius Society. This was set up in the 1950s by taxi driver George King, who heard a voice in his kitchen one day telling him that he should ‘prepare to be the voice of interplanetary parliament’. The Society claimed that King was in touch with an alien, Aetherius, on Venus, where Jesus was also alive and well, as well as Mars Sector 6.

There have been rumours of underground bases since at least the 1980s, as well as various newspaper and magazine articles and books written by government or military officials like Donald Keyhoe, Nick Pope, and the pseudonymous ‘Commander X’. The British hoax TV programme, Alternative 3, broadcast in the 1970s as an April Fool’s joke, also claimed that the Americans and Russians were secretly operating bases on the Moon and Mars, to which people were being kidnapped for use as slave labour in the event of global environmental collapse and the extinction of terrestrial humanity.

There are also stories that President Truman made contact with aliens when they landed at Holloman AFB in the ’40s or ’50s. JFK is also supposed to have been about to reveal the truth about the aliens, which is why he was assassinated. Ronald Reagan is also supposed to have been privy to this information, as shown by his remark to Steven Spielberg during a screening of ET at the White House: ‘Only five people in this room know how true all this is’.

You get the picture. Nothing Eshad has said, at least according to the Jerusalem Post article, is original. If anything, it’s curiously dated. The Contactee Howard Menger claimed to have seen Americans and Russians cooperating together on a secret base on the Moon when the space brothers took him there on one of his extraterrestrial jaunts. Menger was not a military man, but a barber. Hence the title of one of his books was Hairdresser to the Space People, or something like it.

Is Eshad telling the truth, or is he deluded or actually lying? My guess it’s one of the last two. Age and the pressures of holding such a senior command in the tense, war-torn Middle East could have taken their toll on the old boy’s mental health. It might also be that he may have personally had some kind of UFO sighting or experience, like some of the US astronauts. Or had UFO reports from the service personnel under him passed up for his comments. Researching the subject, he’s come across all the tall tales and rumours, and managed to convince himself they’re true.

On the other hand, he could very well be spinning yarns himself. He could be telling these stories as some kind of personal joke and to make a buck on the side from the sales of his forthcoming book. Or there may be something far more sinister going on here. There’s a large amount of evidence that the US intelligence agencies have been deliberately spreading disinformation about alien contact, crashed spacecraft and secret underground bases for their own purposes. Some of this might be destabilise the UFO community, which they have often viewed as a security threat because of the interest taken in secret aircraft and the air force and other bases, which are supposed to hide alien spacecraft and bodies. Some UFO sightings have been of American spy planes. These were often flown from US airbases in Britain and elsewhere, but were so secret that the Americans didn’t tell their allies in the host nations. It might be that Eshad is telling these tales of alien contact in order to have everyone looking in the wrong direction and so ignoring something that his country is really doing in space. At present the militarisation of space is banned under international law. Trump wants to break this and set up an American Space Force. Perhaps Israel is considering doing the same, but wants everyone to disregard it on the grounds that people think that what they’ve seen are alien spacecraft, and only nutters believe in UFOs and aliens.

And you could go on speculating. We really don’t know he’s telling these stories about secret contact with aliens, and can only guess at his motives. But I’m certain that aliens aren’t here, that Trump wasn’t going to spill the beans about them and that there definitely isn’t a secret US-alien base on Mars.

Jama’at-i Islami – The Pakistani Islamic Party Pushing for Theocracy

November 25, 2020

Pakistan was founded as an explicitly Muslim country. It’s a democracy, but there is a section of its parliament, if I remember correctly, that’s made up of Muslim clergy, who scrutinise legislation passed by the lower house to make sure it accords with Islamic law. Since the 1970s and the regime of the dictator, Zia al-Haqq, Islam has become increasingly powerful in Pakistani politics. I believe the current president, Imran Khan, is the leader of an Islamic party. Pakistan was one of the nations that experienced protests against France over the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and there have been official denunciations of the cartoons and President Macron’s attempts to combat Muslim radicalism.

The force behind the growth of political Islam in Pakistan appears to be the Jama’at-i Islami, whose name translates as ‘The Islamic Society.’ The article about them in The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions runs as follows

A highly disciplined and well-organised Muslim political party, founded in 1941 by Abul al-A’la Mawdudi. it aims at establishing an observant Islamic state in Pakistan. The Jam’at’s political platform offers an alternative to teh secularists and modernists, and in this lies its appeal (especially since 1977). The Ja’amat advocates that Pakistan should be a theocratic state, ruled by a single man whose tenure of office and power are limited only by his faithfulness to Islam. The ruler should be assisted by a shura (advisory council), with no political parties and no provision for an opposition. General Zia al-Haqq, the military leader after the overthrow of Z. Bhutto (1977)., used the Jama’at as a political prop for his ‘back to Islam’ campaign. The Jama’at has influence among the military, the middle classes, and the college and university students. It publishes a monthly magazine, Tarjuman al-Quran, in Lahore that has a high circulation. On the international level, the Jama’at was on good terms with Imam Khumayni and the oil rich Arab states; the Saudis have supported the movement since the early 1970s. (p. 489).

This looks like an attempt to create a kind of caliphate, and the Dictionary notes that there is considerable support for its return in Pakistan. I also wonder about the movement’s influence in British Islam, as there has been a problem with fire-breathing radicals immigrating to Britain to supply the shortage of imams for British mosques. Which is why moderate Muslims in this country have demanded government assistance in training Muslim Brits, who have grown up in our ostensibly democratic culture, as imams and community leaders.

I’m not a secularist, and believe that people of faith have a right to have their voices heard in politics and parliament, but this is just a movement for religious tyranny. In Pakistan as it is there’s persecution, including violence and pogroms against religious minorities. We’ve seen Christians murdered and imprisoned following accusations of blasphemy. There have also been riots and murders of the Ahmadiyya. Apparently even pious Muslims have been murdered because of comments they have made, which have been interpreted by others as blasphemous. There are 200 people on Pakistan’s Death Row accused of blasphemy. Many of these accusations are spurious, cynically levelled because of other disputes between the parties concerned. If a theocracy was established in Pakistan, it would only cause more oppression and violence.

I also believe that it wouldn’t be good for Islam either. Atheist sites on the web have reported that there has been a massive increase in atheism in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Iran. Six years or so ago Saudi news reported that a large number of Qurans had been found thrown into a sewer. A few days ago Iranian media reported that this had also happened in their country. A poll conducted of 50,000 Iranians found that 38 per cent of the population is either atheist or has no religion. If this is true, then it’s probably the result of people becoming fed up of the repression they are experiencing from their theocratic governments. The religious violence of the Islamist extremists, al-Qaeda and Daesh, are undoubtedly another factor. A few years ago I read a book by a French anthropologist, who came to the conclusion that the Islamist movements were the response of Muslim societies as the experienced the transition to modernity. This was comparable to the way radical, militant Christian movements had appeared in Europe in the 17th century, such as those in the British Civil War. Now Islam was experiencing the same.

My guess is that if the Jama’at ever succeeded in creating a theocracy in Pakistan, it would be massively unstable as the various sects excluded from the regime’s view of what was properly Islamic were oppressed and rebelled. I don’t believe that the Jama’at and other extreme, theocratic movements have anything to offer Muslims or anyone else anything except more oppression and violence.

Supernatural and Psychic Powers in Buddhism

November 24, 2020

Here’s something a bit different before I get on to the heavy political stuff. It seems that Buddhism has a particular term for the supernatural powers of its mystics and holy men and women. This is iddhi, rddhi, from the Pali and Sanskrit words ardh, ‘grow’, ‘increase’, ‘prosper’, ‘succeed’. The entry for it in Bowker’s Dictionary of World Religions, which describes it as

Paranormal, psychic or magic power in Buddhism, where it is one of the six kinds of higher iknowledge (abhinna). Canonical writings contain a standard list of eight forms of iddhi: the power to (i) replicate and project bodily-images of oneself, (ii) make oneself invisible, (iii) pass through solid objects, (iv) sink into solid ground, (v) walk on water, (vi) fly; (vii) touch the sun and moon with one hand, (viii) ascend to the world of the god Brahma in the highest heavens. They are described in e.g. Vissudhimagga 12. These powers were said to become available to the meditator upon achieving the the fourth jnana. They were possessed by the Buddha and many of his monks and nuns. However, the Buddha regarded them equivocally because some non-Buddhist ascetics possessed them too; they were a sign of meditational attainment only, and not a spiritual qualification; and they could be put to bad as well as good use. He, therefore, attempted to lessen their importance by making it an offence for monks or nuns to display them before layfolk, and by providing an alternative interpretation of iddhi to mean the application of equanimity (upekkha) and mindfulness (sati) in the face of all situations. Nevertheless in Vajrayana they are prominent as a demonstration of perfect control over the body. (p. 464).

Knowledge gained through paranormal perception is also included as a form of knowledge, alongside more conventional forms, in the Buddhist idea of knowledge, jnana, from the Sanskrit for ‘knowing’. The paragraph on this in the article on Jnana in The Dictionary of World Religions says

Knowledge based on extra-sensory perception is one form of paranormal knowledge . This is called ‘going beyond the human’ (atikkanta manusaka, Digha Nikaya 1. 82). Five kinds of higher knowledge (pancabhinna) fall into this category (Anguttara Nikaya 2. 17-19). These are (i) psychic power (iddhi-vidha), (ii) divine ear (dibbasota); (iii) telepathic knowledge (cetopariyata nana), (iv) knowledge of previous existence (pubbenivasanussati), and (v) clairvoyance (dibbacakkhu) One can attain this state if one’s mind is purified of five impediments (pancanivarana, see Nivaranas – covetousness, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and doubt, Majjhima Nikaya 1. 181,270, 276) and on attaining the fourth Jhana. (p.504).

I think that fascination with the supposed paranormal powers acquired through Buddhist meditation and similar disciplines in Hinduism was one the features that attracted westerners to these religions from the 19th century onwards. They were certainly influential in the growth of the New Age religions, like Theosophy, although this was strongly influenced by Hinduism rather than Buddhism. The French explorer Alexandra David-Neel popularised these powers in her account of her sojourn in Tibet. Such ideas have also had their effects on comics, Science Fiction and Fantasy. The Marvel superhero, Dr. Strange, ‘Master of the Mystic Arts’, gained them through studying under the Ancient One in Tibet. Some of the accounts of Buddhist sages with these powers seem to me to be just legends, but if there are any adepts who truly have them, and could demonstrate them in a laboratory and before stage magicians, so there could be no possibility of cheating, we might be on the way to proving the existence of the paranormal at last.

But that might also be a shock to the secular, atheist materialists, who use Buddhist ideas about mindfulness for nothing more than attaining inner peace. You can imagine the panic it would cause members of the Skeptics’ movement if suddenly they found themselves able to read minds, make themselves invisible, walk on water and so on.

A 17th Century Anglican Plea for Religious Toleration

November 21, 2020

Jeremy Taylor was the chaplain of King Charles I and the rector of Uppingham. After the royalists were defeated in the British Civil War, he fled to Carmarthenshire in Wales, where he wrote his book arguing for religious freedom, The Liberty of Prophesying. After the Restoration he was appointed bishop of Down and Connor. He was also the author of a number of devotional works and sermons, but it’s his defence of religious freedom that I find particularly interesting. He said ‘they were excellent words which St. Ambrose said in attestation of this great truth, that the civil authority has no right to interdict the liberty of speaking, nor the sacerdotal to prevent speaking what you think.’

See the article on him in John Bowker, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (Oxford: OUP 1997) 958.

I’m very much aware that throughout Christian history there has been very little freedom of religion and conscience, and that the Anglican church’s toleration of Dissenters was very limited until the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in the 19th century. Until then Protestant nonconformists were excluded from the grammar schools, universities and government, and could only hold their services five miles away from towns. Atheism and Roman Catholicism were illegal again until the 19th century. But it was clergymen like Taylor and his fellows in the Nonconformist churches, like the Quaker William Penn and a number of Presbyterian ministers, who laid the foundations for the British and American tradition of religious tolerance. The most famous of the works calling for religious freedom from this period is Milton’s Areopagitica.

Despite the passage of the centuries, their message is still acutely relevant. Many countries still don’t have freedom of conscious or religious liberty in the 20th century. The Communists attempted to destroy religious and viciously persecuted people of faith, while the Nazis, apart from trying to exterminate the Jews, also sent their other religious opponents, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses, to the concentration camps.

We have recently seen a French teacher murdered for showing schoolchildren the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed in a class about free speech, and mass demonstrations against France for permitting the cartoons in Muslim countries. To many people, their calls for legislation against such disrespect seem like demands for Muslim blasphemy laws. Christians and members of other religious minorities, such as Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslims have been murdered in Pakistan as well as orthodox Sunni Muslims because of supposed blasphemy. This is banned in Pakistan and punishable with the death penalty. The only permitted religion in Saudi Arabia is Wahhabi Islam, and a few years ago the Saudis declared that atheism was terrorism. This was just atheist unbelief itself, regardless of any act of genuine terror, such as killing people or destroying property.

I’m sympathetic to Muslims regarding the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. I don’t like the way Christianity and Christ are mocked by certain sections of the media and the entertainment business either. I’ve also heard the argument that Charlie Hebdo is a nasty rag. It’s not left-wing, but right, apparently, and its targets also include Roman Catholicism and immigrants.

But there’s a greater principle of free speech and the sanctity of human life here. All religions and ideologies, including atheism, should be up for debate, with people free to choose as they will. They’re fundamental human rights, the violation of which either leads or is part of tyranny.