Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Right-Wingers Outraged at Trans/Gay Pop Video, But It’s just a Return to the ’80s

January 31, 2023

Now for a bit about the latest right-wing rage about pop music. This morning there were a number of videos on YouTube by various pundits, right-wing and otherwise, discussing or denouncing a pop video. I honestly don’t know who the pop star who made it is, and have actually forgotten his name. I gather he had quite a successful career a few years ago, after which he came out of the closet and revealed he was gay. A little while later he said he was non-binary and now he seems to have gone a bit further in declaring his sexual identity. The video showed him in a revealing dress or robe, surrounded with dancers wearing chaps to expose their rear ends, during which he mimes various sex acts. Right-wing American YouTuber Matt Walsh was outraged, while somebody on GB News defended it, and claimed the video’s critics were homophobic.

What struck me, as someone who grew up in the 1980s, was how familiar it all was. I can remember when Frankie Goes to Hollywood were shocking the press and provoking scandal and outrage with their single ‘Relax’. It’s video seemed to be about a man in suit being pushed and pulled about the dance floor in a gay club by people dressed as gay bikers, watched by a fat bloke dressed as Nero. The single was banned, so say, by the BBC, although I’ve heard since that it was simply that one particular DJ refused to play it. This was entirely counterproductive, as the moment people heard it was banned they went out and bought it, with the result that it got to No. 1. And then there was Divine, an overweight drag queen and friend of American underground filmmaker John Waters, who starred in several of Waters’ deranged productions. Divine also had a hit in that decade, ‘Walk Like a Man’. Of course, Divine was a drag queen, rather than trans, but he wasn’t too far away from this latest attempt to climb the charts. The video’s shocking now, but it’s little different from what people were listening to and watching in the ’80s.

And the worst thing that came out of that decade was Margaret Thatcher. Her policies have done far more damage than anything that came out of the charts ever did.

Richard Tice: Cut Benefits to Stop Immigration

January 31, 2023

Michael Heaver is another hard-right YouTuber pushing Reform and praising Brexit to the rafters, despite the devastation this has wreaked on our economy and the lives and livelihood of British workers and businesses. If Brexit was a religion, his would be the blind faith of the true-blue Thatcherite fanatic. And this morning Heaver posted a video praising the latest effusion from Reform’s current fuehrer, Richard Tice. Tice is upset that 5.2 million people are in receipt of benefits. This, he declares, is one eighth of the working population. But at the same time, there are job vacancies going unfilled, which is why the government is importing foreigners. This is because some people on benefit are doing better than they would be if they were working, and so are leaving their jobs to live off benefits. The welfare state is properly there to support those genuinely in need, but people are using it as a lifestyle choice. We must therefore cut benefits in order to force people back to work so the government won’t import more foreigners as cheap labour.

There are so many falsehoods in this statement that it’s amazing in its own way. Firstly, most people on benefits in the UK are actually working. They’re forced to use state benefits as well because their pay is insufficient. As for people deliberately leaving work to live on benefits – presumably he means jobseekers’ allowance – does he know anybody who’s suffered that humiliating process? My guess is he doesn’t, because otherwise he’d know it was a lie. Actually, on second thoughts, it’s quite possible he knows it’s wrong, and is deliberately lying anyway. For a start, the Tories passed legislation years ago stopping people from receiving benefit immediately after resigning from work. The wait for a claim to come through is several weeks, so if your previous job paid so badly you didn’t have anything left over by the end of the month, the further wait would push you down to starvation level. As does the various sanctions imposed on the unemployed and disabled for the flimsiest of reasons. Welfare researchers and activists, like the excellent Disabled People Against Cuts, have shown that in the case of the Fitness to Work assessments, this is based on an assumption that a certain percentage of cases must be fraudulent. There is therefore pressure on the assessors to find the disabled well enough to work. Hence we have had assessors declaring that people in terminal comas were fit to work. They even asked amputees when they expected their limbs to grow back!

And then there is the humiliating process of claiming benefits itself. This takes its inspiration from the Victorian idea of ‘less eligibility’: receiving state aid must be made so humiliating that it will deter people from claiming it. It’s one of Thatcher’s disgusting ‘Victorian values’. And so you are required to spend so many hours a day looking for a job, keep a log of the jobs you’ve applied for, while the clerk dealing with you keeps asking why you’re still claiming and didn’t apply for that one yet. Claiming benefits is unpleasant, difficult and humiliating.

But this is ignored by Tice, who is simply spouting more of the ‘make work pay’ nonsense pushed by David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith when he was head of the DWP. And then there’s the stuff about immigration.

This is nonsense because Brexit has resulted in a loss of foreign labour. Many of the foreign workers in the NHS have left Britain, including skilled doctors and nurses. I think we also lost the foreign fruit pickers, who used to come here, which is probably the type of workers Tice is thinking of when he talks about cheap foreign labour. But when the issue of forcing unemployed Brits to work as fruit pickers came up a while ago and was being discussed, many of the commenters on YouTube had said they’d tried and been turned down as farmers preferred foreigners. Some of the farmers rejecting British labour said it was because Brits were lazy. Possibly. Or perhaps just not so easy to exploit.

As for immigration generally, I have the distinct impression that the type of foreign workers the government is keen to recruit are skilled workers, particularly in the STEM subjects. They are definitely not keen on importing unskilled labour to add to the number of domestic workers with a similar lack of skills. Though here again, unskilled immigrants do take the jobs Brits don’t want, like cleaners, as shown in Ken Loach’s film, Dirty, Pretty Things. But my guess is that when Tice and the other members of the anti-immigrant right start ranting about low-skilled foreign immigrants, much of their audience will automatically think of the Channel migrants. But these unfortunately haven’t been recruited. They’re asylum seekers, who have been excluded from the official ways of applying for sanctuary in Britain. Hence part of the hostility to them.

Tice’s spiel is pretty much the old Daily Mail directed at the unemployed and non-White immigration jammed together. It’s nonsense, but will appeal to the readers of the right-wing press, who’ve been subjected to the same bilge since before the welfare state was founded. It also bears out Tony Benn’s statement that when a government wants to persecute its working people, it begins with immigrants.

Don’t be fooled. Tice is not a friend of ordinary working Brits. The solution to the problem of making work pay is to raise wages. This is the solution in classical economics to the problem of a shortage of workers. But this would cut into the already bloated profits of the obscenely rich that Tice, the Tories and the other hard right parties are pandering to.

They want to keep working people poor, starving and desperate, whatever lip service they give to the welfare state. And they’re using the old spectre of foreign labour to do it.

Watchmojo on the Most Evil British Tabloids

January 25, 2023

WatchMojo is a YouTube channel that specialises in lists of the most (insert adjective) of whatever subject they’re covering. This is usually popular culture, like films, TV programmes and comics. But in this video from their British offshoot they delve into the very murky world of British tabloid and red top newspapers to discuss the six worst of them. And so, imagine if you will, this run down of the very worst of British journalism accompanied by the old style Top of the Pops theme as that sadly missed programme went down the music charts.

Coming last at No. 6 is the Daily Star for its coverage of weird paranormal stories like black-eyed ghost children, their libelling of the Liverpool fans at the Hillsborough disaster and getting sued by the McCanns for its malign take on the disappearance of their daughter. They also blamed video games for Raoul Moat’s shooting spree, despite the entire lack of evidence showing that video games are responsible for real world violence, and for making up an interview with Duane ‘the Rock’ Johnson.

Coming in at no. 5, pop-pickers, is the Mirror, showing that it’s also left-wing papers that can have appalling low journalistic standards. This is there because of its owner, Robert Maxwell, raiding his employees’ pension funds, and Piers Morgan publishing fake photographs of alleged atrocities by British troops in Iraq. This part of the video shows some of the other headlines from the paper, such as its ‘Achtung! Surrender’ to the Germans at the 1996 World Cup as other illustrations of its lack of taste and anything resembling decent attitudes.

At No. 4 in this chart of journalistic infamy is the Daily Mail, as illustrated by its article ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ praising Mosley’s BUF and its owner, Lord Rothermere’s trip to Germany and praise of the Nazi regime. The video also states that it’s been suggested that the paper’s pro-appeasement stance convinced Hitler that Britain would not retaliate if he invaded Poland, thus causing World War II. More recently the paper has also been sued for libel or inaccurate reporting by celebs such as Melania Trump, Alan Sugar and Elton John. The video also shows some of its racist headlines opposing the decolonisation of mathematics and opposition to non-White immigration.

The Daily Express is at No. 3, again because of such low points as being sued by the McCanns, scaremongering stories about the world being wiped out by aliens or killer asteroids, and its weird fixation on conspiracy theories about Princess Diana and her death, often at the expense of more current and important stories. In 2010 its editor said that he was appalled by some of the stories it ran, and was going to reign in its islamophobia.

No. 2, the late, unlamented News of the Screws. This was always controversial, but lasted 150 years, even claiming at one time to be the world’s best newspaper. That was until it was brought down by the phone-tapping scandal, whose victims not only included celebrities, royalty like Princes William and Harry, but also murder victims and dead soldiers. It was forced to fold after all its advertisers deserted it.

But the top slot in this catalogue of filth and sleaze merchants is the Scum. This rag’s viciously low reporting has made it notorious around the world, but what foreign viewers may not know is that it’s particularly hated in Britain for its smearing of the Liverpool fans at Hillsborough, like its fellow tabloid the Depress. Instead of the Liverpool fans being responsible for the carnage, it was found that the police were responsible for the 96 deaths. This anti-Liverpool venom is the reason it’s still banned in the city, despite the paper having made some half-hearted apologies afterwards. It also claimed the Birmingham 6, a group of Irish men wrongly imprisoned for an IRA terrorist atrocity, were guilty. On top of this it was also sued for libel by Wayne Rooney. But what makes it especially hated is its staunch support of Margaret Thatcher, the infamous ‘Gotcha!’ headline for the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands War, and its claim that it was responsible for Thatcher’s electoral victories with its headline ‘It was the Scum Wot won it’.

Of course this list leaves out some other instances of tabloid wrongdoing. The Scum has had any number of complaints for racism upheld by the former Press Complaints Commission, including one in which it compared Arabs to pigs. Piers Morgan has also been involved in the phone hacking scandal, though it’s possible the video mentions this and I’ve just forgotten it did. And I’d say the worst British tabloid was the Sport in its various editions for its mixture of sleaze, stories about freaks and daft stories following the Weekly World News style of journalism, like its claim that there was a B52 bomber on the Moon. The Sport was set up by David ‘the Slug’ Sullivan, according to Private Eye, a pornographer with convictions for running girls. But the paper has a low circulation compared to the others here, and so is far less influential.

As for the Scum coming first as Britain’s worst tabloid, I agree entirely, although I doubt this is an accolade the Scum would want to boast about on its front page. But when it comes to malign, biased reporting and racism, it is indeed the Scum wot wins it.

Are the Tories Demanding Further British Involvement in Ukraine as a Diversion from their Crookedness?

January 24, 2023

That was the allegation made today in a video put up by Our Favourite YouTube ‘Historia’. Johnson was in one of the tabloids today giving Britain the benefit of his experience and talent in foreign affairs. I just saw the headline which was something about how Britain should give more aid to Ukraine as if it falls, Putin will be a threat to Europe. I didn’t read any more. It was in something like the Depress or the Scum or some other terrible rag, which isn’t worth reading. But apparently he had more to say. He wanted Ukraine to be admitted to NATO ASAP. Simon Webb over at History Debunked took this idea apart, showing that far from leading to peace or defeat for the Russians, it would instead probably lead to World War III. If NATO did admit Ukraine, then the next Putin attacked we would be required to counterattack by the terms of the treaty. You can see how this would expand into a direct war between NATO and Russia and the possibility that this would go nuclear very quickly. Putin and his aides have been making threats of a nuclear strike against the NATO countries, as well as threatening to invade Sweden if it joined NATO. One of the news articles that came up for me a little while ago on the news feed on my browser argued that Putin wasn’t bluffing when he made these threats. Elsewhere the group of scientists responsible for the Doomsday Clock showing how far away we are from nuclear Armageddon moved its hands forward to 90 seconds to minute. This places us in unprecedented danger, the group says. So what Johnson has said is so colossally stupid that the former Prime Minister should be nowhere near power. But what do you expect from him? This is the edit, you will remember, who started reciting the Road to Mandalay when on an official visit to Thailand’s holiest Buddhist temple. This is the nutter, who went off a diplomat mission to Moscow to soothe tensions with Putin, only to ramp them up even further at a press interview on his return. And there’s more and worse. There was a story going round last year that Zelensky was about to make a peace deal with Putin, only to persuaded otherwise when Johnson turned up to advise him.

Webb suggests that this suicidal belligerence from Johnson may come from the sorry state of affairs He, Rishi Sunak and Zahawi are in. Zahawi’s facing criticism and calls for an inquiry because he’s been dodging paying tax, Sunak got a loan from a Tory donor, who was then rewarded with a place at the Beeb and Johnson is similarly having his collar felt for breaches of ministerial conduct. Webb states that Johnson couldn’t have made these comments without approval from Sunak, and so this sabre-rattling is just to get us to look away from their personal corruption. I can see there being more than something behind this. One of the ways governments try to divert attention from domestic failures is to start a foreign policy conflict.

But there are other aspects to the Ukraine conflict which make it very clear that all is not as it appears. After the fall of communism, the west signed a deal with Gorbachev that NATO would not expand into the former eastern bloc and threaten Russia’s borders. But this is what NATO has done with the accession of Poland and other states. The Maidan Revolution which overthrew the pro-Russian Ukrainian president in favour of one who was pro-western, wasn’t a spontaneously democratic display of popular anger. It was carefully orchestrated by Victoria Nuland and Hillary Clinton, the American secretary of state, and the National Endowment for Democracy, the organisation that has taken over the CIA’s role in engineering regime change.

But there are dangers for rightists and ethnonationalists in following this line of inquiry. Before you know it, you could end up like the late American Nazi leader, Francis Parker Yockey. Yockey was a White supremacist almost straight out of the skits of the Blues Brothers and The Producers. He used to appear on Public Access Television in New York in the 1970s, seated wearing a blue uniform and motorcycle helmet and flanked by two of his storm troopers ranting his fascist nonsense. Not surprisingly, he was eventually kicked off air following complaints from Jewish viewers. Surprisingly for a raving Nazi, Yockey was a fan of the Soviet Union. He felt it was the great hope for the White race because it was still a dictatorship after the western nations had embraced corrupt democracy. There was a similar tendency over here in Nick Griffin’s BNP. There was a section of its membership and supporters that admired Colonel Gadaffy’s Libya.

Webb has posted videos suggesting that Britain needs a dictator for White Britain to survive and that we should be giving medals to particularly prolific women like the Nazis did. But the Soviet Union also gave out ‘Heroic Mother’ medals and there was a similar scheme by Mussolini as part of his ‘Battle for Births’. Putin is also a dictator, who is also keen on promoting national pride among his people, and he has succeeded in raising the Russian birth rate, which had been declining below replacement levels.

Putin’s a thug and a monster, but if you want to see where such ideas about nationalist dictators lead, they lead to people like him. If not worse.

The Riout 103T Alerion: The Ornithopter that Almost Took Off

January 9, 2023

I was talking on another comments thread about ornithopters with Brian Burden, one of the many great commenters on this blog. Ornithopters are flying machines that work by flapping their wings like a bird or an insect, unlike helicopters or fixed wing aircraft, which use either propeller or jet engines. Some of the very first attempts at powered, heavier than air flight were ornithopters, whose inventors obviously sought inspiration from nature. As human-carrying aircraft, they haven’t been successful. They work as small models, and the early scale models the pioneering aviation inventors and engineers created did actually work, as have more recent model ornithopters and robots modelled on birds and insects. However there were severe problems scaling them up to work with humans. This did not prevent a series of pioneering inventors and aviators trying. One of those was E.P. Frost, who created a series of ornithopters over a decade from the late 19th to the early 20th century. The piccie below shows his 1903 ornithopter, powered by a three horsepower petrol engine and with wings covered in feathers. Another inventor was the French aviator, Passat, who constructed an ornithopter with four flapping wings, covered with fabric rather than feathers, and powered by a 4.5 horsepower motorcycle engine. When it was being tried out in 1912 on Wimbledon Common, it flew for about four hundred feet at a speed of under 15 mph before crashing into a tree. This did not deter Passat, who carried on his experiments into this form of aircraft despite ridicule and the success of fixed wing aircraft.

One of the other aviation pioneers interested in developing this type of aircraft was another Frenchman, Louis Riel, who went on to design the Riout 102T plane, which at one point seemed to be a successful aircraft if further improvements had been made. I found this video about it on Ed Nash’s Military Matters channel on YouTube. This notes the similarity between the four-winged design of the Riout plane and the multi-winged ornithopters of the recent Dune film. This suggests that Frank Herbert, Dune’s author, might have been inspired by Riel’s aircraft. Riel had experimented with a two-winged ornithopter before the First World War before moving on to other projects. He retained his interest in ornithopters, however, and 1937 created the Riout 102T Alerion, which had four, fabric covered planes. Wind tunnel tests were originally promising, until an increase in engine power in one test destroyed the plane’s four wings. Riel had plans to improve and strengthen the wings, but by this time it was 1938. Hitler had annexed Austria and was moving into the Sudetenland, and France needed all its available aircraft to protect itself against German invasion. The project was therefore cancelled.

Brian wondered if computer design and control could result in a practical, human level ornithopter. I think it’s possible, especially as today’s aviation engineers are exploring the instabilities in flight that allow birds to fly so well in creating high performance aircraft, that would need a degree of computer control in flight. One of the issues looks to my like the stresses on the wings caused by flapping, but it may be that this could be solved using the more resilient and durable materials available to modern engineers, which the early pioneers didn’t have. Riel’s plane is not entirely forgotten. Its remains, minus the wings and covering, are in one of the French aviation museums. Perhaps one day they’ll inspire a new generation of engineers to experiment with similar aircraft.

Colorized Film of the Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem in 1897

January 3, 2023

This comes from the History Upscaled channel on YouTube, and shows the original footage and then a colorized version of footage of Jerusalem and its people at the Jaffa Gate, shot by the Lumiere brothers. It’s very short, just over a minute long, but it’s a fascinating glimpse of Jerusalem in the final years of the 19th century before the establishment of the state of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Simon Webb’s Speech to the Traditional Britain Group: A Critique

December 29, 2022

One of the great commenters on this blog asked me the other day if I’d watched Simon Webb’s speech to the Traditional Britain Group, which has been posted up on YouTube. Webb is the man behind History Debunked, in which he criticises, refutes and comments on various historical myths and distortions. Most of these are against Black history, as well as racial politics. Occasionally he also presents his opinions on gay and gender issues. Like other YouTubers and internet commenters, you need to use your own discretion when watching his material. Sometimes, when he cites his sources, he’s right. At other times he’s more probably wrong. As much of his material is against mass immigration, particularly Black and Asian, and he believes that there is a racial hierarchy when it comes to intelligence, there’s some discussion of the man’s political orientation. He’s definitely right-wing, reading the Torygraph and attacking Labour as ‘high spending’. But it’s a question of how right-wing. Some people have suggested he’s English Democrat or supports a similar extreme right fringe party.

The other day he gave a speech at the Traditional Britain Group, which is a particularly nasty set of rightists within the Conservative party. There was a scandal a few years ago, you’ll recall, when Jacob Rees-Mogg turned up at one of their dinners. Mogg claimed he didn’t know how far right they were, but was shown to be somewhat economical with the actualite when someone showed that he’d actually been warned against associating with them. They are fervently against non-White immigration and some of them have a dubious interest in the Nazis and the Third Reich. I’ve also been told that their members include real Nazis and eugenicists, which is all too credible. They also want to privatise the NHS. I found this out after finding myself looking at their message board a few years ago. They were talking about how they needed to privatise the health service, but it would have to be done gradually and covertly because at the moment the masses were too much in favour of it. Which has been Tory policy for decades.

Webb’s speech is about half and hour long, and takes in slavery, White English identity and how Blacks have taken ownership of the subject so that it’s now part of theirs, White guilt over it and the industrial revolution and how White Brits are being made to feel ashamed of imperialism. He also blamed Tony Blair for mass immigration and claimed that it was due to this that the health service was collapsing.

The British Empire

He started off by saying that when he was young, everyone believed that the British Empire was a good thing and that we had brought civilisation to Africa and other parts of the world. I don’t doubt this. He’s older than me, and so I can believe that the received view of the Empire in his time was largely positive. Even the Labour party broadly supported imperialism. Its official stance was that Britain held these countries in trust until they were mature enough for self-government. This has changed, and there is a general feeling, certainly on the left, that it’s something we should be ashamed of. But this has come from historians and activists discussing and revealing the negative aspects of colonialism, such as the genocide and displacement of indigenous peoples, enslavement, forced labour and massacres. The end of empires tend to be particularly bloody, as shown in the various nationalist wars that ended the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and the French possession of Algeria. Britain fought similar bloody wars and committed atrocities to defend its empire, as shown in the massive overreaction in Kenya to the Mao Mao rebellion. Jeremy Black, in his history of the British Empire, also argues that support for the empire fell away from the 1970s onwards as British youth became far more interested in America. I think the automatic condemnation of British imperialism is wrong and one-sided. It’s also somewhat hypocritical, as the same people condemning the British Empire don’t condemn other brutal imperial regimes like the Ottomans. It’s also being used by various post-colonial regimes to shift attention and blame for their own failings. But all this doesn’t change the fact that some horrific things were done during the Empire, which politicians and historians have to deal with. Hence the shame, although in my view there should be a space for a middle position which condemns the atrocities and celebrates the positive.

Britain and Slavery

He then talks about how slavery is now identified solely with Black transatlantic servitude. But he argues that the White English can also claim slavery as part of their identity. He talks of the first mention of the English in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, when pope Gregory the Great saw some English children for sale in the slave market in Rome. Asking who such beautiful children were, he was told they were Angles. At which Gregory punned, ‘Non Anglii, sed angeli’ – ‘Not Angles but angels’. At the time of the Domesday Book 10 per cent of the English population were slaves. And the mob that tore down Colston’s statue in Bristol were unaware that the city had been exported English slaves over a millennium before. These were shipped to the Viking colonies in Ireland – Dublin, Wexford and other towns – from whence they were then trafficked internationally. Slavery existed long before Black transatlantic slavery. The first record we have of it is from 4000 years ago in the form of document from the Middle East recording the sale of slaves and pieces of land. While they weren’t aware of transatlantic slavery at school, they knew slavery existed through studying the Bible. The story of Joseph and his brothers, and the Israelites in Egypt. But slavery has now become identified exclusively with Black slavery and is part of the Black identity. It’s because we’re supposed to feel guilty about slavery and feel sorry for Blacks that Black people over overrepresented in adverts, on television dramas and even historical epics, such as the show about the Tudors where half the actors were Black.

Webb is right about slavery existing from ancient times. There are indeed documents from the ancient near eastern city of Mari in Mesopotamia recording the sale of slaves along with land and other property, as I’ve blogged about here. One of the problems the abolitionists faced was that slavery existed right across the world, and so their opponents argued that it was natural institution. They therefore also claimed that it was consequently unfair and disastrous for the government to abolish it in the British empire. He’s right about Pope Gregory and the English slaves, although the word ‘Angli’ refers to the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that settled and colonised England with the Saxons and Jutes after the fall of the Roman Empire. Angles in Anglo-Saxon were Englas, hence Engla-land – England, land of the Angles, and Englisc, English. Bristol did indeed export English slave to Ireland. Archbishop Wulfstan preached against it in the 11th century. We were still doing so in 1140, when visiting clergy from France were warned against going for dinner aboard the Irish ships in the harbour. These would lure people aboard with such promises, then slip anchor and take them to Ireland. The Irish Vikings also imported Black slaves. One chronicle reports the appearance of a consignment of blamenn, blue or black men in Old Norse, in Dublin. David Olasuga has also claimed that they imported 200 Blacks into Cumbria. Bristol’s export of White English slaves is mentioned in a display about it in the city’s M Shed Museum, which also contains the statue of Edward Colston. I do agree with Webb that there is a problem with popular attitudes towards slavery. Its presentation is one-sided, so that I don’t think many people are aware of it and its horrors outside the British Empire, nor how White Europeans were also enslaved by the Muslim Barbary pirates. I very strongly believe that this needs to be corrected.

Black Overrepresentation on TV

I don’t think it’s guilt over slavery alone that’s responsible for the large number of Black actors being cast on television, particularly the adverts. I think this is probably also due to commercial marketing, the need to appeal to international audiences and attempts to integrate Blacks by providing images of multiracial Britain. Many adverts are made for an international audience, and I think the use of Blacks has become a sort of visual shorthand for showing that the company commissioning the advert is a nice, anti-racist organisation, keen to sell to people of different colours across the world without prejudice. At home, it’s part of the promotion of diversity. Blacks are, or are perceived, as acutely alienated and persecuted, and so in order to combat racism the media has been keen to include them and present positive images of Black life and achievement. There are organisations dedicated to this task, such as the Creative Diversity Network, as well as systems that grade companies according to how they invest in multicultural enterprises, such as television and programmes with suitably racially diverse casts. Webb has himself talked about this. He’s also stated that Blacks are disproportionately represented on television, constituting only 6 per cent of the population but a very large proportion of actors in TV programmes and adverts. This might simply be because other, larger ethnic groups, such as Asians, aren’t so concerned with entering the entertainment industry and so aren’t represent to the same extent. Hence, Blacks sort of stand in for people of colour as a whole. As for adverts, I’ve also wondered if some of this might be purely commercial – a concern to sale to an emergent, affluent, Black market, perhaps. It also struck me that it might also be a make work programme. As I understand it, there are too many drama graduates for too few roles. This is particularly going to hit Blacks and other ethnic minorities because Britain at the moment is still a White majority country. There have consequently been demands for colour blind casting, as in Armando Iannucci’s recent film version of Oliver Twist. A year or so ago one Black actor announced that there should be more roles for Blacks or else they would go to America. As for the casting of a Black woman as Anne Boleyn, this seems to follow the theatre, where colour blind casting has existed for years. I think it also follows the tacit demand to create an image of the British past that conforms to modern multicultural society rather than how it really was. And some of it, I think, just comes from the feeling that as modern Blacks are as British as their White compatriots, so they should not be excluded from appearing as historical characters who were White. I think these considerations are just as likely, or more likely, to be the causes of the disproportionate number of Blacks appearing on camera than simply pity for them as the victims of slavery.

Blair Not Responsible for Mass Immigration

Now we come to his assertion that Blair was responsible for mass immigration. When he made this declaration, there were shouts, including one of ‘traitor’. I don’t believe that Blair was responsible for it, at least, not in the sense he means. The belief that he was, which is now widespread on the anti-immigrant right, comes from a single civil servant. This official claimed that Blair did so in order to change the ethnic composition of Britain and undermine the Tories. But did he really? This comes from a single individual, and without further corroboration, you can’t be sure. In fact Blair seems to have tried to cut down on immigration, particularly that of non-Whites. In order to dissuade people from coming here, he stopped immigrants from being able to apply for welfare benefits. The food banks now catering to native Brits were originally set up to feed those immigrants, who were no longer eligible for state aid. I also recall David Blunkett stating that they were going to cut down on immigration. The Guardian also accused Blair of racism over immigration. He had cut down on non-White immigration from outside Europe, while allowing White immigration from the EU and its new members in eastern Europe. The right had also been concerned about rising Black and Asian immigration for decades, and in the 1980s Tory papers like the Depress were publishing articles about unassimilable ethnic minorities. This started before Blair, and I don’t think he was deliberately responsible for it.

But I believe he was responsible for it in the sense that many of the migrants come from the countries Blair, Bush, Obama and Sarco destroyed or helped to destroy in the Middle East, such as Libya, Iraq and Syria. Blair had made some kind of deal with Colonel Gaddafy to keep migrants from further south in Libya, rather than crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. This was destroyed when Gaddafy’s regime was overthrown by Islamists. The result has been the enslavement of Black African migrants, and renewed waves of refugees from North Africa fleeing the country’s collapse.

He also stated that the industrial revolution, which was something else that was traditionally a source of pride, is now considered a cause for shame instead. Britain had been its birthplace and given its innovations to the rest of the world. However, we are now expected to be ashamed of it through its connection to slavery. The cotton woven in the Lancashire mills came from the American slave south, while sugar came from the slave colonies of the Caribbean. We’re also supposed to be ashamed of it because it’s the cause of climate change, for which we should pay reparations.

The Industrial Revolution and Climate Change

Okay, I’ve come across the claim that the industrial revolution was financed by profits from the slave trade and that it was based on the processing of slave produced goods. However, this is slightly different from condemning the industrial revolution as a whole. You can lament the fact that slavery was a part of this industrialisation, while celebrating the immense social, technological and industrial progress itself. After all, Marx states in the Communist Manifesto that it has rescued western society from rural idiocy. The demand that Britain should feel ashamed about the industrial revolution because of climate change comes from Greta Thunberg. It is, in my view, monumentally stupid and actually shows an ignorance of history. It’s based on an idealisation of pre-technological societies and an idealisation of rural communities. It’s a product of European romanticism, mixed with contemporary fears for the future of the planet. But the agrarian past was no rural idyll. People in the agricultural societies before the urbanisation of the 19th century had very utilitarian attitudes to the environment. It was a source of resources that could be used and exploited. The nostalgia for an idealised rural past came with the new generation of urban dwellers, who missed what they and their parents had enjoyed in the countryside. And rural life could be extremely hard. If you read economic histories of the Middle Ages and early modern period, famine is an ever present threat. It still was in the 19th century. The Irish potato famine is the probably the best known example in Ireland and Britain, but there were other instances of poverty, destitution and starvation across the UK and Europe. Industrialisation has allowed a far greater concentration of people to live than would have been possible under subsistence agriculture. Yes, I’m aware that overpopulation is a problem, that industrial pollution is harming the environment and contributing to the alarming declining in animal and plant species. But technological and science hopefully offer solutions to these problems as well. And I really don’t want to go back to a subsistence economy in which communities can be devastated by crop failure.

The call for climate reparations, I think, comes from Ed Miliband, and in my view it shows how out of touch and naive he is. I have no problem the Developed World giving aid to some of those countries threatened by climate change, such as the Pacific islands which are threatened with flooding due to the rise in sea levels. But some countries, I believe, are perfectly capable of doing so without western help. One of these is China, which also contributes massively to carbon emissions and which I believe has also called for the payment of climate reparations. China is an emerging economic superpower, and I see no reason why the west should pay for something that it’s doing and has the ability to tackle. I am also very sceptical whether such monies would be used for the purposes they’re donated. Corruption is a massive problem in the Developing World, and various nations have run scams to part First World donors and aid agencies from their money. When I was at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum one of these was a scheme for a hydroelectric dam in Pakistan. The Pakistani government was calling for western aid to finance the project. Britain refused, sensing a scam, for which we were criticised. Other countries happily gave millions, but the dam was never built. All a fraud. I suspect if climate reparations were paid, something similar would also happen with the aid money disappearing into kleptocrats’ pockets. There’s also the problem of where the tax burden for the payment of these reparations would fall. It probably wouldn’t be the rich, who have enjoyed generous tax cuts, but the British working class through indirect taxes. In short, it seems to me to be a colossally naive idea.

But these ideas don’t seem to be widespread. When he announced them, there were shouts from the audience to which Webb responded that it was coming, and they should wait a few years. Perhaps it will, but I’ve seen no enthusiasm or even much mention of them so far. They were mentioned during the COP 27 meeting, and that’s it. Thunberg’s still around, but after all these years I think she’s somewhat passe. At the moment I don’t think these ideas are issues.

Mass Immigration Not the Cause of NHS Crisis

Now let’s examine his statement that it’s due to immigration that the NHS is in the state it’s in. This is, quite simply, wrong. He correctly states that while Britain’s population has grown – London’s has nearly doubled and Leicester’s grown by 30 per cent – there has been no similar provision of medical services. No new hospitals have been built. As a result, where once you could simply walk into your doctor’s and expect to be seen, now you have to book an appointment. And when it comes to hospitals, it’s all the fault of immigrants. He talks about a specific hospital in London, and how the last time he was in that area, he was the only White Brit in the queue. This was because immigrants don’t have GPs, and so go to the hospital for every problem. We also have the problem of sick and disabled people from the developing world coming to the country for the better services we offer. A woman from the Sudan with a special needs child will therefore come here so that her child can have the treatment it wouldn’t get in the Sudan.

I dare say some of this analysis is correct. Britain’s population has grown largely due to immigration. One statistic released by a right-wing group said that immigration was responsible for 80 per cent of population growth. It’s probably correct, as Chambers Cyclopedia stated in its 1987 edition that British birthrates were falling and that it was immigration that was behind the rise in the UK population. I don’t know London at all, and I dare say that many of the immigrants there may well not have had doctors. I can also quite believe that some immigrants do come here for our medical care. There was a case a few weeks ago of a Nigerian woman, who got on a flight to London specifically so that she could have her children in a British hospital. I think this was a case of simple health tourism, which has gone on for years, rather than immigration.

But this overlooks the fact that the problems of the NHS has been down to successive Thatcherite regimes cutting state medical care in Britain all under the pretext of making savings and not raising taxes. Thatcher closed hospital wards. So did Tony Blair, when he wasn’t launching his PFI initiative. This was supposed to build more hospitals, but led to older hospitals being closed and any new hospitals built were smaller, fewer and more expensive. Cameron started off campaigning against hospital closures, and then, once he got his backside in No. 10, carried on with exactly the same policy. Boris Johnson claimed that he was going to build forty hospitals, which was, like nearly everything else the obese buffoon uttered, a flat lie. And Tweezer, Truss and Sunak are doing the same. Doctors surgeries have also suffered. Many of them have been sold off to private chains, which have maximised profits by closing down those surgeries that aren’t profitable. The result is that people have been and are being left without doctors. If you want an explanation why the NHS is in the state it is, blame Thatcher and her heirs, not immigrants.

Conclusion

While Webb has a point about the social and political manipulation of historical issues like the slave trade and the British Empire, these aren’t the reasons for the greater appearance of Black actors and presenters on television. Blair wasn’t responsible for mass immigration, and it’s underfunding and privatisation, not immigration, that’s responsible for the deplorable state of the health service. But he’s speaking to the wrong people there anyway, as the TBG would like to privatise it.

I am not saying it is wrong to discuss these issues, but it is wrong to support a bunch of Nazis like the TBG, who will exploit them to recreate all the social inequality, poverty and deprivation of pre-modern Britain.

Mel Blanc Sketch and Loony Tunes Characters’ Songs

December 28, 2022

Good morning. I hope you’re having a great Christmas, or at least as good a Christmas as we can expect from a government determined to push more people into poverty for big corporate profits. Yesterday I did a sketch of Mel Blanc, the man who did the voices for Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam, Woody Woodpecker and the other crazy characters of the Warner Brothers cartoons. I always preferred them to Disney. They were funnier, but they were less sentimental and had more of an edge to them. Blanc also provided the voice for Twiki, Buck Rogers’ little robot friend in the 1980s series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, but considering the low critical regard for that series, perhaps it’s best not mentioned. Blanc also released a record of him singing songs as the Warner Brothers’ characters talking about themselves. These are on the Mel Blanc – Topic channel on YouTube. Here are a few that appealed to me: ‘I’m Glad That I’m Bugs Bunny’, ‘Daffy Duck’s Rhapsody’, ‘Yosemite Sam’ and ‘I Taut I Taw A Puddy Tat’. According to the 80s children’s TV show about the Warner Brothers’ Cartoons, Film Fun, presented by Derek Griffiths, Blanc based Daffy Duck’s voice on that of one of the producers, Leon Schlesinger. He was down with the others trying out different voices for the Duck, all of which were turned down as not being quite right. He got fed up of this and so did Schlesinger’s voice. At that point Schlesinger walked in, said, ‘That’s it. That’s the one we want’, and then asked whose it was. I think Blanc must have replied that it was one he just made up. Anyway, the voice stuck, so when you are listening to Daffy Duck, you hearing the voice, or the parody of the voice, of one of Warner Brothers’ producers. Enjoy!

Blanc in the photos sports a pencil moustache, which makes him look a bit like Clarke Gable, though I’m not sure it comes out in the sketch. And the strange object he’s holding is meant to be carrot, I think, just in case anybody’s wondering.

Here are the songs.

‘I’m Glad That I’m Bugs Bunny’

‘Daffy Duck’s Rhapsody’

‘Yosemite Sam’

‘I Taut I Taw A Puddy Tat’

In one of their Christmas shows in the 1970s, Morecambe and Wise did a sketch, ‘Real Life’ cartoons, of them as the Warner Brothers characters. When it came to Tweetie and Sylvester, Tweetie was Ernie while Eric played the cat. I was only a young child at the time, but it was so hilarious I fell out of the chair laughing. Which shows not only how funny the Warner Brothers’ characters were, but also how Eric and Ernie were giants of British comedy. It says something about their immense talent that their shows are still being repeated. There was even one of their Christmas shows screened the other day, complete with its guest appearances from Flora Robson and the nice Mr. Preview.

Blanc died many years ago. Apparently his tombstone at the Hollywood cemetery has on it a Star of David – evidently he was Jewish – and the slogan at the end of the cartoons: ‘That’s all folks’. A great talent, whose voices and characters continue to bring joy and laughter even after all these years.

Did H.G. Wells Predict or Invent the Grays?

December 26, 2022

I’ve been reading various SF books over the past few days. These have been the collections of classic SF stories edited by the British Library’s Mike Ashley. One of these is a history of British SF in 100 stories. This doesn’t collect the stories themselves, but consists of precis of what he judges to be the 100 best British SF stories. It begins with H.G. Wells, as you’d expect and includes a number of other well-known SF authors from the period, like Aldous Huxley and Brave New World. But there are many others that are now obscure, but seem to be really interesting and sometimes chillingly prescient. For example, the 1918 novel, Journey to Meccania, is a terrible warning of what will happen if Germany wins the War and dominates Europe. It’s the account of visit to Meccania, a Nazi-style totalitarian superstate in 1970 by a Chinese traveller, Mr Ming. Another story, written by Charlotte Haldane, the wife of the scientist J.B.S. Haldane, written in 1932, describes another racist, eugenicist dystopia. This is a state in which the government rigidly controls who may be allowed to marry and breed. The scientist, who has founded this totalitarian society, has also created a poison designed to only kill Blacks. At the moment, this is the only such toxin of its kind, though the story states that there are others working on a similar poison to destroy east Asians. In the ’60s or ’70s the South African secret service, BOSS, was really working on a racist poison like it. The book also uses the term ‘holocaust’, though not in connection with the Jews. Charlotte Haldane was Jewish. Her maiden name was Franken, and so I wonder if she was just looking at the direction the contemporary craze for eugenics and racial ‘science’ was going and showing just how horrific this would be in reality. And it did become horrific reality in Nazi Germany.

Back to H.G. Wells, the book obviously discusses The Time Machine, possibly the first serious book about time travel. Wells based the future races in the book, the Eloi and the Morlocks, on what would happen if present social trend continued. The Eloi are the descendants of the aristocracy and the artists, living above ground but farmed like cattle by the Morlocks, the descendants of the working class, who have been forced underground to tend the machines. Wells set that part of the story 800,000 years in the future because that was when he predicted, using then current theories of speciation, that the two post-human species would have diverged. Apparently the book originally included a section on racial degeneration, which was later cut from the book and published as The Gray Man.

Years ago, Martin Kottmeyer, one of the contributors to the small press, sceptical UFO magazine, Magonia, ran a series of articles ‘Varicose Brains’ on how the Grays of UFO lore conform to the aliens in much SF literature. These were based on contemporary theories of evolution, which predicted that as humanity advanced the brain would develop and become larger while the body would consequently become smaller. As humanity became more intelligent and intellectual, so it would become less sensual and food become increasingly simpler. The result would be small people with large heads and atrophied digestive systems. This sounds exactly like the Grays. And some UFO theories state that these are the degenerate remnants of an alien race following mutation and racial decline due to nuclear war. But it’s also the name Wells’ gave his future, racially degenerate humans that also fascinates me: the Gray Man. Did Wells invent the Gray as a cultural motif, which then became incorporate into the UFO experience in the late 1960s and ’70s following the abduction of Betty and Barney Hill? Or did he just predict the figure’s appearance based on nothing more than his literary imagination and scientific insight?

And there are other connections between UFO encounters and early SF. One female SF writer in the ’20s and ’30s wrote a story about Martians coming to Earth to take water back to their own world. UFOs have often been seen over water, including instances like the Joe Simonton encounter, where they appear to be siphoning it into their craft. And then there’s the film The Man Who Fell To Earth, directed by Nicholas Roeg and starring David Bowie, in which an alien travels from his desert world to bring back some of Earth’s water. Is it a case of the human imagination taking these images and narratives and turning them into accounts of encounters with aliens during extreme psychological experiences? Or is the phenomenon behind the UFO encounters taking these images and stories and manipulating them? Or is it just coincidence?

A Seasonal Bad Film: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

December 24, 2022

This for fans of films that are so bad that a kind of fascination and enjoyment creeps into them, like the kind of movies shown and lampooned in the American series Mystery Science Theatre 3000. The audience for this kind of film – so bad that they were, in their way, great – was growing when I was a schoolboy. I think it started as a mass movement with the publication of the Medved Brother’s book The Golden Turkey Awards, in which they reviewed a series of truly awful movies. This was followed up in the UK with interviews in Starburst magazine, where they talked about their fascination with truly dreadful SF B movies, such as the dire works of Ed Wood and other masters of the horrendously bad. These films included Robot Monster, which was made on the lavish budget of $30 a day. The robot monster of the title was a man in gorilla suit wearing a diving helmet. To make it suitably futuristic, they stuck a pair of TV aerials on it. The guy playing the monster got the job because he owned the gorilla suit. And then in 1983 Channel 4 gave us The Worst of Hollywood. Introduced by Michael Medved, this brought to the British viewing public such masterpieces as Plan 9 from Outer Space, another of Wood’s grandiose, cheap epics, They Saved Hitler’s Brain, Eegah!, The Wild Women of Wonga, one of the lesser known Godzilla films and a raunchy space epic in which sex-starved aliens land on Earth in a spaceship shaped like a giant breast. The season ended on Christmas Eve with the 1964 film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. This was intended as a seasonal children’s favourite and the story seems to involve Martian adults trying to take over the world by producing a counterfeit Santa. But the real Santa manages to unite both Terran and Martian children against the adults and the invasion plan is thwarted. I can’t say I watched much of it when it was on. I’d come back from a party at a school friend’s and so caught just the ending. This was of Santa and the children singing ‘Hooray for Santy Claus’, and is pretty much as dire as it sounds. Medved added in his afterword to the film that its composer then went on to do the music for the Gong Show. So in memory of that glorious Christmas Eve 39 years ago, I’ve decided to inflict the trailer for this classic of terrible cinema and its theme song, both of which are on YouTube.

Here’s the trailer from Rotten Tomatoes Classic Trailers channel.

And here’s ‘Hooray for Santy Claus’ from PoppiCiullo’s channel.

Of the directors of terrible movies, Wood has particularly become a cult figure. Before release of The Room, and the career of German-born director Uwe Boll, he was generally considered Hollywood’s worst director and Plan 9 from Outer Space the worst film of all time. This flick is about evil UFO aliens invading Earth and resurrecting zombies from Earth’s graveyards. It’s extremely low budget and is known for its spectacularly cheap special effects and duff dialogue. The UFOs were paper plates doused in petrol and thrown into the air. One scene, set in the cabin of an aircraft, is very obviously shot in someone’s front room with the house door standing in for the cabin’s. The leaders of the zombies was played by Bela Lugosi, but this master of horror died half-way through filming. His place was taken by Wood’s wife’s homeopathic healer, who was something like a foot taller than Lugosi. It began with a weird, rambling introduction by Creswell, one of the celebrity astrologers of the period, who dispensed this pearl of wisdom: ‘We are all interested in the future because we will spend the rest of our lives there.’ Well, quite. You can’t argue with that. And it also boasted such immortal lines as ‘Dead! Murdered! And someone’s to blame.’ ‘Gee, I guess that’s why you’re a sergeant and I’m only a patrolman.’

In addition to Plan 9, Wood is also celebrated, or notorious, for the movie Glenn/Glenda or I Changed My Sex. Wood was a transvestite as well as decorated war hero. He was awarded a Purple Heart for his heroism in taking an enemy machine gun nest during World War II. He did so while wearing women’s satin underwear. He also liked to dress as cowboy, and would go out to restaurants either in drag or dress in a sequined cowboy costume, giving out photos of himself to the waitresses. Glenn/Glenda was intended as a sensitive portrayal of the plight of male crossdressers in contemporary America. In the hands of any other director, this would have been possible. But Wood’s direction was clunky and the dialogue predictably bad. It also has a bizarre dream sequence in which chairs and other furniture move about on their own. Bela Lugosi is also in it as God, speaking lines like ‘Dance to this. Dance to that. But beware the little green dragon sleeping on your doorstep’.

I first became aware of this piece of Wood’s oeuvre from a programme earlier in the 70s on daytime TV presented by Dennis Norden, which looked back on some of the lesser known and cheesier films of the past. It’s also a favourite of rock meister Alice Cooper. Cooper was interviewed by Muriel Grey on The Tube, the Channel 4 pop programme also in the 1980s. She asked Cooper what his favourite film was. He replied that it was Glenn/Glenda. She naturally asked him why. He replied that when he first saw it, it completely bemused him and he wondered what on Earth he was watching. This brought forth her classic reply, ‘You’re a strange boy, Alice’. Well, yes, and at one point he was outraged parents and responsible adults all over America for his antics on stage.

Wood has become such a cult figure that in the 1990s there was a biopic about him with the slogan ‘Films were his passion. Women were his inspiration. Cashmere sweaters were his weakness’. I’ve never seen it, but it does fascinate me. Just like his, and those of the other terrible directors continue to find new audiences despite, or because, of their lack of talent.