Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category

Antisocial Media on the Ugly Story of Katie Hopkins

August 13, 2017

Antisocial Media is a vlogger, who makes videos laying into the far right and its various denizens. In this long video – it’s an hour and four minutes long – he presents the unlovely story of Katie Hopkins. Hopkins is the professional troll and Sun writer, who in 2015 wrote that she didn’t care about the thousands of dead migrants killed attempting to cross the Med into Europe, but wanted them deterred with gunboats. She then compared them to ‘cockroaches’. She has also applauded Trump’s avowed policy of banning Muslim emigration to the US. She has also made other statements aimed at working up hate and vilifying Muslims, such as blaming them as a whole for the atrocities committed by the Islamists and complaining that Muslims don’t do enough to distance themselves from the terrorists. She has also sneered at the Scots, fat people and written a long piece defended the footballer Adam Johnson after he was convicted of grooming and having underage sex with a 15 year old girl. Oh yes, and she also sneers at her own sex, women, for being too weak and pathetic. Because she didn’t like the Pussy Marchers at the Women’s March in Washington against Trump. And then she has appeared talking to Dave ‘Alt Right’ Rubin, of the Rubin Report, who tells her that he hasn’t seen anything racist or anti-Semitic in her material.

The clip begins with The Apprentice, the show that launched her on her path to infamy. Antisocial Media has a particular animus against the show, because not only has it launched her, but it also has Karen Brady as one of Alan Sugar’s little helpers. Yes, Karen Brady, who was elevated to the House of Lords, where she voted for tax cuts, which hurt the poor the most. Plus, The Apprentice is presented in the US by Trump. He also thinks that Alan Sugar looks like an angry testicle. Well, it’s a point of view, I suppose.
Hopkins was not a winner, but fell on her sword as she couldn’t guarantee to Sugar that she would take up the post with him if it was offered.

There then follows a clip with Sugar amazing everyone, when he appears on Breakfast TV to say he felt sorry for her. For all of five minutes. This was because there was an aftershow rap party, but she had made no friends on the programme and so no-one was talking to her.

Then there’s a clip of her appearing on Philip Schofield’s show, where she talks about how she doesn’t like very working class names like Charmaine or Bradley, because they show the child comes from a certain type of background characterized by bad behavior. Basically, she’s afraid they’re too chavvy. Opposing her is a woman, Anna-May Mangan, the daughter of an Irish immigrant, and a working-class mother. She makes the point that she was also isolated at school, because some parents didn’t want their children playing with an Irish girl. However, her daughter and working class friends have gone on to university, and despite having names like Kylie that Hopkins sneers at, have qualified as doctors and lawyers. Schofield then reads out a list of high achieving Americans, including doctors, sports people and musicians, who have the names Hopkins detests.

Antisocial Media then points out that you can see the direction of Hopkins’ future career there, as she deliberately takes up a position that she knows will be inflammatory and unpopular. However, despite the fact that the show is only watched by the elderly, housewives and the unemployed, the segment was immediately picked up and circulated on social media.

That led to Hopkins getting a job at the Sun, and, in 2015, making those vile comments about migrants. This part of the film includes a clip from Russell Brand taking her apart for this. Brand rightly points out that when she called them ‘cockroaches’, she was using exactly the same language as Heinrich Himmler, the head of SS, when he described Jews as ‘rats’ and ‘vermin’.

Also not impressed by this terminology was Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye. He interviewed Hopkins, who tried lying her way out of it. No, she wasn’t being malicious when she described them as ‘cockroaches’. She was admiring their fortitude and endurance, as we were all told that in the event of a nuclear war only cockroaches would survive. This is plainly bullsh*t of the highest order, and Hislop rightly calls her out on it. He simply goes on to read out the other hateful stuff she wrote about them.

She also gets short shrift from the comedian Josie Long, who also makes the point that describing these people as ‘cockroaches’ and saying ‘we need a final solution’ is very much the same language that the Nazis used of the Jews, and is very definitely not a joke.

Russell Brand also argues that there’s no point in hating Hopkins herself, as she’s just the product of the hatred and racism in a section of British and society and media. Or in his graphic phrase, ‘the pus oozing from the pimple’. Quite so. Antisocial Media then discusses how her comments led to a petition calling on her to be banned. He makes the point that this has allowed her to position herself as someone standing up for free speech, saying what can’t be said because of political and media bias. He argues instead that pressure should have been placed on the Sun’s editor and publishers, so that they should have to think very carefully before they give a job to someone like her, or publish their comments. And Josie Long points out that it isn’t enough to ignore her. She’s tried to that long enough already, and Hopkins is still here, along with Nigel Farage and other creatures of the extreme right.

Hopkins also tried defending her comments about Trump’s Muslim ban on Andrew Neil’s politics programme. She got shredded there too. Neil pointed out several times that she was accusing him of saying things he never had. When she then talked about how we had lost control of our cities to aggressive migrants, particularly Muslims, Neil pointed out that while insulting behavior was unpleasant, they hadn’t lost control as she said. He asked her to name one city where this had occurred. Hopkins couldn’t, and so started challenging him to join her in going round such a city to show what would happen. Neil said he’d quite like to, but they couldn’t if she wouldn’t tell them which area it would be. She then very obviously changed the subject to her joy that her child’s school still has a Nativity play, which Neil also pointed out. As for the Muslim community not condemning the acts of terror committed in their name, Neil rightly points out that they’ve done so. There have been marches by them against the terrorists.

Too right. There have any number of Muslim clerics, who have condemned the Islamists and terrorism across the Middle East. In India something like 200 of them signed a document condemning them. But this is too few of them, according to Hopkins.

One of Hopkins’ supporters is Paul Joseph Watson, of Infowars fame. Watson, pontificating about Muslim terrorism, declared that there were no cases of terrorists shouting ‘Katie Hopkins’ instead of ‘Allahu Akbar!’. Except there were. A group of White racists had daubed on a mosque somewhere the message ‘***** Leave’ and ‘We need a final solution’.

And her bigoted racist comments have garnered her support from the real Nazis. One of those who supported one of her statements on Twitter signed himself ‘Antijuden SS’. ‘Juden’ is the German word for ‘Jews’. Hopkins took the comment down, but it was up there for a year before she did so.

Then there’s the clip of her going on America television to attack fat people. She claimed fat people were unhappy, and so put on and then lost 50 pounds in order to shame them, make the point that they shouldn’t make excuses for themselves, and could lose weight without having a chef or personal trainer. Antisocial Media says he sort-of agrees with her, in a way, but still thinks she’s wrong because she’s obviously not going to encourage anyone to lose weight when she so obviously hates them.

As for Adam Johnson, Antisocial Media rips into her long screed in support of the footballer by stating that he was indeed grooming the girl, and that by blaming her, and claiming she seduced him, she was blaming the victim. And yes, legally you can make a judgement concerning what is the proper age of consent.

Antisocial media also states that, thanks to the Scots dying before the age of sixty, because they’re too lazy to work till the age of retirement, Hopkins has now gained the same notoriety as Alt-Right troll Milo Yiannopolis over in the US. Hopkins made the comment on the same day, but just before, a terrible helicopter crash, which made her comments appear even more offensive than they were. Now, like Yiannopolis, she’s guaranteed to produce a crowd of protesters whenever or wherever she appears.

As for her appearance with Dave Rubin, when he states that Hopkins has, in his opinion, never said anything racist or anti-Semitic, the video shows this to be completely untrue by putting up a selection of some of the disgusting things she’s said about Blacks and Muslims. She also talks about how Britain is succumbing to Islam, because of the rise of Muslim mayor in many British cities, such as the mayor of London. She also talks about the global schemes of George Soros.

You can here something like a wolf howling at this point. I think it’s been put in because it’s ‘dog whistle’ politics. It’s a racist statement, that’s coded so that only people aware of this type of racist language recognize it. Soros is very much a bete noir of the Far Right. He’s also a Hungarian Jew. This is why the Fascists running Hungary are putting up posters attacking him on bus stops all over their country and in the media. Soros funds various democracy and open society groups and institutes in Hungary, which is clearly a threat to the anti-Semites now goose-stepping around the corridors of power.

This also shows how selective the accusations of anti-Semitism may be the Zionists are. Soros is very anti-Zionist. He despises them because of the way Kasztner, the head of the Zionists in Hungary, betrayed his people to the Nazis. He allowed the Nazis to deport them in the hope that the Nazis would allow some of the survivors to go to Israel. So Soros doesn’t support Israel, and won’t give money to Zionist organisations.

This has sent Netanyahu and the Israeli government berserk, and they have been only too glad to give their support to the Hungarian stormtroopers in their demonization of Soros. For further information on this, see the article on Tony Greenstein’s blog at http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/israel-supports-viktor-orban-and.html.

As for Katie Hopkin’s appearance with Dave Rubin, it’s telling that amongst some of the stars of the Alt Right he gives prominence too is Millennial Woes. Millennial Woes is someone, who can only be described as a racist and a Nazi. He hates coloured immigrants, has said that they should be gunned down by warships, and also recommends the reintroduction of slavery. He is definitely not someone any decent person would want to share their views, or be associated with politically.

I dare say Katie Hopkins will be around for years to come. Because she is a troll, who gets off on being hated, she’s an unperson on Mike’s blog. He won’t mention her unless he really has to, and then he uses a suitable pseudonym or circumlocution.

On the other hand, Josie Long is right. She isn’t going away. I signed a petition on Change.org to get rid of her after her vile comments about a ‘final solution’. But I think Antisocial Media has a point when he says that the people, who really need to feel the heat are the editor and publishers of the Sun. But frankly, considering the Scum’s long history of appearing before organisations like the Press Complaints’ Commission for racism, and the apparently cavalier way Murdoch regards libel, I don’t think there’s much chance of them heeding the opinions of the British public on this issue.

A Real ‘Steampunk’ Toy: Pre-World War I Clockwork Monorail Train

August 13, 2017

A little while ago I put up a series of posts about real, 19th century inventions, which now seem like the weird machines of Steampunk Science Fiction. This is a subgenre, which imagines what the world would have been like, if the Victorians had invented spacecraft, time travel, interdimensional travel and other elements of Science Fiction, or had completed and fully developed real inventions like Babbage’s mechanical computer, the Difference Engine, steam carriages and dirigible aircraft, like that flown by the French aviator Giffard in 1854.

One of these real Steampunk inventions was the monorail. A steam-driven monorail system was designed by an American inventor and entrepreneur. This astonished me, as I always associated the monorail train with the technological optimism of the 1960s and ’70s. It was an invention for a technological age that never happened. After writing the article, a reader posted a comment on the piece kindly pointing out that a steam monorail system had been built in Eire. the track and its train have been restored, and are now a tourist attraction. The commenter included a link, and if you go to that website, you’ll see the train in question. It is very definitely an Irish train, as its been decorated very patriotically in green.

This hasn’t been the only example of such trains I’ve found. They even existed as miniature toys. Looking through the book Mechanical Toys: How Old Toys Work by Athelstan and Kathleen Silhaus, with photos by Nelson McClary (New York: Crown Publishers 1989) I came across the illustration below of a toy monorail train, stabilized with a gyroscope and powered by a single wheel. It was produced by the Ely Cycle Co., of Britain, in 1912. It was first patented in Britain in 1908, and then in Germany in 1911, where it was also manufactured by Suskind. The text notes that it was stabilized by a gyroscope long before Sperry used it in aircraft and ocean liners.

The use of a single wheel is also like the various Science Fictional vehicles that similarly have only one of these, like the monocycles in Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat. This toy, and others like it, show a whole world of Victorian and Edwardian invention that seemed to anticipate a technological future that never quite happened, as well as the immense inventiveness of the manufacturers.

What If Kraftwerk Made a Doctor Who Cover?

August 11, 2017

This comes from the Georgecmusic channel on YouTube. Georgecmusic makes various arrangements of the Doctor Who theme in the style of other rock/pop musicians, including Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre.

In the piece below, he imagines what it would be like if the great German ‘engineers of sound’, Kraftwerk did one.

Well, it’d fit. They were one of the very first pioneers of synthpop, and their stage performances were also quite minimalist and mechanical. To the point where in one performance they were replaced by robot replicas themselves. One of the band – I’ve forgotten whom – has written his autobiography. Its title, at least in English, is ‘I Was a Cyborg’. It’s very fitting, therefore, that the title for this piece has the robots from the Tom Baker serial, ‘The Robots of Death’, instead of the band’s faces in imitation of one of their album covers.

The title’s also in German. Instead of ‘Doctor Who’, it’s ‘Doctor Wer’, which is a straight translation.

Delia Derbyshire, who arranged Grainer’s theme into its electronic form, was also a pioneer of electronic music. Alas, she died a few years ago, so we can only wonder what it would have sounded like if she and they had met in a lonely radiophonics workshop in a Galaxy far, far away…

Hyper Evolution – The Rise of the Robots Part 2

August 5, 2017

Wednesday evening I sat down to watch the second part of the BBC 4 documentary, Hyperevolution: the Rise of the Robots, in which the evolutionary biologist Ben Garrod and the electronics engineer Prof. Danielle George trace the development of robots from the beginning of the 20th century to today. I blogged about the first part of the show on Tuesday in a post about another forthcoming programme on the negative consequences of IT and automation, Secrets of Silicon Valley. The tone of Hyperevolution is optimistic and enthusiastic, with one or two qualms from Garrod, who fears that robots may pose a threat to humanity. The programme states that robots are an evolving species, and that we are well on the way to developing true Artificial Intelligence.

Last week, Garrod went off to meet a Japanese robotics engineer, whose creation had been sent up to keep a Japanese astronaut company of the International Space Station. Rocket launches are notoriously expensive, and space is a very, very expensive premium. So it was no surprise that the robot was only about four inches tall. It’s been designed as a device to keep people company, which the programme explained was a growing problem in Japan. Japan has a falling birthrate and thus an aging population. The robot is programmed to ask and respond to questions, and to look at the person, who’s speaking to it. It doesn’t really understand what is being said, but simply gives an answer according to its programming. Nevertheless, it gives the impression of being able to follow and respond intelligently to conversation. It also has the very ‘cute’ look that characterizes much Japanese technology, and which I think comes from the conventions of Manga art. Garrod noted how it was like baby animals in having a large head and eyes, which made the parents love them.

It’s extremely clever, but it struck me as being a development of the Tamagotchi, the robotic ‘pet’ which was all over the place a few years ago. As for companionship, I could help thinking of a line from Andrei Tarkovsky’s epic Solaris, based on the novel by the Polish SF writer, Stanislaw Lem. The film follow the cosmonaut, Kris, on his mission to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris. The planet’s vast ocean is alive, and has attempted to establish contact with the station’s crew by dredging their memories, and sending them replicas of people they know. The planet does this to Kris, creating a replica of a former girlfriend. At one point, pondering the human condition in a vast, incomprehensible cosmos, Kris states ‘There are only four billion of us…a mere handful. We don’t need spaceships, aliens…What man needs is man.’ Or words to that effect. I forget the exact quote. I dare say robots will have their uses caring for and providing mental stimulation for the elderly, but this can’t replace real, human contact.

George went to America to NASA, where the space agency is building Valkyrie to help with the future exploration of Mars in 2030. Valkyrie is certainly not small and cute. She’s six foot, and built very much like the police machines in Andrew Blomkamp’s Chappie. George stated that they were trying to teach the robot how to walk through a door using trial and error. But each time the machine stumbled. The computer scientists then went through the robot’s programming trying to find and correct the error. After they thought they had solved it, they tried again. And again the machine stumbled.

George, however, remained optimistic. She told ‘those of you, who think this experiment is a failure’, that this was precisely what the learning process entailed, as the machine was meant to learn from its mistakes, just like her own toddler now learning to walk. She’s right, and I don’t doubt that the robot will eventually learn to walk upright, like the humanoid robots devised by their competitors over at DARPA. However, there’s no guarantee that this will be the case. People do learn from their mistakes, but if mistakes keep being made and can’t be correctly, then it’s fair to say that a person has failed to learn from them. And if a robot fails to learn from its mistakes, then it would also be fair to say that the experiment has failed.

Holy Joe Smith! I was also a reminded of another piece of classic SF in this segment. Not film, but 2000 AD’s ‘Robohunter’ strip. In its debut story, the aged robohunter, Sam Slade – ‘that’s S-L-A-Y-E-D to you’ – his robometer, Kewtie and pilot, Kidd, are sent to Verdus to investigate what has happened to the human colonists. Verdus is so far away, that robots have been despatched to prepare it for human colonization, and a special hyperdrive has to be used to get Slade there. This rejuvenates him from an old man in his seventies to an energetic guy in his thirties. Kidd, his foul mouthed, obnoxious pilot, who is in his 30s, is transformed into a foul-mouthed, obnoxious, gun-toting baby.

The robot pioneers have indeed prepared Verdus for human habitation. They’ve built vast, sophisticated cities, with shops and apartments just waiting to be occupied, along with a plethora of entertainment channels, all of whose hosts and performers are robotic. However, their evolution has outpaced that of humanity, so that they are now superior, both physically and mentally. They continue to expect humans to be the superiors, and so when humans have come to Verdus, they’ve imprisoned, killed and experimented on them as ‘Sims’ – simulated humans, not realizing that these are the very beings they were created to serve. In which case, Martian colonists should beware. And carry a good blaster, just in case.

Garrod and George then went to another lab, where the robot unnerved Garrod by looking at him, and following him around with its eye. George really couldn’t understand why this should upset him. Talking about it afterwards, Garrod said that he was worried about the threat robots pose to humanity. George replied by stating her belief that they also promise to bring immense benefits, and that this was worth any possible danger. And that was the end of that conversation before they went on to the next adventure.

George’s reply isn’t entirely convincing. This is what opponents of nuclear power were told back in the ’50s and ’60s, however. Through nuclear energy we were going to have ships and planes that could span the globe in a couple of minutes, and electricity was going to be so plentiful and cheap that it would barely be metered. This failed, because the scientists and politicians advocating nuclear energy hadn’t really worked out what would need to be done to isolate and protect against the toxic waste products. Hence nearly six decades later, nuclear power and the real health and environmental problems it poses are still very much controversial issues. And there’s also that quote from Bertrand Russell. Russell was a very staunch member of CND. When he was asked why he opposed nuclear weapons, he stated that it was because they threatened to destroy humanity. ‘And some of us think that would be a very great pity’.

Back in America, George went to a bar to meet Alpha, a robot created by a British inventor/showman in 1932. Alpha was claimed to be an autonomous robot, answering questions by choosing appropriate answers from recordings on wax cylinders. George noted that this was extremely advanced for the time, if true. Finding the machine resting in a display case, filled with other bizarre items like bongo drums, she took an access plate off the machine to examine its innards. She was disappointed. Although there were wires to work the machine’s limbs, there were no wax cylinders or any other similar devices. She concluded that the robot was probably worked by a human operator hiding behind a curtain.

Then it was off to Japan again, to see another robot, which, like Valkyrie, was learning for itself. This was to be a robot shop assistant. In order to teach it to be shop assistant, its creators had built an entire replica camera shop, and employed real shop workers to play out their roles, surrounded by various cameras recording the proceedings. So Garrod also entered the scenario, where he pretended to be interested in buying a camera, asking questions about shutter speeds and such like. The robot duly answered his questions, and moved about the shop showing him various cameras at different prices. Like the robotic companion, the machine didn’t really know or understand what it was saying or doing. It was just following the motions it had learned from its human counterparts.

I was left wondering how realistic the role-playing had actually been. The way it was presented on camera, everything was very polite and straightforward, with the customer politely asking the price, thanking the assistant and moving on to ask to see the next of their wares. I wondered if they had ever played at being a difficult customer in front of it. Someone who came in and, when asked what they were looking for, sucked their teeth and said, ‘I dunno really,’ or who got angry at the prices being asked, or otherwise got irate at not being able to find something suitable.

Through the programme, Japanese society is held up as being admirably progressive and accepting of robots. Earlier in that edition, Garrod finished a piece on one Japanese robot by asking why it was that a car manufacturer was turning to robotics. The answer’s simple. The market for Japanese cars and motorcycles is more or less glutted, and they’re facing competition from other countries, like Indonesia and Tokyo. So the manufacturers are turning to electronics.

The positive attitude the Japanese have to computers and robots is also questionable. The Japanese are very interested in developing these machines, but actually don’t like using them themselves. The number of robots in Japan can easily be exaggerated, as they include any machine tool as a robot. And while many British shops and businesses will use a computer, the Japanese prefer to do things the old way by hand. For example, if you go to a post office in Japan, the assistant, rather than look something up on computer, will pull out a ledger. Way back in the 1990s someone worked out that if the Japanese were to mechanise their industry to the same extent as the West, they’d throw half their population out of work.

As for using robots, there’s a racist and sexist dimension to this. The Japanese birthrate it falling, and so there is real fear of a labour shortage. Robots are being developed to fill it. But Japanese society is also extremely nationalistic and xenophobic. Only people, whose parents are both Japanese, are properly Japanese citizens with full civil rights. There are third-generation Koreans, constituting an underclass, who, despite having lived there for three generations, are still a discriminated against underclass. The Japanese are developing robots, so they don’t have to import foreign workers, and so face the problems and strains of a multicultural society.

Japanese society also has some very conservative attitudes towards women. So much so, in fact, that the chapter on the subject in a book I read two decades ago on Japan, written by a Times journalist, was entitled ‘A Woman’s Place Is In the Wrong’. Married women are expected to stay at home to raise the kids, and the removal of a large number of women from the workplace was one cause of the low unemployment rate in Japan. There’s clearly a conflict between opening up the workplace to allow more married women to have a career, and employing more robots.

Garrod also went off to Bristol University, where he met the ‘turtles’ created by the neuroscientist, Grey Walter. Walter was interested in using robots to explore how the brain functioned. The turtles were simple robots, consisting of a light-detecting diode. The machine was constructed to follow and move towards light sources. As Garrod himself pointed out, this was like the very primitive organisms he’d studied, which also only had a light-sensitive spot.

However, the view that the human brain is really a form of computer have also been discredited by recent research. Hubert L. Dreyfus in his book, What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Intelligence, describes how, after the failure of Good Old Fashioned A.I. (GOFAI), computer engineers then hoped to create it through exploring the connections between different computing elements, modelled on the way individual brain cells are connected to each by a complex web of neurons. Way back in 1966, Walter Rosenblith of MIT, one of the pioneers in the use of computers in neuropsychology, wrote

We no longer hold the earlier widespread belief that the so-called all-or-none law from nerve impulses makes it legitimate to think of relays as adequate models for neurons. In addition, we have become increasingly impressed with the interactions that take place among neurons: in some instances a sequence of nerve impulses may reflect the activities of literally thousands of neurons in a finely graded manner. In a system whose numerous elements interact so strongly with each other, the functioning of the system is not necessarily best understood by proceeding on a neuron-by-neuron basis as if each had an independent personality…Detailed comparisons of the organization of computer systems and brains would prove equally frustrating and inconclusive. (Dreyfus, What Computers Still Can’t Do, p. 162).

Put simply, brain’s don’t work like computers. This was written fifty years ago, but it’s fair to ask if the problem still exists today, despite some of the highly optimistic statements to the contrary.

Almost inevitably, driverless cars made their appearance. The Germans have been developing them, and Garrod went for a spin in one, surrounded by two or three engineers. He laughed with delight when the car told him he could take his hands off the wheel and let the vehicle continue on its own. However, the car only works in the comparatively simply environment of the autobahn. When it came off the junction, back into the normal road system, the machine told him to start driving himself. So, not quite the victory for A.I. it at first appears.

Garrod did raise the question of the legal issues. Who would be responsible if the car crashed while working automatically – the car, or the driver? The engineers told him it would be the car. Garrod nevertheless concluded that segment by noting that there were still knotty legal issues around it. But I don’t know anyone who wants one, or necessarily would trust one to operate on its own. A recent Counterpunch article I blogged about stated that driverless cars are largely being pushed by a car industry, trying to expand a market that is already saturated, and the insurance companies. The latter see it as a golden opportunity to charge people, who don’t want one, higher premiums on the grounds that driverless cars are safer.

Garrod also went to meet researchers in A.I. at Plymouth University, who were also developing a robot which as part of their research into the future creation of genuine consciousness in machines. Talking to one of the scientists afterwards, Garrod heard that there could indeed be a disruptive aspect to this research. Human society was based on conscious decision making. But if the creation of consciousness was comparatively easy, so that it could be done in an afternoon, it could have a ‘disruptive’ effect. It may indeed be the case that machines will one day arise which will be conscious, sentient entities, but this does not mean that the development of consciousness is easy. You think of the vast ages of geologic time it took evolution to go from simple, single-celled organisms to complex creatures like worms, fish, insects and so on, right up to the emergence of Homo Sapiens Sapiens within the last 200,000 years.

Nevertheless, the programme ended with Garrod and George talking the matter over on the banks of the Thames in London. George concluded that the rise of robots would bring immense benefits and the development of A.I. was ‘inevitable’.

This is very optimistic, to the point where I think you could be justified by calling it hype. I’ve said in a previous article how Dreyfus’ book describes how robotics scientists and engineers have made endless predictions since Norbert Wiener and Alan Turing, predicting the rise of Artificial Intelligence, and each time they’ve been wrong. He’s also described the sheer rage with which many of those same researchers respond to criticism and doubt. In one passage he discusses a secret meeting of scientists at MIT to discuss A.I., in which a previous edition of his book came up. The scientists present howled at it with derision and abuse. He comments that why scientists should persist in responding so hostilely to criticism, and to persist in their optimistic belief that they will eventually solve the problem of A.I., is a question for psychology and the sociology of knowledge.

But there are also very strong issues about human rights, which would have to be confronted if genuine A.I. was ever created. Back in the 1970s or early ’80s, the British SF magazine, New Voyager, reviewed Roderick Random. Subtitled, ‘The Education of a Young Machine’, this is all about the creation of a robot child. The reviewer stated that the development of truly sentient machines would constitute the return of slavery. A similar point was made in Star Trek: The Next Generation, in an episode where another ship’s captain wished to take Data apart, so that he could be properly investigated and more like him built. Data refused, and so the captain sued to gain custody of him, arguing that he wasn’t really sentient, and so should be legally considered property. And in William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the book that launched the Cyberpunk SF genre, the hero, Case, finds out that the vast computer for which he’s working, Wintermute, has Swiss citizenship, but its programming are the property of the company that built it. This, he considers, is like humans having their thoughts and memories made the property of a corporation.

Back to 2000 AD, the Robusters strip portrayed exactly what such slavery would mean for genuinely intelligent machines. Hammerstein, an old war droid, and his crude sidekick, the sewer droid Rojaws and their fellows live with the constant threat of outliving their usefulness, and taking a trip down to be torn apart by the thick and sadistic Mek-Quake. Such a situation should, if it ever became a reality, be utterly intolerable to anyone who believes in the dignity of sentient beings.

I think we’re a long way off that point just yet. And despite Prof. George’s statements to the contrary, I’m not sure we will ever get there. Hyperevolution is a fascinating programme, but like many of the depictions of cutting edge research, it’s probably wise to take some of its optimistic pronouncements with a pinch of salt.

Forthcoming Programme on the Destructive Consequence of IT

August 1, 2017

Next Sunday, the 6th August, BBC 2 is showing a documentary at 8.00 pm on the negative aspects of automation and information technology. Entitled Secrets of Silicon Valley, it’s the first part of a two-part series. The blurb for it in the Radio Times reads

The Tech Gods – who run the biggest technology companies – say they’re creating a better world. Their utopian visions sound persuasive: Uber say the app reduces car pollution and could transform how cities are designed; Airbnb believes its website empowers ordinary people. some hope to reverser climate change or replace doctors with software.

In this doc, social media expert Jamie Bartlett investigates the consequences of “disruption” – replacing old industries with new ones. The Gods are optimistic about our automated future but one former Facebook exec is living off-grid because he fears the fallout from the tech revolution. (p. 54).

A bit more information is given on the listings page for the programmes on that evening. This gives the title of the episode – ‘The Disruptors’, and states

Jamie Bartlett uncovers the dark reality behind Silicon Valley’s glittering promise to build a better world. He visits Uber’s offices in San Francisco and hears how the company believes it is improving our cities. But Hyderabad, India, Jamie sees for himself the apparent human consequences of Uber’s utopian vision and asks what the next wave of Silicon Valley’s global disruption – the automation of millions of jobs – will mean for us. He gets a stark warning from an artificial intelligence pioneer who is replacing doctors with software. Jamie’s journey ends in the remote island hideout of a former social media executive who fears this new industrial revolution could lead to social breakdown and the collapse of capitalism. (p. 56).

I find the critical tone of this documentary refreshing after the relentless optimism of last Wednesday’s first instalment of another two-part documentary on robotics, Hyper Evolution: the Rise of the Robots. This was broadcast at 9 O’clock on BBC 4, with second part shown tomorrow – the second of August – at the same time slot.

This programme featured two scientists, the evolutionary biologist, Dr. Ben Garrod, and the electronics engineer Professor Danielle George, looking over the last century or so of robot development. Garrod stated that he was worried by how rapidly robots had evolved, and saw them as a possible threat to humanity. George, on the other hand, was massively enthusiastic. On visiting a car factory, where the vehicles were being assembled by robots, she said it was slightly scary to be around these huge machines, moving like dinosaurs, but declared proudly, ‘I love it’. At the end of the programme she concluded that whatever view we had of robotic development, we should embrace it as that way we would have control over it. Which prompts the opposing response that you could also control the technology, or its development, by rejecting it outright, minimizing it or limiting its application.

At first I wondered if Garrod was there simply because Richard Dawkins was unavailable. Dawko was voted the nation’s favourite public intellectual by the readers of one of the technology or current affairs magazines a few years ago, and to many people’s he’s the face of scientific rationality, in the same way as the cosmologist Stephen Hawking. However, there was a solid scientific reason he was involved through the way robotics engineers had solved certain problems by copying animal and human physiology. For example, Japanese cyberneticists had studied the structure of the human body to create the first robots shown in the programme. These were two androids that looked and sounded extremely lifelike. One of them, the earlier model, was modelled on its creator to the point where it was at one time an identical likeness. When the man was asked how he felt about getting older and less like his creation, he replied that he was having plastic surgery so that he continued to look as youthful and like his robot as was possible.

Japanese engineers had also studied the human hand, in order to create a robot pianist that, when it was unveiled over a decade ago, could play faster than a human performer. They had also solved the problem of getting machines to walk as bipeds like humans by giving them a pelvis, modeled on the human bone structure. But now the machines were going their own way. Instead of confining themselves to copying the human form, they were taking new shapes in order to fulfil specific functions. The programme makers wanted to leave you in new doubt that, although artificial, these machines were nevertheless living creatures. They were described as ‘a new species’. Actually, they aren’t, if you want to pursue the biological analogy. They aren’t a new species for the simple reason that there isn’t simply one variety of them. Instead, they take a plethora of shapes according to their different functions. They’re far more like a phylum, or even a kingdom, like the plant and animal kingdoms. The metal kingdom, perhaps?

It’s also highly problematic comparing them to biological creatures in another way. So far, none of the robots created have been able to reproduce themselves, in the same way biological organisms from the most primitive bacteria through to far more complex organisms, not least ourselves, do. Robots are manufactured by humans in laboratories, and heavily dependent on their creators both for their existence and continued functioning. This may well change, but we haven’t yet got to that stage.

The programme raced through the development of robots from Eric, the robot that greeted Americans at the World’s Fair, talking to one of the engineers, who’d built it and a similar metal man created by the Beeb in 1929. It also looked at the creation of walking robots, the robot pianist and other humanoid machines by the Japanese from the 1980s to today. It then hopped over the Atlantic to talk to one of the leading engineers at DARPA, the robotics technology firm for the American defence establishment. Visiting the labs, George was thrilled, as the company receives thousands of media requests, to she was exceptionally privileged. She was shown the latest humanoid robots, as well as ‘Big Dog’, the quadruped robot carrier, that does indeed look and act eerily like a large dog.

George was upbeat and enthusiastic. Any doubts you might have about robots taking people’s jobs were answered when she met a spokesman for the automated car factory. He stated that the human workers had been replaced by machines because, while machines weren’t better, they were more reliable. But the factory also employed 650 humans running around here and there to make sure that everything was running properly. So people were still being employed. And by using robots they’d cut the price on the cars, which was good for the consumer, so everyone benefits.

This was very different from some of the news reports I remember from my childhood, when computers and industrial robots were just coming in. There was shock by news reports of factories, where the human workers had been laid off, except for a crew of six. These men spent all day playing cards. They weren’t employed because they were experts, but simply because it would have been more expensive to sack them than to keep them on with nothing to do.

Despite the answers given by the car plant’s spokesman, you’re still quite justified in questioning how beneficial the replacement of human workers with robots actually is. For example, before the staff were replaced with robots, how many people were employed at the factory? Clearly, financial savings had to be made by replacing skilled workers with machines in order to make it economic. At the same time, what skill level were the 650 or so people now running around behind the machines? It’s possible that they are less skilled than the former car assembly workers. If that’s the case, they’d be paid less.

As for the fear of robots, the documentary traced this from Karel Capek’s 1920’s play, R.U.R., or Rossum’s Universal Robot, which gave the word ‘robot’ to the English language. The word ‘robot’ means ‘serf, slave’ or ‘forced feudal labour’ in Czech. This was the first play to deal with a robot uprising. In Japan, however, the attitude was different. Workers were being taught to accept robots as one of themselves. This was because of the animist nature of traditional Japanese religion. Shinto, the indigenous religion besides Buddhism, considers that there are kami, roughly spirits or gods, throughout nature, even inanimate objects. When asked what he thought the difference was between humans and robots, one of the engineers said there was none.

Geoff Simons also deals with the western fear of robots compared to the Japanese acceptance of them in his book, Robots: The Quest for Living Machines. He felt that it came from the Judeo-Christian religious tradition. This is suspicious of robots, as it allows humans to usurp the Lord as the creator of living beings. See, for example, the subtitle of Mary Shelley’s book, Frankenstein – ‘the Modern Prometheus’. Prometheus was the tAstritan, who stole fire from the gods to give to humanity. Victor Frankenstein was similarly stealing a divine secret through the manufacture of his creature.

I think the situation is rather more complex than this, however. Firstly, I don’t think the Japanese are as comfortable with robots as the programme tried to make out. One Japanese scientist, for example, has recommended that robots should not be made too humanlike, as too close a resemblance is deeply unsettling to the humans, who have to work with it. Presumably the scientist was basing this on the experience of Japanese as well as Europeans and Americans.

Much Japanese SF also pretty much like its western counterpart, including robot heroes. One of the long-time comic favourites in Japan is Astroboy, a robot boy with awesome abilities, gadgets and weapons. But over here, I can remember reading the Robot Archie strip in Valiant in the 1970s, along with the later Robusters and A.B.C. Warriors strips in 2000 AD. R2D2 and C3PO are two of the central characters in Star Wars, while Doctor Who had K9 as his faithful robot dog.

And the idea of robot creatures goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Hephaestus, the ancient Greek god of fire, was a smith. Lame, he forged three metal girls to help him walk. Pioneering inventors like Hero of Alexandria created miniature theatres and other automata. After the fall of the Roman Empire, this technology was taken up by the Muslim Arabs. The Banu Musa brothers in the 9th century AD created a whole series of machines, which they simply called ‘ingenious devices’, and Baghdad had a water clock which included various automatic figures, like the sun and moon, and the movement of the stars. This technology then passed to medieval Europe, so that by the end of the Middle Ages, lords and ladies filled their pleasure gardens with mechanical animals. The 18th century saw the fascinating clockwork machines of Vaucanson, Droz and other European inventors. With the development of steam power, and then electricity in the 19th century came stories about mechanical humans. One of the earliest was the ‘Steam Man’, about a steam-powered robot, which ran in one of the American magazines. This carried on into the early 20th century. One of the very earliest Italian films was about a ‘uomo machina’, or ‘man machine’. A seductive but evil female robot also appears in Fritz Lang’s epic Metropolis. Both films appeared before R.U.R., and so don’t use the term robot. Lang just calls his robot a ‘maschinemensch’ – machine person.

It’s also very problematic whether robots will ever really take human’s jobs, or even develop genuine consciousness and artificial intelligence. I’m going to have to deal with this topic in more detail later, but the questions posed by the programme prompted me to buy a copy of Hubert L. Dreyfus’ What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason. Initially published in the 1970s, and then updated in the 1990s, this describes the repeated problems computer scientists and engineers have faced trying to develop Artificial Intelligence. Again and again, these scientists predicted that ‘next year’ ,’in five years’ time’, ‘in the next ten years’ or ‘soon’, robots would achieve human level intelligence, and would make all of us unemployed. The last such prediction I recall reading was way back in 1999 – 2000, when we were all told that by 2025 robots would be as intelligent as cats. All these forecasts have proven wrong. But they’re still being made.

In tomorrow’s edition of Hyperevolution, the programme asks the question of whether robots will ever achieve consciousness. My guess is that they’ll conclude that they will. I think we need to be a little more skeptical.

A Pro-Jewish and Pro-Palestinian Attack on Zionism and Its Crimes

July 29, 2017

Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, Vol. 1, Alan Hart (Kent: World Focus Publishing 2005).

I said a few weeks ago in a post about one of the stories carried by the great Tony Greenstein on his blog that Zionism had been responsible for so many crimes against ordinary Jews around the world, that there was enough material for somebody to write a book about it. Well, someone had, and that person was Alan Hart. Hart was a reporter for both the BBC and ITV. The potted biography on the back cover states that he

has a unique experience of the Arab-Israeli conflict in both its regional and global aspects as a foreign correspondent for ITN and the BBC’s Panorama; as, on the human level, a confidant of leaders on both sides of the conflict, and as a participant at leadership level in the secret diplomacy of the search for peace. And his own observations are informed by his empathy with both sides: with the unspeakable but real fear of the Jews, Holocaust II: and with the anger and humiliation of the Arabs and Moslems everywhere.

Hart admits in the book that he is a gentile, but describes with pride how he had the confidence of both Yasser Arafat and Golda Meir, who even described him as ‘a dear friend’.

The blurb on the front flap of the dust jacket states

Can a Clash of Civilisations, Judeo-Christian v Islamic, be averted?

It all depends, the Author of this book, believes, on what Churchill once called “the struggle for the soul of the Jewish people.”

The Zionism of this book’s title is Jewish nationalism, the creating and sustaining force of the modern state of Israel. And this Zionism, political Zionism, is not be confused with the spiritual Zionism of Judaism.

Zionism: the Real Enemy of the Jews was chosen by the author as the title for this book because, in seven words, it reflects two terrifying truths of our time.

The first is that more than half a century on from the obscenity of the Nazi Holocaust anti-Semitism is on the rise again in Europe and America, where most of the world’s Jews live as citizens of many nations and as spiritual Zionists – looking upon Jerusalem as the centre of their religion and spiritual capital.

The second, a great and tragic irony, is that the behavior of political Zionism’s child, Israel, where only a minority of the world’s Jews live giving substance to Jewish nationalism in action, is the prime cause of the re-awakening of the sleeping giant of anti-Semitism.

The story this book has to tell – thrilling, chilling but ultimately inspirational – is a must read for all who wish to understand why, really, the countdown to Armageddon is on. And how it can be stopped.

Like very many other critics of Zionism, including Jewish and Israeli academics such as Norman Finkelstein and Ilan Pappe, to the Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the anti-Semitic slurs and suspensions in Labour party this year, Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein and Mike over at Vox Political, Hart is outraged at the bullying and intimidation of decent, non-racist people, by the Zionists, who use false accusations of anti-Semitism to silence their critics. Hart raises this very point in the first paragraph of his acknowledgements. He writes

A letter to my literary agent described the manuscript for this book as “awesome… driven by passion, commitment and profound learning”. The letter concluded: “There is no question it deserves to be published.” The writer was a major UK publisher who, like others of his fraternity, was too frightened to publish this book out of fear of offending Zionism and being falsely accused of anti-Semitism. Since the obscenity of the Nazi holocaust, the false charge of anti-Semitism is the blackmail card Zionism has played, brilliantly, to prevent informed and honest debate about who must do what if there is to be a peaceful resolution of the Palestine problem, which is the prerequisite for averting a clash of civilisations, Judeo-Christian v Islamic.

He then writes about the possible optimistic outcome of this struggle to get the truth out to the public indicated by the result of a debate inspired by his book’s title, on the motion ‘Zionism is today the real enemy of the Jews’, was held by the London debating society, Intelligence Squared, at the Royal Geographical Society. The motion was carried, a result which Hart declared was ‘pregnant with hope for the future’. He continues

Why so? Because the silence of mainstream diaspora Jews on the matter of the Zionist state’s behavior had been broken.

However, he soon found out that he and the others fighting for truth on this issue would have a very long way to go before achieving their goal.

But it soon became clear to me that this pregnancy is going to be a very long and difficult one. After the historic IS debate I decided to delay publication of this book to give my publisher and I quality time to reach out to Jewish groups and organisations, as sensitively as we knew how, to prepare the ground for the Great Debate this book was written to provoke and promote. We learned that most Jews, because of the past, are so fearful of the future – unspeakably terrified – not just frightened – that they are frozen in silence, unable more than unwilling to criticize Israel. In my book, I have tried my best to take account of, and speak to, this fear.

This passage therefore shows just how immensely courageous Jewish critics of Zionism, like Finkelstein, Pappe, Greenstein and Walker are, in defying this fear. And it also shows just as clearly how utterly wretched and despicable those would try to silence Israel’s critics by denouncing them as anti-Semites, when they are nothing of the sort, and constantly trying to invoke fears of a renewed holocaust. These are the tactics used by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement.

Hart duly credits the authors, whose work he has used, and in particular a group of eight Jewish and Israeli writers. He quotes the Israeli writer, Yehoshafat Harkabi, the author of the book Hachraot Goraliot, published in English as Israel’s Fateful Hour. Harkabi wrote that

What we need in Israel is not a united front behind a wrong policy (continuing Israeli occupation of Arab land seized in 1967) but searching self-criticism and a careful examination of our goals and means, so that we can differentiate between realistic vision and adventurist fantasy. We need clear, rational and, above all, long-term, comprehensive political thinking… Jews in the West, particularly in the United States, should participate in this debate. They should not be squeamish and discouraged by the fear that the arguments they air may help their enemies and those of Israel. The choice facing them, as well as Israel, is not between good and bad, but between bad and worse. Criticising Israeli policies may be harmfully divisive, but refraining from criticism and allowing Israel to maintain its wrong policy is incomparably worse. If the state of Israel comes to grief (God forbid), it will not be because of a lack of weaponry or money, but because of skewed political thinking and because Jews who understood the situation did not exert themselves to convince Israelis to change that thinking. Harkabi explicitly stated that Jews around the world would be judged according to Israel’s actions, and that this would provoke an anti-Semitic reaction.

As for the threat of Armageddon, he describes an interview he had with Golda Meir, who stated explicitly that if Israel was ever defeated on the battlefield, it would be prepared to take the entire region and the whole world down with it. (p.xii). He also states on the same page that the Zionists have deceived Jews and gentiles across the world into falsely believing that Israel’s existence has been in jeopardy, when that has never been the case. And he also discusses the powerful influence of the American Evangelical Christian right, and in particular a chilling speech by its leader, Pastor Hagee, which supports Zionism in the hope of bringing about the Apocalypse and Christ’s return to Earth. (p. xiii).

The book is a history of Zionism and the state of Israel from its origins to Eisenhower’s 1957 confrontation with Nasser, with chapters on the Balfour declaration and ‘Zionist terrorism and ethnic cleansing’. Some of the events and documents will be familiar to readers of this blog from articles in Lobster, Tony Greenstein’s blog, the works of Norman Finkelstein and Ilan Pappe, and the material submitted by the Jewish supporters of Livingstone and the other maligned souls in the Labour party, Buddy Hell over at Guy Debord’s Cat and Mike. This includes explicit statements by the Zionist founding leadership that they were colonisers; the disgusting message by the Stern Gang offering to ally themselves with Nazi Germany in exchange for sending expelled German Jews to Israel; further statements by leading Zionists supporting the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Arab population and the way the Israeli state used the massacre at Deir Yassin and the threat of the further violence to terrorise the Arabs into fleeing their homes.

Tony Greenstein has shown again and again in his blog that Zionists will ally with real, murderous anti-Semites, just as the Stern Gang wished, when it serves their purposes. And they can be completely indifferent, even hostile to attempts to save Jewish lives if this means allowing them to remain in their native lands, or moving somewhere else in the diaspora. On page 135 Hart describes how Morris Ernst, one of the wartime leaders of the Jewish community deeply involved in attempts to rescue eastern European Jews, approached president Roosevelt with a plan to increase the number of Jewish migrants to America and Britain. He stated that, after negotiating with them, the British authorities were prepared to let 150,000 more Jewish refugees into the country. The one provision was that American must allow the same number to enter their country. Ernst looked forward to saving a further 200,000, perhaps even 300,000 Jewish lives.

But he was to be severely disappointed. Under pressure from the Zionist and official Jewish organizations in America, Roosevelt had given in and decided against the plan. Jewish refugees from the Third Reich were to be sent to Palestine, not allowed into America. Ernst then went round his friends in the Jewish community to persuade them, and received a very frosty, even hostile reception.

Ernst was shocked and, without mentioning what Roosevelt had said, he approached his influential Jewish friends to try to get their support for a worldwide programme of rescue. As he described it himself in his own book, this was the response he got. ” I was thrown out of parlours of friends or mine who very frankly said, ‘Morris this is treason. You are undermining the Zionist movement.'” He also said that he found, everywhere, ” a deep, genuine, often fanatically emotional vested interest in putting over the Palestinian (Zionist) movement” in men “who are little concerned about human blood if it is not their own. (p. 136).

Hart goes on to explain that America’s Jews were assimilated and prosperous. They were afraid that the arrival of embittered, poverty-stricken and radical eastern European Jews would provoke an anti-Semitic reaction which would threaten their own comfortable position. (p. 36).

Hart also notes that many Jews today are increasingly considering the possibility of disassociating themselves from Israel. He cites the controversy that greeted a statement by a London rabbi, David Goldberg, in 2002, when he said that it may be time for Judaism and Israel to go their separate ways.

This incident perhaps explains why Netanyahu, Likud, and the other parties in his noxious coalition have passed legislation declaring all Jews, wherever they are, to be citizens of Israel. Except for those, who dare to criticize the country, no matter how mildly. They won’t be let anywhere near the country. It also provides a bit of background to the recent finding that the more American Jews, even those on heritage trips to Israel, funded by the Israeli government, find out about the Zionist state, the more they hate it. This includes even Jews, who have suffered real anti-Semitism. As, incidentally, have many of the Jews the Zionist lobby labelled as anti-Semites or self-hating Jews over here. It helps to explain the number of Jews, who support the Palestinians in the BDS movement. Clearly, a number of Jews, not just those in the anti-Zionist Naturei Karta, have been disillusioned or critical of Israel for a very long time. Certainly since the 1980s, when a number of Israeli authors first uncovered and published the evidence of Israel’s horrific crimes against the Palestinian people. And the movement is growing.

It’s because of this that there’s a bi-partisan movement in Congress to criminalise as anti-Semitic protests against Israel and the BDS movement. According to RT’s report, the proposed legislation will include a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Meanwhile, real anti-Semites and neo-Nazis, including some of the denizens of the Alt-Right in Trump’s own administration, are allowed to continue spouting their own hate, including holocaust denial, because free speech is protected under the Constitution. Well, it is, so long as it doesn’t threaten Israel and by extension, western power in the Middle East.

The book is a savage indictment of Zionism and its supporters in America and Europe, including the leading politicians in Britain and elsewhere, that promoted the country as a means of advancing their own global, imperial interests. And it shows that Zionism is not only dangerous for provoking anti-Semitism, but also that Zionists – both Jewish and gentile – will also use anti-Semitism as a weapon to ensure further Jewish emigration. The Zionists have shown that they can be just as ruthless and persecutory towards ordinary, diaspora Jews, as towards the Palestinians and other Arabs.

This is a book that desperately needs to be read by more people, if a genuine, just peace is to be established in the Middle East. And it is also extremely useful in combating the lies, slander and bullying of the Israeli lobby in British politics, including the Labour party.

Reichwing Watch on Libertarian Anarcho-Fascism

July 20, 2017

At first glance, Anarcho-Fascism should be a contradiction in terms. Anarchism stresses the absolute autonomy of the individual, while Fascism glorifies the state, and subordinates the individual to the collective. In the case of Italian Fascism, this was the nation and the state. As Mussolini said, ‘Nothing outside the state, nothing against the state, everything for the state’. It was also il Duce who coined the term, totalitarianism, when he talked about ‘the total state’. For Hitler and the Nazis, the individual should be subordinated to the volk, the racial group. He once declared that the individual should never be left alone, even in a skat club.

I’ve put up a couple of posts recently commenting on the way Libertarianism, which has previously described itself as Anarcho-Capitalism or Anarcho-Individualism, is morphing into what its own supporters are calling Anarcho-Fascism. I’ve already posted up a video from Reichwing Watch about the way Libertarianism is becoming a front for Fascism. In this video Reichwing Watch goes on to show how the Anarcho-Capitalists themselves are formulating Anarcho-Fascism.

The video features a series of Libertarian ideologues, politicians and bloggers, including That Guy T, Rand and Ron Paul, Ayn Rand and Hans-Hermann Hoppe, as well as clips from a documentary on Italian Fascism, Noam Chomsky and Adolf Hitler himself.

The Libertarians, including That Guy T, the Pauls and Hoppe make it clear that Libertarianism is compatible with Fascism because it is about preserving personal rights and individual liberty against democracy and the masses. It rejects rights for minorities and the poor, and, like Fascism, is firmly opposed to the organized working class and Socialism. That Guy T and Hoppe talk openly of forcibly removing Socialists and others, including, for Hoppe, democrats, who fail to recognize individual autonomy and wish to foist their views on the collective. Libertarianism is firmly in favour of private industry, as was Hitler. There’s also a clip of the Nazi leader rhetorically asking by what right the working class demands a role in government and to manage industry. Noam Chomsky also explains how modern industry is anti-democratic, as you have a small number of the owners of industry at the top, who give the orders to the mass of workers at the bottom. And the clips from the documentary on Fascist Italy serve to make clear just how brutal Mussolini’s thugs were in dealing with Socialists, democrats, and anyone else, who was a threat to the state.

There’s also a piece from a Vox documentary explaining that Trump supporters rate highly on the scale psychologists use to measure authoritarianism. The presenter states that these questions are posed very delicately. They don’t directly ask for views on race, which people are likely to avoid or disguise, but as them more general questions, such as whether they prize liberty or discipline in rearing children. On some issues, such as crime, authoritarians are indistinguishable from everyone else. However, they are much more afraid of foreign threats, and favour curtailing civil liberties to counter them, to the point where it can be used to predict just who supports the orange buffoon in the White House.

An older gentleman speaking in the video, who clearly had been a Libertarian, talks about the Social Darwinism in Libertarianism, and how they sneer at and attack the poor in order to reward the rich. He cites Ron Paul’s tax policy, which was aimed at penalizing the poor to subsidise the rich, as an example. There’s a clip from an interview with Ayn Rand, in which the founder of Objectivism rejects humanitarianism, and reproaches humanity as a ‘sacrificial species’. The older gent goes on to explain how Mussolini himself overcame the apparent contradiction between Fascist statism and Libertarian individualism when he subsidized the publication in Italy of her books, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. These glorify the wealthy, intellectual, Nietzschean superman against the mass of the uncreative poor, who are vilified as ‘feeders’. As for tax policies which benefit the rich over the poor, there’s another clip from one of Hitler’s speeches, showing that he also shared this Social Darwinist view.

The Fascistic nature of Libertarianism and its organisations and supports has been around for decades. I remember how, way back in the 1988 or ’89, there was a controversy when it was discovered that one of the Libertarian organisations in Britain had links to one of the Fascist regimes and its death squads in Central America. I think it might have been Guatemala. And Lobster has published articles showing that the Freedom Foundation in Britain, previously the National Association For Freedom, or NAFF, was violently opposed to Socialism and trade unions.

One of the aspects of this video, which is particularly shocking, is that one of the speakers advocating Anarcho-Fascism, That Guy T, is Black. ‘T’ is clearly educated and intelligent, so it’s astonishing that he’s all-out in favour of a movement that particularly despises ethnic minorities, including Blacks, to the point of active persecution. Mainstream Conservatives, whose views ‘T’ seems to have picked up, see the poverty, alienation and disenfranchisement of Black Americans as their fault. As they see it, Blacks lack the individualism, discipline and entrepreneurial spirit to improve themselves and lift themselves out of poverty. Instead, they condemn themselves to low achievement and dependence on state welfare programmes.

This is nonsense, of course. Black poverty is caused by the same social and economic causes as White poverty, as well as pressure from a social and political system that, even after the abolition of slavery, was explicitly established to keep them in an inferior status through segregation and Jim Crow. A system whose legacy is still very evident today, and which may become worse yet due to the Right’s hatred of the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s.

But if you want to see how Fascism – genuine Fascism – views Blacks, you only have to look at the Klan, the bitter hatred of White supremacist groups and neo-Nazi movements like the American Nazi Party and the BNP, NF and their ilk over on this side of the Pond.

As for the links between Fascism and Anarchism, Italian Fascism and the corporate state had its origins partly in a section of the Anarcho-Syndicalist movement, that decided what they were opposed to wasn’t capitalism and the state, but laissez-faire individualism. They revised syndicalism so that the new industrial organisations – the Fascist corporations – not only comprised trade unions, but also the employers’ organisations. The latter were left largely intact and retained their influence after Mussolini set about smashing the old working class trade unions in order to render them powerless.

During the Spanish Civil War, the Fascists tried to win over the Anarcho-Syndicalists on the grounds that both movements praised dynamism, rejected parliamentary democracy, and the corporative state partly realized the Syndicalists’ ideal of a state based on industrial associations. The Anarchists and Syndicalists weren’t impressed, however, and very definitely rejected such an attempt to stifle genuine working class autonomy.

They were right. And this new, permutation of Fascism, in the guise of Libertarianism, also needs to be strong rejected and fought.

Libertarian Sexism – Just Fascist Misogyny Mixed Up with Rothbard and Rand

July 20, 2017

About a week ago I put up a post commenting on a video from Reichwing Watch, a YouTuber who creates videos and documentaries about the rise of the extreme Right. That particularly video remarked on the way contemporary Libertarian was becoming a front for Fascism. The two ideologies share the same hatred of democracy, Socialism, minority rights, and organized labour, and exalt instead authoritarianism, private property and industry. The video included clips of comments from Rand and Ron Paul, Hoppe, Ayn Rand and other Libertarian ideologues laying out their highly elitist views, along with similar comments from Adolf Hitler. Libertarians have often described themselves as Anarcho-Individualists or Anarcho-Capitalists. Now, however, a number of them, of whom the most prominent appears to be the internet blogger, That Guy T, have begun to describe themselves and their ideology as Anarcho-Fascism.

And one of the attitudes they share with traditional Fascism is sexism and a deep distrust of women. Both the Nazis and the Italian Fascists believed that women were inferior to men, and that, rather than seeking equality and careers, they should properly confine their activity to the home. In Nazi Germany girls were explicitly educated to be home-makers under the official Nazi slogan ‘Kinder, Kuche, Kirche’ – ‘Children, Kitchen, Church’. This education culminated in a useless qualification derided as the ‘pudding matric’. The Italian Fascists held the same opinions, and also equated masculinity with aggressive militarism. One of Mussolini’s slogans was ‘Fighting is to man, what motherhood is to woman.’ Incidentally, it’s quite ironic that a female screenwriter, interviewed in the Radio Times this week about her forthcoming detective series about the organized abuse of women in international prostitution, is quoted as saying, ‘motherhood is the equivalent of when men go to war.’ I’ve no doubt many mothers, and fathers, for that matter, see it differently. Though it might appear to be so after they’ve been up all night with a crying baby.

Some of the clearest statements of Fascist misogyny came from the Futurists, the modern art movement launched in 1909 by the Italian poet, Marinetti. This glorified youth, speed, the new machine age, violence, dynamism and virility. Mussolini in his manifesto baldly stated ‘We advocate scorn for woman.’ In his manifesto Contro L’Amore ed il Parlamentarismo – ‘Against Love and the Parliamentary Process’, Marinetti declared ‘the war between the sexes has been unquestioningly prepared by the great agglomerations of the capital cities, by nocturnal habits, and by the regular salaries given to female workers.’ The Futurists were impressed by the militant dynamism of the suffragettes and early feminist movements, but later became violently opposed to any kind of demands for equality or female liberation. Marinetti declared that “Women hasten to give, with lightning speed, a great proof of the total animalization of politics… the victory of feminism, and especially the influence of women on politics will in the end succeed in destroying the principle of the family”.
(‘Love and Sexuality’ in Pontus Hulton, ed. Futurismo: Futurism and Futurisms (Thames and Hudson 1986) 503.

The same attitudes have returned with the rise of the anti-feminist Conservatives following the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Much of this is a reaction to the gradual decline of the nuclear family and massive increase in divorce following the emergence of more liberal attitudes to sexuality in the ‘permissive society’. Thus, Conservatives like the American Anne Coulter, Libertarians like Vox Day, and their British counterparts, many of whom seem to be in UKIP, stated very openly that they were in favour of removing women’s right to vote. This was partly because they feel that women favour the Left, and so reject economic individualism and property rights for collectivism and a welfare state. The denizens of the Men’s Rights Movements, who are regularly critiqued and pilloried by the male internet feminist, Kevin Logan, are also vehemently opposed to female sexual liberation. Far and Alt Right vloggers like Avis Aurini sneer at modern women as promiscuous, whose selfish hedonism is a threat to marriage and the family. One of the individuals even hysterically declared that women were responsible for the fall of all civilisations. This would no doubt surprise historians, who have actually studied the reasons for their fall. The forces responsible can include climate change and desertification, foreign invasion, social and political stagnation and economic decline. Rome fell, for example, because from the third century AD onwards it was suffering massive inflation, a growing tax burden that the aristocratic rich evaded, and put instead on the shoulders of the poor, a growing gulf between rich and poor that saw the free Roman plebs decline in legal rights and status to the same level as the slaves, along with the massive expansion of aristocratic estates worked by slaves, urban decline as the population fled to the countryside, a decline in genuine democratic institutions and the rise of feudalism, and, of course, the barbarian invasions. Women don’t feature as a cause, except in the writings of some of the Roman historians commenting on sexual depravity of various emperors, and the general moral decline of Roman society. O tempora! O mores!

Whatever intellectual guise the contemporary Conservative and Libertarian right might want to give such ideas, such misogyny really is just Fascism, or an element of Fascism. It’s just been given another name, and mixed up with the economic individualism of Ayn Rand, von Hayek and von Mises, rather than Hitler, Mussolini and Marinetti. It is, however, rapidly approaching and assimilating them as well. If female freedom and, more widely, a genuinely democratic society are to be preserved, the Fascist nature of such misogyny needs to be recognized, and very firmly rejected.

The Euthanasia of the Elderly in Stephen Baxter’s ‘Titan’

July 18, 2017

A few days ago I put up a post about the nightmare, alternative future described by the British SF novelist Stephen Baxter in his novel, Titan. Baxter’s a writer of hard SF, a subgenre in which the fiction is nevertheless grounded in solid, known science fact, though often with an element of artistic license. Titan was written in 1995, and is partly set in the decaying America of the first decades of the 21st century. A militantly anti-science president, Maclachlan, has been elected with the support of the Ku Klux Klan and Christian fundamentalists. Maclachlan shuts down NASA for good after a shuttle disaster. The launch complexes are closed down. Those that aren’t demolished become simply tourist attractions, as do the agency’s headquarters and mission control. One of these, a museum to the Apollo moon landings, is altered so that it promotes instead the spiritual experiences many of the astronauts did have during their missions. Maclachlan also introduces legislation demanding that only the Aristotelian cosmology of Thomas Aquinas, with its crystal spheres, is taught in schools. What is left of the agency is given over to the USAF under the paranoid and nationalistic General Hartle, who is very much like the rogue American General Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s classic nuclear black comedy, Doctor Strangelove.

Against this, the agency attempts to launch one last, great space mission, a crewed voyage to Titan, where the Cassini probe has found evidence of active biological chemistry.

I commented in my post on the remarkable similarity between the policies of the fictional Maclachlan and Donald Trump. Maclachlan is fiercely nationalistic, and withdraws American peacekeepers from their stations around the globe, as well as pulling America out of NAFTA and the various other free trade agreements. America also pulls out of the World Bank and the IMF, and the UN is kicked out of New York. Like the real anti-Semites of the America Far Right, Maclachlan believes that the US is under ‘Israeli occupation’. Maclachlan also dismantles the country’s welfare programmes, especially those benefiting Blacks and other minorities, and starts building a wall with Mexico.

He also devises a policy to deal with America’s increasingly aging society: euthanasia chambers for the unwanted or neglected elderly. These are euphemistically called ‘Happy Booths’. There’s a very touching scene in which the last, fictitious surviving Apollo spaceman, Marcus White, is gassed to death in one of these chambers by a couple of nurses, who are every bit as malign as Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. By this time, however, White is so confused with dementia, that he is lost in the delusion that he is back as a middle-aged man at NASA in his prime, suiting up and breathing the pure oxygen in preparation for another flight to the Moon.

This is interesting, as it completely turns on its head one of the truly despicable pieces of propaganda the Republicans were running ten years ago to make sure the American public didn’t get single-payer healthcare. Instead, we had Sarah Palin and the rest of the maniacs screaming that the introduction of single-payer healthcare, where all Americans would have free medical treatment financed by the state, would lead to ‘death panels’. Palin herself made a speech about how she didn’t want her children facing them. The idea was under a socialist system, medical care would be rationed. Those individuals deemed to be a waste of state money and resources, such as the elderly, would thus be humanely killed.

It was a disgusting piece of propaganda, based partly on the murder of the disabled in Nazi Germany. The Nazis were also pro-euthanasia, producing propaganda forms with titles such as I Don’t Want to Be Born. It was also based partly on the vile views of some of the founders of the Fabian Society, particularly H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, who were very much in favour of eugenics and the sterilization of the biologically unfit.

Unfortunately, many Americans were taken in by this bilge. There was a BBC report on the truly horrific state of American healthcare, in which a clinic offering free treatment in California immediately attracted 50,000 + prospective patients. These are the 20 per cent of Americans, who couldn’t afford their private healthcare before the introduction of Obamacare. The Beeb’s reported also attracted the attention of Republican supporters, who’d believed all the rubbish they’d been fed by Palin and her stormtroopers. One of these was an elderly man, who rushed up to the Beeb’s crew and shouted ‘Your healthcare system stinks!’ When they politely asked him how so, he looked confused, and began to mutter about ‘death panels’.

There are no death panels in Britain, or anywhere else with a socialized, or state-funded medical system. As for Germany, state financing of medical treatment for the workers was introduced by Bismarck in the 1870s, nearly fifty years before the Nazis seized power. There is a problem, where dying individuals may be refused treatment of expensive and/or experimental drugs or other procedures on the NHS because the costs far exceed any chance of success. This is very much a controversial issue, as we’ve seen the past week with the parents fighting to send their dying son over to America for treatment. However, there are no death panels.

The ‘Happy Booths’ described in the book are a piece of artistic invention by Baxter. Conventional Christian morality rejects euthanasia for the same reasons it has traditionally ruled out abortion, except in certain very restricted circumstances. This is because both judge that there are certain forms of human beings, such as the unborn and the disabled, who are held not to have the same rights to life. If it is permitted to kill the disabled and the unborn, it is argued, there is a danger that the same attitude will spread to other groups also considered inferior, like the Jews and other ‘untermenschen’ in Nazi Germany. And Baxter is aware of this, as elsewhere in the book he describes how the British relative of one of the astronauts, stricken by CJD or ‘Mad Cow Disease’, is going to a euthanasia clinic even though their parents consider it unchristian.

A president dependent on the support of right-wing Christian fundamentalists would alienate a sizable part of his constituency if he did. What happens instead is that, through its hostility to state medicine and the welfare state, Republican politicians of Maclachlan’s type make it impossible for the poor, severely ill to support themselves. Hence Bernie Sanders’ chilling statistic that 50,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford private medical treatment.

This is basically the same attitude of Tory party under David Cameron and Theresa May. They have extended the sanctions system and the Work Capability Tests to make it as difficult as possible for the unemployed and the disabled to quality for state support. The result of that has been that researchers at Oxford University found that in 2015 alone, 30,000 people died through the Tories’ austerity policies. And Mike over at Vox Political reported yesterday that, according to the Skwawkbox, there’s a nasty clause in Universal Credit, which means that the claimant has to find a job in two years, or they lose their benefit.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/17/uc-gives-disabled-people-just-two-years-to-find-a-job-or-lose-everything/

This is a right-wing ‘genocide of the disabled’, as Mike, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, Tom Pride and the Angry Yorkshireman have said on their blogs, and Jeffrey, one of the great commenters here, has said on this. But it’s carefully hidden. The victims aren’t actually killed, they’re simply left to die. And the few politicos, who dare to call it what it is, are denied their ability to sit in parliament.

On Friday Mike commented on a piece in the Disability News Service about Mr. Jared O’Mara, a disabled Lib Dem MP, who has called the Tories’ policies towards the disabled ‘eugenics’, and stated that they want disabled people to ‘suffer and die’. Mr. O’Mara is to be commended for the way he tried to tackle Iain Duncan Smith, the former head of the DWP and therefore the government’s chief minister responsible for implementing this policy. However, Mr. O’Mara finds it impossible to find anywhere in the House of Commons to sit during debates. There is insufficient seating for all 650 MPs, and there is no form available for disabled MPs to fill in stating that they have particular seating needs. As Mike says, this is all very suspicious.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/07/disabled-mp-accuses-tories-of-eugenics-is-that-why-they-wont-let-him-take-a-seat/

As a religious person, I can’t say I’m happy about the anti-religious stance of Titan. I went to a Christian college for my undergraduate degree, and some of the students were Creationists. I am not saying that their literalist reading of the creation story in Genesis is correct, but I have to say that they were, by and large, decent people. Those I met weren’t racists or political extremists, and I know that one or two were actually left-wing. I also can’t say that they were anti-science, outside of the very specific field of evolution. Moreover, since the election of Donald Trump there has been the emergence of a religious Left in America, something which couldn’t have been predicted when Baxter wrote the book back in the 1990s. One of the authors of the collection of articles attacking the Neo-Cons, Confronting the New Conservatism, pointed out that the Neo-Cons were not necessarily going to be politically dominant for ever. Kansas, and many of the other mid-western Republican states, had in the 1920s been centres of the Social Gospel movement, which combined Christianity and Socialism. It’s possible that as more Americans recognize how truly disgusting Trump and his party are, Christians over the other side of the Pond may return to it.

However, Trump and his administration are anti-science. The Republican party is strongly opposed to climate change, and so there has been a concerted attack on environmentalism since Trump took office. Legislation protecting America’s glorious natural heritage has been repealed, and federal scientists responsible for monitoring the environment have been effectively gagged. They may not publish any scientific papers supporting climate change, and the federal agency itself has been effectively gutted.

Titan also portrays a future suffering from global warming and catastrophic climate change, as do very many of the SF novels written during the same decade, such as Bruce Sterling’s Heavy Weather. So far Trump hasn’t wound up NASA, though I don’t doubt that the agency is still under considerable pressure to keep expenses under control. But the real harm is being done by Trump’s deliberate rejection of climate change to appease powerful donors from industry, particularly the Kochs in big oil. This denial of climate change, and that of the other world leaders, will lead to the deaths of millions worldwide. If it hasn’t already.

Book on Britain’s Medieval Jewish Heritage

July 10, 2017

Bristol is one of the few cities to have a miqveh, a Jewish ritual bath, surviving from the Middle Ages. It’s a chamber cut into hillside of Jacob’s Wells Road, if I remember correctly. It was identified as a miqveh as it has an inscription in Hebrew, ‘Zaklim’, which means ‘Flowing’. Not all archaeologists and historians are convinced that it is a ritual bath, as it’s some way away from the city’s medieval Jewry, and it’s also closer than was usually permitted to a Christian church, in this case that of St. Michael’s Hill. Nevertheless, they believe that it may still have been an important source of water for Bristol’s medieval Jewish community.

Looking through the Oxbow Book Catalogue for Autumn 2015, I found a book listed, Jewish Heritage in Britain and Ireland, by Sharman Kadish, published by Historic England, paperback price £20.00. The blurb reads

Jewish Heritage in Britain and Ireland celebrates in full colour the undiscovered heritage of Anglo-Jewry. First published in 2006, it remains the only comprehensive guide to historic synagogues and sites in the British Isles, covering more than 300 sites, organised on a region-by-region basis. The new edition has been completely revised and features many new images including, for the first time, of sites in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

I don’t know how many of this blog’s readers are interested in medieval history, but this book appears to be a useful exploration of this part of Britain and Ireland’s medieval heritage. One that came to an end in England when Edward I expelled them from England, which set off a series of similar ethnic cleansings which saw many other countries forcibly remove their Jewish citizens, expulsions which some medieval historians have compared to the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany.