Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

My Review of Russian UFO Conspiracy Book Now Up At Magonia Blog

September 12, 2019

My review of Nick Redfern’s Flying Saucers from the Kremlin (Lisa Hagen Books 2019) is now up at Magonia Review of Books. Magonia was a small press UFO magazine, which ran from the 1980s to the early part of this century. It took the psycho-social view of the UFO phenomenon. This is a sceptical view which sees the UFO phenomenon as an internal experience generated by poorly understood psychological mechanism, whose imagery was drawn from folklore and Science Fiction. It took the name ‘Magonia’ from Jacques Vallee’s groundbreaking UFO book, Passport to Magonia. Vallee, a French-American astronomer and computer scientist, along with the American journalist and writer on the weird and Fortean, John Keel, took the view that UFOs weren’t real, mechanical spacecraft piloted by beings from other worlds, but were created by the same paranormal phenomenon behind encounters with fairies and other paranormal entities. The name ‘Magonia’ itself comes from a statement by a sceptical 7th-8th century Frankish bishop, that the peasants believed that storms were caused by men in flying ships, who came from a country called Magonia.

The magazine didn’t just discuss UFOs. It also covered other paranormal phenomena and subjects, such as witchcraft. It provided a very necessary sceptical corrective to the Satanism scare of the ’80s and ’90s. This was a moral panic generated by conspiracy theories, largely from the Christian right but also from some feminists, that Satanic groups were sexually abusing and ritually sacrificing children. The Fontaine Report, published by the British government over 20 years ago now, concluded that there was no organised Satanic conspiracy. This effectively ended a real witch-hunt, which had seen innocent men and women accused of terrible crimes through warped, uncorroborated testimony. It needs to be said, however, that sociologists, social workers and law enforcement authorities do recognise that there are evil or disturbed individuals responsible for horrific crimes, including the molestation of children, who are or consider themselves Satanists. But the idea of a multigenerational Satanic conspiracy is absolutely false. See Jeffrey S. Victor’s excellent Satanic Panic.

Nick Redfern is a British paranormal investigator now resident in Texas. In this book, subtitled ‘UFOs, Russian Meddling, Soviet Spies & Cold War Secrets’, he proposes that while the UFO phenomenon is real, the terrible Russkies have been manipulating it to destabilise America and her allies. This comes from the Russians attempting to interfere in the American presidential elections a few years ago. In fact, the book doesn’t actually show that the Russians have. Rather it shows that the FBI, Airforce Intelligence and CIA believed they were. Prominent figures in the UFO milieu were suspected of Russian sympathies, and investigated and question. George Adamski, the old fraud who claimed he’d met space people from Venus and Mars, was investigated because he was recorded making pro-Soviet statements. Apparently he believed that the space people were so much more advanced than us that they were Communists, and that in a coming conflict Russia would defeat the West. Over here, the founder and leader of the Aetherius Society, George King, who also channeled messages from benevolent space people on Venus and Mars, was also investigation by special branch. This is because one of the messages from Aetherius called on Britain to respond to peace overtures from the Russians. This was seized on by the Empire News, which, as its name suggests, was a right-wing British rag, that denounced King for having subversive, pro-Commie ideas and reported him to the rozzers. King willingly cooperated with the cops, and pointed out that his was a religious and occult, not political organisation. But he and his followers were still kept under surveillance because they, like many concerned people, joined the CND marches.

It’s at this point that Redfern repeats the Sunset Times slur about the late Labour leader, Michael Foot. Foot also joined these marches, and the former Soviet spy chief, Oleg Gordievsky, had declared that Foot was a KGB spy with the codename ‘Comrade Boot’. It’s malign rubbish. Redfern notes that Foot sued the Sunset Times for libel and won. But he prefers to believe Gordievsky, because Gordievsky was right about everything else. So say. Actually, Gordievsky himself was a self-confessed liar, and there’s absolutely no corroborating evidence at all. And rather than being pro-Soviet, Foot was so critical of the lack of freedom of conscience in the USSR that he alarmed many of his Labour colleagues, who were afraid he would harm diplomatic relations. The accusation just looks like more Tory/ IRD black propaganda against Labour.

Other people in the UFO milieu also had their collar felt. One investigator, who told the authorities that he had met a group of four men, who were very determined that he should give his talks a pro-Russian, pro-Communist slant, was interrogated by a strange in a bar on his own patriotism. The man claimed to be a fellow investigator with important information, and persuaded him to take a pill that left his drugged and disorientated. Redfern connects this the MK Ultra mind control projects under CIA direction at the time, which also used LSD and other drugs.

But if Redfern doesn’t quite show that the Russians are manipulating the phenomena through fake testimony and hoax encounters, he presents a very strong case that the Americans were doing so. During the Second World War, Neville Maskelyn, a British stage magician, worked with the armed forces on creating illusions to deceive the Axis forces. One of these was a tall, walking automaton to impersonate the Devil, which was used to terrify the Fascists in Sicily. Redfern notes the similarity between this robot, and the Flatwoods monster that later appeared in America. The Project Serpo documents, which supposedly show how a group of American squaddies had gone back to the Alien homeworld, were cooked up by one of the classic SF writers, who was also a CIA agent. And the scientist Paul Bennewitz was deliberately given fake testimony and disinformation about captured aliens and crashed saucers by members of the agency, which eventually sent the poor bloke mad. He was targeted because he was convinced the saucers and the aliens were kept on a nearby airforce base. The American military was worried that, although he wouldn’t find any evidence of aliens, he might dig up military secrets which would be useful to the Russians. And so they set about destroying him by telling him fake stories, which he wanted to hear. And obviously, there’s more.

It’s extremely interesting reading, but Redfern does follow the conventional attitude to Russian. The country was a threat under Communism, and is now, despite the fact that Communism has fallen. He is silent about the plentiful evidence for American destabilisation of foreign regimes right around the world during the Cold War. This included interference in elections and outright coups. The most notorious of these in South America were the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile by General Pinochet, and Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala. He also doesn’t mention recent allegations, backed up with very strong evidence, that the US under Hillary Clinton manufactured the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine in 2012 to overthrow the ruling pro-Russian president and install another, who favoured America and the West.

If you want to read my review, it’s at

http://pelicanist.blogspot.com/2019/09/ufology-meets-kremlinology.html

 

 

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Gove and the Scum’s Fascist Contempt for Parliament

September 2, 2019

Yesterday, BoJob’s old mucker Michael Gove appeared on the Andrew Marr Show to be interviewed about Johnson’s coup. And his answer to one question, and outright refusal to answer others shows that he shares his masters outright contempt for parliamentary sovereignty. Marr asked him if the government would obey new legislation from MPs forcing Brexit to be delayed. Gove replied that it may not. This, as the twitter account dedicated to the late Labour activist, Harry Leslie Smith, ‘is what dictatorships look and sound like’. The Parliament UK website states that in the UK, parliament is the supreme legal power, not the government, and parliamentary sovereignty is the most important part of the British constitution. In stating that Johnson’s government may not abide by parliamentary legislation, Gove has confirmed that this is indeed an administration that is out of control and a threat to British democracy. And the folks on twitter were very quick to point this out.

Mike has a selection of them in his article about this. Apart from ‘Harry Leslie Smith’, there was the quantum physicist and science broadcaster, Professor Brian Cox, who tweeted:

“This statement – that the government may decide not to obey the law – confirms that the current minority government is dangerous. Every MP with integrity from any party must stop them this coming week. This is no longer about Brexit – that can be dealt with afterwards.”

Quite so. Mike himself, after discussing some of the issues that will be raised this week, such as parliament’s ability to pass a ‘Section 24’ law and whether parliament will pass legislation delaying Brexit, and Johnson’s government comply with it, concludes

But the most fundamental question of all must surely be: What will we do if Boris Johnson refuses to accept the sovereign will of Parliament and tries to dictate what the UK does? If he actually does assume the role of dictator, how do we stop him?

Gove has implied Dictator Johnson may ignore the most important part of the UK’s constitution

It’s a good question, and a group of 20 Tory MPs, who are threatening to defy Johnson’s demand to support his Brexit at the end of October, have been told that if they do so, he will withdraw the whip from them in parliament and prevent them standing as Tory candidates in the next election. Johnson will, in other words, purge them from the party. As Mike has pointed out, it’s an empty threat. If Johnson’s government falls, he won’t be leader of the Tories and so will be in no position to make sure they’re deselected. And if they did vote against him, then his government would fall.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/31/coercion-now-dictator-johnson-is-saying-tory-rebels-will-be-barred-from-being-election-candidates/

They rebel Tories may also call Johnson’s bluff, as there have been reports that say that the 20 may stand as Independent Tories at the next General Election. Which would be a massive, historic split in the Tory party.

The response of Tory chairman James Cleverly was a panicked tweet denying that the Tory party has deselection mechanisms. And the folks on twitter have already compared Johnson’s threats of deselection to Stalin’s purges. Jack D and Henry Zeffman both pointed out that the Tory press has tried to smear Jeremy Corbyn as a power-mad authoritarian threatening mass deselections. Corbyn hasn’t done so, and if he did, he would certainly be denounced as a Stalinist by the Tories. But now the irony is that Johnson, a Tory MP, is set to do this very thing.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/02/tory-rebels-are-set-to-call-dictator-johnsons-bluff/

Tim Fenton, the Sage of Crewe, has also pointed out that not only would the Tories accuse Corbynism of Stalinism if he threatened mass deselections, but that by supporting Johnson’s threats to expel the rebel Tories the right-wing press has decided that Stalinism is quite acceptable when they do it. He quotes a few headlines to show it. He writes

‘Metro has told readers “ID cards may be withdrawn from rebel MPs … Tory no-deal ‘traitors’ could be deselected”, while the Express has shrieked “BORIS VOWS TO BOOT OUT BREXIT REBELS”. The Telegraph prefers “PM warns rebel MPs: back me or be sacked”, and the Mail agrees: “BACK ME OR I’LL SACK YOU”, as does the Times, with “I’ll kick you out of party, Johnson tells Tory rebels”.’

This isn’t an accident. The Tory press has been entirely supportive of the coup. The Times published an editorial denying that Johnson’s prorogation of parliament was any such thing. As for the mass demonstrations that occurred up and down the country on Saturday, the following day’s papers had very little to say about them. Of course, it may be that the press was taken entirely off guard, and didn’t have enough staff to give them proper coverage. Or they really did believe that other stories were more important, which is the excuse the media always gives for refusing to cover left-wing demonstrations or other events properly, where the Left embarrasses and exposes the incompetence and callousness of the right. But it looks far more like culpable silence. They didn’t want the British people to defy Johnson’s coup, and so were very definitely not going to call attention to their doing so. It hardly happened, as far as they were concerned.

But it was left to Sun to show how really contemptuous of democracy and its institutions the Tory press were. The Scum thundered

WHY should the Government promise to enact some as-yet-unwritten and arguably illegitimate law being cooked up by Remainers with their rogue Speaker? … The Government runs the country, not a cross-party rabble”.

To which Zelo Street commented ‘Democratically elected MPs? Democratically taken decisions? The sovereignty of Parliament? Pah! Away with them!’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/09/press-now-says-stalin-was-cool.html

Exactly. This is one of the fundamental, defining features of Fascism, aside from the militant racism: an absolute contempt for parliamentary democracy. Both the Italian Fascists and the Nazis claimed to have saved their countries from ‘corrupt parliamentarianism’ as the Italian Fascists called it. Democracy had, in their eyes, done nothing but weaken their countries. Only strong government through a dictator could restore them to greatness. The Scum’s denunciation of the ‘Remainers with their rogue Speaker’ and ‘a cross-party rabble’ comes very close to real Fascist rhetoric.

Which shows very clearly how hollow the right-wing media’s claim to hold government to democratic account and prevent the rise of Fascist dictatorship really is.

 

 

Fascism’s Advocacy of Privatisation and Financial Retrenchment

August 15, 2019

I’ve posted a number of blogs about the way some Conservative propagandists have tried to discredit socialism by claiming that Fascism was a form of it. The argument here is that Fascism advocated the state planning and management of the economy like state socialism, and so therefore must similarly be a form of socialism. For the Libertarians, any state intervention in the economy or industry is automatically attacked as socialism. They demand instead complete free trade and the reduction of the state to an absolute minimum, based on their ideas of 19th century laissez-faire economics. For them, any economic system that is not based on complete free trade and unregulated private industry is socialism, not capitalism. Left-wing commenters, on the other hand, have argued very clearly that this is a very unrealistic idea of capitalism, which has never existed in reality. Mussolini did indeed begin his career as a radical socialist, and Fascism itself emerged from Italian anarcho-syndicalism after the First World War.  However, Mussolini broke with the socialists and forces of the Italian left, to embrace capitalism and the parties and organisations of the right. The Fascists were supported by the rich landowners and the industrialists in their attacks on socialism, trade unions, and the peasant organisations. They were invited into the Italian parliament to join a coalition of right-wing Liberals and eventually merged with the Italian Nationalists. They also rejected, at least initially, state intervention in industry. In government, Mussolini stated that Fascism stood for the economics of the Manchester School, that is, absolute free enterprise.

The Fascists’ Conservative economic stance is clearly seen in their 1921 Party programme. This demanded a system of cuts to uneconomic businesses and public works projects that is very similar to the policy taken towards them by right-wing governments, including New Labour, ever since Margaret Thatcher. And it also declared its support for private industry against state control. In the section ‘Cornerstones of Fiscal Policy and Policies for National Economic Reconstruction’ are the following clauses

  1. Balancing state and local budgets (when necessary) by means of rigorous cutbacks to all parasitic or redundant entities and via reductions in expenditures neither crucial to the well-being of the beneficiaries nor justified by more general objectives.
  2. Decentralisation of the public administration so as to simplify the delibery of services and to streamline our bureaucracy, without falling into the trap of regionalism (which we firmly oppose).
  3. Shielding the taxpayers’ money from misuse by means of the abolition of all state or local government concessions and subventions to consortia, cooperatives, factories, special clienteles, and other entities similarly incapable of surviving on their own and not indispensable to the nation.

….

6. Cessation of policies favoring public works projects that are botched, undertaken for electoral reasons, or supposedly to insure law and order, projects that are unprofitable because of the irregular and fragmentary way in which they are distributed.

….

8. Return to private sector of industries that the state has managed poorly, in particular the telephone system and the railroads. Regarding the latter, competition needs to be enhanced between the major lines, which need, in turn, to be managed differentially with respect to regional and local lines.

9. Abolition of the state monopoly on postal and telegraphic communications so that private enterprise may supplement and eventually replace the state-run service.

The subsequent section, ‘Cornerstones of Social Policy’, begins with a statement of the importance of private property and industry as the fundamental basis of Fascist economic and social policy. This runs

Fascism recognises the social function of private property. At once a right and a duty, private property is the form of management that society has traditionally granted individuals so that they may increase the overall patrimony.

In its opposition to socialist projects for reconstruction that rely upon a dogmatically collectivist model of economics, the National Fascist Party has its feet firmly planted in the soil of our historical and national reality. This reality does not allow for a single type of agricultural or industrial economy. The party, accordingly, supports any and every solution, be it individualistic or any other kind, that will guarantee the maximum level of production and well-being.

The National Fascist Party advocates a regime that would strive to increase our national wealth by unleashing individual enterprises and energies – the most powerful and industrious factor in economic production – and by abolishing, once and for all, the rusty, costly, and unproductive machinery of state-, society -, and municipality-based control. The party thus supports all efforts to enhance Italy’s productivity and to eliminate forms of individual and group parasitism. 

see Jeffrey T. Schnapp, ed., A Primer of Italian Fascism (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press 2000), 14-15.

Now the Fascist programme did contain elements of Socialism, such as the demands for an eight hour working day, and later in Mussolini’s regime the state ended up owning a sizable part of the Italian economy as it was forced to buy up failing corporations. But even if the regime was forced to go back on its stated policy of allowing failing companies to go to the wall, it still strongly supported private enterprise although subject to considerable state intervention.

It’s very clear from this that, at least at that stage, Fascist economic policy was very similar to the free enterprise economics of Thatcher and Reagan. There’s also a further similarity, in that contemporary politics in both America and Britain is also corporatist. The Italian Fascist economy was supposed to be run by a ‘Chamber of Corporations and Fasces’ in which both representatives of management and the trade unions sat together. In practice the trade unions were strictly controlled by the Fascist state, with the management and proprietors enjoying a far greater degree of freedom. Contemporary Britain and America has a form of corporativism, in that very members of Congress in the US and parliament in Britain are proprietors or senior management of private firms. The parties also receive substantial funding from private corporations, with the result that government policy is framed to benefit private corporate interests, rather than working people.

Unlike Mussolini’s later regime, however, the current right-wing governments haven’t worked out that free trade and an economy based on untrammeled, absolute private industry doesn’t work either. They’re what the Australian economist John Quiggin has described as ‘zombie economics’, because the ideas are dead and should have been discarded long ago, but are still haunting us.

Conservative propagandists are therefore completely wrong. Fascism was pro-capitalist, and supported private enterprise, despite the movement’s left-wing origins and Mussolini’s attempt to return to socialism during the brief period of the Nazi-supported Salo Republic. It is very similar to today’s Conservativism rather than socialism, although the Republicans and Tories haven’t outlawed rival political parties nor tried to replace parliament or congress with a personal dictatorship and corporativist chamber. But Boris Johnson over here and Donald Trump across the pond are sounding more Fascist day by day, as BoJob’s splenetic attack on British MPs ‘collaborating’ with the EU shows.

Examining Jeanette Winterson’s Ideas on AI and Literature

June 4, 2019

Last Saturday’s I for 1-2 June 2019 carried an interview in its ‘Culture’ section with the literary novelist, Jeanette Winterson, about her latest work, Frankissstein. This is another take on Frankenstein, with one strand of the book set in the contemporary world and exploring AI, the downloading of the human mind into computers and literature. Winterson’s the second literary novelist, following Ian McEwan, to turn to the world of robotics for their subject matter. I’ve critiqued both of them, based on reviews in the papers, because this comes across to me very much of another instance of ‘literary’ novelists appropriating Science Fiction subjects and issues, while disdaining and ignoring the genre itself.

Winterson’s interview with Max Liu was also very interesting in other respects, and worth reading. While I am not remotely inclined to read her book, and have real objections to some of her statements on philosophical grounds, I also found that there was much that she said, which I agreed with. Particularly about the exploitation of British communities under Brexit.

The Interview

The article, on page 49, was prefaced with the statement Jeanette Winterson talks to Max Liu about AI and why the novel could die if it doesn’t reinvent itself’. It ran

Jeanette Winterson would like to upload her brain to a computer. “It were possibl, I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to find out what it’s like to live without a body,” she says when we meet to discuss Frankissstein, her new novel about artificial intelligence. “I had a very religious upbringing, so to me, the idea that the body is just a house is normal.”

The 59-year-old wrote about her Pentecostal childhood in her semi-autobiographical debut novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985), and her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2011). For the past couple of years, she has been reading about AI and robotics at the same time as thinking about Mary Shelley’s Gothic classic, Frankenstein. In her latest novel, the young Shelley appears as a character.

“I started writing about Mary in Italy at the beginning of the 19th century then worked my way to the present,” says Winterson. “There was no point setting a novel about AI in the future, because I wanted readers to realise the future is here. We don’t know how far big money has gone in developing AI, but I suspect it’s much further than we think.”

Winterson believes “we’re living in an ahistorical world where people don’t know how we got here”, the pace of change since the Industrial Revolution leaving us bewildered. “By its nature, reading slows us down,” she says,”so I’m pushing against the acceleration of modern life, creating imaginative space for readers to inhabit. Anybody who can imagine something is in control.”

Her new novel’s present-day characters include Ry, a transgender doctor, and Winterson says: “One of my godchildren identifies as transgender and I’ve been reading a lot about that because I thought I needed to understand. The idea of identity being provisional fed into this novel. Much Western thought rests upon the idea that there is a core self that we can know and perfect, but probably there isn’t.

Ray falls in love with Ron, who is trying to make his fortune by designing sex dolls. Ron plans to exploit post-Brexit tax breaks by opening a factory in Wales. “I hate to see how my class has been manipulated by people who have no thought and no care for them,” says Winterson. “I’m ashamed of my country for turning its back on a European project and choosing nationalism.”

Were she to live for another 100 years, Winterson says she would retrain as a scientist. Does this mean she doesn’t see a future for the novel?

“The novel is only on its way out if it doesn’t change,” she says. “In the 80s, it was too middle-class and too male. Then Angela Carter came along and was so fresh, but she had a terrible time initially. The example of English literature’s conservatism that kills me is when Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac won the Booker in 1984 and Carter’s Nights at the Circus wasn’t even shortlisted. It was the year before I published Oranges and I just thought: “This is so dull.”

In Frankissstein, one character says the urge to write comes from vanity, but Mary counters that it’s about hope. Which is it from Winterson? “My writing is a message in a bottle. I won’t be here long enough to get my brain uploaded, so I’m chucking this message overboard in the hope it will move the conversation on.”

Moravec, Transhumanism and Max Headroom

It would be interesting to find out what Winterson had been reading as her research for her book. My guess it would almost certainly include Hans Moravec and the downloaders and transhumanists. They aim to upload their minds into machines. A little while ago they held a party at which they avowed their intention to meet each other on the other side of the Galaxy in a million years’ time. Which is some ambition. I think Moravec himself believes that by this middle of this century the technology should have been perfected that will allow a human brain to be read in such minute detail that its functions can be reproduced on computer. This was the premise behind the Max Headroom pilot, 20 Minutes into the Future. In this tale, broadcast on Channel 4 in the 1980s, Headroom, a computer-generated TV personality, is created when his human original, an investigative journalist in a dystopian future London, knocks himself unconscious going through a crash barrier to escape the villains. The journo’s body is retrieved, and used by a teenage computer whizzkid, Brice, who seems to spend his whole life in the bath, to create Headroom as an experiment. The character takes his name from the last thing his original sees before he goes through the barrier: a sign saying ‘Max Headroom’.

Sladek’s The Muller-Fokker Effect

I also wonder if she read any of the SF literature about downloading and cyberspace, including one of the first novels to tackle the subject, John Sladek’s The Muller-Fokker Effect, published in 1970. This is about Bob Shairp, a man reduced to date and stored on computer tape. I haven’t read it, but according to Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove in their history of Science Fiction, The Trillion Year Spree,

it is a deeply satirical book, homing in on the US Army, evangelism, newspapers and the like for its target, with an overall sense of fun reminiscent of the work of Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick and Sheckley. (p. 307).

Future Shock and the Global Rate of Change

Winterson’s comment that it was useless to set the book in the future, as the future is already here, is very similar to the remarks I heard about two decades ago by William Gibson, one of the founders of the Cyberpunk SF genre. Speaking at the Cheltenham Festival of literature, Gibson said that the future was already here, it was just wasn’t spread out the same everywhere, so there were parts of the world, such as the developing countries, where it wasn’t present to the same extent as the more advanced West. As for her comments about living in an ahistorical age, where people don’t know how we got here, and the pace of change is accelerating, this sounds very close to Alvin Toffler and his idea of future shock, where societal change is now so advanced and rapid that it is profoundly disorienting. But it is possible to exaggerate the speed of such changes. I can remember reading an article a few years ago, that argued that the impact of modern technology is vastly overestimated. The internet, for example, it was claimed, isn’t half as revolutionary as it is made out as it is only a development of earlier technologies, like the telegram. It’s a contentious claim, but in many ways the most rapid technological, social and economic changes were in the century following Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1937. That was when Britain was transformed from an agricultural, almost feudal country into a modern, industrial society. Britain’s empire expanded massively, communications improved allowed the rapid movement of information, goods and people across the globe. It was the period when new transport technologies like the railway, the automobile, the electric tram, dirigible balloons, aeroplanes and the rocket were created, along with inventions like the X-Ray, electric light, the telegram, telephone, radio and the first experiments in television, and, of course, sound recording and the cinema. Contemporary technological advances can be seen as refinements or improvements on these, rather than completely new inventions.

Transgender People and the Question of Core Personality

I also have objections to her comments about whether or not there is a core, human personality. I’ve no doubt that one argument against it is that many people would be very different if they had had a different upbringing. If they’d been born into a different class, or allowed to study a particular subject at school or university, or if they’d decided to pursue a different career. And, obviously, if they’d been born a different gender. But twin studies suggest that people do have some aspects of their character determined by their biology rather than their upbringing. And I don’t think she makes her argument by pointing to transpeople. As I understand it, many transpeople believe very strongly that they have a core personality or nature. It’s just that this is at opposition to their biological gender. Hence their desire to change. It isn’t simply that they simply decide at some point that they want to change their sex, which would be the case if it was simply the case that they had no core personality. But perhaps Winterson’s godchild is different.

Computers and the Existence of Self 

I’m also suspicious of the idea, as it sounds rather close to the ideas of Daniel Dennett and Susan Blackmoore that consciousness is an illusion and that the brain is simply a meat machine for running memes, discrete units of culture like genes are discrete units of biological information. On the other hand, when she says that existing as a disembodied entity on a computer doesn’t seem strange to her because of her religious background, she’s in agreement with Paul Davies. In his book, God and the New Physics, he stated that he’s prepared to accept that life can exist outside the body because of the way computers could be used to simulate human personalities. I can remember reading that the wife of one of the leading downloaders was a Methodist minister. He commented about this apparent contradiction between their two disciplines by saying that they were both trying to do the same thing, but by different methods.

The Manipulation of the Working Class

I do agree wholeheartedly, however, with Winterson’s comments about how her class is being manipulated by people, who give them no thought and no care for them. The idea that the creation of tax breaks for businesses after Brexit would allow an amoral entrepreneur to build a factor for sex robots in Wales is all too credible. Just as I agree with her about Britain turning it’s back on the EU, though I also have strong criticisms of the European Union. But Brexit has been and is being used by the Tory extreme right and its related movements, like UKIP and Farage’s noxious Brexit people, to manipulate the working class and exploit them. If you look at what Boris Johnson and Farage want, the privatisation of the NHS to American private healthcare firms is very much on the table.

Conservatism, Sexism, Literature and Literary Snobbishness

She was also right about the conservatism and sexism of the literary world in the 1980s. Private Eye’s literary column attacked Hotel du Lac for its snobbishness at the time. And the Orange Prize for literature was set up because it was felt that women were being unfairly excluded from the main literary prizes. However, the remarkable success of women writers in winning the mainstream awards has also, in the view of Private Eye a few years ago, also called into question the reason for Orange Prize. Why have a separate prize for women when that year the lists were dominated by female writers? And as for Angela Carter, I wonder if some of the problems she had didn’t just come from her writing feminist magic realist tales and fairy stories, but also because the genre SF/Fantasy crowd liked her. Flicking through an old SF anthology I found in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday, I found a piece by her about literary theory along with pieces by other, firmly genre figures. A few years ago Terry Pratchett commented that the organisers of the Cheltenham Festival looked at him as if he was going to talk to his fans about motorcycle maintenance, and he was certainly subject to appalling snobbery by the literary critics when he started out. I think it’s therefore quite possible that Carter was disdained by those who considered themselves the guardians of serious literature because she was too genre. But I also wonder if Winterson herself, despite her deep love of Carter’s work, doesn’t also have the same attitude that sees genre fiction as somehow not proper literature, as she, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and the others write.

I have to say that I don’t see the death of novel being anywhere near imminent. Not from looking along the shelves at Waterstone’s, and particularly not in the genre fiction, crime, horror, and SF. But it says something about the apparent lack of inspiration in literary fiction that it is turning to SF for its subjects. Winterson said some fascinating things in her interview, but to me, genre SF still did AI, robots and downloading first and better than the mainstream novelists now writing about it.

 

If You Want to Stop the Spread of Fascism, Vote Labour Tomorrow

May 22, 2019

Mike’s put up a series of articles this week arguing that anybody really worried about the spread of Fascism in Europe should vote Labour at the European elections tomorrow. He’s based these on comments and an article posted by one of the great readers of his blog, and by a Groaniad journo. And his and their logic is impeccable.

The election tomorrow is not a re-run of the Brexit referendum. The responsibility for deciding whether Britain leaves the EU and how lies very firmly with parliament. Nothing the Lib Dems for the Remain side nor the Brexit Party does in the EU parliament will alter that. But European democracy, culture and human rights are under threat from a renascent Far Right. The Brexit party is part of that threat, and the Lib Dems are part of the underlying cause: the misery and increasing poverty caused by neoliberalism for the benefit of the European elites, and particularly the financial sector.

Let’s start with the Brexit Party. Whatever the Fuhrage says to the contrary, his is an authoritarian, racist, far right party. It only looks moderate because Batten’s recruitment of Sargon, Dankula, Paul Joseph Watson and Tommy Robinson has pushed the party further right, bordering on the real Fascism of the BNP. But the party was already stuffed full of racists, islamophobes and militant anti-feminists under Farage. And the Brexit party still contains them and draws on them for support. The song by Captain Ska that Mike’s put up this morning attacking Farage as a racist is spot on. He did put up anti-immigrant posters that used the image of a long line of immigrants almost identical to a Nazi one against the dangers of Jewish immigration. His party is a corporation, like that of Change UK, and there are very strong suspicions that it is funded by dark money from foreign powers. Which is illegal. Quite apart from the fact that he lied about it not being funded by Arron Banks when it clearly was. The Fuhrage’s personal style of leadership is extremely authoritarian. In Chester last week he had a member of the audience at a rally thrown out because the man had the temerity to ask a searching question. Rather than cry ‘Duce! Duce!’ along with the rest of the adoring masses. Now he has blocked Channel 4 from his rallies, for the same reason. This is extremely ominous, as it shows that, like his friend Trump, he would dearly love to get rid of the freedom of the press and speech completely. He would also like to privatise the health service and roll back the welfare state even further than the Conservatives.

He’s a threat to Britain, and to genuine European liberal values.

As is Vince Cable and the Lib Dems. People are voting for them apparently because of their clear Remain message, and they’re supposed to have overtaken Labour in the polls for this election. But let’s remember that the Lib Dems went into the coalition with the Tories, where they were quite happy to support the further privatisation of the health service, the bedroom tax, the increasing destruction of the welfare state, including IDS’ and McVey’s lethal sanctions of the unemployed and the disabled in the DWP. Thanks in part to the Lib Dems, a quarter of a million people now have to rely on food banks for their next meal, the majority of whom I think are now working people. And something like a quarter of all children are growing up in ‘food insecure’ homes. Or something like it. And students in particular have a very good reason not to vote for Cable or his gang of bandits. The massive hike in tuition fees was urged by Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader. Cameron would have given in and lowered or dropped them had the Lib Dems insisted. Our young people, the doctors, nurses, teachers, scientists, engineers, and professionals of tomorrow, are being sadly with tens of thousands of pounds in debt because Clegg and the Lib Dems thought they should. They are also a threat to democracy, because they decided to throw out John Stuart Mill and his resolute support of democracy to bring in secret courts. All in the interests of national security, of course.

But hey, the austerity they and the other centrists demand will bring prosperity eventually. 

The answer to this is no, it won’t. It hasn’t so far, and won’t ever. A few weeks ago I put up a video from the Canary which explained that everywhere austerity has been implemented it has produced nothing but poverty. And far from being massively popular, those parties promoting it have met with the absolute reverse.

And the Fascists know this, and are exploiting it.

Hope Not Hate on Monday, 20th May 2019, put up piece about a mass rally in Milan of the various European far right parties, organised by Matteo Salvini of Italy’s Lega Party. It was a kind of ‘Unite the Right’ of European Fascists, attended by

Marine Le Pen of France’s Rassemblement National and Geert Wilders of the Dutch Party for Freedom. Alternative for Germany (AfD), Belgium’s Vlaams Belang (VB), Estonia’s EKRE and the Danish People’s Party (DPP) had all sent their main MEP candidates and central party figures, Jörg Meuthen (AfD), Gerolf Annemans (VB), Jaak Madison (EKRE) and Anders Vistisen (DPP). Representatives from Slovakias Sme Rodina, Austrian Freedom Party, Finland’s True Finns, Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) from Czech Republic and Volya from Bulgaria also addressed the rally.

Hope Not Hate reported that

Welcomed by chants of his name from the crowd, Salvini said he wanted to “free the continent from the illegal occupation orchestrated in Brussels”, and that Europe had been betrayed by the “Merkels, the Macrons, the Soroses and the Junckers who built a Europe based on finance and uncontrolled migration.” The audience chanted “Matteo, Matteo, Matteo” in response.

Okay, Merkel is the leader of Germany’s centre right Christian Democrats, and Soros is the Hungarian-American billionaire financier. But the policies they are pursuing are the old shopworn neoliberalism and austerity. As are Macron’s, who’s supposed to be reviving French prosperity. And if you don’t believe that these people are Fascists, consider how close Geert Wilders’ comments that “We must secure the future of our land and children”. This is close to the infamous ’14 Words’ of the American neo-Nazis, which run something like ‘We must secure a White homeland and the future of White children’, although I’ve forgotten the right wording.

Salvini gathers leaders of the European far right in Milan

Europe desperately needs the return of genuine, socialist politics. Not just to restore its industries and people from decades of poverty, calculated neglect, privatisation and welfare cuts by its elites, but to save Europe and its tradition of democracy and human rights from a renewed Fascism. A strong vote for the Labour party in the elections will help them form a powerful bloc with the other European socialist parties. And it has always been the parties of the Left – the Socialists and Communists – who have been the most resolute and determined opposed of Fascism.

Don’t let Farage and Cable lead us into a Continent-wide new Fascist Dark Age. 

Vote Labour!

No Pasaran!

 

Sargon Attacked for Anti-Semitism

May 1, 2019

After the Mail on Sunday’s hit piece on YouTube rightist Carl Benjamin aka Sargon of Akkad at the weekend comes yet another attack from the Jewish News and Jewish Chronicle. Sargon has been adopted by UKIP as their second listed candidate for the southwest. And so the media has spent the last few weeks tearing him apart for his highly controversial views about race and feminism.

Sargon’s Infamous Rape Tweet

Sargon is infamous for his tweet to Labour MP Jess Phillips saying ‘I wouldn’t even rape you’ after she read out in parliament the rape and death threats she’d received over social media. He also made a video against ‘political correctness’ and identity politics, in which he used various racial slurs against Blacks, Hispanics, Jews and Asians, called gays ‘fags’ and the mentally handicapped ‘retards’.

Apparent Support for Sexual Abuse of Boys 

The MoS’ article discussed these, but also included new allegations, that Sargon approved of the sexual abuse of underage boys. A dossier of information handed over to the rozzers by an unnamed senior official in UKIP included the recording of a conversation Sargon had on YouTube. In it he said he could be quoted as saying that it was acceptable to f*** young boys, because it was normal in ancient Greece. ‘It’, he said, ‘all depends on the child’.

Jews, Identity Politics and the Holocaust

Yesterday Zelo Street put up an article reporting that Sargon has now been attacked for anti-Semitism for comments he made at an evening in New York with YouTube independent journo and actor and stand-up comedian Carlos Alazraqui. The evening was recorded, and put up on Sargon’s YouTube channel under the title ‘The Manhattan Panel’. Sargon had made the comments in response to a question by a member of the audience about a powerful and influential Jewish political group, and how he could point them out without engaging in identity politics.

Sargon replied by defending Jeremy Corbyn. He stated that though he was loath to defend a socialist, Corbyn didn’t deserve the pasting he had received. He then went on to make the following comments

“Jewish people do very well in our societies. That’s to their credit, they work hard. It’s not that this is illegitimately gained. But then I can see why people are resentful that successful, rich, well-off people, who are well connected, who are socially very advanced, are then playing the game of identity politics as well.

“I can see why it doesn’t seem fair. It seems like an unfair defence, an unfair advantage that they have. If someone were to say, ‘Well that’s anti-semitic thing to say,’ it would sound to me like someone criticising feminism and being called a mysoginist. To me it’s just another brand of identity politics.”

He then went on

“Jewish people are very smart, they work very hard, of course they’re successful, if we want to even have any idea that we’re living in a meritocracy, if Jews weren’t succeeding in our societies they must be being held back. But they’re not, they’re doing great, because they’re not being held back, because they do work hard, because they are smart.

“We need Jewish people, unfortunately for them, have got to drop the identity politics.

“I’m sorry about the Holocaust but I don’t give a shit. I’m sorry.”

It is this comment about the Holocaust that was criticised by the two papers as anti-Semitic, who also mentioned that he had also made other racial and anti-Semitic slurs.

Sargon’s Defence of Racial Slurs against Asians

Zelo Street in their piece about Sargon’s comments linked it to the remark he made in his video defending his right to use abusive terms against those of others, gays and the mentally handicapped. He argued that he had the right to call Asians ‘ch*nks’ because they were generally more prosperous and thus more privileged than Whites. Zelo Street quoted Sargon’s comments, adding their own pertinent remarks thus

Because Asians are privileged. In almost every walk of life, Asians make more money [what does that remind you of?], they have better results, and they do better in life than me, just a dumb-ass cracker. So when Asians are filling up all of those top spots in better proportion than white people [?] you have to understand you have institutional privilege”.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/04/carl-benjamin-in-anti-semitism-storm.html

This is based on the Buzzfeed article at

https://www.buzzfeed.com/markdistefano/benjamin-akkad-racial-statements

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism on the Disparagement of the Holocaust

Sargon’s comments were inevitably going to be considered anti-Semitic. Way back in 2014 the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism published a list of remarks they considered to be anti-Semitic. Two of them were about lack of sympathy for the Holocaust. These were ‘Jews talk too much about the Holocaust’, and ‘Jews talk about the Holocaust to make people feel sorry for them.’ These are more or less the kind of sentiments Sargon was expressing.

Zionist Appropriation of Holocaust 

Now Tony Greenstein, who is a Jewish anti-Zionist, has made the point that the Jewish community in Britain is generally comfortably middle class, and that the loud accusations of anti-Semitism leveled at critics of Israel are unjust, because Jews don’t suffer the massive hatred and institutional racism suffered by Blacks, Asians and Muslims. In contemporary Britain, there are no forced deportations of Jews as there have been of Blacks and other non-White minorities, such as those of the Windrush generation and their children.

Greenstein and other Jewish critics of Israel, such as Norman Finkelstein, Ilan Pappe and even Hannah Arendt have described how the Holocaust has been appropriated by Zionism to support and fend off criticism of Israel. This is controversial, obviously, but nevertheless it’s  a fair point, which should be able to be discussed without accusations of anti-Semitism.

But Sargon didn’t mention Zionism. He was simply referring to ‘the Jews’.

The Holocaust and Gentile Resentment of Jewish Success

A number of Jewish writers and bloggers have made it clear that they don’t like people praising them for their economic and social success, because this can too easily turn into envy and resentment. Which is absolutely true. The Nazis and other anti-Semites resented Jewish success. They attempted to explain it with stupid, murderous conspiracy theories like the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. These claimed that the Jews were planning to enslave non-Jews and were doing their best to squeeze gentiles out of important positions in politics, business and culture. This happened in Germany, which during the 19th century was one of the least anti-Semitic countries in Europe. I’ve read histories of the Jewish community in 19th century Germany that have argued that there was far less prejudice against them there than in France or Britain. The Holocaust, apart from the Jewish people’s long history of persecution, has left behind a terrible legacy of social insecurity. It continues to be discussed because it occurred in the West, in one of the most civilised and cultured nations in Europe. It fascinates and terrifies because it shows that, despite the West’s ideas of progress and civilisation, they also could commit horrific acts of mass barbarism against innocents, simply because they were the wrong race.

Anti-Semitism and Persecution Easily Generated Under Fascism

And such resentment can be generated very quickly, even in societies where there was little traditional anti-Semitism. In Italy, for example, there was also extremely little anti-Semitism. The Jewish community was small and assimilated. They were proud Italians, so proud, in fact, that many even joined the Fascist party. But this changed after Mussolini passed his infamous racial legislation in 1937. It was a milder imitation of Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws, and similarly banned Jews from positions in the Fascist party, government, education and certain businesses. Initially there was shock and outrage from the Italian public. But after a few years of repression, in which gentiles who commiserated with and supported Jews were harassed and punished, part of the Italian public began to wonder if the Jews had not brought it all on themselves and deserved it for somehow conspiring against Italy and Mussolini. The regime’s spies were thus pleased to observe that anti-Semitism was therefore increasing.

See: Christopher Duggan, Fascist Voices: An Intimate History of Mussolini’s Italy (London: Vintage Books 2013).

Asians in Similar Social Position to Jews

Asians are in a similar situation. Although certain Asian groups, like the Chinese and Hindus in Britain, have managed to prosper, they have also experienced racial prejudice and discrimination, and are at risk of abuse and violence from racists and Fascists like other, less privileged minorities. Hence the same concern to see them also protected from racism, including abusive language.

Sargon Not Anti-Semite, But Views Normalise Racism

I don’t think it’s fair to call Sargon an anti-Semite. I think he may even have claimed to be Jewish. He clearly admires the Jews for the way they earned their success through hard work and enterprise, although not everyone in the Jewish community is rich or comfortably off by any means. David Rosenberg on his blog has described how there are still Jews, who are poor and depend very much on the welfare state that Sargon, as a Libertarian, sorry, ‘Classical Liberal’ would like to see demolished. And Sargon is right in that there would indeed be something wrong with Britain as a meritocracy, if talented people from minorities like the Jews couldn’t rise in society.

But Sargon’s views on race, identity politics and the Holocaust are ignorant and dangerous, because they legitimize certain forms of racism. And his views on the Holocaust are particularly dangerous because, without its proper remembrance, horrors like it may be all too easily committed again. Sargon has argued with the Far Right on debates on YouTube, but some of his views are so close to theirs that Fascists like Richard Spencer have confessed to using some of his videos as gateways to their own vile ideologies and organisations.

Sargon thus deserves all the media criticism he has received for his extreme right-wing views. He was always a liability to UKIP, and since Batten adopted him and the other YouTube rightists he’s been bringing them down with him. And I don’t doubt the criticism are over yet.

 

 

 

Islamophobe Tommy Robinson Campaigning to Become MEP in Manchester

April 26, 2019

Well UKIP and Farage’s equally noxious Brexit party, both stuffed with racists and bigots, have announced their candidates for the European elections. And they’ve now been joined by that other long-term fixture of the populist extreme right, Stephen Yaxley Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson. Robinson’s past in the EDL and the BNP mean that he’s actually forbidden by their constitution to become a member of UKIP, which is why Gerard Batten has taken him on as the party’s special adviser on Islam and prisons. Because Robinson despises Islam and has spent quite a bit of time at her majesty’s pleasure on various charges, like assault, contempt of court likely to prejudice trials, that kind of thing. As he can’t be a member of UKIP, Robinson is trying to get himself elected to the European parliament as an independent.

Last week he announced that he was planning to buy his own political battle bus, equipped with screens outside and inside, so he could bring his message of hate to the British public directly without being banned by the authorities or having his videos taken down by YouTube and the other social media companies. And he’s appealed to his followers to send him their hard-earned cash so he can buy it. On Thursday he began his campaign to become the MEP for England’s north-west region in Wythenshawe, a suburb of Manchester. He chose the place because it’s where many of the support workers for Manchester airport live. He claimed that the local people had been forgotten and betrayed at every level, and the Labour party no longer represented ‘who we are’, and called for people to stop supporting them and turn to him instead. He was introduced by Ann-Marie Waters, the struggling Fuhrerin of For Britain, another far right, Islamophobic party. For Britain’s members, according to Hope Not Hate, are former BNP and EDL storm troopers, who are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Water’s leadership.

Robinson began his campaign with a barbecue on Brownley Green, opposite the local Methodist church. And the locals really didn’t want him to turn up. He was asked not to come by the local Christian, Jewish and Muslim community leaders. Wythenshawe Community Housing Group told Robinson that the green is their land, and they were refusing him permission to use it. Madeleine Monaghan stated that the area was unsuitable for large gatherings as it was in an area of family homes, with narrow streets, children and old people. Nevertheless, Robinson ignored them and went ahead anyway.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/04/tommy-robinson-barbecue-banned.html

In the event only 300 local people turned up. And the cops, who informed Robinson he may have broken electoral law. This forbids politicians from offering money or other gifts to induce people to vote for them. It’s a law which was passed in the 19th century to stamp out the corruption of 18th century politics, including the rotten and pocket boroughs controlled by a single landlord. Politicalite also issued a tweet stating that the event was hosted by the Australian News Network, aka Avi Yemini. Yemini is an unindicted Australian-Israeli war criminal. He boasts of having shot unarmed Arabs when he was a soldier in the IDF. He is also not a British national. It is also against electoral law for political parties and candidates to be sponsored by foreign individuals and organisations. As there was a complaint against UKIP for handing out free sausage rolls at one of their electoral rallies a few years ago, Robinson may well find himself up before the Electoral Commission trying to explain himself.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/04/tommy-robinson-campaign-may-have-broken.html

See also this piece by Hope Not Hate, who have also started a campaign to stop him.

Stephen Lennon wants to go to Brussels

A vote for Robinson is a vote for Fascist thuggery, no exaggeration. He’s campaigned with the Football Lads’ Alliance, an organisation of football hooligans. And his method of dealing with his opponents on social media is to turn up mob-handed with his storm troopers at all hours of the day and night at the homes of his detractors and their families. He’s done it to the good blogger at Zelo Street, to historian and anti-racist YouTuber Mike Stuchbery, and to an unnamed blogger in Luton. In the latter case, Robinson drove all the way from his own home in Luton to the man’s parents’ home in Cumbria, arriving in the early hours of the morning.

This isn’t how proper, democratic politicians behave. It’s how the squadristi of Mussolini’s Fascists behaved in Italy, and Hitler’s Nazi thugs. It’s the tactics of the secret police of totalitarian states, like Stalin’s KGB, the Nazis’ Gestapo and Mussolini’s OVRA. Quite apart from Robinson’s own message of hatred against innocent, law-abiding Muslims, simply for being Muslims.

He is, along with Batten’s UKIP and Farage’s Brexit Party, a threat to democracy and the peace and safety of ordinary British citizens. In the event, only 300 local people actually turned up. Let’s hope the next time he invades an area looking for votes, local people also recognise him for what he is. And support British democracy by staying away or protesting against him.

Murdoch Demands Curtailment of Parliamentary Democracy over Brexit

April 8, 2019

Earlier today I put up a piece about an article in the I newspaper about the claim by a charity, the Hansard Society, that British people were increasingly demanding a more authoritarian leader, who could override parliament. This is obviously dangerous, as at the end of such anti-parliamentary sentiments lies authoritarian political strongmen like Vladimir Putin outright dictatorships, like those of Hitler and Mussolini. I speculated that, if the findings are correct, they’re probably due to Tweezer’s supporters getting impatient with parliament blocking her wretched, worthless Brexit deals.

It turns out I may well have been right. Brexit is involved. And so, unfortunately, is that curse of the modern press, Rupert Murdoch.

No sooner had I put my piece up then I found that the good fellow behind Zelo Street had put up a similar article based on articles about the Hansard Society and its wretched poll in the Times and the Guardian. The Thunderer’s article had the headline, ‘Brexit-weary Britons long for political strongman’, contained the following ominous statements

In findings that suggest large parts of the country are ready to entertain radical political change, nearly three quarters of people felt that the British system of governing needed ‘quite a lot’ or ‘a great deal’ of improvement.

More than four in ten thought that the country’s problems could be more easily solved if ministers ‘didn’t have to worry so much about votes in Parliament. The findings come two days before Theresa May returns to Brussels to ask the EU for another Brexit extension.

The Street says that it is no accident that the mythical desire for a political strongman is here linked to Brexit, and that the only surprise is that the Scum hasn’t received its orders to put the same demand in cruder terms. The article then goes on to discuss the Groan’s treatment of these findings, which is hostile, and quotes Rose Carter of the anti-racism, anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate. She says

We are facing a crisis of political mistrust. And when people do not trust traditional political systems, they look elsewhere. That’s when support for political extremes grows.

The Street then goes on to describe how political strongmen look good, until they’re actually put to the test, and goes on to give examples. These aren’t just the obvious cases of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, but also the Greek Colonels, who left Cyprus partitioned, Salazar in Portugal, who left his country poor and illiterate, General Franco in Spain, who brought some people prosperity in the 1960s, but from a very low base; General Pinochet and his legacy of death and division in Chile; and finally Vladimir Putin in Russia. His gangster regime has brought some people prosperity, but only recently has the Russian economy started growing.

But, as the Street’s article notes, the Dirty Digger likes Donald Trump and his authoritarian style of government, as he mistakenly thinks that the Orange Generalissimo gets things done. The Street therefore concludes that, once again, Murdoch is debasing politics for his own ends.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/04/murdoch-press-wants-dictatorship.html

Murdoch’s selfish demand for the curtailment of parliament’s powers and the establishment of the Prime Minister as some kind of quasi-dictator isn’t quite as extreme as Lord Rothermere’s support of Adolf Hitler and Oswald Mosley in the 1930s and the Daily Mail’s infamous headline ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’. Nor is it quite like Mussolini, who was the editor of a radical newspaper, the Popolo d’Italia, which he used to promote Fascism and his personal dictatorship. It’s far more like Berlusconi, who used his vast media empire to promote his political ambitions. It wasn’t a military dictatorship, like Mussolini’s with paramilitary thugs running berserk and the banning of other political parties. But then, as the author of the book, The Dark Heart of Italy stated on a radio interview about his book on Berlusconi’s Italy, this new form of Fascism didn’t need them. Unlike Berlusconi, Murdoch hasn’t put himself forward for political office. But he has been instrumental in framing policy in several governments, most notoriously in Blair’s, where one minister described the Digger as almost being like a hidden member of the cabinet, so concerned with Blair to have his approval.

This makes Murdoch a real threat to British democracy. There are reasons why the monopolies and mergers commission sought to prevent newspaper proprietors owning too large a portion of British media, and why many people, including many Tories, were not in favour of the Digger getting hold of the Times. But they were overruled by Thatcher, and have been overruled by other Prime Ministers ever since, eager to grant Murdoch an ever-increasing share of press and television broadcasting in order to gain the support of his squalid empire. And Murdoch’s own political views are directly opposed the welfare of Britain’s working people. They’re pro-privatisation, including that of the NHS and education, because he’s moving into educational publishing. He wants low taxes, less government regulation, and, surprise, surprise, a minimal welfare state. And now he’s shown himself to be an outright enemy of parliament and the British democratic tradition it represents.

Murdoch has no right to demand this. He isn’t British, but a foreigner. He’s actually an American citizens, as the Americans have the good sense to pass regulations stopping foreigners possessing a controlling interest in the newspapers and utilities. Which is something we should have done long ago. John Major back in the 1990s finally came round to realising that Murdoch’s squalid empire should be broken up, but by that time Murdoch had ditched him and was putting his weight behind Tony Blair, who more than willingly returned the favour.

Murdoch and his wretched papers have been bad for Britain, bad for British politics, bad for its working people, and now have begun an attack on the democracy. This can’t be allowed to continue, but I fear that with his newspapers now so powerful, too many people have been brainwashed by him to make this possible.

 

Charity Claims Brits Turning Away from Parliamentary Democracy to Strong Rulers

April 8, 2019

There’s an ominous piece in today’s I, Monday, 8th April 2019, reporting that a charity, the Hansard Society, has found that British people are increasingly fed up with parliamentary and looking instead for a strong ruler that govern without its consent. The article by Joe Gammie, ‘Britons want new rules – and new leaders’ runs

Growing public dissatisfaction with Britain’s political system is leading people to entertain “radical solutions” which challenge the core tenets of democracy, a charity has warned.

The annual Hansard Society audit of political engagement found that nearly three-quarters of people felt the UK’s system of governing needed “quite a lot” or “a great deal” of improvement.

At 72 per cent, this is the highest level in the 15 years the audits have been published – worse than the previous peak of 69 per cent in the 2010 study which was taken in the aftermath of the MPs’ expenses scandal and the financial crises.

The research and education charity warned that the increasing public dissatisfaction with the system of governing meant some people were saying Britain needed a “strong leader willing to break the rules” and that the country’s problems could be better deal with if the Government did not not have to worry about parliamentary approval.

Dr Ruth Fox, the director of the Hansard Society, said: “This year’s audit of political engagement shows that the public are not apathetic about politics, but they are increasingly dissatisfied with the way our system of governing works – so much so that sizeable numbers are willing to entertain quite radical solutions that would challenge core tenets of our democracy. (p.6).

The article seems to be saying that a majority of Brits now want a strong ruler, who gets things done without parliamentary checks. It means they’re turning to centralised, authoritarian, personal government. And the end of that road are the highly authoritarian regimes of leaders like Putin, or outright dictatorship.

I have some caveats about the article. It doesn’t describe how the polling was conducted, how large the canvassed groups were, or its composition. There is no information on precisely which sections of society made up the polled group, or their voting preferences or political allegiances. I’ve also read similar scare stories in the press before, where an organisation claimed they had found, for example, that 2/3 of Brits would support a strongly anti-immigrant party of the type of the BNP or National Front. In fact, while there is massive demand for restrictions on immigration, and as we’ve seen with successive governments, a very harsh, punitive approach to immigrants and asylum seekers, there’s very little support for the parties of the extreme Right. They’re a danger, and shouldn’t be encouraged, but they attract only tiny minority of supporters. People instead look to the mainstream parties to formulate and carry out policies against immigration. I think the same attitude underlies the comments here, if they can be believed. Those demanding a more centralised, personal government doubtless want it carried out within the system, rather than parliamentary democracy to be smashed and completely overthrown by an aspiring dictator like Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists tried in the 1930s.

If there is such radical dissatisfaction with parliament, my guess is that it’s being fueled by the continuing debacle over Brexit, where the different factions in the Tory party are tearing each other to pieces, coupled with Tweezer repeatedly trying and failing to get it all past parliament. In these circumstances, it looks like the 72 per cent demanding a strong leadership against parliament are supporters of Tweezer, who have swallowed her lies and those of the Tory press that the reason no progress is being made is entirely due to treacherous MPs blocking her proposed deal. And not because the deal itself is rubbish and massively unpopular. If there’s a problem, then it’s not with parliament, or rather, not directly, and the solution is not to take power away from it and give it to a Russian-style silovik, or strong man. The proper solution would be to demand a general election to break impasse, one that would put a Labour government and Jeremy Corbyn into No. 10, and allow some real progress to be made.

But this is completely unacceptable to the Tories, for obvious reasons, and the rest of the neoliberal media-industrial complex, who wish to keep the Tories in No. 10 and blame parliament, not the PM, for the continuing massive failure of Brexit.

And this is extremely dangerous. When parliamentary democracy fails, Fascism seizes power. Both Hitler and Mussolini gained power through the failure of parliamentary democracy. In both Germany and Italy, the mainstream parties elected to parliament refused to work with each other. Hitler and Mussolini were then invited by the governing party to join a coalition in order to give them a majority. They did so, and then passed legislation giving their parties an overwhelming majority, and then destroying parliamentary democracy altogether through banning rival parties and elevating Hitler and Mussolini to positions of supreme leadership, Fuehrer in German, Duce in Italian.

There is also another danger to parliamentary democracy right at the opposite pole to political fragmentation. This is when it becomes discredited when MPs from an opposition party join the government without a mandate from their own party or constituency. For example, last week Tom Watson, the conniving deputy leader of the Labour party and other right-wing Labour MPs announced that they would be willing to join Tweezer and the Tories in a government of national unity. Watson has spent his time as deputy leader intriguing against the party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has the overwhelming support of party members. A sizable section of the parliamentary Labour party has also plotted to undermine and overthrow Corbyn, against the wishes of their own constituency parties and the members of the Party as a whole. The result has been a series of ‘no confidence’ votes against right-wing, Thatcherite MPs like Joan Ryan and Luciana Berger. Who responded by smearing their opponents as Communists, misogynists and anti-Semites, and then split to help form Change UK, thus betraying the Labour supporters and activists that got them elected. It’s been pointed out that Watson and co. do form a coalition with Tweezer, it would effectively be an anti-democratic coup, carried out by parliament against the wishes of the wider electorate.

Parallels have also been drawn between this and the coalition government of 1929, when Ramsay McDonald, then leader of the Labour party, joined forces with the Tories to introduce a series of cuts that hit the working class. This split the Labour party, and McDonald was thrown out. He has been reviled ever since as a traitor to the party. This may well be what Watson wants, as he and other Labour right-wingers were talking of coups and forming splinter groups long before The Independent Group finally took the plunge. It’s part of their plot to marginalise genuine socialism, and retain power under the name of the Labour party for Thatcherite entryists like themselves. But if they do take this step, it will discredit parliament, and the result could a further turn to radical solutions demanding the removal of parliamentary democracy or its radical curtailment.

It’s also similar to the plans for a coup in the mid-’70s to overthrow Harold Wilson’s minority government. The Times then was demanding a government of national unity, to include moderate Labour MPs like Shirley Williams alongside the Tories. This was to be achieved by a military coup and everyone else further left was to be rounded up and interned.

If the Hansard Society is correct, and people are becoming radically dissatisfied with parliamentary government, then the solution isn’t the greater centralisation of power in the Prime Minister. Tweezer is the cause of this problem. She has put her own personal interest in remaining premier, and her vile party’s determination to cling on to power at whatever the cost to the British people ahead of her duty to the country. Just as the Labour right has put its own privileges and Thatcherite agenda before the wishes of their constituents and the needs of the British people. The solution to these problems should be more democracy, so that Tweezer has no choice but to obey the wishes of parliament, and cannot pass the buck by blaming them for her own failures. At the same time, Watson and the rest of the Thatcherites should be brought to heel and made to represent their constituents, not their own selfish interests.

But this is too much for the British establishment and media, who will continue to support Tweezer against parliament, until people really are completely fed up with the whole charade. And then will come the real danger of demands for proper authoritarian government. But if it’s against the Left, this will certainly be backed by the Times and the rest of the press. All in the interests of national unity, of course.

Zelo Street on Neil Hamilton’s Nazi Antics

April 5, 2019

This morning, Zelo Street has put up a very interesting article about Neil Hamilton and his sordid history of extreme right-wing acts. The Street reports that Labour’s Ruth Jones has retained her seat at the Newport West by-election yesterday. This was despite the fact that she’s a Remainer, and it’s a constituency where a sizable part are ‘Leave’ supporters. The Labour majority was reduced, but that’s partly to be expected as the turn-out was much lower.

Unfortunately, the UKIP candidate, one Mostyn Neil Hamilton, also retained his deposit, even though he didn’t get in. Hamilton used to be a Tory politico until he ended up before the beak for taking bribes from one Mohammed al-Fayed, a grocer of Knightsbridge, in the ‘cash for questions’ scandal under John Major. Fayed, who was the-then owner of Harrod’s, had given money to Hamilton to ask questions in parliament, which is very much against the laws. Hamilton had taken the money and run, whereupon the man Private Eye dubbed ‘the Phoney Pharoah’ sued him for breach of contract. The result was a court case and mass hilarity. As someone said, it was the kind of case you wished both sides would lose.

The Street goes on to discuss the Kippers’ lurch to the far right, and its involvement with street protests. Why has Hamilton remained in the party when it has become notorious for intimidation and thuggery? The answer is that Hamilton himself has a history of intimidation and Fascist thuggery. He was one of those discussed in the Beeb Panorama documentary, ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency’, which alleged that the Tories had been infiltrated by the Far Right. Hamilton was in it because he had made the Nazi salute in Germany, contrary to the country’s anti-Nazi legislation; worn blackface makeup to impersonate Idi Amin; gave a speech to a group of Italian neo-Fascists; was a member of the far-right Eldon group and an associate of the notorious George Kennedy Young, who had issued anti-Semitic slurs against Leon Brittan and Nigel Lawson. The documentary was never shown, because, despite all the evidence that the Tories were infested with Fascists, the Beeb surrendered when it could and should have humiliated Hamilton over Fascist links and behaviour. He also tried it with the Guardian, but the Groan stood up to him.

Zelo Street says that it was clear that several of the witnesses had suffered intimidation to change their stories, whether this was just a private word or a phone call. And it wasn’t personal intimidation, but legal threats from his wealthy supporters, like James Goldsmith and the Spectator columnist Taki Theodoracopulos,  who’s notorious for his anti-Semitism. This makes Hamilton perfectly at home in UKIP, which now boasts Tommy Robinson and associated thugs. Robinson was the former founder of the EDL, and has also been in Pegida UK and the BNP. His tactic of dealing with critics is to turn up mob-handed on their door step to intimidate them, as he has done with Mike Stuchbery. He also did this a few weeks ago to the parents of an unnamed young man, who had committed the heinous crime of posting footage showing Robinson contradicting himself or otherwise looking stupid or obnoxious on the web. The Street says

Plenty of intimidation, a little thuggery here and there, plenty of far-right links to keep him happy – Hamilton will be like the proverbial pig in shit.

And concludes

That’s why someone who served as a Conservative MP for 14 years fits right in with today’s UKIP. It’s also an indictment on that broad Tory church letting in the boot boys for so many years with no questions asked. 

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/04/still-liar-and-cheat.html