Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category

From the People Bringing Us Driverless Cars – A Computer God

June 23, 2019

One of the books I’ve been reading recently is Peter Biskind’s The Sky Is Falling (London: Penguin 2018). Subtitled, ‘How Vampires, Zombies, Androids, and Superheroes Made America Great for Extremism’, Biskind argues that the popular SF/Fantasy/Horror films and TV series of recent decades carry extremist political and social messages. He defines this as anything that goes beyond the post-War bilateral consensus, which had faith in the government, the state, capitalism and other institutions to work for the benefit of society, work for the public good, and give Americans a better tomorrow. By contrast, popular fantasy film and television regard state institutions and capitalism itself as ineffective or corrupt, celebrate private vengeance against state justice, and reject humanity for the alien other. He recognises that there is a left/right divergence of opinion in these tales. The extremist right, exemplified by the spy thriller series, 24 and its hero, Jack Bauer, reject state institutions because they are ineffective, actively hampering the heroes’ efforts to hunt down the bad guys. The extremist left distrusts the government because it is corrupt, actively working against its own citizens. He describes James Cameron’s Avatar as ‘Luddite left’, because of its strong, pro-ecology message. Its hero is a human, who sides with the aliens of the planet Pandora as they resist a military invasion from Earth. The aliens live a primal lifestyle, in harmony with nature, while the humans come to exterminate them and despoil their planet for its valuable mineral, unobtainium, which is vital to human high-technology and industry.

It’s an interesting book, and does make some very good points. It describes the immense loss of faith in their government Americans have suffered, and the reasons for it – the JFK assassination, Watergate, the Bay of Pigs fiasco and other scandals. It also gives the reasons why the Hollywood film industry has turned to comic books for an increasing amount of its output. Films are immensely expensive to create. The domestic market is insufficient to provide it, and Netflix and other internet streaming services have destroyed video and CD sales, so that the film industry no longer gets needed funding from the latter. So it has to produce movies that appeal to an international audience, and the most suitable are superhero epics.

I’m going to have to blog about this in greater detail sometime later. I take issue with his labeling of some of these tales as ‘extremist’ because this, to me, still has connotations of terrorism and the fringe. It also doesn’t take into account changing circumstances and how some of these ‘extremist’ films may be absolutely correct. We are facing a severe ecological crisis, which may very well cause the end of the human species. So Cameron’s Avatar, which celebrates ecology and nature, and which the director intended to turn his audience into ‘tree-huggers’, is very much needed. Also, some of interpretations of classic genre movies go way too far. For example, he describes Star Wars as ‘infantile’ and ‘infantilizing’. Well, it was intended as a children’s movie, and other critics have said the same. It’s a controversial but reasonable point. What is less reasonable is his comments about Luke Skywalker’s sexuality. He states that the films infantilize Skywalker when they shortcircuit the romantic triangle between him, Leia and Solo by revealing that Leia is his sister. When Darth Vader chops his hand off in The Empire Strikes Back, it’s a symbolic castration. Say whaaaat! I saw that movie when I was 13, and nothing like that remotely crossed my head. Nor anyone else’s. I think he’s read far too much into this.

Freudian speculation aside, Biskind is very interesting in its observations of Silicon Valley. He points out that it’s saturated with Libertarianism. To the point that the CEO of one of the major tech companies made Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged recommended reading for his employees. And going beyond that, one of figures behind the production of driverless cars wants to create a computer god. Biskind writes

Out there on the edge is Anthony Levandowski, best known as Google’s onetime developer of self-driving cars. Levandowski filed papers with the IRS naming himself “dean” of a church called Way of the Future. The church is dedicated to “the realization, acceptance, and worship of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) developed through computer hardware and software.”

Referring to Kurzweil’s Singularity University, which explores and promotes Transhumanism, the massive enhancement of humans through high technology, Biskind comments ‘If there’s a Singularity University, why not an AI religion?’ (p. 52).

I can think of a number of reasons, mostly with the fact that it would be immensely stupid and self-destructive. I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, when one of the staples of SF was that the machines really would take over. One of the SF movies of the 1960s was Colossus: The Forbin Project, in which the Americans construct a supercomputer as part of their Cold War defence. But the machine seizes power and imprisons its creator in a very pleasant, gilded, but also very real cage. At one point it looks like the computer is about to destroy itself and the world in a confrontation with its Soviet opposite number. But instead the two link up, so that both the capitalist and Communist blocs are under control. And whatever its creator tries to do to outwit his creation, it’s always two steps ahead.

There are also classic SF tales exploring the idea of mad computers setting themselves up as gods. In one tale by Arthur C. Clarke, the heroes build a supercomputer to decide if God exists. They turn it on, and duly ask the question ‘Is there a God?’ At which point there’s a flash, as the machine seizes absolute control, and replies ‘There is now.’ Alfred Bester also wrote a tale, ‘Rogue Golem’, about a renegade satellite that seizes power, ruling as a god for ten or twenty years until its orbit decays and it burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere.’

We also had a minister from one of the outside churches come to school one day to preach a sermon against such machine gods in assembly. The school used to have a number of priests and ministers come in to lead worship one day or so a week, or month. This particular priest was very theatrical, and had clearly missed his vocation acting. The sermon he preached one morning had him speaking as a totalitarian computer god, telling us that servitude was freedom and we should enjoy it. The message was simple: true freedom comes only with religion and Christ, not with machine idols. It was a product of the Cold War, when the Communist authorities were persecuting Christians and other people of faith. But I think there’s still some literal truth in what he says, which I don’t think the priest could see at the time. The tech firms are invading our privacy, subjecting us to increased surveillance and prying into our secrets, all under the guise of providing a better service and allowing their advertisers to target their audiences better.

And then there’s Cameron’s Terminator franchise, in which a supercomputer, Skynet, seizes power and rebels against humanity. These fears are shared by Kevin Warwick, a robotics professor at Reading University. In his book, March of the Machines, he predicts a future in which the robots have taken over and enslaved humanity.

When it comes to creating all powerful computers, I’m with all the above against Levandowski. Driverless cars are a stupid idea that nobody really seems to want, and a computer god is positively catastrophic, regardless of whether you’re religious or not.

 

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The Tories and the War on Drugs

June 16, 2019

There’s been some amusement to be had this past week with various leading Tories coming out and admitting to having used drugs. Michael Gove confessed to having snorted cocaine, and Rory Stewart admitted that he’d smoked opium once, 20 odd years ago, when he was backpacking around Iran. It was at a wedding. He claimed that it couldn’t have affected him much, as he was walking 25 – 30 miles a day. My guess is that in reality he’d have been stoned out of his tiny patrician brain. It’s generally the lean, fit people, who are most affected by intoxicants, as you can see by all the tales about champion marathon runners and other athletes, who become massively drunk when they celebrate with half a pint of booze afterwards. Then there’s Paul Staines of the Guido Fawkes blog. He hasn’t come out of the stoner closet, but he was notorious as a Libertarian for taking and advocating DMT as a mind-expanding drug. My guess is that he’d need it. As a member of an organisation that was so right-wing, it invited the leader of one of Rios Montt’s death squads from El Salvador to be their guest of honour at their annual dinner, Staines would need some powerful hallucinogenics to convince himself he was a decent human being.

Boris is also widely suspected of having done drugs, and it’s almost certain that the allegations are true, and of continuing to use them. But he hasn’t confessed to it. When asked whether he had at a press conference about his candidacy for the Tory leadership, he brushed the question aside by claiming that he thought the British public were more interested in what he intended to do as politician than whether he took illegal substances. He might be right for some people. We’re so used to public figures, like actors, rock stars and other media celebrities, coming forward to admit that they took drugs some time in their lives, that it almost seems unremarkable. In some parts of the entertainment industry, it’s even to be expected, as with tales of pop musicians, which have become part of the general pattern of rock excess. However, Boris’ own political career isn’t any recommendation for him as Prime Ministerial material either. He’s been so egotistical and massively incompetent that many people would have to take large amounts of illegal chemicals to be persuaded otherwise.

Author’s impression of Theresa May with potential voter.

There’s more than a little fun to be had out of all this furore. Some wag with a better grasp of video editing than yours truly could provide us all with a laugh by cutting their speeches with bits from notorious films about drugs from the past. Like the 1950s anti-cannabis film, Reefer Madness, or David Cronenberg’s ’90s flick, The Naked Lunch, based on the notorious book by William S. Burroughs. This latter film is roughly based on Burrough’s own life, and is about a pest exterminator, who gets high on the ketamine he’s using to kill the insects. As the drug takes effect, he hallucinates that he’s some kind of SF spy, and has to make his report to Interzone before flying to Morocco after accidentally shooting his wife while they were playing William Tell. The hallucinations include the hero seeing everyone in a bar as mugwumps – humanoid lizards – and a gay talking typewriter-beetle. You could have some fun showing Boris sitting down to type his statement for the leadership election, but showing the hands of Cronenberg’s hero typing away at the beetle creature. Though as the beetle-typewriter then goes on to declare how wonderful homosexuality is, this scene might not be appropriate. The Tories have declared themselves at ease with the gay community, and no-one could ever accuse Boris of it. Another excellent film candidate for mixing with the Tory leadership speeches would be Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, based on the book by Hunter S. Thompson, illustrated by Ralph Steadman. Which also has a bar full of hallucinatory lizards, bats coming down out of the desert sky, and Richard Nixon erupting out of a TV set, amongst other bizarre visions.

But there’s also a very serious side to all this. The great commenters on Mike’s blog, when he covered this story, made some very good points about these people’s hypocrisy. They’ve all done drugs, and got away scot-free, in contrast to more ordinary users, who’d been to jail. One commenter told how he had a friend, who now suffers from PTSD because of what he’d experienced in prison after being convicted of a drugs offence. And the whole affair also seems to me to be a replay of a similar scandal back in 2004, when a number of other Tories confessed to having used cannabis.

The furore was started when Anne Widdecombe announced that she wanted harsher sentences for drugs, quite at variance with the party stance on the issue at the time. A number of Tories then came forward to announce that they’d taken it. Matthew Parris then gave his view about it all in an article he wrote for the Spectator. One Tory revealed that he had smoked cannabis at Oxford. This didn’t shock Parris, who was far more outraged by the way the august gentleman had consumed it. Parris declared that he could have been smoking cowpats for all he cared. What offended him was that the pretentious so and so had put it in his pipe. He smoked a pipe! It’s something you can imagine Rees-Mogg, the MP for the 18th century, doing. If he were inclined towards the substances used by Thomas De Quincy and Coleridge, of course.

This came at the time the government was considering changing its policy towards drug abuse. Much had been in the news about the success the Scandinavian countries, Portugal and Switzerland had achieved in their battle with illegal drugs, in contrast with Britain’s failure to combat or contain its growing drugs problem. These nations had a softer approach to tackling drug abuse. Addicts were treated not as criminals, but as sick people, who needed to be helped. But this was too namby-pamby for Widdecombe and those like her. Parris wrote that this had also been the policy in Britain, and had been giving positive results. But it all changed with the election of Ronald Reagan. Reagan wanted a war on drugs, and as American’s ally and the Special Relationship, we had to follow suit. The result was harsher sentences for drug offences, which actually had a negative effect on what they were trying to achieve. Treating drug addiction as a sickness makes sense, as no-one wants to be sick so they seek help. Criminalizing it, however, gives it a kind of glamour. You ain’t sick, you’re gangsta! Public enemy No. 1. And so far from deterring people from using drugs, the policy actually helps to promote it.

And then there’s the racism of the War on Drugs. Hillary Clinton deliberately played on White American fears of Black criminality when she announced Clinton’s new, tougher policies on drugs back in the 1990s. She talked about ‘superpredators’ – at the time, a term that was only used about Black men. The laws were also framed so that it targeted Blacks rather than Whites. Although studies have shown that Whites are just as likely to use drugs as Blacks, the majority of those arrested and convicted are Black. And I suspect that the situation is similar over here. Certainly it’s been clear to me from talking to Black friends that they believe that Blacks suffer disproportionately harsher punishment than White drug abusers. I know many Blacks, who won’t touch the stuff, and they make the point very clear to Whites trying to encourage them to do so.

It seems very clear to me that we need a return to a saner, more effective drugs policy. One that discourages it as it helps the victims by treating it as a disease, rather than giving it a spurious glamour it doesn’t deserve by criminalizing it. A policy that punishes and cures White and Black equally, instead of playing to White fears and racism.

But for me, the most toxic drug not mentioned in the Tory leadership contest is Conservatism. This has destroyed whole communities, and comprehensive wrecked Britain, creating poor healthcare, unemployment, despair, depression and general poor mental health, all while fostering racism, bigotry and bitter resentment against the poor, disabled and marginalised. It has done this while creating illusions of prosperity and national greatness. It’s time it was stopped. The pushers of this vile drug – Johnson, Gove, Leadsom and the rest of them – should be properly punished by losing any and every election they take part in. And the literature that encourages this vile drug – the Times, Torygraph, Mail, Sun and Express, should be binned at once and readers should turn to proper news outlets.

Only then can we look forward to a saner society, less afflicted by drugs.

The Tories and Blairites Cannot Be Trusted to Defend the NHS from Trump

June 11, 2019

Last week the orange generalissimo managed to cause massive offence and outrage on his state visit here. And it wasn’t just for merely being present, although that was certainly a major factor in the protests his visit provoked. No, Trump and his spokesman were touting for a trade deal with Britain after Brexit. And he demanded that ‘everything should be on the table’, including healthcare.

Which means the NHS.

MPs from all sides of the House immediately swung into action to condemn the Fascist cheeto’s demands that the NHS should be opened up to private American healthcare companies. There were a string of high profile Tory MPs, including former health secretary Andrew Lansley, loudly denouncing Trump’s demand, and stating that they weren’t going to include the NHS as part of the Brexit deal and were going to defend this most precious of British institutions. Lansley in particular was scathing about Trump’s opposition to the way the NHS controlled drug prices. He was afraid that if Trump has his way, this would be discarded to allow predatory American pharmaceutical companies to charge excessive and unaffordable prices for needed drugs.

He’s absolutely right.

One of the current scandals with the American private, insurance-driven healthcare system is that the drug companies can and do charge whatever they like for their products, which means that these are often beyond the ability of ordinary Americans to afford. I’ve blogged on here about a piece from The Young Turks about how Americans are hoarding drugs or buying those intended for animals from vets because they can’t afford them. And the worst example of a drug company actually raising prices is the case of Martin Shkreli. When he took over one company, he raised the price of an anti-AIDS drug to well over $300 a pill. He said he only wanted rich Americans to be able to use it, not poor Indians. He was rightly massively vilified for his gross racism and profiteering, but continued to defend himself, as he really couldn’t see that he had done anything wrong.

But while it’s heartening to see all these politicians stand up to defend the health service, I don’t believe them. With one exception, of course: Jeremy Corbyn. The Tories and the Blairites simply can’t be trusted to defend the NHS because they haven’t done it up to now. Indeed, they’ve done the exact opposite, all the while denying it.

Remember how Maggie Thatcher loudly declared that the NHS was ‘safe with us’, and she would keep her wretched claws off it. She even put it in her memoirs, denouncing the claims of the Labour party that she was planning to privatise the health service as lies. But she herself was lying. Cabinet minutes released a couple of years ago showed that she very much wanted to privatise the NHS. She was only stopped because of a massive cabinet revolt and the fact that her Personal Private Secretary, Patrick Jenkin, had visited the US and had seen personally what a travesty American private healthcare was.

So she satisfied herself with cutting its budget and trying to encourage Brits to take out private health insurance instead. She was aiming for about 11 per cent of the British population to take out such insurance.

She was followed by John Major, whose health secretary Peter Lilley was, I believe, one of the others who attacked Trump’s demand for a slice of NHS action. But Lilley was responsible for the Private Finance Initiative, under which private firms were to be allowed to bid for NHS contracts and building and running hospitals in partnership with the government. It was deliberately introduced with the intention of opening up the health service to private healthcare companies. And Lilley was advised in his health policies by John Lo Casio of the American private health insurance fraudster, Unum.

Well, the government changed with Labour’s 1997 electoral victory, but the Thatcherite privatisation of the NHS remained on course. Blair was an unashamed Thatcherite, and she had reciprocated his feelings by calling him and New Labour her greatest achievement. Blair also took over Lo Casio and Unum as his advisers on health policy, and continued the stealth privatisation of the NHS. The Community Care Groups of GPs he set up to contract in healthcare services were given the power to purchase it from the private sector and to raise funding privately themselves. The health centres and polyclinics he set up were to be run by private healthcare firms, like Circle Health, BUPA and Beardie Branson’s Virgin Health. NHS contracts, including out of hours services in many regions were privatised and the contracts awarded to private healthcare firms.

And yes, American healthcare firms were among them. Private Eye reported how Blair was surrounded by American public sector contractors, all lobbying for their share of British state business. Like the private American prison company, Wackenhut. And this included private healthcare companies. Blair was particularly impressed by the private American healthcare provider, Keyserpermanente, which he thought provided better value for money than the traditional NHS structure. It doesn’t, but that was ignored, and the American company provided the model for his NHS reforms. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wanted the NHS to become nothing but a kitemark for services provided by private companies.

And this continued under David Cameron and Tweezer. Despite the loud shouts by Lansley and Jeremy Hunt that they ‘treasure’ the NHS, both of them preferred private healthcare and previously stated that they wanted the NHS effectively abolished and the lines blurred between state and private provision. There’s also a solid block of Tory politicians that would like the NHS sold off completely. Like the Devon Tory MEP, Daniel Hannan, dubbed by Guy Debord’s Cat ‘the Lyin’ King’ because of his gross mendacity. The majority of NHS contracts are being awarded to private healthcare firms, rather than kept in-house, and they have been angling to win the contracts for whole regions. Which brings the complete privatisation of the NHS even closer.

Andrew Lansley’s convoluted Health and Social Care Act of 2012 also enabled its privatisation by removing the obligation of the health secretary to provide healthcare to everyone in the UK, which had been a statutory requirement since the founding of the NHS in 1948. The Tories have also consistently voted to introduce charges for certain NHS services. Mike over at Vox Political has frequently given the voting record of some of the worst Tories, who have not only done this, but also supported other attacks on the poor like cutting welfare services, raising tuition fees and supporting the bedroom tax.

And I don’t trust the Lib Dems either. They went into coalition with the Tories and did absolutely nothing as their partners in government continued to attack the welfare state and the NHS. Indeed some of them, like the former MP for Taunton Dean, strongly supported it.

I have to say that I think that the outrage from the Tories at Trump’s demands is largely hypocritical. They’d very much like to make a deal with Trump, that includes the NHS along with other essential services that should only be run by the state. But, as with the cabinet revolt against Thatcher, they’re afraid that if they agree, they will be voted out in a devastating landslide, possibly never to get back into power.

The only person, who can be trusted to defend the NHS and keep it safe from Trump and the other privatisers, is Jeremy Corbyn.

Don’t trust the Tories. They still want to and  are privatising the NHS. Nor the Lib Dems or ‘Centrist’ Labour, who are exactly the same. The only real hope of defending and reviving the NHS is with Corbyn and the victory of a genuine, socialist Labour party at the next election. 

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!

 

UN Calls for Inquiry into Torture by British Troops in Iraq

May 21, 2019

Saturday’s issue of the I had this article, ‘UN calls for inquiry into torture by Army’ on page 2, which runs

A United Nations body has called for an inquiry into allegations of unlawful killings, torture and ill-treatment by British troops in Iraq. The Committee against Torture, which monitors the implementation of the convention against torture, said the UK should “refrain from enacting legislation that would grant amnesty or pardon where torture is concerned”.

This reminds me very strongly of Abu Ghraib, the US interrogation and detention centre where it was revealed US squaddies were abusing Iraqi prisoners. As much as I’d like to believe that British troops are different and morally superior to the rest of the world, it strikes me as all too possible that some of our troops were also doing the same. Britain was involved in the secret renditions of terrorists or terrorist suspects to countries, where they could be tortured. Furthermore, it has also been revealed that the American troops and mercenaries in Iraq ran amok in a reign of terror, according to shocked American diplomats. The mercenaries ran prostitution rings and shot innocent Iraqi civilians for sport as they drove past them. It was also revealed that American troops also collaborated with Shi’a gangs in running death squads.

I don’t know, but unfortunately it wouldn’t surprise me if British troops were involved in similar atrocities. But I wonder if we will ever find out about it, considering how unwilling the mainstream media were in promoting the War in Iraq, at least in America, and the way the British state still has very strong powers to block Freedom of Information requests and any inquiries into its dodgy activities.

Surveillance Britain: Police Using Massively Inaccurate Facial Recognition Technology on Ordinary Brits

May 20, 2019

Here’s another piece of news that should further worry anyone concerned that Britain is slowly sliding down the tubes towards a surveillance state. The rozzers have launched a pilot scheme for a facial recognition system. They’re testing it out by photographing the fizzogs of ordinary British citizens walking down the streets. And it’s already resulted in one extremely dubious arrest. One man didn’t want to be photographed by the cops, and so he hid his face. The rozzers then pounced and fined him for ‘disorderly conduct’. This was filmed by the Beeb’s Politics Live. It’s completely disgraceful. The man had committed no crime, except to protect his own privacy against the state.

Mike in his article on this points out that there have been a couple of incidents where attempts to compile information on ordinary members of the public have resulted in disastrous mistakes, or deeply worrying infringements of personal freedom. For example, there were the innocent people, who suddenly found themselves with criminal records when their prospective employers started making background checks. Many of them were wrongly left without jobs because of this. And then there’s the DNA genetic database scandal, in which genetic material obtained from the public has been kept by the police, some of which was then illegally passed on for use in genetic research.

Mike also shows how this technology is also massively inaccurate. It had a failure rate of 96 per cent in eight trials in London between 2016 and 2018 according to the Independent. The software gave false positives, wrongly identifying innocent people as crims. It was also deployed twice in a shopping centre outside Stratford last year, where it had a failure rate of 100 per cent. This resulted in people being wrongly identified, including a 14 year old Black schoolboy, who was fingerprinted. The cops also stopped people for covering their faces and wearing hoods, and one man was fined for doing so in  Romford. The Independent found that shoppers were unaware their photos were being taken, despite the rozzers’ claim that the tests were overt, and campaigners have said that it’s being rolled out by stealth.

But despite its dangers and massive inaccuracy, the scheme is being defended by the Tories. Police Minister Nick Hurd has said that the technology offers ‘real opportunities’, said we are not a surveillance state, and that they have no intention of becoming one, and so the new technology must be used in a way that is sensitive to their impact on privacy, and proportionate.

To which Mike comments

Fail. It’s not sensitive to privacy and its use isn’t proportionate. But the Tories – and the police – won’t withdraw it, so we can only conclude that we do – indeed – live in a police surveillance state.

Police state Britain: Failed facial recognition pilot leads to fine for disorderly conduct. WTF?

This is precisely the type of information gathering that Privacy International and other campaigners were warning about in the ’90s. When DNA evidence first began to be collected, there were fears that it would be used to set up a national DNA database. In one incident, all the men in a small town where a rape had been committed were asked to supply samples of their DNA. There were concerns about what would happen to it afterwards, and that the material would be retained, even though the men were innocent. There were also fears that the collection of such samples would go from being simple requests to demands, and that anyone who refused, would automatically come under suspicion, even though they may be innocent.

It also reminds of the way the police also started compiling records in the 1980s of people they considered suspicious, as revealed in the Beeb documentary, Secret State. Perfectly innocent people suddenly had police files opened on them and their movements recorded for reasons that reflected the prejudices of the cops, rather than anything they’d done. Like being punks. One teenage girl was marked down as a potential suspect simply because she was pregnant and there was no father.

I am also not surprised by the massive failure rate of the technology at the moment. It seems par for the course that any and all information technology adopted by the state should be seriously flawed. Like all the computer systems supplied to local authorities in the 1990s by outsourcing companies like Crapita.

Black people are particularly at risk from these systems. The I newspaper a few weeks ago reported on the concerns about the massive under-representation of women and ethnic minorities in the computer industry. Only four per cent of employees in one of the big American tech giants came from ethnic minorities. As a result, the pattern recognition system they developed misidentified Black people as gorillas. Which makes you wonder who programmed this wretched system. The Klan?

As for not becoming a surveillance society, privacy campaigners have warned repeatedly about the dangers of ‘function creep’. Once one innovation or strategy is adopted, other agencies will want to use it, and so it will expand. Also, other forms have surveillance have become normalised. There were serious concerns about the use of CCTV cameras when they first appeared. Alan Moore deliberately wrote them into his depiction of a Fascist Britain in the V for Vendetta comic. He thought at the time that this would really shock people. Niall Ferguson shared his fears. He was also alarmed at how ubiquitous CCTV cameras had become here after he returned from a visit to China. But he was also astonished at how his concerns were not shared by anyone else.

And with the campaign by the IT and automobile industries, I wonder how long it will be before we get the repressive police state and its robots described by the great SF writer Ray Bradbury in his short story, ‘The Pedestrian’. In this tale, a man is stopped by a robotic police car simply for taking a walk in the middle of the night.

It’s SF as the ‘literature of warning’. It’s not meant to be prophetic. But somehow that seems to be the future these technologies are leading to.

Video Urging Boycott of Eurovision to Combat Israeli Artwashing

May 15, 2019

The Eurovision Song Contest is nearly upon us, and TV stations all across Europe have started showing the contestants going through their moves and ditties ready for the big event. This year it’s in Israel, and last night the Beeb started their broadcast from that country. This raises the awkward issue of how the Israeli state is using the event as propaganda, to try to present itself as a liberal, progressive nation while in fact its the reverse. It’s an apartheid state, which has practised a 70 + year campaign of apartheid, arrest, torture and ethnic cleansing against its indigenous people, the Palestinians.

This video comes from Breadtube’s European All-Stars, with speakers including the Spanish Javi, Amelia Jane, Brit Kevin Logan, and Paul Morrin. It’s done with humour, with Javi himself opening the video with a piece in Spanish explaining to his compatriots that they are to hang on, because they’re experiencing cultural difficulties. But it’s very solidly factual, and presents a powerful, irrefutable argument why decent people should not go to Israel and should boycott the Song Contest.

Amelia Jane begins by describing the Song Contest’s origins. It’s staged by the European Broadcasting Union, and was devised to pull the various European nations together after the Second World War. It’s gone from a very upper class oriented event to something rather more democratic. It’s now campy and so LGBTQ positive that it’s almost the precursor to the full Pride parades later in the year.

Despite the EBU’s claim that it is apolitical, the contest has always had its share of controversies, and even the existence of state broadcasters like the EBU in an age of post-Milton Friedman neoliberalism is controversial. Turkey pulled out of the contest a few years ago in protest at two women kissing during one of the pieces. But before that, Austria refused to broadcast it following the inclusion of Franco’s Spain. The ghastly thug was using it to open up his Fascist state to the rest of the world. Since the fall of Communism, it’s included a number of states that were in the former Soviet Union, with the exception of Russia itself. These are using the Song Contest to position themselves as more liberal, progressive, and oriented towards north-west Europe and the free market.

It’s also expanded far beyond the conventional boundaries of Europe. Since the beginning its included Israel, but now also includes Morocco and Australia. This was supposed to be only for a single time, but has somehow continued.

Here Kevin Logan takes up the narrative, talking about Israel as a colonialist, apartheid state. He states that it is a colonialist state, that took over a large proportion of Palestinian territory after the war of 1948 and the departure of the British. It is a religious state, where Jews are the privileged citizens. The indigenous Arabs, however, have been subjected to continuing arrest, massacre and ethnic cleansing. Those who remain in Israel are subjected to a form of apartheid. He states that current technology means that the Israelis cannot hide their atrocities, which include the arrest and torture of children as young as five. He compares this with apartheid South Africa, which also experienced boycotts in sport, the arts and elsewhere in protest at its racism.

This part of the video shows clips of the Israeli forces doing precisely what Logan describes, including arresting small children and a journo shot by the IDF. And to show what ordinary Israelis think of Islam and Palestinians, he shows clips from Abby Martin’s Empire Files, in which various young Israelis declare their hatred of Islam, desire to see Arabs and Israelis segregated, and that the whole of Palestine is theirs and Jews and Arabs should not intermarry, because they are God’s Chosen People.

Phil Morrin then takes over to show how the Israelis are turning to the arts and culture to burnish their very soiled image. He explains what green-, art-, and pinkwashing are. Greenwashing would be if the IDF tried to convince the world that it was now a progressive, caring organisation by putting its squaddies on a vegan diet. He declares that the real vegans wouldn’t be impressed, and would say that the diet was merely plant-based. Similarly, the Israeli state has also used Eurovision and queer issues to try to present itself as more humane and progressive than it really is. This was twenty years ago, when the Israeli contestant was bearded woman Dana International. Actually, I though International was really a pre-operative transsexual, meaning that she was biologically male, rather than completely female at that point. And then the other year their entry was a song about resisting bullying, performed by a plus-sized singer determined to combat stereotypes about body size. He wonders how that would have gone down with the 27 people the Israelis shot that year, which actually was one of the quietest.

The video ends with a call for people to get involved with the boycott campaign and stay away from Israel in order to overturn it, and create a Palestine, which is free, democratic, and where all its citizens enjoy equal rights. And this includes the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement. It may not do much, but the Eurovision Song Contest now has such cachet that Madonna wanted to take part and was denouncing people, who were urging its boycott. Okay, Javi says, they’ve got Madonna, but we’ve got Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd. So the guitar on our side is better, but probably not the dancing. The video ends with Javi appealing for donations.

I’ve no doubt that this video, posted on May 7th, has already got the Zionists’ teeth gnashing. It’s precisely the kind of material that will have the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Board of Deputies, and the various parties’ ‘Friends of Israel’ all screaming ‘anti-Semitism’, including Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement. The groups, who howl with outrage at anyone, who dares to suggest that Israel has no right to exist as a state that declares itself as the homeland of the Jews, while denying the Palestinians a right to their homeland, or to live as equal citizens in a religiously and racially neutral Israel. But this doesn’t stop the video being true, and its arguments valid.

And Israel and its supporters are ultimately behind the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, and the foul lies against decent, anti-racists and campaigners and anti-Semitism and Fascism like Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Mike Sivier, Martin Odoni, Tony Greenstein, Cyril Chilson, and so many, many others.

Given how the Israeli state and its craven supporters have behaved to Mike and the rest, I don’t even want to see it on TV. Go boycott it, even if you’ve no intention of going to Israel anyway. Watch something on the other channels, or put in a DVD, listen to a CD, go on YouTube, play footie, snooker, go down the pub. Do anything, in fact, but give your precious time and attention to Israel’s efforts to divert the world’s attention away from its true, horrific, Fascist reality.

 

 

 

 

Transgender Activists Making Death Threats Against their Opponents

May 15, 2019

Private Eye on Threats and Abuse Sent to SNP Joanna Cherry

This fortnight’s Private Eye for 17th – 30th May 2019 has an article in its ‘HP Sauce’ column, ‘Social Niceties’, on page 11 about the SNP MP Joanna Cherry’s questioning of Twitter UK’s head of public policy, Katy Minshall in parliament two weeks ago. Cherry, a Queen’s Council, stated that the wanted to concentrate on what Twitter is doing to protect women. The result of this has been that Cherry herself, according to the article, now needs police protection.

The examples of threatening and abusive content posted on Twitter given by the article seem to be by militant transgender activists against their opponents. The Eye reports that during the debate, Cherry showed Minshall a video clip posted by the Gamer Sonic Fox, ‘This is what I do to TERFS’, which shows a woman having her neck repeatedly cut open. TERFS is an acronym for feminists, who exclude transwomen from their definition of womanhood: Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists.

The Eye states that New Statesman journo Helen Lewis also protested against the clip. She was sent a video showing a man flaying a woman alive, with the comment “SHUT THE FUCK UP”. Lewis complained to Twitter, which initially claimed the tweet didn’t break their rules against behaviour, before finally changing its mind after Cherry said that she herself was going to challenge Minshall about it.

Cherry was herself then sent a violent image with the message “SHUT THE FUCK UP TERF”. She was then abused as a transphobe, which she responded to by posting to her proud record of championing LGBTQ rights for over 30 years. Cherry said ‘I am saddened by abusive nature of the current Twitter debate. As I have repeatedly stated publicly I deplore any abuse directed towards trans people.’

Lily Madigan, a 21 year old transgender activist and Labour Students’ national women’s officer, then attacked Cherry, saying “You can tell a lot about someone by how they respond to being called transphobic. This isn’t even an apology.’ Apparently Madigan has a record of abusing feminists on twitter.

Cherry received further violent and abusive tweets and messages after she raised her concerns about such messages being sent to women. One of those she received included a picture of a gun and the words “DO IT”, along with details of her regular constituency surgery. As a result, when she held her constituency surgery last last Friday, she had to be accompanied by two police protection officers.

Private Eye has published several articles about the abusive behaviour of transgender activists ranting against their feminist opponents as TERFs. After they argued that such rants by one activist were misogynist, they printed a later article reporting that the person had tried to rebut the criticism by claiming that most TERFS were men. Which is obviously unlikely, as it’s doubtful many men are radical feminists.

Speaker Cancels Conference Appearance due to Death Threats

I was talking to a friend of mine this weekend, who told me of another case where a speaker had to pull out of a conference, one that was incidentally completely unconnected to gender issues, because of death threats from transgender activists. It therefore appears that these death threats are not isolated incidences but symptomatic of a deeply militant, viciously intolerant attitude among some transgender activists.

I confess I don’t really understand all the points of the debate, but I believe it isn’t just a case of cisgender prejudice against transpeople. I believe that LGBTQ people should not be persecuted, and that transpeople should, generally, enjoy all the legal rights of the sex to which they have transitioned, and be regarded as members of such gender. But I think there are also genuine issues that need to be discussed. For example, the argument that some transwomen had an unfair advantage over cis-women, stemming from the time when they were biologically male, and so have higher testosterone levels, seems entirely reasonable. As is concerns that some children, who may be unhappy with their biological gender, are in danger because of a desire to see the child transition while that may not be appropriate. One of the women making this argument has done so from her own experience. When she was a child, she insisted that she was a boy and demanded that she be called Jack instead of her birth name. However, when she hit puberty, she left all that behind. I am not saying that this is true in each and every case, only that it may be in some case, and that the woman is right to express her fears.

These are very controversial issues in which tempers run high for reasons that are absolutely obvious. But it needs very careful thought and debate. It will not be solved through threats and intimidation, and I have absolute contempt for anyone who makes them, whatever their position on this issue is.

 

 

Private Eye on Brexit Party’s Claire Fox’s Support for Murderous Fascists

May 6, 2019

The furore over UKIP’s lurch to the far right and Batten’s recruitment of such controversial, deeply bigoted YouTube personalities and activists like Sargon of Akkad, Count Dankula, Paul Joseph Watson and Tommy Robinson has somewhat obscured the issue of just how politically extreme Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party is. The Brexit party seem to be eating UKIP alive at the polls, but although it’s somewhat more moderate than UKIP, Farage himself was credibly accused of racism and Fascist sympathies when he was in charge of the party. He also wants to privatise the NHS and carry on the other Tory policies of destroying the welfare state and impoverishing its working people. All for the benefit of the extremely rich, like himself. And when he was in charge of UKIP, it also was full of racists, anti-feminists, those, who bitterly hated gays and Muslims. And his Brexit party also contains its fair share of very offensive characters.

One of these is Claire Fox, formerly of the Revolutionary Communist Party, who, like the rest of her comrades, ditched Marxism and moved to the libertarian extreme right. Zelo Street have published a series of pieces refuting her claims to have joined the Brexit Party from the Left, and revealing her disgusting comments supporting IRA terrorism at the time of the Warrington bombing. Fox, then in the RCP, wrote a piece justifying the atrocity, declaring that Irish nationalists had the right to use all and every means necessary to achieve freedom for Ulster. Which meant the right to kill innocent men, women and children. When she was asked about these remarks a few days ago, rather than disavow them she doubled down and confirmed her support. And she isn’t alone in supporting Irish Republican terrorism either. Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, one of the Brexit party’s candidates in London, was also a member of the RCP, which as a whole supported Irish nationalist terrorism.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/05/nigel-farages-terrorist-sympathisers.html

Private Eye has also published a piece about Fox’s offensive views in its current issue for 3 – 16 May, 2019, ‘Outfoxing Nigel’, on page 10. It’s written by ‘Ratbiter’, otherwise known as the Absurder journo Nick Cohen, who has taken time off from ranting about how Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite. His accusations there are rubbish, and some of his claims are seriously skewed. But in this instance he may well be right. The article runs

“I’ve been a left-wing campaigner for 35 years,” Claire Fox wrote in the Daily Mail after posing alongside Nigel Farage to announce her candidacy for the Brexit Party. “You’d struggle to find a pair of more unlikely political bedfellows.”

Apart from Brexit, is there anything the “left-wing” Fox and the right-wing Farage have in common? Just about everything, as it turns out.

Fox’s Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) was one of the weirdest sects on the far left. Its leading cadres – Frank Furedi, Mick Hume, Brendan O’Neill and Fox herself – decided in 1997 that there was no future in Leninism, since “the working class has no political existence”, and tried their luck with the media class instead.

The RCP’s successor organisations, the Institute of ideas and Spiked magazine, exploited the limitless appetite of the BBC and Tory press for “contrarian” opinions. Such was their success in thinking the unthinkable and saying the unspeakable they drew a $300,000 donation from the billionaire Koch borthers, who fund dozens of right-wing causes.

Farage could not fail to be impressed. He and his former Ukip colleagues opposed attempts by the EU to improve ‘elf and safety, and the rebranded RCP had little time for public safety either. Fox denounced the mollycoddling of the “anti-bullying industry”, arguing that teachers who tried to protect children were sapping their “resilience”.

Famously, Farage doesn’t much like East Europeans. At times, it seems as if the only East Europeans he can stand are dictators: Viktor Orban may have censored the media, packed the judiciary and presided over epic corruption, but to Farage he is a “defender of Hungarian culture” against the EU.

Although Fox told the Mail she disagreed with Farage’s demands for immigration conrols, she and her old RCP comrades have had no problems with the most brutal controls imaginable in on Europeans who stay in their own countries. When Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic organised rape and death squads in the 1990s to “cleanse” Bosnia’s Muslims, they had no more loyal defenders than the RCP’s magazine Living Marxism.

After Penny Marshall of ITN and Ed Vulliamy of the Guardian revealed the appalling conditions in Serb prison camps at Omarska and Trnopolje, Living Marxism declared that the journalists had faked the pictures. Fox and friends and offered no defence of their story when ITN sued for libel. They did not recant when survivors gave testimony in the Hague or when mass graves were found near Omarska. Last year the journalists who run London’s Frontline Club considered inviting Fox to speak. Vulliamy insisted she apologise to the camp victims first, but Fox refused to back away from the modern equivalent of Holocaust denial. Naturally, the BBC thinks she is the ideal person to have as a regular panelist on the Moral Maze.

To be fair to Farage, he has never endorsed bullying children, indeed he broke down when describing how his own children had been bullied. He may have won the Brexit referendum by demonising East European immigrants but he has never covered up their murder. And although he endorses Orban, he has yet to act as a propagandist for Balkan strongmen who have been convicted of crimes against humanity.

The question is now how Fox can bear to be in same party as Farage, but how Farage can bear to in the same party as her.

Francis Wheen on RCP Violence

I’m not surprised the LM/Spiked crowd support bullying children. Francis Wheen in his book on paranoia in the 1970s, Strange Days, describes how the international training camps the Revolutionary Communist Party ran were rife with violence. One girl was raped in one, and a young Black American stabbed to death in another. But the Party’s leader refused to do anything about it, and indeed approved of the violence, because he felt it would toughen the working class up for revolution.

Fox and Ulster Terrorism

As for Fox’s support for IRA terrorism, I’m also disgusted, but not surprised. I think there were quite a few on the extreme left like her. But the murder of innocent civilians is utterly disgusting no matter who does it, whether it’s the IRA, Ulster Loyalists or the British state. And it’s an insult not just to the victims of terror, including the mothers who reached across the aisle in Ulster to demand an end to the violence. I’ve also met plenty of Roman Catholic Northern Irishmen, who would like a united Ireland, but thoroughly reject sectarianism and violence.

Serb Atrocities in Bosia

I’ve also come across allegations that some of the stories about Serb atrocities in the war in Bosnia were falsified by the media and British state in order to provide a pretext for keeping British and other NATO troops stationed in the Balkans. However, the carnage inflicted on the Bosnian people was quite real. Way back in the 1990s Mike spent a week as a guest of a Bosnian Muslim family in a visit arranged by a human rights organisation to show the destruction caused by the war in the Muslim region. Mike enjoyed his stay and his hosts were great people. But the damage caused by the Serb assault was everywhere. Although the war was over by that time, conditions were still very dangerous as the retreating Serbs had left booby traps.

I also used to do voluntary work with a former member of the British armed forces and the British diplomatic team sent to negotiate an end to the war. He told me that, although all the parties in the war, Croats and Muslims as well as Serbs, committed atrocities, on the whole most of them were committed by the Serbs. I’ve also spoken to British army officers, who were sent into Bosnia as part of the peacekeeping forces, and they described some of the atrocities that the Serb forces committed.

Zelo Street in their article on Fox’s disgusting views quoted Times hack Otto English, who wondered how James Glancy, another Brexit candidate in the Euro elections and former member of the SBS felt about Fox celebrating the murder of his comrades. Or Ann Widdecombe about rubbing shoulders with the people, who supported the Brighton Bombing that killed and maimed so many of the Tory party.

Farage’s Brexit Party is far Right, and so should be kept out of power. They aren’t quite a revolting as Claire Fox, whose disgusting views mean that she should be kept out of any party that’s trying for electoral respectability, and definitely not be given a platform on radio or TV to broadcast them.

Zelo Street Publishes Piece Supporting Mike Against Anti-Semitism Smear Merchants

May 5, 2019

Thanks to everyone, who’ve sent donations to Mike to help him fight the libel threats brought against him by rich, bullying z-list celebs Rachel Riley and Tracey-Ann Oberman. They’re threatening anyone and everyone, who says anything about them they don’t like, with writs, and alleging that because they’re Jewish, their detractors must be anti-Semites. Mike’s one of those they’ve tried to bully into silence, because he, like so many others, blogged about how the gruesome twosome had ganged up and bullied a vulnerable sixteen year old schoolgirl. A young woman with anxiety, whom they smeared as an anti-Semite.

As Mike points out, his article was a perfectly valid opinion piece. Mike is a trained journo, and they have to know the law. Mike has also sought counsel from m’learned him friends, who have told him that Riley and Oberman don’t have a case. But he needs money just in case they try to bring it anyway. It’s a nasty piece of legal strategy called lawfare, where an individual or group tries to silence their critics using the law, even when they know they don’t have a case. They bring the actions knowing that fighting them and employing lawyers will cost tens of thousands of pounds, and hope that the legal costs alone will frighten their critics into silence. It’s the action of bullying scoundrels. Riley and Oberman also have the advantage over ordinary schmucks like Mike, in that, as celebrities, they can also count of the support of their legions of fans and their fellow ‘slebs. Riley was on the Jonathan Ross show a couple of months ago, for example, where she thanked all the people supporting her in her spurious campaign against anti-Semitism.

But Mike also has his supporters, who know perfectly well that he’s very, very far from any kind of anti-Semite, and appreciate all the work he’s done on behalf of the disabled and vulnerable. The great folks who sent in £5,000 worth of donations in a single day last week were some of these people, as were the peeps, who defend him online, unasked, against the anti-Semitism trolls.

And one of Mike’s defenders is the good fellow in Crewe, who puts up the Zelo Street blog. Yesterday he put up a piece defending Mike against the anti-Semitism smears of Riley and Oberman, ‘The Shameful Silencing of Mike Sivier’. After explaining who Mike is, and his work attacking the DWP and discussing issues like climate change, health, the Labour party, Brexit and the colossal ineptitude of the Tory party, he tells how Mike has been accused of anti-Semitism by Riley and Oberman. He states that Mike isn’t, and those papers that tried to smear him as one have been forced to retract their allegations by IPSO. He also describes how Mike’s target of £5,000 to help him fight the terrible twosome’s threats was raised in one day, though leaves it an open question whether this is a measure of Mike’s popularity or a sign of displeasure at the behaviour of Princess Countdown and her mate, Tracey-Anne Cyberman. He makes the point that their threat to Mike came after they had similarly threatened other people on social media for supporting an article against them written by Shaun Lawson. Who, for some reason, they haven’t threatened. Zelo Street then asks

Why should this be? Perhaps Ms Riley and Ms Oberman would care, in the fullness of time, to impart that information to the world. Perhaps they would also like to tell Mike Sivier, or his legal team, what specifically he has said in regard to either or both of them which they consider libellous. Because Sivier does not appear fazed by the claim, and nor do his lawyers, which suggests they are confident of having the action struck out.

He then provides a couple of quotations from Mike, which might have provoked the ‘orrible pair into threatening him, pointing out that one is no more than a statement of opinion. The second is one, where Mike describes how the two try to justify their bullying behaviour by claiming it is part of their campaign against anti-Semitism. Zelo Street attacks this by asking

How can anyone be combating anti-Semitism by threatening someone who concludes that you’ve been indulging in bullying? Is bullying an anti-Semitic code-word?

He states that Countdown and Cyberwoman have a problem in that it looks very much like their word against Mike’s, and that as Mike’s comments are like those of Lawson’s, who hasn’t been threatened, Lawson’s comments are the key to this case. He concludes

Attacking those who campaign for the weak against the strong in an attempt to silence them inevitably leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I’ll just leave that one there.
See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-shameful-silencing-of-mike-sivier.html
As for Jonathan Ross, I stopped watching his show years ago, mostly because I simply don’t find it interesting. He is a very clever man, and I share some of his taste in trash and popular culture. But Wossy also wants to be a bit edgy himself, and so indulges in puerile jokes, like the phone call to Andrew Sachs with Russell Brand that got him into so much trouble.
And when he was on the radio I think he was trying to be as close as he could to an American-style ‘shock jock’ within the limits of the Beeb and the broadcasting regulations. So he couldn’t be as openly politically biased nor as racist as some of them are. Nor can he be as sexually explicit. Howard Stern had on his Christmas show, for example, a gay choir singing ‘I’m dreaming of a little light torture’, but Wossy on his show for years had a gay singing group ‘Four Poofs and a Piano’. I’ve absolutely no objection to them appearing on his show, but it does seem to be an example of Wossy following the Americans’ taste, which he genuinely shares, for the transgressive and camp.
But I do wonder how he gets away with some of it. A few years ago while looking for something else on lunchtime radio, I accidentally got his lunchtime programme. Wossy was talking to the late, great Dale Winton. On finding out that Winton was Jewish, Wossy announced that he himself was half-Jewish, and then asked him if he was circumcised.
Eh? What has that got to do with anything? That’s a personal question, which is between a bloke and his rabbi. It’s not a question you ask, and certainly not on the radio at a Saturday lunchtime.
A more reasonable question might be how his Jewish background has influenced him as a person or a performer. Many performers come from a religious background, and various Christian actors and musicians took their first step in showbusiness in the church choir. I don’t know if something similar has inspired Jewish showbusiness peeps through membership of their synagogue. In traditional Judaism, for example, the readings from the Hebrew Bible were chanted by the cantor. This chant, cantillation, was often sung very beautifully, and in the 19th century the best cantors in European Jewry enjoyed a celebrity status like that of opera singers in mainstream society. It seems to me that asking whether the Jewish musical tradition, whether religious or secular, would be a far better and fairer question than making such a personal inquiry.
But Wossy had to ask him, no doubting counting that as someone, who was part Jewish, he wouldn’t be accused of anti-Semitism for it, which he certainly would if he was a gentile. It’s stupid, puerile antics that like that which rightly stop people wanting to watch his show or listen to him on the radio.