Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

DuneInfo Shows Cover of Imaginary Album of Music by Dune Character

October 2, 2022

This is a bit of trip into the world of postmodernism. Duneinfo is a YouTube site about Science Fiction book Dune and its film, graphic novel and other adaptations. A few days ago, they put up this piccie on their community page of a non-existent album of music by Gurney Halleck. Halleck is a character in Dune, a warrior troubadour, whose instrument is the ballaset, a type of futuristic lute. In David Lynch’s 1985 film, he was played Patrick Stewart and the ballaset used in the film was based on the stick, a new musical instrument developed from the electric guitar. The fake record sleeve, showing Stewart as Halleck was created by the artist John Bergin. It looks like a real vinyl record sleeve of the type that was knocking around back then in the days when K-Tel were advertising their records on TV.

It also reminds me more than a little of some the literary games played by Polish SF master Stanislaw Lem. Lem was very much an eastern European intellectual. He wrote some excellent science fiction but also sneered at the genre. He was very much into experimental literature, particularly that of the South American magic realist writer Borges, as well as the SF writer Philip K. Dick. Lem produced a several books consisting of reviews and blurbs for books that didn’t exist. One of these books was called A Perfect Vacuum, which I think is a literary jest, a way of saying that it doesn’t exist, because the books it reviews don’t. This fake record cover looks like the musical and pictorial equivalent.

DuneInfo captioned this: ‘Another great imagined (but sadly fake) #Dune item from John Bergin – “The Ballads of Gurney Halleck” – almost all copies of which were destroyed due to the mistaken credit of “The Sting”! 🤣 ‘ Which is a joke about Sting appearing in the movie as one of the villains, Feyd Rautha.

To see the original, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmkVsAdYNiyQG9ZJR6P9FjA/community?lb=UgkxEOVBKmx9zCluGQGj8DF4-t-oUq2h-CYy

Muse Video Channelling Quentin Tarantino and Max Headroom

September 10, 2022

I’m a kind-of fan of Bournemouth band Muse, whose music and videos include space rock and Science Fiction. They put up this video for their track, ‘Dig Down’ on their YouTube channel, and its video seems to partake very strongly of Quentin Tarantino and the computer-generated video-jockey, Max Headroom. The video is about a woman with an artificial leg and a big gun fighting her way through various goons before she blows them all up and enters the threshold of a room with a pillar of TV screens. This looks to me like an homage to a film Tarantino released a few years ago, in which a woman with a gun barrel for a leg seeks violent revenge. The film was deliberately treated so that it looked like the cheap and violent grindhouse flicks that Tarantino had enjoyed as a sprog. As the woman fights her way through the bad guys’ lair, the band plays on various TV screens, hair slicked back and wearing suits like Headroom, but with the addition of X-Ray specs style goggles. They are cut so they have the same jumpy movements as Headroom, while behind them are computer generated landscapes. Very 1980s computer generated landscapes. I was a real fan of Max Headroom all those years ago, and I think it’s brilliant that his digital self is still inspiring video directors and producers forty or so years later.

Vangelis’ Theme from Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’

September 10, 2022

Here’s something which I hope will be a bit lighter after the last two day’s solemnity. It’s a video of the theme music to the 1980s blockbuster science and space documentary series, Cosmos, presented by Carl Sagan, which I’ve taken from Nedsrubiquitous’ channel on YouTube. Cosmos was one of the great space and science fact shows of the 1980s, and its accompanying book became a bestseller. Sagan himself was a Humanist and an opponent of militarism, imperialism and nuclear weapons, as well as sexism and racism. Later in the decade he presented evidence to the international authorities that a nuclear war would result in a global winter that would destroy life on this planet. Well, whatever survived the nuclear holocaust, I suppose. When NASA was holding its inquiry into the causes of the Challenger disaster, Sagan stated that the design of the Space Shuttle had been severely compromised in the interests of the military. He said that initially the Shuttle was to be smaller and completely reusable, but the armed forces objected as they wanted something big enough to put military spy satellites into space. Hence the Shuttle was only partly reusable through the addition of a fuel tank that was jettisoned and left to burn up. He also wrote a Science Fiction book, Contact, about a female scientist who establishes contact with aliens. It was later filmed with Jodie Foster. I don’t agree with Sagan’s atheism, but he was an inspirational science communicator. I wasn’t surprised when Prof Brian Cox said that he had been inspired by Sagan, because after all the space and science series Cox had done it seemed to be glaringly obvious.

The music for the series was composed and performed by the awesome Vangelis, responsible for the theme to Chariots of Fire, The Conquest of Paradise and Blade Runner. I think the music was an important element in the show’s popularity and was one of a number of themes collected in the album Space Invaded. If I remember correctly, that is. Sagan died a few years ago of prostate cancer, but still remains one of the giants of astronomy and explaining difficult concepts to a mass audience.

The video features pictures and quotes from the man himself and NASA, as well as beautiful photographs of space and the space telescopes that capture them.

Black Computer Programmer Wants More Black Men in Maths, Computing and Medicine

September 7, 2022

This is a short from Isaac Smith’s YouTube channel. It’s simply him watching a Black computer programmer, Kwanza Kanju, go through the stats showing that Black boys would stand more chance of a job if they switched their ambitions from basketball to a career in the STEM subjects. He begins by saying that there are a million Blacks wanting to play in the NBA. He goes through the decreasing number that qualify for the sport at each succeeding level, until he shows that there are only seven places available in the NBA that these million aspiring kids are chasing.

On the other hand, there were 100,000 jobs going last year in maths, computing and medicine. He states that if you practise hard and study enough, you become what you want to be. If you spend your time playing basketball from 3 to 6 pm, you’ll be a very good basketball player. If you spend the same amount of time in libraries, you’ll be a brilliant scholar. And he knows that Black people will make excellent mathematicians and medical specialists, as the first doctor wasn’t Hippocrates but Imhotep.

He’s right, and basically saying what Black conservative writer Jason Riley says. Black people can excel academically if they spend the same time and effort on these subjects as they do on sport and music, where they already excel.

I wanted to put this up as a piece of positive, optimistic advice that a Black STEM expert was giving to aspiring Blacks after all the negative stories this week about Black looting gangs, the violence at the Notting Hill Carnival and so on.

Talk Radio Viewers Vote that Wokeness Prevents Proper Policing

September 2, 2022

As right-wing and terrible as it is, Talk TV appears even more dire and right-wing than GB News. GB News is the station that had Neil Oliver platform Peter Sweden, a Holocaust denier who has, according to an article by Zelo Street, also said nice, admiring things about Hitler and the Nazis, and thinks LGBTQ people should be put in concentration camps. He also believes that the Nazi camps contained theatres, swimming pools and cinemas.

I think Sweden, real name Imanuelsen, has been taken in by Nazi propaganda. During the War the Nazis masked the Holocaust by declaring that the Jews were merely being evacuated to the east. The lie was that the Jews were being given homes and land away from the rest of the German population. The Nazis even made a propaganda movie showing the happy, contented, well-fed evacuees were shown working on the allotments in the village the Nazis had so generously given them. When the camera had stopped, however, the troops moved in and forced them off to the death camps. That was the reality. But Goebbels and the rest of the horrors had manufactured these propaganda films, and their post-War successors have embroidered them with malicious lies about cinemas and so on, and pratts like Sweden have been taken in and are repeating them. And no-one should invite someone who believes and spreads such malignant nonsense on to their programme.

But most of GB News’ presenters at least make an attempt not to appear that malign and bonkers. They also seem to have a variety of presenters and panellists, even if their top one is Nigel Farage. Talk TV has Julia Hartley-Brewer, Times columnist and, if memory serves me right, former editor of the Depress. She’s another one who presents herself as immensely well-informed, especially on the subject of the EU, which she is firmly against. The reality is that she’s profoundly ignorant. Mike’s put up several articles pointing out how little she actually knows about the European Union on his site after she’s appeared on various programmes spouting her nonsense.

This week one of the major issues taxing her mighty intellect, and those of so many other right-wingers, was the breakdown of law ‘n’ order in Britain and the cops’ failure to deal with it. last week a gang of Black youths broke into an American candy store in London with nary a cop to be seen. Then there was the disturbances at the Notting Hill Carnival. A Bristol rapper had been stabbed, 209 people arrested for various crimes, including assault and theft, and 74 policemen had been injured. A policewoman had also been sexually assaulted with a gang of men grinding themselves against her. There was also footage of a group of young people dancing on the roof of a bus stop, which promptly crashes down, bring them down on top of the people underneath. On top of this were statistics showing that the police weren’t actually solving ordinary crimes like robberies.

This was contrasted with the woke attitude of the cops. Instead of going out and protecting people and their property, Britain’s finest were joining in with Pride parades. There was footage of a group of four cops doing the macarena at Lincoln Pride, to the dismay and disgust of various right-wing YouTube pundits. This was in addition to previous Pride and pro-gay events the cops had attended. As the Conservative critics showed footage of the Lincolnshire cops doing the macarena, they also shared the strange gay bumblebee costume one copper had worn at another event to stress the force’s pro-gay credentials, various policewomen waving the LGBTQ flag, a police car painted with the gay rainbow. There was also a very odd picture of a police dog handler posing with two gay fetishists dressed in leather dog masks, sitting at the coppers’ feet and wearing leashes. This was an example of the kind of kink seen at Pride events which make some people believe, not unreasonably, that it’s no longer suitable for children.

Talk TV, and to be fair, a number of other right-wingers, including, I think, GB News, showed these pictures as an example of the cops being ‘woke’ and therefore unable to do their jobs properly. Talk TV followed this up with a short questionnaire. Were the police prevented from properly doing their job due to ‘wokeness’ ? Or was it because of the cut to their numbers of 20,000 officers?

Now I don’t think that ‘wokeness’ has helped improve policing, though I well understand the cops’ desire to show the gay community that they’re on their side. As for the Notting Hill carnival, for as long as I can remember there have been murders and other crimes there. Some of it is, I think, simply because of the huge size of the crowd. There were about 2 million people there, or so I heard, and part of the problem was that gangs turned up from other parts of London in the hope of settling scores. There was footage from someone’s window shown, and it looked like a scene from the massively overpopulated future in the Charlton Heston SF flick, Soylent Green, based on the novel Make Room, Make Room by Harry Harrison. I would imagine that a crowd of that size and density would be difficult to police anywhere.

But to me the real problem is simply the shortage of cops and the budget needed to support them. And so I voted in Talk TV’s wretched poll. I appear to have been in the minority: only about 4 per cent or so of the people who responded thought as I did. The other 96 per cent thought it was down to ‘wokeness’.

Which shows you exactly how right-wing Talk TV’s viewers are, how they’re refusing to accept the fact that cuts in manpower and budget have affected policing, even before the cops made such obvious gestures of solidarity with minority groups.

And so they’ll accept and applaud even more cuts to the force, just so long as the remaining cops don’t go to Pride in uniform.

Michael Eavis Donates Land and Funding for Social Housing

September 2, 2022

Maximum respect to Michael Eavis, the man behind the Glastonbury festival. My mother takes the People’s Friend, and according to that ancient and venerable magazine, Eavis has donated land and promised to pay for the tools and material for the construction of 20 social houses. These are to go to locals who are being priced out of the housing market.

This is a serious issue in Somerset and many other rural areas, as houses are bought up by wealthy outsiders either moving permanently to the country, or picking them up as holiday homes. There’s a desperate need for social housing about the country as whole, as I don’t need to tell anyone reading this blog. It’s therefore really great news to hear that Eavis has stepped in to do his bit for his community.

If only others were the same, but somehow I doubt that another Somerset magnate, Jacob Rees-Mogg, will do anything similar any time soon.

Explaining Simon Webb: History, Race and the Manipulation of History

August 12, 2022

Several of the great commenters on this blog have questioned why I have put up so many pieces about Simon Webb. Gillyflowerblog in particular asked how anyone, who called himself a socialist, could follow Webb in some of his assertions. It’s a fair question, and deserves an answer. Webb is a Torygraph-reading man of the right. He is staunchly opposed to immigration and multiculturalism, which he regards as destroying traditional British culture. He believes that racial differences in IQ are real and based in genetics, citing scientific papers showing that Black people have more of the genetic markers for schizophrenia than Whites. I’ve no doubt that this is true, but schizophrenia is not intelligence. Furthermore, a greater biological inclination to schizophrenia does not necessarily rule out environmental factors. A mentally vulnerable person may remain psychologically well in the absence of emotional stresses that could drive them over the edge. If there are more Black people needing treatment for psychological problems, it may be because of the particular stresses faced by the Black community, such as poverty, greater unemployment, lower educational and career prospects, racism and the destruction of the Black family and the violent drug gangs operating in many Black communities.

Genetic Basis for Racial IQ Differences Questionable, If Not Disproven

He also believes, almost needless to say, in the bell-curve nonsense, in which Blacks are genetically less intelligent than White, who are genetically not as bright as Asians. In fact Thomas Sowell, who talks favourably about the book, has demolished some of its arguments. There’s no difference in average intelligence between Whites and Asians. The tests that showed it used out of date and biased IQ tests, which skewed the results. However, Asians peoples like the Chinese and Japanese do perform above the level of Whites with the same IQ score. As for Blacks, the average Black IQ is 85, but this is the same or actually better than many White groups when they started IQ testing. Jews, who are now judged one of the most intelligent sections of society, also had the same IQ level, as did various peoples from southern and south-eastern Europe. Their IQs have risen, and so the unspoken implication is that there is no reason why Black IQs shouldn’t. Individual Blacks may score extremely highly. One example is a nine year old Black girl, who had an IQ of 160-80 on one set of tests, and something very close or above 200 on another. Black children raised with White families, such as the mixed race children of German civilians and Black American troopers in the army of occupation after the First World War, had the same IQs as Whites. There are cultural and environmental factors behind the lagging Black IQ, it seems, rather than genes. Although even if there is genetic cause, Black educational performance can still be raised simply by improving teaching methods.

Causes of Economic and Political Crises in African Countries after Independence

Webb has also published videos looking back to a year in the 60s when he claims everybody was talking about repatriation and discussing the decline of South Africa after the abolition of apartheid, and the collapse of Zimbabwe in starvation and dictatorship under Black majority rule. To be fair, this is part of a general trend in African nations after they gain independence. Sowell talks about this in Conquests and Cultures, showing that in all too many cases the economies of the newly independent colonies declines, sometimes catastrophically. This is because the indigenous Africans who take over don’t have the cultural capital and technical skill to run these countries. Sowell has also argued in various videos that the collapse of democracy in many of these nations and their descent into dictatorships is because they haven’t had time during the period of White rule to absorb properly the conqueror’s democratic institutions and traditions. This is probably true, but I’m not sure how much democracy there was in practice when these nations were under the rule of colonial governors. And Webb’s videos on South Africa and Zimbabwe look like nostalgia for White rule and the social order in these countries when Blacks were inferior and knew their place.

He appears also to be a small government Conservative, who says he wouldn’t vote for either Labour or the Conservatives, and laments their supposedly high-spending policies. He is sceptical of the rise of mental illness and the number of people claiming disability for it, presumably feeling, like so many of the right do, that these people should just pull themselves together. Until, of course, it happens to them or the people in their class. Then it’s different.

Webb and Black History

But Webb’s specific focus is on history and debunking what he considers to be historical falsehoods. These are, almost totally, those of Black history. But I do wonder if Webb wasn’t at one time an idealistic anti-racist. I think he’s said that at one time he may have had a Black girlfriend, and among his friends are a number of Black ladies, whom he’s helping home school their children. He’s put up pictures of himself surround by Black children, so I don’t believe he’s racist in his personal relationships. He’s also no anti-Semite, and has posted a number of videos attacking anti-Semitic conspiracy theories such as the lie that the Jews are responsible for mass non-White immigration in order to destroy the White race. One of his most recent videos examines the origins of anti-Semitism. He also defends Israel and its claim to Palestine. He is also not an opponent of Islam as a religion. Another video he posted has as its title the description of Christianity and Islam as two aspects of a single jewel. He states that when he was home schooling his daughter, he took her to various places of worship, including a mosque. All this drives the Nazis and anti-Semites who comment on his videos right up the wall as they call for him to join Patriotic Alternative. Or suggest that he must be Jewish himself, or promoting their propaganda.

As to whatever made him like he is now, I wonder if it was simply the pressure of living in one of the deprived, Black majority areas of London. He seems to know places like Haringey extremely well, talking about how murders were extremely common there at one time as well as the problems caused when one of the local police forces declared they weren’t going to arrest people for cannabis possession. This, he states, resulted in drug dealers running up to people’s cars and banging on the roofs to get attention. If this did happen, along with the other problems of crime and violence, then perhaps seeing the very worst aspects of parts of the Black community eroded all the youthful idealism and anti-racism.

He has published videos denying that some of the great African cultures should properly be regarded as civilisations, because they had no written language, philosophy or science. They are not monuments to Black achievement in his eyes, because very many of them were based on the culture of Arab colonists. And the various histories of Black inventions are riddled with lies and appropriate the scientific achievements of Whites.

Genuinely Great and Forgotten Figures of British Black History

He wasn’t always quite so focused on race. An early video simply discusses the reasons the British shelled their cities during the Second World War. Another video asks whether the Victorians really were all that racist, citing as an example an Indian rajah who became a Tory MP. This could easily be a legitimate part of the Black history activists wish to be taught in schools. Much of this is about rediscovering and reclaiming lost Black historical figures. The classic example is the nurse Mary Seacole, but others include the son of a British planter and a Caribbean slave, who had a glittering political career and ended up as the Lord Lieutenant of one of the Welsh counties. This gentleman was the subject of a BBC Radio 4 programme a few years ago, though I’m afraid I’ve since forgotten his name. But those interested might be able to find him by Googling.

The Great Civilisations of Black Africa

As for Black African civilisations, it’s true that many were culturally influenced from elsewhere. The ancient Sudanese, for example, took over much of ancient Egyptian culture, including the use of hieroglyphs. These people invaded the Land of the Nile several times to claim the throne as pharaohs, before eventually being overthrown in their turn and expelled. They built pyramid monuments for their dead, and were a literate culture. Unfortunately their language was not related to any that have survived today, and there is no Rosetta Stone giving their ancient texts in their language and those which are known, thus allowing the language to deciphered. Scholars are therefore in the frustrating situation of being able to read their inscriptions, but have no idea what they say. We’re faced with a similar situation regarding the ancient civilisation of Meroe, also in that part of Africa.

Many of the great civilisations of Africa were part of the Islamic world. These included Mali in West Africa, and the Swahili in what is now Tanzania. I think their written language was Arabic, in the same way that medieval European civilisations used Latin as the language of religion, government, philosophy, history and science. But that doesn’t detract from their achievements or the sophistication of these cultures. Medieval books from the library of Timbuktu’s madrassa shows that the scholars there were copying and studying scientific texts from the wider Muslim world. One Black historian presenting a programme on Black African civilisation showed such a book. This had a diagram, which she was told showed that Muslims in the region knew that the Earth went round the sun. That’s entirely possible. One of the ancient Greek scholars presented an alternative to the geocentric universe of Ptolemy, in which the Earth did revolve around the sun. But all the other planets still revolved around the Earth. In east Africa, the Amharic, Tigrinya and Tigre languages in Ethiopia are based on the south Arabian language introduced by settlers from that part of Arabia. But even if that part of modern Ethiopian culture isn’t indigenous to the continent, it still doesn’t detract from the achievements of Ethiopian civilisation.

All Civilisations Advance by Borrowing from Each Other

Back again to Thomas Sowell, who states very clearly that cultures across the world borrow from each other. Europeans, for example, adopted gunpowder and paper from China and the numbers system, wrongly called Arabic, from India. Europe was able to rise because of its geography. The east-west nature of the Eurasian landmass meant that inventions in one part of it, such as China or the Middle East, could easily pass to other parts. Thus Europe was able to benefit by adopting and improving on inventions produced by other peoples. Africa lagged behind because it was cut off from the rest of the world by oceans on three sides and the Sahara desert on the north. There were few navigable rivers, so that trade and communication was difficult, unlike in western Europe, where there were many so trade, and hence industrialisation and economic development was easier, along with the passage of ideas and culture. Africa also suffered from highly variable rainfall, which can make agriculture and sailing on the navigable rivers difficult. In some places the soil is unsuited to agriculture, thus making it suitable only as pasturage for nomadic peoples, who are able to move on to better, more fertile land after it becomes exhausted. And the disease environment makes it unsuitable for pack and draught animals, unlike Europe. Goods therefore have to be carried by porters, which is much more expensive than horse or river transport. This also limits the value of goods that may be transported. Because these high costs, only very valuable goods could thus be transported across land. Which probably explains why Africa’s exports tended to be gold, ivory and slaves. Africa was held back, not by any lack of intelligence by its people, but simply because of the isolation created by its physical environment, just as nations and countries elsewhere were similarly aided or held back in their social and economic development by the same geographical factors, even if they were on other continents.

Also, some of the cultures that did not have a written literature could nevertheless be extremely sophisticated. I read somewhere that in one of the African city states, members of it aristocracy would engage in a ceremony in which they would perform a ritual dance accompanied by music. At various intervals they were expected to stop, and point to one of the city’s 17 shrines. If they didn’t point accurately, it would bring disgrace. But Webb is right in that Europeans took some time before they recognised some of the states as civilisations, not just from cultural prejudice but because of the differences between African and European ideas of civilisation. For example, several of the cities Europeans believed were the capitals of these kingdoms weren’t centres of government in the European sense. They were religious centres, which might be abandoned for most of the year.

Falsehoods and Mythmaking in Black History

But if some of his history is wrong or questionable, I think he has a point with others. There are problems with the accuracy of part of Black history writing. This can be seen at some of its most extreme in Afrocentric literature. This can range from claims that are controversial, but which can nevertheless be defended, to racist fabrications. At its heart, Afrocentrism holds that ancient Egypt was a Black civilisation and that it laid the basis for subsequent western culture. It’s a fair question whether the Egyptians were Black. They certainly depicted the men as reddish brown in colour and the women as yellow, in contrast to Europeans, who were painted pink. Herodotus describes them as Black. As for their influence on European culture, Basil Davidson in one his books states that he took the view because this is what the Greeks and Romans believed. On the other hand, the ancient Egyptians also show Caucasian heritage and the Greeks seem to have taken much of their mathematical and scientific knowledge from the ancient near east, and particularly Phrygia in what is now Turkey. However, some Afrocentrists have gone on to argue that ancient Egypt also conquered the rest of Black Africa, where they were responsible for all its peoples’ cultural achievements, and that the original peoples of Britain, China and just about everywhere else were also Black, based on long discredited 19th century White writers.

And there are severe questions about other Black history writing. Webb put up a video last week criticising the claim that the phrase ‘the real McCoy’ was based on a 19th century Black engineer, citing Brewer’s History of Phrase and Fable. I’ve come across the same assertion in a book Black Pioneers of Science and Invention. This also claimed that the refrigerator was also a Black invention and that open heart surgery was invented by a Black doctor over here during the Second World War. This man performed an emergency operation on a man injured during the Blitz. Webb denies that he invented the operation, but states that he was the first to perform it in Britain. Which is still a proud achievement. Not as spectacular as inventing it, but still very impressive.

Mary Seacole – No Nurse, But Pioneering Black Female Entrepreneur

And then there’s the matter of Mary Seacole. For many Blacks, she was a pioneer of modern nursing equal to Florence Nightingale. To her detractors, she was a businesswoman who went to the Crimea to open a hotel for the British officers. She may have done a bit of nursing on the side, but that wasn’t the real purpose of her time there. Webb sides with the latter view, citing her autobiography. And again, I think he’s right. But that doesn’t mean that Seacole should be written off as a lost Black historical heroine. Even if she wasn’t a nurse, she’s still important as an entrepreneur. For Black Conservatives like Sowell, what Blacks need is not state handouts, but to develop the entrepreneurial skills to enable them to allow them to rise economically and socially, as other ethnic groups like the Jews, Chinese, and Japanese have also done. You don’t have to be a Conservative opponent of state aid and the welfare state to adopt such a view. The motion put before Bristol city council the other year by the Labour deputy mayor Asher Craig and Green party councillor Cleo Lake for the payment of reparations for slavery wanted such monies to be given to Black organisations to develop self-reliant and sustainable prosperous Black communities. Which entails encouraging and supporting Black entrepreneurs in those communities.

Invented and Exaggerated History A Response to Continued Racism and Exclusion

In many ways I’m not surprised that various Black writers have made exaggerated claims for Black civilisations and Black inventiveness. They aren’t alone in appropriating great figures from other ethnic groups. Mussolini, for example, claimed that Shakespeare was Italian. Well, some of the Bard’s plays, like Two Gentlemen of Verona and Romeo and Juliet are set in Italy, but I think this may partly reflect the dominance of Italian renaissance culture. Some of the claims about historic Black communities in Britain, which present them as far larger and more numerous than they probably were, seem to me to be an attempt to assert their right to live in this country in the face of still being regarded as somehow foreign and not really belonging. I’ve met Black people, who do feel like that. They were ordinary people with White friends, and not angry radicals. And the promotion of Black cultures and civilisations as sophisticated and advanced seems to me to be partly a reaction to the previous generations of historians and academics, who dismissed them completely. It makes depressing reading going through the book Colour and Colour Prejudice by the last governor of Ghana and seeing one scholar after another make this assertion.

Black Commenters also Against Memorialisation of Violent Thugs as Victims

I also think Webb has a very serious point when he questions some of the assertions and memorialisation of Black persecution. For example, David Olasuga and Reni Edo Lodge were present at a ceremony a few years ago, where a memorial was laid at the docks in memory of Philip Wootton, who was a victim of lynching in the 1919 race riots. Except it seems from contemporary newspaper accounts that Wootton was a violent thug involved in fighting between a group of West Indian, Swedish and Russian sailors. During this a policeman was stabbed several times and there was an attempt to garrotte him. The West Indian gang shot several times at the police after fleeing back to their lodgings. Wootton attempted to escape out the backdoor, but was spotted and pursued by an angry mob towards the docks, where he slipped and fell in. This is very different from the victims of other lynchings, like young men who were killed for having a White girlfriend, or who spoke insolently to a White man.

For some Blacks, violent thugs like Wootton should definitely not be defended or promoted by the Black community. One of the Black American YouTubers got very angry and tearful about the BLM protests last week against the shooting of Tekle Sundberg. Sundberg had had some kind of episode and started shooting through his apartment wall, trying to kill a young mother and her two children. Fortunately the woman and kids were able to flee. The cops turned up and after a six hour stand-off, shot him dead. His adoptive White mother tearfully claimed that it was a racist shooting, as White perps would have had longer to comply. Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter turned up and started a protest to the justifiable fury of Sundberg’s intended victim. The Black YouTuber commenting on this angrily denounced BLM for celebrating criminals like Sundberg. This, he believed, was why everyone else looked down on Blacks.

Checking Reni Edo Lodge about Medical Experimentation on Blacks

As for Reni Edo Lodge, Webb stated that in one of her books she claims that Blacks in Britain were experimented upon and denied medical treatment. This is a serious claim and deserves to be investigated. It did happen in America. I’ve seen YouTube posts about the horrendous experimentation on pregnant Black women by a particular 19th century surgeon. In the ’90s there was outrage when government files released under the Freedom of Information Act showed that the American state had been conducting nuclear experiments on the poor and people of colour with neither their knowledge or consent. In the same decade, the American conspiracy journal, Steamshovel Press, carried an article by one man, who stated that he found Black Americans more likely to believe that AIDS was a germ warfare experiment escaped from Fort Dettrick because of the Tuskegee experiment. This was a nasty medical experiment in which a group of Black sharecroppers were infected with syphilis and denied treatment in order to investigate the disease’s spread. In return their funerals were paid for and their families looked after.

I am not aware that any similar experiments were done over here, apart from the nuclear tests on British servicemen, which wasn’t, I believe, racial. If such experiments didn’t happen, then Lodge is writing fake history. Dangerous fake history – it’s addressed to an audience that already keenly feels that British Blacks have been victimised and persecuted, and such claims only exacerbate such feelings. As if the terrible conditions in many Black communities aren’t bad enough already without inventing even more abuse and discrimination. That’s why I wrote to Lodge’s agent last week requesting Lodge to state where she got these claims from. If she can support them with government documents or properly researched secondary literature, well and good. I’ll support her claims. But if she can’t, then she’s manufacturing false history and in doing so actually making race relations worse.

Conclusion

This is why I’m interested in some of Webb’s videos. History is important, which is why there is so much interest now in Black history. It’s an attempt to recover forgotten Black politicians, nobles, writers and inventors in order to provide role models for contemporary Blacks, in the hope that this will inspire them to do better at school, and in the outside world.

But this has to be good, truthful history, whoever writes it. Otherwise, even if it’s being written with the best of intentions, it’s just propaganda. And that’s wrong, whether done by Whites, Blacks or whoever.

Why Did British Public Opinion Turn Against the Empire?

August 10, 2022

The British empire and its history is once again the topic of intense controversy with claims that its responsible for racism, the continuing poverty and lack of development of Commonwealth nations and calls for the decolonisation of British museums and the educational curriculum. On the internet news page just this morning is a report that Tom Daley has claimed that homophobia is a legacy of the British empire. He has a point, as when the British government was reforming the Jamaican legal code in the late 19th century, one of the clauses they inserted criminalised homosexuality.,

In fact this is just the latest wave of controversy and debate over the empire and its legacy. There were similar debates in the ’90s and in the early years of this century. And the right regularly laments popular hostility to British imperialism. For right-wing commenters like Niall Ferguson and the Black American Conservative economist Thomas Sowell, British imperialism also had positive benefits in spreading democracy, property rights, properly administered law and modern technology and industrial organisation around the world. These are fair points, and it must be said that neither of these two writers ignore the fact that terrible atrocities were committed under British imperialism either. Sowell states that the enforced labour imposed on indigenous Africans was bitterly resented and that casualties among African porters could be extremely high.

But I got the impression that at the level of the Heil, there’s a nostalgia for the empire as something deeply integral to British identity and that hostility or indifference to it counts as a serious lack of patriotism.

But what did turn popular British opinion against the empire, after generations when official attitudes, education and the popular media held it up as something of which Britons should be immensely proud, as extolled in music hall songs, holidays like Empire Day and books like The Baby Patriot’s ABC, looked through a few years ago by one of the Dimblebys on a history programme a few years ago.

T.O. Lloyd in his academic history book, Empire to Welfare State, connects it to a general feeling of self hatred in the early 1970s, directed not just against the empire, but also against businessmen and politicians:

”Further to the left, opinion was even less tolerant; when Heath in 1973 referred to some exploits of adroit businessmen in avoiding tax as ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’, the phase was taken up and repeated as though he had intended it to apply to the whole of capitalism, which was certainly not what he meant.

‘Perhaps it was surprising that his remark attracted so much attention, for it was not a period in which politicians received much respect. Allowing for the demands of caricature, a good deal of the public mood was caught by the cartoons of Gerald Scarfe, who drew in a style of brilliant distortion which made it impossible to speak well of anyone. The hatred of all men holding authority that was to be seen in his work enabled him to hold up a mirror to his times, and the current of self hatred that ran so close to the surface also matched an important part of his readers’ feelings. Politicians were blamed for not bringing peace, prosperity, and happiness, even though they probably had at this time less power – because of the weakness of the British economy and the relative decline in Britain’s international position – to bring peace and prosperity than they had had earlier in the century; blaming them for this did no good, and made people happier only in the shortest of short runs.

‘A civil was in Nigeria illustrated a good many features of British life, including a hostility to the British Empire which might have made sense while the struggle for colonial freedom was going on but, after decolonization had taken place so quickly and so amicably, felt rather as though people needed something to hate.’ (pp. 420-1).

The Conservative academic historian, Jeremy Black, laments that the positive aspects of British imperialism has been lost in his book The British Empire: A History and a Debate (Farnham: Ashgate 2015):

‘Thus, the multi-faceted nature of the British imperial past and its impact has been largely lost. This was a multi-faceted nature that contributed to the pluralistic character of the empire. Instead, a politics of rejection ensures that the imperial past serves for themes and images as part of an empowerment through real, remembered, or, sometimes, constructed grievance. This approach provides not only the recovery of terrible episodes, but also ready reflexes of anger and newsworthy copy, as with the harsh treatment of rebels, rebel sympathisers , and innocent bystanders in the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, an issue that took on new energy as demands for compensation were fuelled by revelations of harsh British policy from 2011’. (p. 235).

He also states that there’s a feeling in Britain that the empire, and now the Commonwealth, are largely irrelevant:

‘Similarly, there has been a significant change in tone and content in the discussion of the imperial past in Britain. A sense of irrelevance was captured in the Al Stewart song ‘On the Border’ (1976).

‘On my wall the colours of the map are running

From Africa the winds they talk of changes of coming

In the islands where I grew up

Noting seems the same

It’s just the patterns that remain

An empty shell.’

For most of the public, the Commonwealth has followed the empire into irrelevance. the patriotic glow that accompanied and followed the Falklands War in 1982, a war fought to regain a part of the empire inhabited by settlers of British descent, was essentially nationalistic, not imperial. This glow was not matched for the most recent, and very different, conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. These have led to a marked disinclination for further expeditionary warfare’. (pp. 421-2).

In fact the whole of the last chapter of Black’s book is about changing attitudes to the empire and the imperial past, which Black feels has been distorted. The British empire is seen through the lens of atrocities, although its rule was less harsh than the Germans or Italians. In India the view is coloured by the Amritsar massacre and ignores the long periods of peace imposed by British rule in India. He also notes that the cultural and international dominance of America has also affected British ideas of exceptionalism, distinctiveness and pride, and that interest in America has superseded interest in the other countries of the former empire.

Attitudes to the empire have also changed as Britain has become more multicultural., and states that ‘increasingly multicultural Britain sees myriad tensions and alliance in which place, ethnicity, religion, class and other factors both class and coexist. This is not an easy background for a positive depiction of the imperial past’ (p. 239). He also mentions the Parekh Report of the Commission on the Future Multi-Ethnic Britain, which ‘pressed for a sense of heritage adapted to the views of recent immigrants. This aspect of the report’ he writes, ‘very much attracted comment. At times, the consequences were somewhat fanciful and there was disproportionate emphasis both on a multi-ethnic legacy and on a positive account of it’. (p. 239). Hence the concern to rename monuments and streets connected with the imperial past, as well as making museums and other parts of the heritage sector more accessible to Black and Asians visitors and representative of their experience.

I wonder how far this lack of interest in the Commonwealth goes, at least in the immediate present following the Commonwealth games. There’s talk on the Beeb and elsewhere that it has inspired a new interest and optimism about it. And my guess is that much of popular hostility to the empire probably comes from the sympathy from parts of the British public for the various independence movements and horror at the brutality with which the government attempted to suppress some of them,, like the Mau Mau in Kenya. But it also seems to me that a powerful influence has also been the psychological link between its dissolution and general British decline, and its replacement in British popular consciousness by America. And Black and Asian immigration has also played a role. I’ve a very strong impression that some anti-imperial sentiment comes from the battles against real racism in the 1970s and 1980s. One of the Fascist organisations that founded the National Front in the 1960s was the League of Empire Loyalists.

This popular critique on British imperialism was a part of the ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ strip in 2000AD. This was about a future in which Earth had become the centre of a brutally racist, genocidal galactic empire ruled by a quasi-religious order, the Terminators. They, and their leader, Torquemada, were based on the writer’s own experience as a pupil of an abusive teacher at a Roman Catholic school. The Terminators wore armour, and the title of their leader, grand master, recalls the crusading orders like the Knights Templars in the Middle Ages. One of the stories mentions a book, published by the Terminators to justify their cleansing of the galaxy’s aliens, Our Empire Story. Which is the title of a real book that glamorised the British empire. Elsewhere the strip described Torquemada as ‘the supreme Fascist’ and there were explicit comparisons and links between him, Hitler, extreme right-wing Tory politicos like Enoch Powell, and US generals responsible for the atrocities against the Amerindians. It’s a good question whether strips like ‘Nemesis’ shape public opinion or simply follow it. I think they may well do a bit of both.

But it seems to me that, rather than being a recent phenomenon, a popular hostility to the British empire has been around since the 1970s and that recent, radical attacks on imperial history and its legacy are in many cases simply an extension of this, rather than anything completely new.

PoliticsJoe Video Showing the Sheer Dementedness of Liz Truss

August 7, 2022

PoliticsJoe posted this video on YouTube yesterday. Its title declares that its about ‘Just Liz Truss Being Fully Mental’, which I supposed is one way of describing some of the antics and pronouncements of this contender for the Tory leadership. It consists of a series of clips, not edited together to have her singing a stupid, satirical song about herself, as PoliticsJoe has done, but something just as damning: it shows some of her deranged political statements, together with her failing to answer tough interview questions about her broken promises and falsehoods from people like Andrew Neil. And mixed in with that is previous footage from years ago of her speaking at a Lib Dem conference when she was a young activist with them.

The younger Truss seems like a normal, sane, politically idealistic and passionate human being. She praises Paddy Ashdown and the political potential and right to self-government of the British people. A self-government that is being denied by the monarchy, whose abolition she demands. It’s a very radical proposal, and one which you tend to hear from those further left, such as the left-wing of the Labour party. But by the time she’s a Tory MP and cabinet minister, she’s been transformed. The eyes have got madder, though not nearly as bog-eyed as Nicky Morgan, and the voice has taken on a harsher edge, so that at one point she did sound a bit like Anne Widecombe. And instead of radical democratic change, she was wibbling on about having secured a prize deal for exporting pork to China. Just like she steered through a deal to export cheese to Japan, where most of the country is lactose intolerant. And other great results for Brexit.

What should really bring her down is her lies and broken promises. She’s asked by Neil how many of the 200,000 social houses she declared she was going to build were actually put up. She can’t remember. Neil tells her that it’s not hard to know how many: zero. And the end of the video shows her being patiently asked by a female journo about various promises she made when she was in office, one after another, all of which she broke.

This is the woman now trying to get her backside into No. 10, and in many ways a true protege of Boris Johnson and the Tory machine. A woman who ditched democratic idealism for class reaction, Brexit and just telling one lie after another, while gripping desperately at the tiniest success in the Brexit negotiations in order to show it as some kind of magnificent success for Britain.

The Tories are destroying the British economy, and have only succeeded in making this country’s great people desperately poorer. Brexit has actively damaged our industry, agriculture and even the financial sector, which the Tories and New Labour have favoured so much. And Truss has been a vital part of all that under Johnson and before.

Johnson out!

Truss out!

Sunak out!

Tories out!

Stop the War Coalition Newsletter on NATO in Afghanistan and Trade Union Organising against the War in Ukraine

August 5, 2022

Just now I got the latest email newsletter from the Stop the War Coalition, notifying its readers of the organisation’s forthcoming events. One will be an evening with veteran civil rights campaigner, author and broadcaster Tariq Ali about the consequences of forty years of war in Afghanistan, including NATO’s occupation of the country. They are also organising a conference for trades unionists next year and encouraging members of the unions to affiliate their unions and their local branches to them. And, of course, they also appeal for people to join them. The email runs

NATO’s Legacy in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has been abandoned by the international community following the events of 2021 when the 20-year NATO occupation of Afghanistan came to an end.

It seems the only thing the West now has to offer Afghanistan is extrajudicial killings. After the appalling Panorama revelations of a ‘campaign of terror’ by British special forces during the occupation comes the assassination of Ayman al Zawahiri. Quite simply, such attacks are war crimes and do nothing to “make us safer” as Joe Biden stated this week.

With the Taliban back in power and stronger than it was in 2001, NATO’s occupation has been an outright failure. From the lies of installing democracy to improving quality of life to liberating women, the War on Terror did nothing but cause death and destruction.

The country is home to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, as 90% of the population live below the poverty line. The country’s economy is at a standstill as sanctions cripple the nation.

One year on from the end of the occupation, join us for an evening with Tariq Ali – writer, film-maker and author of The Forty Year War in Afghanistan: A Chronicle Foretold – as he takes a look at the current state of the country and the myths surrounding the Western occupation.

Register Here – Free & Open to All!

The World at War: A Trade Union Issue
Stop the War Trade Union Conference 2023

We have called our first ever trade union conference because we believe that it is always working people who are the first victims of war and that the record sums being spent on arms and the military should be redirected to public services, to the NHS, social care and our crumbling schools. We believe that the slogan ‘cut warfare not welfare’ should be taken up by the whole of the trade union movement.

The conference is open to all trade unionists. We urge you to register but also to spread the word in your branches and trades councils.

We have called our first ever trade union conference because we believe that it is always working people who are the first victims of war and that the record sums being spent on arms and the military should be redirected to public services, to the NHS, social care and our crumbling schools. We believe that the slogan ‘cut warfare not welfare’ should be taken up by the whole of the trade union movement.

Register Now

head of the conference, we’re asking all trade unionists who support Stop the War to affiliate to us. By affiliating your branch or region you can ensure that our movement will continue to campaign against the British government’s war policies. We receive no grants from governments or financial backing from commercial backers.

It is only because of individuals and organisations like yours that we are able to continue to build the anti-war movement so that future generations may live in a more peaceful world.

Affiliate to Stop the War Today

Be Part of a Growing Movement Against War

This week our Vice President and founder member Jeremy Corbyn has once again come under fire for standing up for peace. He said in relation to the war in Ukraine that…

“Pouring arms in isn’t going to bring about a solution, it’s only going to prolong and exaggerate this war…This war is disastrous for the people of Ukraine, for the people of Russia, and for the safety and security of the whole world, and therefore there has to be much more effort put into peace.”

He’s right. And we must further his call for peace and negotiation.

One small way to help us intensify our campaign against the warmongers is by becoming a member.

As a small incentive for doing so, we are offering a special discount for members on our merchandise. You also get a free ‘Drop Beats Not Bombs’ tote bag when you join.

We do understand that these are difficult times and we are only asking you to support us if you can. Membership costs as little as £2. We hope you will consider joining.

Become a Stop the War Member Today

Ali’s interesting. Apparently the Stones’ ‘Street Fighting Man’, written during the wave of sixties radicalism, is all about him. I read in one of the papers that apparently when he was a little boy, he had an aunt knit him a jumper with Stalin’s head on. This was presumably before people knew what a monster Stalin was, when his sycophants were falling over themselves to declare him the grreat saviour of the international working class and progressive humanity. He had his own Black interest programme on satellite or cable television, or at least he did. And a few decades ago he published an anthology of classic texts from the golden age of Islam to show to young Muslims how enlightened and tolerant Islam had been, as against the intolerance and bigotry of the Islamists. He’s very careful about history. On one of his shows, he pointed out that during the period of racist lynchings in America, more Italians were murdered in Louisiana than Blacks. This surprised me, because I thought it was only Blacks who were being murdered by these mobs. But I’ve no doubt that it’s true.

Afghanistan is, like Iraq, a country where the real reason for the invasion has nothing to do with combatting terrorism or installing democracy. It was about oil. The American oil industry and Republican administration was negotiating for an oil pipeline with the Taliban. When the Taliban stalled, the policymakers took the decision to hold back until there was some kind of crisis which they could use. This would provide a pretext to invade the country and build the pipeline anyway, without the Taliban’s consent. This came with 9/11 and the al-Qaeda attack.