Archive for the ‘Popular Music’ Category

Nonviolent Protest Groups Placed on Anti-Terrorism List

January 18, 2020

Last week it was revealed by the Groaniad that the environmentalist group, Extinction Rebellion, had been put on a list of extremist organisations, whose sympathisers should be treated by the Prevent programme. Extinction Rebellion are, in my view, a royal pain, whose disruptive antics are more likely to make them lose popular support but they certainly aren’t violent and do keep within the law. For example, in one of their protests in Bristol last autumn, they stopped the traffic for short periods and then let some cars through before stopping the traffic again. It was a nuisance, which is what the group intended, and no doubt infuriating to those inconvenienced by it. But they kept within the law. They therefore don’t deserve to be put on an anti-terrorism watch list with real violent extremist organisations like Islamist and White fascist terror groups such as the banned neo-Nazi group, National Action.

But Extinction Rebellion aren’t the only nonviolent protest group to be put on this wretched list. Zelo Street put up a piece yesterday revealing that the list also includes Greenpeace, the campaigners against sea pollution, Sea Shepherd, PETA, Stop the Badger Cull, Stop the War, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, CND, various anti-Fascist and anti-racist groups, as well as an anti-police surveillance group, campaigners against airport expansion, and Communist and Socialist parties.

I can sort of understand why Greenpeace is on the list. They also organise protests and peaceful occupations, and I remember how, during the ‘Save the Whale’ campaign, their ship, the Rainbow Warrior, used to come between whalers and their prey. I also remember how, in the 1980s, the French secret service bombed it when it was in port in New Zealand, because the evil peaceful hippies had dared to protest against their nuclear tests in the Pacific. From this, and their inclusion on this wretched list, it seems they’re more likely to be victims of state violence than the perpetrators of violence themselves.

Greenpeace’s John Sauven said

Tarring environmental campaigners and terrorist organisations with the same brush is not going to help fight terrorism … It will only harm the reputation of hard-working police officers … How can we possibly teach children about the devastation caused by the climate emergency while at the same implying that those trying to stop it are extremists?

And Prevent’s independent reviewer, Alex Carlile, said:

The Prevent strategy is meant to deal with violent extremism, with terrorism, and XR are not violent terrorists. They are disruptive campaigners”.

Zelo Street commented that this was all very 1960s establishment paranoia. Which it is. You wonder if the list also includes anyone, who gave the list’s compilers a funny look once. And whether they’re going to follow the example of Constable Savage in the Not the Nine O’Clock News sketch and arrest gentlemen of colour for wandering around during the hours of darkness wearing a loud shirt. This is a joke, but the list represents are real danger. It criminalises any kind of protest, even when its peaceful. About a decade ago, for example, Stop the War held a protest in Bristol city centre. They were out there with their banners and trestle tables, chanting and speaking. Their material, for what I could see where I was, simply pointed out that the invasion of Iraq had claimed 200,000 lives. They were on the pavement, as I recall, didn’t disrupt the traffic and didn’t start a fight with anyone.

As for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, this is a knee-jerk attempt to link pro-Palestinian activism with terrorism. But wanting the Palestinians to be given their own land or to enjoy equal rights with Israelis in a modern, ethnically and religious diverse and tolerant state, does not equate with sympathy for terrorism or terrorism itself. Tony Greenstein, Asa Winstanley and Jackie Walker are also pro-Palestinian activists. But as far as I know, they’re all peaceful, nonviolent people. Walker’s a granny in her early 60’s, for heaven’s sake. They’re all far more likely to be the victims of violence than ever initiate it. In fact, Tony was physically assaulted in an unprovoked attack by an irate Israeli, while one woman from one of the pro-Israel organisations was caught on camera saying how she thought she could ‘take’ Jackie.

I realise the Stop the Badger Cull people have also physically tried to stop the government killing badgers, but this is again disruption, not violence. And one of those against the cull is Brian May, astrophysicist and rock legend. Apart from producing some of the most awesome music with Freddy Mercury and the rest of Queen, and appearing on pop science programmes with Dara O’Brien showing people round the Jodrell Bank radio telescope, he has not, not ever, been involved in political violence.

This shows you how ludicrous the list is. But it’s also deeply sinister, as by recommending that supporters of these organisations as well as real terrorist groups should be dealt with by Prevent, it defines them as a kind of thoughtcrime. Their members are to be rounded up and reeducated. Which is itself the attitude and method of suppression of totalitarian states.

Zelo Street pointed the finger for this monstrous shambles at Priti Patel. As current Home Secretary, she’s ultimately responsible for it. The Street wanted to know whether she knew about it and when? And if she didn’t, what’s she doing holding the job? But there’s been no answer so far. And a police spokesperson said it was unhelpful and misleading to suggest the nonviolent groups on the list had been smeared.

The Street said it was time for Patel to get her house in order, but warned its readers not to bet on it. No, you shouldn’t. This is an attempt to criminalise non-violent protest against capitalism and the actions of the authorities and British state. It’s the same attitude that informed the British secret state’s attempts to disrupt and destroy similar and sometimes the same protest movements in the 70s and 80s, like CND. And it will get worse. A few years ago Counterpunch published a piece reporting that the American armed services and police were expecting violent outbreaks and domestic terrorism in the 2030s as the poverty caused by neoliberalism increased. They were therefore devising new methods of militarised policing to combat this. We can expect similar repressive measures over this side of the Atlantic as well.

This list is a real threat to freedom of conscience, peaceful protest and action. And the ultimate responsibility for it is the Tories. Who have always been on the side of big business against the rest of society, and particularly the poor and disadvantaged.

They’re criminalising those, who seek peaceful means to fight back.

Failure of Hague’s and Jolie’s Scheme to Combat Use of Rape in War

January 13, 2020

It’s not just the people of Britain that the Tories are failing. Last Friday’s I carried a piece by Hugo Gye, ‘Hague and Jolie’s sexual violence scheme ‘let down survivors’, about the failure of an international initiative by Willliam Hague and Angelina Jolie to raise awareness of and fight the use of rape as a weapon of war. This was well-funded right up to the moment Hague stopped being responsible for it. As soon as that happened, its budget was drastically cut, and the scheme may have ended up doing more harm than good. The article ran

A UK Government effort to curb the use of rape as a weapon of war did not succeed and may even have harmed victims, a report suggests.

The Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) was launched in 2012 by the then foreign secretary, William Hague, and the actress Angelina Jolie in her role as a United Nations special envoy.

Its aim was to “raise awareness of the extent of sexual violence against women, men, girls and boys in situations of armed conflict and rally global actions to end it”. But as soon as the Conservative politician left office a few months later, work on the scheme was drastically scaled back.

A report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact says that withdrawing support for victims of violence may have left them worse off than if it had never been offered. The PSVI’s budget fell from £15m to just £2m with only four full-time civil servants working on it.

The aid watchdog concluded that the project had helped to make Britain a “leading voice in the international effort to address conflict-related sexual violence” but fell short of the ambitions originally set for it.

It said: “The initiative lacks a clear strategy and overall vision to guide its activities, and the lack of a shared understanding of the problem has inhibited cross-departmental collaboration on addressing conflict-related sexual violence.

“There is little monitoring and reporting on how outputs translate into lasting outcomes, making it difficult to access [its] effectiveness.”

Last night, the Foreign Office said that the report failed to “fully recognise the impact of the UK’s leadership on PSVI, which has mobilised the international community and brought real change for survivors.”

I’d like to believe that Hague was sincere about this scheme when he set it up, but it does look very much like a typical Tory plan: inaugurated with great hoo-hah and fanfare, but lacking substance and immediately cut the moment it loses the public’s attention. Like Boris Johnson’s plan to build forty more hospitals, most of whom have no more than seed funding to sort out legal problems.

And I’m not sure how successful a scheme to suppress sexual violence in war is going to be when some of the worst offenders are the Tories’ Fascist friends. Rape was used by Thatcher’s friend, General Pinochet to torture his regime’s political prisoners. The building used for it within the concentration camp in which they were interned was nicknamed ‘the discotheque’ because of the thugs’ use of disco music when they raped their victims.

No matter how well Hague or Jolie meant, that policy was definitely going to be scrapped if it got in the way of good relations with their real Fascist mates.

Right, Guido Fawkes?

Lib Dem Politico Bullied into Coming Out as Gay by Mail on Sunday

January 7, 2020

This is absolutely disgusting. I really do wonder how the alleged ladies and gentlemen of the scumbag British press sleep at night. Zelo Street this afternoon reported that Layla Moran, the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, came out last week. She revealed that she was pansexual, and was in a loving, supportive relationship with another woman. Moran’s a contender for the Lib Dem leadership, and her announcement that she was gay was on ITV news. Moran says that their relationship started six months ago. So naturally, Zelo Street raises the obvious question: why is she telling us all this now?

It’s because, according to Hacked Off, the group representing the victims of press phone hacking, Moran was put under pressure by hacks from the Mail on Sunday.  The organisation said

 “Ms Moran has described how several reporters have been asking questions, door-knocking neighbours and even offering payment to a former partner seeking information about her personal life over the last few months. Ms Moran writes that the Mail on Sunday threatened to publish details relating to her sexuality last Saturday, and that she herself only decided to reveal her sexuality publicly last week because she feared the newspaper would go on to publish”.

She did so on social media, which really annoyed the MoS, who were reduced to running a piece about Mumsnet showing bitterly critical posts of her by its users. One of these accused her of ‘weaponising’ her relationship with the Lib Dems former head of media, Rosy Cobb.

The Street then quotes Nathan Sparkes of Hacked Off on the squalid cruelty the MoS has shown:

Newspapers have no business revealing an individual’s sexuality against their will, far less a politician who has devoted much of her career to date to furthering the cause of LGBT+ rights and equality … The decision of the Mail on Sunday … to publish an article attacking Ms Moran based on a handful of abusive tweets on a social media site speaks to the vindictiveness and cruelty of parts of our unregulated press”.

The Street concludes ‘Our free and fearless press’ attitude to sexuality stinks. And that has to change.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/01/layla-moran-bullied-into-coming-out.html

I think I saw something in the I written by Moran about her experience of ‘coming out’. It had the title ‘In the 21st Century Coming Out Shouldn’t Be An Issue’, or something along those lines. I didn’t read it because quite frankly I wasn’t interested. So many public figures have come out over the past decades – pop stars, sportsmen and women, actors, politicos – that you get used to it, even bored. With many public figures, whether gay or straight, who they’re romantically involved with is the least interesting aspect of their lives. What’s more interesting is their talent, or issues such as whether they have an unusual personal background, skill or medical condition. Such as, for example, whether they can speak an exotic language, have mastered an arcane science or intellectual discipline like quantum physics, or are able to fly an aircraft. Or have overcome personal misfortune or a medical condition like autism or depression. For a politician, what really matters is how hard they work for and represent their constituents, and their policy positions. Like where they stand on Brexit, the destruction of the welfare state, rising inequality, racism, the privatisation of the NHS and so forth. Provided that they’re not breaking the law and their partners are consenting adults, who they share their private lives with is their own business.

I grew up in the 1980s, when the gay rights organisations were aggressively outing politicians, who kept their sexuality hidden. I thought that this was pretty shabby, until a gay friend of mine told me that the politicos they targeted were hypocrites, who publicly opposed homosexuality and its toleration. There was a serious point to their actions. But there doesn’t seem to be anything like that here, just a simple desire to boost sales figures through scandal.

And unfortunately, the press has got plenty of previous in trying to bully people into revealing their sexuality in this way. Way back in the 1990s the ‘Street of Shame’ column in Private Eye carried a story about an attempt by one of the tabloids – something like the Scum or the News of the Screws – to blackmail one of the pop stars of the day into coming out in its pages. Wisely, he decided to thwart them by going to one of the other papers instead to make the revelation.

And stalking celebrities in order to find out if they’re gay or not is pretty squalid anyway. A few years ago there was a programme on how the Mirror got that story about George Michael going into a gay toilet in Beverley Hills or wherever. That was when it was edited by Piers Morgan, now adorning ITV’s breakfast news. The photographer was there for a week staking the place out waiting for a celebrity, any celebrity, to come and use it. The photographs he took from a car parked over the road were worth tens of thousands. Which itself shows the squalid morals of the newspaper business. I’ve no doubt his family and children were well fed, clad and educated by the profits of his job, but it’s not exactly something your children can boast about in school. After hearing from all the other children how their parents are builders, engineers, scientists, business people,  artists or whatever, what child really wants to answer the question ‘What does your mum/dad do?’ with the reply, ‘He/she hangs around gay toilets hoping to catch rock stars getting arrested by the rozzers’?

As for Mumsnet, they’ve been described as ‘4chan with prosecco’. From what I gather of 4chan, it’s an internet platform seething with racism, sexism and vicious trolls, so that’s hardly an endorsement.

The Mail on Sunday’s treatment of Moran, and the British press’ treatment of innocent people just trying to live their lives in peace is deeply shameful, and shows why it really does need to be subject to a press watchdog with teeth.

Private Schools Turn Down Bursaries for White Working Class Boys

January 7, 2020

This is a very interesting story from last weekend’s I. A retired Maths professor, Sir Bryan Thwaites, offered two private schools bursaries for White working class boys. They both turned it down. Their refusal, and the fact that these bursaries are needed, says much about class and race in the early 21st century. The report contained the observation that ‘inverted snobbery and liberal guilt neglect the white poor’. Which is true, but it’s also true that such bursaries wouldn’t quite be so necessary if it weren’t for Thatcherism. Thatcher promised that her reforms would turn Britain into a meritocracy, where everyone could succeed, regardless of class background, provided they had the talent. This has spectacularly not happened. Class mobility was at a standstill during Blair’s administration. Now it seems to have gone into reverse. And at the bottom are the working class that Thatcher and the Tories despise, and Blair neglected.

Thwaites was a working class lad, who had gone to Dulwich and Winchester Colleges on scholarships. He therefore wanted to award them bursaries amounting to £1.2m to set up scholarships for lads from his background. He said he wanted to address the ‘severe national problem of the underperforming white cohort in schools’. The donations amounted to £400,000 for Dulwich and £800,000 for Winchester. They turned them down because they were afraid that the donations broke equality rules. Winchester said that they ‘did not see how discrimination on the grounds of a boy’s colour could ever be compatible with its values’. Dulwich simply said bursaries were available to everyone who passed their entrance exam, ‘regardless of their background.’

Thwaites, who is himself a former college head, told the Times, ‘If [the colleges] were to say ‘We are helping these deprived cohorts of children,’ that would do a hell of a lot for their reputation and show that the independent sector is taking some notice of what’s going on in the world at large. The implication of their refusal… is that they couldn’t give a damn.’

Poor White Educational Underperformance

The newspaper then printed some stats to show why Thwaites believed such bursaries were necessary. Only 15 per cent of White boys receiving free school meals achieve a grade 5 or higher in English and Maths at GCSE in 2018 compared with 33.6 per cent of Asian boys and 23.4 per cent of Black boys.

It also noted that four years ago universities were told to recruit more working class students – particularly boys – after statistics showed that just 10 per cent of young men from the poorest areas went into higher education.

Thwaites therefore said he was turning his attention to state schools and academies would be only too glad to accept his money. Referring to Stormzy’s decision to set up two scholarships for Black undergrads at Cambridge, he asked ‘If Cambridge University can accept a much larger donation in support of Black students, why cannot I do the same for under-privileged White British?’

Trevor Phillips Attacks ‘Inverted Snobbery’ over White Children

The I commented that ‘it is these barriers – of structural inequality and the intersection of race and class – that society tends to tiptoe around in order to avoid honey-yet-difficult conversations.

However, in last month’s Standpoint, Trevor Phillips, the broadcaster and former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, attacked the ‘inverted snobbery’ which held by poor White boys. He claimed that modern society had made institutions ridiculously squeamish about accepting that their treatment of Whites as a ‘non-race’ was itself racist, and added ‘They have become so confused in these ‘woke’ times that a lethal cocktail of inverted snobbery, racial victimhood, and liberal guilt ends up rewarding schools for favouring the Black and Brown rich while neglecting the White poor.”

Comments from Other Academics

The report then said that campaigners have long tried to level the playing field so that every child, regardless of its race, gender or background, was given the best possible start in life. They then quoted Dr Lee Elliot Major, the professor of social mobility at Exeter Uni. He said

Philanthropists want to help people similar to them and, of course, that is their prerogative,. But often the bigger issue is help people who are not like them.

Success comes in many forms. Social mobility is not just about getting those magical tickets to the top schools, because that’s not for everyone. State schools cater to all sorts of potential – some students will be high-flyers, so will need support in applying for prestigious universities. Others will seek out an apprenticeship or attend a local college.

I think it’s great that [Sir Bryan’s donations} could be used to support many pupils going through different routes – not just academic study.

However, Major also pointed out the differences between Stormzy’s and Thwaites’ donations. Major said that he had many conversations with Black undergraduates at Cambridge, who were the first in their families to go to university, and who felt isolated there. He remarked

There are very specific issues around highly selective, very academic universities, because they are quintessentially middle-class and very White and I think [Stormzy’s scholarship] was a legitimate move to address this.

He said that there were discussions leading universities could have to make their campuses more inclusive, continuing

If you’re looking at achievement in schools, I would argue taht this comes down to culture in the home, to class and [household] income.

It’s often the case that White working-class boys are [products of] those backgrounds-but equally there are children from all sorts of backgrounds who live in poverty and aren’t getting as much support as they deserve. And the reason I’m anxious about it is that social mobility is an issue that should bring us together.

Of course there are lots of white working-class boys living in areas of deprivation – but the very fact they’re deprived is glossed over. We’re wasting talent in this country – talent from all backgrounds. (pp. 33-4).

Finally, there was a report in one of the papers that the donation had been accepted by a charity run by a Black man, which had been successful in combating low educational achievement amongst Black lads. He was looking forward to turning around the lives of White boys as he had done with Black.

Looking through the newspaper reports, it’s clear that some people are very uncomfortable with a grant being set up for poor White boys. It’s understandable. British politics and society is dominated by White men, and so a bursary aimed at raising the achievements of White boys seems reactionary, an attack on the feminist and anti-racism campaigns.

Which is why it needed the support of Trevor Phillips and a Black educationalist. 

Winchester College’s excuse for turning down the bursary because it was ‘incompatible with their values’ seems very fake to me, however. A friend of mine was privately educated. He once told me that these schools don’t exist to teach children so much as to give them the network of personal contacts to open careers and other opportunities. They exist to preserve middle and upper class privilege. Rich Blacks and Asians are welcome, but not the poor generally, although they may well accept working class BAME pupils as a gesture towards meritocracy.

Lee Elliot Major’s comment about Black students finding themselves very isolated at Cambridge university is true, but I also know White academics from a working/ lower-middle class background, who intensely resented what they felt was the entitled, patronising attitude of wealthier students from the Oxbridge set. He is right about funding being made available for academic and training paths that are more suitable to students’ aptitudes. There was also a recent report in the I about the massive drop out rate at university. Some of this is no doubt due to the real financial struggles some students face now that tuition fees have been introduced and raised, and they are expected to become massively indebted to fund their education. But some of it is also due to university education now being promoted as the only academic route. A friend of mine, who worked in university administration told me that this wasn’t working and was leading to people dropping out over ten years or more ago.

And I completely accept his observation about the role class, income and background play in academic aspiration. In my experience, this also naturally includes those from Black and Asian backgrounds.

But Blacks, Asians and girls have had much attention focused on improving their academic performance and improving their opportunities, that have not been directed towards White boys from poor backgrounds. And this needs to be addressed.

Doing so does not undermine, or shouldn’t, the efforts to improve performance and opportunities for women and minorities, however.

But if we are serious about improving poor and working class academic performance, whether White, Black or Asian, it will mean rejecting Blairism and its rejection of the working class in order to concentrate on copying the Tories.

The Rise in Child Poverty Predicted for 2020

December 29, 2019

Vickie Cooper’s and David whyte’s book, The Violence of Austerity has a chapter on ‘Child Maltreatment and Child Mortality’ by Joanna Mack. It’s a deeply troubling subject which in itself should be an indictment of the Tories and their wretched austerity. Mack uses the horrific incidence of infant mortality in Britain to show how the Tories justify it as somehow inevitable, and that therefore it should therefore be considered an act of political violence, albeit carefully hidden. She writes

The UK infant (0 to 1 years) mortality rate, at around four deaths per 1000 births in 2014, is higher than all but two of the nineteen Euro area member states. About half of these deaths are linked to short gestation and low birth weight, both of which are highly associated with deprivation. The result is that babies born into poorer families in deprived neighbourhoods are more likely to die than children from richer families.

Allowing a pregnant woman to go without food in a cold, unheated home is to compromise her baby’s life chances. The World Health Organisation defines ‘child maltreatment’ as an action that in the context of a relationship of power results in ‘actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity.’ If an individual takes such action then they may be liable to prosecution. Yet if a political system results in such actions, it is seen as an inevitable, if unfortunate, by product of economic necessity. This is not overt violence but cover violence. (p. 89).

She then goes on to describe just how hollow Tweezer’s promises to end austerity and improve people’s life expenctancy in the UK actually are.

On becoming Prime Minister in July 2016, Theresa May tried to set a new tone, making bold promises about ‘a country that works for everyone’ and fighting the ‘burning injustice’ of those born poor dying earlier than others. Yet for all the talk of an end to austerity, all of the planned benefit cuts will go ahead. Largely as a direct result of these planned cuts, over half a million more children are set to fall below the 2010/11 poverty line in 2020/21 than did in 2015/16 while the percentage of children in relative income poverty is predicted to rise from 18 per cent in 2015/16 to 26 per cent in 2020/21. And these projections could prove optimistic given the economic uncertainties surrounding Brexit and the threats to turn the UK into a low tax haven with its inevitable consequence of a further rolling back of the welfare state. There are warnings of sharp falls to come to the real-terms incomes of the poorest, particularly those with children. (p.91)

She concludes

This makes a mockery of promises to fight the injustice of poverty. To do this, there would need to be a real commitment to the transfer of income and wealth from the rich to the poor. And that would challenge the very basis of the neoliberal ideology still underpinning the government – an ideology that embeds within it the violence of child poverty.

Well, Tweezer’s gone and been replaced by Boris, who will carry on the government’s neoliberal programme. If anything, he’ll ratchet it up.

And more children will fall into poverty and die in their first year.

Remember how Tweezer swanked onto the stage at the Tory conference to the tune of ‘Killer Queen’? From this perhaps a better track for her and all the other Tories should be Alice Cooper’s ‘Dead Babies’.

English History through the Broadside Ballad

December 24, 2019

A Ballad History of England: From 1588 to the Present Day, by Roy Palmer (London: BT Batsford 1979).

From the 16th century to the 20th, the broadside ballad was part of the popular music of British working people. They were written on important topics of the day, and printed and published for ordinary people. They would be sung by the ballad sellers themselves while hawking their wares. This book is a collection of popular ballads, assembled and with introductory notes by the folklorist Roy Palmer. It begins with the song ‘A Ioyful New Ballad’ from 1588 about the Armada, and ends with ‘The Men Who Make The Steel’ from 1973 about the steelworkers’ strike. Unlike the earlier songs, it was issued as a record with three other songs in 1975. The ballads’ texts are accompanied by sheet music of the tunes to which they were sung. Quite often the tunes used were well-known existing melodies, so the audience were already familiar with the music, though not the new words which had been fitted to them.

The ballads cover such important events in English and wider British history as a Lincolnshire witch trial; the draining of the fens; the Diggers, a Communist sect in the British Civil War; Oak Apple Day, celebrating the narrow escape of Charles II from the Parliamentarians in 1660; the defeat of the Monmouth Rebellion; the execution of Jacobite rebels in 1715; the South Sea Bubble; Dick Turpin, the highwayman; the Scots defeat at Culloden; emigration to Nova Scotia in Canada; Wolfe’s capture of Quebec; the enclosures; the Birmingham and Worcester Canal; the 18th century radical and advocate for democracy, Tom Paine; the mechanisation of the silk industry; the establishment of income tax; the death of Nelson; the introduction of the treadmill in prison; the Peterloo Massacre and bitter polemical attacks against Lord Castlereagh; Peel’s establishment of the police; body snatching; the 1834 New Poor Law, which introduced the workhouse system; poaching; the 1839 Chartist meeting at Newport; Queen Victoria’s marriage to Albert; Richard Oastler and the factory acts; the repeal of the Corn Laws; Bloomers; the construction of the Oxford railway; Charles Dickens visit to Coketown; the Liverpool Master Builders’ strike of 1866; agitating for the National Agricultural Union of farmworkers; the introduction of the Plimsoll line on ships; an explosion at Trimdon Grange colliery in County Durham; a 19th century socialist song by John Bruce Glasier, a member of the William Morris’ Socialist League and then the ILP; the Suffragettes; soldiers’ songs from the Boer War and the First World War; unemployed ex-servicemen after the War; the defeat of the General Strike; the Blitz; Ban the Bomb from 1958; and the Great Train Robbery. 

It also includes many other songs from servicemen down the centuries commemorating the deaths of great heroes and victories; and by soldiers, sailors and working people on land protesting against working conditions, tax, and economic recessions and exorbitant speculation on the stock markets. Some are just on the changes to roads, as well as local disasters.

This is a kind of social history, a history of England from below, apart from the conventional point of view of the upper or upper middle class historians, and shows how these events were viewed by tradesmen and working people. Not all the songs by any means are from a radical or socialist viewpoint. The ballad about Tom Paine is written against him, though he was a popular hero and there were also tunes, like the ‘Rights of Man’ named after his most famous book, celebrating him. But nevertheless, these songs show history as it was seen by England’s ordinary people, the people who fought in the navy and army, and toiled in the fields and workshops. These songs are a balance to the kind of history Michael Gove wished to bring in a few years ago when he railed against children being taught the ‘Blackadder’ view of the First World War. He’d like people to be taught a suitably Tory version of history, a kind of ‘merrie England’ in which Britain is always great and the British people content with their lot under the benign rule of people like David Cameron, Tweezer and Boris. The ballads collected here offer a different, complementary view.

Wishing Everyone A Very Merry Christmas And Happy New Year

December 24, 2019

Well, it’s Christmas Eve, and so I wish all the readers and commenters of this blog a very merry Christmas. If you’re not a Christian, I hope you have a very happy holiday season. And I wish everyone, whatever their faith, a very happy New Year where they won’t suffer from the horrors of this hoary Tory government, to use the Style Council’s description. May Santa bring you everything you want, and not too many socks and ties.

Charlie Brooker Latest Celeb To Push Anti-Semitism Smears on Have I Got News For You

December 23, 2019

Well, the election’s over and Boris in power with a massive majority. John McDonnell has resigned and Jeremy Corbyn is hanging on to oversee things until the party elects a new leader. But the Beeb still knows where its priorities lie: pushing the anti-Semitism smears against Corbyn and his party as hard as they can. And once again the vehicle for it was former satirical news quiz, Have I Got News For You.

This time the mugs making the smears were the guest host, Charlie Brooker, and comedian Phil Wang. Reading off an autocue, Brooker made a joke about Labour denying the Holocaust. He quoted someone saying the party was ‘in denial’ before quipping, ‘Well, at least it wasn’t about the Holocaust!’ Laugh? I thought I’d never start. Later on Wang made a joke about Jeremy Corbyn defending Nazis. Which isn’t funny either. The Beeb can’t claim the jokes are satirical, because they don’t parody reality. Corbyn isn’t an anti-Semite and has never defended Nazis. Quite the opposite. Nazis don’t get themselves arrested protesting against apartheid in South Africa. They supported White rule there. They also don’t protest against the lack of content for Jews on television, or the redevelopment of Jewish cemeteries. Nor do they attend meetings addressed by Holocaust survivors. This last point was lost when the Conservative press and Jewish establishment collectively lost their minds at Corbyn nodding in agreement when a Holocaust survivor said that the Israelis were treating the Palestinians like the Nazis had treated him. How dare he! Anti-Semite! But Nazis don’t give any attention to Holocaust survivors, because they try to pretend it either didn’t happen or was far smaller than claimed.

Novara Media’s Aaron Bastani tweeted footage of Brooker’s joke, commenting

As minorities face rising abuse and violence every day the BBC producing this stuff is deeply disturbing. Perhaps the licence fee isn’t worth it after all.

Very true. Boris’ victory has emboldened racists, and the media seems to be joining in with ITV misrepresenting Stormzy’s remark about racism in Britain.

Simon Maginn commented

Imagine being Charlie Brooker.
Successful, feted, admired as a fierce and uncompromising critic of lies and bullshit.
Then he goes on some crappy BBC ‘comedy’ show and delivers a Labour Holocaust-denial ‘gag’ and BOOM! he’s just another dumbo cog in the dumbo BBC smear machine.

Brooker is popular and has received massive critical acclaim. This is for his harsh, scathing attack on poor television in books like Dawn of the Dumb, and for Screenwipe. This last was his TV series in which he made vicious comments about various programmes while screaming at the screen and miming masturbation. He then moved to creating thought-provoking Science Fiction television with his series, Black Mirror. This was a series of tales showing the chilling possibilities in computer technology and our media saturated culture. It was greeted with critical acclaim. But Brooker seems to have thrown that away by making a stupid joke about Corbyn and anti-Semitism. But as Mike says, perhaps that’s a contractual obligation of people fronting the show by the Beeb.

Tom London also criticised it, making the point that he was Jewish and that these jokes are damaging Britain’s Jews

I am Jewish
There is NO proper evidence that Corbyn is an antisemite because he is not one
The people who pushed the incessant, relentless propaganda that he is have
Undermined democracy
Done huge damage to relations between minorities
Harmed Jewish community.

Ah, but that doesn’t matter to the Beeb. They’re the establishment, and all they care about is protecting the existing neoliberal order from attack from people like Corbyn’s Labour party. Left-wing Jews like Tom don’t count. Because they’re the wrong kind of Jews.

Mike also makes the point that while some may like the right-wing propaganda HIGNFY is spewing forth, others don’t, and it may not be long before the programme’s axed. Artdecolady tweeted

HIGNFY is really unfunny now, and I think it might be because I always thought they were on my side, but it’s now clear they’re not. Charlie Brooker made a really pathetic joke about the Holocaust and the Labour Party. To think I used to like him.

Sometimes it’s funny, but I’ve also gone off it. It used to be hilarious when it started back in the 1990s. Perhaps it’s simply because the novelty’s worn off. But there’s something more to it. I gave up watching it completely a few years ago because of the constant propaganda. The attacks on Corbyn are just part of this, but it was also pushing the lie that the Maidan Revolution that ushered in pro-Western government in Ukraine was a popular uprising, rather than a coup backed by America and the country’s own domestic Nazis. It was organised by Victoria Nuland of the US state department and the National Endowment for Democracy, which is the independent organisation to which the American state has outsourced this kind of operations after the CIA caused too many scandals with their activities. But ordinary peeps in the West can’t know this, and you’re an evil conspiracy theorist if you do.

The Scots comedian Frankie Boyle was very critical of Have I Got News For You. He saw it very much as part of the political establishment akin to similar shows in some of corrupt Balkan states. In an interview with Richard Osman at the Edinburgh television festival the other year, Boyle recalled how he had been in Romania watching a show like HIGNFY on TV. Politics there, at least at the time, was very corrupt and the media and television programmes rigged to present a pro-government line. The supposedly satirical show was no different. A government minister was in the front row as the comedian went along, and there was a piece of banter between the two. Everything was very chummy, and showed that the show wasn’t in the least opposed to the government. Rather the opposite, in fact. When Boyle remarked on this, he guide and translator said, ‘But it’s like programmes in your country!’

‘No, it isn’t!’ replied Boyle. Which was answered by

‘Yes, it is! Have I Got News For You!’

The show’s been running for nearly 30 years. Perhaps it’s had its day and should be cancelled before it outstays its welcome.

But Mike concludes that if it is, then this will only provide Boris with a pretext to privatise and abolish the Beeb.

Worst of all is the probability that Boris Johnson will use this as part of his excuse to axe the BBC’s status as the UK’s public service broadcaster and remove the requirement to pay the licence fee.

Still, the BBC did its best to ensure the Tories won the general election, knowing that this would be on the cards.

The Corporation’s bosses really are like turkeys voting for Christmas.

Charlie Brooker becomes next celeb to end his career with a ‘joke’ about Labour and anti-Semitism

They did, but my guess is that they won’t care, because the top managers and the people in the news department responsible for this are no doubt counting on getting new jobs with the private broadcasters that will replace it. 

ITV Misrepresents Stormzy Racism Comment

December 23, 2019

Yesterday Mike put up a piece reporting that the Grime artist, Stormzy, had been misrepresent by ITV as claiming that Britain was totally racist. One of the broadcaster’s hacks had asked him if he thought Britain was racist. ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘100 per cent’. Now it should be obvious even to the meanest intelligence that what he meant was that he believed 100 per cent that Britain was racist, not that Britain is 100 per cent racist. But we live in a ‘post-truth’ age, where the media is feeding us all kinds of lies, half-truths and distortions. Stormzy was pro-Labour and pro-Corbyn, and after the Beeb and its lead smear merchant, Laura Kuenssberg, had spent the election belittling Labour and promoting the Tories, it seems that ITV had decided it was their turn. There was an immediate backlash which resulted in the broadcaster releasing a statement retracting their claims about Stormzy, but which significantly did not include an apology.

The peeps on Twitter were not impressed. Mike has put up a number of tweets attacking ITV for this from people like Another Angry Voice, Laura Murray, the comedian and I journo Shappi Khorsandi, and Novara Media’s Ash Sarkar. Murray and Sarkar both noted that Stormzy was being smeared after Britain had elected Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. A racist, who talked about ‘picanninies with watermelon smiles’. Sarkar noted that Johnson also says he runs away from Black boys, Nigerians are obsessed with money and uses the N- and C- word for Blacks. Oh yes, and Britain is a country that illegal deported Black British citizens. But Britain isn’t racist, and it’s extraordinarily offensive to say that it does.

And after the Tory election victory that put Johnson into No. 10, I really wouldn’t have blamed Stormzy if he did believe that Britain was totally racist. Because as Murray and Sarkar note, 14 million people elected one. And it also looks like the broadcaster was using the same trick on Stormzy that the Sun in 1987 used to try to put the public off voting for Diane Abbott. They put a picture of her up in a feature on Labour MPs with left-wing or otherwise dangerous or offensive opinions, at least according to the Scum, claiming that she had said, ‘All White people are racist’. And now they misrepresented Stormzy to make it look like he had said something similar. The right-wing media in 1987 as part of their campaign against the Labour party deliberately misrepresented Black discontent not as resistance to racism, but as Black racism. And this looks very much the same tactic. Stormzy’s political views could be discounted, because he was yet another Black anti-White racist. That was the impression given.

Stormzy himself issued a very forthright attack on the smear. He declared, in language that in Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home is described as ‘colourful metaphors’, that all the publications and media outlets distorting his words could perform oral sex for him, and should not bother asking for anything from him in the future.

Mike comments on this affair

The mainstream – Tory – media will take every opportunity to mislead the public about the opinions, actions and philosophy of those of us who want a better deal for everybody, rather than a bigger slice of pie for the few who are already grossly obese while everybody else is starving.

They’ll do it in the knowledge that most of the people they are misrepresenting do not have the means to challenge them.

And when they are exposed, they’ll simply change their headlines, happy in the knowledge that the damage is done.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/22/fake-news-row-as-itv-misrepresents-stormzy-comment/

And now today Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin is chuckling over a hashtag campaign calling Stormzy a ‘bellend’. Sargon is, of course, the man, who killed UKIP along with Mark ‘Count Dankula’ Meechan and Paul Joseph Watson. A man so right-wing, racist and sexist that the UKIP branch in Swindon asked him to be deselected as one of their candidates for the south-west in this year’s Euro election. Gloucestershire UKIP disbanded when they heard he’d been selected, and he was greeted with anti-racism demonstrations when he turned up in Bristol as part of his election tour, and had milkshakes and fish thrown at him Truro and other places. Sargon’s support of this hashtag campaign tells you all you need to know about the racists supporting ITV’s smear. It comes after a similar hashtag campaign against Owen Jones yesterday by supporters of Rachel Riley and the Alt Right. Which reveals exactly who some of her supporters are.

And with this latest attack on Stormzy, it shows how Johnson’s victory has emboldened the real racists in this country.

Jarvis Cocker Launches Charity Song with Explicit Title about Tory Victory

December 22, 2019

Remember Jarvis Cocker? He was the lead singer of the Britpop band Pulp, who gave us the song Common People commenting on the persisting class division in Blair’s Britain. He also caused mass outrage and hilarity when he dived onto the stage during Michael Jackson’s performance at one of the annual music awards, ran around the stage being pursued by the bouncers and then mooned the world live on TV. He then issued an apology stating that he did not mean any disrespect to the late Jacko.

Now, as Mike reports on his blog, Cocker has released a charity single intended to create an atmosphere of ‘inclusivity, representation, love, acceptance and kindness’. All the sentiments you want at Christmas. Just as ‘Common People’ was a bitter comment on the upper classes’ attitude to us, the lower orders, so this song’s a bitter protest against the Tory election victory. It’s titled ‘C*nts Are Still Running the World’. It attacks the idea that we love in a meritocracy when such people are rewarded with their position at the top of society, how they view working people as obsolete and are outsourcing their jobs abroad, the way they claim to tolerate us, while making sure we don’t live anywhere near them, and laissez-faire economics. A Facebook group has been launched to try to get it to number one.

To see the video for it, and links to the Facebook group and the site for the single’s purchase, go to Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/20/buy-the-latest-christmas-charity-song-with-a-naughty-title-and-a-serious-message-extreme-language/

I realise that many people will object to the obscenity Cocker uses to describe the ruling orders, and I know women, who feel that it’s misogynistic, and sympathise. But Cocker isn’t the first person to use it to describe the ruling elite. Way back in 2011 the conspiracy magazine Lobster published an article by William Clarke, ‘The C*ntocracy’, which used it to describe the British class system of government and its members. This began

Why not call the present political system a ‘c*ntocracy’? This is not, as it might seem, just a reaction to the advent of someone as painfully fraudulent as Nick Clegg. We need a new name for not just what the political class do to us because of greed and stupidity; we need a term that advances the idea of social organisation as something innate in people. It should combine a description of the reality of our place in such a society with an accurate discription of the nature of the society. Cuntocracy describes the reality.

By calling our society a c*ntocracy we return power to the ordinary people; we give the people a voice, a simple way for them to talk back to those who pose as leaders but take
us nowhere. And we offer a meaningful contribution to David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’.

The article can be read here: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster62/lob62-cuntocracy.pdf#search=%22cuntocracy%22. Be warned, the offensive term is printed in full.

Jarvis Cocker shows that he’s still rocking, and fighting against the Tories!