Archive for the ‘The Press’ Category

Right-Wingers Outraged at Trans/Gay Pop Video, But It’s just a Return to the ’80s

January 31, 2023

Now for a bit about the latest right-wing rage about pop music. This morning there were a number of videos on YouTube by various pundits, right-wing and otherwise, discussing or denouncing a pop video. I honestly don’t know who the pop star who made it is, and have actually forgotten his name. I gather he had quite a successful career a few years ago, after which he came out of the closet and revealed he was gay. A little while later he said he was non-binary and now he seems to have gone a bit further in declaring his sexual identity. The video showed him in a revealing dress or robe, surrounded with dancers wearing chaps to expose their rear ends, during which he mimes various sex acts. Right-wing American YouTuber Matt Walsh was outraged, while somebody on GB News defended it, and claimed the video’s critics were homophobic.

What struck me, as someone who grew up in the 1980s, was how familiar it all was. I can remember when Frankie Goes to Hollywood were shocking the press and provoking scandal and outrage with their single ‘Relax’. It’s video seemed to be about a man in suit being pushed and pulled about the dance floor in a gay club by people dressed as gay bikers, watched by a fat bloke dressed as Nero. The single was banned, so say, by the BBC, although I’ve heard since that it was simply that one particular DJ refused to play it. This was entirely counterproductive, as the moment people heard it was banned they went out and bought it, with the result that it got to No. 1. And then there was Divine, an overweight drag queen and friend of American underground filmmaker John Waters, who starred in several of Waters’ deranged productions. Divine also had a hit in that decade, ‘Walk Like a Man’. Of course, Divine was a drag queen, rather than trans, but he wasn’t too far away from this latest attempt to climb the charts. The video’s shocking now, but it’s little different from what people were listening to and watching in the ’80s.

And the worst thing that came out of that decade was Margaret Thatcher. Her policies have done far more damage than anything that came out of the charts ever did.

Richard Tice: Cut Benefits to Stop Immigration

January 31, 2023

Michael Heaver is another hard-right YouTuber pushing Reform and praising Brexit to the rafters, despite the devastation this has wreaked on our economy and the lives and livelihood of British workers and businesses. If Brexit was a religion, his would be the blind faith of the true-blue Thatcherite fanatic. And this morning Heaver posted a video praising the latest effusion from Reform’s current fuehrer, Richard Tice. Tice is upset that 5.2 million people are in receipt of benefits. This, he declares, is one eighth of the working population. But at the same time, there are job vacancies going unfilled, which is why the government is importing foreigners. This is because some people on benefit are doing better than they would be if they were working, and so are leaving their jobs to live off benefits. The welfare state is properly there to support those genuinely in need, but people are using it as a lifestyle choice. We must therefore cut benefits in order to force people back to work so the government won’t import more foreigners as cheap labour.

There are so many falsehoods in this statement that it’s amazing in its own way. Firstly, most people on benefits in the UK are actually working. They’re forced to use state benefits as well because their pay is insufficient. As for people deliberately leaving work to live on benefits – presumably he means jobseekers’ allowance – does he know anybody who’s suffered that humiliating process? My guess is he doesn’t, because otherwise he’d know it was a lie. Actually, on second thoughts, it’s quite possible he knows it’s wrong, and is deliberately lying anyway. For a start, the Tories passed legislation years ago stopping people from receiving benefit immediately after resigning from work. The wait for a claim to come through is several weeks, so if your previous job paid so badly you didn’t have anything left over by the end of the month, the further wait would push you down to starvation level. As does the various sanctions imposed on the unemployed and disabled for the flimsiest of reasons. Welfare researchers and activists, like the excellent Disabled People Against Cuts, have shown that in the case of the Fitness to Work assessments, this is based on an assumption that a certain percentage of cases must be fraudulent. There is therefore pressure on the assessors to find the disabled well enough to work. Hence we have had assessors declaring that people in terminal comas were fit to work. They even asked amputees when they expected their limbs to grow back!

And then there is the humiliating process of claiming benefits itself. This takes its inspiration from the Victorian idea of ‘less eligibility’: receiving state aid must be made so humiliating that it will deter people from claiming it. It’s one of Thatcher’s disgusting ‘Victorian values’. And so you are required to spend so many hours a day looking for a job, keep a log of the jobs you’ve applied for, while the clerk dealing with you keeps asking why you’re still claiming and didn’t apply for that one yet. Claiming benefits is unpleasant, difficult and humiliating.

But this is ignored by Tice, who is simply spouting more of the ‘make work pay’ nonsense pushed by David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith when he was head of the DWP. And then there’s the stuff about immigration.

This is nonsense because Brexit has resulted in a loss of foreign labour. Many of the foreign workers in the NHS have left Britain, including skilled doctors and nurses. I think we also lost the foreign fruit pickers, who used to come here, which is probably the type of workers Tice is thinking of when he talks about cheap foreign labour. But when the issue of forcing unemployed Brits to work as fruit pickers came up a while ago and was being discussed, many of the commenters on YouTube had said they’d tried and been turned down as farmers preferred foreigners. Some of the farmers rejecting British labour said it was because Brits were lazy. Possibly. Or perhaps just not so easy to exploit.

As for immigration generally, I have the distinct impression that the type of foreign workers the government is keen to recruit are skilled workers, particularly in the STEM subjects. They are definitely not keen on importing unskilled labour to add to the number of domestic workers with a similar lack of skills. Though here again, unskilled immigrants do take the jobs Brits don’t want, like cleaners, as shown in Ken Loach’s film, Dirty, Pretty Things. But my guess is that when Tice and the other members of the anti-immigrant right start ranting about low-skilled foreign immigrants, much of their audience will automatically think of the Channel migrants. But these unfortunately haven’t been recruited. They’re asylum seekers, who have been excluded from the official ways of applying for sanctuary in Britain. Hence part of the hostility to them.

Tice’s spiel is pretty much the old Daily Mail directed at the unemployed and non-White immigration jammed together. It’s nonsense, but will appeal to the readers of the right-wing press, who’ve been subjected to the same bilge since before the welfare state was founded. It also bears out Tony Benn’s statement that when a government wants to persecute its working people, it begins with immigrants.

Don’t be fooled. Tice is not a friend of ordinary working Brits. The solution to the problem of making work pay is to raise wages. This is the solution in classical economics to the problem of a shortage of workers. But this would cut into the already bloated profits of the obscenely rich that Tice, the Tories and the other hard right parties are pandering to.

They want to keep working people poor, starving and desperate, whatever lip service they give to the welfare state. And they’re using the old spectre of foreign labour to do it.

Watchmojo on the Most Evil British Tabloids

January 25, 2023

WatchMojo is a YouTube channel that specialises in lists of the most (insert adjective) of whatever subject they’re covering. This is usually popular culture, like films, TV programmes and comics. But in this video from their British offshoot they delve into the very murky world of British tabloid and red top newspapers to discuss the six worst of them. And so, imagine if you will, this run down of the very worst of British journalism accompanied by the old style Top of the Pops theme as that sadly missed programme went down the music charts.

Coming last at No. 6 is the Daily Star for its coverage of weird paranormal stories like black-eyed ghost children, their libelling of the Liverpool fans at the Hillsborough disaster and getting sued by the McCanns for its malign take on the disappearance of their daughter. They also blamed video games for Raoul Moat’s shooting spree, despite the entire lack of evidence showing that video games are responsible for real world violence, and for making up an interview with Duane ‘the Rock’ Johnson.

Coming in at no. 5, pop-pickers, is the Mirror, showing that it’s also left-wing papers that can have appalling low journalistic standards. This is there because of its owner, Robert Maxwell, raiding his employees’ pension funds, and Piers Morgan publishing fake photographs of alleged atrocities by British troops in Iraq. This part of the video shows some of the other headlines from the paper, such as its ‘Achtung! Surrender’ to the Germans at the 1996 World Cup as other illustrations of its lack of taste and anything resembling decent attitudes.

At No. 4 in this chart of journalistic infamy is the Daily Mail, as illustrated by its article ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ praising Mosley’s BUF and its owner, Lord Rothermere’s trip to Germany and praise of the Nazi regime. The video also states that it’s been suggested that the paper’s pro-appeasement stance convinced Hitler that Britain would not retaliate if he invaded Poland, thus causing World War II. More recently the paper has also been sued for libel or inaccurate reporting by celebs such as Melania Trump, Alan Sugar and Elton John. The video also shows some of its racist headlines opposing the decolonisation of mathematics and opposition to non-White immigration.

The Daily Express is at No. 3, again because of such low points as being sued by the McCanns, scaremongering stories about the world being wiped out by aliens or killer asteroids, and its weird fixation on conspiracy theories about Princess Diana and her death, often at the expense of more current and important stories. In 2010 its editor said that he was appalled by some of the stories it ran, and was going to reign in its islamophobia.

No. 2, the late, unlamented News of the Screws. This was always controversial, but lasted 150 years, even claiming at one time to be the world’s best newspaper. That was until it was brought down by the phone-tapping scandal, whose victims not only included celebrities, royalty like Princes William and Harry, but also murder victims and dead soldiers. It was forced to fold after all its advertisers deserted it.

But the top slot in this catalogue of filth and sleaze merchants is the Scum. This rag’s viciously low reporting has made it notorious around the world, but what foreign viewers may not know is that it’s particularly hated in Britain for its smearing of the Liverpool fans at Hillsborough, like its fellow tabloid the Depress. Instead of the Liverpool fans being responsible for the carnage, it was found that the police were responsible for the 96 deaths. This anti-Liverpool venom is the reason it’s still banned in the city, despite the paper having made some half-hearted apologies afterwards. It also claimed the Birmingham 6, a group of Irish men wrongly imprisoned for an IRA terrorist atrocity, were guilty. On top of this it was also sued for libel by Wayne Rooney. But what makes it especially hated is its staunch support of Margaret Thatcher, the infamous ‘Gotcha!’ headline for the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands War, and its claim that it was responsible for Thatcher’s electoral victories with its headline ‘It was the Scum Wot won it’.

Of course this list leaves out some other instances of tabloid wrongdoing. The Scum has had any number of complaints for racism upheld by the former Press Complaints Commission, including one in which it compared Arabs to pigs. Piers Morgan has also been involved in the phone hacking scandal, though it’s possible the video mentions this and I’ve just forgotten it did. And I’d say the worst British tabloid was the Sport in its various editions for its mixture of sleaze, stories about freaks and daft stories following the Weekly World News style of journalism, like its claim that there was a B52 bomber on the Moon. The Sport was set up by David ‘the Slug’ Sullivan, according to Private Eye, a pornographer with convictions for running girls. But the paper has a low circulation compared to the others here, and so is far less influential.

As for the Scum coming first as Britain’s worst tabloid, I agree entirely, although I doubt this is an accolade the Scum would want to boast about on its front page. But when it comes to malign, biased reporting and racism, it is indeed the Scum wot wins it.

History Debunked Suggests We Need Nazi ‘Heroic Mother’ Policies to Halt Demographic Decline

January 25, 2023

This is a response to a video Simon Webb put up some days ago. I meant to review it earlier, but there’s only so much fascism you can take, especially in today’s miserable economic situation and the Tories telling one lie after another. Webb’s video was prompted by a speech from the Japanese premier declaring that there was an existential crisis facing the Japanese the people. If they didn’t have more babies, they would die out. Webb notes that in the Beeb report about this, they stated that it could be solved by the Japanese importing people like other countries, but that the Japanese were firmly against this.

The Japanese have been worried about this for a very long time. Back in the 1990s the-then Japanese prime minister announced that if the country didn’t halt its declining birth rate, then they would be extinct in a thousand years’ time. That really is looking at the long term picture. To solve this problem, successive Japanese governments have suggested and embarked on various policies. One was that husbands should spend more time with their families in order to develop a closer relationship with their wives, with the unspoken implication that this would lead to more babies on the way. This provoked sharp criticism from one housewife, who complained that marital relations wouldn’t improve simply because the husband was at home more. The Japanese government has also set up a state dating agency to bring men and women together.

I suspect Japan’s demographic problems are partly due to particularly Japanese problems. There is, or was, a high rate of divorce among Japanese pensioners. This is caused by the Japanese work ethic, in which men work all the hours that God sends in order to support their families and make their country prosperous. The result is that they barely see their wives and families. When they retire, they find out that they have nothing in common and divorce. It’s a theme that was reflected in Japanese business novels. These featured loyal, hardworking sararimen, whose lives fall apart. They’re laid off by the companies they’ve loyally served and their families break up until they end up left behind running a small shop somewhere, lamenting that they’ve missed out on seeing their children grow up.

There’s also a trend among young Japanese not to date and have children. There was a Radio 4 programme, which I sadly missed, discussing this issue. It reported that this aversion was so severe that many young people even find the act of love itself repulsive. I wondered if this was a reaction to Japanese sex education and whatever Japanese youth is taught about sex outside marriage. If the attitudes against it are too harsh and the insistence on purity so strong, then it’s possible that this could lead to some impressionable people developing such a strong revulsion to sex. I remember from my schooldays that the sex education we were exposed to, with its clinical description of physical development and reproduction, as well as fears about the rising divorce rate, could almost have been calculated to put kids off sex. I also wonder if it’s due to the unavailability of contraception in Japan. This isn’t due to moral scruples, as in Roman Catholic Ireland. It was demanded by the Japanese medical complex, in order to protect the doctors that made money from performing abortions. Buddhism and Shinto have a series of three gods or kami, who preside over the souls of dead children. According to the anthropologist Dr Nigel Barley in his study of cultural attitudes to death and the dead across the world, Dancing with the Dead, the shrine to these gods are particularly supported by women, who’ve had abortions. I’m not criticising women’s right to abortions here, just noting that in previous decades over here the lack of contraception and the strong societal disapproval to births out of wedlock was a very strong disincentive to people, and especially women, having premarital sex.

In fact birth rates are declining across the world, mostly significantly in the developed west, but also elsewhere. One demographer interviewed a few decades ago in New Scientist predicted that in the middle years of this century the world would suffer a demographic crash. This is in stark contradiction with the 70s fears about the population explosion and ‘population bomb’. In many European countries the birth rate is below the level of population replacement.

Webb suggested that we might try to copy the Nazis, who gave medals to women who had large families. There were different medals award according to how many children they had. In fact, all the totalitarian states had similar policies. The Russians had their Heroic Mother awards, duly covered by Pravda, and Musso had a similar policy in his ‘Battle for Births’ campaign. If reproduction is a battle, it means people are doing it wrong. And if it’s a real physical battle, then it’s rape. But I think Musso meant it metaphorically, as everything was a battle in Fascist Italy. The campaign to increase cereal yield in agriculture was labelled ‘the Battle for Grain’. But Musso included in his policies to increase the birth rate various welfare benefits to make it easier and support women, who chose to have large families.

Webb has been followed in this by Laurence Fox, who gave a sermon on GB News yesterday, about his instinct that society was coming to an end because of the low birth rate in the west. This was breaking the social link Edmund Burke had said existed between the past, present and future generations. Of course, as a man of the right he has no sympathy for people demanding expanded welfare rights, accusing them of being ‘entitled’. They’re not. They’re people on the breadline demanding not expanded welfare provision, but proper welfare provision restored to adequate levels.

Plastic priest Calvin Robinson similarly discussed demographic decline in another piece for GB News. He was much more open about the provision of proper welfare support for families, arguing that Britain should follow the lead of Poland and Hungary. And then comes the element of racism. Because if we did this, like those countries we would not have to import people from outside.

And this is part of the problem.

Underneath these fears of demographic decline is the particular fear of White demographic decline. Other ethnic groups have larger families. Hence the stupid, malign conspiracy theories about ‘Eurabia’, that Muslims would outbreed Whites in the west and so eventually take over society. The French National Front let the cat out of the bag in the 90s. This was the mayor of one of the southern French cities, who had set up a system of welfare payments to encourage his citizens to have more babies. Except that this was a racist policy that applied only to Whites. Blacks, Asians and Muslims not allowed.

It’s why such a system would also have severe problems being introduced over here. And rightly so, as while I dare say that some members of ethnic groups don’t want to integrate or adopt British culture, others identify very strongly with it and see themselves as English, Welsh, Scots whatever. Such people shouldn’t be excluded from receiving these welfare payments simply because of the colour of their skin, whatever else one thinks of race relations and immigration.

Of course, the right blames the demographic crisis squarely on feminism and the way modern women are encouraged to pursue careers rather than raise families. Hence the Lotus Eaters put up a piece commenting on a report that half of all women are childless at thirty. To be fair, some left-wing feminists have also complained that feminism, for all its good intentions, has also denigrated the vital role of motherhood in society. But traditional attitudes towards gender roles may be part of the problem. In the New Scientist article I talked about earlier, it was noted that the countries with lowest birth rates had the most traditional attitudes towards childrearing, in which it was seen as primarily the responsibility of the mothers. This extended across cultures, from Italy in Europe to Japan. The countries which had the highest birth rates in the west were the Nordic countries, where men were being encouraged to help their wives with domestic chores and raising the sprogs.

That, and welfare policies designed to help working parents, seem far better solutions to the crisis than simply doling out medals based on the attitudes of totalitarian regimes.

Video on the History of and Evidence for the Aurora Steal Plane

January 24, 2023

Here’s a very short video on the American SR-92 Aurora stealth plane from the Future Machine Tech channel on YouTube. This suggests that Aurora was developed as a black project by the American air force in the 1980s as a replacement for the SR-91 Blackbird spy plane. During the ’90s there were sightings of mysterious UFOs dubbed ‘black triangles’ because of their shape and colour. The Aurora fits this description exactly, and many of the sightings of such UAPs may be of this mysterious, but definitely not extraterrestrial, aircraft. The video mentions a tracking image of it flying across the Pacific on its way to America, probably to touch down at the very top secret research base at Groom Lake, Area 51. The aircraft leaves a very distinctive contrail, which has ben described as ‘doughnuts on a rope’ and may have been tracked flying over Belgium according to an article back in the 90s in the defunct UFO Magazine. I’m putting this video up because I and some of the great commenters on this blog have an interest in UFOs, although we differ in our views of the phenomenon. Some UFO sightings are almost certainly of top secret military aircraft. Others are hoaxes, some of which may be perpetrated by the intelligence agencies for their own purposes, one of which may be the deliberate destabilisation and discrediting of UFO research groups and investigators. Some, as suggested by French-American astronomer and computer scientist Jacques Vallee and the late journalist of the paranormal, John Keel, may be paranormal in origin, beings from other dimensions. Others may be real alien spacecraft. People over here have also had sightings of the Black Triangles, and so it’s quite possible that they’ve quite a glimpse of this classified plane.

The Heil Once Again Bashing Benefit Claimants with Story about ‘Something for Nothing’ Culture

January 23, 2023

I saw a video about this posted on YouTube by GB News, which could be described as the Heil’s televisual equivalent. Oswald Mosley’s favourite paper published a piece today railing about Britain’s ‘something for nothing’ culture because they’d done some kind of survey which found that some households received more from the state on benefits than they did from work. I didn’t watch it, as I knew exactly what it would be like. The Heil’s published stuff like this before. Anyone remember one they ran a few decade ago, in which they ranted about the people of Britain all being on benefits because they’d found a street where most of the people were receiving some kind of welfare support. Coincidentally that street seemed to be occupied mostly by members of ethnic minorities, though I’m sure that this wasn’t part of the reason it was chosen by the paper.

The article was so stereotypical of the wretched rag that you could guess what would follow: rubbish about how welfare payments were too generous and were acting as a disincentive to finding work and should therefore be cut. More drivel along the lines of the Tories’ ‘make work pay’ campaign, which simply cut benefits and increased sanctions and pressure on benefit claimants even further instead of really making work pay by abandoning the wage freeze policy and actually encouraging firms to pay workers proper wages. But that would violate one of the central tenets of Thatcherite Conservatism: the poor should be penalised for being poor, in order to make them compete against each other in a desperate struggle to improve themselves, while the rich benefit from their cheap labour. As for GB News, they’re a right-wing broadcaster and so I’m sure they have the same mentality. The article was a classic example of how the Tories, the Heil and GB News, whatever they may say to the contrary, want working people poor, desperate and turning on each other rather than the people who are really causing their misery.

Get the Tories out, and ignore the right-wing propaganda in the Mail and on TV.

Sajid Javid Now Calling for Patients to Be Charged for GP Visits and Going to A&E

January 21, 2023

Here’s further evidence of the Tory campaign to run down the Health Service until they can sell it off and introduce an American-style private healthcare system where people have to pay for their care through private health insurance. I’m ashamed and horrified that this man comes from own, fair city of Bristol. According to Sky News, Javid has an opinion piece in the Times (prop: the Dirty Digger) pushing the idea that the health service should charge people going to their doctors and Accident and Emergency with means-tested fees in order to cut waiting times. Javid says that this would follow Ireland, Norway and Sweden, and the appreciation of the Health Service should become a religious fervour blocking reform. The broadcaster also notes that Sunak himself wanted people charged for missed appointments, but was forced to withdrawal that nasty suggestion. Sky’s report says that the current PM till the next one says that he is not considering the idea. Wes Streeting, in a rare occasion of standing up for proper Labour values, said that it would violate the 75 year old founding principle of the NHS that treatment should be free at the point of delivery. Only Labour, which set up the NHS, could properly reform it, and that the imposition of fees would happen ‘over my dead body’.

Well said. I just wish I could believe him.

Of course the Tories hate the NHS as it’s a nationalised service. They don’t understand or sympathise with the principles underlying it and so want it privatised. We’ve already seen another right-wing maniac from their benches calling for it to be run ‘like a business’. These people have their voices magnified by appearing on GB News, where they spout the same nonsense, along with newsreaders and commenters like Nana Akua. As for the nonsense about this cutting waiting times, that’s really only a pretext. I went to a meeting of my local Labour party a few months ago in which the Tories’ attack on the Health Service was being discussed. Someone there said quite clearly that the health service was in particular danger because of the pandemic because the Tories never fail to exploit a crisis. And now Javid has raised his head above the parapet to prove it.

The Sky report states that Javid will not be seeking re-election at the next election. Which is why he probably feels free to make this monstrous suggestion. He has nothing to lose. Unfortunately, his mentality is still shared by his party, and will remain there long after he’s gone.

As for the Labour party, I very much doubt that Starmer will honour his promise to make doctors state employees. He has also said he wants to make a rational use of private industry to clear the backlog. Over the past decade, doctors’ surgeries have been acquired by private healthcare companies like Circle Health, who have then sought to maximise profits by sacking staff and making working conditions worse. The standard privatisation modus operandi. Blair was enthusiastic about privatising the NHS, and Starmer shares the same ideology. He also said something about making a rational use of private healthcare companies. I honestly doubt that he will stop the privatisation of the NHS once he gets his behind in No. 10. If he allows private healthcare companies to continue to acquire doctors’ surgeries, then obviously the doctors working there will not become state employees. Starmer has massive previous for breaking promises, and I think it’s very clear that he intends to break this one.

But the main threat meanwhile is the Tories.

Get them out before they privatise the health service and start charging for care.

38 Degrees Email Appealing to Public to Write Letter Supporting NHS Pay Rise to Jeremy Hunt

January 18, 2023

I’ve just got this email from 38 Degrees requesting people to writer to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt asking him to abandon his opposition to the NHS workers’ demands for a pay rise. I’ve written an email as they’ve requested. If you also feel that our great medical professionals and the other staff deserve their rise, please feel free to do so as well.

David, today and tomorrow, nurses in England will be striking. [1] We know they don’t want to do this – but government inaction, pushing our NHS to breaking point, has left them with little choice.

The good news? Things might be swinging our way! Reports are emerging that the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, is working with NHS unions to try and get more money for NHS staff. [2] But it’s also claimed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt are refusing to budge. [3]

The Chancellor holds a HUGE amount of power over the purse strings. If we want him to stop dragging his heels, thousands of us need to speak up now.

David, you are one of 75,000 of us who signed the open letter in support of striking NHS workers. [4] If all of us bombard the Chancellor with messages telling him to listen to his colleagues, and invest in our nurses and NHS staff, we’ll be impossible to ignore.
David, will you email the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, today to demand he ends his holdout and offers NHS workers a proper pay rise? It only takes a couple of minutes and there are some pointers to help you write your message.

EMAIL JEREMY HUNT NOW

Thanks to pressure from hundreds of thousands of 38 Degrees supporters, in 2021 we helped force the Government to triple its pay offer to NHS staff. [5] We can do it again, but only if thousands of us speak up together in support of striking NHS workers.

If you’ve never sent an email to an MP before, don’t worry, it’s easy and even a short message could make all the difference. Here are some tips for what you could say:

  • Share your story if you are an NHS patient: if you’re waiting for treatment and are happy to talk about this, it will be even more powerful.
  • If you work in the NHS, you could mention it – personalised stories will go a long away
  • Talk about why you back our NHS heroes: even if it’s a line or two, the Chancellor needs to know why the public are backing NHS staff
  • Remember to be polite: There’s a real person at the other end reading your email!

So, David, will you join in and send one of the thousands of emails landing in Jeremy Hunt’s inbox on the day NHS nurses go on strike? It only takes a couple of minutes and there are some pointers one the page to help you write your message

EMAIL JEREMY HUNT NOW

Thanks for all that you do,

Jonathan, Mike, Veronica and the 38 Degrees team

NOTES:
[1] BBC News: Nurses’ strike: New dates as union escalates dispute
[2] The Guardian: Revealed: cabinet split over NHS pay disputes piles pressure on Sunak
[3] See note [1]
[4] 38 Degrees: We support striking NHS staff
[5] 38 Degrees: Pay Rise Posters
Times: 38 Degrees full-page ad
BBC: NHS workers in England offered 3% pay rise

Guardian Article on Ethiopia Covering Up Its Slaving Past

January 18, 2023

Today’s Groaniad has published a fascinating article on Ethiopia’s refusal to acknowledge its history of slavery and slaving, ”If you had money, you had slaves’, how Ethiopia is in denial about the injustices of the past’, by Fred Harter. Here are a few extracts.

‘Histories of the country gloss over slavery and the subject rarely surfaces in public discourse. At the National Museum of Ethiopia in the capital, Addis Ababa, none of the exhibits deal with domestic slavery, while in Dalbo the chains once used to bind slaves have been melted down to make knives and farm implements. Little has been preserved.

“Slavery is a controversial issue,” says Nigussu Mekonnen, a guide at the museum. “There is limited evidence and information about it.”

“We tend to ignore certain kinds of history that would shape the negative image of the country,” says Kiya Gezahegne, an assistant professor in the social anthropology department at Addis Ababa University. Instead, official narratives focus on Ethiopia’s ancient Christian civilisation and its reputation as the only African country to have successfully resisted European colonisation.

“We are taught to be proud of our identity, and bringing in this narrative of slavery would be a challenge to that discourse,” says Kiya.

Yet slavery was once widespread in Ethiopia. Stretching back centuries, slaves served as soldiers, domestic servants and labourers, who were put to work at royal courts, in churches and fields.

Many were born into servitude. Others were captured in raids and during wars, or sold into slavery after they failed to pay debts. Much of the trade was domestic, although Ethiopian slaves were also sold across the Red Sea to Arabia and Turkey, where they were prized as concubines and servants.

Historical data on the slave trade is patchy. Ahmed Hassen, a professor of history at Addis Ababa University, says the number of enslaved people ebbed and flowed, especially during times of war, but estimates that up to one-third of Ethiopians were enslaved at different points in history.

In some districts, the proportion was likely even higher. The sociologist Remo Chiatti calculates that 50 to 80% of people were slaves in parts of Wolaita, a southern kingdom centred on Dalbo that was absorbed into the Ethiopian empire in the 1890s.

“Slavery was everywhere,” says Ahmed. “It was the backbone of labour; it was the source of everything. It was not only landlords and the court of the emperor keeping slaves, but also rich peasants. If you had money, you had them.”

Abolition came slowly, the result of “external and internal realities”, says Ahmed. The first big step came in 1923 when Haile Selassie signed an accord promising to end slavery to gain admittance to the League of Nations, although the practice was not stamped out entirely. In the 1930s, Benito Mussolini used the issue to justify his invasion of Ethiopia, which Italian fascist propaganda cast as a “civilising mission”.

In 1942, after Ethiopia’s liberation from Italian occupation, Haile Selassie issued the decree abolishing slavery. Even then, the practice lingered in some pockets and the influence of the former slave-owning aristocracy would not be smashed until 1974, when revolution swept to power the Provisional Military Administrative Council, also known as the Derg, a Marxist-Leninist military junta that introduced land reforms.

Today, the impact of slavery is keenly felt. After abolition, many slaves became part of the families of their former masters, but in some areas the descendants of enslaved people are seen as impure and are marginalised, barred from participating in ceremonies such as funerals or marrying into other clans. In Addis Ababa, it is common to hear light-skinned highlanders refer to darker-skinned people from southern Ethiopia as “bariya” (slave).

“Slavery in Ethiopia is not a historical phenomenon,” says an Ethiopian researcher, who did not want to be named. “Its legacy still affects people’s lives today.”

Little has been done to heal these rifts. In 2019, a year after Abiy Ahmed became prime minister on a tide of mass protests and promising reform, Ethiopia’s federal parliament set up a reconciliation commission to address past political repression and historical injustices, including the slave trade.

“It is one of the injustices that Ethiopian society inflicted on its members,” says Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, the head of Ethiopia’s Roman Catholic church, who participated in the commission. “We felt slavery should not be put under the table. It should be studied and addressed if there is to be real reconciliation.”

But the commission’s work was never published and it has now been subsumed into a broader national dialogue commission, which opposition parties claim is government-controlled. Critics of the government say political repression has crept back in after the outbreak of the war in Tigray in November 2020.

The polarised environment has made it harder to discuss issues such as slavery. A teacher in Addis Ababa, who did not want to be named, says he grew up with “zero knowledge” that slavery was once so widespread.“People are too preoccupied with ethnic-based politics,” he says. “If you talk about slavery, you are accused of trying to divide your group.”

He says: “I see a lot of posts online about George Floyd, talking about how racist America is, and of course that’s an issue. But we also need to talk about inequality here. There are still ethnic groups looking down on others.”

A new generation of historians are starting to piece together the history of Ethiopia’s slave trade, but discussions remain confined to academic journals and seminar rooms. Last year, there were no public events to commemorate the 80th anniversary of abolition, and most local oral histories are still hidden.’

This is interesting, as it shows that Ethiopia, like many of the other countries outside Europe that were involved in the slavery and the slavery, is also trying to tackle this aspect of their past. Historical slavery is an issue affecting many different countries and cultures, and certainly not a case of evil White Europeans and American enslaving noble Black Africans. Nevertheless, this is how it is viewed and presented by many activist groups.in Britain and America.

For further information, see https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2023/jan/18/ethiopia-slaves-in-denial-about-injustices-of-the-past

Peter Hitchens on Tony Blair’s Stupidity

January 16, 2023

Yeah, I know this ad hominem, but it is funny. Novara Media’s Aaron Bastani interviewed Tory iconoclast Peter Hitchens the other day. The two don’t really have much in common, but Bastani justified the interview saying that if you want to be certain in your political views, you should test them by talking to people who hold the opposite. Hitchen’s is very much a man of the right, and some of his views are odd, if not barking. He believes, for example, that we shouldn’t have gone to war with Germany as it was not in our interests. Perhaps it wasn’t, but we had signed the defence pacts with France and Poland, And if we hadn’t gone to war, I think we would have still lost the empire sooner or later. Plus we would have been excluded from a continent under Nazi domination. And this is not to mention the carnage that would have been perpetrated by the Nazis, with the Jews and Gypsies becoming extinct in Europe, followed by the Czechs and the Slav populations enslaved as peasant farmers supplying produce to their German overlords.

On the other hand, Hitchens has said that he never supported Thatcher’s sale of the council houses or the privatisation of the prison system, because justice, as a principle, should be in the hands of the state. He also states in one of his books that he was shocked into an awareness of how fragile civilisation was after visiting one of the failed African countries as a journalist in the 1980s. The country had descended into vicious gang violence, but walking through its capital Hitchens saw everywhere grand architecture and all the signs of modern corporate development. I think this gives an insight into the basis of his own Tory views. I remember reading in the Spectator years ago that the right-wing philosopher Roger Scruton abandoned the left when he witnessed the rioting in Paris during the 1968 student and workers’ protests. He was alarmed by their ‘anti-civilisational rage’.

Back to the interview, Hitchens described Blair’s spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, as being frightening intelligent. He mentioned people, who really thought for the first few months of Blair’s regime that it was Campbell running the country. He joked that it was probably because of Campbell’s mighty intellect that he was kept away from voters, as he would probably frighten them all away.

But Blair, on the other hand, wasn’t terribly bright and Hitchens doubted that he could have run the country without Campbell. To illustrate his point, he told the story of how he briefly met Blair just before the 1997 election. Blair was in Oxford, travelling in his motorcade. Hitchens was following him by bike, but as the traffic was bad, he got to Blair’s destination before him. After Blair had arrived, he was immediately surrounded by a crowd taking pictures. Hitchens wanted to talk to Blair, and so, after the crowd had finished and dispersed, he walked up to the future Prime Minister. He decided to open the conversation by asking who the crowd were. Blair replied, ‘They’re Brazilians. I’m very popular down there.’

‘Oh, you should learn Portuguese then,’ replied Hitch.

‘What?’

It turned out that Blair thought they spoke Brazilian in Brazil. Hitchens concluded that what Blair really wanted to be was a pop star, and you didn’t need to ascribe any deep ideological motives to him.

There was, nevertheless, an ideological basis to his policies. He was a product of BAP, the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, which was set up by Reagan to influence the rising generation of British politicians from both the Conservatives and Labour. Blair had started out as a supporter of nuclear disarmament, but after going on a BAP-sponsored trip to America and hearing the views of various right-wing think tanks, he came back as an opponent. He was fervently Thatcherite, believing in the superiority of private industry and strongly influenced by the American political system. Private Eye ran several pieces about the American private healthcare and prison companies lining up to donate to New Labour in the hope of getting some of that nationalised action. He took over advisers and staff from private healthcare companies as well as other businesses, and pushed the privatisation of the NHS further than the Tories would have dared. As stupid as he may have been, he set the course for right-wing Labour, and Starmer shows every indication of returning to it.