Posts Tagged ‘Alan Johnson’

‘Three Right Wing Dinosaurs’: Dutch Economist Rutger Bregman Attacks Poor Journalism of Beeb’s ‘This Week’

March 25, 2019

Ho Ho! More criticism of the Beeb’s late night politics show, This Week, hosted by Andrew ‘Brillo Pad’ Neil, former editor of the Economist and the Sunset Times. Neil has already found his career cut short as BBC bosses consider axing one of his politics shows after Owen Jones raised the issue of the increasingly extreme Right-wing slant of his magazine, the Spectator. This was during a debate on one of his shows about the role the media plays in boosting the rise of the Fascist Right. Neil is chairman of the board of the company that publishes the arch-Tory Spectator, one of whose contributors is the noxious Greek playboy, Taki Theodoracopulos, otherwise known to readers of Private Eye as ‘Taki Takealotofcokeupthenos’ because of his conviction for cocaine possession some time ago. Taki’s columns are often racist, with a real streak of anti-Semitism. And in once recent issue of the Speccie, he praised the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn as just patriotic young people, who are bit rough about the edges. Which is a lie. The Golden Dawn are outright Nazi thugs, who beat up illegal immigrants. One of their leading members was arrested for murdering a left-wing activist. An clearly agitated Neil told Jones that he wasn’t responsible for the magazine’s content, but Jones carried on and pointed out that he was responsible for the appointment of the editor, Fraser Nelson. Neil tried changing the subject and talking over him, but Jones carried on, even when an exasperated Neil asked him if he was trying to get him sacked. The announcement that the Beeb was cancelling one of his shows came a week or so later, and may not be unconnected, despite the Beeb’s statement about it coming with professions of effusive pride in Brillo and his journalistic performance.

Brillo’s professionalism as a journalist, and that of his co-presenters, was cast into severe doubt a few days ago by the Dutch author, Rutger Bregman. Bregman’s best known for a viral video telling the super-rich at Davos to pay their taxes. Bregman’s written a book on how Utopia may be attainable, Utopia for Realists, and was invited on to Brillo’s show to discuss it with Michael Portillo and Alan Johnson, who were presumably the three dinosaurs Bregman described in a devastating Twitter account of his experience on the show. Bregman was colossally unimpressed by Neil and co’s complete lack of interest in his book. He stated they hadn’t read it, and didn’t even have a copy. Before they went on air, he was asked if he could say something about the EU. He refused on the grounds that it wasn’t his area of expertise. So he was asked to say something about the terrorist outrage in Utrecht. He refused to comment on that either, for the same reason. So the produce returned to asking him to comment on Brexit again, and got the same reply as before. He was then asked to make a two-minute video summarising his ideas. This, badly edited, was then played on the programme. He then found the three right-wing dinosaurs, two of whom were from the Stone Age, ganging up on him. They blatantly made up facts, telling him that inequality hadn’t grown and that the economy had never been better, changed the subject every ten seconds and hardly let you finish a sentence before it’s over. Bregman said

This was the worst experience I’ve had with UK media, but after quite a few interviews in different countries, I think I can say that, on average, British journalists are the least curious of all. So often, being ‘critical’ is just a pose.

He contrasted this with an interview he gave to Trevor Noah in the US. He also said that the good news was that there were new media in the UK filling the gap. The sharpest questions he had that week came from Aaron Bastani of Novara Media.

This criticism clearly stung Brillo, who tweeted back about how discriminatory towards old people it was to call them dinosaurs, and compared it with talking about Black or gay people in the same context. He was just asking legitimate questions, and as for being a dinosaur, he accused Bregman of reviving policies from Eisenhower in the 1950s and Milton Friedman in the 1960s.

Zelo Street pointed out that ‘dinosaur’ referred to a state of mind, and that his disparagement of Milton Friedman seemed also dismissive of his former idol, Maggie Thatcher, who was also a fan of Friedman at one point. As for policies from the 1950s, this was America under Eisenhower, which suggested that Ike was a Keynsian or an secret economist.

Brillo then roped in a few others to support him, but Zelo Street remained unimpressed, concluding:

Kicking off like that and justifying his behaviour by Retweeting sympathetic voices from the right – David Jack and Iain Martin, for instance – is not going to help either the BBC, or those wanting the Corporation to somehow accommodate Brillo, rather than just bin his late night show. And it won’t help The Great Man himself.
The age of Andrew Neil at the BBC was for a time, but not for all time.
http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2019-03-23T09:29:00Z&max-results=20
Mike in his article concluded with the observation that Ofcom might find it informative to watch the show. He said
This Writer sincerely hopes that Ofcom, which is currently investigating whether the BBC is honouring its obligation to be impartial in its news reporting, has been paying attention. If not, I would encourage Mr Bregman to get in touch with that organisation.
See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/03/23/is-ofcom-reading-euro-economist-bregmans-twitter-takedown-of-this-week-is-a-revelation/
I’m not surprised that Brillo and his fellow presenters or guests and the production team behaved like that. Media monitoring organisations have said for years that the Beeb has a pronounced pro-Tory bias, which has become increasingly explicit. Question Time has become particularly notorious for Fiona Bruce’s biased treatment of Diane Abbott, by the fact that the audience for the show have been repeatedly packed by Tories and Kippers. From Bregman’s account of his experience, it seems very clear that neither Brillo nor any of the others were remotely interested in the book, only in talking about Brexit, the EU or terrorism, issues which they felt they knew about. And they clearly didn’t know anything and didn’t want to know anything about Bregman’s ideas. Shows like This Week often book more guests than they can use in case someone drops out. John Spencer, a UFO researcher, described a similar experience he had back in the 1990s in one of his books. Looking at Bregman’s description, it’s possible that the person Brillo really wanted on his show was unavailable, so they brought on Bregman instead. Or it may be that they felt they needed to tackle his book, but idleness and right-wing complacency made them utterly uninterested in reading it and seriously discussing his ideas.
Either way, not only does This Week seem biased, it also looks extremely shallow in expecting him to present his ideas in two minutes, and actually dishonest in making up facts to assert against him. If you believe the Beeb, Neil is a master broadcaster with a keen grasp of the facts and able to get to grips at the real heart of the issues he is discussing. This would suggest otherwise.
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Mike Smeared as Anti-Semite by Campaigners against Nazism

May 6, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political has suffered another smear, this time from Gareth Davies of Anti-Nazis United. His article purports to be a rebuttal of Mike’s own refutation of the original smears and libels published by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. Actually, I think their name is somewhat of a misnomer. From what I’ve seen of them, they don’t seem to have any real interest in combatting genuine anti-Semitism, only in using it as a tool to smear decent critics of Israel, and in scaring European Jews to emigrate there. Perhaps a better name would be the Campaign for Anti-Semitic Libel? That would seem to be a far better description of this organisation’s real aims and methods.

I’ve blogged before about how Mike is very definitely anti-racist and most definitely not anti-Semitic. He talks with obvious pride about the invitation by one of his Jewish friends to be one of the readers in a Holocaust memorial event she was staging when he was at college. Mike was one of those, who read out a few of the names of the millions murdered by the Nazis. The young lady told him afterwards that she found his performance deeply moving. He’s had friends of all races, and doesn’t judge people according to their ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Nor, as I said, has he ever denied or tried to falsify the numbers of the Nazis’ victims in the Holocaust. I’ve described in a previous article how he gave me a book on the Nazis’ bureaucracy of terror which accompanied an exhibition about it in Berlin. The exhibition was also put on by the federal government, and gave the facts and figures of the Holocaust and the associated pogroms carried out by the Nazis. It also had a gallery and brief biography of a few of the Nazis’ victims.

Mike has always had a horror of Nazism. It’s part of his strong feelings for justice and deep hatred of other forms racism and prejudice.

Mr Davies has been unable to rebut Mike’s refutation of the smears against himself through anything Mike has written, and so has tried to smear Mike based on some of the comments left by his readers. Mike has written a robust rebuttal of this latest smear in turn, going point by point through Davies’ article, tackling and refuting each in turn.

His article stands by itself, but there are a few more things that could be added to a couple of his points. The only criticism of Mike Davies makes based on Mike’s own writings, is about Mike’s remark about Liam Byrne’s suitability as a Labour politicians, based on his previous employment with Accenture and Rothschild’s. Mike writes

Next complaint: This indicates that Mr Davies has trawled back through my articles, looking for anti-Semitic language he can use against me. It appears he found only one example that comes even remotely close, in 8,705 published pieces. This was in a reference to Liam Byrne’s employment history: “Work for a multinational consulting firm (Accenture) and then the Rothschild merchant bankers(!)” commenting on my “strange use of an exclamation mark”.

Of course the point I was making was that it seemed odd for a Labour politician to be working for a firm as closely associated with capitalism as the Rothschild company, and that I doubted it was what many people would call a “proper job” – contrast with Alan Johnson, for example, who was a postman, or Dennis Skinner, who was a miner. My guess is that the accusation is about the Rothschilds being Jewish but that had nothing to do with the point I was making.

The Rothschilds do loom large in the demonology of the Nazi right. They’re at the centre of various stupid and potentially murderous conspiracy theories about international Jewish bankers that have been around since the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. However, there are very good reasons why genuinely anti-racist Socialists should also be suspicious of this firm and the others in financial sector, regardless of the racial origins of their founders.

The working people of Britain and America have been sacrificed to the interests of the financial sector. One of the tenets of neoliberal policy has been to let manufacturing industry decline as the West was supposed to be moving into a post-industrial society. Furthermore, the Pound was kept high by Maggie Thatcher, who was unable to realise that this made British exports uncompetitive through increasing their prices on the international market. The financial sector also insisted on the loosening of regulations that resulted in the massive crash of 2008, brought about by extremely reckless speculation by Goldman Sachs, Lehmann Brothers and others in Wall Street.

In fact, manufacturing industry is still vital for Britain and America’s prosperity, as Ha-Joon Chang shows in his books. And the bankers that caused the crash have rightly earned the contempt and disgust given them by the rest of the public. Even after wrecking the global economy and encouraging right-wing governments to pursue austerity policies that have caused immense suffering to ordinary men and women, these people have insisted on billion dollar bail-outs, and are continuing to award grossly inflated pay increases and bonuses to each other.

The reaction of the Republicans in America was to try to equate criticism of bankers as Nazi anti-Semitic attacks, on the basis that the Nazis ranted about Jewish bankers, and so banker = Jew. But these criticisms weren’t being made on the basis of the bankers’ race or religious beliefs. They were simply about avaricious, destructive bankers, full stop. Race had nothing to do with it. And the banking elite attacked also includes gentiles.

And Rothschilds also has an unpleasant history of collaboration with the Nazis. They were one of the American banks, who gave credit and financial support to the Nazi regime in the 1930s. This when the Nazis were carrying out their horrific persecution of German and then Austrian Jews after the Anschluss. This was reported in the western press at the time. Certainly, this fact has also been incorporated into some of the stupid anti-Semitic conspiracy theories to make them seem less racist. I’ve come across books that have distinguished between ‘good’ Jews, the victims of the Nazis, and the ‘Zionist’ Jews, like the Rothschilds and others, who were determined to enslave Whites. Despite these careful revisions, they’re still dangerous, racist nonsense.

But that doesn’t change what the Rothschilds did. And it has understandably a legacy of bitterness. I came across an entirely respectable history book in the 1990s on the shelves of Waterstone’s in Bath about Wall Streets murky dealings with Hitler and his squad of butchers.

And the Rothschilds sadly weren’t the only company to provide material aid and assistance to the Nazi tyranny. So did American companies like IBM, a fact that provided the inspiration for one of the bitterly funny episodes of the anti-superhero comic, Marshal Law, a comic with a clear social conscience that attacked right-wing American politics through very dark, violent satire.

Earlier in his article, Mike rebuts the claim that he’s anti-Semitic, because he liked a Tweet urging him to ‘stay strong against the cabal’. Mike writes

He writes

Look up “cabal” in a dictionary and it is described as “a secret political clique or faction”. Perhaps that does not quite describe the CAA, because its political motive in trying to stop me from being elected to Powys County Council is clear and not secret, but the intention of the person who made that tweet was clearly to support me in resisting the CAA’s lies. Why should I not be grateful?

This criticism might be partly based on one of the etymologies constructed for the word, which is supposedly derived from Qabbala/ cabbala and other versions of the word spelt with a single ‘B’. This is a form of Jewish mysticism, which also became popular amongst Christian occultists in the 17th century as Aristotelian natural philosophy crumbled. There was so much demand for it, that one Italian rabbi complained that he and other savants couldn’t go anywhere without a Christian clutching them by the sleeve and saying, ‘Be my master in this!’

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable mentions this origin of the term, but states that it came to be applied to English politics from the machinations of one of Charles II’s court factions. It says

A JUNTO, a council of intriguers. The famous cabal (1687-1673) of Charles II’s reign, the group of five ministers, the initial letters of whose name (Clifford, Ashley, Buckingham, Arlington, Lauderdale) by coincidence spelt this word, did not give rise to the usage. It was often applied in the 17th century to the king’s inner group of advisers. See CABBALA.

This was the sense in which it was being used by the Tweeter, which doesn’t seem to have mentioned the bizarre conspiracy theories about supposed Jewish occultism.

For the rest of the article, see: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/04/another-week-another-attack-by-the-anti-semitism-smear-campaigners/#comments

Now I don’t know anything about Mr Davies or the group, Anti-Nazis United. There is a need to be vigilant against Nazism, as the real thing has returned in force since Brexit. This Wednesday, the I columnist, Yasmin Alibhai-Browne, wrote an op-ed piece about the disastrous effect this was having on the lives of the new immigrants from eastern Europe, as well as the native-born children and grandchildren of earlier migrants to this country. This came after the suicide a week or so ago, of a Polish girl because of the bullying she’d experienced at her school in Cornwall. Browne herself has suffered racist abuse, despite the fact that she’s married to a White British husband, and has been here since her family arrived from Uganda in the 1970s.

And real anti-Semitism has come back, most nakedly in the form of the banned Nazi youth group, National Action, who openly goose-stepped in the streets in cod-Nazi uniforms. Their speeches were vile rants about the supposed international Jewish conspiracy to enslave and destroy the White race through encouraging non-White immigration and racial intermixing. The classic Nazi bilge you can find amongst some of the Alt-Right maniacs infesting Trump’s cabinet.

We do need to combat this. But I see absolutely no desire by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism to do that. Rather, they seem determined to exaggerate the real threat of Nazism and racism in this country simply as a way to smear genuinely principled critics of Israel. As I’ve said, time and again, the people Mike’s defended are genuinely anti-racist Jews and gentiles, many of whom have suffered genuine persecution for their ethnicity and anti-racist activism. I have felt myself moved when reading about how they, or close members of their families, have been assaulted, or how their parents or grandparents were driven out of their homelands in Germany or eastern Europe.

It is, quite simply, utterly monstrous that these people should feel afraid once again because of their race, and vilified as the very people, who have persecuted them, because they see the same hate that motivated the Nazis in the Likudniks persecution of the Palestinians.

And I am afraid that Mr Davies and his fellow activists are being manipulated in this, to serve as the useful fools for bigots and racists, who hide behind the Jewish people’s history of terrible persecution in order to smear critics of their own, decades-long campaign of massacre and ethnic cleansing against the indigenous Arab people of Palestine.

Vox Political: Alan Johnson Claims Pressure from Labour Party Stopped Cameron Giving Away Workers’ Rights in European Deal

February 21, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has posted a piece from the LabourList. Labour’s Alan Johnson has claimed that it was pressure from the Labour party that stopped Cameron trading away the rights of British workers as part of the recent negotiations in Brussels. Alan Johnson then goes on to make the point that the Labour party is united and shall be campaigning to keep us in. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/20/labour-stopped-cameron-trading-away-workers-rights-says-johnson-labourlist/

I see absolutely no reason to disbelieve this. The chief Tory objection to the EU, apart from the current immigration crisis, is the Social Charter. This is the part of the EU constitution that guarantees certain rights for European workers. It’s this they hate with a passion. I can remember being very unimpressed way back in the 1980s when a Tory politico appeared on Wogan’s talk show. He was in favour of the EC as a ‘common market’, as it was called in the 1s970s, but made no secret that he thought the Social Charter was bad, and that Maggie should try and get it repealed.

This is the motivation behind much of the Tories’ hatred of the EC. Don’t let the debate over immigration sidetrack you. Yes, the Tories genuinely hate immigration. But they really hate the Social Charter. That also really sticks in their collective gizzards. But you aren’t going to hear about that from Laura Kuenssberg and her fellow Tory apparatchiks and collaborators at the Beeb and in the rest of the media.