Posts Tagged ‘Aliens’

Woodrow Wyatt, Conspiracies and the Anti-Semitism Smears

March 21, 2018

I’ve put up a number of pieces already taking apart one of the arguments used to smear Mike as an anti-Semite. This is because he described the plotting by Shai Masot of the Israeli embassy with his Zionist colleagues in the Tories to have certain politicians removed from the Cabinet and replaced by those, who were more favourable to Israel, as a conspiracy. His use of the term was anti-Semitic, because it supposedly harkened back to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other noxious, paranoid fantasies about the Jews secretly running the world and conspiring to destroy the White race and enslave gentiles. In fact, as I pointed out in recent blog post, Masot and his associates were indeed conspiring, and it is entirely fair and reasonable to describe what they were doing in precisely this term. Real conspiracies, like Masot’s, do occur. They are short-term plots in which clandestine or private groups meet together in order to achieve certain limited goals. Like the examples Jeffrey M. Bale provided in his Lobster article, in which he cited as example the influence of the Italian Masonic lodge, P2, in promoting Fascist violence in Italy as part of the ‘strategy of tension’ in the 1970s, and the Afrikaner Broederbond in South Africa, which succeeded in setting up the system of apartheid. These conspiracies are in stark contrast to anti-Semitic or other bogus conspiracy theories, as the latter are always much bigger. The groups involved in these conspiracy theories are seen as being active throughout history, pursuing a unity of purpose and omniscience and omnipotence which is actually quite superhuman. This type of conspiracy theory acts as a psychological explanation for the existence of whatever those who believe them consider to be wrong in the world. It thus acts as a malign mythology to explain the faults of contemporary society in terms of a uniquely evil other.

But this does not mean that real conspiracies don’t exist. They do. And the people involved in them may also frankly describe their plotting as such. One of them was Woodrow Wyatt, an arch-Tory, who acted as the conduit for IRD propaganda about the Communist threat in the ’70s and ’80s, and also acted as Murdoch’s go-between in his negotiations with Thatcher and then John Major.

Wyatt’s journals, edited by Sarah Curtis, were published in three volumes at the beginning of this century, 2001/2, and were reviewed in Lobster 42 by the magazine’s long-term contributor, John Newsinger, in his article, ‘Confessions of a Crawler’ on pages eight and nine. In his introduction, Newsinger describes exactly just what a repulsive character Wyatt was. He wrote

Woodrow Wyatt’s diaries are quite remarkable. Any normal persons would have tried to conceal such a career of arse-licking sycophancy, but Wyatt positively revels in it. The result is really quite disgusting. Wyatt is revealed as a thoroughly contemptible individual and the great and bad against whom he rubbed himself are inevitably diminished. he was a power and wealth fetishist and these are the diaries of a pervert. But are they of any interest other than the prurient? Yes, indeed. First of all, there is what they don’t reveal about Wyatt’s connection with the secret state and dirty tricks (he had ben an important Information Research Department conduit). Much more important is what they do reveal about how contemporary Britain is ruled, and the word ruled is used very deliberately. In the period covered by these diaries, Wyatt was Rupert Murdoch’s fixer in London and, in particular, acted as his go-between, first with Margaret Thatcher, and later with John Major. This material is extremely interesting, providing, among other things, an insider’s account of Murdoch’s embrace of Tony Blair and New Labour. In a country with a more robust democratic tradition what Wyatt reveals would be a scandal. In Britain we have become so used to governments courting Murdoch that it hardly draws comment. (p. 8).

I also seem to remember that Wyatt also had a column in the Sunday Express, before that rag collapsed in the ’90s. This shows how Thatcherite and far right that newspaper was.

What I found particularly interesting in Newsinger’s review, was a passage from the diaries he discusses, which describe a meeting Wyatt attended with various members of the British secret state and a far right pressure group on the 2nd June 1986. In his diary Wyatt explicitly described himself and the others there as ‘conspirators’. He wrote

Meeting with conspirators, Brian Crozier, Julian Lewis and a man from Aims of Industry whose name I’ve forgotten and another man who I never identified. How to make the public realise that Labour is still dominated by the extremists.

Brian Crozier was a member of the British secret services, who was active in a number of anti-Communist, anti-Soviet propaganda campaigns, as well as against the general British left. Aims of Industry was another far right group of British businessmen, vehemently anti-Socialist and determined to destroy the trade unions. Newsinger observes that, apart from this passage, there isn’t much in the diaries about his involvement in schemes and plots by the secret state. He suggests this may be due to his editor removing them, or Wyatt having the discretion not to record them. But Wyatt does record how he persuaded the electricians at Wapping to provide Murdoch with blackleg labour, and openly describes how Murdoch deliberately intended to provoke the printers into striking. When the print workers walked, Murdoch showed Wapping around his plant and told him that

the police were ready in case there were pickets and they had riot shields stored in a warehouse nearby and every now and again a police helicopter came over to see that there was no trouble. (p. 8).

Which shows you how, in addition to the miners, Maggie used the police as her own private army to break the unions.

But what is particularly interesting in Mike’s circumstances is the passage where Wyatt describes the British agents and others from right-wing business groups as ‘conspirators’. He’s right. That’s exactly what they were. Just as Shai Masot and his friends in the Israel lobby were also conspirators, when they met to plot who they wanted in May’s cabinet. It’s entirely reasonable to describe them as such when the term is also used of gentile plotters like Wyatt and his grotty colleagues. Describing the meeting by Masot and the others as a conspiracy certainly does not imply that they were part of any wider, stupid, bogus global conspiracy, like those murderous fantasies about the Jews or reptoid aliens. It is simply an apt description of what Masot and the others were doing.

Wyatt states in his diary that he was part of a conspiracy. Shai Masot was also a conspirator. And describing him and his colleagues in such terms is certainly not anti-Semitic.


Woohoo! Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams Is Coming Back!

February 24, 2018

More good news for fans of mature SF. The bad news is that the new set of programmes, which continue from last year, is on Channel 4 at 10 O’clock in the evening, bang opposite the X-Files, which is on channel at the same time. Grrr! Better set your videos, peeps.

The new set of programmes begins with ‘The Father Thing’. The blurb for this on page 67 of the Radio Times runs

The sci-fi anthology series inspired by Philip K. Dick’s short stories returns. In this episode, the world is under attack as aliens quietly invade people’s homes young hero Charlie must make difficult decisions to protect his mother on the human race.

Another small article about it on page 65 states

The sci-fi anthology returns with a version of Philip K. Dick’s The Father Thing. That was published in 1954, the same year as the serialisation of the novel that inspired the movie version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers-and it you’ve seen that, or just know the premise of it, you can skip this.

Jack Gore and Greg Kinnear are both excellent as ayoung boy and his dad, shadowed by the threat of marital strife until the kid starts to have more serious concerns.

A possible theme about children fearing the loss of a divorcing parent never coalesces. Instead, as the boy’s mates get involved, we veer into a half-cocked Stranger Things homage. A well-performed, nicle shot dud.

I’ve noticed that one of the perennial themes in Dick’s work is that the hero is always in a rocky marriage, and the wife, or one of the female characters, is always bitch queen from hell, to use the words of Arnie Rimmer. Dick’s was married several times, but he comes across as something of a misgynist.

Despite the Radio Time’s critic’s sniffs, The Father Thing is one of the pieces that’s been republished recently, and I look forward to seeing it. But we’ll decide whether it’s a dud or not, thank you.

Woohoo! X-Files Coming Back on Monday on Channel 5

February 3, 2018

After a hiatus of about a year, the new X-Files series on Channel 5, Monday, 4th February 2018, at 9.00 in the evening. This has the remaining regulars of the old series in it – Duchovny and Anderson, Mitch Pileggi and the Cigarette Smoking Man, as well as Annabeth Gish, playing Agent Monica Reyes, who appeared in the very last series of the old X-Files. The listing for it in the Radio Times runs

The drama returns as an unconscious Scully is rushed to hospital, where a neurosurgeon discovers she is suffering from a frenzy of neural activity. (p. 74).

And the blurb for it a few pages earlier on page 71 also runs

When we were last in the company of Mulder and Scully, he was succumbing to a virus that was stripping his immune system, awhile she was staring wide-eyed at a UFO descending from the heavens. It was a whopper of a cliffhanger, and one that, unfortunately, gets resolved using storytelling techniques frowned upon by primary-school teachers.

But that is the perennial problem when The X-Files does these government-conspiracy ‘mythology arc’ episodes: they initially seem tricksy and knotty, but tend to fall apart at the slightest unpicking. Thankfully, we have a standalone case to look forward to next week, so not all hope was lost.

And here’s the trailer for it I found on YouTube. Amongst the delights promised is a meeting between Mulder and Scully and the man, who set up the X-Files, Skinner doing dodgy things for the Cigarette Smoking Man, and a carnivorous monster created through the merging of human and alien DNA.

Yay! Paranoia, the paranormal, UFOs, urban legends, weird science and general high-strangeness is back!

Opening Scene of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

January 22, 2018

And now for something a bit positive and optimistic, before I start blogging about the grim, serious stuff later. I found the opening scene to last year’s Luc Besson SF film, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets over on YouTube. Besson was the director of the SF epic, The Fifth Element way back in the 1990s. This clip from Valerian shows the development of something, which looks remarkably like the International Space Station, into a massive, orbital space complex. I like it because it shows a succession of human nations coming through the airlocks, followed by a variety of alien races, to greet each other in peace and friendship. The musical backing is David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, appropriately enough, though the scenes of people and aliens shaking hands in welcome reminds me more of the line from Louis Armstrong’s ‘Wonderful World’: ‘I see friends shakin’ hands, sayin’ ‘How do you do?” This was used at the end of the BBC TV version of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy back in the 1980s.

As for people meeting and becoming friends with alien races, that was one of the elements that made Star Trek so popular. It showed that, despite our current problems, humanity would survive, flourish and go on to explore the universe. And that meant all humanity, with people of different races, Black, Asian, and Russians from the other side of the-then current ideological divide, and aliens, like Spock. Gene Roddenberry in his vision for the show stated that he didn’t want there to be an alien race we couldn’t possible deal with. And so in The Next Generation they created the Borg, which originally humanity couldn’t deal with. You either fought them, ran away, or were assimilated.

Alien invasion, or some other insidious threat from beyond the stars is a staple of SF, and has been ever since H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. But there’s another aspect to humanity’s fascination with aliens which counterbalances this. That apart from enemies, we will also make new friends. It’s the driving psychological motive behind the various UFO contactee encounters in the 1950s, when people claimed that they’d been taken aboard alien spacecraft by benevolent space brothers, to be given a message of peace and cosmic brotherhood. And it’s also why there have been any number of SF stories and paintings set in space bars, like the Cantina sequence in Star Wars.

And in this clip here, I particularly like the bit where the human shaking hands with one of the aliens is left with slime on his hand. It’s just a bit gross, but it is funny.

I wanted to see Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets when it came out last year, but unfortunately circumstances got in the way. I heard that it flopped. One reason for this, apparently, was because it came from a French comic strip, which no-one in America had ever heard of. I’m not sure if that’s the reason, and sometimes perfectly good films fall flat at the box office for no discernible reason at all, except that they didn’t appeal at that moment. Anyway, I want to get hold of it on DVD so that I can judge for myself whether it’s any good, rather than just take what the critics said.

Flying Saucer Art from 60s and 70s Comics

January 20, 2018

More fun SF art. This selection of covers for UFO and Flying Saucer comics, most of which seem to have been published by Gold Key, comes from the book Saucer Attack by Eric and Leif Nesheim, published by General Publishing Press in 1997. Subtitle, ‘Popular Culture in the Age of flying Saucers’, the book looks at the books, films, toys, TV series, hymns, pulp magazine short stories, comics, and, of course, the Mars Attacks bubblegum cards, which appeared following Kenneth Arnold’s sighting in 1947 of the unknown aircraft, which flew ‘like saucers skipped across water’. The SF pulp published in the 1920s to early 40s also depict strange, saucer-like alien and human spaceships, showing the pop cultural influences on the UFO phenomenon and its imagery as it would develop later.

The text at the bottom of the page reads

Sci-Fi and UFO storylines struggled as the -60s wore on. Some managed to survive- like UFO Flying Saucers, which lasted into the mid-70s with several reprint issues that featured earlier stories.

The scanned image on this page is probably too small for most of our to read comfortably. To make it larger, click on the image.

Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Defends the Size of Trump’s Penis

January 12, 2018

Okay, I apologise for the crude nature of this post, but it’s weirdly fascinating and gives a bizarre insight into the mindset, not just of Alex Jones, but of much of the Republican party in America.

In this clip from Secular Talk, host Kyle Kulinski talks about a compilation video one of his viewers sent in, of the various times Alex Jones, the mad conspiracy theorist behind the Infowars internet show, defends Trump from the accusation that his manhood is of less than impressive size.

As Kryten said of Rimmer in Red Dwarf, ‘Oh for a world class psychiatrist!’

This all started with Ted Cruz telling the crowd during the campaigning for the Republican nomination that Trump had tiny hands, and that this meant that certain other areas of his anatomy were also correspondingly small. Mind you, Trump had just claimed that Cruz’s father was responsible for the assassination of J.F.K., which is actually a far worse accusation. My guess is that most people watching Cruz make the accusation probably took it for what it was – a particular low, ad hominem attack, and nothing more. But it’s clearly got under Jones’ skin. Hence the ranting in the video about how well-endowed Trump is, against the lies put out by the media.

Kulinski goes on to discuss how Jones has turned from a critic of the establishment, to its most fervent propagandist through his support of Trump. He likes Trump. It’s as if Trump has cast a voodoo spell over him, as Kulinski describes it. When Obama was president, Jones declared that he was responsible for all manner of conspiracies. Now Trump’s in the Oval Office, the president isn’t responsible for any of those. It’s always the people around him.

He points out just how much of an establishment shill Trump is. He’s doing exactly what his backers in Wall Street and big business want, and is impoverishing ordinary Americans for their corporate profit. He’s the enemy of the middle Class. But to Jones Trump can do no wrong.

Kulinski also discusses some of the other lunatic statements that Jones has made. Jones went on the Joe Rogan Show, where he raved about interdimensional demons and aliens, and claimed that there was a war going on in the political elite between paedophiles and real men, ‘who eat steaks, drink whisky and like women’. Kulinski makes the point of how ridiculous this is as the standard for judging who’s one of the good guys. It means that various truly repulsive Republicans, who have backed every war launched by the presidents, are good guys, merely because they’re heterosexual and have those tastes in food and drink. He also goes on to point out how Jones’ conspiracy theories are demonstrably wrong. Like Jones’ claim that Obama was going to declare a state of emergency, and have everyone rounded up and imprisoned in FEMA camps. Well, Obama’s been and gone, and it never happened. Even worse was Jones’ statement that the Sandy Hook massacre was staged at the pretext for taking Americans’ guns away. He doesn’t mention it here, but this did result in grieving parents being accused by Jones’ viewers of being ‘crisis actors’, and that their children weren’t really shot and killed. Kulinski points out that the legislation that was proposed in the aftermath of the massacre to prevent further outrages like it were a ban on certain types of automatic weapons, magazines of a particular size, and uniform background checks. But the ban on automatic weapons and magazines never got through, because the Republicans blocked it. As for the background checks, this was passed, but was watered down to the point where there are a million loopholes in it. So if Sandy Hook was staged as a ploy to deprive Americans of their firearms, it hasn’t worked.

In fact, Jones’ rants say something about the psychology of part of the Republican base, and the visceral fear of castration that some of them seem to have, associated with socialism, liberalism and feminism. The Republican party stands for a very traditional conception of the sex roles, in which men are expected to be aggressively masculine. The gun culture is part of this. Much of the rhetoric by the Alt Right is about how alpha male they are, compared to all the beta male cucks in mainstream society and the left. When Trump was campaigning for the presidency, Jones did a broadcast about how ‘alpha’ Trump was, and how he’d been having ‘transcendent’ conversations with him. Which, in addition to these comments defending the size of Trump’s genitals, add a kind of homoerotic undercurrent to his attitude to Trump.

Several of Jones’ rants are about the threat to masculinity and biological gender posed by feminism, the UN, and the gay rights movement. In one rant, he declared that the gay rights movement was ‘a transhumanist space cult’ dedicated to removing biological gender and turning us all into genderless cyborgs. Which I’ve no doubt surprised an awful lot of gay people. He also claimed that UN doctors were going to come to cut men’s testicles off. One of the internet news commenters sent up this raging paranoia in one of their vlogs, stating that no, Obama was not going to have them castrated and put in FEMA camps, where they would be forced to carry around greased up lesbians.

Jones’ rants about the size of Trump’s manhood are ridiculous, but they do show the real insecurities about masculinity in the Republican party and the Alt Right. Jones and others like him really do see liberalism and feminism as emasculating movements, which can only be combated by powerful, aggressive alpha males. Hence their support for Trump, and the bitter anti-feminism within the Republican party itself. And not all of those, who hold such views are men. One of those, who has vociferously attacked feminism, and denied that women should have the right to vote is Anne Coulter. And Kulinski makes the point that these genital obsessions have also been played out in the theatre of international relations. Like when he told Kim Jong Un that his nuclear button was bigger. Trump’s concern, and those of his supporters, to show how ‘alpha male’ he is, aren’t just ridiculous, they’re an active danger to the safety of the entire world. As are the stupid conspiracy theories about aliens, paedophiles and FEMA camps promoted by Jones and his Infowars team.

Torquemada: 2000 AD’s ‘Ultimate Fascist’ and a Prediction of the Rise of the Brextremists, Kippers and Trump

December 31, 2017

As you’ve probably gather from reading my previous posts about art robot Kevin O’Neill, I was and am a big fan of the ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ strip that ran in 2000 AD from 1980 through the 1990s. The villain of the piece was Torquemada, the former chief of the Tube police on an Earth thousands of years in the future. Outraged by the interbreeding between humans and their alien subjects, Torquemada overthrew the last, debauched emperor, founding an order of viciously genocidal knights, the Terminators. The construction of the linked White and Black Hole bypasses, giving Earth instant access to the Galaxy, also created terrible temporal catastrophes, resulting in creatures from even further into the future appearing in the present. These included the terrible gooney birds, giant predatory Concorde aircraft, which fed on the trains and anything else that travelled over Earth’s devastated surface. Torquemada and his Terminators blamed these disasters on aliens, killed human scientists and engineers, leading humanity into a new Dark Age. The Human race retreated underground, where the Terminators told them they would be safe from the terrible aliens threatening them. Terra was renamed ‘Termight’ – ‘Mighty Terra’, though Mills also gave it the name because the underground society resembled a massive termites’ nest. And Torquemada set up a corrupt, Fascistic, quasi-feudal society, which also included Orwellian elements from the classic 1984.

Pitched against Torquemada was the hero, Nemesis, an alien warlock. Horned and hooved, with magical powers, he resembled the Devil, and at one point, in conversation with his mad, cruel uncle Baal, he explicitly states that his powers are satanic. Nemesis is also the head of Credo, a human resistance movement dedicated to overthrowing Torquemada and restoring freedom and interspecies tolerance to Earth. Also resisting humanity’s aggressive expansion and extermination of other intelligent races were the Cabal, an alliance of various alien worlds.

The strip was possibly one of the weirdest 2000 AD had run, and was too weird for editor Kevin Gosnell, who hated it. But it was massively popular, at one point even rivalling the mighty Judge Dredd. Torquemada became British comics’ most popular villain, winning that category in the Eagle Award four years in a row. He was so popular that in the end I heard that they stopped submitting or accepting the character, in order to let others have a chance.

Torquemada speaks on the radio, in the strip that launched the character and Nemesis, ‘Going Underground’.

Looking back, I have mixed feelings about the strip. I still like it, but I’m not entirely comfortable with a hero, who has explicitly satanic characteristics, nor the villains, who are very much in the style of medieval Christian crusaders. Mills and O’Neill had had the misfortune to suffer brutal Roman Catholic education, and Mills states that where he grew up, everyone involved in the Roman Catholic establishment was corrupt. Everyone. They poured everything they hated about the bigotry and cruelty they had seen and experienced into the strip.

From a historians’ perspective, it’s not actually fair on the Roman Catholic church. Yes, medieval Christianity persecuted Jews, heretics and witches, and warred against Islam. But the great age of witch-hunting was in the 17th century, and cut across faith boundaries. Prof. Ronald Hutton, a History lecturer at Bristol Uni, who has studied the history of witchcraft and its modern revival – see his book Triumph of the Moon – has pointed out that the German Protestant states killed more witches than the Roman Catholics. And those accused of witchcraft in Italy had far better legal protection in the 16th century than those in Henry VIII’s England. You had a right to a lawyer and proper legal representation. If you couldn’t afford one, the court would appoint one for you. Torture was either outlawed, or very strictly regulated. There was a period of 50 years when the Holy Office was actually shut, because there were so few heretics and witches to hunt down.

As for the equation between medieval Roman Catholicism and Fascism, a graduate student, who taught medieval studies got annoyed at this glib stereotype. it kept being repeated by their students, and was historically wrong. This student came from a Protestant background, but was more or less a secular atheist, although one who appreciated the best of medieval Christian literature.

Underneath the personal experiences of Mills and O’Neill, the strip’s depiction of a future feudal society was also influenced by Protestant anti-Catholic polemic, and the theories of the 19th century French liberal, anti-Christian writer, Charles Michelet. It was Michelet, who first proposed that the witch-hunts were an attempt by patriarchal Christianity to wipe out an indigenous, matriarchal folk paganism. It’s a view that has strongly influenced feminist ecopaganism, although academic scholars like Hutton, and very many pagans have now rejected it as historically untrue.

The robes and masks worn by the Terminators recalled not only those worn by Spanish Catholic penitents during the Easter Day processions, but also the Klan, who are an Protestant organisation, which hates Roman Catholics as well Jews and Blacks.

There’s also the influence of John Wyndham’s classic SF novel, The Chrysalids. This is set in Labrador centuries in the future, after a nuclear war has devastated much of the world, except for a few isolated spots of civilisation. Society has regressed to that of 17th century Puritanism. The survivors are waging a war to restore and maintain the original form of their crops, animals and themselves. Mutants, including humans, are examined and destroyed at birth. As with the Terminators, their clothing is embroidered with religious symbols. In this case a cross. Just as Torquemada denounces aliens as ‘deviants’, so do the leaders of this puritanical regime describe human mutants. And like the pro-alien humans in Nemesis, a woman bearing a mutant child is suspected and punished for her perceived sexual deviancy.

In fact, the underlying anti-religious, anti-Christian elements in the strip didn’t bother me at the time. Mike and myself went to an Anglican church school here in Bristol, though the teaching staff also included people from other Christian denominations such as Methodism and Roman Catholicism. They had a real horror of sectarian bigotry and violence, sharpened by the war in Northern Ireland, and were keenly aware that Christians had done terrible things in the name of religion. I can remember hearing a poem on this subject, The Devil Carried a Crucifix, regularly being recited at school assembly, and the headmaster and school chaplain preaching explicitly against bigotry. At the same time, racial prejudice was also condemned. I can remember one poem, which denounced the colour bar in one of its lines, repeatedly turning up in the end of year services held at the church to which the school was attached.

I also have Roman Catholic relatives and neighbours, who were great people. They were committed to their face, but also bitterly opposed to sectarian bigotry and violence. And the Roman Catholic clergy serving my bit of Bristol were decent men and women, though some of those in other areas were much more sectarian. I’ve Protestant friends, who went on to study RE at a Roman Catholic college. Their experience was not Mills’ and O’Neill’s, though I also had relatives, who were estranged from the Church because they had suffered the same kind of strict, and violently repressive Roman Catholic education that they had.

But Torquemada and the Terminators were far from being a veiled comment on atrocities committed by medieval Roman Catholicism. Torquemada modelled himself on Tomas de Torquemada, the leader of the Spanish Inquisition, whose bloody work he so much admired. But he also explicitly styled himself as the supreme Fascist. By fostering humanity’s hatred of aliens, he hoped to unite the human race so that they didn’t fight each other over differences in colour. But the character was also supposed to be the reincarnation of every persecuting bigot in European and American history. In one story, Torquemada becomes seriously ill, breaking out in vast, festering boils, because Nemesis’ lost son, Thoth, has used the tunnels dug by the Tube engineers to channel away the destructive energies of the White and Black Hole bypasses, to travel backwards in time to kill Torquemada’s previous incarnations. These include Adolf Hitler, natch, one of the notoriously murderous American cavalry officers, responsible for the butchery of innocent indigenous Americans in the Indian Wars, and finally Torquemada himself. Torquemada therefore travelled back in time to confront his former incarnation, and save himself from Thoth.

This was followed by another story, in which Torquemada himself travelled forward to the 20th century. Infected with time energy, Torquemada caused temporal disruptions and catastrophes in the London of the present. He found himself a job as a rack-renting landlord, before founding a Fascist political party. Using Brits’ fears that these disasters were caused by aliens, he became a successful politician and was elected to Number 10.

And one of Torque’s previous incarnations, recovered by Brother Mikron, his pet superscientist, using advanced technological hypnotic regression, was very familiar to British readers with an awareness of the history of Fascism in their country.

Torquemada as Hitler, and very Mosley-esque British Far Right politician. From Prog 524, 30th May 1987.

In the above page, Brother Mikron recovers Torquemada’s past incarnation as Hitler, but only after encountering a later incarnation, in which Torquemada was Sir Edwin Munday, the British prime minister, and leader of the New Empire Party. Munday/Torquemada goes off an a rant on public television, shouting

‘I’ll solve the youth problem! We’ll make our children respectable again! – with compulsory short back and sides! The return of National Service! Order and discipline’.

His name clearly recalls that of the far right, anti-immigration Monday Club in the Tory party, which was at the centre of continuing scandals during the 70s and 80s over the racism of some of its members, the most notorious of whom was Thatcher’s cabinet minister, Norman Tebbit. As a member of the aristocracy, Munday also draws on Sir Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists and later Fascist movements.

Mosley unfurling his Fascist banner in the ’30s.

The rhetoric about youth is also very much that of the Tories around Maggie Thatcher, who really didn’t like long-haired liberals, hippies, punks and the other youth movements, who had sprung up at the time. They were calling for the return of National Service to stop the rise in youth crime and delinquency.

And this is now very much the attitude of the Kippers and Brextremists over here, who really do hanker after the old days of the British Empire, with all its pomp and authoritarianism. The last thing that incarnation of Torquemada says is

‘We’ll make our country great again!’

This is also based on the rhetoric of the Tories at the time, in which Thatcher was credited with turning around Britain’s decline and restoring her to her glory. In the general election that year, the Tory party election broadcasts showed old footage of Spitfires and Hurricanes racing around the sky shooting down Nazi planes, while an overexcited actor exclaimed ‘It’s great – to be great again!’

No, she didn’t make us great. She wrecked our economy and welfare state, and sold everything off to foreign firms, all the while ranting hypocritically about how she represented true British patriotism.

But it also recalls Trump’s rhetoric last year, during his election campaign. When he announced ‘We’ll make America great again!’ And he’s gone on to use the same neoliberalism as Reagan, Thatcher, and successive Democrat and New Labour leaders, backed with racist rhetoric and legislation supported by White supremacists.

Torquemada was one of 2000 AD’s greatest comments on sectarian bigotry and racism, with Torquemada as its very explicit symbol. Even after three decades, it’s central message about the nature of Fascism, imperialism and colonialism, and the western hankering for its return, remains acutely relevant.

Art Robot O’Neill’s Twisted Take on Christmas

December 29, 2017

Kevin O’Neill is one of the great British comic artists, who came out of 2000 AD in the 1970s. His grotesque and nightmarish depictions of aliens, mutants and robots have been delighting and traumatising readers for decades. With writer Pat Mills, he created the Nemesis the Warlock strip, and has drawn the art for a number of classic comics, including Marshal Law and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The last has been turned into a film with Sean Connery as Alan Quatermaine. This weird vision of the Christmas season is the wrap-around cover for 2000 AD 398, for the 29th December 1984. As you can see, it shows a monstrous Santa Claus, a chimney with jaw pursuing a flying Christmas turkey, snowmen fighting, and two houses trying to burn each other down with their chimneys. Oh yes, and the mechanical reindeer that’s part of Santa’s sleigh looks anything but jolly. Though he is red-nosed.

O’Neill’s artwork was considered so grotesque and revolting that it was banned by the Comics Code. The Comics Code were an unelected body of censors set up following the scare about Horror comics that devastated the industry in the 1950s. They were charged with making sure that American comics were good, wholesome fun, and were suitable for children. I can remember Mike telling me that American comics at the time worked to be suitable for a child of seven to read. It was supposed to be a voluntary code, meaning that its decision were not legally binding, and there were comics published far outside, and often deliberately against their control: the underground comics, like Robert Crumb, and the independents, like Cerebus the Aardvark. In practice, however, the Code had a near total grip dictating what comics could or could not publish. If a comic did not have their seal of approval, then the vast majority of newsagents and mainstream retailers simply wouldn’t sell it.

This whole system collapsed in the 1980s, as a new generation of fans objected to censorship and being told what they could or could not read in their favourite literature. The result was the emergence of adult comics ‘for mature readers’, like Marshal Law. But this was not before there were a few casualties. O’Neill was one of them.

He was the artist for a story in DC’s Green Lantern Corps, written by Alan Moore, who had also been one of the script robots working on 2000 AD. In the story, the Corps visit a planet which has been overrun by demons. The Code rejected it.

Moore rang them up, and asked if they would pass it if he made a few suggested changes. No, they told him. He tried again, suggesting taking out another incident in the strip. No, they still wouldn’t pass it. So Moore asked him what was wrong with the strip, that they didn’t want to pass it.

‘O’Neill’s artwork’, the faceless censors replied. ‘It is totally unsuitable for children’.

In the end, I think DC did go ahead and publish the story, but it appeared without the Comics Code approval badge on its cover.

I really like O’Neill’s art, but there’s no getting away from the fact that it is grotesque and disturbing. I can remember reading an interview with another British comics great, Dave Gibbons, who drew the Rogue Trooper strip in 2000 AD, where he said that a fan had told him at a comics convention that O’Neill’s artwork gave him nightmares. He could only dispel these by looking at Gibbons’ smooth art.

2000 AD later paid homage to the incident in one of their anniversary issues, where Tharg walked around various characters and art and script droids in his head. O’Neill is depicted as a crazed, stunted brat drinking at of a can marked ‘Bile’. During their brief conversation, Tharg describes O’Neill’s ban by the Comics Code as his great accolade.

It says something about American culture at the time that O’Neill’s art was considered too grim and upsetting for children across the Pond, but he had been published in 2000 AD for years and was one of the comic’s cult artists.

As for the nightmarish vision of Christmas, this strangely harks back to the type of humour the Victorians themselves like to put on their Christmas cards. There was a brief piece about Christmas cards on the One Show about a week ago, where they mentioned that the first Christmas cards showed scenes of anthropomorphised Christmas food or other items hunting each other over a wintry background. Art robot O’Neill’s weird, crazed interpretation of the festive season harks back to that, although its direct inspiration was probably the iconoclastic punk ethos that ran through 2000 AD.

Here’s the two pictures. Enjoy, and don’t have nightmares!

Cats in Space!

December 28, 2017

No, not the Muppets’ ‘Pigs in Space’, nor the 70s Disney film The Cat from Outer Space, but SF paintings of moggies going where no moggy has gone before. It’s from the SF art site on Tumblr, 70sscifiart. And I dare say that some of them may well have been inspired by the Disney film, or came along to ride the Disney bandwagon after the film came out. On the other hand, there are an awful lot of cat fans, including SF authors and artists like Cordwainer Smith. In one of his stories, The Game of Cat and Dragon, the first human pioneers into interstellar space use humans cybernetically linked to cats to operate the defence systems combating the alien monsters that lurk in the darkness between the stars. Cats are used because they’re the topmost, ruthless predators. But Smith liked cats anyway, and they appear in many of his stories.

This is for all the cat people out there. Enjoy!

Sam Seder on Disney’s Animatronic Donald Trump

December 20, 2017

Well, as Freddie Mercury once sang in Queen’s epic track, ‘Machines’, ‘The machines take over’, and this time there really ‘ain’t no rock ‘n’ roll’. Or as the blurb for this video puts it instead, the Trump animatronic is so horrifying it’ll haunt your dreams.

Disney have created a robot version of America’s most unpopular fascistic president for their Hall of Presidents. The Trumpdroid stands in front of the other animatronic US presidents, and recites a speech, with appropriate gestures and body movements, about his august predecessors were responsible for crafting the American constitution and political structure, and so creating the freedom that Americans enjoy today.

And Seder and his co-hosts are right: it is very creepy. The robotics technology used to animate the machine is really impressive, but it does bear out the observation of one Japanese robotics scientist. I forgotten the fellow’s name, unfortunately, but he shrewdly observed that people are uncomfortable with things that resemble them closely, but are still very different. Hence the human discomfort with robots when they become a little too accurate. Something similar was also said by Red Dwarf’s Kryten way back in the 1990s. Lister, or one of the other members of the ship’s highly dysfunctional crew, ask him why his manufacturers have made him look very much less than a perfect replica of a human. He replies by stating that it’s because this would make people feel uncomfortable around him, for exactly the same reasons the Japanese scientist suggested. And way back in the mid-1970s, an irrational fear of robots – ‘robophobia’, or ‘Grimwade’s Syndrome’, was one of the plot elements in the Tom Baker Dr. Who serial ‘The Robots of Death’. This particular serial was set on a sandminer, a vast mining vehicle, operated by a small human crew under which was a much larger labour force of robots. And the robots start shaking off their servitude. It’s explained in the show that some people have an irrational fear of robots, because although they look like humans, they don’t employ any body language. And so to them they appear as ‘the walking dead’.

Rather more humorously, Seder and his friends joke that the other mechanical presidents are looking at the Trumpdroid wondering how on Earth it got there. And that the President Lincoln android is just about to tell the rest of them that there’s no choice for it now: they have to put the pistols to their heads and blow their little robot brains out. They also joke that it’s rather like the bit on the SF series Westworld, when the robots look down at themselves and finally realise what they are.

Rather more seriously, the clip begins with a discussion between Seder and a caller about the GOP’s tax bill, and why people join the Republican party. He states some join, because they hate the Environmental Protection Agency, and what to use highly toxic pesticides on their land, like Tom Delaye. Others really hate trade unions, and what to destroy them to keep ordinary people poor. But the majority do it to enrich themselves through corporate sponsorship. Such is the state of American politics. And the same comments also apply to the corporate Dems of Hillary Clinton, and to the Conservatives and Blairite Labour over this side of the Pond.

If these characters remain in power, perhaps the world would be much better if the machines really took over. Or the Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise. After all, as Ripley says in the 2nd film, Aliens, when she discovers the way she and the space marines have been betrayed by the Corporation, the aliens ‘don’t f**k each other over for a percentage’.