Posts Tagged ‘Ana Kasparian’

The Young Turks on Pizza Delivery Drivers Being Replaced by Driverless Cars

September 3, 2017

This is probably going to be the reality behind the driverless cars the car industry and the media have been hyping. In this short clip from The Young Turks, the hosts Ana Kasparian and Brett Ehrlich report and comment on the story that Domino’s Pizzas are planning to replace their pizza delivery people with driverless cars.

It’s only a trial run at the moment. They intend to go through their customers at random, and ask them if they’re happy with their pizza delivered by a driverless car instead. The vehicle will take a maximum of four pizzas to them. To get their orders, the customers will have to punch in a code into a keypad on the car.

After a bit of silly banter about the number of pizzas people usually order, they get down to discussing what this really represents. Kasparian says that when they usually talk about American jobs being lost, they’re usually reporting on corporate outsourcing. But automation is the other way in which people are losing their jobs in America. Kasparian she states that she isn’t against technological innovation, but points out that not only are people going to lose their jobs as pizza delivery staff, but they’re also going to lose an opportunity to acquire useful skills to succeed in a very competitive jobs market. She also states that we also need to give young people proper, affordable college education as well.

Domino’s has released a statement saying that they have at the moment 100,000 pizza delivery people. They hope that when this comes in, they will be able to find other positions within the company. The Turks end by saying that they hope so too.

To be fair, the BBC has carried news and documentary programmes, which forecast that in the coming decades, 1/3 of all retail jobs will be lost to automation. Nevertheless, whenever you see driverless cars appear, the overwhelming message is one of boundless enthusiasm, with the presenters raving about the technology. Clarkson went on a driverless truck on Top Gear, and went almost berserk with excitement when it started to make its way without human guidance.

Driverless trucks are due to be trialed on roads in Britain, according to a report in the I newspaper. They’re going to be tested in groups of three. I talked about this technology and its threats to jobs with a friend a little while ago. He told me that there are about 40,000 truckers in Britain, so that’s 40,000 people, who stand to lose their jobs.

Counterpunch has run an article on this, stating that there’s no desire for the cars from ordinary people. They’re being hyped and pushed by the insurance companies, who hope that their appearance and promotion as being safer than human driving will allow them to put up their premiums for people, who won’t use them.

What also struck me was how cold, lonely and impersonal the future represented by this type of automation is. In much SF depictions of an automated future, the machines performing human jobs also have something like human cognitive abilities and personalities. Long term 2000 AD readers will remember Dredd’s little robotic companion, Walter the Wobot. The character had a lisp and was a gentle soul, providing a contrast with the brutal machismo of Mega City 1’s toughest lawman. Or the robots in the Robohunter strip. These were extremely strong characters with all the traits, foibles and psychological failings of the human creators, including stupidity, thuggishness and all-round criminality. Like the God-Droid, the automatated underworld boss, a machine version of Marlon Brando with a sign stamped across its stomach reading ‘Omerta’, or the incendiary temperament of Molotov, the automatic cocktail-shaker and head of the Amalgamated Androids’ Union, who lectures Spade on the evils of human exploitation. Or Ro-Jaws, a chirpy, bolshie, foul-mouthed sewer droid, and his more dignified mate, the war-robot Hammerstein, and the moronic and sadistic Mek-Quake, the main characters in the Robusters strip, and its spin-off, ABC Warriors.

These fictional machines all had real, authentic characters. They had minds and characters like human beings, even if their bodies and brains were of metal and plastic. And so the strips’ writers could use them to make serious satirical points amidst the cartoon violence and mayhem. From the first, the ABC Warriors strip included a bitter commentary on the horrors of war, and the way soldiers lives were sacrificed by an officer and political class insulated from the actual fighting. The fact that robots were machines, with no rights, also allowed 2000 AD to explore real issues like slavery, racism, and institutionalized discrimination with deliberate, and sometimes very obvious parallels to the experience of Black Americans before Civil Rights.

But the real machines taking our jobs won’t even have personalities, friendly or otherwise, with which we will interact. Admittedly, there isn’t much social interaction with the mail and other delivery people, who turn up at our doors. The conversation is naturally very limited. But with these machines, we won’t even have that. Just a car turning up, following by the customer trudging out to punch in a code to open the doors.

Silent, efficient, and coldly impersonal.

And this is going to make the atomization and despair of contemporary western, and particularly American society, much worse. I’ve also come across a series of videos Chris Hedges has also made, in which he talks about the new American Fascism, and specifically the Religious Right. I think Hedges is probably an atheist, from some of the things he has said about the religious right promoting magical thinking. But he has a divinity degree, his father was a politically radical Presbyterian clergyman, his mother was also a divinity student, and so Hedges doesn’t hate religion or regard the antics of the religious right and the frauds and bigots leading it as normal. Indeed, he is at pains to show that, for all that they scream that they represent traditional values, they don’t. He states in one video that they’re as far from traditional Christian religious doctrine and practice as the religious liberals they despise.

One of the points he makes in these videos is that these bigots have been assisted in their rise to power by the social atomization of modern American society. In places like LA there are no pavements, so people can’t walk down the street. You have to drive. And so people drive straight to work, and then straight home. They don’t really meet or interact with anyone else. And the religious right has exploited this atomization, this alienation, by offering people a community in the ideologically enclosed space of their megachurches. And the people they target are those who have suffered from the attacks of neoliberalism – people in the rustbelt, who have seen their jobs decline and their communities fall into poverty along with them.

Other observers of the American Right have said the same. One of the essays in the book attacking the Neo-Cons, Confronting the New Conservativism, states that these b*stards are able to get away with promoting bigotry and racism, because of the decline in genuine, working class communities. The jobs are going, and White flight has meant that Whites have moved out of racially mixed areas in the centres of town to the suburbs. Community centres have also closed, and the attack on trade unions has also destroyed this pillar of working class community. The result is that the individual is left isolated from both people of other ethnic groups, and similar people to him- or herself. He or she goes to work and comes home. This isolation leaves them vulnerable to the vile propaganda spewed at them by bigots like Jerry Falwell and the rest of the rightwing televangelists that were thrown up by the 1980s.

This atomization and alienation is one of the fundamental characteristics of totalitarian societies of the Left and Right. In the Soviet Union, society was arranged so that people were deliberately isolated from each other. The only way of keeping in contact and forming communities and relationships, at least officially, was through the party organisations. Ditto with the Third Reich. Hitler boasted that they would never leave the individual alone, not even in a poker club.

And the driverless cars also remind me of another dystopian vision of the future, that of Ray Bradbury’s The Pedestrian. This is a tale by one of the great masters of SF, in which a man walking late at night is stopped and picked up by a police car. The car’s not crewed. It’s entirely automatic. Bradbury describes the computer punchcards being processed as the machine thinks. The machine asks the man why he’s on the streets so late at night. He replies simply that he just wanted to take a walk.

Already there are places in some American cities, where you can’t walk. Mike found this out a few years ago when he visited friends in California. You had to drive everywhere, even down to the local stores. Which means that the cold future of The Pedestrian really ain’t that far away.

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The Young Turks on the Republicans’ Hatred of College Education

August 20, 2017

‘Do I detect an air of anti-intellectualism in this country? Came in about four years ago.’

-Bill Hicks, American comic, speaking four years after the election of Ronald Reagan.

Earlier today I posted a piece commenting on clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, about Rush Limbaugh’s mindlessly stupid ridiculing of NASA’s announcement that they may have discovered flowing water on Mars. Limbaugh’s a right-wing radio host, who’s been fouling the airwaves with his views about liberals, socialists, communists, gays, feminists, anti-racism activists and so on since the 1980s. He sneered at NASA’s announcement because – wait for it – the agency was part of a ‘leftist’ plot to promote global warming!

Not only does he not understand the science, nor the reality of global warming, I don’t think he knows anything about NASA. I know quite a few people, who are fans of space exploration and research from across the political spectrum, including Conservatives. None of them have ever considered that the space agency was ‘left-wing’, although some of its leading scientists and advocates, like Carl Sagan, were. And the accusation that the agency’s data on global warming is faked for political purposes is risible.

But this shows the contempt Limbaugh has for science, and for education generally.

Florence, one of the many great commenters on this blog, has a background in microbiology and has been very interested in the question of life in space. She has posted a long comment to my piece. I recommend that you read all of it. But the end is particularly important, as she wonders how we got to this point where science is so despised.

And of course, back to NASA. I was fairly sure the alt-idiocy had already “proven” it was part of the deep state and the heart of black ops and skunk works and a branch of the CIA. These latest revelations only serve, as you say, to illustrate the total lack of education to an acceptable level in this day and age, more worryingly the lack of scientists in government in the USA and across the world. The charge against the scientific community lead by Trump and his “business men” ilk, with the violent and thuggish self styled fascist enforcers and militias coming out the woodwork in the last year, make the premise of the Handmaids Tale seem worryingly prophetic. How did this happen?

I think it’s part of a general distrust of intellectuals in American culture, which has increased massively amongst Republicans in recent years. In the piece below, The Young Turks discuss the finding that a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning people distrust college education. They also note that they don’t just look down on higher education. They also hate and distrust the media and science. 58 per cent of Republicans and Republican supporters state that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, compared to 45 per cent a year ago, in 2016.

Cenk Uygur suggests that part of this is the use of propaganda by the party’s leaders. Part of the problem is that Conservatives tend to be more authoritarian than left-wingers. Thus, they’re more likely to follow the opinions of their leaders, and in the case of the Republican party, these leaders despise higher education.

Ana Kasparian, his co-host, who I believe teaches political science herself, argues that it’s because the Republicans want to keep you stupid. They’re trying to privatize education, and get children instead to attend private schools through voucher schemes, where the normal educational standards do not apply. There’s more than an element of hypocrisy in this. Those public figures trying to destroy the American educational system and minimize the benefits of higher education are themselves highly educated. Many of them have gone to Ivy League universities. Anne Coulter is one example. In her book, which Kasparian laments she has had to read, ’cause she’s got to debate her, Coulter states that the only purpose of college education is to produce ‘social justice warriors’. Yet this woman went to Cornel. Yet education is one of the great indicators of how well an individual will do in the future. And as she points out, it also protects you from scams.

Yet the Republicans themselves are also slightly divided on the issue of the benefits of higher education. 46 per cent of Republicans earning less than $30,000 a year say that college has a beneficial effect on how well you do. This declines for those earning over $30,000 all the way down to 32 per cent.

Uygur and Kasparian admit that there are caveats and qualifications to this issue. Higher education has a down side, in that students are saddled with an immense amount of debt. This needs to be reformed. But Republicans don’t see college as a negative because they feel sorry for the students burdened with this debt. No, they want to keep people stupid and misinformed, so they don’t climb the economic ladder and they can’t fill them with some of the nonsense they believe.

Uygur concludes ‘So don’t go to university, because if you go to a real university, you might not go to a Trump university, and that would be bad for Trump.’

Once again, this is an American issue that applies almost in toto to Britain. Continental visitors and emigrants to Britain have commented on how anti-intellectual British society is. And this anti-intellectualism is again part of British Conservatism as well. Way back in the 1980s Private Eye reviewed a book on Conservative by the right-wing British philosopher, Roger Scruton. Scruton declared that Conservativism wasn’t an intellectual force, but was largely unspoken, and based on the power of tradition. For which the reviewer thanked Scruton for being honest about how anti-intellectual it was. Intellectuals and science are distrusted, because many of their findings contradict or cast doubt on traditional attitudes. For example, feminism attacks traditional notions of gender roles. Black and Asian intellectuals and activist have also undermined commonly held racial assumptions about White superiority and the subordinate role of their ethnic groups. Left-wing historians and political scientists have also challenged the class basis of western, including American and British society, as well as the supposed beneficial nature of western imperialism.

Some of the Republican distrust of science comes from Biblical literalism. The findings of geology and cosmology contradict a literal reading of the creation of the world in Genesis. That said, one study found that the people, who had the greatest faith in science were actually Creationists.

The Republicans and some of their British counterparts, like Nigel Lawson, also deny the reality of global warming. Hence Trump’s decision to close down that part of the federal government that researches and publishes studies of climate change and the pollution and decline of America’s epic natural beauty. It’s why Theresa May and Dave Cameron get annoyed whenever anyone shows how terrible fracking is for local people and the environment.

Science can be particularly difficult for the layperson to understand. It can involve very careful statistical analysis of complex data. And some of the raw phenomena are extremely weird. Quantum physics is a case in point. The world of subatomic particles is contradictory and very different from the macroscopic, everyday world. Subatomic particles dart into and out of existence in the quantum foam at the very lowest layer of matter. Light can be simultaneously a wave and a particle. Particles may be in two places at once, under their position is recorded by an observer. They can also move between one place in the atom to another without physically crossing the space in between. And two entangled atoms can behave as one, even though they may be separated by light years. It’s so bizarre that the scientists studying it have said that ‘you don’t understand it. You just get used to it.’

Also, some of the pronouncements made by intellectuals themselves have given critics ample ammunition. Like the statement by one professor a few years ago that snowmen were racist and sexist. Or the £20,000 in grant one scientist received for researching the terribly important issue of why cornflakes get soggy when you pour milk on them.

There’s also the problem that scientific opinion also keeps changing on medical matters. Every so often researchers discover that certain foods are harmful for you. On the other hand, certain others are beneficial. Only for these opinions to be revised a few years later.

But the nature of science is that it is a process, not a set body of knowledge, and that it’s conclusions and statements may be revised as and when later discoveries are made. It’s why no-one now believes that an immaterial fluid – the ether – permeates the universe, with atoms only whirlpools in it, as they did over a century or so ago.

And so the right-wing press, like the Scum all the way up to the Torygraph, and particularly the Daily Heil, will publish endless numbers of articles attacking ‘left-wing’ intellectuals. Paul Johnson, the Conservative pundit, who used to write for the Daily Mail and Spectator, amongst other rags, wrote a book on them. Entitled Intellectuals, Johnson used it to explore what right intellectuals had to tell us what was right and how to order our lives. Private Eye also reviewed this as well. You will not be surprised to read that most of the intellectuals Johnson wrote about were left-wing, and many of them had shabby personal lives. Karl Marx is one example. Others were gay, or otherwise had colourful sexual tastes, like Kenneth Tynan, who apparently was into S&M.

But none of this actually refutes the value of their work, which has to be judged on other terms. Marx’s own bad behavior as a man doesn’t contradict his philosophical and economic theories any more than Alan Turing’s homosexuality refutes his work on mathematics and computers. But this doesn’t stop Johnson trying to tell you that their own bad behavior disqualifies intellectuals from having the right to explore how society may be improved. An attitude that, incidentally, is apparently shared by that other Johnson, Boris. This should rule Boris out as well as a serious politician, if true.

In the meantime, don’t let the Tories and Republicans run down public education. And stick up for proper intellectuals and intellectual discourse. As someone once said, ‘Eggheads of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your brains.’

The Young Turks: Indiegogo and Google Refuse to Host Nazi Internet Site after Charlottesville

August 18, 2017

A few days ago Mike put up a piece reporting how internet providers and servers are throwing out Nazi and White supremacist internet sites after the violent Nazi march in Charlottesville last Friday.

In this clip from The Young Turks, hosts Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian report and comment on Indiegogo’s and Google’s refusal to host the Nazi site, The Daily Stormer. The site takes its name from the Nazi newspaper, Der Sturmer, which was notorious for its anti-Semitic vilification of Jews. The Daily Stormer is blatantly racist and White supremacist, viciously denigrating Jews, Blacks and, of course, homosexuals.

After Heather Heyer, one of the protesters, was killed by the Nazi, who drove his car into 20 people, the Daily Stormer wrote a piece deriding her as ‘a 32-year old, fat, childless slut’. This was too much for their service provider, Indiegogo, who told them that they were terminating their contract.

The Stormer then tried to sign on with Google. They had no luck there. After three hours, Google told them they were refusing to host them, and they had 48 hours to find another web server, who would.

Uygur and Kasparian also attack the false equivalence Trump and the Republicans made between the anti-Nazis and the Nazis, especially Black Lives Matter. BLM came in for particular vilification for a chant some of the protesters on a march sang in mockery of the cops, ‘Pigs in a blanket, watch them fry’. The Republicans regularly portray and attack the left as being extremely violent, while in fact the violence comes mainly from the extreme right.

Trump Cuts Funding to Anti-Nazi Programmes

August 17, 2017

More evidence of Trump’s blatant sympathies with real Fascists and White supremacists. In this clip from The Young Turks, presenters Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian talk about Trump cutting funding to counter-terrorist programmes focusing on Nazism and White racist terrorism. Late in his presidency, Barak Obama gave a $400,000 grant to a group, Life After Hate. This is a group dedicated to getting people out of Nazi and White racist groups without them suffering retaliation from their former national comrades. This has now been dropped. They make the point that Obama wasn’t entirely a figure of unalloyed moral purity here. Obama left it late to give money to the group because he was intimidated by Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh’s a notorious blowhard on right-wing radio. He’s been around spreading hate and promoting free market Reaganonomics to his declining audience since the 1980s. He’s also a massive hypocrite, as he was caught a few years ago trying to smuggle through customs a large quantity of prescription drugs from the Caribbean, despite his denunciations of drug abuse. Hopefully, he won’t be around much longer as his station’s in financial trouble. It’s losing backers because they’ve finally woken to the fact that, rather than being a powerhouse of right-wing propaganda, he’s actually got fewer listeners than College radio stations.

After Trump cut funding to Life After Hate, there was a 20 per cent increase in calls for help to the organization from people fearing signs of radicalization in themselves or others.

Trump also froze $10 million of funding to the Countering Violent Extremism initiative of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. This wasn’t because Trump was not concerned about the threat posed by terrorist groups. He was just concerned with the threat posed by Muslim organisations, and wanted to sort through the funding to that it could be stopped for White racist organisations.

This was despite an official report from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security stating that White racist organizations were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 terrorist attacks. This was a greater proportion than other terrorist groups.

Trump also cut $900,000 of funding for a deradicalisation programme being run by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the same reason. It didn’t just focus on Muslims but included White nationalists.

Uygur and Kasparian also note that the Trump administration is stuffed full of people like Sebastian Gorka and his wife, Katharine, who believe that there is no White racist terrorism and are fanatically anti-Muslim. Uygur states that Gorka was known in far right, anti-Muslims circles for a long time before he joined Trump’s government.

That isn’t all. Gorka has also been a part of militant Hungarian nationalist and far right-wing organisations. These are not just anti-Muslim, but anti-Semitic. I’ve put up pieces from, I think, Sam Seder’s Majority Report where he discusses how Gorka has not only been a member of these organisations, but also sports the insignia of one of nationalist groups led by Admiral Horthy. Horthy was the dictator of Hungary from the 1920s to the end of the Second World War. He was another anti-Semite, who allied the country with Nazi Germany. Late in the War, when the Nazis were losing, he allowed them to round up and send 400,000 Hungarian Jews to the death camps. Tony Greenstein in one of his articles has pointed out that by this time, Germany was in such a weak position that he could have successfully refused to allow this, as the Nazis would have been desperate to keep one of their few remaining allies.

The report by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security also warned that White supremacist terrorism was growing, and would soon by a major threat. As we’ve seen a week ago in Charlottesville, this prediction is all too correct.

Farage, Michael Savage and Katie Hopkins Demand Muslim Internment Camps

June 7, 2017

More Fascism from the former generalissimo of UKIP, Nigel Farage, the far-right American talk show host, Michael Savage and Katie Hopkins.

In this piece from The Young Turks, hosts Ana Kasparian, Jimmy Dore and John Iadarola discuss the Fuhrage’s call for the 20,000 or so Muslim ‘persons of interest’ – that is, Muslims with terrorist connections, but who have not committed any offence – should be interned. The call was echoed by Michael Savage, who is so racist that he was put on a list of people banned from entering Britain nearly a decade ago by the Blair administration. Although they don’t talk about her, the third person, who has demanded these people should be interned is right-wing rent-a-gob, Katy Hopkins. The Young Turks don’t talk about her, but her mugs up there with Bilious Barrage and Savage. She clearly hasn’t learned her less from when she lost her job with LBC after Tweeting that we needed a ‘final solution’ to Islamic terrorism. It was unclear whether she meant a ‘true solution’, as she later Tweeted, or if she really did mean a Holocaust. The fact that she’s kept her job at the Daily Heil shows how close to Fascism that rag is.

The Turks talk about the evils of Japanese internment during World War II, and how this smears the entire Muslim community in America. Muslims have supported synagogues and Jewish community centres, which have been the victims of anti-Semitic vandalism. At the same time, the Jewish community in America has come together to support Muslims against the racist policies promoted by Donald Trump. The Turks point out that the Muslim community has put out again and yet again statements and fatwas condemning terrorism. 47 imams in Britain have issued a statement saying that they will not bury the perpetrators of the recent terror attacks.

But still the right, represented by these moronic bigots, continue to demonise Muslims as potential terrorists.

This time, Farage and co have gone too far, even for the extremely right-wing Fox News. The video includes a clip from Fox and Friends of the hosts very quickly distancing themselves and the network from Farage’s chilling call. They state that the Fox Network does not endorse his demand.

Farage was the man Trump wanted to be the British ambassador to America. He’s been ousted as the leader of UKIP, but according to Hope Not Hate, he and a former donor to UKIP are planning for him to come back later this year as the head of an even more right-wing party, the Patriotic Alliance. Well, the name ‘National Front’ had already been taken.

I realise that Farage and co are talking about supporters of terrorism, rather than all Muslims. Nevertheless, this is how dictatorships begin. Some extreme right-wing Tories considered internment as a tactic against the IRA during the Troubles. Fortunately the government pulled back on it. Not only does it edge that much closer to true authoritarian government, but it also serves to radicalise the very community you are trying to prevent supporting terrorism.

And there is the danger that if you start with section of the community, the use of internment and similar extreme measures will be extended against others, until you have a genuine Fascist dictatorship with the disappearance and arbitrary arrest of political prisoners.

This is what Farage’s demands for internment produce. He, Savage and Hopkins are a disgrace, and he should not be allowed back into British politics.

Chicago University Bans Alt-Lite Speaker for Incitement to Violence

May 18, 2017

There’s a grim piece by Simon Murdoch on Hope Not Hate’s site today, reporting that DePaul University in Chicago has cancelled an event by Gavin McInnes because of a speech McInnes gave at one of the unis in New York urging his supporters to use violence against left-wing protestors. The article also discusses the formation of a militant ‘Alt-Knight’ organisation by another member of the same far-right grouping, which also shows how the Alt-Right and its ‘soft’ counterpart, the Alt-Lite, are becoming just another form of the Klan.

McInnes is the co-founder of Vice and a host on Rebel Media, a far right platform. In his speech at New York University, McInnes told his audience

“We’re the only ones fighting these [protesters] and I want you to fight them, too […] When they go low, go lower. Mace them back, throw bricks at their head. Let’s destroy them.”

Last year, 2016, he also founded Proud Boys, a fraternal order for men, ‘who are unapologetic about creating the modern world.’ Initiation into the organisation consists of four stages, the last of which is a physically violence confrontation with the Left. McInnes told Metro that this means involvement in ‘a major fight for the cause’, saying “You get beat up, kinck [sic] the crap out of antifa”.

He also told Metro that “not only would [he] love to speak” with those who protest in disagreement of his views, but that he will also “get violent and beat the f–k out of everybody”.

Members of the Proud Boys were involved in the violence at Berkeley, which erupted when Anne Coulter was due to speak there. The order also has a more ‘militant’ wing, founded by Kyle Chapman, who goes by the name of ‘Based Stick Man’, with McInnes’ approval. This calls itself the ‘Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights’. Chapman himself was arrested after fighting a member of the public at a rally in Berkeley. Before that, he had also been arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon at a Trump rally.

http://hopenothate.org.uk/2017/05/18/rebel-media-hosts-speech-banned-statements-encouraging-violence/

It probably won’t surprise anyone to hear members of the far-right advocate violence against their opponents on the Left. It’s always been there, ever since Hitler founded the SA and then SS as the official paramilitary wings of the Nazi party, the squadristi of Fascist Italy, and the ‘Biff Boys’ of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. Quite apart from the skinhead boot boys, who form the thuggish hard core of post-War Fascism in Britain, North America and Europe.

As for the Alt-Knights, the Hope Not Hate article states that it refers back to the ‘Alt-Lite’ movement of which McInnes and Chapman are members. Well, perhaps. But it also seems to be a nod to a much older, violently racist organisation: the KKK. The Klan’s full title, or at least one of them, was ‘The Invisible Empire of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan’.

The Alt-Right has been described as the Klan with keyboards. Now it seems that the similarities with the KKK are becoming ever stronger and more blatant every day. The other day The Young Turks commented on a torchlight vigil organised by supporters of the Confederacy to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee by the town council of Charlottesville, Virginia. Among those protesting was Richard Spencer, the White nationalist, anti-Semitic founder of the Alt-Right. The protestors chanted ‘You will not replace us’, ‘Russia is our friend’, and ‘Blood and Soil’.

The presenters of the video, Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, state that the comments by the protestors that it wasn’t a racist issue, is contradicted by Spencer’s presence. They also demolish attempts by the supporters of Confederacy, who have tried arguing instead that the American Civil War wasn’t about slavery. They point out that instead of northern liberals not understanding history, it’s really southern Conservatives, as if you look at everything the leaders and defenders of the Confederacy wrote, they made it clear that it was about defending slavery.

This is a sharp refutation of some of the propaganda coming out of organisations like the Von Mises Institute, named after another Austrian free trade economist, who scarpered to America to escape the Nazis, while sharing their hostility to socialism and the organised working class. This outfit has also tried to argue that the Civil War was really about trade tariffs between the South and the rest of the US.

What they don’t comment on, but which makes the racist overtones of the protest very clear, is one of the slogans the crowd chanted. ‘Blood and soil’, or ‘Blut und Boden’ in German, was one of the watchwords of the Nazi party. It was based on the pseudoscientific doctrine that national characteristics were determined by the environment and landscape of a people’s racial homeland.

Observers of Trump’s rise last year remarked on the Fascistic violence that broke out against people of colour and left-wing protestors at the Orange Generalissimo’s rallies. Trump himself in one speech actually urged his supporters to beat his opponents, promising to pay their legal bills if they did.
This development shows just how deeply rooted is violence in the far-right organisations that back him. And they also show how close these organisations are to the older traditions of violent racism in Nazi and Fascist paramilitary organisations and the weird regalia and ritual of the KKK.

The Young Turks Lay in to Daily Mail’s Sexist Cover

March 30, 2017

The Daily Heil regularly judges women and girls on their appearance, rather than their intellectual abilities and achievements, but a few days ago they surpassed themselves by running a piece by Sarah Vine about whether Theresa May or Nicola Sturgeon had the best legs as their cover story. The headline was ‘Never Mind Brexit, What about Legs-It’ or something similar, and showed a photograph of May and Sturgeon sitting together in skirts which rose above the knees. And The American progressive internet news show, The Young Turks, have duly laid into the article for its sexism.

Cenk Uygur noted that Theresa May just shrugged it off as a ‘bit of a laugh’, as she would, considering that one of her press secretaries used to work for the Heil. Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader, simply commented that ‘the 1950s called. They want their headline back.’ Uygur and his co-host, Ana Kasparian, then ripped into the article proper. This raved about how the women’s ‘pins’ and ‘shanks’ were the two women’s greatest weapons. However, Theresa May sat demurely, as befitting the public schoolgirl vicar’s daughter she was. Sturgeon, however, was rather more sexy, ‘seductively’ pointing her feet at the audience.

Uygur and Kasparian point out that the article’s describing two of the most powerful women in Britain – the British Prime Minister, and the First Minister of Scotland. These two ladies were discussing a vitally important issue – Britain’s departure from the European Union, which also threatens to destroy the three-century old union with Scotland, should Scots vote to remain in the EU. And the Daily Mail is there trivialising the issue into a simple contest over which one had the better legs. Uygur says at one point that he doesn’t know what Vine’s ‘proclivities’ are, but Sturgeon wasn’t trying to seduce the audience. She was just sitting there. Kasparian was also deeply unimpressed about the Mail’s blatant sexism, and advised Vine to go off and examine her life.

Here’s the video:

This rather unsavoury piece of journalism is very much par for the course for the Mail, whose articles frequently comment on the appearance of female personalities and celebrities. The newspaper was specifically aimed at a female readership when it was set up in the 20s or 30s. It was aimed at the wives of the men, who read the Torygraph. Despite this, it has a very strong anti-feminist stance. In the 1990s it ran an article about a group of women calling themselves the fluffragettes. These young women were a kind of anti-feminist group, who wanted women to go back to being more ‘feminine’ – in their view – by being ‘fluffy’. And feminists have frequently criticised the paper for the way it judges women by their appearance. This is not just demeaning, but also dangerous. Many girls and young women are severely anxious about their bodies, which can and does lead to problems like eating disorders and an obsessive concern with pursuing an illusory ideal of female beauty and physical perfection, an ideal that can take over and ruin the lives of women, who have absolutely nothing wrong with their appearance in the first place. And this is quite apart from fostering the attitude that, whatever else a woman may achieve, her primary role is simply to look good.

This whole issue also distorts and complicates attitudes in the workplace. Since the 1970s feminists have been campaigning against sexual harassment at work. Again, a few years ago there was a piece of research, in which groups of men and women were shown or played footage of a man greeting female colleagues in various ways, including commenting on their appearance. This was done in order to gauge what the audience considered sexual harassment. Normal greetings at the start of the working day, like ‘Good morning, Mrs X,’, or ‘Hi, Sue’ obviously don’t count. When it involves commenting on a woman’s appearance, it can be sexist or demeaning, or be construed as such.

The Mail’s obsession with female appearance creepily extends to teenage girls. A few years ago Ian Hislop and some of the other panelists on Have I Got News For You also laid into the Heil for its very dubious moral stance in whipping up fears about predatory paedophiles, when it also ran sexualised articles about teenage girls. They made the point that the newspaper regularly printed articles showing photographs of 14 year old girls under headlines admiring their beauty.

I have to say I was really somewhat amazed by the Mail’s attitude, as it didn’t strike me that there was anything particularly sexy about the women’s pose. May and Sturgeon are politicians, which is hardly a physically glamorous profession. One comedian once said that it was ‘Hollywood for ugly people’. It’s not entirely true, but it does make the point that most politicians aren’t there because of their good looks. Nor should they be. The only criteria for their election to office should be whether they are effective representatives of their constituencies and good managers and leaders. And it also goes without saying that they should also be moral, law-abiding citizens.

It’s also not a bad idea to have a female journo commenting on May and Sturgeon as politicians and negotiators. There’s one strand of feminism, which says that women bring a different set of skills and perspectives to politics than their male comrades. I did wonder whether Thatcher deliberately excluded women from her cabinet, because they could see through her management strategies in a way that may not have been apparent to the men there, and so formed a potential challenge to her authority. If women do have a different leadership style, then it would make sense to have a female writer analyse it, as she might be able to perceive subtle nuances that may not be quite so apparent to a bloke.

But this was precisely what the article didn’t give us. We didn’t get any deep insights into the debate about Brexit and the British constitution between the two leaders. We just got a bit of drivel about which one had the better ‘pins’. It really does make you wonder about the people writing and reading the Heil. My guess is that many of the hacks there have come from the even lower end of the tabloid spectrum, like the Scum, which regularly feature various attractive young women in states of undress. The Heil is supposedly somewhat above this style of journalism, but as this headline showed, not by much. The journalistic urge to write about how glamorous and sexy a woman is, is still very much there. It’s just that it’s now applied to female politicians.

I think Ana Kasparian’s right. Someone at the Heil desperately needs to sort their life out. Or take a cold shower, at least.

David Pakman on Anti-Semitic and Racist Republican Candidate Escorted Offstage at Kentucky University

February 23, 2017

In my last post, I discussed the rise in racism in this country and America, as reported in Mike’s recent post about the fall in immigration and rise in hate crime following Brexit, and the anti-Semitic desecration of a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis. This incident has had a more positive sequel, in that a Muslim organisation has so far raised $71,000 to be spent on repairing the cemetery and other Jewish communities, that have suffered similar attacks.

Discussing the American attacks, Ben Mankiewicz and Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks made the point that they were part of the wave of hate that has been unleashed by Trump’s bigoted rhetoric and campaigning. While Trump has a Jewish son-in-law, whom his daughter converted to Judaism to marry, and denies that he is anti-Semitic, his supporters include Steve Bannon of Breitbart, an anti-Semite and White supremacist, and Richard Spencer, the leader of the Alt-Right, which comprises anti-Semites, White Supremacists and other far-right bigots.

Unfortunately, there has been a racist strain in the Republican party for a very long time. Ever since, in fact, Richard Nixon devised the ‘Southern Strategy’ to keep hold of the South by playing on the racist fears of White voters after desegregation. One of the leading Republican politicos is David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. And I can remember how Joe Queenan on the BBC Radio 4 programme, Postcard from Gotham, greeted the electoral victory of Pat Buchanan in New Hampshire with the statement that the only thing you could now in that state were cries of ‘Duce! Duce!’ after Mussolini.

In this piece from 2014, David Pakman reports on a speech at Kentucky University’s ‘Constitution Day’, which resulted in the speaker being escorted off stage by university staff. This was Robert Edward Rensdell, a rising Republican candidate for the senate with appalling anti-Semitic and White separatist views. Rensdell had previously put placards up with his slogan ‘With Jews we lose’ all over Cincinnati. He has also called Blacks ‘savages’ and looked back to the racist past as a time when ‘Blacks knew better’ than to pick on White people, particularly women and children.

Instead of the speech on the American Constitution they were no doubt expecting, the university’s students got a racist rant.

Pakman himself also warns about treating Rensdell and his antics too lightly, as if he represented no more of a threat than a few tasteless comments. He talks about how he had on his programme Frasier Glen Miller another racist Republican senator ten years before. Miller was openly anti-Semitic on his show, insulting Pakman personally with remarks about his Jewish heritage. Miller has since been convicted of the murder of two Jewish people at different Jewish community centres. Pakman points out that the racism expressed and promoted by people like Rensdell and Miller has terrible real world consequences, and can very quickly turn to violence.

Muslims Come to the Aid of Vandalised Jewish Cemetery

February 23, 2017

The election of Donald Trump in America and the Brexit vote in Britain last year has led to a massive growth in racial bigotry and intolerance in both countries. Mike has put up on his blog today a critique of the government’s statement that migration to the UK has gone down. He points out that this is hardly surprising, given that hate crime has risen by 41 per cent. This includes assaults, arson attacks and canine excrement thrown at doors or shoved through letter boxes. He wonders if any of the Tory and UKIP politicos – David Cameron, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson or Michael Gove are really worried about this. It is, after all, not them or their class that’s being attacked, but Johnny Foreigner. Mike reminds us that Jo Cox, a politician, was murdered in a racist attack by Thomas Mair, and notes that the Commons yesterday cheered a move to commemorate the anniversary of her murder with the Great Get-Together, an initiative intended to bring communities together.

But he also remarks that there’s a bit of hypocrisy in their support for it, saying that

It would be hypocritical for them to applaud a drop in net migration fuelled by the same hate that ended Mrs Cox’s life.

The fact that violence is the real reason net migration has fallen means this is not a success for the United Kingdom and Theresa May.

As a nation, we should be ashamed.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/23/of-course-immigration-fell-after-the-brexit-vote-hate-crime-has-increased-dramatically/

The Young Turks on Tuesday reported the anti-Semitic desecration of about 200 graves in a Jewish cemetery in University City near St. Louis. One elderly lady from the community states that she no longer feels safe after the attack. This is not the only Jewish community has been attacked. So far 54 Jewish community centres have been threatened this year, including 11 in the past week. Discussing the incident, the two presenters, Ben Mankiewicz and Ana Kasparian, make the point that this hate has partly been unleashed by Donald Trump and his rhetoric and campaigns against Muslims and other groups, with Kasparian mentioning the misogyny in his speeches. They make the point that it is no accident that Trump’s cabinet includes Breitbart’s Steve Bannon, an anti-Semite and White supremacist, and his supporters include Richard Spencer, the leader of the Alt-Right. Spencer was interviewed by the left-wing news host, David Pakman, on his show. While Spencer denies being a Nazi, he refused to denounce Adolf Hitler. He said instead that he wasn’t ‘going to play those games’. He did state that the Third Reich was a failure. Which is something, but not the same as condemning it or Nazism. They also note that in his speech for Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump somehow forgot to mention the Jews. Despite his own denial that he is anti-Semitic, Trump was very reluctant to disavow the support of David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Mankiewicz and Kasparian make the point that the people listening to Trump’s hate, and who feel emboldened and encouraged by it, aren’t going to limit their own hatred and attacks merely to the groups he’s selected. So even though Trump has denied that he is anti-Semitic, pointing out that his son-in-law is Jewish, and his daughter converted to Judaism to marry him, Trump’s own racist campaigning is responsible for encouraging these attacks on Jewish communities.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, has drawn fire for her father’s opponents, as she has tweeted a statement condemning the attack, which points out, quite rightly, that America was founded on religious toleration, and that we need to defend each others houses of worship.

There have also been an attempt by one right-wing journalist to blame the Left for the attack. Wolf Blitzer claimed that the cemetery was desecrated by Progressives. This seems to me to be complete and utter bilge. The Left, by and large, is very anti-racist. This accusation just seems to me to come from that part of the Republican and Libertarian ideologies that think that the Nazis were Socialists, ’cause Hitler put ‘Socialism’ in their name. He did, but only to draw some supporters away from the parties of the Left, such as the Social Democrats, the German equivalent of the Labour party, by making it appear that they were socialists. See the appropriate page in Joachim C. Fest’s biography of the nauseating little man, Hitler. And Hitler had to overcome the resistance of the other, founding members of the Nazi party, who bitterly despised Socialism and very definitely did not want their party to be associated with it. It also seems to me that the smear also owes something to continuing attempts to attack the BDS campaign against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This is an anti-racist campaign, supported by very many Jews as well as gentiles. But the Zionist lobby have always responded to criticism of Israeli imperialism and racism by smearing their opponents as anti-Semites. Many progressives as doubtless involved in the BDS movement as part of their general campaign against all forms of racism. But for the Israel lobby and their journalistic supporters, the progressives involved in the BDS campaign and similar movements must be anti-Semites. And from their it’s only a short leap to claiming that Progressives must somehow be responsible for this and similar attacks.

More positively, a Muslim organisation has come forward and raised money for the cemetery’s repair. Linda Sarsour, a Muslim activist, and one of the four principal organisers of the Women’s March on Washington, set up a website to raise the money. She wanted to get $20,000. Instead she raised $71,000. This is more than is needed for the cemetery in St. Louis, so the money will also be used to help other Jewish communities that have suffered attacks. The website states that it was set up to send a clear message from the Muslim and Jewish communities against such intolerance.

The programme’s hosts, Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian state that this shows the best of America, and that people are coming together to defend other victims of intolerance, whether it is over skin colour or religion. Kasparian states that she feels that there isn’t enough coverage of movements and events like this, as quite often the focus is dominated by the negative things now happening. But this makes her feel more positive and hopeful.

I don’t think this is the only incident in which the members of one religion have reached out to aid those from others, which are in need. There have been cases like it in this country, one of the most recent examples being the decision of some Asian restaurants and takeaways in Britain to stay open on Christmas Day to supply meals for the homeless. The Get-Together campaign cheered in the Commons yesterday is only the latest and most prominent of these events and movements. And there will undoubtedly be more of them, as more people come together to tackle the intolerance and Fascism unleashed by Trump and Brexit.

The Young Turks on Women’s General Strike Planned for March 8

February 19, 2017

After the successes of the women’s marches across America and many other parts of the world, including Britain, the organisers are calling for another, expanded march and day of protest on March 8th – International Women’s Day. They don’t want the previous march to be a single event, which everyone then moves on from and then forgets. They want to keep the pressure up and the issues alive. Not only do they plan another march, but they’re also calling for a general strike by women. They state:

In the spirit of women and their allies coming together for love and liberation, we offer A Day Without A Woman. We ask: do businesses support our communities, or do they drain our communities? Do they strive for gender equity or do they support the policies and leaders that perpetuate oppression? Do they align with a sustainable environment or do they profit off destruction and steal the futures of our children?

The two hosts, Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, point out that many men also joined the women’s march, and that it wasn’t just about one issue, but about a number that worry Americans. They also make the point that protesting is a quintessential tradition of American freedom, and warn about biased reporting from Fox News. Faux News broadcast some sneering, distorted coverage of the original women’s march, claiming that the marchers didn’t know what they were protesting against. To provide some similitude, they interviewed some people marching, who were less than articulate and informed than others. They make the point that this is the stand Faux News trick. If they ask 20 people about a protest, and 19 give a clear, informed answer, but one doesn’t, they’ll broadcast the answer of that one person.

They also jokingly wonder what’ll happen on March 8th, if Ana Kasparian and the show’s female producers and staff don’t come in.

Not everybody was happy with the inclusiveness of the women’s march. Julian Vigo, one of the contributors to Counterpunch, argued that its effect was diluted because it didn’t solely concentrate on women and their issues. I think she’s wrong. The march was very popular, because it included women’s equality as one of a number of issues that concerned women and men. I can remember some of the feminists campaigning in the Labour party, who tried to appeal to women to come out and vote during one election, saying that they believed that ‘every issue is a women’s issue’.

As for Faux News, well, what do you expect? They didn’t get their nickname for nothing. Academics, who’ve analysed their content has said that 75 per cent of it is rubbish. You’re actually less informed if you watch Fox than if you don’t. And pretty much could be said about the Dirty Diggers newspapers around the world, not excluding the Times.

There have been a number of general strikes by women around the world, ever since the ancient Greek play, Lysistrata. There was one way back in the 1970s or ’80s in Iceland, if memory serves me right.

It will be interesting to see if there’s a general strike by this country’s women. We suffer from the same issues that are plaguing America – poverty, starvation, stagnant and declining wages, cuts to benefits, destruction of the welfare state and attacks on state healthcare provision. But the head of the government is Theresa May, and these grotty policies were introduced by Maggie Thatcher. As a result, I’m afraid that if there is a march and women’s strike, the protestors will be smeared as misogynists. Killary’s platform was essentially Conservative, and she herself a staunch supporter of Wall Street and the power of big business. She had also supported the Iraq invasion, and a Fascist coup in Honduras, which saw a female indigenous leader murdered by a right-wing death squad. Despite the fact that her policies would have hurt millions of women across America and beyond, her supporters were smearing her critics, and particularly supporters of Bernie Sanders, as misogynists. There was also the unedifying spectacle of Madeleine Albright, who has very vocally supported all manner of international aggression and atrocities by the US, telling women that there was a ‘special place in hell’ for them if they didn’t vote for Hillary.

British feminists have also shown that they’ll back a female politico, even if they despise her policies. When Thatcher was ousted Germaine Greer penned a piece ‘A Sad Day for Every Woman’, lamenting the removal from power of the first female British prime minister. This was despite Thatcher not considering herself a feminist, there being no women in her cabinet, and the active damage her policies had inflicted on women in general.

Similarly, various female hacks in the Graun and other papers, including the I, tried to claim that Angela Eagle was the victim and other female Labour politicos were the victims of terrible misogyny from Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, just as Killary’s supporters had tried to smear Sanders’, and similarly without any real evidence.

We definitely need more mass demonstrations and days of action in this country against the government and its vile policies, policies that are killing hundreds, and leaving millions in poverty and starvation. But I fear that if women march and strike against Theresa May, just like they marched against the Orange Buffoon, they’ll be attacked and smeared for their lack of solidarity to a female leader.