Posts Tagged ‘Baader-Meinhof Gang’

Maoist Rebel News on Nazi Coup Plot in Germany

November 30, 2018

I’ve absolutely no respect for Chairman Mao. Far from being a liberator, the former Chinese dictator was a ruthless butcher, who killed and brutalized millions during the ‘Cultural Revolution’. Over 60 million people died in the artificial famine his regime created. He and his comrades were also vandals and barbarians, who tried to destroy China’s millennia old culture by smashing monuments and priceless art treasures, as well as the ruthless persecution of religion, including Buddhism and Taoism, as well as Christianity.

But Jason Unruhe of Maoist Rebel News says some very interesting things and makes some very acute observations of contemporary capitalism. In this piece, he discusses reports, found only in the Mail and RT, that the German authorities discovered a Nazi plot by serving members of the armed forces to overthrow the government. The plot including 14,000 soldiers, who were members of Nazi organisations. It’s a trivial number compared to the vast numbers in the German armed forces, but it’s serious because they were genuine Nazis. In the event of widespread unrest, the plotters in the military planned to leave the civilian government to its fate, and start re-opening concentration camps, in which they would incarcerate leftists and members of ethnic minorities.

Unruhe notes that this story seems to have been comprehensively buried by all of the media, with the exception of the two above, because of its explosive nature. He also states that we don’t know how many people have been arrested. This is a serious threat to democracy and justice in Germany. It means anti-Fascists have to become better organized and equipped, with German antifas now in a dangerous position. This plot means that they are Europe’s first and best line of defence against a real Nazi resurgence.

I can’t say I’m surprised at the high number of real Nazis in Germany’s military. The Baader-Meinhof Gang in the 1970s were spurred on to carry out their terror attacks from the realization that the denazification campaign after the War had only affected a comparatively small number of those serving Hitler’s vile regime. Many others had escaped, and despite their horrific crimes were living peaceful, comfortable lives. The British and Americans recruited Nazi agents and collaborators, including men responsible for vicious pogroms and massacres against Jews, for the intelligence agencies during the Cold War. It thus really wouldn’t surprise me if they let many Nazi members of the armed forces keep their jobs in the Cold War as part of Europe’s defence against Stalin. Just as they set up Gladio, a left-behind resistance network that would fight Communism if the Warsaw Pact successfully invaded and conquered the West. The feared invasion mercifully never happened, but various elements of the Gladio network were involved in far right-wing terrorism. It’s possible something similar could have been behind the persistence of real Nazism in the armed forces. Also, the neo-Nazi papers on sale in the eastern parts of the Federal Republic after the War styled themselves as the newspapers for soldiers and peasants.

Fascism is now a very real threat in Europe, with the election of Far-right wing parties to power in Poland, Hungary and other countries in eastern Europe, Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France, and the Fascist Alternative fuer Deutschland on the rise in Germany. The leaders and senior members of the latter do have Nazi, or neo-Nazi connections. They’ve made speeches denouncing Germany’s Holocaust memorial as a ‘national shame’, and declared that if they got into power they’d open an underground railway to Auschwitz.

But I’m not as pessimistic as Unruhe is here. I got the distinct impression that young Germans are very anti-totalitarian, and that German anarchists, who are very ready to fight Fascism on the streets, are very well organized.

This is, of course, if there’s anything to this story at all. I think it probably is true, but it may be fake news concocted for some strange reason, and released only by those two sources. I also wonder about the figures involved. 14,000 sounds very high. I’m not sure that the National Democrats or the German Republican Party, two of the main neo-Nazi parties before the AfD a few years ago, had anywhere near that number of members. They certainly didn’t have much popular support, as they always came very low down the list in German elections, although the NDP did manage to get something like four members elected to the Reichstag or somewhere in Germany before they were banned.

But if this is true, then it’s a frightening demonstration of how serious a threat Fascism now is. It has to be fought wherever it’s found, right across Europe, before it seizes power again and begins another Holocaust.

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Thomas Klikauer: Nazism Enters the Reichstag with the AfD

September 26, 2017

The German elections two days ago saw the extreme right-wing Alternative fuer Deutschland gain 12 per cent of the votes, and has become Germany’s third largest political party behind the Christian Democrats, Germany’s equivalent to the Conservative party, and the Social Democrats, their equivalent of Labour. The party’s militantly xenophobic with a deep hatred of Muslims. Thomas Klikauer today published a very frightening analysis of the party and its history in Counterpunch. He states categorically that they’re Nazis, backing up this claim with a chilling amount of supporting evidence. Some of which is absolutely horrifying, such as a speech made by one of these modern stormtroopers in which he announced that they would ‘build a subway to Auschwitz’.

Klikauer states that the Alternative fuer Deutschland has all the racism, stupidity and anti-intellectualism of the original Nazis. Their nickname across the Nordsee is the Alternative for the Dumb, here in the American meaning of ‘stupid’. He argues that the party has its roots in Germany’s failure to denazify after the War. When the Cold War began c. 1950, the arrest and prosecution of Nazi officials and collaborators ceased, and many were recruited by the allies into senior positions in politics, the judiciary and civil service. He also makes the point that like the old Nazis, whose rise was assisted by the Hugenberg press, a compliant media has also helped the AfD. All the main TV stations in Germany invited their members on to speak, asking them about immigration. This was the first time a neo-Nazi party had been invited onto the media, just as this is the first time since the War that Nazis, in the guise of the AfD, have entered the German parliament. Many Germans have been shocked by the fawning treatment given them by the media, and one person commented that the first part of a 100-minute debate on them looked like an advert for them instead.

He also links the party’s rise to an upsurge in racist and political violence. Between 1990 and 2013, 184 people were killed in right-wing attacks. The victims were Turkish Germans, Muslims, the homeless, punks, and refugees, amongst others.

The part was founded in 2013 by Bernd Lucke, a nationalistic capitalist, in Klikauer’s phrase, as a more rightwing party than the Christian Democrats. However, more extreme right-wing elements soon entered and took it over in a process that included the election of Frauke Petry as its leader in 2015. From 2014 onwards it has had its representatives in several of the governments of Germany’s constituent laender. it is bitterly opposed to abortion, racist, ultra-nationalist, fiercely xenophobic and embraces the Nazi past. Petry herself wishes to reintroduce the volkisch ideology of the Nazis, along with Reichsburgerschaft: racial citizenship. Alice Weidel, one of the party’s chief activists, has denounced Merkel and her cabinet as ‘pigs’ and ‘puppets of the winners of World War II’, and claiming that Germany was not ‘sovereign’. Klikauer doesn’t mention it, but this is very much like the Nazis’ denunciation of the chief parties of Weimar coalition – the Catholic Centre Party, the Social Democrats and the two Liberal Parties as the ‘November criminals’ following Germany’s defeat in the First World War and the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles. Klikauer states that Pegida is the AfD’s modern equivalent of the old Nazis’ SS and SA. The head of the party’s youth wing, Markus Frohnmaier has connections to the German Defence League. He also made a speech saying that the AfD ‘would clean Germany out’, which he states is very much the language of the Nazis.

Like the American Nazis in Charlottesville, the stormtroopers of the AfD believe that there is a Jewish plot to replace Europeans with peoples from outside the continent, mainly the Middle East. The AfD author Wolfgang Gedeon blames the world’s evils on the Jews, America, Zionism, Muslims, gays and the left. One of the other leading figures in the AfD, Stephan Brandner, declared that Angela Merkel should be locked up, just like Trump raised the same chant against Hillary Clinton. And like Trump, he claimed that the Antifa are the modern equivalents of the SA.

Frank Magnitz, one of the party’s people in Bremen, put up a picture on a net with a red button and group of praying Muslims, saying, ‘If you could push a button and wipe out all Islam, you’d do it. Yes!’ The genocidal language and ideology as the Nazis. The party’s second-in-command, Alexander Gauland, said at a neo-Nazi meeting at Kyfferhausen, another Nazi pilgrimage site, that he was extremely proud of German soldiers in the First and Second World War. Klikauer makes sees this as an affirmation of the Holocaust, as the Wehrmacht was involved in the Final Solution, along with the rest of the German security apparatus.

Like Nazis everywhere, they also deny the Holocaust. Bjorn Hocke has described Germany’s Holocaust Memorial as ‘a memorial of shame’, while Wilhelm von Gottberg, an outright Holocaust denier, was an electoral candidate in Anhalt-Saxony. The party’s supporters also shout the old Nazi slogans of ‘Germany Awake’ and ‘Whatever it takes for Germany’, both of which are illegal.

He also notes the party’s connections to big business. The Alternatives are funded by the Movenpick ice cream company, and the ‘Swiss Goal Corporation’. It is also funded by the billionaire August von Finck, who bought the company name Degussa. Degussa was the company that delivered the Zyklon B to Auscwitz, and then extracted the gold teeth from the bodies of the murdered Jews. Finck’s father was also responsible for the removal of Jews from Germany’s banks under the Third Reich. Von Finck has supported a number of right-wing parties, as has Beatrix von Storch, who used to run a ‘citizen’s’ movement against the German welfare state.

He notes the work of BuzzFeed’s Marcus Engert in analyzing the extreme right-wing views of 396 of the Alternatives’ candidates, and the fears of a German academic, Hajo Funke, that the modern German parliament is incapable of dealing with this threat. The article briefly touches on the recruitment of former members of the Nazis party by the authorities during the Cold War. These include Hans Globke, the architect of the German race laws, who became a minister under Germany’s first post-War president, Konrad Adenauer; Georg Kiesinger, who served as chancellor from 1966-9, and who was slapped by the great anti-Nazi, Beate Klarsfeld. Other Nazis include Hans Filbinger, the Christian Democrat premier of Baden-Wurttemberg from 1966 to 1978, and Carl Carstens, the German president from 1979-1984.

Klikauer’s article concludes

Since 24th September 2017, Germany has Nazis in its parliament. Contrary to the 1960s, these days Germany has not yet seen another Beate Klarsfeld who will tell the AfD’s anti-Semites, racists, and Holocaust deniers that their politics will not go unchallenged. Today, Nazism is much more widespread compared to the 1960s. Today, we have many young and still a few old Nazis joining forces in an unprecedented way. In the 1960s, old Nazis never had a chance to form their own party and to be elected. In the year 2017, AfD Nazis have already fulfilled some of their ideological missions: honouring the Nazi Wehrmacht, denying the Holocaust, and fighting against democracy and the left.

Being furnished with parliamentarian status will only encourage Germany’s new Nazis. Like in 1933, they will not moderate themselves. If history is anything to go by, the gravest danger for Germany, the left and ultimately Europe and the world comes not only from the new Nazis. It comes also from a conservative coalition government that includes the new Nazis (AfD). By 1933 Hitler’s Nazi party was already in decline in electoral polling. His Nazis actually came to power through a conservative coalition government making Hitler Reichskanzler (chancellor). It was German conservatism that made Hitler possible. In 2017, one might hope that German conservatism has learned its historic lesson.

It isn’t hard to see from this that the notorious ’70s terrorist group, the Baader-Meinhof Gang, or to give them their official name, the Rote Armee Fraktion, had a point. They too felt that Germany had never denazified, and were enraged that so many of them had not been prosecuted for their crimes, but instead settled down into very comfortable lives in the new Germany. And so they rose up in arms and carried out a wave of assassinations and bombings.

And Red Ken also devoted a chapter or two in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, to discussing and condemning the recruitment of Nazis during the Cold War, including those responsible for the Holocaust and pogroms against the Jews. Livingstone clearly and unequivocally condemned all forms of racism in the book, including anti-Semitism, and prejudice and discrimination against Blacks and the Irish. Yet last year he was smeared as an anti-Semite by the Blairites and Israel lobby within Labour, because he stood up for Naz Shah and said, quite rightly, that Hitler supported sending Jews to Israel. Which Hitler did for a time.

Meanwhile, those responsible for the smears, the Jewish Labour Movement and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, have defended genuine anti-Semites, like the Hungarian premier Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party, because they support Israel. As Tony Greenstein has pointed out, the Zionists have shown themselves repeatedly willing to ally themselves with real Nazis against Diaspora Jews, in the hope that their victory will result in more Jews emigrating or fleeing to Israel. Thus we’ve had Richard Spencer, the head of the Alt-Right, and Andrew Anglin, the head of the Nazi website the Daily Stormer, appearing on Israeli TV. And Sebastian Gorka, another Trump aide, who’s been active amongst the Hungarian extreme right and who sports a medal commemorating Admiral Horthy, the Hungarian dictator, who collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust, was invited to a big conference of Israel’s military establishment.

The AfD aren’t unique to Germany. You can see the same type of genocidal rhetoric and images on American and British anti-Islamic ‘counterjihad’ websites. There’s one showing a gigantic blast crater centred in Saudi Arabia, which annihilates most of the countries in the region as far as Egypt in the West. This has the caption ‘Problem Solved’. And the victory of the extreme right in one country will encourage its activists elsewhere in the West.

We have to help and assist our friends and partners in Germany and elsewhere tackle the AfD and the rest of the Nazis, just as we have to tackle the racists, anti-Semites and Islamophobes in Britain, like Britain First, National Action, the BNP, London Forum and the Traditional Britain Group, as well as the Anglo-American Alt right, whose British members include Paul Joseph Watson, Carl Benjamin, AKA Sargon of Akkad, Milo Yiannopolis and Katie Hopkins.

And to do it properly we need people like Ken Livingstone and the others like him, who are prepared to talk frankly about real anti-Semitism, western imperialism and racism, and stand for Jews and the other ethnic minorities threatened by these thugs, who wish to remain in Britain and the other countries in which they were born, or to which the fled to escape genocide in their countries of origin.

Book Review: Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience

July 10, 2016

Ecofascism Pic

By Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier (Edinburgh: AK Press 1995).

Biehl and Staudenmaier are two activists in left-wing, Green and Anarchist politics in Germany, while Staudenmaier has also been active in the US. The Green movement generally is the product of the 1960s ‘hippy’ counterculture, and its experiments to create a more peaceful, egalitarian society in harmony with the earth and the natural world. The ecological movement was launched by a congress of scientists, concerned at the damage to the natural world by pollution, in Rome in the early 1970s. Among the most influential works that launched the movement is Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring, of 1962. Apart from its immense political influence, it also influenced SF literature in Frank Herbert’s massive Dune series of books, based around the desert planet Arakis, its sandworms, and the consciousness expanding spice they produce, which allows human to traverse the galaxy.

Germany was the country where the Green movement first became a formidable political force. Like Green parties and movements everywhere, German Greens were largely left-wing anti-authoritarians. I think the leader of the German Green party at one point was the Baader-Meinhof gang’s former lawyer. Back in the 1980s I wrote to the German Greens asking for information about them, and they kindly sent me an English language version of their manifesto. It’s cover showed that piccie from Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, in which the great clown is crushed between two massive cog wheels. I can’t remember much about it, but as well as creating a more ecological aware and sensitive society, the party was also concerned to free people from being crushed by modern industrial society.

It was most definitely not Fascist stuff. But Fascists in Germany have been determined to appropriate it to gain electoral support. After Rudolf Hess died in the 1980s, for example, there was a Neo-Nazi rally, including outlaw bikers, outside his former home. They read out their noxious manifesto, which included their promises to find alternative forms of energy and properly conserve the environment. Noble ideals polluted by being adopted by such a politically vile group. It was combat this that Biehl and Staudenmaier wrote their book.

The book is actually written in two parts. The first, by Staudenmaier, is entitled ‘Fascist Ideology: The “Green Wing” of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents’. The second, by Biehl, is ‘”Ecology” and the Modernization of Fascism in the German Ultra-Right’. Staudenmaier in his piece traces the emergence of a peculiar, Volkisch, German racist ecological consciousness. This arose in the 19th century as part of the Blut und Boden, ‘Blood and Soil’ ideology, that became an intrinsic component of Nazism. Peoples were formed, both physically, mentally and spiritually, so volkisch ideologues argued, by their environment. And so German nationalists argued passionately for the conservation of their country’s landscape and its natural beauty. It’s quite a shock to read of how these writers combined ideas that at other times and places were highly progressive – concern for the natural world, and the respect and dignity of indigenous first nations, with virulent nationalism, and particularly anti-Semitism. This concern for the German environment continued into the Third Reich. The Nazi dictatorship set up a series of writers and officials, whose duty it was to minimise the damage produced through the Nazi state’s construction of vast industrial complexes and the autobahns. Care was taken to make sure these were specially sited and built to respect the landscape around them.

Biehl’s piece also discusses the emergence of mystic volkisch racial essentialism in the 1920s, and its rejection of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, including democracy, as enslaving and hostile to the fundamental German national character. She then describes the various neo-Nazi groups, organisations, and businesses that have tried to present themselves as ecological aware and active. These include the National Revolutionaries, Freedom German Workers’ Party, the Republicans – founded by a former SS squaddie, Franz Schonhuber – the National Democrats and the German People’s Union. Organisations with a rightist political orientation include the World League for the Protection of Life, and the former East German dissident Communist, Rudolf Bahro. Bahro was originally a Marxist thinker, who was persecuted by the East German state for his ideas. Since then, he became increasing occupied with Green issues and moved towards the extreme Right. Biehl describes an exchange between him and the veteran American Anarchist, Murray Bookchin, at a Green conference in Germany. Bookchin was one of the creators of post-scarcity Anarchism in the 1960s, an Anarchism adapted to the changed circumstances of the modern ‘affluent society’. He was also deeply concerned with the environment. At the conference, Bahro declared that ‘we need a Green Adolf!’, which rightly annoyed Bookchin. If I remember correctly, it drew a deeply critical response from Bookchin. I doubt if he was the only one disgusted by the comment.

In her conclusion, ‘A Social Ecology of Freedom’, Biehl notes how these developments were not limited just to Germany. Nick Griffin was also trying to present the National Front as being ecological aware, proclaiming ‘Racial preservation is Green’, and similar sentiments have been made in the US by White supremacists and racists there.

She writes

A love of the natural world and alienation from modern society are in themselves innocent and legitimate ideas, and it was by no means a historical necessity that they be permutated into a justification for mass murder. Nor is ‘ecology’ limited an interpretation as a social Darwinist racial jungle, or politicized along tribal, regional and nationalist lines. Nor is ‘ecology’ inherently an antirational, mystical concept. Finally, the ecology crisis can hardly be dismissed; it is itself very real and is worsening rapidly. Indeed, the politicization of ecology is not only desirable but necessary. (p.64).

And

‘Ecological’ fascism is a cynical but potentially politically effective attempt to mystically link genuine concern for present-day environmental problems with time-honored fears of the ‘outsider’ or the ‘new’, indeed the best elements of the Enlightenment, through ecological verbiage. Authoritarian mystifications need not be the fate of today’s ecology movement, as social ecology demonstrates. But they could become its fate if ecomystics, ecoprimitivists, misanthropes, antirationalists have their way. (pp.65-6).

The American Right has also bitterly attacked environmentalism and Green politics, deliberately linking them to the environmentally engated parts of the Nazi programme during the Third Reich. As this book shows, genuine Green activists like Biehl and Staudenmaier are well aware of the Nazis and their legacy, and actively reject those, who would attempt to appropriate ecological awareness in order to promote racism and tyranny.

Democracy Now! On the Failings of Media ‘Terrorism’ Pundits

May 9, 2016

This is a very relevant and serious piece from Democracy Now! In it, the two anchors talk to Glenn Greenwald and Lisa Stampnitzky, a social studies professor at Harvard and author of the book, Disciplining Terror, about how those, who appear on Fox News and the rest of the media claiming to be experts on terrorism actually aren’t. Greenwald and Stampnitzky point out that there is considerable academic disagreement about what constitutes ‘terror’ and ‘terrorism’, and that often the people credited with being experts are only called such because other media pundits have so called them.

They talk about some of the ludicrous statements made about Muslim terrorists, such as by Emerson, the Fox News pundit, who appeared on the Janine Pirro show talking about how Europe was riddled with Muslim no-go zones. He became notorious, and just about universally ridiculed over this side of the Pond as he claimed that Birmingham was one such Muslim state-within-a-state, and that non-Muslims didn’t go in there. To make this guy’s humiliation complete, they also play the section of the interview he gave on the Beeb, in which he had to admit he didn’t know what he was talking about, and that the interviewer asked him if he knew that David Cameron had called him ‘an idiot’.

There’s another, similar incident, where an American news anchor, talking to the director, Kohlmann, about his movie, The Al-Qaeda Plan, asks him if, after he talks about how al-Qaeda isn’t really understood, because it emerged in a part of the world with which most Americans are not familiar, and whose language they don’t speak, he’s now going to go to some of the places that he’s featured in his movie and learn Arabic. Kohlmann’s reply is to state that he has a degree in Islam, and speaks some Arabic, though he’s not fluent. He also says that it’s very, very difficult now to get into Pakistan.

Greenwald also points out that throughout history there’s been much debate over what constitutes ‘terrorism’. He cites the work of a French academic, who pointed out that the term really only came into widespread use in the late 60s and 70s, when it was used by the Israelis to universalise Arab attacks on them. They used to term to present their anti-terror campaign as part of a wider defence of the West against the threat of Islam. Greenwald also states that there has also been many, many attempts by the Western military and politicians to define terrorism in such a way, that they can use it to delegitimise the use of violence by their enemies, without having it applied to their own violence, or that of their allies. These definitions have also failed. He states controversially that at the moment, ‘terrorism’ simply means any act of violence committed by a Muslim.

The Democracy Now! anchors and Greenwald also discuss how the term really is only applied to Muslims, and that when terrorist acts are committed by White Christians, they are described in other terms – the perpetrators are insane, or loners, or whatever. An example of this was Timothy McVeigh’s terrible attack on the federal building in Oklahoma in the 1990s. Before it was discovered precisely who did it, it was briefly described as a ‘terrorist’ attack. Two of the suspects had Arab names, though it turned out these were just taxi drivers, who had gone there to have their licences renewed. When it was discovered that McVeigh, a White Christian, had committed the atrocity, the ‘terrorism’ label was dropped.

Similarly, Louis Stark, an extreme right-wing anti-tax nut also flew a plane into a government building. Again, when it was believed that this might be the work of Muslims, the attack was described as ‘terrorism’. When it was again found out that it was a White, Christian American, who was responsible, it again stopped being described as terrorism.

Here’s the video:

In Britain, the use of the term ‘terrorism’ is rather broader. It was used, for instance, to describe the atrocities committed by the paramilitaries in Northern Ireland. I also think it’s been used to describe the violence committed by the Basque separatist group, ETA, and in the 1970s to describe bombings and other attacks by Leftist extremist groups, like the French Action Direct and the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany. But nevertheless, the central point – that it’s only terrorism if it’s been committed by a Muslim – has been made by others as well as Democracy Now! I think the liberals over at The Young Turks have also discussed this issue.

Now, the violent attacks by al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other Islamist groups, like Boko Haram in Nigeria, are horrendous and truly deserve to be described as terrorism. But the term can also be applied to attacks by the West and its allies in the Middle East. The Young Turks have commented many times on the illegality of Obama’s drone strikes, and pointed out that they would be greeted with howls of outrage if a Muslim or foreign government carried them out against, say the KKK on American soil. Similarly, the Saudis’ targeting of Shi’a civilians in their attacks on supposed ‘terrorists’ in Yemen are another example of a type of terrorism, that isn’t described as such. And the Democracy Now! programme points out how the term terrorism was not used to describe the Contras and the other South American death squads supported by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

Terrorism, as they point out, is a highly emotive, value-laden term, and the people appearing as experts on it on the news by and large, according to the programme, just recycle American government propaganda. The lesson is that you have to be careful, not just about how trustworthy the experts are, but also about the way the term ‘terrorism’ is being deliberately used in a way to stigmatize America’s enemies, while avoiding what’s committed by America, and its allies, including us in Britain.

Lord Simon of Highbury: Why Was He in Government and Not Behind Bars?

April 25, 2016

Okay, I’m writing this because it’s left me furious ever since I read about it when putting up the article on Saturday. This was a piece on the ‘Fat Cats’ Directory’, the list of company directors and senior management, who had entered government under Tony Blair in George Monbiot’s book, Captive State. It was a long list of incompetents, who had run their companies into the ground; the self-interested – scientists on the boards of biotech companies, who got on the boards of the funding bodies to give themselves even more money; the environmentally negligent; and the simply exploitative. These last were various company directors, who had made masses of employees redundant, or cut wages, and had been put in charge of Bliar’s ‘welfare to work’ programme and the minimum wage board. But there was one person on the list, who struck me as particularly odious: Lord Simon of Highbury. Here’s what I wrote about him:

Lord Simon of Highbury

Chairman of BP
Vice-Chairman of European Round Table of Industrialists. Under his direction, BP assisted the Colombian government in forcing peasants off their lands, and imprisoning, killing and torturing trade unionists. Gave money to the 16th Brigade, notorious for murder, kidnapping torture and rape.

Minister for Trade and Competitiveness in Europe
One of the ministers responsible for implementing the ethical foreign policy.

By any standards, this resume makes the man a Fascist collaborator. So why is he in government, and not facing trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity? What does it say about our society, that a creature like this can breeze in and out of the halls of power in chauffeur-driven limousine, wining and dining with the highest in the land, when he has doubtless been responsible for some of the most horrific atrocities? Why has he escaped censure, let along prosecution, when others haven’t?

In the Nuremberg Trials of the Nazi leaders at the end of World War II, many senior executives of the various firms that served the Nazi state were also tried, and convicted for collaboration. The firms they managed, like the horrific IG Farben, which produced the cyanide gas used against Jews in the death camps, were deliberately broken up into their constituent companies.

Unfortunately, too many Nazis escaped justice, and Nazi hunters like Simon Wiesenthal spent their lives trying to hunt them down and bring them to justice. And it was apparently the same rage that spurred the Baader-Meinhof gang to commit some of their terrorist attacks. They were also outraged that members of the Third Reich had escaped justice, and were living very well in the Bundesrepublik. And so they began their campaign of murder and terrorism. I’m not trying to whitewash or glamorise them here. They were responsible for some of the most horrific terrorism offences of the 1970s. For example, they firebombed a Berlin synagogue, supposedly as part of a campaign against Israel, which they perceived as a colonialist state. They were violent criminals, but when it comes to killing the men, who ran the death camps and torture squads of the Third Reich, you can understand their rage.

It’s the same rage that motivates people to protest and physically fight the clowns in the various far-right Nazi parties – the BNP, National Action, EDL, National Front, North West Infidels and so on. Many of the members of these groups are violent thugs, guilty of the most horrific attacks on innocent people, including murder, simply because of their race or political opinions, and have rightly been jailed. But these are very small fry compared with monsters like Lord Simon. He has aided and abetted an organisation that has violently removed people from their land, and murdered and tortured trade unionists and left-wing activists. By the same standards we applied to the Nazis, and to Radovan Milosevic and the rest of the genocides in Serbia, he should be standing in a dock in a court room at the Hague, waiting for sentencing.

But he isn’t. Instead, I’ve no doubt he still pursuing a very lucrative career as the director of an extremely profitable multinational. Or else he’s taken up a very pleasant retirement. Either way, I doubt his troubled by either the consequences of his actions, or lawsuits from his victims. I don’t doubt that wherever he lives, it’s nice and quiet, very haute bourgeois, and exclusive. He’s probably thought a good neighbour by the others around him.

I am certainly not urging anyone to turn to terrorism and try to copy the Baader-Meinhof Gang or the violence of some of the Antifa street fighters. All I am trying to do is express my outrage that this man was given a place in government, and try to work out why someone with a record as odious as his was being given a gracious welcome at the highest seats of power. My guess is that it’s because he was a wealth businessman. He wasn’t directly responsible for the atrocities committed by the Colombian government, and his company is ridiculously wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice. As for the murders and death squads of the various South American Fascist regimes, they’re protected by pretty much the same apathy expressed by Neville Chamberlain in his infamous comments about Czechoslovakia. They’re ‘far-away’ countries ‘of which we know nothing.’ And the only people, who get worked up about what goes on there are the ultra-left types Private Eye’s been satirising for years in the guise of Dave Spart.

John Brunner on the 1979 SF Book Show, Time Out Of Mind

May 4, 2015

‘I have seen the future, and it doesn’t work!’

I found this edition of the BBC series, Time Out of Mind, over on Youtube. Broadcast in 1979, the series looked at four SF authors, who were either British, in the case of Ann McCaffrey, an American based in Ireland. Apart from John Brunner and McCaffrey, the other authors featured were Arthur C. Clarke, and Michael Moorcock and M. John Harrison. The fifth and final programme in the series was on that year’s SF convention in Brighton.

I vaguely remembered the series from the trailers running earlier in the evening, though I never watched it myself as I was probably too young. I’ve got a feeling it was broadcast long after my bed time.

Stand On Zanzibar

Brunner’s particularly interesting, as he’s known for writing very dystopian, near-future SF, such as his books The Shockwave Rider, The Sheep Look Up and Stand on Zanzibar. All of these are rightly classics of the genre, and I think Stand On Zanzibar has been republished under the Gollancz colophon as an ‘SF Masterwork’. It is indeed, though I think it’s also one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read. It’s very much a product of its time, which was the late 1960s-’70s concern about the ‘population bomb’ and the massive problems faced by an overpopulated world. It’s set in a near future, c. 2020, if I remember properly, in a massively overcrowded world, where living space is in short supply. The result is endemic domestic terrorist violence, and ‘muckers’ – frenzied spree killers. These are ordinary citizens, who’ve finally snapped under the strain of such oppressive conditions. They’ve taken their name from quite literally ‘running amok’.

In order to curb the population explosion, the government has passed eugenic legislation preventing those with genetic defects or inheritable diseases, like haemophilia, from having children. Recreational cannabis, on the other hand, is legal, but still vulnerable to the interest of organised crime.

Far more sinisterly are the attempts by the various government to find ways to control the population using genetic engineering. This includes the research of an Indonesian scientist, who the Americans send a special agent to extract.

Brunner, CND and Environmentalism

Brunner was politically active for a time in his life. He was a member of CND and attended their meetings and marches. The programme shows how he even took part in an exhibition of the horrors created by the bomb, and how this influenced him. He states on the programme that when he turned to writing near future SF, he didn’t have to do much research. While it was harder to write than stories set in the far future, where the imagination could run freely, he found that much of the nightmarish conditions he describes in his works have already happened. This includes the dangers of chemical pollution on the environment and agriculture in The Sheep Look Up.

The ‘New Wave’ and Literary Modernism

Brunner’s like Moorcock and the other members of the British ‘New Wave’, in incorporating the techniques of literary modernism into his work. Moorcock in the programme dedicated to him said he wanted to use the techniques of such avant-garde literary authors as James Joyce. He was bitterly disappointed when his literary aspirations were rejected by the rest of the SF milieu, who considered these models to be pseudo-intellectuals.

Brunner acknowledges that in creating the background for the world on Stand On Zanzibar, he took John Dos Passos as his model, and included clippings from newspapers, even poetry. These clippings also show how rooted the book was in present-day reality. Several of the clippings explaining the ‘muckers’, for example, are taking from 1960s reports of real spree killers. As for the ‘partisans’ and their terrorist campaigns in America, this looks like it was based very much on the urban terrorists that emerged in the late 1960s and ’70s, like the various paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, the Baader-Meinhof gang, the various French Maoist rebels and the Weathermen, Black Panthers and Symbionese Liberation Front in America.

America as Dystopia

The show also makes the point that although Brunner’s British, he’s popular in America, partly because he speaks with a mid-Atlantic voice. Brunner is shown talking to friends and his publisher in the US. But Brunner was also very critical of the US. He says that he took America as his model for the dystopias he created, as much of what he describes in his books has already happened there. He follows this with the statement I’ve quoted at the top of this piece ‘I have seen the future, and it doesn’t work’.

Folk Music and Dancing

I also found the episode interesting, as Brunner was a folkie, who lived in the small town of South Petherton in Somerset. He and his wife were the organisers of the town’s folk festival. I found it rather incongruous that an author, who was concerned with the future and the problems that it would throw up, should also be a fan of, among other things, such very traditionally English pastimes as, um, Morris dancing. Brunner and his wife are shown opening the festival, and watching a group of Morris men dancing with the white flannels, handkerchiefs and bells.

Here’s the video:

Population Explosion or Population Crash?

While Stand On Zanzibar is a classic, it’s also somewhat dated. Europe and America don’t have the teeming, claustrophobically overcrowded cities of books like Stand On Zanzibar, or Harry Harrison’s depiction of similarly terribly overpopulated world, Make Room! Make Room!, filmed as Soylent Green. Indeed, birth rates around the world are falling, and in some parts of the West, China and Japan they’re actually below replacement level. Some demographers are talking of a ‘population crash’, and the problems this will cause. This in its turn has created its dystopian prophetic fiction in the film Children of Men, with Clive Owen and Thandie Newton. This imagines a world where humanity has become sterile. No children have been born for 18 years. The result is political instability, violence and ruthless control by a Fascist state. The only hope in this dystopia is presented by an immigrant woman, who has become pregnant.

Spree Killers and Religious Violence

We also don’t have intelligent, supercomputers cooled in liquid helium, like Shalmaneser. Other predictions are so accurate, as to be actually prosaic, such as influence of the media and the emergence of the pop video. Unfortunately, so are the ‘muckers’ – such as the maniacs, who walk into schools, restaurants or cinemas with guns and begin shooting. The book’s also accurate in that some of the crazed killers are religious fanatics. In the book the religious violence is carried out by Christians. This is true of part of the American extreme Right, as shown in the Militia movement and their fears of an atheist government, which will begin sending Christians to death camps run by FEMA as part of the establishment of a one-world global dictatorship.

The Pieds-Noirs and the Legacy of Algeria

Other predictions look dated, but contain a kernel of truth that has been subsequently hidden, but still remains a powerful influence in contemporary politics. Two of the characters, for example, are a brother and sister, Pieds-Noirs – former French-Algerian settlers, who have been forced out of the colony after independence. Despite the decades that have passed since France lost its war against its former colony, Pieds-Noirs still suffer from considerable stigmatisation because of the atrocities the former colonial overlord committed. Now, nearly five decades or so later, there is little special shame attached to the Algerian War. Nevertheless, it has influenced French politics in that many of the Arab, Muslim population of France are the descendants of Algerians, who chose to emigrate to the former colonial power. These have formed an immigrant underclass, who have suffered racism and discrimination. Much of the political disaffection French Muslims come from this background of emigration, dislocation and resentment by the host society.

The Corporate Take-Over of the Nation State

One of the most extreme of the novels predictions, and one which mercifully hasn’t occurred yet, it the literal corporate takeover of entire states. Another of the characters is the president of a small, west African nation. Unable to improve conditions for his people through normal politics and democracy, he literally signs it away to an American corporation. In return, that company promises to invest in his nation, develop it economically, and provide jobs and training for its people. It also, as Brunner makes clear, condemns them to corporate slavery.

This hasn’t quite happened like that yet, but there are some close parallels. The Socialist government of Alfredo Benz in Guatemala in the 1950s was overthrown by a CIA-backed coup, after Benz nationalised the banana plantations of the United Fruit company, an American corporation. Similarly, Mahmud Mossadeq, the Prime Minister of Iran, was overthrown by the Americans in the 1950s after his government nationalised the oil industry, including British-Persian Oil, which then became BP.

And the TTIP, if launched, will allow multinationals to sue national governments if they dare to pass legislation, which threatens to harm their business. Veolia has used similar legislation to sue the Egyptian government, after it raised the minimum wage for Egyptian workers.

The Psychological Legacy of Slavery and the Experience of Black Politicians

Another part of Brunner’s novel, that still retains its contemporary relevance, is that one of his characters is a Black American politician. This isn’t quite so novel as it was when the book was written, coming when Blacks in America were still very much fighting for their civil rights. America now has its first Black president in Obama. Nevertheless, the issues of racism, Black alienation from what they see as White power structures, and the psychological legacy of slavery, still remain a powerful presence. Although physically fit and able-bodied, the Black politician suffers from a psychological weakness in one of his arms, due to being told about how one of his slave ancestors had his amputated as a punishment by his owners. The organiser of a recent campaign against an exhibition on the White exhibition of Africans as subhuman others, staged a year or so ago by one of the Museums, stated that amongst her reasons for opposing it was a concern for the psychological health of Black people. She pointed to studies of young western Blacks, who have suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder through material showing or discussing the sufferings of their slave ancestors.

Ambiguous Endings and Political Message

Brian Aldiss, discussing Brunner’s work in his study of the history of SF, The Trillion Year Spree, criticises him for failing to take an explicit stance. Despite being a very political novel, Brunner doesn’t take a party-political stance. There’s one incident, for example, in which an elderly lady is forcibly moved out of the home she has lived in for most of her life by the local authorities. This can be read in two ways. It can be seen as council busybodies, enforcing bureaucratic red tape and over-regulation, regardless of the harmful effect this has on the lives of ordinary people. Or it can be read in the opposite view, as local authorities blindly committed to corporate interests and commercial redevelopment.

Brunner also leaves the final results of his characters’ actions on the wider society ambiguous. One of the last sections of Stand On Zanzibar is entitled ‘And See Which Seed Will Grow’, taken from the line in MacBeth which about peering into the sands of time. He hints at their being two possibilities for the world and its millions: either pacification through specially engineered food introduced into its peoples’ diet. Or the possibility of genetically engineering humans themselves, as presented by the Indonesian biologist.

At the end of The Shockwave Rider, the authorities organise a plebiscite, which will hopefully liberate humanity from tyranny. This asks them to vote between two statements. These seem to offer strikingly different alternatives, but when read closely, don’t actually mean very much, and actually say pretty much the same thing. The book then concludes ‘Which way did you vote?’

Again, as in Stand On Zanzibar, the final result, the choice made by humanity, is never shown. There’s the possibility of hope, or a little more hope. But it doesn’t end with a total solution that will automatically improve everything, and the outcome is decidedly mixed.

Warning: 70’s Fashions on Display

I think Brunner died a little while ago. This documentary gives provides an insight into the life and views of one of Britain’s great writers of dystopian SF. As I said, his book’s don’t make an explicit party-political statement, but in his anti-nuclear activism, environmentalism and critiques of corporate power, Brunner does share many of the concerns of the Left.

You should be warned, however, that as the documentary was made in 1979, it shows it in some truly horrendous ’70s fashions.

Vintage Curtis: The Power of Nightmares

January 23, 2015

This is an attempt to provide a fuller answer to the question Mike over at Vox Political posed in his post Terrorism, Islam, and the need to keep the Western world in fear. Mike suggested that politicians were exaggerating the scale of the threat from Islamist terrorists, and, for that matter, Russia, in order to keep us down. Ten years ago the Beeb’s Adam Curtis produced the documentary, The Power of Nightmares, arguing that this was precisely the case.

The Power of Nightmares: Politicians and the Use of the External Threat

The Power of Nightmares is a superb documentary. I found it stored at the Internet Archive. Broadcast eleven years ago, it was a series of 3 films titled Baby, It’s Cold Outside, The Phantom Victory and The Shadows in the Cave. The series examined the rise of the Neo-Cons in America, the origins of radical Islamism in the ideas of Sayyid Qutb and the War on Terror. Curtis took the view that the scale of the terrorist threat had been exaggerated out of all proportion to reality in order to serve the Neo-Cons’ right wing agenda. Politicians, according to Curtis, had used external threats to restore their own power and authority. Whereas once they power and prestige through offering the possibility of transforming the world for the better, people had now become disillusioned. In this post-ideological vacuum, politicians became mere managers. Now, by exploiting the fears of terrorism, and of terrible, unimaginable enemies that only they could correctly identify, they hoped to win back their status by presenting themselves as being the only people, who could protect us.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

In the first episode, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, Curtis described the origins both of the Neo-Cons, and radical Islamism. The Neo-Cons were the followers of the philosopher Leo Strauss. Strauss believed that modern, liberal society had made Americans socially atomised, nihilistic and materialistic. He wished to counter this by stressing religion as a socially cohesive force, which could be used to unite America. His ideas were then taken over by Irving Kristol, a former liberal, who crossed over to the Dark Side following the race riots of the ’60s and ’70s. He believed that Liberalism itself was responsible for the breakdown and moral decline of American society. The Neo-Cons attempted to reverse this process, not only by using religion, but also by stressing the existence of an external threat. This would be used to unite Americans behind traditional, Conservative values, as well as restore American particularism – the view that America had a unique identity and duty to tackle evil in the world.

This external threat was the Soviet Union.

The Neo-Cons and the Demonisation of the USSR

Here, their ideas of the military power of the USSR was entirely illusory. The Neo-Cons were originally entirely cynical in their use of religion and the existence of an external threat. These were, to them, nothing more than Plato’s ‘Noble Lie’, a useful mythology to move the populace to a desired end. It did not matter whether the myth was factually true or not. As they became obsessed with finding evidence of Soviet military supremacy, they became convinced by their own propaganda.

This part of the film is blackly funny. The Neo-Cons hated Kissinger, because Kissinger was ruthless pragmatic. Kissinger did not believe in moral absolutes. He was merely interested in creating a stable world. He therefore signed the arms limitation agreements with the Brezhnev regime which formed the basis of the détente between America and the USSR. The Neo-Cons thus created ‘Team B’, to examine the military reports the government was using, but use them to show that in reality the Russians really were ahead of America. There was absolutely no evidence of this. And so the Neo-Cons decided that ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’. The absence of any evidence that the Soviet were superior, meant that they were so far ahead their weapon systems had evaded detection. The Americans had been unable to find any evidence that the Russians had acoustic detection equipment on their submarines. Instead of concluding, however, that this meant that they didn’t have any detection equipment, the Neo-Cons instead decided that the Soviets had something better, and so sophisticated, it was undetectable. Similarly, line of radar installations in the Soviet Far East were interpreted, not as anything as mundane as radar installations, but as a super-sophisticated laser weapon array. The Neo-Cons thought they finally had found the positive proof they needed when they discovered a document written by the CIA presenting the case that the Soviets were indeed militarily superior. Except that the CIA informed them that it was rubbish. They knew, because they’d written it, and it was nothing but black propaganda. They even brought out the document’s author, to tell the Neo-Cons that it was nonsense. But the Neo-Cons still wouldn’t believe it. The Neo-Cons had also managed to convince themselves that the USSR was responsible for the proliferation of Marxist terrorist organisations around the world, such as Germany’s notorious Baader-Meinhof Gang. Again, there was no evidence for this, and it was entirely illusory. Nevertheless, to the Neo-Cons it was a fact.

The Rise of Reagan

The Neo-Cons finally gained the power they craved when Reagan took office. Reagan had partly succeeded through an alliance with the American religious right. Believing that America was fundamentally corrupt, these had traditionally stood aloof from politics, as they did not wish to become entwined with such a corrupt system by voting. The Neo-Cons allied the religious Conservatives to oust more traditional Conservatives, who stressed personal freedom and choice. The film here includes footage of a Republican candidate stating his support for a woman’s right to choose on abortion being booed off the platform at a Republican convention. The result was the renewed Cold War in the 1980s, and the funding of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan as part of Reagan’s confrontation with the Evil Empire.

Sayyid Qutb and Radical Islam

At the opposite political extreme were the radical Islamists, who took their ideas from Sayyid Qutb. Qutb was an Egyptian schoolteacher, who had gone to America in the 1950s to study the American way of life, and bring the lessons learned back to Egypt. He did, but they were lessons that the US definitely didn’t want to give. Like the Neo-Cons, he believed that American society was fundamentally rotten and materialistic. Americans pursued material goods, fussing over their lawns and consumer accessories. He was particularly shocked by a dance held in a church hall, which he described as being full of ‘love and lust’. While most Westerners would simply regard the dance as being entirely innocent, rather than any kind of orgy, to Qutb it was an example of the way Liberalism allowed people to give way entirely to their animal desires. And he definitely didn’t want this coming back to his homeland.

When he returned to Egypt, Qutb joined the Muslim Brotherhood. He wanted a morally regenerate, Islamic society, that would enjoy all the technological and scientific benefits of Western society, but would have none of the materialism or permissiveness of Western Liberalism. The Egyptian president, Gamal Nasser, was adamant that Egypt would be a secular society, and Qutb was imprisoned and tortured. His experiences in prison convinced Qutb that Western liberalism and democracy were fundamentally brutal. He formulated an ideology which advocated the formation of an elite, who would act as a revolutionary vanguard to create the new Islamic society. The Islamist revolutionaries believed that by adopting Western values of democracy, the country’s political leaders had betrayed Islam. And as Islam’s enemies, they deserved to be killed.

The Assassination of Sadat and Ayman Zawahiri

This doctrine resulted in the assassination of Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat. Qutb had been executed, and was succeeded as the leader of the Islamist revolutionaries by Ayman Zawahiri. Sadat was marked for assassination both because of the domestic corruption of his regime and because he signed the peace accords with Israel at Camp David. Sadat publicly denied any corruption, but in fact his administration was marked by the corrupt influence of six bankers. Rather than returning to the kind of arch-traditionalist Islam Zawahiri and the others wanted, he pursued an open-doors policy towards the West. His signing of the peace agreement with Israel was also seen, not as a heroic act of a genuine peacemaker, but as that of someone who had fundamentally betrayed Islam. As a result, the Islamists rose up and assassinated him.

They were profoundly disappointed with the result. The Muslim Brotherhood had believed that the assassination of the liberal, secular leaders would provoke the masses to rise up against the Westernised, secular society that had been imposed on them. But the Egyptian masses didn’t rise up, and the Islamists were rounded up, and put on trial. As a result, the Islamists pushed their doctrine further. They decided that the Jaihiliyya, the non-Islamic state of ignorance created by Westernisation had corrupted even the people themselves. Hitherto they had confined their violence to politicians. Now they argued that even members of the public should be killed as traitors to Islam.

The Phantom Victory: Afghanistan and the Fall of Communism

Episode 2: The Phantom Victory discussed the War in Afghanistan, and the Neo-Cons fall from power with the accession of George Bush snr and then Bill Clinton to the presidency. The Americans saw the War in Afghanistan as part of their crusade to destroy the Soviet Union. They therefore began to arm the Mujahideen. These were initially organised around Abdullah Azzam in Peshawar. Azzam, however, did not believe in killing non-combatants, and made his followers take an oath to that effect. In competition with Azzam, however, was a smaller group of Islamist rebels, the followers of Zawahiri, who were quite prepared to kill and murder innocents. These were the group Islamic Jihad. One of those idealistic Muslims, who went to Afghanistan to join the struggle against the Soviet, was Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was originally a follower of Azzam, but was seduced away from him to Zawahiri’s group. Complementing the fighters were many political dissidents, who had been released from prisons all over the Arab world in the hope that they would go to Afghanistan, and not come back.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Gorbachev, the new Soviet leader, was acutely aware of the immense problems facing the Soviet Union. He believed that the USSR was in danger of imminent collapse, and so wished to push forward a comprehensive campaign of reform. In order to do so, he wished to withdraw from Afghanistan in order to concentrate on the USSR’s domestic problems. He therefore sought a negotiated peace with Reagan and the Mujahideen. But the Reagan administration would not make a deal, and Gorby was shocked by their intransigence. In the period following the Soviet withdrawal, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet bloc collapsed completely. Both the American Neo-Cons and the radical Islamists believed they had been responsible for the USSR’s collapse. But this was untrue. The USSR fell, not because of military defeat, but because the regime and society was fundamentally rotten.

George Bush Snr

Convinced of America’s special destiny to promote democracy and correct moral values in the world, the Neo-Cons wanted Bush’s regime to export it at gunpoint to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during Gulf War I. But Bush was, like Kissinger, another pragmatist, and so was content merely with freeing Kuwait, and containing Saddam. He did not want to change the Iraqi regime, and his supporters believed that, had he adopted this aim, America would still be in Iraq 14 years or so later.

Bill Clinton

The Neo-Cons were further disappointed when Clinton became president. Slick Willy had succeeded partly by winning over Republican supporters alienated by the religious influence on their party. The Neo-Cons saw him in the same Manichaean terms they applied to the Soviet Union – as the embodiment of evil itself. They therefore sought to blacken him anyway they could. Clinton was accused of multiple adultery, of fraudulent land deals in the Whitewater scandal, assassinating one of his aides, and smuggling drugs through an airport in Arkansas. These accusations all came from a minute American Conservative magazine, the American Spectator. With the exception of Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, none of this was true. And in the case of the Whitewater deal, the Clinton’s actually lost money. One of those speaking in the documentary about this was a former journalist on the magazine, who had initially believed these stories, but then came to repudiate them utterly.

The Brutal Collapse of Islamism in Algeria

The Islamists in the Middle East were also suffering their own setbacks. In Algeria, the Islamic party, the FLN, had won the first round of elections. They presented a challenge to democracy, as the Islamists wished to replace secular authority with that of the Qu’ran. This would effectively make political parties obsolete, as the Qu’ran could not be challenged as the source of law. The armed forces stepped in and seized power, rather than the secular society destroyed. The Islamist forces in their turn rose up against them. The result was a bloody civil war, in which the Islamists took to attacking and killing the civilians they felt had betrayed Islam by not supporting the revolution. The various Islamist militias were infiltrated by the Algerian armed forces, who turned them into committing increasingly extreme and horrific acts of terrorism. The intention was to turn ordinary Algerians away from these groups through disgust at the atrocities they were committing. The tactic succeeded, and the Islamists terrorists became ever more extreme. Finally they turned on each other. Each group believed that they, and only they, were the true Muslims. The end finally came with one Islamist group, led by a former chicken farmer, declaring that it and only it represented true Islam, and advocating the death of everybody else.

The Shadows in the Cave: Dubya and 9/11

Shadows in the Cave, the third and final film, took the story from the election of George ‘Dubya’ Bush
to the time the show was screened in 2004. As is now notorious, Dubya was another Neo-Con, and believed that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden really were at the centre of a vast, global terrorist network. This network was another illusion. There was just a number of different, radical Islamic groups, who used bin Laden as a source of funding. But bin Laden himself was in no way their leader. Rather, they were using him. The idea of a single terror network, al-Qaeda, really only appeared after 9/11, and was a result of the American legal system. In the aftermath, the Americans rounded up other Islamists, who had been complicit in the atrocity, with the aim also of convicting bin Laden himself. But the legislation under which the terrorists were tried had been put in place in order to deal with organised crime. In order to convict bin Laden, the authorities needed to prove that he was head of a distinct terrorist organisation with its own identity. And hence they produced al-Qaeda, which was largely a legal fiction. Bin Laden himself only started using the term after it was used by the Americans.

The 9/11 attack, rather than being a sign of the movement’s international strength, was even then the result of a small minority. Most of the Islamists in Afghanistan were radical nationalists, who wished to export the Islamic revolution to their own countries. However, rather than taking that step, bin Laden had gone for ‘the further enemy’ America.

The Northern Alliance: Dodgy Information and the Selling of Prisoners

In hunting down al-Qaeda, Americans also allied themselves with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, a group of warlords fighting the Taliban. They were given arms and money in return for intelligence and al-Qaeda prisoners. A total of a million dollars may have been given to them. But some of the information they supplied, and the prisoners they handed over, were much less than what they seemed.

Remember Tora Bora? Those were the caves in which bin Laden supposedly had his lair. The documentary includes footage of American news programmes, in which the caves were presented as a highly sophisticated complex, complete with separate living units, offices and replete with high-powered surveillance devices. The Americans duly bombed the caves, only to find to find that it was a simple series of caves. Some had been used to store equipment, but it was definitely not the underground Bond-villain style fortress it had been built up as.

As for the prisoners, many of whom may not have been directly involved in the attacks, but were shipped off to Gitmo anyway. It’s even doubtful how many of them were actually al-Qaeda terrorists. Some may just have been Arabs unlucky enough to have been picked off the street by the Northern Alliance to sell to the Americans.

The Hunt for Domestic Terrorists

The authorities were naturally keen to round up possible domestic terrorists. There developed a theory that there were a number of terrorist ‘sleeper cells’ in America, ready to rise up and commit further atrocities. Several of the Muslims arrested on suspicion of terrorism seem to have been innocent. There was a group of three men, who had gone away to a terrorist training camp, before returning to America. They were watched by the FBI for a year as suspected terrorists, but none of them did anything terrorist-related. In fact, one of them had been so desperate to get back to America, that he had actually feigned illness. Then one of them left for Bahrain, and sent his friends a letter, stating that he was getting married and would not see them for some time. The authorities swooped, believing that this was a code for a possible suicide attack on the American Gulf fleet. No, the message was as innocuous as it appeared. Rather than going to blow himself up, the man really had gone to get married, and so didn’t expect to see his friends for some time.

Another group were arrested after they filmed themselves going to Disneyworld. This was seen by the authorities, following their experience with criminals, as a kind of casing video, in which the suspected terrorists were looking for points of attack. They had disguised their actions, however, simply as a group of tourists making an ordinary video of their day. Other evidence was a doodle from the house they occupied, which was interpreted as a secret map of the defences of an American base in Turkey by its head of security. It wasn’t. Subsequent investigation showed it had been drawn by a madman a year previously. The man had occupied the same house, and was convinced he was head of the Yemeni security forces. He had drawn the doodle, which then got lost down the back of the furniture, until it was discovered by the FBI.

Other suspects included a group of young Muslims, who’d been out paintballing. This was again interpreted as terrorist training, but was in fact exactly what it appeared: a group of young guys out paintballing.

And some of the people making the accusations were themselves very dodgy. One was a Mr Mimzy. Mimzy was a multiply fraudster, wanted on 13 counts. In return for a lighter sentence, Mimzy made a deal with the Federal authorities in which he accused one of the supposed ‘terrorist’ groups above. They were arrested, but his evidence was thrown out after he was heard telling one of his fellow prisoners that he’d made it all up.

The Mirage of a Dirty Bomb

And then there was the furore about the terrible possibility Islamic terrorists could produce a ‘dirty bomb’. This was a conventional bomb that was designed to hurl amounts of radioactive material out with the explosion, to contaminate the surroundings. People were naturally afraid that such a device would be used, and they, their friends and families were suffer a long, lingering death from radiation sickness.

The federal authorities had prepared for that, and experts from the various atomic organisation simulated the result of such a bomb. They found that rather than cause mass death, it would be extremely surprising if a single person died. They found that it was possible people would suffer a massive, but non-fatal exposure to radiation, but only if they remained where they were for a long time.

A very long time.

About a year.

In reality, the bomb’s explosion would result in the material being so widely scattered and rarefied, that there simply would not be enough of it to cause serious harm, especially if the detonation zone was carefully clean up afterwards.

British Failures

And just in case we in Britain think that it’s only the Americans who got carried away with this, Curtis provided some domestic examples from Blair’s Britain. When Britain joined the hunt for bin Laden, it was with much fanfare. We were going to do better than the Americans, because of our long experience fighting terrorism in Northern Ireland. This didn’t fare much better either. Curtis shows footage of a British officer looking embarrassed as he admits that they haven’t found bin Laden, or captured any terrorists either. Of the 664 people arrested after 9/11 in London, all but a handful were guilty of no more than watching terrorist videos or reading their literature. Many of them were not actually terrorists at all. One of the Jihadis was the owner of a gym, which specialised in self-defence training. It was called ‘Ultimate Jihad Training’, but in reality its only client was a security guard, who wanted to learn how to defend himself at his job. The vast amount of terrorism in Britain was committed, not by Muslims, but by the Protestant and Roman Catholic paramilitaries in Ulster.

Curtis’ film argues that rather than really existing, Blair and the others had taken over the precautionary principle from the Green movement. This urged that even if there was no evidence of a threat, one should nevertheless be prepared for the very worst, and take precautions. The result was politicians imagining a series of terrible threats and events, for which there was no evidence. He contrasted the panic sweeping Britain with the relative calm in Spain. Despite the horrors of 7/7, the Spanish had not panicked and become afraid their entire society was under threat. He concluded that, while there clearly was a threat of Islamist terrorism, and there had been legitimate reasons for suspecting some of those arrested as terrorists, Bush, Blair and the other politicos had massive overstated the extent of the threat. A threat existed, but we were actually quite safe.

The series can be found at:

https://archive.org/details/ThePowerOfNightmares-Episode1BabyItsColdOutside

It’s very well worth watching.

Delingpole, Jack Aspinall, the Conservatives and Eco-Fascism

April 11, 2014

Commend him for announcing the Savile investigation

Michael Gove: Believes Global Warming is another piece of ideology dreamed up by academics. This time their ‘activists’ not ‘Left-wing’, but same anti-intellectual drivel.

Looking through the politics section of Waterstone’s the other day, I found James Delingpole’s Ecofascism. I didn’t buy it, because its author’s name pretty much told me what I could expect. Delingpole is a columnist for the Telegraph and Spectator, who specialises in pieces describing at length how disgusting and depraved the underclass are. I am not remotely surprised Delingpole has also decided to produce a lengthy diatribe against the Green Movement. Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic have a bitter hatred of the Green movement. they dislike the way it seeks to limit the activities of industry in order to stop humanity fouling the planet even further. They also resent the Green tariffs levied on polluting industries, like the notorious ‘carbon tax’ to limit carbon dioxide emissions, as a form of Socialist redistributive taxation by stealth. Hence the attacks on anthropogenic global warming by the former Tory chancellor, Nigel Lawson, and Michael Gove’s attack on it being taught in the class room. The Conservatives have also tried to block Green initiatives through the foundation of fake grass-roots, ‘astroturf’ pressure groups, like Wise Use in America.

As with the Right’s attempt to link Socialism with Fascism, because of the latter’s inclusion of some Socialist or anti-capitalist policies, so Conservatives also link the Green movement with Fascism because Hitler also favoured certain Green policies. In his Table Talk, for example, Hitler discusses the need to protect the German natural environment and develop renewable energy supplies. Of course, simply because Hitler shared these ideas does not automatically mean they are in any sense Fascistic. Much of the Green movement is left-wing in political orientation. A large part of the Anarchist movement is very Green. There was a Green Anarchist group and magazine in Britain in the 1990s. The German Green party had, amongst its leaders, the Baader-Meinhof Gang’s former lawyer.

There is, however, a problem in that some parts of the Fascist extreme Right is also Green, or presents itself as environmentally concerned, because of Hitler’s own Green inclinations. Neo-Nazis have attempted to infiltrate the Green movement. A little while ago the Anarchist publishers, A.K. press, produced a small book describing the way various Nazi groups and organisations were attempting to do this. Murray Bookchin, one of the leading ideologues of modern, post-scarcity Anarchism, walked out of one conference after a former East German dissident declared that we needed a ‘Green Adolf’. Unfortunately, some parts of the Green movement also echo the genocidal rhetoric of Nazism in their desire to limit the growth of the human population. David Attenborough, who is very definitely not a Nazi, was criticised by a Tory local councillor a year or so ago after he made an appalling comment about the West sending aid and food to the Developing World. Attenborough had said that we must be mad to send food to Starving Africans, when the lack of resources meant that there was no food to support them and the local wildlife in their overpopulated area. He later apologised for his statement and said that he was more concerned with the survival of human children than with animals.

Such sentiments, however, are not limited Nazis, Left-wing or ‘Deep’ Greens or ecologically-concerned scientists and television presenters. They can be also be found amongst figures, whose politics is probably best described as extremely reactionary Conservative, like the millionaire zoo-keeper, Jack Aspinall. Aspinall runs a number of private zoos around the planet. He has one in Australia, which appeared on one of the animal programmes on ITV several years ago. The programme showed the late Australian zoologist and TV presenter, entering the gorillas’ enclosure so he could enjoy some quality with these majestic apes. It was great television, with some fascinating and delightful shots of Irvine being accepted by and playing with these animals, just as David Attenborough himself did all those decades ago in Life On Earth. It’s definitely not safe for everyone, however. When the late Johnny Morris entered a cage with some aggressively boisterous young males, they ran at him several time, knocking him over and leaving him with several broken ribs.

Aspinall himself is extremely Right-wing, and definitely seems to prefer animals to people. He was in the news several times in the 1990s after his animals killed two or three of their keepers, and a tiger badly mauled a model’s arm. Brian Masters, in his biography, The Passion of John Aspinall, quotes him as saying that the world, including Britain, was vastly overpopulated. Here in Blighty we needed to cut our population down from about 60 million to eight. He also declared that we need a Right-wing counter-revolution, ‘Francoist in spirit and determination’. Franco was indeed a Fascist dictator, but his regime also included other groups in order to counterbalance the Phalange’s radicalism. His regime has therefore been described as essentially palaeo-conservative, using the trappings of Fascism to give it a more modern guise. Aspinall’s own political beliefs appear to be the same – extreme Right-wing, illiberal anti-democratic Conservative, rather than Fascist. Nevertheless, he clearly identified with that part of Fascism.

This doesn’t affect Green politics as a whole, however. There is still an ecological crisis of immense proportions facing the planet, and whatever Gove or Lawson say to the contrary, by far the vast majority of scientists are convinced of the reality of anthropogenic global warming. It is the Green movement’s Conservative detractors, who are ideologically driven, not the Greens themselves. And regardless of ‘Green’ varieties of Nazism and Fascism that appeared during the 1990s, at least one of those, who could be described as Eco-Fascist, Jack Aspinally, was an arch-Conservative. But somehow I doubt that’s something Delingpole or Gove would really like to admit in their campaigns against the ecologically conscious and Left-wing academics and intellectuals.

The Sacrifice of Isaac: Francis Wheen Spouts Mumbo Jumbo

June 3, 2013

You may remember that way back in the last decade there was a spate of sceptical books attacking what their authors saw as pseudo-science. These included various New Age beliefs, and very often also Creationism and Intelligent Design. These books included Bad Science, by the Roman Catholic writer and science jounralist, Ben Goldacre, and How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World, by Francis Wheen. Wheen’s a left-wing journalist, who has, I believe, written for the Guardian. He is a frequent guest on the News Quiz, a satirical panel show about the news on BBC’s Radio 4. In his introduction he stated that part of his purpose in writing the book was to defend the Enlightenment. These revivals of what he considered irrationalism threatened it. He confessed his admiration for the Enlightenment and its values, including its secularism.

Strange Days and Paranoia, Terrorism and Psychiatric Abuse of Dissidents in the 1970s

Now Wheen is an excellent writer. His book on the paranoia and chaos of the ’70s, Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia, is very good. It begins with Nixon and Watergate, and expands to include the fear surrounding Mao and the Gang of Four. He traces the way Mao’s doctrine of guerilla warfare formed the template for that decades western urban terrorists, including the Provisional IRA in Britain, the Rote Armee Fraktion or the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany and the Maoist terrorists in France. These latter emerged following the failure of the 1968 uprising to topple French capitalism, and drew intellectual inspiration and support from radical academics. One of these latter appears to have done little except march around his university campus disrupting the classes of other lecturers he considered to be bourgeois and reactionary. He also discusses the murky events surrouding Harold Wilson’s prime ministership and the preparations to remove him in a coup by those who suspected him of being a KGB agent. One of the most fascinating, and relevant pieces in the book is his description of how Soviet psychiatry came up with a new mental illness that would justify the forcible incarceration of dissidents. This was done under the pretext that they must be insane to challenge the great, Soviet workers’ paradise. The Soviet political abuse of psychiatry strongly influenced the BBC SF series, Blake’s 7. In the series, the totalitarian Federation used mind control, including drugged food and water, and the conditioning, brainwashing and psychiatric brutalisation of dissidents to maintain its brutal and corrupt rule. This particular episode in Soviet history should be particularly alarming and provide a stark warning to people of faith concerning some of the pronouncements made by contemporary atheists. Some of the New Atheists, like the Rational Response Squad, made it clear they thought religion was a psychiatric disorder. Even now some professional neurologists have stated that they look forward to the day when neuroscience will be used to cure radical or dangerous religious beliefs. Blake’s 7’s fictional federation also closed churches. Science Fiction has been described as the literature of warning, and Blake’s 7 provided a fictional treatment of the Soviet psychiatric persecution of dissidents. The Soviet medicalisation of religion as a psychiatric disorder is one that some atheist scientists now seem to be following on their own. They’re either unaware of or unconcerned by their totalitarian predecessors.

Wheen’s Mumbo Jumbo and the Sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis

Much of Wheen’s book on ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ is unremarkable. It tackles some of the bizarre New Age beliefs. It shows his own left-wing views in criticising Thatcherism and her pursuit of the free market. Wheen is, however, an atheist. Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, to which Wheen has contributed, has joked about how Wheen called him an ‘irrational theist’. The book makes it clear that Wheen views religion as not just wrong, but dangerous. It shows the effect of 9/11 and the subsequent jihadi attacks on atheist opinions towards religion in general. Wheen does not consider them the action of just one religion, or even or a movement within that religion, but due to religion as a whole. He specifically blames the patriarch Abraham and the sacrifice of his son, Isaac, for causing suicide bombing. God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac is, in Wheen’s view, a demand for the blind faith and for believers to give up their lives in the service of their God. It is the origin of the blind faith of the suicide bombers. He then rants about how Abraham was a barbarian who should be excluded from the tables of civilised people.

This is profoundly wrong. Wheen misses the point about the sacrifice of Isaac completely. His Comments do, however, say volumes about received atheist opinion towards religion. Mostly, this is that many prominent atheists actually aren’t concerned about the basic facts behind religious events and phenomena before they utter their opinions.

Abraham and God’s Mercy: God Unlike Pagan Gods, Does Not Demand Human Sacrifice

For Jews, Abraham is not a symbol of fanaticism and blind faith, but mercy. This is shown by his conversation with the Almighty concerning the number of good people, who would have to be in Sodom before the Lord destroyed the city. This goes down to about ten, showing that even if only a minuscule number of righteous people are present in a place so steeped in evil that the outcry against it goes up to the Lord Himself, God will withhold His anger from it. As for the sacrifice of Isaac, that has to be seen in the context of the pagan religious practices of the Ancient Near East. Human sacrifice was an accepted part of the ancient Near Eastern religions. It’s found in the law codes of the Hittites. In ancient Phoenicia, Canaan and Carthage infant children were burned alive as sacrifices to the pgan gods. The tophets, the sacrificial altars on which these poor mites were killed, have been found in the remains of Carthage itself. The remains of these sacrifices have also been found in ancient Canaan. The point the story of God’s command for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac makes is that the Lord does not want people to sacrifice humans to Him. Yes, He rewards the faith that makes people wish to fulfill His commands, even to death, but does not want them to make that sacrifice. Abraham does indeed make the pyre and prepare to sacrifice his son, but this is halted by God sending a ram, caught in a thicket, for the patriarch to sacrifice instead. The whole point of the story is against suicide bombing.

Wheen Ignorant of Scholarship on Ancient Paganism and the Meaning of Isaac’s Sacrifice

Few people are experts in Ancient Near Eastern culture. But you don’t have to be. I remember studying the sacrifice of Isaac in RE (Religious Education) at my old Church of England School. Wheen went to one of the British public schools, which in this case, for transatlantic readers, means that he went to an elite private school. Despite having a very expensive education, he clearly either didn’t study this part of the Bible in RE, or simply wasn’t paying attention when they did. Even if they didn’t study that part of the Bible, Wheen could still have tried to understand it simply by consulting a commentary. There are a number of good commentaries on scripture, some of which are available online. But Wheen didn’t. He simply assumed that the apparent message he read into the text was the correct one. His failure to consult a commentary or what Christians and Jews actually historically believe and say about this event also shows a completely dismissive attitude towards their beliefs. He appears to beleive that traditional Jewish and Christian views of scripture are of so little importance, so automatically wrong, that an atheist should not even remotely consider studying them before making their pronouncements.

The Marxist Origin of Suicide Bombing

As for suicide bombing, although this is now a favourite weapon of militant Islam, it was first used by the Tamil Tigers. As Marxists, they were atheists, who clearly wre not following a divine command, still less of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus Christ. But this is not mentioned by Wheen. Possibly he didn’t know about it. It does, however, show the deep antipathy of part of the atheist Left towards Judeo-Christian religion. There’s also an element of the secularist belief that all religions are somehow the same. If that is true, then therefore all religions must be equally violent. Thus Wheen sought to find the ultimate origin of the contemporary jihadist attacks not in today’s politics, or the violent theology and ideology of the terrorists themselves, but further back in Abraham’s lifetime, so he could blame and disparage all of the three Abrahamic faiths. Wheen’s other book are well worth reading, and much of his book on Mumbo Jumbo is too. Rather than being a product of reasoned thought and careful consideration, Wheen’s views on the sacrifice of Isaac in the Old Testament are merely the product of atheist ignorance and anti-religious bigotry.