Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

Radio 4 Series Next Week on History of British Socialism

February 14, 2018

Radio 4 is broadcasting a new series on weekdays next week (19th-23rd February) on the history of British Socialism, entitled British Socialism: The Grand Tour. The episodes are only a quarter of an hour long, but it’s a ten-part series with an omnibus edition at the end of the week. The programmes begin on Monday, and are on a 1.45 in the afternoon. The blurb for this in the Radio Times runs

Anne McElvoy traces the emergence of socialism in the UK and examines three competing approaches to changing Britain in the interests of working people, comprising utopian visiosn of transformation, local co-operative societies, and plans to take contral of the central state.

Here are blurbs for the other programmes, and the day’s they’re shown.

Tuesday
The Chartists

Anne McElvoy explores how Chartism emerged in the 19tyh century as the first truly national working class mass movement.

Wednesday
The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers

Anne McElvoy explores the great Victorian tradition of mutual self-help, visiting Rochdale, where a small band of workers gave birth to the co-operative movement.

Thursday
The Revolutionaries

Anne McElvoy traces William Morris’ steps from wallpaper designer to revolutionary, as well as the dreams and romantic visions of his friends.

Friday
Keir Hardie

Anne McElroy traces how Keir Hardie, an ex-Liberal trade unionist, became leader of Britain’s socialist Parliamentary party.

The omnibus edition is on Friday evening at 9.00. The paragraph covering it in the Radio Times simply states

The first of two omnibus programmes. Anne McElroy traces the emergence of socialism in the UK, from utopian visions of transformation to the arrival of Labour MPs in Parliament in 1906.

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Corbyn Falsely Smeared Again as Anti-Semite by Campaign Against Anti-Semitism

January 31, 2018

Another week, another anti-Semitism smear. This time they’re attacking Jeremy Corbyn himself. Last Saturday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the Labour leader wrote his own, personal message in the Holocaust Book of Remembrance. He was then accused of anti-Semitism by the former BBC director of television, Danny Cohen, and his friends at the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, who demanded that the Labour leader apologise. Corbyn was an anti-Semite, the claimed, because his message did not specifically mention Jews.

Oops! It turns out that Corbyn did mention Jews. And the messages of the leaders of the other parties didn’t mention them, or not explicitly. Theresa May’s messages didn’t, neither did Vince Cable’s, the leader of the Lib Dems. Nor did Rabbi Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi, explicitly mention Jews either in his message. The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism was duly caught out, and torn to shreds by people disgusted at their lies and hypocrisy on Twitter. Three days later, on Monday, they issued a grudging non-apology for their mistake, still maintaining that there was a problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

As I’ve blogged about many times previously, the anti-Semitism smears against Corbyn, Momentum and a large number of ordinary members of the Labour party, including Mike himself, are politically motivated. The Blairites in the Labour party were very closely linked to the Israel Lobby. Both these groups hope to hold on to power by smearing Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites, even though the allegations are nothing but a pack of lies. Lobster issue 74 has a couple of pieces on the anti-Semitism smears, including one by the former Labour MP, Colin Challen. Challen states very clearly that there isn’t a problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour party. Or if there is, it’s no bigger than the amount of anti-Semitism found anywhere else. Various Jewish members of the Labour party have also written pieces making it clear that, in their experience, there is no anti-Semitism in the party, and that they have personally never encountered anti-Semitic abuse or attitudes from its members.

A little while ago I received a comment from a reader, who took issue with one of my pieces about the antics of the Zionists and the Israel lobby. He complained that by talking about ‘Zionists’, rather than specifically attacking Benjamin Netanyahu and the other, racial nationalist members of his coalition, I was handing the people making these smears a loaded gun. He pointed out that Corbyn was a supporter of Israel, and had appeared and spoken to a number of pro-Israel groups.

I’ve no doubt that he’s correct. I used the term ‘Zionists’ to describe the Israel lobby, because the very founders of Israel planned on the ethnic cleansing and deportation of the Palestinians. The brutality and atrocities committed by Netanyahu, Likud and their allies are merely the latest phase of a long campaign of oppression and persecution that goes right back to the nation’s very foundation. But the commenter is right that the critics of Israel and its barbarity don’t support its destruction. There’s an interview with Norman Finkelstein, a very prominent Jewish American historian, and critic of Israel, who makes that very clear.

There is instead a debate within the critics of Israel how to combat Israel’s ethnic cleansing and give freedom and dignity to the indigenous Arabs. The most popular, at least until a few years ago, was the ‘two state’ solution, in which the Palestinians were to be given their own state. Many of Israel’s critics believe that this should be achieved by Israel withdrawing to its pre-1967 boundaries. This is a move that the Israelis themselves reject, claiming that it would strategically weaken Israel and leave the country open to attack.

The other suggested solution is that the nature of the Israeli state has to change, so that the Arabs are also granted full Israeli citizenship. This would be unacceptable to most Zionists, as Israel was set up to be the Jewish state. Only Jews are allowed to immigrate to Israel and settle as citizens under the Law of Return. Altering the law so that the indigenous Arabs are also Israeli citizens, with all the rights and privileges currently enjoyed by Israelis, would change the formal ethnic basis of the Israeli state and society.

Corbyn is a threat to the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and its mouthpieces, like Danny Cohen, not because he’s an opponent of Israel, but because he’s a supporter of the Palestinians. And so they’ve decided to smear him, and anyone who dares support him or criticise Israel.

As for Danny Cohen, I see absolutely no reason why any decent, reasonable person should take anything he says in this respect remotely seriously. Cohen was the director of television at the Beeb until a few years ago, when he went off to Israel. He claimed that Europe was no longer safe for Jews, and that there was a resurgence of anti-Semitism comparable to that of the 1930s in Germany, and advised other Jews to follow his example and move there. It’s the standard line retailed by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the other groups in the Israel lobby, and it’s pure twaddle. The stats actually show that 70 per cent + of all Brits have a positive or neutral attitude towards Jews. Only five per cent of the British public have negative views of Jewish people.

The same is true of France. The Financial Times way back in the first years of this century published an article stating that only five per cent of French people considered that Jews weren’t really French. The numbers, who consider that Muslims aren’t really French is much higher at something like 15 per cent.

And Tony Greenstein, a Jewish critic of Zionism, as well as a firm opponent of all forms of racism and Fascism, has pointed out that in Britain, there is much more racism against Blacks, Asians and Muslims. But the racism experienced by these groups isn’t treated as quite so serious and outrageous as anti-Semitism. This is so, even though some Black and African historians have argued that Africa also experienced its own Holocaust through the depredations of the slave trade. During the roughly three centuries the trade was in existence, about 12 million or so people were carried off from the Continent into bondage in the New World. It’s been estimated that a similar number of Africans were also killed by the slavers during their raids. The 19th century abolitionists themselves gave very graphic accounts of whole regions, that had been depopulated thanks to slave raiding.

I also wondered if these latest smears against Corbyn were also a diversion, to take attention away from another incident that’s embarrassed the Israelis. This is the case of Ahed Tamami, a 16 year-old Palestinian girl, who was arrested for slapping a Jewish soldier. Well, he and a few other goons had burst into the girl’s house. I think they also shot another member of her family, though I can’t remember whether it was a father, brother or other relative. But for that act of terrible disrespect, the girl has been arrested and tried for his crimes against the Israeli military. There’s been a public outcry about it, and the other child prisoners the Israelis drag through their military courts. Israel’s one of the very few nations to do this, and try children as adults. But only if they’re Palestinians. Faced with this awkward and shameful incident, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone in the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism decided that the best form of defence was attack, and so decided to smear Corbyn once again. And especially now that Tweezer is very weak politically, with various challenges to her leadership coming from within her party.

I’m not complacent about the threat of anti-Semitism. It is present in Britain, and has come to the fore once again in the various Nazi sects, like National Action, now banned. Eastern Europe has seen the emergence of a number of ultra-nationalist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic parties. The Alt-Right is gaining power in the US through its connection to Trump, while in Germany the last elections saw the Nazi Alternative Fuer Deutschland enter the Bundestag for the first time. This is a party that includes real Nazis among its members. Various leading members have made speeches denouncing Germany’s Holocaust Memorial as a badge of shame, and vowed to build an underground railway to Auschwitz.

These are real threats to European Jews, along with other ethnic minorities, and ordinary, decent people, who don’t want their countries transformed into Fascist dictatorships. But its seems that these threats don’t concern Cohen and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism quite so much as smearing decent people simply for the crime of sticking up for the Palestinians and exposing Israeli atrocities against them.

May Moves Closer to a ‘Ministry of Truth’ for Cabinet Unit to Rebut ‘Fake News’

January 22, 2018

The Tories’ movement towards authoritarianism and dictatorship goes on. Mike today put up a story about Theresa May, our unfunny comedy prime minister, wanting to set up a ‘rapid response unit’ in the cabinet office to rebut ‘fake news’ on social media. Mike on his blog raises the obvious question about who will trust such a unit, when the Tories have been responsible for spreading so much fake news themselves. He illustrates this with a piece from the Canary, in which Victoria Atkins, the Undersecretary of State for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, by Niamh Eastwood of the drug charity, Release, for the lies Atkins had told about British drug policy and drug treatment.

And this is really just one instance of so many, many others. The Tories lie inveterately and constantly. Another example that comes readily to mind this week is Boris Johnson, once again reviving his lie that the money saved from being in the EU will go to the NHS. It’s been shown repeatedly that we won’t save the £350 million he claims, and when England did vote against EU membership last year, Johnson then went back on the promise, and blustered about how it was just an example of the kind of thing the money could be spent on. But in actually fact wasn’t. He’s revived this lie once before, and last week dragged it back up again.

May’s proposal also shows the massive insecurity the Tories now have. Despite having the overwhelming support of the British press and broadcasting, with the BBC apparently staffed by members of their party and producing constant pro-Tory propaganda through presenters and editors like Laura Kuenssberg, the Tories still feel they have to crack down on a threat from social media.

It’s because people are rejecting established news sources, like the press and the BBC, because they’ve been caught out lying too often. The Tories and their collaborators in the mainstream media have done their level best to vilify and smear the Labour party, and specifically Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum. If you believe them, Corbyn and the true Labour moderates – most definitely not the Thatcherite entryists that came in with Blair – are a load of anti-Semites and Trotskyites. But few people are buying that. Corbyn gained a considerable amount of support on social media, much of which was spontaneous, just as Bernie Sanders did over in the US. The Tories have been unable to compete with this, and so they want to shut it down. Mike’s article on this piece of news concludes

This is not an attempt to ensure a “fact-based public debate”.

It is a bid to hijack the news and turn it into Tory propaganda.

Who are you going to believe if you aren’t given a choice?

Tories hate the freedom of speech employed by the social media. They see this as their opportunity to end it. And they think the people are too stupid to realise they’ll be filling our newspapers and other news media with lies.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/01/22/whos-going-to-trust-theresa-may-to-tackle-fake-news-when-her-tories-are-responsible-for-so-much-of-it/

Absolutely. And May’s proposal is a real danger to free speech and freedom of opinion in Britain. It comes close to the ‘Ministry of Truth’ in Orwell’s 1984, or the rigid state control of the media in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Soviet Russia. Perhaps the functionary Tweezer intends to put in charge of this new unit will be called ‘the Minister for Public Enlightenment’, like Goebbels?

This comes after the various attempts by Thatcherite administrations to set up secret courts. These are closed hearings, where, for reasons of national security, the accused may not know what crimes they are charged with, nor have the evidence against them disclosed to themselves or their lawyers. Blair tried to introduce them, and David Cameron and Nick Clegg passed legislation setting them up. Again, it’s a justice system very much like the Kafkaesque travesties of the Communist and Fascist totalitarians of the last century.

And this has to be stopped. This is another infringement by the Tories on freedom of speech and conscience. If it goes ahead, whatever May or her spokespeople will bluster and say to the contrary, it will be another attempt to dictate to the people of this country what they can believe politically. By a weak, terrified Tory prime minister, and the corrupt, mendacious party and corporate class she serves.

Opening Scene of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

January 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

The Painter of Cyberspace: The Art of Jurgen Ziewe

January 20, 2018

Earlier this week there was a piece in the press announcing that the Turner Prize Committee had decided to go public early about which artworks and artist they were considering. I have strong feeling, like many people, about the Turner Prize. Many of the works seem simply designed to shock, with nothing more substantial underneath. Those that aren’t, are simply banal. It’s highbrow kitsch, which says nothing while claiming that it actually does. And I think modern fine art has reached a dead end. it’s anti-art, which constantly raves about Duchamps’ urinal nailed to a piece of canvas. Duchamps did it to make the point that whatever the artist claimed to be art, was art. It’s over a century old, and the joke’s well past it’s sell-by date. It was always an adolescent, childish prank anyway. To some of these art experts, it’s a hallowed artistic statement that must not be blasphemed in any way. You remember those Chinese guys, who were arrested when they jumped up and down on Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’? The same two were planning to urinate in Duchamps’ urinal. Which I feel is in keeping with the piece itself, but the mere thought horrified the keepers of official art.

The real artistic boundaries are being pushed, in my opinion, not by the fine artists, or at least, not by those fine artists currently pushed by the very small clique that defines what ‘official’ art is, like Nicholas Serota. Rather, they’re being pushed by commercial artists and film makers, often inspired by the worlds of Fantasy and SF, using computer graphics. One of the foremost of these, in my opinion, is the German artist Jurgen Ziewe. Ziewe lives over here, and has an English wife. And we are fortunate to have such a talented artist. I do wonder what will happen to other talented EU migrants like him after Brexit, who can’t stay in this country because they aren’t married. We’re going to lose a lot of very talented people.

Ziewe uses computer graphics, including Virtual models of humans and objects, and fractals, to create prismatic, Virtual, interior worlds full of robots, strange creatures, synthetic humans, fairies, wizards, witches, priestesses and temples. He started out making cards showing dolphins under cosmic skies. He’s a very spiritual guy, in a New Age-y sense, and his work is inspired by concepts from Theosophy and C.G. Jung. Here’s some of the picture from Nigel Suckling’s book about his art, New Territories: The Computer Visions of Jurgen Ziewe (Paper Tiger, 1997).

The Fairy Queen

Picnic In Cyberspace

Journey of a Virtual Traveller

Apart from Ziewe, other artists working in film and television have also been using the concepts of computer graphics. One of the features of the BBC TV version of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that most impressed me in the late ’70s or early 1980s were the, ahem, computer graphics for the pieces of information provided by the Book. In fact, they were hand drawn, because the computers at the time simply weren’t up to the task of creating pictures that detailed. But the art produced as ‘computer graphics’, was superb, and those, who watched the show were deeply impressed. As an example, here’s a piece from YouTube of the Book describing Vogon poetry.

Further examples can be seen in pop videos. Like this one from the American electro-pop band, Information Society, which uses scrolling alphanumerics to suggest passage through cyberspace in a computer game, made for their track, ‘The Prize’.

Other artistic explorations of medically or cybernetically enhanced vision can be seen in the films Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick and the last of trilogy, entitled simply Riddick. Richard Riddick, the anti-hero in these movies, is a violent criminal, a murderer, who somehow ends up doing the right thing. While in slam for his crimes, he paid the prison doctor 20 menthol cigarettes to have his eyes surgically altered, ‘polished’, so that he could see in the dark. In these flicks, we so bits of the action through his eyes. The scene in Pitch Black, where he sees the predatory aliens pouring out of their underground lairs after the marooned crew of a crashed colony spacecraft, is awesomely beautiful. This is the trailer for the movie.

And this is the trailer for The Chronicles of Riddick.

In this movie, the Necromongers use visioners, cybernetically adapted humans, to seek and visually examine areas that are difficult or impossible for normal human eyes to see clearly. And the brief scenes, in which the audience is shown what they see, are also stunning.

But this is low, commercial art, and so unlikely to find any praise by the High Art people, no matter how popular it is, or how technically sophisticated and visually inspired. The best comment on this kind of artistic snobbery comes from the American SF/Fantasy artist and book illustrator, Bob Eggleton.

Being a commercial artist is itself a kind of pigeonhole in the art world, but it is not a label that troubles him. ‘Commercialism for the sake of commercialism is not a sin. What I hate is commercialism packaged as fine art. That’s what Abstract Expressionism about, you’re buying into a trend much of the time. There’s nothing wrong with any kind of art, provided the artist believes in what they’re doing.’

From Nigel Suckling, with introduction by Gregory Benford, Alien Horizons: The Fantastic Art of Bob Eggleton (Paper Tiger, 1995) page 83.

And the YBAs, such as Damian Hirst, Tracey Emin and Chris Offili, were very commercial, as was Salvador Dali long before them. This was pointed out on a programme on the great surrealist on Radio 4 several years ago by Malcolm MacLaren, the genius – well, he obviously thought he was – behind the Sex Pistols.

And here’s Eggleton’s picture of Great Cthulhu, painted for Weird Tales magazine, for all the Lovecraft fans out there.

I realised I’ve digressed a little way from the central topic of this post, the fantastic computer art of Jurgen Ziewe. But these are related issues, showing the way computers, robots, space and high technology – the stuff of Science Fiction – is pushing artistic boundaries in ways that the official fine art of Conceptualism really isn’t doing. I’m also exploring a few ideas here for a much longer article, or series of articles, I intend to do on this sometime.

Book on the Evolution of the Human Brain

December 30, 2017

The Human Brain Evolving: Paleoneurological Studies in Honor of Ralph L. Holloway, edited by Douglas Broadfield, Michael Yuan, Kathy Schick and Nicholas Toth. Stone Age Institute Press, Gosport Indiana and Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. 2010.

This is another book I got much cheaper than the cover prise through Oxbow Books’ bargain catalogue. The book is a collection of papers from a two day conference by the Stone Age Institute in April 2007 to celebrate the life and work of Ralph Holloway, one of the great founders of the field. Holloway as he explains in the first paper in which he gives his personal perspective, started out studying metallurgy at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia in the 1950s. He then moved to the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where he took courses in anthropology and geology. After this, he enrolled in the Ph.D. programme in anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. There he became interested in exploring how evolution had shaped the development of primate brains. His interest in this area led him to do research in the brain casts from australopithecine skulls in South Africa, where his mentor was professor Phillip V. Tobias. In 1969 he settled down to study paleoneurology fulltime. His decision was partly made by the testicular trauma he suffered the previous year by the cops while in a student demonstration in New York. This gave him considerable with Prof. Tobias as the struggles he was having against apartheid and the fuzz in South Africa.

As Holloway himself explains, any study of the evolutionary development of the specialised structure of the human brain was very strongly discouraged when he was a student. The simple assumption was that humans got more intelligent as their brains got bigger. There was no investigation about how the particular areas of the brain, in which specific brain functions are located, developed. Indeed this was actively and vehemently discouraged. He says that his first mentor at Berkeley was Professor Sherwood Washburn, who kindly suggested that he take various courses in anatomy. When Holloway told him that he wanted to take the course in neuroanatomy, however, Washburn was horrified, and said that he would no longer be Holloway’s mentor if he did so, fearing that it would make him too specialised to be a physical anthropologist, an argument Holloway found unconvincing. He goes on to point out the paucity of material in physical anthropological textbooks from the 1950s to the present, pointing out that only one, published in 2008 actually does because its co-author, John Allen, is a neurologist.

The book’s contents include the following papers.

Chapter 1: The Human Brain Evolving: A Personal Retrospective, Ralph L. Holloway.

Chapter 2: The Maternal Energy Hypothesis of Brain Evolution: An Update, Robert D. Martin and Karen Isler.

Chapter 3: The Meaning of Brain Size: The Evolution of Conceptual Complexity, P. Tom Schoeneman.

Chapter 4: Human Brain Endocasts and the LB1 Hobbit Brain, Ralph L. Holloway.

Chapter 5: The Fossil Hominid Brains of Dmanisi: D 2280 and D2282, Dominique Grimaud-Herve and David Lordkipandze.

Chapter 6: The Evolution of the Parietal Cortical Areas in the Human Genus: Between Structure and Cognition, by Emiliano Bruner.

Chapter 8: Study of Human Brain Evolution at the Genetic Level, by Eric J. Vallender and Bruce T. Lahn.

Chapter 9: Brain Reorganisation in Humans and Apes, by Katerina Semendeferi, Nicole Barger and Natalie Schenker.

Chapter 10: Searching for Human Brain Specializations with Structural and Functional Neuroimaging, by James K. Rilling.

Chapter 11: Structural and Diffusion MRI of a Gorilla Brain Performed Ex Vivo at 9.4 Tesla, by Jason A. Kaufman, J. Michael Tyszka, Francine “Penny” Patterson, Joseph M. Erwin, Patrick R. Hof, and John M. Allman.

Chapter 12: The role of Vertical Organisation in the Encephalisation and Reorganisation of the Primate Cortex, Daniel P. Buxhoeveden.

Chapter 13: The Evolution of Cortical Neurotransmitter Systems Among Primates and their Relevance to Cognition, Mary Ann Raghanti, Patrick R. Hof, and Chet C. Sherwood.

Chapter 14: Sex Differences in the Corpus Callosum of Macaca fascicularis and Pan troglodytes, by Douglas C. Broadfield.

Chapter 15: Dental Maturation, Middle Childhood and the Pattern of Growth and Development in Earlier Hominins, by Janet Monge and Alan Mann.

Chapter 16: Perikymata Counts in Two Modern Human Sample Populations, by Michael Sheng-Tien Yuan.

Chapter 17: Mosaic Cognitive Evolution: The case of Imitation Learning, by Francys Subiaul.

Chapter 18: The Foundations of Primate Intelligence and Language Skills, by Duane M. Rumbaugh, E. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, ,James E. King and Jared P. Taglialatella.

Chapter 19: Hominid Brain Reorganisation, Technological Change, and Cognitive Complexity, Nicholas Toth and Kathy Schick.

Clearly this is a written at an advanced, technical level for a specialist academic audience. I’ve done little but skim through it so far, but have found some fascinating facts. For example, Holloway’s paper on the brain of the Flores Hobbit recognises that it does share some features of modern microcephalics, but also others that are very different. This could mean that the creature could have been an archaic hominid suffering from a peculiar form of neurological defects that now no longer exists.

Emiliano Bruner’s paper argues from the study of Neanderthal and Early Modern Humans that modern humans’ parietal lobes are actually larger than would have been predicted by evolutionary theory for hominids of our size.

Anne Weaver’s paper argues that, in contrast to the standard view that this area of the brain has not evolved in the course of the development of modern humans, 30,000 years ago the size of the Cerebellum increased relative to the Cerebrum. The cerebellum is the part of the human brain dedicated to motor coordination and related tasks.

Douglas Broadfield’s paper on sex difference in chimp brains takes further Holloway’s and Kitty Lacoste’s 1982 paper, which controversially showed that that the corpus callosum in women was larger than those of men. His study of this part of the brain in chimps shows that this development is unique to humans.

Paleoneurology is still controversial, and Holloway holds some very controversial opinions. He’s an evolutionary reductionist, who considers culture to be the sole product of evolution, and religion and politics to be intrinsically evil. It’s an opinion he recognises is not held by the vast majority of people.

He also laments how the anthropology course at Columbia has abandoned physical anthropology, and been taken over completely by social anthropology, stating that the majority appear ‘postmodern, post colonialist, feminist and political’. This led to him being marginalised and isolated at the faculty.

He also states that it is stupid, for reasons of ‘political correctness’ not to consider that the same evolutionary processes that have shaped the different physical forms of the various human races, have not also affected their mental capacities and evolution too. He describes this research as intensely political and near-suicidal, and describes how he was accused of being a Nazi because of his investigation into it. He states that one critic described it as the kind of research that got his relatives put into concentration camps.

Professor Holloway is clearly a decent, humane man, who has in his day stood up for liberal values and protested against institutional racism. However, while he states that the neurological differences between male and female brains are ‘more or less accepted’ today, there are still women neurologists, who argue against them. More recently they’ve argued that sex difference in the brain are a continuum between the extremely male and extremely female, with most people lumped somewhere in between. In fact, the sex differences in the brain are so small that you simply can’t tell by looking whether a brain is male or female.

Furthermore, anthropological science was used in the period of full-blown European colonialism to justify White rule over their non-White subject peoples, and certainly has been used by Nazis and Fascists to justify their persecution of Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and other ‘subhumans’. After the War, the British Fascist leader Oswald Mosley cited scientific papers on the differences in intelligence between the races to argue for a form of apartheid that would lead to the complete separation of Blacks and Jews from White, gentile Brits. This would affect only those, who were allowed to remain in Britain, because their culture was compatible with White, gentile British civilisation. See the section 13, ‘The Colour Question in Britain, Immigration, the Racial Question’ in his wretched book, Mosley – Right or Wrong, published by Lion Books in 1961. And of course, like all Fascist after the War, Mosley denied that he was actually racist!

Holloway knows from personal experience just how touchy this subject is, and is aware that the lower IQ scores made by Black Americans is still a subject of intense and acrimonious debate. But he thinks it silly to rule out the question of racial differences in human brain structure because of current political dogma.

This is too complacent. My impression here is Prof. Holloway has this rather more tolerant view of the acceptability of this direction of neurological investigation, because he is a White man from a privileged background. After all, in the 1950s very few working or lower middle class Americans could afford to do a university or college degree. It simply has not affected him personally, although he has stood on the barricades to denounce racism and support other liberal causes during the student unrest of the late ’60s. The same applies to women. In the second edition of the BBC popular science programme QED in the ’80s, a female scientist presented a programme on how male scientists down the centuries had tried to argue that women were biologically inferior, before concluding that ‘the tables are turning’.

Racial neurology and the neurology of gender differences is particularly dangerous now with the rise of the Alt Right and real White supremacists and Nazis surrounding Donald Trump, and the whole milieu of the Republican party and Libertarians in America. These are intensely racist, despising Blacks, Asians and Latinos, and using scientific evidence like the highly controversial ‘Bell Curve’ to argue that Blacks are intellectually inferior to Whites. I’ve also seen the islamophobes argue that Muslims also shouldn’t be allowed into Britain from the Middle East and Pakistan, as the average intelligence of the people from those regions is 75! Which to my mind is just ridiculous.

I’ve also heard from a friend, who keeps up with the latest neurological research by talking to some of the scientists involved, that recent studies of neuroplasticity have cast doubt on the amount of specialisation of brain function in specific brain regions. Moreover, everyone’s brain, male and female, is weird up differently. We may in fact know far less about the nature of the human brain, a point made by the neurologist and Humanist Professor Raymond Tallis in his book, Aping Mankind, written against precisely this kind of reductionism, which tries to reduce human cognition and culture by viewing it solely in terms of Darwinian theory in which humans are simply another species of ape.

This is a fascinating book, and offers many insights into the evolution of the human brain. But this is an area that is still developing, and intensely controversial. As such, other scientific opinions are available and should be read as well.

Kevin Logan on Milo Yiannopolis’ Editor’s Notes

December 29, 2017

I’ve been avoiding talking too much about politics this week as I simply haven’t had the strength to tackle the issues in as much detail as they deserve. Quite apart from the fact that the issues that have been raised in the media this week – the continuing running down of the NHS, the growth of food banks, homelessness and grinding poverty, all to make the poor poorer and inflate the already bloated incomes of the Tory elite, all make me absolutely furious. I’ve been feeling so under the weather that, quite simply, I couldn’t face blogging about them and making myself feel worse mentally as well as physically.

But this is slightly different.

Slate has published a piece about the guidance notes Alt-Right Trumpist cheerleader Milo Yiannopolis has got from his publishers at Simon and Schuster. In this short video, scourge of anti-feminists, racists and general Nazis Kevin Logan goes through the notes, and it’s hilarious.

There are pages and pages of them. And the more you read, the funnier it gets.

You remember Milo Yiannopolis? He was one of the rising stars of the Alt-Right. He’s anti-feminist, anti-immigration and in many peoples’ eyes, racist, although he’s denied that he actually has any Nazi connections. All this despite the fact that he was filmed in a bar getting Hitler salutes from a party of Alt-Right fans.

He was the IT correspondent for Breitbart, many of whose founders, managers and leading staff are racists, and have been described as such by the anti-racism, anti-religious extremism organisation and site Hope Not Hate. Yiannopolis has constantly denied that he’s racist or bigoted by playing the race and sexuality card. He’s half-Jewish, gay, and his partner is Black. And so he argues that he can’t possibly be prejudiced against people of different ethnicities and gays. Well, possibly. But he has said some extremely bigoted, racist and homophobic comments, quite apart from his anti-feminism.

He describes himself as ‘a virtuous troll’. Others just call him a troll. That’s all he is. He’s only good at writing deliberately offensive material, but is otherwise completely unremarkable. But he’s British public school elite, and so Americans, who should know much better, assume that somehow he’s more cultured, knowledgeable, better educated and insightful than he actually is. Sam Seder commented on Yiannopolis that if he wasn’t British, nobody would take any notice of him. I think it’s a fair comment. But it does show the snobbery that goes with class and accent. Incidentally, when I was a kid reading comics, my favourite characters were the Thing in the Fantastic Four, and Powerman, in Powerman and Iron Fist. And it was partly because of their accents. Stan Lee has a terrible memory, and to help him remember which character said what, he used to give them different voices, sometimes based on who was in the media at the time. He made the Thing talk like Jimmy Durante. He was a space pilot, but his speech was that of New York working class. I liked him because he was kind of a blue-collar joe, like my family.

The same with Powerman. He was a Black superhero, real name Luke Cage, who had been subjected to unethical medical experiments to create a superman by a corrupt prison governor after being wrongly convicted. I didn’t understand the racial politics around the strip, but liked the character because he was another lower class character with a working class voice. He also had the same direct approach as the Thing in dealing with supervillains. Whereas Mr. Fantastic, the leader of the Fantastic Four, and Cage’s martial artist partner in fighting crime, Iron Fist would debate philosophically how to deal with the latest threat to the world and the cosmos, according to the demands of reason and science in the case of Mr. Fantastic, and ancient Chinese mystical traditions, in Iron Fists’, the Thing and Powerman simply saw another megalomaniac, who needed to be hit hard until they cried for mercy and stopped trying to take over the world or the universe.

But I digress. Back to Milo. Milo was due to have a book published, but this fell through after he appeared on Joe Rogan’s show defending child abuse. Yiannopolis had been sexually abused himself by a paedophile Roman Catholic priest, but believed that he had been the predator in that situation. From what I understand, the victims of sexual abuse often unfairly blame themselves for their assault, so I’m quite prepared to believe that something like that happened to Yiannopolis. What was unusual – and revolting – was that Yiannopolis appeared to feel no guilt and regret at all about the incident.

Very, very many people were rightly disgust. He got sacked from Breitbart, along with a lot of other companies, his speaking tour had to be cancelled, and the book deal he had managed to finagle fell through.

Well, as Sergeant Major Shut Up used to say on It Ain’t ‘Alf Hot, Mum, ‘Oh, dear. How sad. Never mind.’ It couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke, and Yiannopolis got a taste of the kind invective and vitriol he poured on the ‘SJWs’ and the Left.

He appeared later on to ‘clarify’ his statement – not an apology – saying that he now knew he was the victim of child abuse, and stating that he didn’t promote or approve of the sexual abuse of children. But the damage was done.

Now it seems Yiannopolis’ book deal is back on, though Simon and Schuster really aren’t happy with the manuscript.

Comments include recommendations that he remove the jokes about Black men’s willies, doesn’t call people ‘cucks’, and stop sneering at ugly people. One of these is particularly hilarious, as his editor writes that you can’t claim that ugly people are attracted to the Left. ‘Have you seen the crowd at a Trump rally?’ Quite. I saw the front row of the crowd at BBC coverage of the Tory party convention one year, and they were positively horrific. It seemed to be full of old school country squire types, as drawn by Gerald Scarfe at his most splenetic.

The guidance goes on with comments like ‘No, I will not tolerate you describing a whole class of people as mentally retarded’, and then factual corrections. Like ‘This never happened’. ‘This never happened too.’ ‘No, you’re repeating fake news. There was no Satanism, no blood and no semen’. At one point the editor demands that an entire chapter be excised because it’s just off-topic and offensive.

Here’s the video.

There probably isn’t anything unusual in the amount of editing that Simon and Schuster require. Mainstream publishing houses often request changes or alteration to the manuscript. It happens to the best writers and academics. Years ago I read an interview with the editors of some of the authors of the world’s most influential books. One of them was Germaine Greer’s. Greer had sent in a manuscript about cross-dressing in Shakespeare. A fair enough subject, as there’s a lot of female characters disguising themselves as boys in the Bard’s plays. But she had the insight that Greer was far more interested in gender roles, and suggested she write about that instead. And the result was The Female Eunuch.

At a much lower level of literature, Private Eye had a good chortle about one of ‘Master Storyteller’ Jeffrey Archer’s tawdry epics. Apparently the gossip was that it went through seven rewrites. Ian Fleming’s editor for the Bond books, according to one TV documentary, was a gay man with a keen interest in dressing well. Which is why some of the sex in Bond was less explicit than Fleming intended, but also why Bond became suave, stylish dresser fighting supervillains in impeccably cut dinner suits.

No shame in any of this, then. But what makes it funny is that it’s happened to Yiannopolis, who seems to have been too much of an egotist to think that anything like it could ever really happen to him. Looking through the comments, it’s also clear that the editor really doesn’t like his bigotry, and the invective he spews against racial minorities and the disadvantaged. I got the impression that he or she really didn’t want to have anything to do with book, but has presumably been told they had to work with Yiannopolis because the publishers were going to put it out anyway, no matter what anyone else in the company felt.

And the editor’s clear dislike of his bigotry is a problem for Yiannopolis, because he’s a troll, and that’s just about all he does: pour out sneers, scorn and abuse, like a male version of Anne Coulter, another right-winger, who’s far less intelligent than she thinks she is. And I know that grammatically standards are a bit looser now than they were a few years ago, but when you have the comment ‘This is not a sentence’, it’s clear that Yiannopolis is failing at one of the basic demands of any writer from the editors of small press magazines to the biggest publishing houses and newspapers and magazines. They all insist that you should write properly in grammatically correct sentences. But Yiannopolis has shown that he can’t do that either.

As for the kind of literary snobbery that used to look down very hard on comics and graphic novels, while promoting opinionated bigots like Yiannopolis as ‘serious’ writers, my recommendation is that if you’re given a choice between going to comics convention or seeing Milo, go to the comics convention. You’ll be with nicer people, the comics creators on the panels are very good speakers, and themselves often very literate and cultured. I can remember seeing Charles Vess at the UKCAC Convention in Reading in 1990. Vess is a comics artist, but he’s also produced cover art for SF novels. He gave a fascinating talk about the great artists that have influenced him with slides. And one of the highlights was listening to the publisher of DC, Roy Kanigher, who was very broad New York. Didn’t matter. He was genuinely funny, to the point where the interviewer lost control of the proceedings and Kanigher had the crowd behind him all the way.

Which shows what a lot of people really know already: just because someone’s got a British public school accent, does not make them a genius, or that they’re capable of producing anything worth reading. Comics at their best can be brilliant. They open up children’s and adults’ imaginations, the art can be frankly amazing and quite often the deal with difficult, complex issues in imaginative ways. Think of Neil Gaiman, who started off as one of the writers at 2000 AD before writing the Sandman strip for DC. Or Alan Moore.

Yiannopolis is the opposite. All he does is preach hate, trying to get us to hate our Black, Asian and Latin brothers and sisters, despise the poor, and tell women to know their place. He has no more right to be published, regardless of his notoriety, than anyone else. And the editor’s demand for amendments show it.

Oh, and as regarding publishing fake news, he’d have had far less sympathy from Mike, if by some misfortune Mike had found himself as Yiannopolis’ editor. Proper journalists are expected to check their facts, which Mike was always very keen on. It was he was respected by the people he actually dealt when he was working as a journalist. The problem often comes higher up, at the level of the newspaper editors and publishers. In the case of Rupert Murdoch, I’ve read account of his behaviour at meetings with his legal staff that shows that Murdoch actually doesn’t care about publishing libellous material, if the amount of the fine will be lower than the number of extra copies of the paper the fake news will sale. Fortunately it appears that Simon and Schusters’ editors don’t quite have that attitude. But who knows for how long this will last under Trump. The man is determined to single-handedly destroy everything genuinely great and noble in American culture.

Nick Robinson Denies Britain First Connection to Murder of Jo Cox

December 17, 2017

Remember Jo Cox, the Yorkshire Labour MP, who was shot and stabbed to death by Thomas Mair, a Nazi, because of her defence of Muslims and immigrants? Mike this morning posted up a piece reporting that the Macclesfield Goebbels, Nick Robinson, appeared on Radio 4 to deny that there was any substantial connection between Mair and Britain First. Yes, Mair shouted ‘Britain First’, but that doesn’t mean that he was connected to them.

Oh yeah? Mike therefore quotes Devutopia’s Tweet, showing Mair standing proudly behind one of their banners. Devutopia states Robinson Goebbels as a fake journalist, and demands that he goes.

Mike concludes his article with the question, ‘Do you agree?’

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/12/16/did-you-hear-nick-robinson-peddling-fake-news-about-jo-coxs-murderer-on-bbc-radio/

Absolutely. Robinson is a partisan, hack propagandist. This isn’t the first time he’s been blogged about in connection to Britain First. He was photographed the other year with one of the leaders, Jayda Fransen. Britain First is a Christo-fascist organisation with a crusading attitude towards Islam and Muslim immigrants. They’ve also made common cause with Zionists, including Jews, protesting against pro-Palestinian events around London. You can only describe this as Fascists of the world uniting to beat up a third group.

A few years ago I drew this caricature of Robinson and Fransen to express my disgust at his attitude when meeting her.

And Robinson has otherwise been very blatantly mendacious. Who can forget the way he selectively edited out Alex Salmond’s very full response to his question about whether the financial houses in Edinburgh would move from Scotland if Scotland achieved independent. Salmond said no, based on his own discussions with their leaders. This was too much for Robinson and the Beeb, who subsequently edited it down, claiming that Salmond didn’t answer question fully, and then finally that he avoided it altogether.

He’s a disgrace to objective journalism, as Laura Kuennsberg, and the two should be shown the door as quickly as possible.

Who Hoo! League of Gentlemen Returns!

December 16, 2017

The BBC dark comedy series set in the town of Royston Vesey, where just about every character is a dysfunctional weirdo, sadist, or serial killer with some kind of bizarre fetish or obsession returns for three more episodes. It was last on our screens in 2002. It’s been fifteen years, but it shows that the show’s got a very dedicated audience, who share the League’s taste for black humour.

They considered making Royston Vesey even more grubby and shabby for the new series as a comment on Brexit, according to an article one of the League, Reece Shearsmith, gave to the I a few days ago. He stated that the show was never political, but that Brexit had meant that the rest of Britain had caught up with the xenophobic insularism of Royston Vesey.

This is a local blog. For local people. We do not want you here, metropolitan Tory snob.

Times Accuses RT of Exploiting Grenfell Fire

December 13, 2017

More scaremongering from the right-wing press. This time it isn’t the tabloids, but the august Times. In this clip from RT, the station reports how the Times has accused them of exploiting the Grenfell fire to foment a class war, as well as misreporting some of the facts about the £10 million cladding. This provoked an angry response from George Galloway. Galloway states that this was a fire that killed 71 poor people in the richest borough in Britain. They died because the cladding used to coat the building also used arsenic, so that if people didn’t burn in the fire, they were poisoned. Galloway himself lives and works in the borough, and is a governor of one of the schools. Every day he sees the results of the fire, and indeed, smells it. He rightly describes it as ‘beyond offensive’ and ‘obscene’ to claim that people are angry about it because of Vladimir Putin.

He’s absolutely right. You only have to read Mike’s comments about the fire to realise that people were talking about it, and expressing their anger without reference to RT. Vladimir Putin has nothing to do with the anger people feel about the incident, and the way the Tories are constantly lying and fiddling around with the inquiry to avoid incriminating themselves and their fellows on the council.

But the British media and Conservative establishment is just following what Killary and the Americans are doing, and trying to blame RT and alternative media generally for their own failures. RT is a threat because an increasing audience is turning away from the Conservative press and media, and tuning into it, both here and in America. This is because the network is covering the issues that the mainstream media doesn’t like to show too much – the poverty, homelessness, debts and the crisis in healthcare caused by decades of Thatcherism/Reaganism, privatisation and welfare cuts. I’m not denying that the mainstream media don’t cover these, but they don’t do so in as much detail, nor tackle these issues from a left-wing perspective. And they really, really don’t want to tackle the unjust, illegal imperialist wars we’re fighting in the Middle East.

Once upon a time, when it was edited by Harold Evans in the ’70s, the Times was a genuinely respected newspaper. Then it was bought up, against the advice of people who knew better, by Murdoch. And it’s been a right-wing propaganda rag ever since. A friend of mine buys it, and whenever I’ve looked inside there’s always been at least one piece written by an entitled, upper-middle class windbag rubbishing Corbyn. ‘Cause he represents a real threat to Murdoch and the rest of the corporate elite causing mass poverty so they can enjoy more tax cuts and power over their workforce. The Times readership has fallen dramatically, to the point where, if it was a normal paper, it would have been wound up. But as it’s Britain’s ‘paper of record’, Murdoch keeps it going as it allows him a place at the table with Britain’s great and good in government.

And so it, and the rest of the press and mainstream media, feel threatened by RT and other alternative news outlets. Thus they try to combat them by spreading lies and smears about evil, subversive Russian influence. It’s not Russia that’s tearing this country apart, as Chunky Mark observed in his video on the Heil attacking social media. It’s them. And if you want a deeper view of what’s really going on in Britain, then you’re better off watching some of the material on RT than reading the Times, Torygraph or other right-wing news sheets, or watching the Beeb with its very blatant, pro-Tory bias.

As for ‘class war’, the best quote about that comes from Stanley Baldwin during the General Strike: it’s class war, and we started it. But you ain’t going to hear such a frank admission from this government or its shills in the media.