Posts Tagged ‘Beatles’

The Beatles Anti-Segregation Stance

December 16, 2015

This is another interesting snippet I found on 1000 Natural Shocks (over 18s only), that’s far too cool not to share. The Beatles were staunch opponents of segregation, and had it written into their contracts that they would not play segregated audiences.

Beatles Anti-Segregation

Whatever you else you think about them, that’s got to be applauded.

Mind you, they’re not the first or only British musician, who refused to abide by racist legislation separating the races. George Formby annoyed the Afrikaaner National Party in South Africa by deliberately playing to mixed race audiences. He got thrown out of South Africa after his wife gave a very succinct reply to a complaint made personally by Verwoerdt. Formby had been playing in front of a Black audience, when a little girl rushed up to the stage and hugged him. He hugged her back, as you would, said something nice about her to the audience along the lines of ‘Isn’t she sweet’, and handed her back to her parents.

This was too much for the founders of apartheid. Formby got a phone call in the middle of the night that evening by Verwoerdt. His wife took the call, and responded to the official complaint with the immortal lines, ‘P*ss orf, you horrible little man’. Or words to that effect. That cut short their tour of South Africa. The next morning they were bundled on a plane back to Blighty.

And I don’t think the bard of window cleaners and Chinese laundries was bothered one little bit.

There’s a great pictorial version of this tale in the comic book, Alice in Sunderland, written and illustrated by creator of the dimension-travelling SF hero, Luther Arkwright, if you want to have a good laugh and enjoy the greatest and weirdest bits of northern English life and history.

Joshua Bonehill: Hollywood Nazi Troll?

April 30, 2015

I found this interesting little statement by the comedy fuehrer, Joshua Bonehill, on the entry for him on the Rationalwiki site through the link to it on the SlatUKIP page. I’ve posted a number of pieces on Bonehill commenting on his ludicrous attempts to set himself up as some kind of Far Right generalissimo. He is notorious for hacking into other people’s blogs and twitter accounts in order to malign or threaten them. One of his favourite tactics is to claim falsely that they are paedophiles, a particularly vile and dangerous smear. He was also found guilty of making false claims against pub, whose staff were threatened following another of his lies. He claimed that they wouldn’t serve British servicemen in order not to upset Muslims.

Bonehill as Britain’s prospective Fascist dictator, Bonehill posts racist and anti-Semitic material on his blog. He was appealing for people to join his neo-Nazi organisation as members of an elite bodyguard for him, now styling himself the Founder. He was one of the leading names behind a Far Right march against the ‘jewification’ of Stamford Hill, a predominantly Jewish community in London.

The National British Resistance

A few weeks ago he also got in his local paper for launching his latest Fascist party, National British Resistance, in one of the parks in Yeovil. Despite claiming later on his blog that his party’s founding was attended in secret by fifty Fascists, some of whom had flown in from Northern Ireland, the only member of his massive Fascist legion to appear was, er, him.

He pretty much resembles Spode and his Blackshorts , P.G. Wodehouse’s spoof of Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists in Jeeves and Wooster, though ‘Founder’ Bonehill’s antics include stunts that Spode would definitely consider well below acceptable behaviour. Like being thrown out of Tesco for trying to defecate in their frozen food section, or prosecution for trying to break into a police station to steal uniforms and equipment.

Bonehill and Trolling

According to a statement by Bonehill himself, preserved on the Rationalwiki, all this Fascist posturing may be just that: a pose. Bonehill has said that this is an attempt to create a false persona in order to troll the Far Right and anti-Fascists alike, based on David Bowie’s adoption of the Ziggy Stardust persona in the 1970s. The full statements says

“It was after listening to David Bowie’s iconic album, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” on repeat for the best part of a day, I realised that I too could potentially create a “Persona” and play a character but instead of basing my character in the musical world, I’d place him in the political world – Leader Bonehill, the Founder was born.

Firstly I created my fictional and satire news website – this was the Daily Bale – and set about generating headlines which quickly went viral throughout 2013. I was responsible for creating myths such as the campaign to ban black pudding and various other oddities that were quickly picked up upon right-wing groups such as the EDL and Britain First to which went viral.

Very quickly I found myself at the head of a large news network and found that I had the power to make many hundreds of thousands of people believe utterly insane and crazy things under the guise of Daily Bale News. To this day, people still share Daily Bale articles and I believe it will withstand the test of time.

[…]

After the Daily Bale I took upon elevating my persona the Leader and Founder to another level which became the “National British Resistance”. The NBR was a Far-Right Nationalist movement led by the fierce and no-nonsense dictator, Leader Bonehill.

Through the NBR I made many outlandish claims for instance one of them was that I could “heal” the Left-Wing through a rebirth process and I also claimed to be a “Right-Wing messiah”. I stood in astonishment as people were eating this bait and taking me VERY seriously to the point where I became the obsession of many social media users.

It wasn’t until the press and media caught onto my activity and started reporting on me as a real person that the ego started to be transferred into the real world. I was invited to speak at meetings and felt almost forced to display this persona in public and this I couldn’t keep on doing because it fundamentally went against everything I believe in as a person.

Yes – I make no bones about it, for the past 16 months I have been trolling relentlessly at the expense of both the Left and the Right – it has been through this trolling that I am now appearing back in court over Daily Bale articles but this was a price I was prepared to pay and knew that my actions would of course have very real world consequences.

Leader Bonehill came alive and consumed me at times, the ego almost controlled me and took upon a very powerful and possessive role in my normal everyday life. I found myself almost believing that I was a “Right-Wing messiah” and had been sent from another planet to free the people and bring about a new great nationalist age – though this of course in reality was absolute bollocks and would never happen.

[…]

Everything I have said and done, right from posing for photographs or the videos I have made are the result of this “Persona”. These do not represent my real views and can instead be seen as a comical ‘act'”.

According to the RationalWiki site, Bonehill has since taken this down, but it’s been archived elsewhere. The piece can be read at http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Joshua_Bonehill-Paine.

From this, it would seem that Founder Bonehill is a ‘Hollywood Nazi’, the term the Far Right give to those play acting at being Fascists, but who aren’t the real Nazi thing. And there have been any number of them.

The grotesque theatricality of Fascism, with its bonkers leaders spouting their vitriolic nonsense to crowds at from government palaces and the Nuremberg stadium, the whole weird, twisted spectacle of marches, rallies and parades, and the sinister fascination with its regalia – the uniforms, flags, badges, propaganda posters – has attracted a number of characters over the years, who have adopted it not from any sympathy with Fascism, but from a simple desire to shock and upset. To epater les bourgeois.

Hippies and Punk Fascist Styles

In the 1960s there was a Hippy Nazi party in Florida, which probably had no purpose other than to wind up the straights. One section of the Punks in the 1970s deliberately courted controversy by dressing up in Nazi uniform as part of their general assault on staid, conventional society. Sid Vicious apparently wandered around a Jewish area of Paris in Nazi uniform, but surprisingly wasn’t beaten up.

David Bowie

Bonehill claims he was inspired by Bowie and Ziggy Stardust. In fact, the Thin White Duke did was at the centre of controversy in the 1970s because of his apparent Nazi inclinations. He was arrested by West Berlin’s finest for getting drunk and making the Fascist salute outside the remains of Hitler’s bunker on the anniversary of the Fuehrer’s birthday. Or death – I can’t remember which.

Bowie also directly prompted the formation of Rock Against Racism, after he announced on British television that in the elections that year there was only ‘one choice’ to run the country, and so was offering himself as the Fascist candidate.

Bowie obviously isn’t, and never was, a true Fascist of any kind. For all the homosexuality amongst certain sections of the Nazi party, the Nazis themselves hated gay men and sent them to the concentration camps. They also had very strict and traditional ideas on gender roles. A woman’s place was ‘Kinder, Kuche, Kirche’ – children, kitchen, church. As for masculinity, this was belligerent and aggressive. One Italian Fascist slogan proclaimed ‘Fighting is to man, what motherhood is to woman’. Bowie’s bisexual, androgynous persona in Ziggy Stardust would have been bitterly hated and denounced by the Nazis, just as it was by more traditional, staid members of the older generation.

And there are two other reasons why the Nazis also wouldn’t have adopted Bowie. Pop music has its roots in the mixture of White American country music, and Black barrelhouse jazz. The Nazis, as racists, hated Jazz because of its origins in Black culture, and what they saw as its permissiveness and sexual decadence. Quite apart from the fact that Bowie wasn’t racist, as shown by his later marriage to Iman, a woman whose name is the Arabic for ‘Faith’.

The impression I had was that Bowie in the 1970s was less a Fascist, than a very confused mam, driven nearly to the edge of sanity by the adulation of his fans.

Laibach and the NSK

Then there’s NSK and the Industrial rock band, Laibach. They were from the former Yugoslavia, and were part of a wider art collective, Neue Slowenische Kunst, or ‘New Slovenian Art’ in English. Way back in the 1980s they produced a very Wagnerian cover version of ‘Live is Life’, by the Austrian pop band, Opus. The video was shot very much in the style of the kind of Nazi propaganda films celebrating the countryside, hiking and healthy peasant values. The whole album, Opus Dei, could be seen as an exercise in the kind of music that would have been produced, had the Nazis decided to cover the Beatles, Rod Stewart and Queen.

According to one, very scurrilous and entirely unreliable website, the group deliberately set out to portray themselves as genuine neo-Nazis, dressing in Nazi uniforms. They did so, not because they really were members of the hordes of European stormtroopers, but simply to frighten and annoy the Yugoslav government. The band themselves were anti-Nazi, some of the images they used in their art was designed by anti-Nazi artists. Matters finally came to head when the band spectacularly announced that they were ending the whole charade at a concert. They apparently declared ‘We are as much Fascists as Hitler was an artist’. The Aryan warriors of the Far Right immediately went into meltdown. I’ve heard tales of British Nazis angrily destroying their records when they heard about how they’d been deceived.

When the civil war erupted in the former Yugoslavia, and real Fascism raised its ugly head in the chaos of violence, terror and brutal ethnic cleansing, NSK fled to western Europe. They’ve still continued to make music. One of their most recent projects was on the score for the Finnish SF film, The Iron Sky. This was about a war between an America led by a female president, not too far removed from Sarah Palin, and a Nazi colony on the Moon founded after the fall of the Third Reich.

Laibach’s imagery and artistic style draws partly on Wagnerian opera and the imagery and non-racial motifs of the Third Reich, but this is very much artistic pastiche. Their album Opus Dei can be seen as a comment on the Fascist cult of the leader, and the Second World War as trans-European international conflict, but there’s no racist or anti-Semitic content in the music or covered songs themselves.

The Imperial league of British Fascists

At a much lower level, there also have been a number of small groups here in Britain that have attempted to pose as Nazis in order to cause panic and outrage. Way back in the 1990s or early part of this century, the sceptical Ufolks at Magonia reported the furore surrounding the appearance of another bunch of neo-Nazis in the greater London area. This group styled themselves the Imperial League of British Fascists, and were photographed in the local press in Nazi regalia. Further investigation, however, revealed that there was no such Imperial League, and the assembled stormtroopers were merely the supposed informant, who revealed the story to the press, and his mates having a tasteless laugh.

The Fake Nazis of German TV News

Something similar happened in Germany at about the same time. The Fortean Times reported a case, where a group neo-Nazis supposedly filmed in secret goose-stepping about and generally lowering the standards of the Bundesrepublik, were also found to be the film-maker’s own mates in fancy dress. The film-maker had started a scam in which he produced bogus footage of fringe groups performing weird rituals, and then sent them in to the local news programmes on German television as supposedly real events. For which he was paid. He started with the KKK, then moved to the Odinists and Germanic Neo-Pagans before finally being caught with the Nazis. A particularly eagle-eyed viewer noticed that some of the stormtroopers were the same people as the Klansmen and pagans in his other films.

It’s a funny incident, but underneath the comedy is the sobering, horrific reality of the Third Reich and its murder of tens of millions purely because of their race and political beliefs. Contemporary Germany is still coming to terms with the Hitlerdiktatur and its horrors, which means that stunts like this go beyond a joke.

Bonehill – Not Artist, Just Bully

So, if Bonehill is only posing as Nazi as part of some twisted idea of trolling the public and the Far Right, then he’s not the first by any means. Others have done it long before, and no doubt there’ll be similar idiots doing the same in the future as long as the Nazis and their shock value retain some kind of perceived comedic potential.

Possibly the best thing that can be said of many of these individuals, like the German Nazis in the spoof footage, and the Imperial League of British Fascists, is that they stopped when they were finally caught out. Laibach, by far the best of them, knew when to pack it all in and just carry on as rock musicians. Although their music was partly a pastiche of Nazi forms, they had a following, which recognised this as an artistic statement, rather than a genuine political stance , which allowed them to go on long after they had given up the joke.

Bonehill, by contrast, seems to be just a genuinely malign and unpleasant character, who seems to get some kind of perverse pleasure through being personally insulting and persecuting his victims. He is responsible, after all, for posting grotesquely libellous smears against others, including manufacturing a fake image of a Labour election poster for a particularly controversial Black female politico, claiming that she hates Whites.

There’s no artistic value in these antics. Bonehill doesn’t have the musical talents of Bowie, Sid Vicious, Siouxie Sioux or Laibach, and, unlike some of the provocations of the extreme Left, he can’t and doesn’t justify these as Situationist happenings, as Malcolm McLaren did with the excesses of the Punks. It just seems to be personal abuse and victimisation, simply from a bizarre, malicious delight in tormenting others. It’s bullying, pure and simple, no better than the weird personal abuse meted out online by other, normal trolls, who at least don’t try to justify their actions through appeals to David Bowie’s stage antics four decades ago.

This is, of course, assuming that Bonehill is a ‘Hollywood Nazi’. He may well be, but if he is, it appears that there’s also something inside him that enjoys the feelings of malign power he gets by posing as a wannabe dictator.
Whatever the reality is, he’s unpleasant, and it’s long past time the trolling and vilification stopped.

Thinking the Unthinkable: Move Parliament out of London

October 19, 2013

From Hell, Hull and Halifax, good Lord deliver us

-16th Century beggars’ prayer.

Last week The Economist recommended that the government cease trying to revive declining northern towns and leave them to die. The main example of such a town, where further intervention was deemed to be useless, was Hull, but the magazine also mentioned a number of others, including Burnley. The Economist is the magazine of capitalist economic orthodoxy in this country. Its stance is consistently Neo-Liberal, and the policies it has always demanded are those of welfare cuts and the privatisation of everything that isn’t nailed down. It has loudly supported the IMF’s recommendations of these policies to the developing world. Some left-wing magazines and organisation like Lobster have pointed out that the IMF’s policies effectively constitute American economic imperialism, citing the IMF’s proposals to several South and Meso-American nations. These were not only told to privatise their countries’ state assets, but to sell them to American multinationals so that they could be more efficiently managed.

The Economist’s advice that economically hit northern towns should be ‘closed down’ also reflects the almost exclusive concentration of the metropolitan establishment class on London and south-east, and their complete disinterest and indeed active hostility to everything beyond Birmingham. This possibly excludes the Scots Highlands, where they can go grouse shooting. It was revealed a little while ago that back in the 1980s one of Thatcher’s cabinet – I forgotten which one – recommended a similar policy towards Liverpool. Recent economic analyses have shown that London and the south-east have become increasingly prosperous, and have a higher quality of life, while that of the North has significantly declined. The London Olympics saw several extensive and prestigious construction projects set up in the Docklands area of London, intended both to build the infrastructure needed for the Olympics and promote the capital to the rest of the world. It’s also been predicted that the high-speed rail link proposed by the Coalition would not benefit Britain’s other cities, but would lead to their further decline as jobs and capital went to London. A report today estimated that 50 cities and regions, including Bristol, Cardiff, Aberdeen and Cambridge would £200 million + through the rail link. The Economist’s article also demonstrates the political class’ comprehensive lack of interest in manufacturing. From Mrs Thatcher onwards, successive administrations have favoured the financial sector, centred on the City of London. Lobster has run several articles over the years showing how the financial sector’s prosperity was bought at the expense of manufacturing industry. Despite claims that banking and financial industry would take over from manufacturing as the largest employer, and boost the British economy, this has not occurred. The manufacturing has indeed contracted, but still employs far more than banking, insurance and the rest of the financial sector. The financial sector, however, as we’ve seen, has enjoyed massively exorbitant profits. The Economist claims to represent the interests and attitudes of the financial class, and so its attitude tellingly reveals the neglectful and contemptuous attitude of the metropolitan financial elite towards the troubled economic conditions of industrial towns outside the capital.

Coupled with this is a condescending attitude that sees London exclusively as the centre of English arts and culture, while the provinces, particularly the North, represent its complete lack. They’re either full of clod-hopping yokels, or unwashed plebs from the factories. Several prominent Right-wingers have also made sneering or dismissive comments about the North and its fate. The art critic and contrarian, Brian Sewell, commented a few years ago that ‘all those dreadful Northern mill towns ought to be demolished’. Transatlantic Conservatism has also felt the need to adopt a defensive attitude towards such comments. The American Conservative, Mark Steyn, on his website declared that criticism of London was simply anti-London bias, but didn’t tell you why people were so critical of the metropolis or its fortunes. This situation isn’t new. At several times British history, London’s rising prosperity was marked by decline and poverty in the rest of the country. In the 17th century there was a recession, with many English ports suffering a sharp economic decline as London expanded to take 75 per cent of the country’s trade. The regional ports managed to survive by concentrating on local, coastal trade rather than international commerce, until trade revived later in the century.

It’s also unfair on the North and its cultural achievements. The North rightfully has a reputation for the excellence of its museum collections. The region’s museums tended to be founded by philanthropic and civic-minded industrialists, keen to show their public spirit and their interest in promoting culture. I can remember hearing from the director of one of the museum’s here in Bristol two decades ago in the 1990s how he was shocked by the state of the City’s museum when he came down here from one of the northern towns. It wasn’t of the same standard he was used to back home. What made this all the more surprising was that Bristol had a reputation for having a very good museum. Now I like Bristol Museum, and have always been fascinated by its collections and displays, including, naturally, those on archaeology. My point here isn’t to denigrate Bristol, but simply show just how high a standard there was in those of the industrial north. Liverpool City Museum and art gallery in particular has a very high reputation. In fact, Liverpool is a case in point in showing the very high standard of provincial culture in the 19th century, and its importance to Britain’s economic, technological and imperial dominance. Liverpool was a major centre in scientific advance and experiment through its philosophical and literary society, and its magazine. This tends to be forgotten, overshadowed as it has been by the city’s terrible decline in the 20th century and its setting for shows dealing with working-class hardship like Boys from the Black Stuff and the comedy, Bread. Nevertheless, its cultural achievements are real, quite apart from modern pop sensations like the Beatles, Cilla Black, Macca and comedians like Jimmy Tarbuck. The town also launched thousands of young engineers and inventors with the Meccano construction sets, while Hornby railways delighted model railway enthusiasts up and down the length of Britain. These two toys have been celebrated in a series of programmes exploring local history, like Coast. Hornby, the inventor of both Meccano and the model railway that bore his name, was duly celebrated by the science broadcaster, Adam Hart-Davis, as one of his Local Heroes.

And Liverpool is certainly not the only city north of London with a proud history. Think of Manchester. This was one of Britain’s major industrial centres, and the original hometown of the Guardian, before it moved to London. It was a major centre of the political debates and controversies that raged during the 19th century, with the Guardian under Feargus O’Connor the major voice of working class radicalism. It was in industrial towns like Manchester that working class culture emerged. Books like The Civilisation of the Crowd show how mass popular culture arose and developed in the 19th century, as people from working-class communities attempted to educate themselves and enjoy music. They formed choirs and brass bands. Working men, who worked long hours used their few spare hours to copy sheet music to sing or play with their fellows. The various mechanics institutes up and down the country were institutions, in which the working class attempted to educate itself and where contemporary issues were discussed. It’s an aspect of industrial, working class culture that needs to be remembered and celebrated, and which does show how strong and vibrant local culture could be in industrial towns outside London.

Back in the 1990s the magazine, Anxiety Culture, suggested a way of breaking this exclusive concentration on London and the interests of the metropolitan elite to the neglect of those in the provinces. This magazine was a small press publication, with a minuscule circulation, which mixed social and political criticism with Forteana and the esoteric, by which I mean alternative spirituality, like Gnosticism, rather than anything Tory prudes think should be banned from the internet, but don’t know quite what. In one of their articles they noted that when a politician said that ‘we should think the unthinkable’, they meant doing more of what they were already doing: cutting down on welfare benefits and hitting the poor. They recommended instead the adoption of a truly radical policy:

Move parliament out of London.

They listed a number of reasons for such a genuinely radical move. Firstly, it’s only been since the 18th century that parliament has been permanently fixed in London. Before then it often sat where the king was at the time. At various points in history it was at Winchester near the Anglo-Saxon and Norman kings’ treasury. It was in York during Edward I’s campaign against the Scots. In short, while parliament has mostly been resident in London, it hasn’t always been there, and so there is no absolutely compelling reason why it should remain so.

Secondly, London’s expensive. The sheer expensive of living in the capital was always so great that civil servants’ pay including ‘London weighting’ to bring it up to the amount they’d really need to live on in the capital, which was always higher than in the rest of the country. The same was true for other workers and employees. As we’ve seen, these inequalities are growing even more massive under the Tories, and there is talk of a demographic cleansing as poorer families are forced to move out of some of the most expensive boroughs in the capital. MPs and the very rich may now afford to live in luxury accommodation in the metropolis, but I wonder how long it will be before the capital’s infrastructure breaks down because so many of its workers simply cannot afford to live there. The government has declared that it is keen on cutting expenses, and public sector employees’ salaries have been particularly hard hit. The government could therefore solve a lot of its problems – such as those of expense, and the cost in time and money of negotiating the heavy London traffic – by relocating elsewhere.

Birmingham would be an excellent place to start. This has most of what London has to offer, including excellent universities and entertainment centres, such as the NEC, but would be much cheaper. Or York. During the Middle Ages, this was England’s Second City. It’s an historic town, with a history going back to the Romans. The excavations at Coppergate made York one of the major British sites for the archaeology of the Vikings. It also has an excellent university. One could also recommend Durham. When I was growing up in the 1980s, Durham University was considered the third best in the country, following Oxbridge. Manchester too would be an outstanding site for parliament. Apart from its historic associations with working class politics, it has also been a major centre of British scientific research and innovation. Fred Hoyle, the astronomer and maverick cosmologist, came from that fair city. While he was persistently wrong in supporting the steady-state theory against the Big Bang, he was one of Britain’s major astronomers and physicists, and Manchester University does have a very strong tradition of scientific research and innovation. British politicians are also keen to show that they are now tolerant with an inclusive attitude towards gays. Manchester’s Canal Street is one of the main centres of gay nightlife. If parliament really wanted to show how tolerant it was of those in same-sex relationship, it would make sense for it to move to Manchester.

Furthermore, relocating parliament to the north should have the effect of reinvigorating some of these cities and the north generally. The influx of civil servants and highly paid officials and ministers would stimulate the local economy. It would also break the myopic assumption that there is nothing of any value outside London. If the government and its servants continued to feel the same way, then they would have the option of actually passing reforms to improve their new homes by providing better road and rail links, improving local education, building or better funding theatres, orchestras and opera companies, investing in local businesses to support both the governmental infrastructure, but also to provide suitable work for themselves and their children, when they retire from the Civil Service. In short, moving parliament out of London to the midlands or the North would massively regenerate those part of England.

It won’t happen, because the current financial, political and business elite are very much tied to the metropolis as the absolute centre of English life and culture. They won’t want to leave its theatres, art galleries and museums, or move away from nearby sporting venues, like Ascot. They would find the idea of moving out of London absolutely unthinkable. But perhaps, as Anxiety Culture suggested twenty years ago, it is time that these ideas were thought, rather than the banal and all-too often ruminated policies of cutting benefits and penalising the poor.