Posts Tagged ‘Boxing’

Liddle and Phillips Hold ‘Freedom to Offend’ Event – But No-One Seems Interested

March 8, 2019

More fun at the expense of right-wing hacks and hate-mongers Rod Liddle and Melanie Phillips from Private Eye. According to this fortnight’s edition, for 8th-21st March 2019, Liddle and Phillips held an event supporting the ‘freedom to offend’. But no-one was interested. The article on page 8 runs

FORGET the Rumble in the Jungle; consign Frost v Nixon to the history books. As the Eye went to press this Monday evening, London was preparing itself for the event that would eclipse them all: “Spectator and Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle makes the case for the freedom to offend. Rod will be in conversation with Melanie Phillips”.

For just £32.50, organisers at the How to Academy were offering tickets to a “no-holes-barred (sic) approach to what it is and is not acceptable to say in the 21st century”.

Alas, despite the Spectator’s boast last year that Liddle’s pulling power was enough to sell out the 2,300-seat London Palladium,m his popularity seems to have wanted. A full fortnight before the Rod/Mel smackdown, self-described audience-booster website Central Tickets was trying to convince its “community of seat fillers” to make up the numbers at the event, paying just a “nominal booking fee” of £4. Any gluttons for punishment taking up the offer were given strict instructions: “Don’t mention complimentary tickets in or around the venue. Do not make social media posts referencing free tickets.

The Tory press has been pushing the ‘freedom to offend’ stance for some time. It’s part of the usual torrent of complaints about ‘political correctness’ stifling free speech. And they are also ostensibly firmly against racist hate crimes being investigated as such only on the perception of the person offended. Over two decades ago I remember the Heil publishing a long rant against Labour’s introduction of this legislation, complaining that perfectly decent people would now be accused of racism simply on the subjective judgment of the offended person.

Er, no. That’s not what the legislation says. As Mike’s pointed out time and again, the legislation states that a possible hate crime is to be recorded as a hate crime if the victim believes that it is, but is to be investigated in the same way as any other crime. And this includes ascertaining whether it is, in fact, a hate crime.

And it’s cant and hypocrisy anyway. The right really isn’t interested in the ‘right to offend’ as such. Both Liddle and Phillips are venomous islamophobes. Liddle is notorious for saying that there should be more islamophobia in the Tory party, while Phillips is constantly talking about the threat Islam poses to Judaeo-Christian western and British society. She published the book, Londonistan, about how the country’s capital is now the largest centre of Muslim terrorists in Europe. When these two talk about the right to offend, like the Mail and the rest of the right-wing press they mean the freedom to demonise and vilify Blacks and other ethnic minorities. And particularly Muslims.

But this doesn’t apply to Zionists and Zionist Jews, as the press is fully against anyone offending them. And this is what many of the anti-Semitism accusations come down to: not that Jews were really being vilified or demonised, as they notoriously were by the Nazis in the pages of Der Sturmer. Or that the information in the material which forms the basis of their complaints is incorrect. That’s irrelevant. Shai Masot at the Israeli embassy was certainly conspiring with British officials to have Alan Duncan removed from the government, but simply describing it as a conspiracy is anti-Semitic. Because of the real anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, you see. No, they’re quite happy to accuse innocent, decent people of anti-Semitism due to personal offence. Marc Wadsworth was accused of anti-Semitism partly because, according to the Heil, he had made Ruth Smeeth cry. He hadn’t, but fact has never been of particular concern to the Heil in these matters. And Mike was accused of anti-Semitism because someone had been ‘upset’ by one of his pieces. And then there’s the matter of libel. Because it was the Sunset Times, along with other rags like the Jewish Chronicle, which published the libels against Mike that he’s an anti-Semite and holocaust-denier.

In fact, I fully support the ‘right to offend’. George Orwell wrote about the political writer’s job being to tell people things that they don’t want to hear. It’s a quotation often used by news journalists, including hacks like Liddle. But Liddle and Phillips aren’t really interested in the right to tell uncomfortable truths. That’s why the right has given its full, malign support to the anti-Semitism smears and witchhunt in the Labour party. They’re only interested in the right to smear, and create racial hatred and division. Because it’s through racism and hatred, including that of the poor, the unemployed, and ethnic minorities, that the Tories thrive and their vile press sells their papers.

But possibly not for much longer. By and large the younger generation is much less racist than the older generation of readers and bigots, who seem to be the core of the internet groups demanding that Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson should lead the Tory party. And the Spectator and Sunset Times were clearly promoting Liddle and Phillips as a pair of journalistic big hitter, who could be expected to draw crowds in. But they didn’t. And I hope this will continue, until there’s no-one left reading these genteel, up-market hate-sheets.

Credo! Pat Mills on 40 Years of Thrillpower!

September 14, 2017

Pat Mills is one of the great creators of the British comics industry. In this video from 2000 AD on YouTube, he talks to host Tony Esmond about his career in the comics industry, politics and his determination to give readers working class heroes. The interview was at the 40 Years of Thrillpower convention earlier this year (2017).

Mills is best known as one of the creative forces who seriously upset the establishment with Action before going on to reoffend with 2000AD. Before then he started off writing for the 1970s children’s comics, like Corr! The experience of writing for them was not happy for him. He states that the people behind them had no particular interest in them and very much had a production-line mentality to their creation. He describes how one writer once asked him how many stories he could write in a day. When he said about one every two or three days, the other writer boasted that he wrote three in a day. And then went on to say, probably quite truthfully, that he was making more money than the prime minister. Mills states that the writers at IPC were able to do this because they wrote very much to a formula. He preferred the stories their competitors at DC Thompson produced. Although their comics were also stuck in the past, the stories were better crafted. He describes one strip about a man going around the country having adventures with a horse. As a concept, he says it wasn’t even at the level of afternoon television. But it was well done. The IPC comics, on the other hand, were soulless. It depressed him so much, that, when he and John Wagner, who also later went on to become one of the founders of 2000AD, were writing in a garden shed, he wrote all his scripts on a roll of wallpaper so they formed a continuous strip and he wouldn’t have to go back and read them all again.

British comics in this period were very much stuck in the past, even as British society changed. This was a time when the German experience of the war was appearing in the books of Sven Hassel, reflected in Action’s strip, Hellmann of Hammer Force. But yet Mills found it impossible to launch a strip whose hero was Black. This was to be a strip about a Black boxer. He was told that it wouldn’t work. People would not accept a Black hero. They’d accept a Black supporting character or friend. But as the central character, never. He also thought of introducing one about a Black football player, and that would have been even more controversial. There was a Black football player in one of the London clubs at the time, and he had been treated with racist abuse from the balconies.

Politics and satire have always been an important element of Mills’ work. He says that at one point he became dissatisfied writing for 2000AD, as the management were trying to shift the comic away from its traditional satirical stance, and this very much went against Mills’ own nature. He and Esmond discuss at one point Mills’ memory that, when they launched 2000AD, the management told him that they should imagine a future that they would actually live in. And now, he states, they’re living in it with Donald Trump’s presidency of the US, which Mills compares to the infamous Judge Cal. Cal was the mad Chief Judge in Judge Dredd, modelled on Caligula, who appointed his pet fish as a judge, called in the alien Kleggs to suppress any opposition in Mega City 1, and had another judge pickled. Perhaps we need to be very glad that NASA hasn’t made contact with intelligent aliens yet.

Mills remarks on how very many of the heroes of British literature, from Sherlock Holmes to John Buchan’s Hannay, have been members of the upper and upper middle classes. There are too many of them, and too few working class heroes. He’s been actively trying to redress this imbalance in his strips. It’s why Marshal Law, in his alter ego, used to be unemployed, but is now a hospital orderly. He’s not even a nurse.

He states that as he grew up in the ’50s and ’60s, he read many the authors that were around then, like Dennis Wheatley and John Buchan, all of whom were members of the upper classes. And with some of them, it was actually quite sinister. Buchan was a major propagandist for the First World War, in return for which he was rewarded with the governorship of Canada. And he did it very well. Later on in the video, in response to a question from the audience he remarks on how there is a very definite campaign in this country to suppress anything with an anti-war message. He was asked what the research was for his story in Charley’s War about the British invasion of Russia in 1918-19. He states that there were only two books he was able to get hold of at the time, but since then he got hold of a very good book, which is a much fuller description. This describes how the British officers sent in to overturn the Russian Revolution behaved like absolute animals. This episode has largely been airbrushed from British history. He contrasts with the British media’s refusal to publicise anti-war stories with that of our cousins across le manche. Attitudes there are much different, and Charley’s War, which ran in Battle and was about the experiences of a working-class Tommy in the First World War, is more popular in France even than Britain. This bias against anti-war stories is why you didn’t see Blackadder Goes Forth repeated in the centenary year of the War’s outbreak.

Mills is also critical of the way the indigenous mythology and legend of the British Isles has been suppressed in favour of myths from further south – Greece and Rome, and ancient Egypt. Mills’ background, like Kevin O’Neill, was Irish, and his family were very patriotic. He grew up knowing all about Michael Collins, and his middle name is Eamon after the first president of Eire, Eamon de Valera. Yet it wasn’t until he started researching the Irish, as well as the Scots and Welsh legends, that he learned about any of those stories, and was shocked. Why didn’t he know about the warpspasm – the ultra-berserker rage that transforms the Celtic hero Slaine as he goes into battle? He also talks about how, in legend, London was founded by the Trojans as New Troy, and briefly mentions his treatment of this in the story he is or was currently writing for the Slaine strip. He states he wanted to produce a barbarian strip that was set in this country, complete with its grey skies and rain.

Mills has a deep admiration for these Celtic legends, but remarks on how they differ considerably from the other mythological tales. They don’t share their structure. If you read the Norse tales or Beowulf, there’s a structure there. But the Irish – which he uses to include also the Scots and Welsh stories – read like they’re on acid. He’s particularly impressed with the Tain, otherwise known as the Tain Bo Cualnge, or in English, The Cattle Raid of Cooley, and recommends the translation by Kinsella. He’s also particularly interested in finding the bits that were suppressed by the Christian clergy who wrote them down in the Middle Ages. He gleefully quotes one clerical writer, who says that the stories contain much that is true, much that is false, some lies, and some devilish invention, and some which is only fit to be read by idiots. Yeah! he shouts, that’s me!

He has the same mischievous joy when telling how he came to be persuaded to write the Invasion strip, in which Britain was invaded by a thinly disguised Soviet Russia. The management asked him if he wanted to write it. He said he couldn’t get up much enthusiasm. They urged him to read Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. So he worked his way as best he could through that. He still wasn’t enthusiastic. Then they asked him if he’d like to write a scene with Maggie Thatcher being shot by the Russians on the steps of St. Paul’s. His response: Yeahhh!

He also talks about how the brutal education he received at a school run by the De Lazare order inspired him to write the Nemesis the Warlock strip. The Terminators, and to a lesser extent Judge Dredd, were modelled on them. They were fanatical, and were quite sinister. He remarks that if you go on the internet you can find all sorts of tales about them.

He also talks about an abortive crossover story planned for Marshal Law and Batman. Marshal Law was a bitterly satirical, extremely violent and very funny strip published in the 1990s about a superhero in the devastated San Francisco of the early 21st century, who hates other superheroes. The superheroes in the strip were created for a Vietnam-like war in South America, and have come back disillusioned and traumatized by the conflict. As a result, they form violent street gangs, and Marshal Law is recruited by the police to clean them up. It was a very dark comic that relentlessly parodied superhero comics from a left-wing, feminist perspective. When DC announced they wanted to make the crossover, Mills thought that they weren’t really serious. But they were. So he and O’Neill decided that for the cover, they’d have the Marshal standing on a pile of bodies of the different versions of Batman from all across the alternative Earths of the Multiverse. Then DC’s management changed, and their story policy did too, and the idea was dropped.

Mills also discusses the various ways comics have been launched, only to be merged with other comics. With 2000AD the comic was merged with Tornado and then Starlord. It was a very cynical policy, as from the first these comics were intended to fail, but by merging them with 2000AD and other comics, the management presented it as giving their readers something new, even though it wasn’t, and they felt it was an intrusion. He also responds to another question about which comic he felt folded before its time. The obvious answer to this was Action, which upset the establishment so much that it was banned, before being sanitized and relaunched. Mills said that they knew the comic was doomed. The new editor, who was given control of it had previously edited – and this is almost unbelievable – Bobo the Rabbit – and so didn’t know what he was doing. Mills said that before then they had skated over what was just about unacceptable and knew just how far you could go. Because this new editor hadn’t had that experience, he didn’t, and the comic folded.

The comic that he really feels shouldn’t have folded, and could still have carried on today, was Battle. As for which comic he’d now be working on instead of 2000AD, if it had proved more successful, these were the girls’ comics, like Misty. They vastly outsold the boys’ comics, but ultimately folded because ‘the boys took over the sandbox’. The video ends with his answer to the question, ‘What is his favourite strip, that he wrote for?’ He thinks for a moment, before replying Nemesis the Warlock to massive cheering.

It’s a very interesting perspective on the British comics industry by one of its masters. Regarding Slaine, Mills has said before in his introduction to the Titan book, Slaine the King: Special Edition, that the achievements of our ancestors, the Celtic peoples, has been rubbed out of history in favour of the ‘stern but fair proto-Thatcherite Romans, who built the roads and made the chariots run on time’. I think part of the problem is that the legends Mills draws on – that of Gaelic Ireland and Scotland, and Brythonic Wales – are those of the Celtic peoples, who were defeated by the expanding Anglo-Normans, who made a concerted attempt to suppress their culture. As for the very frank admiration for the Romans, that partly comes from the classics-based education offered by the British public schools.

As for the very staid attitude of British comics in the 1970s, this was a problem. It was actually a period of crisis, when many of the comics were folding because they hadn’t moved with the times. Mills’ idea for a strip about a Black boxer is clearly modelled on Mohammed Ali, the great African-American athlete of the ring. Everyone knew Ali, and he was universally admired, even by kids like me, who didn’t understand or know much about the racial politics behind Ali’s superstardom. Ali said that he wanted to give his people a hero.

Even so, the idea of having a sympathetic Black supporting character was an improvement. Roger Sabin, in his book Comics, Comix and Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art, published by Phaidon, notes just how racist British comics were in the 1960s. This was very controversial, as Black people naturally objected. Sabin cites one strip, in which the White hero uses two racial slurs for Blacks, and another abusive term for Gypsies. And showing the type of strips that appeared in the 1920s, there’s an illustration which shows the Black characters from a strip in one of D.C. Thompson’s comics, either the Dandy or Beano at the time. This was The Colony N*gs. Only they don’t use an asterisk to try to disguise the term.

As for his experiences with the monks running his school, unfortunately he’s not the only one, who suffered in this way. I’ve met a number of former Roman Catholics, who were turned off religion, and in some cases became bitterly against it, because of their experience being taught by monks and nuns. Several of Britain’s most beloved broadcasters from the Emerald Isle were also turned off religion because of this. Dave Allen, who regularly poked fun at religion, and particularly the Roman Catholic church, said that he became an atheist because of the cruelty and the way the priests tried to scare their young charges at his old school. And that mainstay of British radio, Terry Wogan, in a series he presented about Ireland and his life there, said exactly the same about the effect the hard attitude of the teachers at his old Roman Catholic school had on him.

The Roman Catholic church does not have the monopoly on the abuse of children, and I’ve heard some horrifying tales of the brutal behavior of some of the teaching staff – and prefects – in some of the British grammar schools. Dad has told me about the very harsh regime of some of the teachers at his old school – not Roman Catholic – in Somerset. He describes the teachers as sadists, and has a story about how one of the teachers, when one of the boys couldn’t answer a question, threw the lad out of window. Brutality seems to have been built into the British educational system, leaving mental scars and bitter memories.

I’ve very mixed feelings about the British force sent against revolutionary Russia. Perhaps if we’d succeeded, the forty million Soviet citizens butchered by Stalin would have been able to live out their lives, and the peoples of the Russian Federation free of the shadow of the KGB and gulags.

But that’s with hindsight. That’s not why British troops were sent in. The Bolsheviks were anti-democratic and determined to suppress all other parties and factions except their own, even when these were Socialist or anarchist, like the Mensheviks, the Trudoviks, the Socialist Revolutionaries the Left Communists, Anarcho-Communists and syndicalists. But we sent in troops because Britain and the rest of the capitalist world felt threatened by the emergence of a working class, aggressively socialist state. Britain had many commercial contacts with pre-Revolutionary Russia, and Lenin had argued in his pamphlet Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism that global capitalism depended on European imperial expansion. These nations enslaved and exploited developing nations like Russia. A socialist revolution in these countries threatened international capitalism, as it was here that the capitalist system was weakest. Hence the Bolshevik slogan, ‘Smash capitalism at its weakest link!’

Ordinary Russians, let alone the conquered nations of the Russian Empire, were oppressed and exploited. If you want an idea how much, and what ordinary Russians endured and struggled to overthrow, read Lionel Kochan’s book, The Russian Revolution, published by Paladin. This was the grotty system British troops were sent in to restore.

On a more positive note, one member of the audience in the video thanks Mills for encouraging him to read. The man says he was dyslexic, but it was the comics he consumed as a child that got him reading. He is now a teacher, who specializes in helping children with reading difficulties, and uses comics in his teaching.

This is really inspiring. Martin Barks in Comics, Ideology and Power, discusses how comics have always been regarded with suspicion and contempt by the establishment. They were regarded as rubbish, at best. At worst they were seen as positively subversive. I can remember how one of the text books we used in English at school included a piece of journalism roundly condemning comics as rubbish literature with bad artwork. And this was reprinted in the 1980s! My mother, on the other hand, was in favour of comics because they did get children reading, and used to encourage the parents of the children she taught to buy them when they asked her advice on how they could get their children to read if they wouldn’t read books. This shows how far comics have come, so that they are now respectable and admired.

Mass Rallies Across State Capitols in America Tomorrow to Persuade Republicans against Installing Trump

December 18, 2016

This is awesome. In this video from TYT Politics, The Young Turks interview Kai Newkirk and Tania Maduro, the spokespeople for Democracy Spring, about the mass rallies that are set to be held tomorrow to persuade Republican electors not to install Donald Trump as the next president of the US.

The blurb for the protests states

In order for Republican Electors to vote tomorrow, Dec. 19 on whether or not to install Donald Trump as the United States president, they will need to go to their state capitols where concerned citizens will be waiting to greet them, hoping turn them against the reality-TV start turned demagogue turned president-Elect. Kai Newkirk and Tania Maduro of Democracy Spring and December19.us explain their strategy to use 51 public demonstrations to remind the Electors of their Constitutional duty to deliberate upon whether or not the electoral vote leader is fit to hold the highest office in the land.

Their argument includes (1) reports from the FBI and the CIA that Russian spies intervened in the election to help Trump win, (2) Trump has failed to disclose financial conflicts of interest that may prevent him from protecting the interests of the United States, and (3) Donald Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots.

Newkirk and Maduro state that Trump should not be president, not just because of his racism and sexism, but because of his unstable, aggressive character. They fear that when he gets into power, he will install an official, who will try to ban Democracy Spring and its efforts to get corporate money out of politics. They state that they will try to engage with Republican electors by saying that they have to vote with their conscience, but Trump is not just a danger to people like them (the protesters) but to all Americans, to the world, and to the climate. They realise that many Republicans are unhappy about vile character and its defects.

Interspersed with the interview is clips showing the Orange Fuhrer actually beating someone up at a wrestling or boxing match, and a Saturday Night Live sketch in which Putin describes him as ‘the best candidate … the Manchurian candidate’. They not that the Electoral College was put in to protect America from potential Manchurian candidates. The organisers also show how you can join the protests by logging on to their website and looking up one near you.

I’m fully behind Democracy Spring and their efforts to oust Trump.I don’t believe that he is a Manchurian candidate, and indeed the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, has said that all the material published by WikiLeaks did not come from the Russians, but by disgruntled Democratic insiders. Similarly, the Electoral College was set up to preserve the power of the slave states, who did not want their slaves counted as full human beings.

But the organisers are right: Trump is a vicious bigot, who has drawn any number of Fascists and misogynists out of the woodwork and put them in his cabinet. He is indeed a danger to America, the environment and the world. And there are a number of Republican Electors, who have already decided that he is too much for their stomachs to bear. I hope tomorrow we will see many more of them.

George Galloway Challenges Daily Mail Journalist Richard Littlejohn to Boxing Match

August 28, 2016

I realise that this may not be the wisest post to put up, considering the Blairite smears against Corbyn supporters as abusive, violent extreme left-wing militants, ignoring their own vitriolic, highly abusive rants against the Corbynites and their own rhetoric of violence. In this video, Galloway challenges the right-wing columnist to a boxing match over his comments about the beating of a disabled protester, Jody MacIntyre. You may remember the incident. MacIntyre has cerebral palsy, and is confined to a wheelchair. At one of the anti-austerity demonstrations, one of the rozzers hauled him out of his chair, and beat him as he lay in the ground. Like very many people, including Mike at Vox Political, and I believe Johnny Void and the Angry Yorkshireman, the Glasgae politico was outraged. He was also highly unimpressed by Littlejohn’s comments about the incident, in which he compared MacIntyre to the character in the wheelchair from Little Britain. Galloway has considerable respect for MacIntyre, and states that he accompanied him on a trip to Syria, which is impressive for anyone, and much more so for someone with MacIntyre’s disabilities. He derides Littlejohn as ‘rancid’ and challenges him to go five rounds in a boxing ring.

This is pretty much what very many people would like to happen to Littlejohn. Littlejohn seemed to be trying to position himself as a right-wing ‘shock jock’ a few years ago. He had his own talk show on Sky, the titles of which showed him walking past a Black beggar and other unfortunates or examples of the British Left, to show how hard, heartless and right-wing he was. If I remember correctly, one of his guests on the show, who was royally outraged by his bigoted sneering, was Michael Winner.

That’s surprising, as Winner was hardly a man of the Left. But Winner always supported gay rights, going as far back as the 1960s. Winner and a couple of gay women had been invited on Littlejohn’s show to discuss homosexuality or perhaps more specifically, lesbianism. Whichever it was, Winner was outraged by Littlejohn’s treatment of the two women and his sneering towards them. There’s a clip of this, which has been shown a number of times on TV. It shows Winner standing up, bristling and almost shaking with rage, telling Littlejohn to his face that the two ladies not only agreed to appear on his show, but have also been courteous and polite, while Littlejohn has treated them with nothing but sneers and innuendo.

The comparison of MacIntyre to the Little Britain character is also invidious. A friend of mine, whose partner is severely disabled and bound to a wheelchair, told me years ago that he felt the character had done immense harm. If you haven’t watched the show, that character pretends to be bound to his wheelchair, and in an almost vegetative state. When his brother, who is also his carer, is away, the character leaps up and runs around, showing that he is perfectly fit and well. I don’t think the two writers and stars of the show were trying to smear the disabled. Unfortunately, it seems many of the public, encouraged by inflammatory articles in the press about benefit cheats and scroungers on disability benefits, have believed that the character somehow reflects reality. And so disabled people, including my friend and his partner, have been insulted and abused because of the character. Abuse and prejudice that was no doubt reinforced by Littlejohn’s article.

And so it’s great to see a bully like Littlejohn being very publicly challenged for his comments. And the challenge to a proper, refereed fight is appropriate, considering that Littlejohn clearly enjoyed the spectacle of someone else being violently assaulted. I am not encouraging anyone to assault anybody because of their comments, no matter how bigoted and obnoxious. I’m merely enjoying the spectacle of a challenge being issued to Littlejohn designed to cut him down to size for supporting violence and bullying.

Radical 80s Anti-War Pop: Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Two Tribes

August 6, 2016

A week or so ago I put I blogged about Sting’s great anti-war song, Russians. Based on a tune by Prokofiev, and with the haunting refrain, ‘Do the Russians love their children too?’, this was Sting’s protest against the new Cold War between America and Russia in which both sides were condemned for their militarism. The video I used here was of a performance the great songster made a few years ago on Russian TV, which shows how far the world has come since I was a schoolboy in the 1980s. Then, Russia and the rest of the former eastern bloc were very much closed off to the West, although as the political climate thawed, the BBC did launch a fascinating series of films on the Soviet Union. This included an edition of antenna on Soviet TV. I was moved to put up the video as a reminder of great pop challenging the horrific spectre of nuclear war by the arms build up in the West and increasing tension between NATO and Russia. There’s been a series of manoeuvres in Estonia, Poland, Romania and the other Baltic states against the possibility of a Russian invasion, despite the fact that the Russians have said that they have no intention of doing any such thing. This follows a book by a NATO general predicting that by May next year, Russia will have invaded Latvia, and our nations will be at war. This should terrify everyone, who grew up in the 1980s and remembers the real threat of nuclear Armageddon then, along with the horrific spoutings of some generals about fighting a ‘limited nuclear war’ in Europe.

Unfortunately, that possibility has just come a step nearer after the statement on Morning Joe, an American news programme hosted by Joe Scarborough, that he had been told by a foreign policy expert that in discussing the subject with Donald Trump, the coiffured clown asked him three times why America hadn’t used nuclear weapons. As I said in my last post, this is a very good argument for keeping the pratt out of the White House, if not the society of decent humans. If you only needed one argument for not wanting to see Trump as president, regardless of the endorsement of violence, the misogyny, the racism and Islamophobia, this would be it. Trump shouldn’t be president, because he’s a threat to all life on Earth.

Sting wasn’t the only pop musician to release a piece in the 1980s against the militaristic posturing between East and West. So too did Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Frankie … were a band that managed to shock the British public with the release of their single, Relax, and the homoerotic imagery of both the song and the accompanying video. It was so shocking, that the Beeb was supposed to have banned. This, of course, had the usual effect of making it massively popular, and it shot to Number 1 in the charts. The band’s frontman, Holly Johnson was gay, as was I think, one of the other band members, but most of them were straight. Bands like Frankie…, and other gay pop stars like Marc Almond, Jimmy Summerville and Boy George helped to challenge the popular prejudice and real hatred there was for gays there still was then, over a decade after gay sex in private between consenting adults had been legalised.

Two Tribes continued their trend of edgy music by presenting the confrontation between East and West as a bare knuckle boxing match between someone, who looked very much like Ronald Reagan, and an opponent, who was clearly based on one of the Russian presidents of the time. I can’t work out quite who the Russia is based on, as he looks a bit like Brezhnev, but not quite, and I can’t remember who Andropov and Chernenko, the last two Soviet presidents before Mikhail Gorbachev, looked like. To my mind, he looks more like Boris Yeltsin, the former mayor of Moscow, who succeeded Gorby as president of Russia. Unlike Gorby, Yeltsin wasn’t a Communist, but a capitalist-in-waiting, who sold off just about everything that wasn’t nailed down. The result was that Russian economy went into meltdown, millions across the former USSR were thrown out of work without any of the welfare safety nets in place in Europe or America, while rampant inflation wiped out people’s savings. Despite his generally pro-Western, pro-capitalist stance, he could also be belligerent. Sometime in his presidency, a Norwegian sounding rocket went off course, and landed somewhere in Russia. Yeltsin appeared on TV pounding his desk and declaring that he had been quite prepared to respond with nukes, if such an event seemed to be an attack on Russia. He was also, like many of the Russia politicos, including Brezhnev, massively corrupt. A lot of the state enterprises he privatised mysteriously ended up in the hands of his cronies, and people, who were prepared to fork over a lot of roubles. He was also a figure of western media amusement, as he appeared to be permanently smashed, unlike his predecessor, who appeared far more temperate and had launched a strong anti-drink campaign. The mass privatisation of the Soviet Economy had a devastating effect on its citizens’ health, which Basu and Stuckler discuss in their book, the Body Economic, on how economic austerity harms people’s physical health. Putin, with his promise of economic stability and national pride, is very much a response to the chaos of the Yeltsin regime. I’ve got a feeling Yeltsin might be dead now, but if anyone needed a good drubbing, it was him, though by the Russian people, who had a better reason to hate him than Ronald Reagan.

Frankie’s Two Tribes shows the violence in the ring escalating, until the audience of other international dignitaries begin fighting amongst themselves, to the consternation of the ringside commentator. The video ends with the Earth itself being blown up, a graphic comment on the real danger of the conflict. The song’s title, Two Tribes, also gives a very cynical take on the conflict. This isn’t about politics, human rights or the effectiveness and justice of economic systems. This is just pure tribalism, the primitive, nationalistic aggression that has haunted humanity since the Stone Age. I can’t say I was ever a fan of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and just about everyone I know is repulsed and disturbed by the Relax video. But Two Tribes is a classic piece of ’80s pop with a very relevant political message, and one that deserves to be given another hearing. Before Trump gets anywhere near the White house, and starts ranting and threatening like Reagan.

Democracy Now on Muhammad Ali’s 1966 Anti-Vietnam Speech

June 6, 2016

On Saturday, the world mourned the passing of one of the all-time greatest boxers and sports personalities, Muhammad Ali. Not only was Ali a superb boxer, he was also intelligent and witty. He was known for his trademark rhyme about being Muhammad Ali, ‘dance like a butterfly, sting like a bee’. Parkinson was justifiably proud at having him on his show, along with many other talented, respected and beloved celebrities. Ali was a convert to the Nation of Islam, a Black Muslim religion begun in the 1920s by W.D. Fard, a Syrian immigrant to the US, and notorious a few years ago for what some would consider to be the extreme, anti-White racism of its leader, Louis Farrakhan. The Nation of Islam’s best known representative and Black civil rights leader is Malcolm X, but Ali was certainly one of those, who took part in his people’s struggle for social improvement, respect and equality. He said in an interview that he wanted to give his people a hero. After his boxing career ended, he starred in a film about a Black slave fighting for his freedom during the American Civil War. His last years were marred by Parkinson’s disease, though he was still able to make an appearance at one of the Olympics to light the flame at the beginning of the games.

Mike put up on his site the text of Ali’s speech, in which he refused to go to Vietnam to help the White slave masters oppress another ‘coloured’ people. He stated firmly that if he believed that the War would help the 22 million of his people in America improve their position, he’d volunteer like a shot. But it wasn’t. See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/04/say-what-you-like-about-muhammad-ali-he-stood-up-for-what-he-believed/

In this piece from Democracy Now, the musician John Legend reads Ali’s speech in a clip from The People Speak, based on the book Voices from a People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn and Arnold Arnove. The show’s anchor, Amy Goodwin, also talks to Ishmael Reed, the author of The Complete Ali, about the effect the speech and his subsequent prosecution had on Ali’s career. Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title, and then dragged through the courts as the authorities tried to prosecute him for his refusal to enlist. Eventually the case reached the high court, and the sentence of five years in prison was overturned. However, three years had passed, and Ali had also aged. He was passed his peak. Before, his opponents had been unable to hit him. Not they could.

Reed and Goodwin also talk about the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, the fight between Ali and George Forman, staged by the dictator of Zaire, General Mobutu, which Mobutu himself didn’t attend, probably from fears of assassination. Ishmael points out that Ali played ‘footsie’ with dictators. He fight in Manila is credited with bringing the Philippines into the 20th century, and giving the country and its people a new respect and dignity. While this certainly enhanced the prestige of the country’s dictator, General Marcos, to the chagrin of the Aquino family, Ali himself took a break from the fight to go and meet the country’s rebels during Ramadan.

Rest in Peace, big man.

Here’s the video:

More Insane Ranting from Alex Jones

March 2, 2016

I’ve included this video as a bit of light relief after the very serious threat Donald Trump poses to freedom, tolerance and decency in the Land of the Free. This is another collection of rants from Infowars Screamer. He starts off by claiming that the New World Order Tyranny is coming to cut his testicles off, then it goes into his attack on Piers Morgan when Morgan tried to interview him on the subject of gun control. In that interview, Jones starts raving about mind control bills and challenges the former editor of the Mirror to a boxing match. And there’s more screaming from Jones about how they’re coming to kill us all, and he’s seen the maggot ridden bodies. It’s all unintentionally hilarious.

Still, he did get one thing almost right. He claims that Morgan was thrown off the Mirror for publishing untrue stories. It’s sort of right. Morgan was defenestrated from the Mirror because he and the ‘City Slickers’ were caught sharing ramping – illegally manufacturing stories to boost the value of shares in companies in which they too had invested, and from which they stood to profit.

Which doesn’t make Jones right about anything else.

The Young Turks: Trump Wants to Punch Protestors in the Face

February 24, 2016

More verbal thuggery from the Duce of Trump tower. In this clip from The Young Turks, Wes Clark, Steve Oh and Malcolm Feschner discuss Trump wishing for the return of the old days when a protestor is hustled out from his rally. He says that it was great back then, because he wants to punch protestors in the face. You can’t do that now, but back then they’d be sent out on a stretcher. The TYT panel talk about how Trump is always keen to incite violence at his rallies, though less eager to engage in it himself. What Trump describes isn’t quite the good old days. That was when the police beat and turned fire hoses on people. While it goes down well with his supporters, it doesn’t appeal to the great American public. They state that the classic example of that was at the 1968 Democratic convention, when the cops rioted and began beating the anti-war protestors.

They also point out that Trump wants to appoint a force to go door to door, checking for illegal immigrants. They ponder it’s bizarre appeal to his supporters, who have a fear of state violence. In fact, one of them says that actually they’re really hoping that they’ll get the call to join Trump’s forces. It’s the same type of mob mentality that saw the rise of the Fascist militias in the former Yugoslavia, and the Brownshirts in Nazi Germany. Absolutely. In the 1920s, when the Communists and Nazis were running around the streets of Weimar Germany beating the living daylights out of each other, the Nazis used to sing a nasty little song. It clearly express their anti-Semitism, and ended with the line, ‘Until the Jew lies bleeding at our feet’. It’s not hard to imagine Trump’s supporters singing something similar about Muslims. Steve Oh says that Trump is a charismatic bully. He is, just like that other charismatic racist bully, Adolf Hitler.

The panel also discusses the possibility that Trump’s supporters will start appearing next at his rallies with their guns. It’ll only be a few at first, but the numbers will steadily increase.

In a lighter vein, they also talk about how the Republican primaries could be improved if Trump and the other candidates just decided to get in the ring, as at a boxing or wrestling match, and beat seven bells out of each other until a winner emerges.