Posts Tagged ‘Bristol’

Two Books Showing Bristol Has Not Kept Secret Its Involvement in the Slave Trade

June 6, 2019

The week before last, Channel 4’s Britain’s Most Historic Towns was in Bristol, examining its history in the Georgian period. The show’s presented by Dr. Alice Roberts, who I believe is the Professor for the Public Engagement with Science at Birmingham University. She’s had a long career in television presenting programmes on archaeology, history and human evolution, beginning in the 1980s with Time Team. She’s a medical doctor, who I believe also taught anatomy at Bristol University. She regularly appeared on Time Team to give her opinion on any human remains that were recovered during their escavations.

Channel 4’s ‘Britain’s Most Historic Towns’

Time Team was finally cancelled after a very successful run several years ago, but like its presenter Tony Robinson, Roberts has continued fronting history and archaeology programmes. Each week the show visits a different British town and explores a specific period of its history. Roberts tours the town, talking to experts on its history and architecture during the period, and very often tries on the ladies’ costume at the time. Last year among the various towns the series covered was Cheltenham during its heyday as a regency spa. This year’s series started off with Dover, concentrating on it history during World War II. Last week it was looking at Cardiff in the early part of the 20th century, when the city became the major centre of the global coal industry. And the week before that they were in Bristol, telling its history during the Georgian period. Roberts has a personal connection to the city, as it’s her home town and she went to school here. She also had a personal connection to Cardiff, as it was at its university that she studied medicine.

Georgian Bristol

During the Georgian period – the age of the four Georges, from the early 18th century to the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837 – Bristol was one of the leading cities in Britain. It’s a port, whose location on the Bristol Channel gave it an excellent position for trading with Africa and America. The programme covered other aspects of Bristol’s history during the period, like the emergence of gin, the 1827 massacre by the army in Queen’s Square in Redcliffe of a mob demanding electoral reform, and the development of the Clifton and Hotwells suburbs as genteel residential areas for the city’s new mercantile elite. But Bristol’s wealth at the time was largely produced from the immense profits from the slave trade. Ships from Bristol took trade goods down to west Africa, where they were bartered for slaves. These were then taken to the West Indies to be sold, and the ships returned to Bristol with West Indian goods like sugar and rum in what has become known as the triangular trade. And it was on this aspect of Bristol’s Georgian history that the programme concentrated.

The show is well done and the research is very thorough. Among those Roberts talked to was Dr. Steve Poole, a lecturer at the University of the West of England; a member of Bristol’s Radical History Group, who talked about the Queen’s Square Massacre; and a couple of distillers, who showed her how 18th century gin was made. She also talked to Dr. Edson Burnett about the slave trade, going through some of the ledgers left by the slavers itemising their ships’ human cargo in the city archives. Some of these are really shocking. They simply give the number of slaves shipped aboard, and the deaths during the voyage. Those taken were simply items of merchandise, with no names. The ledgers give brief descriptions of those who died and how the body was disposed of. They were simply thrown over the side. One of the most horrendous incidents was the scandal surrounding the Zong, a slave ship, which threw its entire cargo of slaves overboard during a storm, and then tried to sue the insurance company for compensation for them as lost cargo. It’s a horrific atrocity and injustice. She also mentioned how a number of plays were written during the 18th century attacking the slave trade, many of which were set in Bristol. She then spoke to the writer and artistic director of a modern play about the trade being staged by Bristol’s historic Old Vic theatre.

Bristol and the Slave Trade

The programme’s coverage of Bristol’s history during the period was fair, although there was much obviously left out because of the constraints of the programme’s length. It’s an hour long, and it could easily take that long to discuss the city’s involvement with the slave trade and some of the architecture that was built for the merchants involved in the trade. As it was, the programme showed only one of them, the house of George Pinney, a 19th century West India planter and merchant. This is now a museum, the Georgian House, open to the public in one of the streets just off Park Street. However, Roberts opened the discussion of the city’s complicity in the slave trade with a statement that was simply wrong. She said that it was a terrible secret.

Exhibitions

Well, if Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade is a secret, then it’s a very badly kept one! Bristol’s M Shed museum, which takes visitors through the city’s history and some of its industries, including aircraft and motor vehicles built here, has a display on the slave trade. This shows not only slave manacles and the manillas, bracelet-like items used for barter, but also maps of homes and other properties owned and occupied by the slave merchants and plantation owners. This follows an earlier exhibit at the City Museum in Queen Street, ‘A Respectable Trade’, which was timed to coincide with the TV series of that name on BBC 1, based on the book by historical novelist Philippa Gregory. The book and TV series were about the slave trade, and much of it was set in the Bristol of the time. The exhibition was staged by local council and showed the historical reality on which the fiction was based. Gregory also appeared in a TV programme at the time, exploring the city’s connection to the slave trade, in which she spoke to several Black anti-racist activists.

Books and Pamphlets

Since then there have been a number of books published on Bristol and the slave trade. The city library has published a catalogue of books and other materials it holds on the subject.  There has also been a book published on the City in 1807, the year in which the slave trade was officially prohibited throughout the British Empire. Dr. Madge Dresser, a historian at the University of the West of England, has also published a book, Slavery Obscured, on the persistence of the slave trade after its formal abolition, in which merchants from Bristol were involved. And back in the 1990s the local branch of the Historical Association published a booklet on Bristol’s Black population in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Society of Merchant Venturers, the mercantile organisation that dominated Bristol’s trade in that period, has also published a catalogue of its holdings, which included it’s members’ plantations in the West Indies.

Origin of Belief Bristol Keeping Slave Trade Connection Secret

I’ve been told by members of the city’s Black cultural and anti-racist organisations that the idea that the city council is somehow covering up the city’s involvement in the slave trade dates from the 1970s. A member of the community rang the council up to inquire about what they knew about Bristol and the slave trade, only to be told that the city wasn’t involved in it. Which is wrong. I wonder if the person, who answered the call genuinely didn’t know about Bristol’s history of slaving. But whatever the reality, this planted the idea that the city council was deliberating hiding the truth. I think it was partly to dispel this idea that the City Museum staged the 1995 exhibition.

Two Books on Bristol from the 1950s and 1970s

But even before then, the city’s involvement in the slave trade was known and discussed. For example, the book Bristol and Its Adjoining Counties, edited by C.M. MacInnes and W.F. Whittard, and published by the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1955, has several pages on the slave trade in the chapter by MacInnes, ‘Bristol and Overseas Expansion’, pp. 219-230.

The 1975 textbook, Bristol: An Outline History for Schools, by H. Chasey, published by Georges, also covers the slave trade in its chapter on city’s 18th century trade, pp. 31-2. All the chapters are a page or so in length, with another page suggesting projects or containing questions for students on that period of the city’s history. The paragraph on the slave trade runs

Unfortunately, Bristol was better known at this time for its links with the slave trade. The “Blackbirds” sailed to Africa with various goods, exchanged them for slaves which were then shipped to the West Indies or North America. The ships then returned home iwth sugar and tobacco, the whole “Triangular Trade” bringing enormous profits to many Bristol merchants. Before 1760, Bristol carried about one-third of all the slaves, but this number died away by the end of the century as the anti-slavery movement made progress. (p. 31).

Few Obvious Monuments to Slave Trade in City

I also think that part of this misconception may come from the fact that there are few monuments from the time that obviously have direct connections to the slave trade. When I was studying archaeology at Bristol, one of the foreign students on the archaeology course complained to one of the lecturers that her housemate believed Bristol was racist, because there were no monuments for the slaves. The housemate was another foreign student, from Guiana, where I believe the buildings for landing and sale of slaves still exist. I think the student expected similar buildings to exist in Bristol. But they don’t, as the bulk of the city’s slave trade was with the West Indies. There were slaves in Bristol, but these were brought to the city as personal servants, rather than imported en masse as they were in the Caribbean.

Historic Buildings and Later Monuments Connected to Slaves and Slave Trade

However, there are architectural hints at the city’s connection to the slave trade all around. The city’s merchants decorated the exterior of their homes with carvings symbolising their connection to Africa or the Caribbean, such as pineapples. There are also coloured statues, representing the indigenous peoples of Africa, Asia and the Americas in St. Nicholas Market, one of which is a Black African. And several of the city’s pubs also claim a direct connection to the trade. The Ostrich, one of the pubs on the harbourside, had a cellar, in which, it was claimed, slaves were held ready for sale. When I used to drink there in the 1990s there was a poster up about it, along with reproductions of the advertisements of the time for runaway slaves. However, it may be the reality here was more prosaic. The 1995 exhibition said that many the connection of many of parts of Bristol to the slave trade may just be urban folklore. Blackboy Hill, for example, is probably not named after a slave boy, but possibly a racehorse owned by Charles II. The city has also made other gestures to commemorating the victims of the slave trade. There’s a slave walk along Bristol’s docks, and a plaque put up to those enslaved by city on one of the former warehouses by M Shed. A remarkable bridge built across the docks in the 1990s, which features two horn-like constructions, has been called ‘Pero’s Bridge’, after one of the slaves imported into Bristol. And there is a gravestone for Scipio, an African slave brought to the city by his master in one of the city’s churchyards.

Bristol has a very rich and fascinating history, of which the slave trade is one part. It’s a history that definitely needs to be told. And it has only been within the last quarter century or so that the slave trade has been memorialised in local museums, not just in Bristol, but also elsewhere. Bristol has joined Liverpool and Nantes in France in creating exhibitions and galleries on its involvement in the trade. Before then it’s fair to say that City Museum did not display anything on the slave trade. It was a period of the city’s history that most Bristolians probably would have preferred not to commemorate, but it was never forgotten nor kept hidden.

 

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Safety Fears over Brexit Debate with Sargon at Bristol’s UWE

May 15, 2019

This was on the local news for Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire, Points West, this morning. The debating society at the University of the West of England here in Bristol has been warned by the uni and the rozzers not to go ahead with a planned debate about Brexit because of concerns about people’s safety. The debate is due to include Carl Benjamin, aka ‘Sargon of Akkad’, the notorious far right candidate for UKIP in the southwest.

This is the notorious Sargon, who has made numerous videos attacking feminism, supporting the use of offensive epithets against Blacks, Jews, gays, Asians and the mentally challenged. The vlogger, who said that he could be quoted as saying it’s all right to sodomise young boys, because they did it in ancient Greece. Who answered a question about whether sex with underage children was right or wrong by saying ‘it depends on the child’. The guy, who sent a tweet to Labour’s Jess Philips saying ‘I wouldn’t even rape you’. The same Sargon, who seems to believe he’s centre left, when in actual fact he’s a complete libertarian, who would like to see all public enterprises privatised, including the NHS, and the welfare state dismantled. And when asked what his policies were by a reporter for Sky News, couldn’t find an answer except to say that he opposed political correctness and Islam.

As a result of his antics, the head of UKIP in Swindon wants him deselected and the party’s Gloucestershire branch has closed down. When he traveled to Gibraltar on his campaigning tour, the country’s governor, Fabian Picardo, refused to meet him and tweeted that Sargon’s comments were hate speech, which had no place there. He has been refused entry to a restaurant because of his vile views in one of the cities in which he campaign, and a protester threw a milkshake at him in Cornwall.

And then there’s the question of the hatred and threats spewed on social media by some of the Brexit crowd. You can understand why the University and police fear violence at the debate if it goes ahead.

I think the debate is also overshadowed by a disturbance at another university event featuring Sargon a few years ago. As Sargon was speaking, a load of black clad people in balaclavas waving an Antifa flag rushed in, only to be beaten off by Sargon and his supporters. Who captured their flag. There are clips of the incident on the Net, and many commenters have suggested that the incident was fake. It may have been staged to make Sargon look good, as the brave defender of free speech against anti-racist intolerance.

Despite this the debating society has said that they intend to go ahead with debate on Friday. If it does, I hope it all goes well for them, and that Sargon gets a sound intellectual and verbal, but not physical, drubbing. 

In the meantime, here’s another video from Kevin Logan briefly showing some of the highlights of Sargon’s campaigning so far to suitable musical accompaniment. This includes Sargon having fish and the milkshake thrown at him. It ends with a statement of where UKIP now lies in the polls – 2% – accompanied by Woody Guthrie’s ‘All You Fascists Bound to Lose’.

Enjoy!

Now Milo Yiannopolis Turns Up to Help Sargon Destroy UKIP

May 7, 2019

More from the continuing implosion of UKIP thanks to Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad. As I’ve blogged about several times previously, Sargon’s one of the extreme right-wing bloggers, vloggers and internet personalities Kipperfuehrer Batten has recruited to boost UKIP’s electoral chances. The others include Mark Meechan, alias Count Dankula, of Nazi pug infamy and Paul Joseph Watson, late of American conspiracy news site, Infowars. As well as the vicious islamophobe and thug, Tommy Robinson. And rather than increase UKIP’s popularity and chances, these personalities are actually torpedoing it massively.

Sargon’s become infamous for a series of comments he made on social media. These include the tweet he sent to Labour MP Jess Phillips, saying ‘I wouldn’t even rape you’. This was bad enough, but then the Sunday before last the Mail on Sunday did a hit piece on him, reporting other comments Sargon had made which suggested he endorsed paedophilia. In one internet conversation, Sargon is supposed to have said that people could quote him as approving of adults have sex with boys. Because they did in ancient Greece, where it was called mentoring. In another chat with the Justicar, another vlogger, who claimed to have had sex before he was 11, Sargon had commented that it depended on the child whether this was right, and had to be considered on a case by case basis. When he was running The Thinkery podcast, Sargon had also made a broadcast with Singaporean vlogger Amos Yee, who genuinely believes that the age of consent should be scrapped.

And this is in addition to Sargon’s own use of racial slurs and his casual antifeminism. Sargon has attacked the media reporting these comments as ‘dirty, dirty smear merchants’, but he hasn’t disavowed them. Or at least, not the tweet directed at Jess Phillips, which he’s tried to defend, as has Batten, who claimed it was satirical. This has just made it all worse.

But, it seems, as Michael Medved used to say when presenting Channel 4’s The Worst of Hollywood back in the 1980s, ‘the worst is yet to come.’ How much worse? Milo Yiannopolis has announced that he’s coming to help Sargon out. That’s how much worse.

Yiannopolis is, you’ll remember, another extreme right-wing pundit. A former technology correspondent for Breitbart, Yiannopolis made his name promoting extreme Conservative views and policies. He was another anti-feminist, who also attacked Blacks, other ethnic minorities and has been accused of homophobia because of his comments about gays. And like Sargon, he tried to excuse it all in the name of ‘free speech’. He also hid behind his own identity as a half-Jewish gay man with a Black husband. A year or so ago he was touring America’s campuses as part of his ‘Dangerous Faggot’ campaign for the Republican party and Donald Trump. He also had a very lucrative book deal ready with the imprint of publishers Simon and Schuster specialising in right-wing politics.

Then it all spectacularly self-destructed. Like Sargon, Yiannopolis opened his mouth to make comments approving of child abuse. This was to Joe Rogan on his internet show, where Yiannopolis revealed that he had been molested when he was 13 by a Roman Catholic priest, called ‘Father Michael’, but claimed that he had been the active seducer. He said that sexual relationships between boys and older men were beneficial in that they helped these young gays with their sexual identity. He also claimed he had been to Hollywood boat parties where very young boys had been employed as prostitutes, but refused to name names. Under Californian law, failure to report sexual abuse is a crime. I don’t think Yiannopolis was formally charged with any offence, but his comments cost him his job with Breitbart, his book contract, and an invitation to the annual American Conservative gathering, CPAC. He has been declared bankrupt to the tune of £4 million. He was also hoping to go to Australia to do a tour there with Tommy Robinson, but the Ozzie authorities refused to let him in. But now Yiannopolis has sent a message telling everyone that he is flying in tomorrow to help Sargon on the campaign trail.

This is someone, who has destroyed their career through comments supporting paedophilia, coming to support someone else, who’s political career is being destroyed because they’ve allegedly made comments supporting child abuse. This brings to mind the old adage, ‘When you’re in a hole, stop digging.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/05/ukip-enlists-disgraced-paedophilia.html

A few days ago, Kevin Logan, Kristi Winters and Steve Shives did a livestream together, in which they discussed and mocked Sargon’s utterly incompetent management of his electoral campaign. To say it is not going well for Sargon is an understatement. Thanks to Sargon, the Gloucestershire branch of UKIP have shut themselves down rather than endorse him as a candidate, posting this on their website. When Sargon went to Gibraltar to drum up support there, as apparently it’s part of the southwest England European constituency, governor Fabian Picardo refused to meet him. The good politico then issued a tweet stating that as far as he was concerned, Sargon’s views represented hate speech that had no place in his country.

See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73f1TYBlRo4

This is nearly two and three quarter hours long, and I haven’t watched all of it, so I can’t comment on the video as a whole. But the reports and screenshots of Gloucestershire UKIP are at the 38 minute mark.

Logan, Winters and Shives also believed that Sargon was also refused entry to a Beefeater restaurant when he went to my home city of Bristol the other day. He wanted to hold a meeting in it, but somebody phoned them up to warn them that a Fascist wanted to hold his meeting there. So they refused.

The trio also joked that Sargon was the reverse Midas. Just as the ancient King in Greek legend turned all he touched into gold, so Sargon turns everything he comes into contact with to ordure. Why, joked Shives, couldn’t he join the Tories? Quite. And while he’s at it, I’d also like him to join the Jewish Labour Movement and get a job with Gabriel Pogrund on the Sunday Times, writing articles about how Corbyn and his supporters are anti-Semites. That should destroy those organisations.

According to Logan and co, UKIP’s polling is about 2.4 per cent, which is just above the 2 per cent level needed to get one of the two listed candidates for south-west England elected. But Sargon is the second, and at this rate definitely won’t be going to Europe any time soon. But after his performance, and support from Yiannopolis, it’s going to be a good question whether there’s still a UKIP party after this election.

 

 

 

Sargon Begins Car-Crash UKIP Campaign

April 26, 2019

As it’s now certain that we’re still going to be in the EU for the European election, the various racist, anti-EU, anti-immigrant and islamophobic parties are lining up to campaign. And that includes UKIP, who, as I’ve blogged previously, have selected Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, to be one of their two listed candidates for the southwest. Sargon’s a right-wing internet personality with a hatred of ‘political correctness’, meaning feminism and anti-racist and gay rights activism. He styles himself a ‘centrist moderate’ and a ‘classical liberal’. The latter means that he isn’t moderate, but believes in the classical economics of the 19th century: everything should be privatised, and there should be little or nothing in the way of a welfare state. And as an anti-feminist, Sargon is notorious for a Tweet he sent to the Labour MP, Jess Philips, when she was describing the rape and death threats she’d received via twitter, which said ‘I wouldn’t even rape you’.

Sargon launched his campaign at a big UKIP conference last week or so with his fellow internet rightist, Mark Meechan, aka Count Dankula, and current Kipperfuhrer Batten. Dankula is the man, who was convicted of spreading hate by making a video showing how he had taught his girlfriend’s pug to make the Nazi salute when he shouted ‘Gas the Jews’. It was not a pretty spectacle. In fact it was, as Star Trek’s Ferengi used to say, ‘Ugly. Very ugleee!’ Although it was supposed to be a press conference, Sargon started by attacking the press, boasting that their audiences were collapsing while he had a million subscribers. When asked about his notorious rape tweet by a female reporter from Sky News, Sargon got defensive and said that it wasn’t a rape threat. Which is disingenuous, as no-one said it was. What everyone found offensive was that it was directed at a woman, who had suffered rape. Kevin Logan, discussing the tweet and Sargon’s catastrophic press meeting with Dr. Kristi Winters, argued that his tweet was threatening, in that by including the word ‘even’ Sargon was suggesting that there were people, he did consider worth raping.

And everyone has picked up on that Tweet. Sargon has been massively pilloried for it in the mainstream press, with the Scum – of all papers! – describing him as a ‘sicko’. But this hasn’t deterred Sargon and his supporters from defending it. They try to wave it all off by saying that it all happened three years ago, and so it’s no longer relevant. But it is, as unlike the other politicos, who’ve been forced to apologise for ill-judged or malign comments, they’re still defending it and haven’t changed their views. In fact, the evening before the press conference Meechan and Sargon had held an event at which they talked about themselves. And Meechan told a joke that was arguably even worse. He was talking about how he had been poor at university. The were so poor, they couldn’t afford hook-ups, and so had to resort to rape. But it was worse for the women, who were also poor and always being raped. It’s the kind of joke which would have any other political party demanding an apology or considering suspending the politico involved. Not so UKIP, apparently. Back at the press conference, Sargon said he wasn’t going to answer any more questions from them, as they were ‘dirty, dirty smearers’. Which he then contradicted by immediately asking, ‘any questions?’

Sargon is also notorious for a post he put up on his YouTube channel in which he used a range of racial slurs against Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, gays and the mentally handicapped. The anti-racist/ anti-religious extremism organisation has dug it out, and yesterday put up a piece about this wretched video, including a transcript. The post was made in November 2015, and was titled ‘Offence Is Never Given, Retard’, but has since been pulled from YouTube for violating their community guidelines. Sargon’s video was a response to another piece trying to get people to stop using racial slurs. This featured a Black man, Hispanic woman, gay man, an Asian, a Jew and a woman with Down’s Syndrome, who come forward and say, ‘It’s not acceptable to call me – ‘ and then the racial or sexual slur, ‘n***er’, ‘Sp*c’, ‘f*g’, ‘k*ke’, ‘Ch*nk’ and ‘retard’. Sargon then protests against all this, and claims it’s perfectly acceptable to call Asians ‘ch*nks’ because they are more privileged than Whites. He then ends his video with a piece of text reading

DON’T LET THESE AUTHORITARIAN BUSYBODIES CONTROL YOU.

IT’S NOT UP TO YOU TO PROTECT THE FEELINGS OF OTHERS, IT IS FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL TO DO THAT FOR THEMSELVES.

AND IT CAN BE SO LIBERATING TO BE PURILE [sic] OCCASIONALLY.

GOD FORBID THESE STODGY BASTARDS OUTLAW OFFENDING PEOPLE.

Oh yes, and just to be really offensive he puts up in front of the Black man the title of a notoriously offensive Danish movie, Gay N*ggers from Space.

The piece by Hope Not Hate also states that Benjamin’s cameraman, Michael Brooks, is another rightist, who has described himself as ’14 and 88′, a far right code mixing ‘Heil Hitler’ with the notorious ’14 words. He has contributed to various far right sites, and once posted a graph showing how the birthrate in Africa was outstripping that in Europe with the phrase, ‘Planet of the Apes is coming’. Brooks appeared alongside Sargon at another Brexit rally organised by UKIP and the Islamophobe Tommy Robinson.

UKIP Euro Candidate’s Vile Racial Slur-Ridden Rant

And this week Sargon kicked off his campaign in his home town of Swindon. He arranged to meet his public by the fountain, before moving to the pub, which he considered to be a more comfortable environment. He showed his characteristic lack of punctuality by turning up half an hour late. No-one from the mainstream media bother to be in attendance, and even the reporter from the Swindon Advertiser packed it in and went off after a while. Which doesn’t bode well for Sargon’s media coverage. Not that he can really complain – he deliberately baited them at the UKIP press conference, expecting to be able to pick up votes online. Kevin Logan pointed out that what he doesn’t seem to understand is that of his million subscribers, many are abroad and so can’t vote for him, while those in Britain are spread all over the country, so that there may be very few of his supporters in the southwest. Which means that the number of people, who know who he is, yet alone intend to vote for him, may be very small. He did turn up in Bristol on Wednesday, where he had a small gathering, but the UKIP rally was vastly overshadowed by Change UK’s.

See Kevin Logan’s and Kristi Winter’s video discussing Sargon’s campaign at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOd0KMVJDBQ&t=7193s This is two and three-quarters of an hour long, but the last 50 minutes or so are about an incident in America where the racist YouTuber Andy Warski was threatened with violence for his stupid antics.

Also, as Zelo Street has pointed out, Aubrey Attwater, the chairman of UKIP’s Swindon branch, has also demanded Sargon’s deselection because of his rape tweet. See https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/04/carl-benjamin-forgotten-already.html

Sargon is proud of having appeared at the European parliament supporting UKIP, but this looks like it’s going to be the high point of his career. With antagonism, hostility and apathy from the press and his own local party, and more general outrage from the rest of the population at his racism, misogyny and bigotry, hopefully Sargon’s hopes to be an MEP are doomed to failure.

Zelo Street on the Mainstream Press and the New Zealand Mosque Shooting

March 17, 2019

We got the news today that, at lunch time New Zealand time, gun men shot the worshippers at two mosques over there, killing men, women and children. There are 49 dead, and many more wounded. Two men and a woman have been arrested. One of them is an Australian White supremacist. It’s particularly shocking as I understand that, while New Zealand has its problems with violent crime same as everywhere else, it’s largely quiet and peaceful compared with some other nations. I can remember talking to an elderly gentleman in my part of south Bristol, who was preparing to leave to join relatives out there. He said he was impressed with the humanity of the place. It’s still a country where neighbours greet and talk to each other, And now sadly racist, islamophobic violence has hit that nation too.

The good fellow at Crewe, who posts the Zelo Street blog, has put up a really good piece not only condemning the violence, and putting it in the context of the other massacres caused by Fascist maniacs – Anders Breivik at Utoya, the rabid anti-Semite who attacked the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the other bigots and racists who gun down and murder Jews, Muslims and gays, including children. He also points the finger at those, whose own politics and rhetoric of hate have helped to inspire such atrocities: the right-wing press. He makes the point that this hate long ago went beyond the extreme right-wing fringe, and discusses the extreme right-wing figures, from Donald Trump, Milo Yiannopolis and the Alt Right, to Tories like Boris Johnson. All of whom will claim that their venomous hatred of Muslims and minorities had nothing to do with these outrages. And he says very strongly that none of them can escape their responsibility for these events. He writes

It is an industry that does not exist in a vacuum: as with any malignant virus, once incubated, it has to spread if it is to have any effect. And here, our free and fearless press, and even our broadcast media, should hang their heads in shame, although they will not. They have published the hate merchants, given platforms to bigots, encouraged the demonisation of minorities, all for the momentary interest of profit and ratings.
Moreover, it is not just fringe media that has spread the virus of hatred. It long ago went beyond Breitbart, InfoWars and Rush Limbaugh. Now it has been transmitted by Fox News Channel, the Murdoch Sun, the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, the Express, the Spectator and others. Yet the management of those media outlets are not responsible for the end product of the hatred they enable. Nor are the figureheads of the hate movement.
So it is that Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Geert Wilders, Marine le Pen, Nigel Farage, Gerard Batten, Rod Liddle, Douglas Murray, Tony Gallagher, Paul Dacre, Trevor Kavanagh, Katie Hopkins, Stephen Yaxley Lennon, Paul Joseph Watson, Peter Imanuelsen, Martin Sellner, Brittany Pettibone, Lauren Southern, Milo Yiannopoulos, Taki Theororacopulos, Fraser Nelson, James Delingpole, Boris Johnson, and so many others will rest easy this morning, safe in the knowledge that It Wasn’t Them.
Well, I have news for this collective stain on humanity, this repellent convocation of amateur human beings, this vicious cohort of hate preachers. Don’t think any or all of you can duck responsibility for what happened in Christchurch. You cannot. This is where your ignorance, hatred and bigotry leads. This is the fruit of your ill thought out labours.
Damn you. Damn every last miserable, hate-filled, bigoted, snivelling, cowardly, intolerant, selfish, worthless, uncaring one of you. Damn you all to hell.
See: http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/03/mosque-shootings-this-is-where-hatred.html
Absolutely.

Blairite MP Siobhain Mcdonagh Claims Anti-Capitalists Anti-Semitic

March 5, 2019

The Nye Bevan News blog reported yesterday that Blairite Labour MP Siobhain Mcdonagh had appeared on Radio 4 that morning, 4th March 2019, and told presenter John Humphreys that the anti-capitalists in the Labour party were anti-Semitic. Humphrey had asked her if the party was taking anti-Semitism seriously. She replied

I’m not sure that some people in the Labour party can, because it’s very much part of their politics – of hard left politics – to be against capitalists, and to see Jewish people as the financers of capital.

Humphreys then asked her if you had to be anti-Semitic to be anti-capitalist. She replied

Yes. Not everybody, but absolutely, there’s a certain strand of it and these people are not Labour, have never been Labour but we now find them in our party.

Humphreys then asked her if they didn’t become Labour when they joined the party. To which she gave the following answer

Not as far as I see it. I believe that the Labour party has a very strong set of values related to how we see society should be run and about being anti-racist, which they cannot be part of. 

The MP went on talk about Jenny Formby not releasing the figures for anti-Semitic incidents in the Labour party, although the Nye Bevan News blog notes that Formby had actually done so some time ago. She also criticised Formby for saying she reported to the NEC, not Labour MPs, and praised Tom Watson for wanting to interfere with the process, despite them being against data protection rules.

The article concluded:

It is clearly very problematic and actually borders upon anti-semitism in itself to immediately make the association between Jewish people and banking/financing – repeating an anti-semitic trope on national radio is appalling.

See: https://nyebevannews.co.uk/labour-mp-siobhain-mcdonagh-to-be-anti-capitalism-is-to-be-anti-semitic/

Martin Odoni, a Jewish Labour party member and dedicated anti-racist, is in absolutely no doubt that Mcdonagh’s comments were anti-Semitic. He posted a template email on his website requesting Jenny Formby suspend Mcdonagh pending a full investigation. He points out that not only would many Jews find the implication of her claim that anti-capitalism is anti-Semitic, that Jews are therefore bourgois and capitalistic, not just offensive but also anti-Semitic under the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism that the party has adopted. She is also to be suspended because her endorsement of Watson’s demands to see personal information in order to interfere in anti-Semitism cases, which contravenes data protection laws, is therefore solicitation to commit a criminal act.

See: https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2019/03/04/suspend-siobhan-mcdonagh-from-the-labour-party-with-immediate-effect-template/

Now it’s true that you can find examples of disgusting anti-Semitism in the views of leading socialists, communists and anarchists from Marx onwards. But the view that Jews equal capitalism, and particularly financial capitalism isn’t the view of socialists and anti-capitalists, but that of fascists and Nazis. The ideology George Orwell described as ‘the socialism of fools’. But the smear that socialism and anti-capitalism is innately anti-Semitic is that of the transatlantic extreme right in books such as Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. It is also being pushed by the Republicans in America and the Tories over here as a means of defending the super-rich one per cent from criticism. This is the section of predominantly western society that own capital and industry, and who demand the policies of privatisation, welfare cuts, job insecurity and the reduction of the tax burden on them that are causing so much misery and poverty across the world. But for the right, criticism of the one per cent is absolutely forbidden. It’s anti-Semitic, you see, because of the way the Nazis equated the Jews with the rich and finance capitalism. But when socialists, communists, anarchists and other anti-capitalists, as well as genuine liberals, talk about the 1 per cent and their destructive policies, they mean the global elite regardless of colour, race or religious affiliation. They do not mean ‘Jews’.

It’s the same tactics the right used to try to defend bankers from criticism a few years ago, when they were all giving themselves massive bonuses after the crash at the expense of the rest of us, who had to bail them out. They used the same tactic, saying that if you were criticising the bankers and demanding their punishment, you were a Nazi. Because Jews equal bankers to anti-Semites. But again, only Nazis and Fascists equate Jews with banking, and the left-wingers demanding punishment for bankers were demanding it for those, who had caused the crash, regardless of their race or religion.

Mcdonagh is clearly, at heart, a Red Tory, who has taken over these views, and is desperately keen to preserve the present, corrupt system and its enrichment of the few at the cost of the impoverishment of the many.

She’s also at the same time pushing the lie that Blair and his followers represent the real Labour party and those further to the left are communist or Trotskyite entryists. But it was Blair, who was the real entryist. He was a Thatcherite, who removed Labour’s commitment to socialism and was determined to follow Thatcher’s agenda of privatisation, destruction of the welfare state and creating a fluid Labour market. Which meant creating job insecurity. Traditional Labour party members, who wanted a genuinely mixed economy, we forced out of positions of leadership in the party. Many ordinary members left. Corbyn, with his policies of nationalising the utilities, renationalising the NHS, restoring trade union power and extending workers’ rights, represents solid traditional Labour party values. They values and policies that gave us thirty years of growth and prosperity after the War.

And then there’s her views of Labour party anti-racism. Well, Tony Benn was genuinely one of the most anti-racist MPs, giving his wholehearted support to the boycott of Bristol Bus Company by Black Bristolians because of its refusal to employ non-Whites. And he was a staunch advocate of a mixed economy, industrial democracy, trade unions and everything that Mcdonagh, as a Blairite, fears and despises. As is Ken Livingstone, whose leadership of the GLC was reviled and hated by the Tories as a centre of ‘political correctness’. The campaign against racism by Labour party members began long before Blair took over.

And as for the Blairites’ own attitudes towards racism, Tony Greenstein has pointed out their hypocrisy in a post on his blog this morning. He contrasted Watson’s and the others’ screams about supposed anti-Semitism with their total indifference over May’s victimisation of immigrants and the deportation of the Windrush migrants and their children.

As a Blairite, Mcdonagh is just another disloyal intriguer smearing those who really stand for traditional Labour values and real anti-racism – not just against the hatred and persecution of Jews, but also against that of Blacks, Asians and particularly Muslims. Her claim that anti-capitalism is identical with anti-Semitism is nothing but an attempt to defend the exploitative rich against those who want real change. She should apologise immediately, or reconsider her position in the party.

Trailer for ‘Witchhunt’ Movie about the Persecution of Jackie Walker

February 28, 2019

This is the video for Jon Pullman’s movie, Witchhunt, about the persecution of former Momentum vice-chair, Jackie Walker, on the completely risible and mendacious charge of anti-Semitism. As I’ve said many times before, Walker is a Jewish lady of colour. Her mother was a Black civil rights activist and her father a Russian Jew. They met on a civil rights demo. She is also a Jew by faith, her partner is also Jewish, and she sends her daughter to a Jewish school. All her life she has campaigned against racism, including anti-Semitism. But she does not agree with the I.H.R.A.’s definition of anti-Semitism or the Jewish Labour Movement’s handling of Holocaust Memorial Day. And so a trumped up charge of anti-Semitism was brought against her on the basis of a sloppily worded statement about Jewish involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, a trade that was initiated and very largely in the hands of Christians. As she has pointed out.

The video begins with the overwhelming election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. It then moves to Evan Davies and Rabbi Julia Neuberger claiming that there is an anti-Semitism problem in the Labour party. A man, speaking outside the Department of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London stating that the establishment will do anything they can to rubbish Corbyn and anyone close to him. It then goes on to show the various news presenters stating that Walker had been suspended. Then Walker appears to state that what was happening to the Palestinians was unspeakable, and you couldn’t ignore it. Followed by footage the Israelis sending planes to bomb and strafe Gaza, and an injured Arab child being taken out of an ambulance. Walker states that, for her, Gaza was the last straw. Corbyn is shown speaking at a pro-Gaza demonstration. Erdan, an Israeli apparatchik, speaks of economic and political warfare.

The great Israeli mathematician and supporter of Palestinian rights, Moshe Machover, who was also thrown out of the Labour party for anti-Semitism, before being readmitted because of public outcry, appears to describe the appoint of Erdan as the ‘head of this ministry’, which appears to be the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy. There’s a headline from the Electronic Intifada talking about the Anti-Semitism smear campaign. Walker quotes her mother, who said, ‘You can make anyone look a devil if you want to.’ There is then a map showing the links between the various anti-Zionist organisation from what appears to be pro-Israeli propaganda. Machover appears again to state that the goal of the Zionists is to make anyone who is non-Zionist or anti-Zionist appear anti-Semitic. This is followed by footage of a baying mob of Zionists all claiming to be demonstrating against anti-Semitism.

Jewish Voice for Labour’s Naomi Winborne-Idrissi appears, stating that this is all taking place during a shift to the right, in this country as well as others, and that Jeremy Corbyn is a threat. A young man says that what we find is an overwhelming emphasis on sources mobilising against Corbyn with a particular agenda. There is a shot of page from the Media Reform Coalition on the anti-Semitism smear against Corbyn, which they state is a disinformation campaign. A Black man says that people want moral slurs. They don’t want balanced stories. They want black and white stories. Walker says that what they are seeing with anti-Semitism, they have seen with McCarthyism. She is followed by Machover again saying that Walker was selected as a test case. Walker herself says that someone in the Compliance Unit said that the case against her was ‘pretty weak’. But this pretty weak case has smashed her reputation. A white-haired man says the pressure and attacks on Walker, with her lifetime of fighting racism, is to send a message ‘we can get you’.

The video ends with the film’s title fading out against a black background.

This is the trailer for a movie, that frightened Luciana Berger so much that she complained to the Labour party about its screening, and had it cancelled. And I don’t doubt that she was also one of the snitches claiming that Chris Williamson, the MP who booked the room for it, is a terrible anti-Semite who should be suspended.

And no wonder. It looks like cinematic dynamite that could well blow more than ‘the bloody doors off’ the whole revolting anti-Semitsm smear charade. It seems very clear from this that Corbyn, his associates and in this instance, Walker herself, are very much the targets of a very coordinated and orchestrated Israeli and establishment smear campaign. And it obviously is going to get both very worried. To use a turn of phrase from the SF movie Aliens, it’s going to make them stop their grinning and drop their linen’.

The film is due to be released March 17th, and will tour various British cities with its director, including Brighton and Derry in NI. I will be delighted if it comes to Bristol or anywhere nearby where I can catch it.

My very best wishes to Jackie, and to all involved in this movie. May you prevail, and the hatemongers, smear-artists and spineless moral cowards, who support them be swept away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Photos of Bristol’s King David Hotel

February 26, 2019

At the corner of one of the streets leading off Park Row to Bristol’s BRI hospital is the King David Hotel. I was heading up to the hospital this morning, and took these two photos of it. It’s a fascinating and very attractive building, as you can see. It’s in yellow and red brick, and recalls some of the other buildings in Bristol in the Venetian Gothic style of architecture. I don’t know when it was built, or even if it’s still used as a hotel. I don’t think so, because, as you can see, the main door has been sealed. I suspect that like many of the buildings around Clifton, it’s been converted to offices.

It shares its name with that other King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which was notoriously bombed by the Irgun as part of Israel’s war of independence against the British. My guess is that Bristol’s King David Hotel may have been built about the time the Jerusalem hotel was in its heyday, and was the place to stay for visitors to the Holy Land. I also think that it probably has some connection to Bristol’s Jewish community. Jews have been living in Bristol since the Middle Ages. Back in the 1990s or so archaeologists discovered the remains of a miqveh, a Jewish ritual bath, with an inscription in Hebrew, zaklim, meaning ‘flowing’ on Jacob’s Wells Road. In the 1820, when by law only members of the Anglican Church were supposed to serve in local and national government, two Jews and a number of Protestant Nonconformists were recorded sitting in Bristol’s corporation. And Park Row did have a very beautiful synagogue. It was cut into the hillside, and had huge Hebrew characters carved on its facade. This was, if I recall properly, carved to look like an ancient Hebrew temple. I’ll have to try and look this all up, but it seems to me that the Hotel may have been built by someone with connections to Jerusalem, and may have been a member of the synagogue’s congregation. Whatever the building’s history, it’s a fascinating piece of Bristol’s historic landscape, showing the city’s religious and ethnic diversity and its global connections.

 

Rees-Mogg Would Like to Be the Pope, But Would Left-Wing Catholics Want Him?

February 21, 2019

One of the most ridiculous things Jacob Rees-Mogg said this week was during an interview on Points West with host David Garmston. Points West is the local news programme for the Bristol, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire area. Mogg is the local MP for Bath in Somerset, and now one of the leading personalities in the Tory party. Garmston went to visit him at his palatial home in the Georgian city.

The Beeb interviewer asked him if he’d like to be Prime Minister. It’s a good question, as it’s clear that Mogg is very ambitious, and there are those in the party that would desperately like him to be in charge and in No. 10. But Mogg denied that he had any plans in that direction. Instead, he declared, he’d rather be Pope. Garmston then asked him the natural question: how could he be, when he’s married with six children? Oh no, Mogg declared, any Roman Catholic man could be.

Now this is news to me, and to just about everyone else, I should imagine. The pope is the bishop of Rome, and so should already be a member of the clergy of a sufficiently high rank. Like a cardinal. Or so it seems to me, as an Anglican, looking at the history of the Roman Catholic church. If laymen have been made pope, I can only assume that this occurred sometime during the Middle Ages as part of the political maneuvering surrounding the papacy. For example, after the collapse of the Roman Empire the only form of government left in many towns in Gaul and elsewhere were the bishops. Hence there were instances where, after the death of the previous incumbent, local townspeople chose laymen, including pagans, to become their bishop. Those laymen, who accepted the demand, then had themselves baptized and converted to Christianity. There are accounts of such conversions and the election of lay people in Gregory of Tours’ History of the Franks. Or so I believe. I did medieval history at school, and these are the only instances I can remember, in which a layman entered the episcopacy directly, let alone the papacy.

Of course, Rees-Mogg is saying all this just to present himself as a good Roman Catholic. But I wonder how many Roman Catholics would actually want someone as right-wing as him as a member of the clergy, let alone sovereign pontiff. There’s a range of political views amongst Roman Catholics, just as there is in any religion or metaphysical ideology. And there’s also a strong tradition of genuinely social, left-wing activism. For all that elements within the Roman Catholic church during the War and after have supported Fascist regimes, I got the distinct impression that most Roman Catholics in Britain and the British colonies were actually left-wing. Certainly in Australia Irish Catholics formed the backbone of the Ozzie Labor party, and the Roman Catholic members of my own family were very staunch Labour. Radical organisations for Roman Catholics have included Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker movement, and I have the impression that, as well as Quakers, there were many Roman Catholics involved in CND and other peace movements. One of my Catholic aunts was a member, and I can remember her telling us that when she was on a march, she found herself next to a group of Franciscan friars.

A little while ago I bought a book on Roman Catholic social thought, which is broadly left-wing, although outside formal party politics. This includes activism and work on behalf of the poor, for peace and on behalf of women. This latter obviously doesn’t include supporting contraception or abortion, which feminists obviously see as central women’s rights. And there have been Roman Catholic prelates, who have been martyred because of their advocacy of the poor. Like Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was gunned down by a Fascist death squad in one of the central American countries, who brutal dictator Reagan was supporting. He was assassinated outside his church. After his murder, the assassins scrawled on the wall, ‘Be a patriot – Kill a priest’.

The present Pope, Francis, seems to have moved the papacy closer to supporting the poor, defending the environment and even stating that it is not his place to judge gays. Some of that may reflect the wider changes in social attitudes, at least in the developed West. For example, right-wing Roman Catholic traditionalists, like Peter Hitchens, who are against same-sex marriage, have said that they feel the battle against it, is lost. It may also reflect a genuine horror on Francis’ part against the vicious homophobia that exists in some parts of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. But also the centre of Christianity, and Roman Catholicism, is moving towards the global south as the developed West becomes more secular. Thus the Church has to speak out on issues that directly effect the peoples of the developing world. Like poverty, hunger, exploitation, the rape of the environment. Issues that also concern other Christians around the globe.

I can’t see Rees-Mogg being interested in any of that. Indeed, his voting record shows he’s strongly against it, although I’ve no doubt that, like Margaret Thatcher, he is probably personally very generous. It seems to me that Mogg’s comments may partly have been to appeal to the religious right within the Tories. Like Ian Duncan Smith also stressed what a good Catholic he was, and how he was very concerned at poverty in Britain. Their appeal goes beyond Roman Catholics, of course. Under aIDS the DWP seemed to be stuffed with right-wing Christians of various denominations. Mogg may have made his comments partly with an eye to inheriting the Gentleman Ranker’s grubby mantle.

But no matter how pious he appears, I can’t imagine any left-wing Roman Catholic wanting to see him anywhere near an official position in the Church, just as an increasing number of Christians of all denominations are turning away from the religious right and their vile policies.

YouTube Video for My Book on Slavery in the British Empire, ‘The Global Campaign’

February 18, 2019

This is the video I’ve just uploaded on YouTube about my two volume book on slavery, its abolition and the campaign against it in the British Empire, The Global Campaign, which I’ve published with Lulu.

The video explains that it grew out of my work as a volunteer at the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, helping to catalogue the archive of government documents that they had been granted by the Commonwealth Institute. I was busy summarizing these documents for a database on materials on slavery the Museum wanted to compile. Going through them, it became clear that the long process of its abolition in the Caribbean was just part of a wider attempt by the British to suppress it right across our empire, from Canada and the Caribbean across the Cape Colony, now part of South Africa, the Gold Coast, now Ghana, Sierra Leone, founded as a colony for freed slaves, central Africa, and what are now Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda, Egypt, the Sudan and the North African parts of the Turkish Empire, to India, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Java and Malaysia, and into the Pacific, in Fiji, Australia and the Pacific Island nations. Legislation in one section of the Empire, for example, the Caribbean, was also passed elsewhere, such as Cape Colony, Mauritius and the Seychelles. The British were aided in their campaign to stamp out slavery in Egypt, the Sudan and Uganda by the Egyptian ruler, the Khedive Ismail. They also signed treaties banning the slave trade from East Africa with the Imam of Muscat, now Oman, the ruler of Zanzibar and Pemba and the suzerain of some of the east African coastal states. There was also an invasion of Abyssinia, now Ethiopia, in retaliation for their raiding of the neighbouring British territories for slaves.

As well as trying to suppress the enslavement of Africans, the British were also forced to attack other forms of slavery, such as the forced kidnapping and sale of indentured migrant labourers from India and China in the infamous ‘Coolie Trade’, and the similar enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific for labour on the sugar plantations in Fiji and Queensland.

I also explain how one of the first English-speaking countries to ban slavery was Canada, where enlightened governors and judges twisted the interpretation of Canadian law to show that slavery did not officially exist there.

The video’s about ten minutes long. Unfortunately, I don’t say anything about the role Black resistance to slavery, from simple acts like running away, to full scale rebellions had in ending it, or of colonial governors and legislatures. But the book does mention them.

Here’s the video: