Posts Tagged ‘Channel 4 News’

Richard Seymour’s Refutation of Sexism Smears against Corbyn

April 14, 2017

A few days ago I put up a piece about Richard Seymour’s book Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics (London: Verso 2016). Seymour’s analysis of the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, and what it means for the Labour party, is very much his own. Seymour points out that one of the reasons why Corbyn was able to take the Labour leadership was because the right-wing Labour vote was divided between three opposing candidates. He sees the Labour party as never having really been a Socialist party, and that Corbyn’s election as leader was part of a process of political stagnation and degeneration both within the Labour party and generally in British politics.

However, in the introduction and first chapter, he does attack the ‘Project Fear’ campaign launched by the Blairites and the press against Corbyn, and refutes the smears against him – that he and his voters were unelectable and anti-Semitic. The Blairites and their toadies in the press also tried smearing Corbyn and his supporters as misogynists, just as Killary had smeared Sanders and his supporters in the US in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. And just as Killary’s smears against Sanders were lies, so were the accusations against Corbyn and his supporters. Seymour writes

One of the main methods of obloquy from the centre-left papers – aside from the claim that Corbyn’s supporters were either spaniel-eyed naifs, gently prancing around in cloud cuckoo land, or dangerous ideological zealots – was to bait Corbyn’s supporters as sexist. The Guardian had backed Yvette Cooper for the leadership, partially on the grounds that she would be the first female leader, bringing ‘down-to-earth feminism’ to the role, and challenging austerity policies that hurt women. Its leading columnist and former Social Democratic Party (SDP) star Polly Toynbee seconded the endorsement, announcing: ‘Labour needs a woman leader.’ This prompted a reply by the seasoned feminists Selma James and Nina Lopez, who pointed out that Cooper not only supported ‘sexist austerity’ but had also implemented it in government, abolishing income support and extending work-capability assessments for the sick and disabled. Nonetheless, having supported Cooper as a ‘feminist’, it didn’t require much imagination to notice that Corbyn was not female and thus to indict his supporters ‘brocialists’. Suzanne Moore complained that as Corbyn was ‘anointed leader’ – that is to say, elected leader – ‘not one female voice was heard’. The remarkable thing about this complaint was that Corbyn won among women by a landslide. The polls showed that 61 per cent of women eligible to vote in the election supported Corbyn, while the two female candidates, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper, gained 4 per cent and 19 per cent respectively. The polling company YouGov pointed out that ‘women who are eligible to vote are dramatically more likely to vote Corbyn than men’. What Moore meant was the she hadn’t listened to the women who supported Corbyn, an important distinction.

This campaign spread to the Independent,which published a surreal piece headlined, ‘If it’s truly progressive, Labour will have voted in a female leader – regardless of her policies’. It was also mirrored by the Telegraph, which gleefully wondered if Corbyn had a ‘women problem’. Cathy Newman, a Channel 4 News reporter who had recently made headlines by falsely reporting an example of sexist exclusion at a mosque, authored a piece for the Telegraph which sneered ‘Welcome to Jeremy Corbyn’s blokey Britain – where “brocialism” rules’. Newman’s complaint did not concern policy, on which Corbyn was difficult to attack, but representation. She alleged that none of the ‘top jobs’ went to women. Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, it must be said, was notable for being the first to have more than 50 per cent of its posts occupied by women – as opposed to the pathetic 22 per cent representation that women have in wider public life. The shadow ministries of Defence, Business, Health and Education were all run by women. The shadow cabinet was, in other words, more gender-egalitarian on this front than any previous Labour shadow cabinet. It is perfectly fair comment to lament that important posts such as shadow chancellor have never been held by a woman, but the force of the point is blunted if it is simply used in an opportunistic way to belabour Corbyn. Likewise, the New Statesman’s effort to pour cold water on Corbyn’s victory, with the headline ‘Labour chooses white man as leader’, would have been more convincing if the publication had not generously supported every previous white man elected as Labour leader.

(Pp.37-9).

From this it’s very clear that the accusation of sexism and misogyny against Corbyn were merely another opportunistic smear by a group of entitled, wealthy Blairites. It was monumentally hypocritical, as these women were perfectly happy with promoting policies that actively harmed – and under the Tories, are still harming women. The ladies, who supported Corbyn knew better, and voted for substance, rather than the specious feminism of a female candidate, who was only interested in promoting herself and not improving conditions for women as a whole.

Gaza: Jon Snow Calls Mark Regev What He Is – a Liar

October 9, 2016

Earlier today, Mike put up a piece over on Vox Political reporting that the members of Pink Floyd – David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Roger Waters – had a issued a statement supporting the women’s boat to Gaza, and deploring its interception by the Israeli military. The boat had sailed from Barcelona last month. It was sponsored by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, which condemns the Israeli’s siege of that part of Palestine.

Mike’s article notes that Waters had previously been attacked as an anti-Semite by Rabbi Shmuely Boteach for previous comments he had made about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. But, almost needless to say, Boteach couldn’t offer any reasons to back up his slur against Waters. The great muso responded “If Rabbi Boteach can make a case for the Israel government’s policies, I look forward to hearing it.

“It is difficult to make arguments to defend the Israeli government’s policies, so would-be defenders often use a diversionary tactic, they routinely drag the critic into a public arena and accuse them of being an antisemite.”

Mike’s article briefly discusses the previous Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, which was stopped in International Waters and boarded by the Israeli military. The result was a confrontation which left nine passengers killed and dozens injured, with nine Israeli servicemen also wounded.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/10/08/pink-floyds-support-for-womens-boat-to-gaza-puts-pressure-on-israel/

The Israeli blockade of Gaza is a disgusting abuse of human rights. It’s been estimated that in four years time – 2020 – conditions in that part of Palestine will be so atrocious that the region will be uninhabitable. Israel was widely condemned for its shelling of the area several years ago, which it claimed was in response to rocket attacks. This was another lie. The Israelis had deliberately broken the ceasefire by firing their own rockets into the district to kill a Palestinian terrorist leader. Lobster also described the vast difference in the quality of weapons used. The rockets used by the Palestinians were largely home-made. Crude, and deadly, but not sophisticated killing machines like those the Israelis were launching into Gaza, which included phosphor weapons. This is extremely nasty material. It’s like medieval Greek fire in that it burns on contact, and keeps on burning it way through the human body. So it could be argued that the retaliation by the Israeli military was far out of proportion to the actual threat or provocation from the Palestinians themselves.

And then, like now, the Israelis tried to cover up any coverage of their shelling’s civilian victims. A CNN journalist was sacked from his post because he described playing football with four boys minutes before the youngsters were all killed in the shelling. Thankfully, CNN reinstated him after massive public outcry.

When Israel intercepted the first Freedom Flotilla six years ago, the Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, turned up on the news to present his country’s case. One of those, who was very unimpressed with him was Channel 4 News’ Jon Snow. Regev claimed that the Flotilla was intercepted to stop them smuggling weapons into Gaza. He then went on to claim that if people genuinely wanted to send humanitarian aid to Gaza, then the ships should be sent to two Israeli ports, one of which was Ashdod, and reassured viewers that it would get through. Snow lost patience with that last statement, and called it, and Regev, what they were. Snow stated it was a lie, as only 18 per cent of the aid for Gaza going through Israel actually reached its intended destination. He then asked Regev what his government was going to do if the Turks did what they said they were considering, and sent a gunboat to protect the next ship. Would the Israelis attack this, a vessel from their ally, and so start a war? Regev tried to laugh this off with a incredulous ‘Are you serious?’ To which Snow responded that it wasn’t him making the statement, but the Turks, and he should check with them. Here’s the clip:

I found it thanks to one of Guy Debord’s Cat’s excellent pieces on Israel and its crimes.

As for Shmuely Boteach, I got the distinct impression he was one of the various ‘spiritual mentors’ who like to hand around celebrities, doling out platitudes to help the rich feel comfortable and justified in their possession of such massive wealth. If memory serves me correctly, he was hanging round Michael Jackson at one point. I don’t know the precise reason why the journalist so described him, but he was so obnoxious at one point that I remember one newspaper article about a decade or so ago referring to him as ‘odious’.

So I join with Mike in saluting Gilmour, Mason and Waters – ‘Shine on, you not-so-crazy diamonds!’

European Democracy in Retreat: Austria Elects Nazi President

May 23, 2016

Today’s Mirror reported that Norbert Hofer, the candidate for Austria’s FPO party, managed to win the presidential election with a fraction over 51% of the vote. I gather that the presidency in Austria is largely ceremonial. Nevertheless, the Mirror was worried in case it showed that the party was going to win a majority in the country’s forthcoming parliamentary elections.

The FPO is the Freiheits Partei Osterreichs, or Freedom Party of Austria. It’s an avowedly far-Right, Neo-Nazi, anti-immigration outfit. It was founded in 1956 by the former Nazi minister and SS officer, Anton Reinthaller.

I was also sent a Channel 4 News report on Hofer and his party from one of the great commenters on this blog. Hofer is a former aeronautical engineer and supporter of gun rights. He walks with a stick, having damaged his leg in a paragliding accident. The reporter notes that the mainstream parties simply don’t feature in this presidential debate. The Social Democrats and Conservatives, who have governed the country for decades, are completely absent, and Hofer’s opponent was a member of the Greens. In a brief interview with the reporter, Hofer states that Austria should offer genuine protection to the real refugees that need it, but the problem is the vast scale of immigration to Austria. The reporter states that the party’s success is a reaction to the increasing number of immigrants from Syria, as well as violent confrontations between the police and pro-immigrant groups on the Italian border. The report shows footage of just such a confrontation between Austria’s rozzers and a crowd holding placards with signs like ‘Immigrants Welcome’. He talks to a family of Syrian refugees in a house established by a former investment banker. She says she put it up to give refugees a safe place to stay. The family are all learning German, and all want to stay. Except for one man, who fears that he has no one to protect him, and so will not be able to.

The reporter also talks to Haller, a Jewish artist living in one of Vienna’s most sumptuous palaces. Herr Haller is a celebrated artist and intellectual, who believes that the current resurgence of the far Right in his homeland is merely another version of anti-Semitism, which has simply metamorphosed into islamophobia. He states that as a Jew, despite his surroundings, nothing feels more natural than to have a suitcase packed ready to be moved on.

The reporter also talks to some of the people about Hofer and the FPO during the Corpus Christi celebrations in Vienna. There, surrounding by dancing people, music and firecrackers, several young guys tell him they support Hofer and his party. In response to the question about which British politician they like, they say ‘Nigel Farage’, as they think he would be good for us. One woman also tells the reporter in German that she voted for Hofer because with all the immigrants coming in taking jobs and so on, she felt like a stranger in her own country.

The reporter in the above video notes how slick Hofer is and his sharp suit. His comments about Austria needing to provide a safe haven for genuine refugees sounds like any discussion of the subject from a mainstream politician. It seems to be part of the way the European extreme Right has become more mainstream by apparently adopting a more mainstream, less openly Nazi attitude, like Marine Le Pens’ Front National across le Manche. I am also not surprised that Hofer’s a gun nut. Quite apart from the notorious militarism of the Far Right anyway, Alex Jones’ bonkers conspiracy site, Infowars, reported that Austrian women were buying guns to protect themselves from Arab/ Muslim rapists during the mass influx of Middle Eastern immigrants from Syria through the Balkans earlier this year. The pro-gun stance seems to be symptomatic of the generally fearful situation in the country, where many feel they need firearms to protect themselves from the physical threat presented by immigrants.

The anti-racist, anti-religious extremist organisation, Hope Not Hate also have a piece about Austria on their website. This gives a brief summary of the Far Right in Austria and the various extreme Right-wing parties and splinter groups, including Hofer’s FPO. The article states that Nazism and pro-Nazi sentiments were allowed to survive in Austria because of the myth that the country was Hitler’s first victim during the Anschluss, despite the fact that many Austrians welcomed their country’s annexation by Germany. The article also notes that from the 1970s the state would not investigate Austrian citizens, who had been leading Nazis, and the controversy in 1986 when it was revealed that Kurt Waldheim, the country’s president, was a former Wehrmacht officer. In fact there was rather more to the scandal than just his membership in the wartime German army: Waldheim was also implicated in a possible war crime against a group of British squaddies during the War. It was only in 1995 that Austria also started paying full compensation to the victims of the Nazis. The FPO was in a coalition with the Conservative Austrian People’s Party – OVP – between 2000 and 2005, and so the country became the only European nation suffering diplomatic sanctions by the EU because of a Nazi government. The party has also been complicit in a series of corruption scandals.

The article also notes that the FPO appears to have infiltrated and manipulated the parts of the civil service and intelligence agencies, including the Office for Protection of the Constitution and Counter-Terrorism (the BVT). No official report on the extreme Right in Austria has been produced since 2002, and the ultra-Conservative student associations, from which many Nazis are recruited, has been removed from the list of suspect organisations. It also appears from a court case involving the Nazi Alpen-Donau.info site that Austrian Neo-Nazis have supporters within the police, the BVT and the Ministry of the Interior.

http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/country-in-focus/austria/

This is how it begins. Hitler started formulating his far-Right ideas when he was young in Austria. He states that he first became an anti-Semite when he moved to Vienna. Going through a back street, he saw one of the Jews from the Austrian Empire’s eastern provinces, probably the Ukraine, in a long kaftan, and recalled how he felt a stranger in his own country. He was also impressed by the mayor of Vienna, Karl von Lugerer and his viciously anti-Semitic Christian Social Party. In fact, Hitler had probably imbibed anti-Semitic and far-Right views before that. Many schoolchildren at the time were pan-German, wanting their country to unite with Germany, and despising the polyglot, multi-ethnic Austrian Empire, and particularly its Slavs and Jews.

Looking at Hitler’s career, and the origins of the Nazi party, it’s hard not to be struck by the impression that history is repeating itself, with islamophobia replacing anti-Semitism as the artist, Haller, said. It has to be stopped, before the West is submerged yet again in brutality, genocide and barbarism.

Vox Political: Anti-Labour Bias on Question Time Prompts Mass Outrage

January 16, 2016

The pro-Tory bias at the BBC becomes every more blatant. Mike over at Vox Political has this story, http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/15/bbc-question-times-right-wing-panel-sparks-anger-from-viewers-and-labour-mps/ about a report in the Mirror that the bias in the selection of the panel on Question Time was so right-wing that the Beeb has received a storm of criticism from the public, and the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour MP, Cat Smith, was the only left-wing member of the panel. The others were a Tory cabinet member, someone from UKIP, and two journos from the Murdoch press.

So no bias there, then!

It’s interesting reading the comments to this post as well. Most are from people, who stopped watching it because of the right-wing bias. The last time I blogged about the Beeb’s bias, I received some very interesting comments, which added further information and background to this issue.

One of them, Nosuchthingasthemarket, posted:

All good points – but you could also mention the salient fact that the political editor at the BBC is a former head of the Young Conservatives and was first accused of bias (over and above the BBC norms) as early as 1995; when he was working on Panorama.

Further information was added by the commenters over on Mike’s blog, who posted their response to his reblogging of my article on the Corporation’s bias. I know this is convoluted, and slightly incestuous, but the comments are worth repeating here.

Daniel Margrain wrote:

The BBC was founded by Lord Reith in 1922 and immediately used as a propaganda weapon for the Baldwin government during the General Strike, when it was known by workers as the “British Falsehood Corporation”. During the strike, no representative of organised labour was allowed to be heard on the BBC. Ramsay McDonald, the leader of the opposition, was also banned.

In their highly respected study of the British media, Power Without Responsibility, James Curran and Jean Seaton wrote of ‘the continuous and insidious dependence of the Corporation [the BBC] on the government’. (Routledge, 4th edition, 1991, p.144)

John Pilger has reported:

‘Journalists with a reputation for independence were refused BBC posts because they were not considered “safe”.’ (John Pilger, Hidden Agendas, Vintage, 1998, p.496)

In 2003, a Cardiff University report found that the BBC ‘displayed the most “pro-war” agenda of any broadcaster’ on the Iraq invasion. Over the three weeks of the initial conflict, 11% of the sources quoted by the BBC were of coalition government or military origin, the highest proportion of all the main television broadcasters. The BBC was less likely than Sky, ITV or Channel 4 News to use independent sources, who also tended to be the most sceptical. The BBC also placed least emphasis on Iraqi casualties, which were mentioned in 22% of its stories about the Iraqi people, and it was least likely to report on Iraqi opposition to the invasion.

http://www.medialens.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=639:bbc-bombast-propaganda-complaints-and-black-holes-of-silence&catid=24:alerts-2011&Itemid=9

Joan Edington also commented on their bias towards privatised hospitals, and against Scots Independence.

It’s taken a long time for a lot of people to realise this bias. So many simply refused to believe that the good old BBC could be anything but impartial. Sadly, it has been obvious to me, and anyone who pays attention to the detail of news, that it has been getting worse for several years.

I first really noticed it in 2012 when the Welfare Reform Act came into play. There were interviews with patients at new PPI hospitals saying what wonderful treatment they had, while similar interviews of patients at traditional NHS hospitals always highlighted the negatives.

Up to this point I was ALMOST giving the benefit of the doubt about bias, thinking that maybe it was because they had sacked so many journalists that they could no longer carry out their own research.

However, since then, virtually all reports have claimed an event as true rather than saying “according to the government”. This is no more than propaganda.

The final nails in the coffin, to me and many Scots, was their blatant backing of Better Together during the Scottish Referendum in 2014 and a totally discredited “Scottish Labour” during the GE in May 2015. Mind you, these were probably not noticed by 90% of the UK population.

I am extremely sad about this situation since the BBC does make some very good programmes. It’s sports coverage used to be by far the best, back in the days before it had to compete with the money available to the commercial channels. It seems that we are to lose all that, simply because their once trusted and respected News Department can no longer lives up to that title.

My guess is that the BBC behaves with this bias because it is the British Broadcasting Corporation. It is the official, established state broadcaster, and so represents the views of the Establishment. It is supposedly impartial, and my guess is that many of its staff genuinely believe they are, but as the official state broadcaster the establishment bias is at the very core of its ethos and raison d’etre.

Hence the Tory party political bias, and the pro-War agenda. The upper classes have always been the backbone of the armed forces, ever since the feudal warriors of the Middle Ages. And the war in the Middle East is being ostensibly waged to protect Britain and defend and export her values of democracy and civil government. The opposite is true, of course. It’s done to for the interests of multinational industry, and the freedom of western capitalism to steal and exploit the resources of the Middle East. And so when the Beeb decides that its going to discuss the contemporary war on terror, it all becomes very establishment and official.

Jon Snow Makes Cameron Squirm on Saudi Human Rights Deal

October 17, 2015

Have I Got News For You last night showed this segment from Channel 4 news, in which Jon Snow makes David Cameron squirm about Britain’s support for Saudi Arabia joining the UN Human Rights Commission.

The whole notion of Saudi Arabia and universal human rights is an oxymoron, considering the brutal nature of the Saudi’s judicial system and the harsh and intolerant nature of Wahhabi Islam. Snow in particular talks about the Saudi’s continuing arrest of Mohamed el Nimr, a 17 year old boy, who was arrested when he was only 14. El Nimr has been sentenced to death simply for watching something on the internet.

After trying desperately not to answer the question, Cameron finally says that its because the Saudis give us information about potential terrorist attacks. In the full interview, not shown here, Cameron claims that a terrorist plot to set off a bomb in London was foiled due to information from the Saudis. He also claimed that they had a very good record in deradicalising terrorists and terrorist supporters.

That may be so, but as Jon Snow points out, elements of the Saudi regime are involving in exporting and aiding terrorism. As for deradicalisation, you do wonder how far this goes, given the total ban on non-Wahhabi religions and sects. This includes not only those of different, non-Muslim religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and so on, but also of Shi’a Islam, whose members are a heavily discriminated against minority. In many ways, Saudi Arabia is far more repressive and intolerant than Iran.

One African academic a year or two ago on BBC radio argued that instead of relying on Israel and Saudi Arabia to secure stability in the Middle East, the West should look instead to Turkey and Iran. In many ways, that would make far more sense. Turkey is a secular republic with Islam as its majority religion. Iran is an extremely repressive state, but it has a democratic component. It used to be the most westernised and industrially advanced of the Middle Eastern nations. Saudi Arabia, unfortunately, has the majority of the regions oil, and so possesses a vast economic clout that gives them immense global influence, quite apart from the fact that it has two of the very holiest sites in Islam, Mecca and Medina.

I’ve no doubt we do rely on information given to us by the Saudis to protect ourselves from attack from al-Qaeda or ISIS. But at the same time, elements of the Saudi regime have fostered and promoted these organisations, and the form of Islam the Saudis promote is aggressive and bitterly intolerant. We might be allies, but we should not fool ourselves about their ambivalent nature, or convince ourselves that their presence on a the Human Rights council is anything but a travesty.

Atos and the Death of Colin Traynor

February 24, 2014

I and very many other bloggers have posted pieces on the people, who have died after having been found fit for work by Atos. Quite how many is unknown, as the DWP refuses to release the figures. Mike and other inquirers have had their requests for this information repeatedly turned down. The first time this was because the Department claimed it was too much work for one person. After others also requested that the information be released, the Department decided to shift the goalposts, stating they refused to do so because the request was ‘vexatious’. See Mike’s posts on this over at Vox Political. Jayne Linney on her blog has estimated that the total number of people, who’ve been effectively killed by Atos and the DWP, may be as high as 38,000 per year. Stilloaks on his website has put up the names and short biographies of at least 45 people, who’ve died through having their benefit withdrawn thanks to this callous and murderous company. Most harrowing of all these cases is that of a young mother, who committed suicide, killer herself and her baby. At the anti-Atos protests last Wednesday the protestors in Derby laid a wreath for the company’s victims.

This video was posted two years ago on 26th September 2012. It’s a report by Channel 4 News into the death of Colin Traynor, a young man with epilepsy. Despite the severity of his condition, he was nevertheless examined by Atos and duly found fit for work. His health began to decline and the fits became more frequent, until his parents found him dead in his room. They feel that the stress of being found fit for work and having his benefit cut exacerbated his condition. To make matters worse, they then received a letter afterward saying that his appeal had been upheld, and the sanction overturned.

Here’s the video.

It can be found on Youtube as ‘Atos Killers’ at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mGZZ4TmEGA.

Channel 4 News invited someone from the DWP to appear on the programme and give their side of their story. No-one did. Instead they released this bland statement:

A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough face to face assessment and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence from the claimant’s GP or medical specialist. We encourage people to provide as much evidence as possible when they apply for Employment and Support Allowance, and often people, who are found fit for work only provide the necessary evidence when they ask for a reconsideration or an appeal.

This is a distortion of the truth. The assessment is designed so that it finds the maximum amount of people fit for work. As numerous whistleblowers have said, the company has a quota system set by the government to find as many people as possible fit for work. Moreover, it has been my experience, and those of so many others, that Atos will lie and falsify the results of the examination to get the results they want.

As for the statement that it’s the fault of the claimants themselves that they failed the test, because the didn’t provide sufficient information, not only is that blatantly untrue, it’s a case of classic misdirection with the government once again blaming their policies’ victims.

The DWP also denied that the system was designed to save money, but intended to help as many people as possibly get back into work rather than languish on the dole.

More lies. Clearly it’s intended to save money. How could it be otherwise, when Cameron has stated that his government’s goal is to reduce state, and particularly welfare spending, in order to pay off the deficit. As for helping people into work, it does nothing of the kind. If that were the case, you’d imagine that the policy would be combined with a detailed programme of support to get someone into work, perhaps by providing suitable counselling and medical supervision, special equipment at work, and working hours or conditions adapted to suit them. No, there’s none of that. Nor will there ever be, for that would be state interference with the employers’ sacred right to treat their workers as shabbily as possible. It would also mean spending money, which is something else that gives Conservatives a sharp dose of the back door trots. Those fit for work simply have their benefits cut off, and are thrown out to find a job for themselves.

Then there’s that statement by Atos

Although we cannot comment on individual cases, we want people to know that our trained doctors, nurses and physiotherapists strictly follow the guidelines given to them by the Government when conducting assessments and make no decisions on a person’s eligibility for benefits.

Which is pretty much what they say whenever a tragedy like this occurs. They can’t get out of it so easily. As I’ve said before, they are complicit with the process because they have accepted the work and the government’s quotas. They are also aware that anyone found fit for work will lose their benefit. As for the assessment itself, this has absolutely nothing to do with the medical skills of their staff. It is purely a questionnaire, which could be administered by an ordinary civil servant.

So this is simply yet another case of someone dying through Atos’ decision, and the usual lies and half-truths by the company and the DWP to try to exonerate themselves from this incident.

Shock! Horror! Cadaverous Author of Macabre Novels Calls Slumlords What They Are! Channel 4 Newsreaders Amazed!

October 5, 2013

It’s been an interesting week for the Coalition and their supporters receiving a drubbing by journalists. Mike, over at Vox Political, has put up a good piece about the way Mehdi Hassan demolished Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail on Question Time. Hassan had rebutted Letts’ arguments by asking who the person, who really hated Britain was: Miliband senior, a Jewish immigrant, who fought for his country, or the Daily Mail. This is the newspaper, he reminded us, that insinuated that Stephen Gately’s death was somehow due to his homosexuality, attacked Danny Boyle for including a mixed race couple in the Olympic Games opening spectacle, called Olympic champion Mo Farah a ‘plastic Brit’, despises immigrants and Muslims, and seeks to undermine the NHS.

Last night, Have I Got News For You also laid into the Daily Heil. They covered the Mail’s slander of Ralph Milliband. Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye naturally showed the Mail’s hypocrisy by pointing out its pro-Nazi past, complete with its headlines screaming ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ and opinion piece praising Nazi Germany and dismissing the allegations of Nazi atrocities. Hislop also pointed out that Paul Dacre, the Mail’s editor, also showed a signal lack of patriotism, as he did not pay any tax to his country, avoiding it through a complex network of offshore companies based in the Bahamas. He also said that it was a bit rich for Dacre to accuse others of totalitarian sympathies, considering that Dacre’s own staff call him ‘Mugabe’ because he’s ancient, won’t retire and despises the opposition.

The day before this, on Thursday, Channel 4 covered the brilliant state of the housing market under the Coalition in an investigatory feature entitled ‘Generation Rent’. It showed that the present, younger generation have little chance of getting on the housing ladder due to the lack of properties being built. This was due to the recession. Mortgages on the properties that were available were exorbitantly high, so that most young people simply cannot afford them. They were thus forced to rent. This also was difficult and expensive, due to a lack of affordable properties. Many of the homes and flats were aimed at the affluent, not ordinary peeps wanting a roof over their head. The programme talked to a number of landlords, as well as tenants forced to rent due to property prices. Among the landlords interviewed was one, who bought properties simply to rent out to other landlords.

The programme’s guest commentator for this section of the programme was Will Self, the cadaverous novelist, whose grisly works include Great Apes and How The Dead Live, as well as other tales of mayhem, mutilation, perversion and horror. Self’s own private life has supplied much newspaper copy in its time. He was for years a drug addict, whose finals in philosophy while a student at Oxford were interrupted by his arrest for the chemicals. One newspaper also printed a long, spurious story in which it was alleged that the master of the modern macabre had found the company of John Major so insufferably dull while sat next to him on a plane trip, that he resorted to heroin to liven the journey up. Self’s clean of drugs now, and like that other master of the extreme and transgressive, his friend, J.G. Ballard, Self lives in bourgeois domesticity with his wife and child.

He’s probably not the best person to provide a sympathetic view of the housing market and industry. A year or so back the roof of Self’s own house collapsed, and he duly appeared on the News talking about the incident. When Snow asked him what he thought about the issue, Self described the landlord, who rents to other landlords as a ‘rackman’. Snow blanched at this. No doubt with the spectre of Outraged of Tunbridge Wells writing in to denounce yet more Channel 4 left-wing bias, he said that Self could say it, but they couldn’t. Self’s reply was short, ‘I don’t know – I don’t think it’s actionable.’

But Self’s description is accurate. It precisely describes the situation many young people now face, in which they cannot afford to buy, and the rents on those properties they can afford are raised so that they eat up a progressively larger proportion of their income.

What also was not remarked on the programme was that this situation had created a further potential for racial/ nationalist friction. One of the developers interviewed was Francis Liu, a Chinese businessman, who specialises in the construction of one-room apartments. These combine bathroom, living room and bedroom in the same space in a kind of even smaller bedsit. They look horrendous, like Bruce Willis’ cramped home in the Fifth Element, but without Moebius’ and Besson’s visual flair and style. Channel 4’s reporters interviewed some British people, who were forced to live in them now, because that’s all they could afford. Liu’s apartments weren’t particularly cheap at £70 a week. They were also aimed at foreign investors from the Far East. This looks to me like a recipe for danger.

Globalisation and Neo-Liberal economics has succeeded in creating a trans-national elite that have more in common with each other, than with the citizens of their countries of origin. Hence all over the world there’s a growing indifference to the plight of the poor by the super-rich. Mass immigration, as populations from the Developing World move to the developed West and North in search of jobs and better opportunities, is already a major political issue. It has led to the rise of far-Right movements across Europe, like the Golden Dawn in Greece, and increasingly harsh anti-immigrant measures in Italy and elsewhere. It is also not only Western culture that has racist elements. There is also racism in Chinese culture. I can remember finding in Waterstone’s in Bath nearly two decades ago a large, hardback academic book on Chinese Racism. One of the Chinese students I knew at university told me a few years ago that he was horrified at the level of anti-Western prejudice and hatred in his country. Some of this hatred is due to the immense feeling of humiliation felt by the Chinese at their defeat in the Opium Wars, and the division and virtual colonisation of their great nation by the European powers.

The racist and nationalist Right in Britain and the rest of the world is motivated by resentment at the way foreigners are, or are perceived to be, given preferential treatment to the indigenous, host population. The Daily Mail and other right-wing tabloids have frequently attacked the government’s immigration service for accommodating asylum-seekers in luxury housing. With Liu and developers like him building properties mainly or exclusively for rich foreigners from the Far East, then it’s easy to see how this might enrage the existing, poorer local population, excluded from this luxury market. Liu was building his properties in Leeds, which I think may also have suffered from the effects of poverty and unemployment resulting from Thatcher’s decimation of British industry. The local population likely to be priced out of properties like Liu’s is not only White, but also Black and Asian, including families of Chinese descent, who’ve been British since coming here in the 19th century. Years ago I read a book on Japan by a Times journalist. He noted the resentment and controversy that had erupted in Australia when Japanese developers began building luxury beach complexes, which were to be owned solely by the Japanese. The construction of luxury rented properties, aimed at the Far Eastern rich, threatens to create similar tension and conflict over here.

Regardless of their ethnic origins, the landlords taking advantage of the current housing market to raise rents to ludicrous levels are Rackmans, has Self described them. It’s another example of how the Coalition’s policies are increasing the gap between rich and poor in the name of liberalisation.