Posts Tagged ‘Channel 4’

Israel Graffiti Demanding the Genocide of the Palestinians

September 27, 2019

A few days ago I put up a piece reporting and commenting on the attempt by right-wing Zionist thugs to shut down a book launch in Brighton. The book in question was Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief, by a group of respectable, mainstream academics, Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller. Greg Philo is Professor of Communications and Social Change at the University of Glasgow, and Director of the Glasgow University Media Unit. Mike Berry is a lecturer in the Journalism School at Cardiff University. Justin Schlosberg is a media activist, researcher and lecturer in Journalism and Media at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is a former Chair of the Media Reform Coalition and Edmund J Safra Network Fellow at Harvard University. Antony Lerman is Senior Fellow at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue in Vienna and Honorary Fellow of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations at Southampton University. He has written on multiculturalism, racism, antisemitism, and Israel/Palestine for the Guardian, Independent, New York Times, Haaretz, Prospect, Jewish Chronicle and London Review of Books. And David Miller is Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol. He is a founder director of Public Interest Investigations and a director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies.

What sent the Israel lobby berserk was that the book critically examines, and takes apart their claims that under Jeremy Corbyn the Labour party is institutionally racist and a threat to British Jews, showing that the party has been the subject of ‘shocking misinformation spread by the press, including the supposedly impartial BBC, and the liberal Guardian.’ The launch was due to be held at the Brighton branch of Waterstones, but they pulled out and cancelled the even following threats and intimidation made against their staff. The launch was then moved to the Rialto, also in Brighton, where it opened an hour later at 8.30. One members of Waterstone’s staff was so troubled by the threats they faced that they were unable to return to work.

What is particularly disturbing, though unsurprising, is that this display of very aggressive bullying was not only supported by the usual horde of bigots and trolls online, but also the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Sussex Jewish Representatives Council.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/24/bullying-bigots-tried-to-stop-book-launch-when-will-they-be-arrested/

In fact, as Tony Greenstein has repeatedly described in his blogs, the pro-Israel right have used abuse, threats and intimidation to try and close down any criticism of Israel for a very long time. And 11 years ago Peter Oborne, a journalist who formerly wrote for the Torygraph, presented a documentary on the Israel lobby for Channel 4’s Despatches. The programme described how respectable journalists, such as Alan Rusbridger, the-then editor of the Groaniad, and the BBC’s foreign correspondent, Jeremy Bowen, had all faced false and malicious accusations of anti-Semitism by the Israel lobby when they correctly reported atrocities by Israeli forces during the war in Lebanon. Rusbridger stated that when he printed accounts of massacres and other human rights abuses by the Israelis or their Lebanese Christian allies, the Phalange, the head of the Board of Deputies would visit his office, complete with his pet lawyer in tow, demanding that these stories be pulled. His argument was that they would lead to anti-Semitism and attacks on British Jews.

On the 28th January 2009, that indefatiguable opponent of all forms of racism, including Anti-Semitism and Zionism, Tony Greenstein, published a piece on his blog. Tony was attacking the clause in the I.H.R.C. definition of anti-Semitism, which forbids comparing Jews to Nazis. Tony stated, as he has done many times since, that it is hypocritical, as Israeli politicians frequently call each other Nazis. He also supported his argument with photographs of Israeli graffiti which was bitterly hostile to Arabs to the point of demanding their death and extermination.

 

This is ugly, horrific stuff, and the people that scrawled these messages of hate are Nazis. There is no other way to describe them. These pictures also show why an increasing number of Jewish young people over in America no longer want to have anything to do with Israel. American Jews are banding together in groups to attack Israel and its genocidal policies towards the indigenous Palestinians. Take up of places on the heritage tours Israel runs to encourage American Jews to visit Israel and identify with it have fallen by half. American Jews tend to be politically liberal, and have traditionally been determined to enjoy the comfortable lives they have in the Land of the Free as American citizens, than move to Israel. As a result, mass support for Israel in America has shifted from Jews to right-wing evangelical Christians, like Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel.

In Israel there are also a number of courageous people and organisations challenging the government and its gross intolerance and inhumanity. These include the human rights organisation B’Tselem and the veterans organisation, Breaking the Silence. But Netanyahu is doing his best to silence them, and indeed anyone who photographs a human rights abuse by the country’s armed forces. And in Britain, America and Israel Jewish opponents of Israeli apartheid and genocide are particularly abused and smeared as anti-Semites. Decent men and women like Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Martin Odoni, Cyril Chilson and so many others. They are accused of being self-hating and ‘traitors’ – even though the I.H.R.C. definition of anti-Semitism states that it is anti-Semitic to accuse a Jew of being more loyal to a foreign country than his homeland. They receive vile threats and even assault. Tony was physically attacked by an American Jew. Jackie has been told she should be lynched, burnt and her body dumped in bin bags.

But despite the statement by the Israel lobby that comparisons with the Nazis are offensive, Israeli policy towards the Arabs not only resembles that of apartheid South Africa, but also Fascist Italy in its attempts to colonise Africa and the Nazi invasion of Poland and eastern Europe. The Nazis attempted the ethnic cleansing of a stretch of territory stretching across Poland into the Ukraine and beyond of their Slavic population in order to transform it into a German colony. Tony has also repeatedly compared Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians to the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews pre-1942, before the implementation of the ‘Final Solution’.

But these pieces of graffiti show that there is a section of Israeli society – the Fascists and Settlers supporting Netanyahu and his wretched coalition – who would like to see a real programme of organised genocide implemented similar to the Nazi death camps, but for Arabs.

And this raises a very, very disturbing question. If Netanyahu or someone worse did start organising the systematic massacre of Palestinians, would the Board of Deputies, Sussex Jewish Representatives Council and other Zionist organisations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, cover it up and silence those who did tried to report it, just as the Nazis tried to hide the horrors of Auschwitz and the rest of the Shoah?

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Establishment Media Bias and the Cheltenham Literary Festival

September 23, 2019

Someone really ought to do a study of the way the big literary festivals – Haye-on-Wye, Cheltenham and the others – select the books and media celebs they want to push and the way they try to manipulate public opinion towards the establishment consensus. Because, believe me, it is there.

In a couple of weeks’ time, right at the beginning of October, it’ll be the Cheltenham Literary Festival. As it’s booklet of coming events tells you, it’s been proudly going for 70 years. I think it was set up, or given a great deal of assistance when it was set up, by Alan Hancock, who owned a secondhand bookshop on Cheltenham’s Promenade. It was a fascinating place, where you could acquire some really fascinating, valuable academic books cheaply. But it had the same internal layout as the fictional setting of the 1990’s Channel 4 comedy, Black Books, but without Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey or Tamsin Grieg.

The festival’s overall literary stance is, very roughly, broadsheet papers + BBC, especially Radio 4. It pretty much shows what’s captured the attention of the newspaper literary pages and the BBC news team, several of whom naturally have books coming out, and who are appearing. In past years I’ve seen John Simpson, Simon Hoggart, Quentin Letts, Giles Brandreth and John Humphreys talk or appear on panels. This year they’ve got, amongst others, Emily Maitlis and Humphrey’s again.

Much of the Festival’s content is innocuous enough, even praiseworthy from a left-wing perspective. For example, there are a number of authors talking about their books about empowering women and ethnic minorities. These include Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene talking about their book, Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible, which is what it says: a guide for Black girls. Other topics and books discussed are on how empowered Black men are, and various feminist works about how gynaecological problems should be discussed openly, and the changing nature of the female muse. Rather than being passive creatures, modern muses are active, liberated women conquering business, sports, the arts and science. There’s also a piece on the future of masculinity, titled ‘Will Boys Still Be Boys’, which asks what will happen to boys now that the idea that there is a natural realm of masculinity, such as superiority and aggression, has been disproved. The concern with ethnic minority authors has always been there, or at least since the 1990s. Then, and in the early part of this century, a frequent theme of the Festival was ‘crossing continents’, which gave a platform to prominent literary authors from outside Europe and the West. It also gave space to Black and Asian literature from the UK. I can remember too, how one of the events staged at the Festival was a celebration of Black British poetry, much of it in Caribbean Patois.

The Festival also caters for more popular tastes. In the past it had speaking the Fantasy author, Terry Pratchett, along with the approved, heavyweight literary types. It has events for children’s books, and this year features such media celebrities as Francis Rossi from Status Quo and Paul Merton. So, something for everyone, or so it seems.

But nevertheless, the Establishment bias is there, especially as so many of the speakers, like Maitlis and Humphreys, are drawn from the mainstream media. Back in the 1990s the Festival was sponsored by the Independent. Now it’s sponsored by the Times, the Murdoch rag whose sister paper, the Sunset Times, has spent so much time smearing Corbyn and his supporters as Communist infiltrators or vicious anti-Semites. Maitlis and Humphreys are BBC news team, and so, almost by definition, they’re Conservative propagandists. Especially as Humphreys is retiring, and has given interviews and written pieces for the Heil. Any chance of hearing something from the Cheltenham Festival about the current political situation that doesn’t conform to what the Establishment wants you to hear, or is prepared to tolerate? Answers on a postcard, please. Here’s a couple of examples. One of the topics under discussion is ‘Populism’. I don’t know what they’re planning to include in it, but from previous discussions of this in the media, I’m prepared to bet that they’ll talk about Trump, possibly Boris Johnson, the rise of extreme right-wing movements in Europe and elsewhere in the world, like Marine Le Pen former Front National in France, the AfD in Germany, Orban and so on in Hungary, Bolsonaro in Brazil and the Five Star Movement in Italy. All of whom are definitely populists. But they’ll also probably include Corbyn and Momentum, because Corbyn is genuinely left-wing, challenges the Thatcherite neoliberal consensus and will empower the masses. All of which threatens the Establishment. There are also individual politicians speaking this year, but the only one I found from the Left was Jess Philips. Who isn’t remotely left-wing in the traditional sense, though she is an outspoken feminist.

The other topic is about what should be done with Putin. Now let’s not delude ourselves, Putin is a corrupt thug, and under him Russia has become once again a very autocratic state. Political and religious dissidents, including journalists, are being attacked, jailed and in some cases murdered. Among the religious groups he’s decided are a threat to Mother Russia are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m not a member of the denomination, and find their doorstep campaigning as irritating as everyone else. But they are certainly not a dangerous cult or terrorist organisation. And they have stood up to tyrants. They were persecuted by the Nazis during the Third Reich, with their members imprisoned in the concentration camps, including a 17 year old boy, because they wouldn’t accept Hitler as a secular messiah. For which I respect for them. The Arkhiplut has enriched himself, and rewarded his cronies with company directorships, while assassinating the oligarchs, who haven’t toed his line. And I still remember the genocidal butchery he unleashed in Chechnya nearly two decades ago, because they had the temerity to break away.

But geopolitically, I don’t regard Putin as a military threat. In terms of foreign policy it seems that Putin is interested solely in preserving the safety of his country from western encirclement. Hence the invasion of the Ukraine to protect the Russian minority there. If he really wanted to conquer the country, rather than the Donbass, his tanks would be in Kiev by now. I’ve blogged before about how Gorbachev was promised by the West that in return for allowing the former eastern European satellites to break away from the USSR, they would remain neutral and not become members of NATO. That’s been violated. They’ve all become members, and there are NATO military bases now on Russia’s doorstep. The Maidan Revolution of 2012 which overthrew the previous, pro-Russian president of Ukraine was stage managed by the American state department and the National Endowment for Democracy under Hillary Clinton and Victoria Nuland. There’s evidence that the antagonism against Putin’s regime comes from western multinationals, who feel aggrieved at not being able to seize Russian companies as promised by Putin’s predecessor, the corrupt, drunken buffoon Boris Yeltsin. Putin also seems to be quite genuine in his belief in a multipolar world, in which his country, as well as others like China, are also superpowers. But the Americans are interested only in maintaining their position as the world’s only superpower through ‘full spectrum dominance’: that is, absolute military superiority. The US’ military budget supersedes both the Russian and that of the four other major global countries combined. Arguably, Russia ain’t the global threat. America and NATO are.

Festivals like that of Cheltenham are important. They’re business arrangements, of course. They exist to sell books. But they also encourage literacy, and allow the public to come face to face with the people, who inform and entertain them through the written word. Although here the books’ pages of Private Eye complained years ago that the Festival and others like it gave more space to celebrities from television, sport, music and other areas, rather than people, whose primary living was from writing. But the information we are given is shaped by the media – by the papers and broadcasters, who give the public the news, and the publishers, who decide which books on which subjects to publish. And then there’s the bias of the individual festivals themselves. And in the case of Cheltenham, it is very establishment. It’s liberal in terms of feminism and multiculturalism, but other conservative, and increasing Conservative, in others. It’s through events like Cheltenham that the media tries to create and support the establishment consensus.

But that consensus is rightly breaking down, as increasingly more people become aware that it is only creating mass poverty. The Establishment’s refusal to tolerate other, competing opinions – their demonisation of Corbyn and his supporters as Communists, Trotskyites and Nazis, for example – is leading to further alienation and disaffection. Working people don’t find their voices and concerns reflected in the media. Which is why they’re turning to the online alternatives. But Festivals like Cheltenham carry on promoting the same establishment agenda, with the odd voice from the opposition, just like the Beeb’s Question Time. And this is going to change any time soon, not with lyingt rags like the Times sponsoring it.

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.

 

Examining Jeanette Winterson’s Ideas on AI and Literature

June 4, 2019

Last Saturday’s I for 1-2 June 2019 carried an interview in its ‘Culture’ section with the literary novelist, Jeanette Winterson, about her latest work, Frankissstein. This is another take on Frankenstein, with one strand of the book set in the contemporary world and exploring AI, the downloading of the human mind into computers and literature. Winterson’s the second literary novelist, following Ian McEwan, to turn to the world of robotics for their subject matter. I’ve critiqued both of them, based on reviews in the papers, because this comes across to me very much of another instance of ‘literary’ novelists appropriating Science Fiction subjects and issues, while disdaining and ignoring the genre itself.

Winterson’s interview with Max Liu was also very interesting in other respects, and worth reading. While I am not remotely inclined to read her book, and have real objections to some of her statements on philosophical grounds, I also found that there was much that she said, which I agreed with. Particularly about the exploitation of British communities under Brexit.

The Interview

The article, on page 49, was prefaced with the statement Jeanette Winterson talks to Max Liu about AI and why the novel could die if it doesn’t reinvent itself’. It ran

Jeanette Winterson would like to upload her brain to a computer. “It were possibl, I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to find out what it’s like to live without a body,” she says when we meet to discuss Frankissstein, her new novel about artificial intelligence. “I had a very religious upbringing, so to me, the idea that the body is just a house is normal.”

The 59-year-old wrote about her Pentecostal childhood in her semi-autobiographical debut novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985), and her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2011). For the past couple of years, she has been reading about AI and robotics at the same time as thinking about Mary Shelley’s Gothic classic, Frankenstein. In her latest novel, the young Shelley appears as a character.

“I started writing about Mary in Italy at the beginning of the 19th century then worked my way to the present,” says Winterson. “There was no point setting a novel about AI in the future, because I wanted readers to realise the future is here. We don’t know how far big money has gone in developing AI, but I suspect it’s much further than we think.”

Winterson believes “we’re living in an ahistorical world where people don’t know how we got here”, the pace of change since the Industrial Revolution leaving us bewildered. “By its nature, reading slows us down,” she says,”so I’m pushing against the acceleration of modern life, creating imaginative space for readers to inhabit. Anybody who can imagine something is in control.”

Her new novel’s present-day characters include Ry, a transgender doctor, and Winterson says: “One of my godchildren identifies as transgender and I’ve been reading a lot about that because I thought I needed to understand. The idea of identity being provisional fed into this novel. Much Western thought rests upon the idea that there is a core self that we can know and perfect, but probably there isn’t.

Ray falls in love with Ron, who is trying to make his fortune by designing sex dolls. Ron plans to exploit post-Brexit tax breaks by opening a factory in Wales. “I hate to see how my class has been manipulated by people who have no thought and no care for them,” says Winterson. “I’m ashamed of my country for turning its back on a European project and choosing nationalism.”

Were she to live for another 100 years, Winterson says she would retrain as a scientist. Does this mean she doesn’t see a future for the novel?

“The novel is only on its way out if it doesn’t change,” she says. “In the 80s, it was too middle-class and too male. Then Angela Carter came along and was so fresh, but she had a terrible time initially. The example of English literature’s conservatism that kills me is when Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac won the Booker in 1984 and Carter’s Nights at the Circus wasn’t even shortlisted. It was the year before I published Oranges and I just thought: “This is so dull.”

In Frankissstein, one character says the urge to write comes from vanity, but Mary counters that it’s about hope. Which is it from Winterson? “My writing is a message in a bottle. I won’t be here long enough to get my brain uploaded, so I’m chucking this message overboard in the hope it will move the conversation on.”

Moravec, Transhumanism and Max Headroom

It would be interesting to find out what Winterson had been reading as her research for her book. My guess it would almost certainly include Hans Moravec and the downloaders and transhumanists. They aim to upload their minds into machines. A little while ago they held a party at which they avowed their intention to meet each other on the other side of the Galaxy in a million years’ time. Which is some ambition. I think Moravec himself believes that by this middle of this century the technology should have been perfected that will allow a human brain to be read in such minute detail that its functions can be reproduced on computer. This was the premise behind the Max Headroom pilot, 20 Minutes into the Future. In this tale, broadcast on Channel 4 in the 1980s, Headroom, a computer-generated TV personality, is created when his human original, an investigative journalist in a dystopian future London, knocks himself unconscious going through a crash barrier to escape the villains. The journo’s body is retrieved, and used by a teenage computer whizzkid, Brice, who seems to spend his whole life in the bath, to create Headroom as an experiment. The character takes his name from the last thing his original sees before he goes through the barrier: a sign saying ‘Max Headroom’.

Sladek’s The Muller-Fokker Effect

I also wonder if she read any of the SF literature about downloading and cyberspace, including one of the first novels to tackle the subject, John Sladek’s The Muller-Fokker Effect, published in 1970. This is about Bob Shairp, a man reduced to date and stored on computer tape. I haven’t read it, but according to Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove in their history of Science Fiction, The Trillion Year Spree,

it is a deeply satirical book, homing in on the US Army, evangelism, newspapers and the like for its target, with an overall sense of fun reminiscent of the work of Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick and Sheckley. (p. 307).

Future Shock and the Global Rate of Change

Winterson’s comment that it was useless to set the book in the future, as the future is already here, is very similar to the remarks I heard about two decades ago by William Gibson, one of the founders of the Cyberpunk SF genre. Speaking at the Cheltenham Festival of literature, Gibson said that the future was already here, it was just wasn’t spread out the same everywhere, so there were parts of the world, such as the developing countries, where it wasn’t present to the same extent as the more advanced West. As for her comments about living in an ahistorical age, where people don’t know how we got here, and the pace of change is accelerating, this sounds very close to Alvin Toffler and his idea of future shock, where societal change is now so advanced and rapid that it is profoundly disorienting. But it is possible to exaggerate the speed of such changes. I can remember reading an article a few years ago, that argued that the impact of modern technology is vastly overestimated. The internet, for example, it was claimed, isn’t half as revolutionary as it is made out as it is only a development of earlier technologies, like the telegram. It’s a contentious claim, but in many ways the most rapid technological, social and economic changes were in the century following Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1937. That was when Britain was transformed from an agricultural, almost feudal country into a modern, industrial society. Britain’s empire expanded massively, communications improved allowed the rapid movement of information, goods and people across the globe. It was the period when new transport technologies like the railway, the automobile, the electric tram, dirigible balloons, aeroplanes and the rocket were created, along with inventions like the X-Ray, electric light, the telegram, telephone, radio and the first experiments in television, and, of course, sound recording and the cinema. Contemporary technological advances can be seen as refinements or improvements on these, rather than completely new inventions.

Transgender People and the Question of Core Personality

I also have objections to her comments about whether or not there is a core, human personality. I’ve no doubt that one argument against it is that many people would be very different if they had had a different upbringing. If they’d been born into a different class, or allowed to study a particular subject at school or university, or if they’d decided to pursue a different career. And, obviously, if they’d been born a different gender. But twin studies suggest that people do have some aspects of their character determined by their biology rather than their upbringing. And I don’t think she makes her argument by pointing to transpeople. As I understand it, many transpeople believe very strongly that they have a core personality or nature. It’s just that this is at opposition to their biological gender. Hence their desire to change. It isn’t simply that they simply decide at some point that they want to change their sex, which would be the case if it was simply the case that they had no core personality. But perhaps Winterson’s godchild is different.

Computers and the Existence of Self 

I’m also suspicious of the idea, as it sounds rather close to the ideas of Daniel Dennett and Susan Blackmoore that consciousness is an illusion and that the brain is simply a meat machine for running memes, discrete units of culture like genes are discrete units of biological information. On the other hand, when she says that existing as a disembodied entity on a computer doesn’t seem strange to her because of her religious background, she’s in agreement with Paul Davies. In his book, God and the New Physics, he stated that he’s prepared to accept that life can exist outside the body because of the way computers could be used to simulate human personalities. I can remember reading that the wife of one of the leading downloaders was a Methodist minister. He commented about this apparent contradiction between their two disciplines by saying that they were both trying to do the same thing, but by different methods.

The Manipulation of the Working Class

I do agree wholeheartedly, however, with Winterson’s comments about how her class is being manipulated by people, who give them no thought and no care for them. The idea that the creation of tax breaks for businesses after Brexit would allow an amoral entrepreneur to build a factor for sex robots in Wales is all too credible. Just as I agree with her about Britain turning it’s back on the EU, though I also have strong criticisms of the European Union. But Brexit has been and is being used by the Tory extreme right and its related movements, like UKIP and Farage’s noxious Brexit people, to manipulate the working class and exploit them. If you look at what Boris Johnson and Farage want, the privatisation of the NHS to American private healthcare firms is very much on the table.

Conservatism, Sexism, Literature and Literary Snobbishness

She was also right about the conservatism and sexism of the literary world in the 1980s. Private Eye’s literary column attacked Hotel du Lac for its snobbishness at the time. And the Orange Prize for literature was set up because it was felt that women were being unfairly excluded from the main literary prizes. However, the remarkable success of women writers in winning the mainstream awards has also, in the view of Private Eye a few years ago, also called into question the reason for Orange Prize. Why have a separate prize for women when that year the lists were dominated by female writers? And as for Angela Carter, I wonder if some of the problems she had didn’t just come from her writing feminist magic realist tales and fairy stories, but also because the genre SF/Fantasy crowd liked her. Flicking through an old SF anthology I found in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday, I found a piece by her about literary theory along with pieces by other, firmly genre figures. A few years ago Terry Pratchett commented that the organisers of the Cheltenham Festival looked at him as if he was going to talk to his fans about motorcycle maintenance, and he was certainly subject to appalling snobbery by the literary critics when he started out. I think it’s therefore quite possible that Carter was disdained by those who considered themselves the guardians of serious literature because she was too genre. But I also wonder if Winterson herself, despite her deep love of Carter’s work, doesn’t also have the same attitude that sees genre fiction as somehow not proper literature, as she, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and the others write.

I have to say that I don’t see the death of novel being anywhere near imminent. Not from looking along the shelves at Waterstone’s, and particularly not in the genre fiction, crime, horror, and SF. But it says something about the apparent lack of inspiration in literary fiction that it is turning to SF for its subjects. Winterson said some fascinating things in her interview, but to me, genre SF still did AI, robots and downloading first and better than the mainstream novelists now writing about it.

 

If You Want to Stop the Spread of Fascism, Vote Labour Tomorrow

May 22, 2019

Mike’s put up a series of articles this week arguing that anybody really worried about the spread of Fascism in Europe should vote Labour at the European elections tomorrow. He’s based these on comments and an article posted by one of the great readers of his blog, and by a Groaniad journo. And his and their logic is impeccable.

The election tomorrow is not a re-run of the Brexit referendum. The responsibility for deciding whether Britain leaves the EU and how lies very firmly with parliament. Nothing the Lib Dems for the Remain side nor the Brexit Party does in the EU parliament will alter that. But European democracy, culture and human rights are under threat from a renascent Far Right. The Brexit party is part of that threat, and the Lib Dems are part of the underlying cause: the misery and increasing poverty caused by neoliberalism for the benefit of the European elites, and particularly the financial sector.

Let’s start with the Brexit Party. Whatever the Fuhrage says to the contrary, his is an authoritarian, racist, far right party. It only looks moderate because Batten’s recruitment of Sargon, Dankula, Paul Joseph Watson and Tommy Robinson has pushed the party further right, bordering on the real Fascism of the BNP. But the party was already stuffed full of racists, islamophobes and militant anti-feminists under Farage. And the Brexit party still contains them and draws on them for support. The song by Captain Ska that Mike’s put up this morning attacking Farage as a racist is spot on. He did put up anti-immigrant posters that used the image of a long line of immigrants almost identical to a Nazi one against the dangers of Jewish immigration. His party is a corporation, like that of Change UK, and there are very strong suspicions that it is funded by dark money from foreign powers. Which is illegal. Quite apart from the fact that he lied about it not being funded by Arron Banks when it clearly was. The Fuhrage’s personal style of leadership is extremely authoritarian. In Chester last week he had a member of the audience at a rally thrown out because the man had the temerity to ask a searching question. Rather than cry ‘Duce! Duce!’ along with the rest of the adoring masses. Now he has blocked Channel 4 from his rallies, for the same reason. This is extremely ominous, as it shows that, like his friend Trump, he would dearly love to get rid of the freedom of the press and speech completely. He would also like to privatise the health service and roll back the welfare state even further than the Conservatives.

He’s a threat to Britain, and to genuine European liberal values.

As is Vince Cable and the Lib Dems. People are voting for them apparently because of their clear Remain message, and they’re supposed to have overtaken Labour in the polls for this election. But let’s remember that the Lib Dems went into the coalition with the Tories, where they were quite happy to support the further privatisation of the health service, the bedroom tax, the increasing destruction of the welfare state, including IDS’ and McVey’s lethal sanctions of the unemployed and the disabled in the DWP. Thanks in part to the Lib Dems, a quarter of a million people now have to rely on food banks for their next meal, the majority of whom I think are now working people. And something like a quarter of all children are growing up in ‘food insecure’ homes. Or something like it. And students in particular have a very good reason not to vote for Cable or his gang of bandits. The massive hike in tuition fees was urged by Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader. Cameron would have given in and lowered or dropped them had the Lib Dems insisted. Our young people, the doctors, nurses, teachers, scientists, engineers, and professionals of tomorrow, are being sadly with tens of thousands of pounds in debt because Clegg and the Lib Dems thought they should. They are also a threat to democracy, because they decided to throw out John Stuart Mill and his resolute support of democracy to bring in secret courts. All in the interests of national security, of course.

But hey, the austerity they and the other centrists demand will bring prosperity eventually. 

The answer to this is no, it won’t. It hasn’t so far, and won’t ever. A few weeks ago I put up a video from the Canary which explained that everywhere austerity has been implemented it has produced nothing but poverty. And far from being massively popular, those parties promoting it have met with the absolute reverse.

And the Fascists know this, and are exploiting it.

Hope Not Hate on Monday, 20th May 2019, put up piece about a mass rally in Milan of the various European far right parties, organised by Matteo Salvini of Italy’s Lega Party. It was a kind of ‘Unite the Right’ of European Fascists, attended by

Marine Le Pen of France’s Rassemblement National and Geert Wilders of the Dutch Party for Freedom. Alternative for Germany (AfD), Belgium’s Vlaams Belang (VB), Estonia’s EKRE and the Danish People’s Party (DPP) had all sent their main MEP candidates and central party figures, Jörg Meuthen (AfD), Gerolf Annemans (VB), Jaak Madison (EKRE) and Anders Vistisen (DPP). Representatives from Slovakias Sme Rodina, Austrian Freedom Party, Finland’s True Finns, Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) from Czech Republic and Volya from Bulgaria also addressed the rally.

Hope Not Hate reported that

Welcomed by chants of his name from the crowd, Salvini said he wanted to “free the continent from the illegal occupation orchestrated in Brussels”, and that Europe had been betrayed by the “Merkels, the Macrons, the Soroses and the Junckers who built a Europe based on finance and uncontrolled migration.” The audience chanted “Matteo, Matteo, Matteo” in response.

Okay, Merkel is the leader of Germany’s centre right Christian Democrats, and Soros is the Hungarian-American billionaire financier. But the policies they are pursuing are the old shopworn neoliberalism and austerity. As are Macron’s, who’s supposed to be reviving French prosperity. And if you don’t believe that these people are Fascists, consider how close Geert Wilders’ comments that “We must secure the future of our land and children”. This is close to the infamous ’14 Words’ of the American neo-Nazis, which run something like ‘We must secure a White homeland and the future of White children’, although I’ve forgotten the right wording.

Salvini gathers leaders of the European far right in Milan

Europe desperately needs the return of genuine, socialist politics. Not just to restore its industries and people from decades of poverty, calculated neglect, privatisation and welfare cuts by its elites, but to save Europe and its tradition of democracy and human rights from a renewed Fascism. A strong vote for the Labour party in the elections will help them form a powerful bloc with the other European socialist parties. And it has always been the parties of the Left – the Socialists and Communists – who have been the most resolute and determined opposed of Fascism.

Don’t let Farage and Cable lead us into a Continent-wide new Fascist Dark Age. 

Vote Labour!

No Pasaran!

 

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.

 

 

 

Reviewing the ‘I’s’ Review of Ian McEwan’s ‘Machines Like Me’

April 21, 2019

George Barr’s cover illo for Lloyd Biggle’s The Metallic Muse. From David Kyle, the Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Ideas & Dreams (London: Hamlyn 1977).

The book’s pages of last Friday’s I , for 19th April 2019, carried a review by Jude Cook of Ian McEwan’s latest literary offering, a tale of a love triangle between a man, the male robot he has purchased, and his wife, a plot summed up in the review’s title, ‘Boy meets robot, robot falls for girl’. I’d already written a piece in anticipation of its publication on Thursday, based on a little snippet in Private Eye’s literary column that McEwan, Jeanette Winterson and Kazuo Ishiguro were all now turning to robots and AI for their subject matter, and the Eye expected other literary authors, like Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie, to follow. My objection to this is that it appeared to be another instance of the literary elite taking their ideas from Science Fiction, while looking down on the genre and its writers. The literary establishment has moved on considerably, but I can still remember the late, and very talented Terry Pratchett complaining at the Cheltenham Literary Festival that the organisers had looked at him as if he was about to talk to all his waiting fans crammed into the room about motorcycle maintenance.

Cook’s review gave an outline of the plot and some of the philosophical issues discussed in the novel. Like the Eye’s piece, it also noted the plot’s similarity to that of the Channel 4 series, Humans. The book is set in an alternative 1982 in which the Beatles are still around and recording, Tony Benn is Prime Minister, but Britain has lost the Falklands War. It’s a world where Alan Turing is still alive, and has perfected machine consciousness. The book’s hero, Charlie, purchases one of the only 25 androids that have been manufactured, Adam. This is not a sex robot, but described as ‘capable of sex’, and which has an affair with the hero’s wife, Miranda. Adam is an increasing threat to Charlie, refusing to all his master to power him down. There’s also a subplot about a criminal coming forward to avenge the rape Miranda has suffered in the past, and a four year old boy about to be placed in the care system.

Cook states that McEwan discusses the philosophical issue of the Cartesian duality between mind and brain when Charlie makes contact with Turing, and that Charlie has to decide whether Adam is too dangerous to be allowed to continue among his flesh and blood counterparts, because

A Manichean machine-mind that can’t distinguish between a white lie and a harmful lie, or understand that revenge can sometimes be justified, is potentially lethal.

Cook declares that while this passage threatens to turn the book into a dry cerebral exercise, its engagement with the big questions is its strength, concluding

The novel’s presiding Prospero is Turing himself, who observes that AI is fatally flawed because life is “an open system… full of tricks and feints and ambiguities”. His great hope is that by its existence “we might be shocked in doing something about ourselves.”

Robots and the Edisonade

It’s an interesting review, but what it does not do is mention the vast amount of genre Science Fiction that has used robots to explore the human condition, the limits or otherwise of machine intelligence and the relationship between such machines and their creators, since Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. There clearly seems to be a nod to Shelley with the name of this android, as the monster in her work, I think, is also called Adam. But Eando Binder – the nom de plume of the brothers Earl and Otto Binder, also wrote a series of stories in the 1930s and ’40s about a robot, Adam Link, one of which was entitled I, Robot, which was later used as the title of one of Asimov’s stories. And although the term ‘robot’ was first used of such machines by the Czech writer Karel Capek in his 1920s play, RUR, or Rossum’s Universal Robots, they first appeared in the 19th century. One of these was Villier de l’Isle-Adam, L’Eve Futur of 1884. This was about a robot woman invented by Thomas Edison. As one of the 19th centuries foremost inventors, Edison was the subject of a series of proto-SF novels, the Edisonades, in which his genius allowed him to create all manner of advanced machines. In another such tale, Edison invents a spaceship and weapons that allow humanity to travel to the planets and conquer Mars. McEwan’s book with its inclusion of Alan Turing is basically a modern Edisonade, but with the great computer pioneer rather than the 19th century electrician as its presiding scientific genius. Possibly later generations will have novels set in an alternative late 20th century where Stephen Hawking has invented warp drive, time travel or a device to take us into alternative realities via artificial Black Holes.

Robot Romances

As I said in my original article, there are any number of SF books about humans having affairs with robots, like Tanith Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover, Lester del Rey’s Helen O’Loy and Asimov’s Satisfaction Guaranteed. The genre literature has also explored the moral and philosophical issues raised by the creation of intelligent machines. In much of this literature, robots are a threat, eventually turning on their masters, from Capek’s R.U.R. through to The Terminator and beyond. But some writers, like Asimov, have had a more optimistic view. In his 1950 I, Robot, a robot psychologist, Dr. Susan Calvin, describes them in a news interview as ‘a cleaner, better breed than we are’.

Lem’s Robots and Descartes

As for the philosophical issues, the Polish SF writer, Stanislaw Lem, explored them in some of his novels and short stories. One of these deals with the old problem, also dating back to Descartes, about whether we can truly know that there is an external world. The story’s hero, the space pilot Pirx, visits a leading cybernetician in his laboratory. This scientist has developed a series of computer minds. These exist, however, without robot bodies, but the minds themselves are being fed programmes which make them believe that they are real, embodied people living in the real world. One of these minds is of a beautiful woman with a scar on her shoulder from a previous love affair. Sometimes the recorded programmes jump a groove, creating instances of precognition or deja vu. But ultimately, all these minds are, no matter how human or how how real they believe themselves to be, are brains in vats. Just like Descartes speculated that a demon could stop people from believing in a real world by casting the illusion of a completely false one on the person they’ve possessed.

Morality and Tragedy in The ABC Warriors 

Some of these complex moral and personal issues have also been explored by comics, until recently viewed as one of the lowest forms of literature. In a 1980s ‘ABC Warriors’ story in 2000AD, Hammerstein, the leader of a band of heroic robot soldiers, remembers his earliest days. He was the third prototype of a series of robot soldiers. The first was an efficient killer, patriotically killing Communists, but exceeded its function. It couldn’t tell civilians from combatants, and so committed war crimes. The next was programmed with a set of morals, which causes it to become a pacifist. It is killed trying to persuade the enemy – the Volgans – to lay down their arms. Hammerstein is its successor. He has been given morals, but not to the depth that they impinge on his ability to kill. For example, enemy soldiers are ‘terrorists’. But those on our side are ‘freedom fighters’. When the enemy murders civilians, it’s an atrocity. When we kill civilians, it’s unavoidable casualties. As you can see, the writer and creator of the strip, Pat Mills, has very strong left-wing opinions.

Hammerstein’s programming is in conflict, so his female programmer takes him to a male robot psychiatrist, a man who definitely has romantic intentions towards her. They try to get Hammerstein to come out of his catatonic reverie by trying to provoke a genuine emotional reaction. So he’s exposed to all manner of stimuli, including great works of classical music, a documentary about Belsen, and the novels of Barbara Cartland. But the breakthrough finally comes when the psychiatrist tries to kiss his programmer. This provokes Hammerstein into a frenzied attack, in which he accidentally kills both. Trying to repair the damage he’s done, Hammerstein says plaintively ‘I tried to replace his head, but it wouldn’t screw back on.’

It’s a genuinely adult tale within the overall, action-oriented story in which the robots are sent to prevent a demon from Earth’s far future from destroying the Galaxy by destabilising the artificial Black and White Holes at the centre of Earth’s underground civilisation, which have been constructed as express routes to the stars. It’s an example of how the comics culture of the time was becoming more adult, and tackling rather more sophisticated themes.

Conclusion: Give Genre Authors Their Place at Literary Fiction Awards

It might seem a bit mean-spirited to compare McEwan’s latest book to its genre predecessors. After all, in most reviews of fiction all that is required is a brief description of the plot and the reviewer’s own feelings about the work, whether it’s done well or badly. But there is a point to this. As I’ve said, McEwan, Winterson, Ishiguro and the others, who may well follow their lead, are literary authors, whose work regularly wins the big literary prizes. They’re not genre authors, and the type of novels they write are arguably seen by the literary establishment as superior to that of genre Science Fiction. But here they’re taking over proper Science Fiction subjects – robots and parallel worlds – whose authors have extensively explored their moral and philosophical implications. This is a literature that can’t and shouldn’t be dismissed as trash, as Stanislaw Lem has done, and which the judges and critics of mainstream literary fiction still seem to do. McEwan’s work deserves to be put into the context of genre Science Fiction. The literary community may feel that it’s somehow superior, but it is very much of the same type as its genre predecessors, who did the themes first and, in my opinion, better.

There is absolutely no reason, given the quality of much SF literature, why this tale by McEwan should be entered for a literary award or reviewed by the kind of literary journals that wouldn’t touch genre science fiction with a barge pole, while genre SF writers are excluded. It’s high time that highbrow literary culture recognised and accepted works and writers of genre SF as equally worthy of respect and inclusion.

Miriam Margolyes Defends Labour and Jeremy Corbyn against Anti-Semitism Smears in Radio Times

April 16, 2019

Next week’s Radio Times for 20th-26th April 2019 has a long interview with veteran thesp Miriam Margolyes.  It’s partly publicity for her forthcoming documentary, Miriam’s Dead Good Adventure, in which she explores death and how people cope with it. This includes venturing into the kind of territory Louis Theroux explored in his Weird Weekends all those years ago, when he explored the weirder margins of American society. In her case, Margolyes meets a group, who believe they can use orgasmic energy to stave off death forever, making them immortal. Needless to say, she doesn’t believe a word of it.

Most interestingly, Margolyes discusses the anti-Semitism allegations against the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn, making it very clear that she doesn’t believe in them either. She condemns the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, and describes how her view have led to her being vilified by pro-Israel groups and individuals, like Maureen Lipman. And like Jackie Walker, another Jewish anti-Zionist lady of mature years, she was radicalised through her opposition to apartheid in South Africa. This section of the interview runs

A Labour Party member, she has firm opinions about anti-Semitism accusations directed at the party. “Jeremy Corbyn, who is an excellent constituency representative, a serious person, is not an anti-Semite. I don’t think there is the extent of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party that people seem to imply,” she says. “I think it’s to do with trying to stop Corbyn from being prime minister”. She is also critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. “It’s just a fact that the Israelis have behaved appallingly, they continue to do so, and people are dying. I am ashamed, as a Jew, of what’s been done in my my name. I can’t bear it. And for that I’m vilified and people won’t come to see the plays I’m in. I’ve become, as it were a kind of minuscule Vanessa Redgrave when she was vilified for her political position. But I am right. I have no doubt about that whatever”.

I wonder how it feels to be separated from your own community. “It hurts me,” she says. “I’m so Jewish, and so happy to be Jewish. And the schism between me and Maureen Lipman, which is the manifestation of this chasm, causes me pain.”

Lipman is a very public supporter of Israel. IN 2015 she demonstrated with pro-Israeli groups outside a production of a pro-Palestinian play in London. “She feels that I am a wicked traitor to my people,” says Margolyes. “And I feel that she’s a fool.” The two appeared together in a 1989 British Telecom commercial spoofing Jewish domestic life, now Margolyes admits it would be difficult if they met in the street. “I hope I would be civil. I’m sad because I admire Maureen, and I have known her for a long time. She’s been a friend, and now it’s not possible any more. I expect she might be said, too. But she said don’t communicate with me again and I haven’t.”

She says she feels compelled to stand against injustice in the world. “For me, it’s the same sort of cause as apartheid. I was marching on South Africa House when I was young and, unfortunately, it’s now my own people I’ve got to march against. That’s painful, but I won’t pretend. If you can’t tell the truth when you’re 77, when are you going to tell it?”

Jewish Opposition to Zionism as Anti-Semitism

Over a decade ago she was one of a number of public figures, who condemned the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, and she made her Jewishness very plain then too. She stated that she was a ‘proud Jew, and an ashamed Jew’. She says in the interview that she doesn’t believe in God, but she loves Jewish life, the cooking, culture and community. She shares her happiness with her Jewish identity with many of the other Jewish critics of Israel, both Torah-observant and secular/ atheist, who have also been vilified for their stance against the Israeli oppression and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Arabs. People like Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Martin Odoni and many others. And many Jewish critics of Israel find it utterly ridiculous, even anti-Semitic, that they should be considered traitors by their community, because they’d don’t support a foreign country that they weren’t born in. Greenstein, David Rosenberg, and the Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, have made the point that until recently the majority of the Jewish people rejected Zionism, partly because they were afraid that it would lead to accusations that Jews’ loyalties were divided between their homeland and that of the Jewish state. Indeed, at the beginning of the Zionist project, Zionism was strongly associated with anti-Semitism because of the number of real Jew-haters, who wanted to expel their Jewish populations to some other country, and the establishment of a Jewish state would be perfect for this purpose. The majority of Jews wished to stay in their native homelands and be accepted as equal citizens with their gentile fellow countrymen and women. The establishment of the state of Israel has indeed led to diaspora Jews being accused of being more loyal to Israel than their home countries, not least because Benjamin Netanyahu actually declared that the Jewish people and Israel are synonymous and identical. All Jews, everywhere, are citizens of Israel. The Palestinians, however, are not. Which is why activists like Tony Greenstein make it very clear that Israel isn’t a democracy, as it is not a state of its citizens but of a single, privileged ethnic group.

Maureen Lipman’s Attack on Ed Miliband

As for Maureen Lipman, she’s a great actor, but she has boiled her brain on this issue. She’s claimed to have left the Labour party because of Corbyn. She didn’t. She left it a few years ago when Ed Miliband, who’s Jewish, became leader. Miliband made some mild policy departures from a rigidly pro-Israel line, so Lipman threw a strop and left, ranting about how the party was now anti-Semitic. She wasn’t the only one. As Mike and the other left-wing bloggers have pointed out, the anti-Semitism smears date from this time, long before Corbyn became leader. Which makes utter nonsense of the claim that Corbyn, one of the most anti-racist and determined opponents of anti-Semitism, is a Jew-hater.

Other Victims of Witchhunt Silenced by Media

It’s refreshing that the Radio Times should give space to Margolyes’ views, and I’m sorry that she, too, is suffering vilification and smears for her opposition to Israel that other critics and activists, both Jewish and non-Jewish, are also receiving. But unfortunately the media, including the Beeb, is still determined to repeat these smears and libels. Those abused, like Mike, may be able to correct these attacks through IPSO, but it’s very difficult for the victims to take their attackers to court for libel. This is largely because of the huge costs involved, but also because there are time limits on libel actions and the newspapers do everything they can to stall and stonewall them until they run out of time. And I have yet to see any part of the lamestream media invite those, who have been smeared as anti-Semites, onto their programmes to defend themselves. The noble exception to this have been the new, alternative broadcasters like RT and Novara Media. George Galloway has had Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein on his show, Sputnik, on RT to make their case and describe their experience of victimisation in the anti-Semitic witchhunt. But the Beeb, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and others have yet to do so. Meanwhile Laura Kuenssberg and the other liars of the BBBC newsroom have been free to continue their promotion of the lies and smears against Corbyn and his supporters without any criticism or dissent whatsoever, urged on by the rest of the mendacious right-wing media and Jewish establishment.

I’m pleased Margolyes has been able to present the other side of the argument in the RT, and would like other anti-Israel activists also to have the opportunity to explain their position and rebut the anti-Semitism smears. But the majority are ordinary people, like Mike, Greenstein, Walker, Odoni, Wadsworth and Chilson, who aren’t already media figures and so are denied a proper, sympathetic platform. And so the lies and smears continue.

The Rights’ Conflation of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Capitalism and the Erasure of Left-Wing Jewish History

March 19, 2019

Just as the Jewish Chronicle may have itself been guilty of anti-Semitism by denying that one of the signatories to the letter of support for Corbyn and the Labour party sent to the Sunday Times, so other members of the right may also be aiding anti-Semitism by their repeated use of the conspiracy theory that the Jews are the real force behind capitalism.

Three days ago, on 16th March 2019, David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group, an ardent campaigner himself against racism, anti-Semitism and thus Zionism, put up on his blog an article discussing this very point, which had been published that day in the Morning Star. He began by commenting on the statement by Blairite Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh to John Humphrys on Radio 4 that ‘anti-capitalist politics are at the root of anti-Semitism’. Rosenberg states that it’s an appalling slur against everyone fighting against the poverty and inequality of Tory Britain, but it also revealed that the Right, even those, who think they are pro-Jewish, still believe anti-Semitic stereotypes, as McDonagh obviously thinks that Jews are rich capitalists.

He goes on to discuss how this is at the heart of the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that sees the Jews as using their wealth to control the banks and governments. A theory that was pushed by Henry Ford, an Episcopalian Christian and founder of the car manufacturer that bears his name, in his paper the Dearborn Independent. Ford believed that the Jews caused World War I, and published the infamous Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And someone else who believed this poisonous nonsense, and was Ford’s biggest fan in Europe, was one A. Hitler.

Rosenberg goes on to discuss how there are Jews, who identify the Jewish community with capitalism, banking and property and so accuse the anti-capitalist left as anti-Semites. He then cites Richard Mather, who claimed in an article in the Jerusalem Post that ‘the Labour party’s call for the seizure of property’ was part of ‘anti-Semitic class warfare’, and pieces written by the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, and one of his journos, Alex Brummer, who both claimed that Corbyn was an anti-Semitic threat to Jewish capitalists, with Pollard harking back to Corbyn’s attack on the bankers that caused the financial crash ten years ago. Rosenberg tweeted in response to this nonsense that of Pollard and Corbyn, one of them thought all bankers were Jews. And it wasn’t Corbyn.

Rosenberg goes on to say that

In my 61 years I’ve never met a Jewish banker. I’ve met unemployed Jews, Jewish decorators, post-office workers, van drivers, taxi drivers, shopworkers, social workers, secretaries, teachers, pharmacists, and several comedians.

He reinforces this point by describing how Arnold Brown, a Jewish comedian, who came from a poor background in Glasgow, tore up the floorboards at his home one day after the other schoolkids told him that all Jews were rich. He also makes the point that the racist Right use the stereotype of the rich Jewish capitalist to divert popular anger away from capitalism to particular Jewish figures, who are supposed to be responsible for its ills, such as Rothschild and Goldman Sachs to George Soros today, demonised by Trump and a slew of extreme right-wing regimes because he funds agencies for migrants and refugees and anti-government demonstrations.

But he also makes the point that this stereotype also erases the strong history of Jewish left-wing anti-capitalist activism, writing

When McDonagh, Mather and Pollard repeat stereotypes of Jews as capitalists, they not only feed these conspiracy theories, but also erase an outstanding tradition of Jewish anti-capitalism. People know the famous Jewish revolutionaries, like Marx, Trotsky, Rosa Luxemberg, Emma Goldman, but it was in mass Jewish workers’ movements such as the Bund, and among the Jews so numerous in socialist and communist parties over the last 120 years, that anti-capitalism was ingrained. In 1902, a Russian Jewish bookbinder, Semyon Ansky, wrote a Yiddish song to honour the Bund’s struggles for social justice. The movement adopted it as its anthem. One powerful verse translates as:

“We swear to the heavens a bloody hatred against those who murder and rob the working class. The Tsar, the rulers, the capitalists – we swear that they will all be devastated and destroyed. An oath, an oath, of life and death.”

He goes on to say that he is going that day to march and speak with the Jewish Socialist Group on a national demonstration in London against racism and Fascism, including the anti-Semitism that is rising in central and eastern Europe and Trump’s America with the Pittsburgh shooting.  He concludes

At street level, far right organisations concentrate physical attacks more frequently on Muslims, Roma, migrants and refugees, but when they want to explain to their supporters who they believe holds power in the world they fall back on Jewish conspiracy theories as surely today as they did in the 1930s. The fight against antisemitism, Islamophobia and anti-migrant propaganda are absolutely linked and we must combat them together.

See: https://rebellion602.wordpress.com/2019/03/16/the-anti-antisemitism-that-actually-promotes-jew-hating/

Absolutely. Rosenberg’s blog is particularly fascinating for the pieces he publishes about the Bund, the socialist party of the eastern European masses in the Russian Empire. It’s a history that I doubt many non-Jews know about, as the Yiddish-speaking communities the Bund represented were murdered by the Nazis. If people outside the Jewish community know about it at all, it’s probably because of the movement’s connection to the Russian Socialist movement. The Bund were, with the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, part of the Russian Social Democratic Party, the parent organisation of the Russian Communists. It was their withdrawal from the party conference in 1909, when Lenin demanded that there should be no separate organisation for Jewish socialists, that made the Bolsheviks the majority faction and gave them their name, from ‘Bolshe’, the Russian word for bigger.

But the articles by David Rosenberg and other left-wing Jewish bloggers and vloggers reveal a rich, lost history of Jewish anti-capitalist struggle. One of the remarkable consequences of the anti-Semitism smears is that this history is being rediscovered and brought to public attention as Jewish Marxists and socialists refute these smears. Jon Pullman’s film, The Witchhunt, attacking these smears and particularly the libelous hounding of Jackie Walker, includes a brief mention of the Bund, including black and white footage of their demonstrations and banners. If Channel 4 had kept to its original charter as an alternative BBC 2, the Bund and its legacy would be a very suitable subject for a documentary. It could also easily be screened on BBC 4. But I doubt that this will ever happen because the stereotype of the rich Jew is too important a weapon against the anti-capitalist left for it to be refuted by such a thing as actual history.

And if left-wing Jewish history, like that of the Bund, is being forgotten, some contemporary works on the Jewish community may inadvertently reinforce the stereotype of the rich Jew. Back in the 1990s an aunt gave me a book about the Jewish community in Britain, The Club. It was a mainstream book by a very respectable mainstream publisher, but from what I can remember about it, it was about the elite section of British Jewish society, the top 100. I think it was written from an entirely praiseworthy standpoint – to celebrate Jewish achievement, and to how how integrated and indeed integral Jews were to British society and culture. But books like it can give an unbalanced picture of Jewish society in Britain by concentrating on the immensely wealthy and successful, and ignoring the ordinary Jewish folk, who live, work and whose kids go to school and uni with the rest of us, and whose working people marched in solidarity with us.

It’s fascinating and necessary that the history of Jewish socialism is being rediscovered, and that activists in the Bund’s tradition, like Rosenberg, continue to write, demonstrate and blog against racism and anti-Semitism as part of the real struggle by working people.

 

 

Two Videos by Dick Coughlan Showing Tommy Robinson as He Is

March 14, 2019

Dick Coughlan is an anti-racist, anti-Fascist atheist ranter on YouTube. I don’t agree with his atheism, which is in any case only really evident in this video in his sign off: ‘May God be less’. But I’m putting up these two videos because they show just what an amoral, lying thug Tommy Robinson is. Robinson’s one of the leading islamophobes in this country. He’s been the head of the English Defence League, was briefly involved in Pegida UK, and has been in and out of jail for contempt of court. He was caught livestreaming outside the courtroom where Asian men accused of forming grooming and rape gangs were being tried, thus threatening to prejudice their trial. Although he claims to be a racist, he was a member of the BNP. In one video he sent to one of his friends, which was leaked to the press, he contradicted his claim not to be racially prejudiced by referring to an Asian taxi driver as ‘a little Paki’, and compounded it by boasting about how he’d obtained cocaine in every country in the world, including Qatar, when the local Muslims were at prayer.

He claims to be the victim of persecution by the British establishment, but his own conduct and those of his legions of followers is highly intimidating. He turns up with his goons at his critics’ homes announced and demands to talk to them in a very aggressive manner. He also doxes them, revealing their personal information on the net, leaving them vulnerable to hate messages and death threats from his fans. He did this a few weeks ago to a critic in his home town of Luton. The lad’s parents live in Cumbria, so he and two of his friends drove up there in the middle of the night to intimidate them. Another opponent is the historian and journalist Mike Stuchbery, who Robinson and his friends also tried to intimidate in the same manner. They turned up at his house, banged on his windows and at one point made the false and malign claim that Stuchbery is a paedophile. For which Stuchbery’s taking him to court.

In the first video below, Coughlan talks about the video Robinson sent, that was leaked to the press. This was done by one of his friends, and Coughlan points out, not unreasonably, that if they’re doing that to Robinson, then clearly they aren’t friends of his. He also discusses how it shows Robinson to be a racist and druggie, despite his denials. But he really attacks Robinson for his comments about a rape charity, which was offering special services to Black and ethnic minority women. Robinson took a photo of their advert with the caption ‘So it’s OK to rape White women then?’ This was very definitely not what the charity was saying. The advert was for a branch of rape charity, that existed to help all women, regardless of their colour. It was offering special services – such as contact with staff that spoke Asian and other minority languages, for example, because the women in these communities may be at a disadvantage because of their unique needs. At the same time, the charity certainly was not going to turn away White women. This is clearly shown in the flyer for the charity, which shows four White faces amongst the Black and Asian women. Robinson was aware of this, and how it would contradict his lying caption, and so deliberately shot the flyer at an angle so that the four White faces wouldn’t show. Robinson’s lies resulted in the charity having their phone lines clogged with hate calls. They will have to change their posters, leaflets and have new lines installed because of Robinson’s accusation. As a result, God knows how many women have not been able to get the advice and help they need.

Equally disgusting was a lie Robinson tweeted about a rape that was supposed to have occurred in a school in Luton. An eleven year old White girl was supposed to have been gang-raped by Muslims. Robinson tweeted this, with a comment asking why the authorities were silent.

They were silent for a good reason: it never happened.

Nevertheless, the outrage Robinson generated with his wretched tweet was so intense and widespread that the school, Luton council and police had to go to the press and on television and radio to refute the lie.

In the second video, he talks about his personal experience of dealing with Robinson and his internet squadristi. It’s title refers to Robinson’s real name, Stephen Yaxley Lennon. And it’s a scream of rage and defiance against their doxing and threats. Robinson is being sued for defamation by a young Syrian lad, who was attacked at his school by a bully. The lad, a refugee, was a victim of racial assault, but Robinson instead sympathised with the bully and his family, who, he claimed, were the real victims. Coughlan was contacted by the lad’s solicitors, who asked him to serve the legal papers on Robinson.

Coughlan describes this process, taking care to refute the lies posted about him by the Robinson and his supporters. According to them, Coughlan turned up with other men in black balaclavas to terrify and intimidate Robinson’s wife and children. Coughlan admits that he did have company, as he isn’t a tough man and didn’t know what to expect. He was also accompanied by journalists, one from the Daily Mail and another from Channel 4. But they very definitely didn’t wear black balaclavas and didn’t try to threaten or intimidate Robinson’s wife and children. He states he went to Robinson’s wife’s house, as although it’s in her name, he is registered as living there. He has to do this, as Robinson is prevented from touching mortgages due to a conviction for mortgage fraud. When he got there, Coughlan was met by a couple of coppers, who took the writ from him, and said they would deliver it to Robinson instead.

Coughlan then goes on to describe the personal attacks, so far mercifully not physical, he has received from Robinson and his supporters. They have released details of where he lives online, and revealed that Coughlan formerly used cocaine. Which Coughlan finds absolutely hysterical, as he has put all this information out there. However, they got a photograph of where they thought he lives absolutely wrong, and Coughlan corrects them. They have also gone through all his tweets and videos trying to find anything that makes him look a Nazi. This includes a video of Coughlan in his bedsit, with a picture tacked to the wall, which is supposed to be a swastika. As Coughlan shows, it isn’t. It’s a caricature he drew of Rees-Mogg. And some of those claiming that Coughlan is somehow himself racist clearly have far right views themselves. One even announces that he works for the far-right news corporation, Breitbart.

Coughlan isn’t dismayed by their antics, as despite the personal insults and threats to kill him and burn down his house, nothing’s happened. In fact, it’s only made him more determined to combat Robinson further. He states that he’ll contact Mike Stuchbery about his decision to sue Robinson, as he wants to deliver that writ as well. Just as wants to serve the legal papers to the great anti-Muslim gruppenfuehrer from anyone else determined to sue him. The war has only just begun.

I’m posting both of these up because, although I’ve put up other videos about some of the same events by Kevin Logan and Mike Stuchbery, these confirm what a thoroughly nasty piece of work Robinson is. He isn’t persecuted, he’s one of the persecutors. And it shows just how paranoid and nasty he and his supporters are that they attack to a charity looking after women, who have suffered such dreadful assault. I also admire Coughlan, and the others, who have been threatened by him and his mob, like the good blogger over at Zelo Street, who are standing up to him and bringing the war back to them. Many of us would be too afraid to respond like that in the face of such threats, but Coughlan and co. stand tall and unbowed. I wish them all the best of luck in their campaigns against Robinson and his mob of rabid Fascists, and hope they take them down. From Coughlan’s videos, it should be spectacular.

One warning to everyone viewing: Coughlan’s a sweary bloke with a rather coarse sense of humour, so be careful where you play this.