Posts Tagged ‘Colleges’

‘I’ Newspaper on Labour’s Plans to Liberate University Regulator from Market Forces

February 16, 2019

Today’s I for Saturday, 16th February 2019 has an article by Florence Snead on page 4 reporting Labour’s plans to overhaul the universities regulator, and remove the free market ideology currently underpinning its approach to higher education in the UK. The piece, entitled ‘Universities ‘should not be left to the mercy of market forces’ runs

Labour has unveiled how it would overhaul the higher education system as it claimed the system’s new regulator was “not fit for purpose”.

The shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner will criticize the Office for Students – established by the Government in 2018 – in a speech today at the annual University and Colleges Union conference.

She will say the regulator represents a system “where market logic is imposed on public goods” and where “forces of competition run rampant at the expense of students, staff and communities.”

Labour said it wants the regulator to report on diversity in university staff and student bodies and to take action to make universities “genuinely representative of the communities they serve”.

Staff should also be represented on the regulator’s board to ensure their views are heard, it added.

The party said it would also ban vice chancellors sitting on their own remuneration committees.

Ms Rayner is also expected to address the issue of universities being on the brink of bankruptcy, as previously revealed by I.

“Students would be left with immense uncertainty about their futures and entire communities would lose one of their major academic, economic and social institutions.”

Universities minister Chris Skidmore responded: “Universities know they can’t trust Corbyn as his plans would crash the economy, mean less investment in our higher education, compromising its world class quality”.

Actually, if anything’s trashed our world class education system, it’s been the Thatcherite programme of privatization and free market ideology. Scientific research at UK universities has been hampered ever since Thatcher decided that university science departments should go into partnership with business. Which has meant that universities can no longer engage in blue sky research, or not so much as they could previously, and are shackled to producing products for private firms, rather than expanding the boundaries of knowledge for its own sake. Plus some of the other problems that occur when scientific discoveries become the property of private, profit driven industries.

Then there’s the whole problem of the introduction of tuition fees. This should not have been done. I was doing my Ph.D. at Bristol when Mandelson and Blair decided to do this, and it’s immediate result was the scaling down of certain departments and shedding of teaching staff. Those hardest hit were the departments that required more funding because of the use of special equipment. This included my own department, Archaeology, where students necessarily go on digs, surveys and field expeditions. This means that the department had to have transport to take its staff and students to wherever they were excavating, provide digging equipment, although many students had their own trowels. They also needed and trained students in the use of specialist equipment like the geophysical magnetometers used to detect structures beneath the soil through the measurement of tiny changes in the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field, as well as labs to clean up and analyse the finds, from the type of soil in which they were found, the material out of which the finds were made, chemical composition of various substances, like food residue in pots, so you can tell what people were eating and drinking, and the forensic examination of human and animal remains.

I’ve no doubt that this situation was made worse when Cameron and Clegg decided to raise tuition fees to their present exorbitant level. Which has meant that students are now saddled with massive debt, which may make it difficult for some ever to afford to buy their own homes. Student debt was already an issue just after I left college, when the Tories decided to end student grants. After the introduction of tuition fees it has become an even more critical issue.

Then there’s the whole issue of proper pay and conditions for university lecturers. This is nowhere near as high as it should be. A friend of mine in the ’90s was one of the Student Union officers at our old college/uni. He told me one day just what some of the highly skilled and educated lecturers were earning. And it was low. Many of them were on part-time work, and I think the pay for some of them was at average wage level or below. And that was then. I’ve no idea what it’s like now. I’ve come across reports of a similar crisis at American universities and colleges, where the pay for the managers has skyrocketed while that of teaching staff has fallen catastrophically. And this is all part of the general pattern throughout industry as a whole, where senior management has enjoyed massively bloated pay rises and bonuses, while staff have been laid off and forced on to short term or zero hours contracts and low pay.

All this has been done in the name of ‘market forces’ and the logic of privatization.

I am not remotely surprised that British higher education is in crisis, and that an increasing number of colleges and universities are facing bankruptcy. This was always on the cards, especially as the population surge that inspired many colleges and polytechnics to seek university status on the belief that there would be enough student numbers to support them, is now over. Market logic would now dictate that, as the universities are failing, they should be allowed to collapse. Which would deprive students and their communities of their services.

The structure of British higher education needs to be reformed. The entire Thatcherite ethic of privatization, free markets, and tuition fees needs to be scrapped. Like everything else Thatcher and her ideological children ever created, it is a bloated, expensive and exploitative failure. My only criticism about Corbyn’s and Rayner’s plans for the unis isn’t that they’re too radical, but that they’re too timid.

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Xelasoma on his Favourite Artists of the Fantastic

February 3, 2019

And now, as Monty Python once said, for something completely different. At least from politics. I found these two videos from the artist Xelasoma on YouTube, in which he discusses six masters of fantasy art and how they have influenced him. They are Roger Dean, Patrick Woodroffe, and Rodney Matthews in video 1, and Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, Philippe Druillet and Ian Miller in video 2.

Roger Dean will be remembered by fans of ’70’s prog rock for his amazing album covers for the bands Yes and Asia. Woodroffe and Matthews are also artists, who’ve produced record covers as well as book illustrations. Moebius and Druillet are two of the geniuses in modern French SF comics. Moebius was one of the ‘Humanoides Associes’ behind the French SF comic, Metal Hurlant. Among his numerous other works was Arzach, a comic, whose hero flew across a strange fantastic landscape atop a strange, pterodactyl creature. As Xelasoma himself points out here, it’s a completely visual strip. There’s no language at all. It was also Moebius who designed the spacesuits for Ridley Scott’s classic Alien. Xelasoma describes how, after he left art school, Moebius spent some time in Mexico with a relative. This was his mother, who’d married a Mexican, and the empty, desert landscape south of the border is a clear influence on the alien environments he drew in his strips. Xelasoma also considers him a master of perspective for the way he frequent draws scenes as viewed looking down from above. And one of the pictures illustrating this is of a figure in an alien planet looking down a cliff at a sculpture of rock legend Jimi Hendricks carved into the opposite cliff face. Druillet, Xelasoma feels, is somewhat like Moebius, but with a harder edge, drawing vast, aggressive machines and armies of fierce alien warriors. He’s also known for his soaring cityscapes of vast tower blocks reaching far up into the sky, which also influenced Ridley Scott’s portrayal of the Los Angeles of 2019 in Blade Runner. The last artist featured, Ian Miller, first encountered in the pages of the British Role-Playing Game magazine, Warhammer. His style is much more angular, deeply hatched and very detailed. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft will recognize several of the pictures Xelasoma chooses to represent his work as depictions of some of the weird, sinister gods from the Cthulhu mythos. They include not only Cthulhu himself, but also of the half-human, amphibious, batrachian inhabitants of the decaying port in the short story, The shadow Out of Innsmouth.

What Xelasoma admires about all these artists is that they don’t follow the conventions of modern western art established by the ancient Greeks and Romans and the Renaissance. They alter and distort the human form and that of other objects and creatures. He describes Dean’s landscapes as organic. Patrick Woodroffe and Matthews also create strange, alien creatures and landscapes, and with the creatures Matthews depicts also very different from standard human anatomy. Many of the creatures, machines and spaceships in Matthews’ art are based on insects, and appropriately enough one of the bands whose cover he painted was Tiger Moth. This featured two insects dancing on a leaf. Another picture, The Hop, shows an insect band playing while other bugs trip the light fantastic in the grass, surrounded by items like used cigarettes. His humanoid figures are tall, stick thin, with long, thin, angular faces and immense, slanted eyes. Xelasoma admires the way Matthews can take a train or a deer, and turn them in something uniquely his, as he shows here. He states that he first encountered Dean’s and Woodroffe’s art in the art books his mother had, such as Woodroffe’s Mythopoiekon. He also identifies somewhat with Woodroffe, as neither of them studied at art school. Woodroffe was a French teacher, while for Xelasoma art was far too personal for him to submit to formal training.

Xelasoma points out that these artists were creating their unique visions before the advent of computers using the traditional artist materials of paint and brush, and before courses in SF, Fantasy and concept art were taught at colleges and universities. Nevertheless, he finds their work far more interesting and inspiring than modern SF and Fantasy art, which may be more anatomically accurate, but which, too him, seems very ‘samey’. He complains that it doesn’t make him hallucinate, which the above artists do. Well, I hope he doesn’t mean that literally, as that could be very worrying. But I know what he means in that Dean, Woodroffe, Matthews, Moebius, Druillet and Miller create strange, fantastic worlds that have a striking intensity to them. They seem to be complete worlds, either in the far past or future, or parallel realities altogether, but with their own internal logic drawing you into them.

Discussing their influence on him, he is critical of artists that simply copy the work of others, changing a few details but otherwise keeping to and appropriating the other artists’ own unique visions, some times trying to justify this by saying that their work is a ‘hommage’ to the others. Xelasoma is well aware that his own work is very different to the artists he talks about here, and that many of his viewers won’t be able to see their influence. But he goes on to describe how they have influenced him at the general level of form or composition, while he himself has been careful to develop his own unique style.

Dean, Woodroffe and Matthews have produced books of their work, published by Paper Tiger. Matthews and Miller also have their own websites, for those wishing to see more of their work. Moebius passed away a couple of years ago, but was the subject of a BBC4 documentary. There’s also a documentary about Roger Dean on YouTube, presented by that grumpy old Yes keyboardist, Rick Wakeman. Xelasoma believes in their fantastic depictions of landscapes and animal and human forms makes them as important and worth inclusion in museums and galleries as Graeco-Roman and Renaissance art. I wouldn’t go that far, but I would maintain that in their way, they are far more significant than many contemporary artists that have been promoted as ‘official’ art. Xelasoma’s documentary really shows only a few pieces from these artists’ works, and the bulk of these videos are about the particular impact they have on him. But nevertheless it’s a good introduction to their work, and explanation why they should be taken seriously as artists beyond their origins in popular culture.

Part I

Part II

Antisocial Media’s Funniest Conservative and Far Right Self-Owns of 2018

January 1, 2019

Christmas and the New Year is the time when the media traditionally look back over the events of the preceding year. It’s in this spirit that left-wing YouTuber Antisocial Media presents this video of what he has judged to be the funniest Conservative and Far Right self-owns of the past year. As a run down of the right’s greatest fails, it naturally has the old Top of the Pop’s music, which was played when the programme went down the charts for that week. It also begins with someone who looks a bit like Trump, or maybe is Trump, dancing with a load of other businessmen. Antisocial Media says he’s had to leave many fails out, simply because there’s been so many of them and he doesn’t have time to fit them all in. But if there’s enough interest, perhaps he’ll do another video looking at other fails.

These fails are all attempts by the Conservatives and the Far Right to ‘own the libs’ by triggering them. These have repeatedly backfired to such an extent that Trump aide Nikki Haley has appealed to college Conservatives in the US not to do it. But like the Martians in H.G. Wells’ War of the World, ‘still they come’.

The first fails covered include Charlie Kirk, an American right-wing media voice, losing his temper and trying to start a fight with Cenk Uigur of The Young Turks at Politicon, a Conservative gathering. Kirk also made himself look massively stupid by posing outside a university wearing a nappy and with a baby’s dummy. Presumably this was done to try to suggest they were all sensitive crybabies. It didn’t work, and Kirk was just left looking stupid. These fails are all just shown in passing, before Antisocial Media goes on to give a more detailed look at particular instances of spectacular right-wing failure. These are

* The Trumpy teddy bear, that came complete with an American flag stuffed inside it.
* Canadian right-wing psychology professor Jordan Peterson, for saying in an interview that men and women can’t work together because of lipstick; and for publicly opposing pornography as harmful, then appearing – clothed, mercifully – in the pages of Penthouse, a pornographic magazine.
* A member of Fascist gang, the Proud Boys, trying unsuccessfully to rip up a placard he’d just snatched from left-wing Antifa protesters.
* Female YouTube gun nut Gun Girl trying to sell her fans T-shirts with the slogan that nothing would make feminists angrier than buying it. Because feminists are angry at the patriarchy, not someone trying to rip off their fans.
* The Generation Identity anti-immigration group building a fence on the Franco-Swiss border to prevent illegal immigration. A fence so flimsy that illegal immigrants could knock it down or jump over it.
* Right-wing internet personality Ian Mile Cheong getting grumpy on Twitter because of a woman’s comeback to one of his tweets.
* James Wohl, a 20 year old MAGA troll and massive Trump fan, who was caught for his part in a massively inept plot to smear Special Counsel Robert Mueller as a sexual predator.

And then comes Antisocial Media’s top 3 greatest fails. They are, in reverse order

At No. 3, the NPC Meme. This is an internet meme of grey people all repeating the same empty slogans and phrases. It was supposed to show how the Left is all mindlessly alike. But instead, it’s popularity shows how mindlessly alike the Right are with their limited vocabulary of slurs and insults like ‘Soyboy’, ‘Cuck’ and so on.

No. 2, internet right-wingers Carl Benjamin, AKA Sargon of Akkad, Mark Meechan, alias Count Dankula, Paul Joseph Watson and Milo Yiannopolis joining UKIP. UKIP as a party are irrelevant and nearly dead. They campaigned for Britain to leave the EU, and achieved it with the referendum. There is thus absolutely no point to them. This section of the video also shows former Tory MP Neil Hamilton welcoming them into the party. Antisocial Media remarks that no-one really remembers him either. If they do, they’ll probably be like me, and remember him primarily because of the court case between him and Mohammed al-Fayed, then the owner of Harrods. Al-Fayed had bribed him to ask questions in parliament, which is illegal. Hamilton took the money without doing what the Phoney Pharaoh requested, so al-Fayed sued him for breach of contract. It was the kind of case you wished both could lose. And then there is was the instance where Benjamin, who believes he’s ‘centre left’ and a liberal, albeit of the ‘classical’ type, showed himself cutting up his Conservative party membership card and displaying his new, UKIP card. Obviously, he would have a Conservative membership card if he was really a liberal. Then the party put up a poster with Benjamin, Dankula and Watson on, proclaiming that it was ‘the party of British values’. This failed because they were all shown looking utterly miserable. And then there’s Gerard Batten’s utterly reprehensible appointment of Islamophobe Tommy Robinson.

But at No. 1 is the balloon satirizing Sadiq Khan. Antisocial Media says he chose it because it’s not just one fail, it’s thirteen all rolled into one.
The balloon was supposed to be a response to the Trump balloon, which showed the American president as a literal manbaby in a nappy clutching a mobile phone. This instead showed Sadiq Khan as an adult wearing a bikini. Here are some of the reasons it failed.

* It was changed from the initial design, which was a straight out copy of the Trump balloon design.
* It came two months after the Trump balloon.
* The balloon’s bikini has to be explained. It’s a reference to Khan’s banning of an advertisement telling women to get ‘beach body ready’. But everyone’s forgotten that. In fact, Khan banned the advert for a very good reason. He was afraid that it would promote an unhealthy obsession with body image in girls. And I think he was right.
* They gave the balloon a hooked nose, which Khan doesn’t have. Yanni Bruere, who organized it, was also caught tweeting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. A law student told him online that he had just destroyed any chance he had of a legal career.
* It was a colossal failure to provoke Khan. He not only approved the balloon’s flight, but was entirely untroubled about people trying to send him up.
* Bruere himself lives in Spain, not London, so it’s a good question why he’s bother about the safety of Londoners.
* He also gave up a managerial job, because they wouldn’t give him the time off to organize his balloon and demonstration. So he made himself unemployed.
* It cost 60,000 pounds to make and organize, and hardly anyone turned up.

Antisocial Media concludes that the Right could cure depression if they put on a stunt like this every week, and calls for them to carrying on doing so!
He also attacks Piers Morgan for getting upset about the Trump balloon passing the statue of Winston Churchill. So Trump balloon had an added bonus for upsetting him. It’s always good to annoy Piers Morgan, now destroying Susanna Reed on ITV’s breakfast TV.

This obviously isn’t a complete rundown of right-wing madness and ineptitude, but it does include some of the best. There are some others, which weren’t in there. Like deranged conspiracy theorist Alex Jones coming on his show dressed as a gay frog. It also doesn’t have Tweezer dad-dancing onto the stage at the Tory conference. However, it does show some of the greatest, most ridiculous antics of the transatlantic right, which are well worth laughing at. And I’m sure this year will bring us many, many more.

Secular Talk: After Nazi Pittsburgh Shooting, Israeli Ambassador Blames Left-Wing Anti-Semitism

November 3, 2018

The Israeli state and government really are a bunch of lying, propagandist lowlifes. After the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh was targeted by a Nazi shouting ‘All Jews must die’, the Israeli spin machine and its mouthpieces in Britain and America have swung into action to put the blame precisely where it doesn’t belong: on the liberal left.

In this video from Secular Talk, host Kyle Kulinski talks about a segment from American news in which the anchor interviewed the Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer. The anchor asked him about the help the Israelis were giving the victims of this atrocity. Dermer replied that the Israelis were sending specialists in treating people traumatized by attacks such as this, after they occurred in Israel. The anchor then goes on to talk about whether Donald Trump is partly to blame for all this, in particular because of his refusal to put the blame squarely on the Nazis for the violence last year in Charlottesville. Dermer replies by saying Trump’s comment – which was that there were ‘good people’ on both sides – wasn’t helpful, but denies that the Orange Buffoon has any responsibility for this. He has, after all, Jews in his family.

He then goes to make what Kulinski later in the video describes as the ‘false equivalency’ argument. He starts talking about how anti-Semitism is everywhere, on both sides. Jews have been attacked as capitalists, who control everything. They have also been attacked as Communists. Anti-Semitism is growing. It’s on the left with Jeremy Corbyn in England, and in American colleges.

Kulinkski points out that the attack was carried out by a Nazi shouting ‘All Jews must die!’. He explains that the anti-Semitism Dermer’s attacking in American colleges is the BDS movement, the campaign to boycott goods and business produced in occupied Palestine. Israel views Corbyn and the BDS campaigners as anti-Semites simply because they want Israel to give Palestinians the same Human Rights that they currently reserve exclusively for Israelis. He states categorically that there are no left-wing Nazis attacking Jews and synagogues. He also suggests that Dermer doesn’t really believe what he’s saying about the Left, but it is doing so in the hope that others will. Kulinski then says that he would ignore this story, but he’s seen it very many times elsewhere. It’s just another example of the false equivalence the media makes between the Left and Right when crimes like this happen, even though the responsibility lies very much on the right. The Left isn’t responsible for crimes like this, whatever Joe Crowder, the anchor, believes.

It wasn’t just the Israeli ambassador to American making these slanderous claims either. On Tuesday Mike put up a post reporting a story from the Skwawkbox about a sockpuppet Twitter account in the name of Dean Brown, who was described by the anti-Corbyn site Left Over as a Corbyn supporter, Labour staffer and member of Momentum. ‘Dean Brown’ wrote tweeted in response to a Tweet by Netanyahu expressing his sorrow at the attacks ‘You brought it on yourselves’. ‘Dean Brown’ doesn’t exist. The person behind this sockpuppet attempt to smear the Labour party appears to be the same person behind the Wes Brown Tweet that fooled Yvette Cooper. Wes Brown also claimed to be a Corbyn supporter and a member of his staff. Wes Brown also doesn’t exist. According to Mike today, the identity of the idiot behind this deception has been revealed, despite his attempts to cover his tracks.

Unfortunately, the comedian David Schneider appears to have been taken in by this scam, and angrily sent a tweet attacking anti-Semitism on the left. Schneider was rightly annoyed by a tweet from a person asking if there would be the same outrage if Palestinians were shot. As Mike points out, there’s no evidence that this individual was left-wing or a member of the Labour party. Another target of Schneider’s anger was Jenny Tonge. She’s a Lib Dem and so is not a member of the Left, and definitely not a member of the Labour party.

Various journos also lined up to spread the smears. Rachel Campos-Duffy on Fox News claimed that left-wing anti-Semitism was behind the attack. And the Guardian hack Christina Patterson, reviewing the papers on Sky News said in connection to the shooting that Jeremy Corbyn was encouraging anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

In fact, as Mike shows, the opposite is the case. He presents a variety of Tweets from left-wingers, including the Skwawkbox and Corbyn himself, expressing every sympathy with the victims. Mike says

‘Left Over’ and the accounts mentioned in its tweet, the five UK journalists who linked the Pittsburgh killings with Jeremy Corbyn, Chris Williamson’s dogpilers and – sadly – David Schneider are all responsible for an anti-left, anti-Labour, anti-Corbyn-and-his-supporters smear that is all the more disgusting because of its context.

All should make public apologies immediately. Some should face disciplinary procedures for false reporting.

But we all know that’s not going to happen, don’t we?

Not while anti-Semitism is the one accusation people can make against political figures without any need for proof whatsoever.

Chris Williamson MP was attacked because he linked to a tweet about the head of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyle, below, being criticized for using an anti-Semitic trope.

He ends his piece by explaining once again that he himself has been the victim of such smears, and asks his readers to contribute to the crowdfunding campaign to raise money to allow him to fight a libel case against those who smeared him.

There really is no decency behind Dermer, Patterson, Campos-Duffy or any of the other soulless, amoral hacks and shills, who have used this tragedy to smear the Left instead of putting the blame squarely where it belongs. It’s an utter travesty, and shows once again why no-one should trust the mainstream news.

Jeremy Corbyn on Arms to Saudi Arabia, the Environment, the Living Wage and University Education

September 24, 2018

This is a short video from RT of just under two minutes, in which the Labour leader gives his views on Britain selling weapons to Saudia Arabia, Donald Trump’s disastrous attitude to the environment, the living wage, and that university education should be free.

Arms to Saudi Arabia

Addressing the Labour party conference, Corbyn states that whilst he obvious wants us to send all the aid necessary to deal with the consequences of the war and the bombing, the best thing to do is to stop the war altogether and to begin that by ending our supply of arms to the Saudi coalition that is undertaking that bombardment.

The Environment

Corbyn explains that Donald Trump is saying that he wants to walk away from the Paris climate accord and tear up all those decades of environmental campaigning that got us over that hurdle to that place, are totally wrong. Corbyn states that our movement has to be as strong on environmental protection and eco-protection as it is on social justice, because that is the way we protect the future for all of us.

The Living Wage

He declares that he does not think there is anything particularly extreme in saying a living wage should be for all workers at ten pounds an hour. You should have rights at work from the time you start your work.

On University Fees

He admits that Labour’s proposal is expensive, but he thinks it’s the right way to invest our money. It was to end college and university fees in order to make further and higher education free for everyone that wants to undertake it.

These are excellent policies and are certain to draw fire from the Tories and Blairites. There was a piece in the I this weekend about the massive growth in British arms exports. It’s supposed to have grown by 83 per cent last year.

And it was under Thatcher and Major that student grants were axed, and tuition fees introduced under Tony Blair, though they were raised massively by the Tory – Lib Dem Coalition.

As for Trump’s position on the environment, this is almost omnicidally dangerous. Some environmental scientists, according to the press, believe that we may actually only be ten years away from the tipping point where global warming is irreversible. We have to protect the environment, if we are not to bequeath our children a ruined, poisoned, dying world.

Now watch the Tories, the Lib-Dems and the right-wing press go absolutely berserk telling everyone that this’ll all be bad for the economy, that businesses won’t be able to afford it, that it’ll make our exports uneconomical, and repeat all the old tropes about ‘high spending Labour’ and that this will lead to more tax rises ad nauseam. Of course, none of this will be connected to the fact that very many Tory MPs have strong links to the arms and petrochemical industries, and that too many MPs across the House are millionaire managing directors. Quite apart from the fact that any tax rises Labour may make will be placed on the extreme rich, not the poor, who can’t afford it. It’ll be the complete reverse of what the Tories and New Labour have done.

‘If America Knew’ On Attempts to Define Criticism of Israel as Anti-Semitism

May 20, 2018

Part of the anti-Semitism smear campaign against the Labour party is the attempt to foist upon it and wider society the definition of anti-Semitism formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which specifically includes criticism of Israel. Although, as Mike points out, the definition only states that such criticism may be anti-Semitic, but not necessarily so in all cases. Nevertheless, this is how the IHRA’s definition is interpreted by the Israel lobby, and why it is being used to attack and smear decent, anti-racists when they object to it or question it. Jackie Walker, one of the vice-chairs of Momentum, was accused and vilified as an anti-Semite, despite her own Jewishness, precisely because she questioned this definition and the exclusive focus of Holocaust Remembrance Day on the Nazis’ attempts to exterminate the Jews, rather than include other races, who had also suffered their own genocides.

The IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism is completely ahistorical and just wrong. Anti-Semitism, as defined by Wilhelm Marr, the man, who coined the term and founded the Bund Antisemiten – ‘League of Anti-Semites’ – in 19th century Germany stated that it was hatred of Jews as Jews, regardless of religion. And this was well before the foundation of Israel. Mike has also several times posted the views of a very senior lawyer on this issue, that this is indeed the proper definition of anti-Semitism.

But this is not what the Israel lobby wants people to believe. And so when Corbyn met the Board of Deputies of British Jews a few weeks ago, after they organised a demonstration smearing Labour and its leader once again as anti-Semitic, they pressured him yet again to adopt the HRA’s spurious definition. If adopted, it would make criticism of Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, discusses this in a recent edition to his article, ‘The View from the Bridge’ in Lobster 75, Summer 2018. His article also points to an excellent piece by Alison Weir of the If America Knew Blog on this history of this attempt to foist the HRA’s definition on America and other nations. It’s at
http://ifamericaknew.org/history/antisemitism.html

The article also includes this handy timeline giving the important dates in the development of this project.

Timeline for creating new Israel-centric definition of anti-Semitism

Following is a timeline of some of the key events in the creation, promotion and adoption of the Israel-focused definition of antisemitism. It provides an outline, but does not include every step of the process, all the key players, or every action.

1991 – Jean Kahn is elected president of the European Jewish Congress at its plenary session in Israel. He announces an ambitious agenda, including demonstrating solidarity with Israel and European countries coordinating legislation to outlaw antisemitism.
1997 – Kahn “convinces 15 heads of state” to create the The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia to focus on “racism, xenophobia and antisemitism.”
2000 – The Monitoring Centre issues a position paper calling for the definition of antisemitic offenses to be “improved.”
2003 – Israel’s minister for diaspora affairs Natan Sharansky founds the Global Forum against Anti-Semitism, stating: “The State of Israel has decided to take the gloves off and implement a coordinated counteroffensive against anti-Semitism.”
2004 – Sharansky, who is also chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, issues a position paper that lays out the “3-D Test of Anti-Semitism:” statements that “demonize” Israel, apply a “double standard” or “delegitimize” Israel are “antisemitic.” These will form the blueprint for new definitions adopted by lobbying organizations and finally governments.
2004 – US Congress passes law establishing special office and envoy in the State Department to monitor antisemitism that includes statements about Israel under this rubric. (Sharansky is witness at Congressional hearing.)
2004 – American Jewish Committee directors Kenneth Stern and Rabbi Andrew “ Andy” Baker work with Israeli professor Dina Porat to draft a new antisemitism definition and push the Monitoring Centre to adopt it, according to Stern. Their draft drew on Sharansky’s 3 D’s.
2005 – Monitoring Centre issues a “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism” that includes Sharansky’s 3 D’s, based on Stern et al’s draft. While standard dictionary definitions of antisemitism didn’t even mention Israel, fully half of the newly devised Monitoring Centre definition referred to Israel.
2007 – UK’s National Union of Students (NUS) adopts the new antisemitism definition focused on Israel, after pro-Israel students introduce a motion misleadingly entitled “AntiRacism: Challenging Racism on Campus and in Our Communities.” Some student unions at various UK universities then follow suit.
2008 – The first U.S. State Department Special Envoy on antisemitism, Greg Rickman, endorses the Monitoring Centre working definition in State Department report to Congress. (Rickman later went to work for AIPAC.)
2009 – The Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (CCA), which brings together parliamentarians from around the world, issues the London Declaration signed by then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and others. The Declaration calls on governments to use the Monitoring Centre definition and to outlaw and prosecute such “antisemitism.” US Congressmen Ted Deutch and Chris Smith are members of the CCA’s steering committee.
2010 – Second US State Department Special Envoy on antisemitism Hanna Rosenthal officially adopts European Monitoring Centre definition; this is subsequently referred to as the State Department definition of antisemitism. Rosenthal creates course on antisemitism using this definition to train Foreign Service Officers.
2012 – Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law is founded and immediately begins promoting the new definition. Within a year it launches an initiative to establish student chapters at law schools throughout the U.S.
2013 – Successor organization to the European Monitoring Centre (called the European Fundamental Rights Agency) quietly drops the working definition from its website. When questioned about this, the agency’s director says the organization had “no mandate to develop its own definitions.” (Groups using the definition continue to use it.)
2014 – Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, with help from Ira Forman and Nicholas Dean of the U.S. Department of State, initiates efforts for another agency to adopt and promote the working definition of antisemitism.
2015 – European Commission creates a special position to coordinate work on combating antisemitism, appointing German Katharina von Schnurbein to the post. Schnurbein proceeds to promote use of the Israel-centric definition.
2015 – Indiana University passes resolution denouncing “anti-Semitism as defined by the United States State Department and will not fund or participate in activities that promote anti-Semitism or that ‘undermine the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.’” University of California Santa Barbara and UCLA also pass such resolutions.
2016 – The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), consisting of 31 Member Countries, adopts the definition; the goal is to inspire others to also adopt “a legally binding working definition.” An analyst writes that the IHRA action is “a potentially crucial tool for forcing governments and international agencies to confront and take action.”
December 2016 – U.S. Senate passes law to apply the State Department’s definition of antisemitism to the Education Department, for use in investigating reports of religiously motivated campus crimes. Now the law defines actions connected to criticism of Israel as “religiously motivated.”
December 2016 – UK announces it will formally adopt the Israel-centric definition–the first country to do so besides Israel. UK Prime Minister Theresa May made the announcement during a talk before 800 guests at the Conservative Friends of Israel’s annual lunch.
December 2016 – Adoption of the definition by the 57-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which had been heavily lobbied by the American Jewish Committee, is blocked by Russia. The AJC then says it will push for individual member states to adopt it.
March 2017 – South Carolina House of Representatives passes legislation under which the State Department’s definition “would be used in probes of possible anti-Semitism at state colleges and universities.” The Senate version will be discussed in 2018. Similar bills are being considered in Virginia and Tennessee.
March – May 2017 – Resolutions adopting the Israel-centric definitions are passed by student governments at Ohio’s Capital University and Kent State, California’s San Diego State University and at other campuses around the U.S.
April 2017 –
Austria adopts the definition. (The Austrian justice minister previously announced that the new definition would be used in the training of new judges and prosecutors.)
The ADL, which uses Israel-centric definition of antisemitism, announces that antisemitism has risen by 86 percent in 2017, but includes questionable statistics. News organizations throughout the U.S. report the ADL claim.
Reports that Trump administration budget cuts might cause special antisemitism envoy position to remain vacant provokes outrage among Israel lobby groups and others. Samantha Power calls for entire Trump administration to focus on antisemitism. Soon, Trump administration says it will fill post.
All 100 US Senators send a letter to UN demanding it stop its actions on Israel and connects these to antisemitism.
May 2017 –
Israel-Britain Alliance begins asking candidates for Parliament to sign a pledge that they will support the new definition.

The Young Turks on the Republicans’ Hatred of College Education

August 20, 2017

‘Do I detect an air of anti-intellectualism in this country? Came in about four years ago.’

-Bill Hicks, American comic, speaking four years after the election of Ronald Reagan.

Earlier today I posted a piece commenting on clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, about Rush Limbaugh’s mindlessly stupid ridiculing of NASA’s announcement that they may have discovered flowing water on Mars. Limbaugh’s a right-wing radio host, who’s been fouling the airwaves with his views about liberals, socialists, communists, gays, feminists, anti-racism activists and so on since the 1980s. He sneered at NASA’s announcement because – wait for it – the agency was part of a ‘leftist’ plot to promote global warming!

Not only does he not understand the science, nor the reality of global warming, I don’t think he knows anything about NASA. I know quite a few people, who are fans of space exploration and research from across the political spectrum, including Conservatives. None of them have ever considered that the space agency was ‘left-wing’, although some of its leading scientists and advocates, like Carl Sagan, were. And the accusation that the agency’s data on global warming is faked for political purposes is risible.

But this shows the contempt Limbaugh has for science, and for education generally.

Florence, one of the many great commenters on this blog, has a background in microbiology and has been very interested in the question of life in space. She has posted a long comment to my piece. I recommend that you read all of it. But the end is particularly important, as she wonders how we got to this point where science is so despised.

And of course, back to NASA. I was fairly sure the alt-idiocy had already “proven” it was part of the deep state and the heart of black ops and skunk works and a branch of the CIA. These latest revelations only serve, as you say, to illustrate the total lack of education to an acceptable level in this day and age, more worryingly the lack of scientists in government in the USA and across the world. The charge against the scientific community lead by Trump and his “business men” ilk, with the violent and thuggish self styled fascist enforcers and militias coming out the woodwork in the last year, make the premise of the Handmaids Tale seem worryingly prophetic. How did this happen?

I think it’s part of a general distrust of intellectuals in American culture, which has increased massively amongst Republicans in recent years. In the piece below, The Young Turks discuss the finding that a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning people distrust college education. They also note that they don’t just look down on higher education. They also hate and distrust the media and science. 58 per cent of Republicans and Republican supporters state that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, compared to 45 per cent a year ago, in 2016.

Cenk Uygur suggests that part of this is the use of propaganda by the party’s leaders. Part of the problem is that Conservatives tend to be more authoritarian than left-wingers. Thus, they’re more likely to follow the opinions of their leaders, and in the case of the Republican party, these leaders despise higher education.

Ana Kasparian, his co-host, who I believe teaches political science herself, argues that it’s because the Republicans want to keep you stupid. They’re trying to privatize education, and get children instead to attend private schools through voucher schemes, where the normal educational standards do not apply. There’s more than an element of hypocrisy in this. Those public figures trying to destroy the American educational system and minimize the benefits of higher education are themselves highly educated. Many of them have gone to Ivy League universities. Anne Coulter is one example. In her book, which Kasparian laments she has had to read, ’cause she’s got to debate her, Coulter states that the only purpose of college education is to produce ‘social justice warriors’. Yet this woman went to Cornel. Yet education is one of the great indicators of how well an individual will do in the future. And as she points out, it also protects you from scams.

Yet the Republicans themselves are also slightly divided on the issue of the benefits of higher education. 46 per cent of Republicans earning less than $30,000 a year say that college has a beneficial effect on how well you do. This declines for those earning over $30,000 all the way down to 32 per cent.

Uygur and Kasparian admit that there are caveats and qualifications to this issue. Higher education has a down side, in that students are saddled with an immense amount of debt. This needs to be reformed. But Republicans don’t see college as a negative because they feel sorry for the students burdened with this debt. No, they want to keep people stupid and misinformed, so they don’t climb the economic ladder and they can’t fill them with some of the nonsense they believe.

Uygur concludes ‘So don’t go to university, because if you go to a real university, you might not go to a Trump university, and that would be bad for Trump.’

Once again, this is an American issue that applies almost in toto to Britain. Continental visitors and emigrants to Britain have commented on how anti-intellectual British society is. And this anti-intellectualism is again part of British Conservatism as well. Way back in the 1980s Private Eye reviewed a book on Conservative by the right-wing British philosopher, Roger Scruton. Scruton declared that Conservativism wasn’t an intellectual force, but was largely unspoken, and based on the power of tradition. For which the reviewer thanked Scruton for being honest about how anti-intellectual it was. Intellectuals and science are distrusted, because many of their findings contradict or cast doubt on traditional attitudes. For example, feminism attacks traditional notions of gender roles. Black and Asian intellectuals and activist have also undermined commonly held racial assumptions about White superiority and the subordinate role of their ethnic groups. Left-wing historians and political scientists have also challenged the class basis of western, including American and British society, as well as the supposed beneficial nature of western imperialism.

Some of the Republican distrust of science comes from Biblical literalism. The findings of geology and cosmology contradict a literal reading of the creation of the world in Genesis. That said, one study found that the people, who had the greatest faith in science were actually Creationists.

The Republicans and some of their British counterparts, like Nigel Lawson, also deny the reality of global warming. Hence Trump’s decision to close down that part of the federal government that researches and publishes studies of climate change and the pollution and decline of America’s epic natural beauty. It’s why Theresa May and Dave Cameron get annoyed whenever anyone shows how terrible fracking is for local people and the environment.

Science can be particularly difficult for the layperson to understand. It can involve very careful statistical analysis of complex data. And some of the raw phenomena are extremely weird. Quantum physics is a case in point. The world of subatomic particles is contradictory and very different from the macroscopic, everyday world. Subatomic particles dart into and out of existence in the quantum foam at the very lowest layer of matter. Light can be simultaneously a wave and a particle. Particles may be in two places at once, under their position is recorded by an observer. They can also move between one place in the atom to another without physically crossing the space in between. And two entangled atoms can behave as one, even though they may be separated by light years. It’s so bizarre that the scientists studying it have said that ‘you don’t understand it. You just get used to it.’

Also, some of the pronouncements made by intellectuals themselves have given critics ample ammunition. Like the statement by one professor a few years ago that snowmen were racist and sexist. Or the £20,000 in grant one scientist received for researching the terribly important issue of why cornflakes get soggy when you pour milk on them.

There’s also the problem that scientific opinion also keeps changing on medical matters. Every so often researchers discover that certain foods are harmful for you. On the other hand, certain others are beneficial. Only for these opinions to be revised a few years later.

But the nature of science is that it is a process, not a set body of knowledge, and that it’s conclusions and statements may be revised as and when later discoveries are made. It’s why no-one now believes that an immaterial fluid – the ether – permeates the universe, with atoms only whirlpools in it, as they did over a century or so ago.

And so the right-wing press, like the Scum all the way up to the Torygraph, and particularly the Daily Heil, will publish endless numbers of articles attacking ‘left-wing’ intellectuals. Paul Johnson, the Conservative pundit, who used to write for the Daily Mail and Spectator, amongst other rags, wrote a book on them. Entitled Intellectuals, Johnson used it to explore what right intellectuals had to tell us what was right and how to order our lives. Private Eye also reviewed this as well. You will not be surprised to read that most of the intellectuals Johnson wrote about were left-wing, and many of them had shabby personal lives. Karl Marx is one example. Others were gay, or otherwise had colourful sexual tastes, like Kenneth Tynan, who apparently was into S&M.

But none of this actually refutes the value of their work, which has to be judged on other terms. Marx’s own bad behavior as a man doesn’t contradict his philosophical and economic theories any more than Alan Turing’s homosexuality refutes his work on mathematics and computers. But this doesn’t stop Johnson trying to tell you that their own bad behavior disqualifies intellectuals from having the right to explore how society may be improved. An attitude that, incidentally, is apparently shared by that other Johnson, Boris. This should rule Boris out as well as a serious politician, if true.

In the meantime, don’t let the Tories and Republicans run down public education. And stick up for proper intellectuals and intellectual discourse. As someone once said, ‘Eggheads of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your brains.’

Secular Talk on Obama’s Warning Against Democrat Party Becoming Left-Wing ‘Tea Party’

April 25, 2016

Barack Obama last week made a speech warning Democrats against becoming a ‘left-wing Tea Party’. He told the party that they should not adopt policies that would alienate the general public. He also argued that they should not go along with path the Republicans were much further along of adopting more extreme policies and positions. This was a system where you had to compromise, and sometimes you had to take half-loaves. When that happened, it was not because someone had sold you out.

Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski takes very strong exception to this statement, and shows not just why it’s wrong, but also how it supports those who are basically right-wing corporatists like Shrillary and Obama. The Democrats do not have extreme positions that alienate voters, and their most extreme candidates – Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, would be considered centrist in most European countries. He states that if you talk to someone from Denmark, they’d say that Bernie Sanders was almost Conservative. Eighty per cent of Americans want the minimum wage to be raised. Free universal healthcare – Medicaid for all – is supported by 51 per cent. Sixty per cent of Americans do not want cuts to the social security and Medicaid budgets. But this is not reflected in official Democrat policy.

He states very strongly that Obama ‘doth protest too much’ when he claims that not having progressive policies is not due to politicians having sold out their political base. Both Hillary and Obama are heavily subsidised by Wall Street, and their policies reflect the concerns of the corporate donors, not want America, or at least, the Democrat base, wants. And so Obamacare, which was a Right-wing policy dreamed up by Richard Nixon, and supported by a whole raft of Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, is the furthest left America goes. But not to universal Medicaid. By the standards of everyone else in the world, Obama’s not ‘left-wing’. He’s centre-right.

Kulinski notes that there is a problem with authoritarian leftism, such as the demands for ‘safe spaces’ at colleges, and intolerant attempts to clamp down on free speech. But Obama’s not talking about that. He’s talking about policy. And the problem is that the corporatist system that pays him and Hillary so well is preventing America from developing the welfare network adopted by just about everywhere else in the world.

I’ve decided to reblog this, because it was noticeable that Obama during his visit to Britain last week met with Cameron, made his comments about why Britain should stay in the EU, but did not meet Jeremy Corbyn.

And I’m not surprised. Corbyn’s too left-wing for him. Obama is a creature of the corporatist system. That’s shown in his policies and his support for Shrillary. Corbyn represents the same threat to that right-wing anti-democratic business stance as Bernie Sanders does back in the Land of the Free. Hence the very telling snub.

Understanding Trump’s American Fascism

March 21, 2016

Okay, I’ve tried for about a week not writing about Donald Trump. I know some of you feel that I’ve given too much attention to this moron, and that this country has enough on its plate with the thugs who are in power over here. Including the one that left office late Thursday evening, the fall-out of which is still continuing. The problem is, Trump’s too big, too slow moving and the parallels with real Fascism too glaringly overt. You can compile a list of all the elements in Fascism, which are present in Trump’s campaign or the general background of right-wing anxiety and hysteria, which has contributed to it.

And if Trump gains power, he will be a problem over here. Not just personally, in that his decisions on the economy and policies of the world’s only surviving superpower will have direct consequences for Britain and the rest of the world, but also in the malign political influence his election over there will have on domestic politics. Events in America and elsewhere in the world have a legitimising effect on similar developments over here. Blair and the New Labour clique took their queue from Bill Clinton and his New Democrats. These aren’t to be compared to the Canadian New Democrat party, which is the Canadian equivalent of the Labour party. Clinton’s ‘New Democrats’ were a revision of the Democrat party, which took over much of the ideology of Reagan’s Republicans, especially financial deregulation, curbs on welfare spending and workfare. Clinton was almost certainly better than the alternative, but nevertheless he continued Reagan’s squalid political legacy. And over here, Blair copied him, introducing workfare, and pursuing Thatcher’s policies of deregulating the economy, including the financial sector, and cutting down on welfare spending. And then you can go further back, to the 1920s and ’30s, when Fascist parties sprang up all over Europe in imitation of Mussolini’s squadristi and later the Nazis in Germany. The British Union of Fascists was just one of them. They also included such groups and political cults in this country as the British Fascisti – actually extreme Right-wing Tories and Arnold Leese’s The Britons. If, heaven help us, Trump ever gets into power, his occupation of the White House will mean that European politicians will start aping him. Which means more racism, more misogyny, further restrictions on personal freedom, and domestic politics marked and supported by brutality and violence. So, here’s a bit on Trump’s ideological precursors and the similarity of his campaign to Fascist and proto-Fascist movements.

As I said, you can make a list out of the similarities between Trump’s campaign and personal style of politics, and those of real Fascists. Let’s begin with

Violence

Trump’s campaigns have been marked by his supporters striking and beating protestors. Trump himself has stood on his platform fondly looking back on the old days when those who dared to disrupt political campaigns like his would be taken out on stretchers. He’s even offered to pay his supporters’ legal fees if they assault someone. And at the weekend his scheduled rally in Chicago descended into a near riot when Trump cancelled and refused to show up.

One liberal female newsreader commenting on the violence at Trump’s rallies said that when she was growing up in California in the 1980s, you never saw it except on the extreme right-wing fringe, at was barely politics – Skinhead concerts. Marinetti in his Founding and Manifesto of Futurism, an avant-garde artistic movement that became briefly aligned with Fascism, declared

We will sing of great crowds excited by work, by pleasure and by riot; we will sing of the multi-coloured polyphonic tides of revolution in the modern capitals.

Georges Sorel, a revolutionary Syndicalist, who later became involved with extreme right-wing French royalist and anti-Semitic movements, proclaimed in his Reflexions sur la Violence that it was only in violent revolution that men were truly free, and were able to make a new man inside themselves. He was published by a French artistic group, the Compagnons de l’Action d’Art, who declared ‘Long live violence against all that makes life ugly’.

Marinetti went on to further declare ‘We today separate the idea of the Fatherland from that of reactionary, clerical Monarchy. We unite the idea of Fatherland with that of daring Progress and of anti-police revolutionary democracy’.

It could almost describe exactly Trump’s ideological background. Much of extreme right-wing politics in America is predicated on a profound opposition to monarchy dating from the Revolution. You can see it in such extremist political movements as Lyndon LaRouche’s ‘Democrats’ back in the late 1980s and 1990s, who believed that the Queen and the Vatican were locked in a deadly covert battle for world domination, with Her Maj running the world’s drug trade from the back of Buck House. Alex Jones’ Infowars internet set has been heavily backing Trump as ‘the only anti-globalist candidate’. He’s also paranoid about the British monarchy. There’s a hilarious segment on his show where he talks about Britain’s secret police picking up anybody who failed to show due respect to Brenda during some royal occasion a few years ago. He roundly declared that ‘they (the British) have no freedom’.

Well, I must have been out when that happened. I don’t doubt that the rozzers did pick up a few troublemakers back then. But that last time I looked, you were still free in this country to say what you liked about the Royal Family. A few years ago the Queen turned up in my home town of Bristol to present the Maundy Money at a ceremony in the city’s cathedral. Apart from those due to receive it, and the crowd of royalists and general rubberneckers, there was a demonstration from MAM – the Movement Against the Monarchy. A lot of the pensioners and other members of the public were annoyed at their demonstration, but I don’t recall there being mass arrests.

Trump also retweeted one of Mussolini’s sayings ‘It is better to live one day as a lion that one hundred years as a sheep.’ Trump said he just liked it because it’s a good quote. And so it is. What makes it suspicious is that it comes from Musso, who advocated a similar cult of violence. When he was still a revolutionary Socialist, the future Duce wrote an essay on Nietzsche, published in the magazine La Voce. He announced

We must envisage a new race of “free spirits”, strengthened in war, in solitude, in great danger … spirits endowed with a kind of sublime perversity, Spirits which liberate us from the love of our neighbour.

Misogyny

Trump has an extremely reactionary attitude towards women. When a female journalist at Fox News dared to ask him a difficult question, he sneering responded that she did so ‘because she was bleeding’. This too, is par for the course for the Fascist Weltanschauung. ‘We advocate scorn for women’, declared the Futurists, who celebrated ‘youth, speed, virility.’ This later became ‘Youth, Speed, Violence’, as women joined the movement. This was coupled to the cult of the charismatic leader. Adolf Hitler said, ‘the masses are like women. They want a strong man to lead them.’ Il Duce in Italy was also opposed to women skiing, riding or cycling, as this was supposed to make them infertile and prevent them from their ‘natural and fundamental mission in life’, of having babies.

On this matter, the general attitude of the Republican party and the American Right is very similar to that of Mussolini’s Italy. Musso was also worried about the declining Italian birth rate. In 1927 he made a speech stating that he aimed to increase the Italian population from 40 million to 60 million over the next 25 years. Contraception and abortion were both banned. In Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany women’s role was defined as very traditional and domestic. Instead of going out to work, they were to stay at home and raise families.

The Republican party and the Right today is similarly worried about the fall in the birth rate of the White race, and there are websites and discussions on Right-wing internet sites devoted to the demographic decline of the West. The American religious Right is also strongly opposed to abortion and there is similar opposition to women taking up positions of economic or political leadership. I can remember way back in the 1990s one Republican pastor hysterically declaring that Hillary Clinton was ‘the type of woman who leaves her husband, turns to lesbianism, practices witchcraft and sacrifices her children.’ There, and I thought that she was just a bog-standard, rather boring corporate type. Who could have guessed she led such an exciting, subversive life?

But this leads on to and is part of another feature of the Fascist Weltanschauung, that is also part and parcel of the GOP worldview:

The Decline of the West

Italian Fascism and Nazism also grew out of the 19th century feeling that Europe was threatened by decadence, and racial and cultural degeneration. It was threatened by democracy, organised labour, feminism, all of which were making Europe enfeebled. Hans Nordung described this supposed decline in his book, Degeneration, as did Oswald Spengler in his The Decline of the West. It’s an attitude that similarly pervades the Right today, alarmed by the challenge posed by militant Islam, the rise of China as a world power, and mass immigration from the Developing World. Various Republican and Right-wing leaders today in America scream about the threat of Socialism, by which they mean any kind of collectivism or state intervention, as well as feminism, which is also held to weaken America. Mussolini declared at one time that he supported women’s demands for the vote in England, as one women became politically enfranchised they would spread pacifism, leading to Britain’s decline as an imperial world power.

Exceptionalism

Right-wing American politics still has the belief that America is different from and superior to all other nations. It’s more moral, and hence America demands the absolute right not to be bound by the international treaties and conventions it imposes on others. Kyle Kulinski over at Secular Talk commented on the outrage that would occur if, say, one of the Muslim countries launched drone attacks on known White supremacists in America. Drone attacks on Muslim terrorists in countries like Yemen, with whom America is not actually at war, is nevertheless perfectly acceptable. And way back under Clinton, the Americans were keen to set up the International War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague, and that the other nations around the world should sign the treaties binding them to it and outlawing such crimes. Except for America. It was felt that America did not need to be so bound, and indeed that this would only be an impediment to the ability of the Land of the Free to export that freedom around the globe.

The Italian nationalist poet, Gabriele D’Annunzio, whose own later excursion to Fiume set up all the political institutions that were taken over into Musso’s Fascist Italy, made the same claim for Italy and her imperialist adventures in Africa. In his ‘Augural Song for the Chosen Nation’ he proclaimed

So you will yet behold the Latin Sea
covered
with massacres in your war … Italy, Italy
sacred to the new dawn
with the plough and the prow.

Racism

Fascism is, for most people, synonymous with racism. In this, Italian Fascism was originally rather different from Nazism. The Italian Fascists, while extremely nationalistic, weren’t originally racists. About 80 per cent of Italy’s Jews managed to survive the War, because many Jews had been extremely patriotic and supported the new Italian state which had been brought into being by Mazzini and the other Italian revolutionaries in the 19th century. A number of them had joined the Fascist movement. One of the leading Italian generals, Ovato, was Jewish, and he was buried with military honours and a headstone ‘For Family, Faith and Fatherland’ at the same time his compatriots elsewhere in Italy were being rounded up and butchered. The Nazis were bitterly anti-Semitic, as is notorious, and took over the scientific racism that originated in the 19th century with Count Gobineau in France, amongst others. Apart from Jews, the Nazis also hated Gypsies and Slavs, as well as non-Whites. Once in power, they organised a campaign to sterilise the mixed-race children of German women and Black American soldiers, who had been part of the army of occupation after the First World War. Mussolini also passed a series of anti-Semitic legislation in imitation of Hitler’s.

Although not initially racist, they also sterilised and butchered the indigenous African peoples in the parts of Africa they conquered. Their nationalism also led them to launch campaigns to force Italian language and culture on the other ethnicities that found themselves within Italy’s borders, like ethnic Germans and Slavs.

Trump’s popular because he has announced that he will build a wall to prevent further immigration from Mexico. At rallies his supporters have also racially abused Black and Muslim protestors. The Young Turks interviewed a group of three young guys protesting against Trump at a rally in West Chester, Ohio. One of them was a substitute teacher. He was worried by White pupils on schools in which he taught coming in, and saying to their Black and Asian classmates that ‘once Trump gets in, you’ll be deported.’ There have also been instances of racist abuse at College sports events. In one instance, the supporters of a basketball team from an all-White area chanted ‘Trump, Trump, Trump!’ when playing a mixed-raced team from a much more ethnically diverse part of the same state. Among his supporters Trump has attracted various card-carrying Nazis and White supremacists. He’s even been endorsed by the Klan. There has also been a recent documentary in America by PBS television, which covered the way one southern family had been brought together by Trump. Many of them had not voted for decades, and the family had been divided between Republican and Democrat supporters. But they had all been brought together by Trump. This was fine, until you saw the tattoos on the wife’s arms. These included the type of Celtic cross used by the Neo-Nazi right, and the numbers 88, which in Nazi circles stand for Heil Hitler.

Trump has also announced that he wishes to place a ban on Muslims entering America. Those Muslims permitted to remain will have to carry badges and identity documents. These has naturally alarmed Jewish and civil rights groups, who have noted the obvious parallels with the treatment of Jews in the Third Reich in the years preceding the Holocaust. Mussolini too was an opponent of Islam. In the 1920s he prevented a mosque from opening in Rome.

Militarism

Trump’s actually ambiguous on this. Both the Nazis and the Italian Fascists had at their core radicalised, extremely nationalistic corps of ex-servicemen from the First World War. These former the Brownshirts of the SA in the Nazi party, and the Blackshirts, the squadristi and arditi, the latter elite Italian soldiers in Mussolini’s Fascists. The American Right has also thrown up in past decades various paramilitary movements. The survivalists stockpiling food and guns for the end of the world in the 1980s were succeeded by the Militia movement, who were similarly arming themselves for an invasion. Amongst the loonier theories was the idea that the Russians had left secret tank battalions in Mexico and Canada, ready to roll into the American heartland. A few days ago after one rally, one group appeared on the Net declaring themselves willing to serve as the ‘Trump militia’, working as bodyguards. They called themselves the Lion Militia, and debated online which uniform to wear. One was a lion costume, the other was that of the Brownshirts. I’m fairly certainly these were jokes, but nevertheless, there is something more seriously Fascistic underneath.

On foreign policy, Trump has been vague, issuing blatantly contradictory statements about his intentions in the war in the Middle East. At times he’s said that America should keep out of it, and leave it to Putin to sort out. At other times he’s announced that he intends to go in much harder than the previous presidents, killing not only the terrorists themselves, but also their families. He has also stated that he’s in favour using torture, ‘even if it doesn’t work’.

Mussolini similarly had a contradictory attitude to war. His regime was always strongly militaristic. He demanded that Italians should live in a permanent state of war. He wanted an army of five million men with a forest of bayonets, an air force so vast it would blot out the sun and a navy that other nations would fear as a threat to their security. And yet he also saw himself as a great peacemaker, and was genuinely affronted that he did not win the Nobel Peace Prize for the Locarno Settlement.

Historians of the rise of totalitarian regimes in Europe noted that they generally arose in countries, where the military was accorded a very high respect, and which had been united through military action. This included Germany, which was united through Bismarck’s conquests of the individual German states, and Cavour and Garibaldi, who did the same in Italy. It also applies to America, which was created through violent revolution and expanded westwards through military conquest.

The Activist Style of Politics

Conservative critics of Fascism have suggested that Fascism owes its basis partly to the development of the activist style of politics, which arose with liberalism and democracy. Before the French Revolution, politics had been strictly confined to the governing elites. After the French Revolution, all citizens were required to be politically involved. This expansion of direct political activism also involved the definition of those who were outside the new nations. In the case of the French Revolution, this was the aristocracy. In the case of Fascism, it revised the activist style so that those outside the new national community were the regime’s political opponents and ethnic minorities.

America was one of the world’s first modern democracies. It emerged from a Revolution against British government and perceived tyranny. That liberal tradition of democratic political activism is also revised on the American extreme Right. Trump’s backed by Alex Jones’, the motto of whose Infowars internet programme is ‘1776 Worldwide’. Jones, Trump and the other right-wing demagogues believe that democracy is under threat, and can only be defended through strong and sustained action against powerful internal and external threats.

Conspiracies

The Nazi Right has always been characterised by bizarre conspiracy theories. In the case of the Nazis in Germany and their successors, these were anti-Semitic theories, some derived from the infamous Tsarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Nazis believed that Germany and the West was under attack from a Jewish conspiracy linking financial capital to the Communists. Germany had not been defeated in the First World War, but had been ‘stabbed in the back’ by the Jews. These stupid and vile theories have continued on the Nazi fringe. In the 1990s various members of the American Nazi fringe and Militia movement, like Timothy McVeigh, believed that their government was secretly ruled by ZOG – the Zionist Occupation Government, dedicated to exterminating the White race through racial mixing. There have also been all manner of bizarre conspiracies about the Bilderberg Group and Trilateral Commission. Jones, Trump’s supporter, is one of those who believes in these, though I think he’s Jewish. Whatever his religious background, he’s very definitely not anti-Semitic. Nevertheless, he is part of the same conspiracy fringe. These have reached bizarre extremes. Jones and his predecessors, for example, believe that the FEMA legislation passed in the 1990s is in preparation for an act of emergency, which will see Christians and other political opponents rounded up by the regime and placed in concentration camps. 20 years ago, back in the 1990s, the coloured dots on road signs in Philadelphia which marked when they were painted so that the highways authorities knew when to give them their next lick of paint were also the subject of a bizarre rumour. Those dots were supposed to show the location of the secret concentration camps which were going to be set up.

Contempt for Parliamentary Democracy

Both Nazism and Fascism were motivated by opposition to liberal, parliamentary documentary. The Nazis overthrew German democracy through a series of emergency decrees following the Reichstag fire. Mussolini led his Fascists on a March on Rome. Trump has similarly said that there will be riots if his opponents in the Republican party conspire to deprive him of the nomination to be the candidate for the presidency in a brokered convention. In the 1990s there was briefly a call for the Militias to march on Washington, though this was turned down as some of their members feared that it was an attempt to provoke them so that they could be banned by the government. More recently there has been a march in Washington held by the militant supporters of gun rights, though they did not attempt to overthrow the government.

Elitism

Both the Nazis and Italian Fascists believed that only elites had the right to rule, taken from writers like Ortega y Gasset and Vilfredo Pareto in the case of the Fascists. For the Nazis, this was based in Social Darwinism. Businessmen, provided they were Aryans, had the right to enjoy their prominent social positions and economic leadership because they had shown their superior talent and genetic worth through competition in the world of business. It’s an attitude that can still be found in the mainstream Right, both in America and Britain. Trump is the most outspoken in his embrace of this attitude. A businessman from an extremely wealthy family, he has made sneering reference to the poor, and how those from poor families should not have the right to rule because their family background shows that they don’t have the necessary biological inheritance to have made their way to the top earlier. And he has absolute contempt for the poor.

Charismatic Leadership

At the heart of Fascism was the cult of the strong, charismatic leader, whose unique qualities made him supremely fitted to govern. They alone possessed the ability to govern according to the popular will, even if the people themselves didn’t know it was. Furthermore, as men of exceptional ability operating in times of crisis, they were not bound by the judicial constraints placed on others. Carl Schmidt, a jurist, who worked briefly for the Nazis before falling out with them, established this principle in his piece, ‘The Fuehrer Protects Justice’, defending Hitler’s action in the mass killing of the SA by the SS in the Night of the Long Knives. Trump has not gone so far as to advocate the mass killing of his political opponents. But he has made it very clear that his supporters will use force if his claim to power is denied, and that he will revise the laws to permit torture. And at the core of his appeal is his claim to be able to provide America with strong leadership. And that’s always been synonymous with authoritarian rule.

Conclusion: Trump’s Political Inheritance of American Fascism

From this it’s clear that Trump is not an isolated phenomenon. He’s the culmination of a growing sense of threat and militaristic political movements that have been growing since the 1980s. Many of these qualities – the xenophobia, anti-Feminism and hatred of organised labour is actually fairly commonplace and characteristic of right-wing politics in America. But with Trump they’ve became particularly extreme. Some of this is a reaction to Barack Obama’s presidency. The presence of a Black man in the White House, whose background is Islamic though he himself isn’t, has created a profound alienation amongst the more hysterical elements in the Republican party. He’s been denounced as a secret Muslim, Nazi and Communist. In the case of the latter, it’s because of Obamacare, which was in origin a Republican idea. But it’s held to be too close to socialised medicine, and thus to Nazism and Communism. Because both are varieties of Socialism. Or at least, they are to right-wing pundits like Jonah Goldberg.

And the result has been the rise of Donald Trump.

Now I don’t think that once in power, Trump will overthrow democracy, force all Americans into uniform and start opening extermination camps. I do think, however, that American will become a much more intolerant place, and that Muslims and illegal immigrants will stand a far greater chance of losing any kind of political rights. And I can certainly see him interning Muslims, or at least some of them, like the Japanese, Germans and Italians were also interned as enemy aliens in the Second World War.

But his presidency will be a nightmare, and it will weaken democracy and genuinely liberal institutions in the Land of the Free. And that will be a disaster in a world where the forces of Right authoritarianism is growing.

The Young Turks: Free Speech in Decline on College Campuses Because of New Pro-Gun Laws

February 25, 2016

Another piece from The Young Turks, this time about the dumbing down and assault on free speech in academia due to the judgement that guns can be carried on College campuses. This has already had a chilling effect on educators. Officials from the state and College administration have been giving professors guidance on how to avoid getting shot by angry students. They advise academics to avoid talking about controversial subjects, drop certain subjects from the curriculum, don’t say ‘Go there’ and encourage the discussion of controversial opinions, and to limit time with students.

Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian make the point that Conservatives are very critical about liberal demands to have safe spaces in Colleges. They state that universities are places where you should have your opinions challenged. Ana Kasparian said that when she took political science at College, she regularly used to have heated discussions with a Conservative, and she loved it. She also teaches at university, and wants to tackle controversial issues to stimulate and challenge her students. But the new regulations mean that certain emotive academic subjects may be extremely dangerous, like political science and journalism. Cenk Uygur also points out that the new gun laws are also dangerous for Conservatives. While they might have approved the laws in order to intimidate liberals into silence, the laws also state that liberals and Blacks also have the right to carry arms. Uygur notes that in the 1960s, the Black Panthers began carrying guns because they read the Constitution, and found that the Second Amendment didn’t just apply only to Whites. And when he was a Conservative College student, one of the liberal women on the course complained about him because he was large, loud and vocal, and she felt threatened by him. What, he asks, would have happened if she’d had a gun? They state that this disproves the old line that the Second Amendment protects the First. It doesn’t, as in this case the right to free speech is being closed down by the threat of armed violence from an offended party. Ana Kasparian also makes the point that she’s not against guns, and doesn’t want them taken away. She just wants sensible gun control laws to cut down on the amount of violence with firearms.