Posts Tagged ‘Conservatism’

Secular Talk: Alex Jones Rants about Liberal Butch Lesbians Eating Brains

December 8, 2017

Before I get to the serious stuff today, here’s some comedy from the TV lunatic asylum that is Alex Jones and Infowars. In this clip from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski comments on an unhinged rant from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, in which he gives his well-thought out and deeply considered opinions on female sexuality, sexual violence and cannibalism. And like almost everything else Jones says, it’s as a mad as a hatter.

Jones rants that butch lesbians really want to be the macho bad boy, who beats women up. Women actually like macho bad boys, who beat them up, as shown by the success of the book 50 Shades of Grey. If women can’t get men to beat them up, they’ll turn to butch, lesbian women. Who are, of course, all liberals, and will then take them down into their basement, where they will cut open their skulls and eat their brains.

As Kulinski himself points out, no, they won’t. That never happens. He has never been to a meeting with other liberals, like Jimmy Dore, Ro Khanna and the like, where, after discussing politics, they have decided to retreat to their secret dungeon to eat the contents of someone’s skull. It might have been done once by an apolitical serial killer somewhere, but never by anyone on the Left.

But the rant does creepily reflect on Jones himself, as it is disturbingly too detailed. Listening to it, there probably isn’t a judge, who wouldn’t issue a search warrant for Jones’ own basement.

Kulinski also mentions the other side of Jones, that amongst all the nonsense and sheer, right-wing paranoia and lunacy, there were things that he had exactly right. He was right about America starting imperialist wars and the exploitative conduct of the multinationals. But he’s now gone on to pushing insane conspiracy theories and stupid rants like this. He emphasises just how stupid and ridiculous this particular diatribe is by comparing Jones to genuinely great thinkers like Bertrand Russell, Socrates and so on. Well, that’s how some of Jones’ followers perceive him, even though the absolute opposite is true, and the true dimensions of Jones’ tiny intellect are shown very clearly in the comparison.

It’s clear here that Jones has been watching too much Silence of the Lambs. And specifically the sequel in which Lecter escapes, captures the corrupt head of the FBI and eats his brain while the man’s still alive and conscious.

Even though it’s unhinged, the rant also says something serious about the American lunatic fringe’s attitude to female sexuality. They really do believe that women are biologically driven to strong male figures, especially men who treat them badly. You find that a constant source of complaint from the anti-feminist denizens of the Manosphere, like Davis Aurini. In one of his videos, Aurini rants about how modern women are ‘the most decadent sluts since the Fall of Rome’. Which is quite a claim, and not even remotely true. Many of these guys seem to be deeply sexually frustrated. They can’t get girlfriends, and so, rather than there being something wrong with them, there has to be something wrong with women.

There are women, who find bad boys sexy. And unfortunately there are women, who do go from one abusive relationship to another, and actively defend the men, who hit and maltreat them. It’s a real problem for those genuinely concerned about women’s welfare and safety, including the police officers, who are called in to sort the violence out, only to find that the victim does not want to leave or press charges against her abuser.

But clearly this is very much not true of all women. As for 50 Shades of Grey, the book’s a fantasy, and the violence and domination in that has its male counterpart in the pornography about whip-wielding dominatrices. And just because people like reading about such practices, doesn’t mean that they actually want such a relationship in reality, for the same reason that the millions of SF fans, who enjoy films about alien invasions really don’t want creatures from outer space to invade.

As for the ranting about butch lesbians, that comes from Jones’ anti-feminism and homophobia. In a previous rant, he sputtered that gay rights was a transhumanist space cult to create genderless human cyborgs. Jones does seem to be obsessed with castration and emasculation. There’s one rant where he declares that UN doctors were coming to cut men’s testicles off. And one of the left-wing commenters on YouTube remarked that he seemed to be afraid that liberals were coming to castrate men, and force them into FEMA camps, where they would carry around fat, greased-up lesbians. It’s a lurid image, and Jones hasn’t quite said that, but it’s a fair reflection of his views.

It’s massively distorted, but Jones’ rant does say something about the American Conservative attitude to sex and gender. Much Republican rhetoric and ideology is about defending traditional gender roles, in which women stay at home to raise children, while the men are the aggressive heads of the household. Liberalism, Socialism and feminism oppose this traditional family structure, or at the least state that women and men should be free to choose different roles if they wish. But to American Conservatives, this is a direct attack on masculinity itself. Hence Jones’ ranting about UN doctors coming to castrate American men. It also seems to form part of the hysteria surrounding gun rights. Americans have the right to own guns, which empower men to defend themselves and their families. Liberals want to take these guns away, or regulate them, and this is seen as another attack on traditional masculinity.

It’s debatable how much Jones actually believes in the really mad stuff he rants about. Sam Seder has said that he’s seen Jones at political and media gatherings, where he’s perfectly calm, lucid and reasonable. In a recent dispute with his wife over custody of their children, Jones’ lawyer stated that he was a ‘rodeo clown’, who didn’t believe any of the crazy nonsense that his ex-wife was afraid would disturb their children, who lived with Jones at his home and TV studios. Looking through the number of videos that are on YouTube, of Jones ranting and raving, which are actually posted by Infowars, and described as rants, it seems to me that Jones doesn’t believe in the really crazy stuff he rants about. But he is aware that it draws people into his show, and so acts up for the camera and his audience. Others have suggested that Jones really is that mad, but he’s just got enough self-awareness to realise how it looks to others, and to exploit that.

Even though it’s hysterically and grotesquely exaggerated, Jones’ rant does say much about the very real attitudes towards female sexuality and gender roles in American, and for that matte, British Conservatism. You can find much the same comments about the evils of feminism uttered by the Kippers, several of whom became notorious for their comments denying that women should leave the home and go to work. It’s a grim worldview in which women, despite decades of feminism and female empowerment, secretly hanker after strong, dominating men, who’ll keep them in line. It forms part of the misogynistic attitudes of the anti-feminist Men’s Right’s movements. And while Jones himself certainly doesn’t condone violence towards women, this attitude could legitimise the horrific levels of domestic violence against women in American, and for that matter, British society.

Jones’ rants are funny, but underneath the lurid stupidity, they express a very disturbing mindset, which in its fundamental attitudes, isn’t remotely funny at all.

Prager University Tries to Argue the Alt-Right Is Left-Wing through Semantics

December 4, 2017

This is another great little video from Kevin Logan. This time he’s attacking Prager University, which, as he points out, isn’t actually a university, but a right-wing propaganda site on the Net. It pumps out Christian fundamentalist, militaristic, neocon, reactionary propaganda.

They’re one of the various groups on the American right, who’ve tried to discredit Socialism by claiming that the Nazis were also socialists, because they had the word in their name. I’ve already put up several pieces about that, reblogging material showing that Hitler deliberately put the term ‘Socialist’ in the party’s name as a provocation to the genuinely socialist left. The Nazis, of course, were very definitely anti-Socialist, and the decision to adopt the word ‘socialist’ was strongly opposed by many in the early party, including its founder, Anton Drexler. Going further back, the nationalist intellectuals in the 1920s, who began publishing books about how the First World War was an ennobling experience, and who looked forward to a coming Reich, did indeed talk about ‘socialism’, but they made it clear that they were talking about the integration of the individual into society, in which people would work for the good of the great whole. They called it the ‘socialisation of men’, which they carefully distinguished from the socialisation of property and industry.

Apart from rounding up genuine socialists, communists and trade unionists as ‘Marxist Socialists’, along with other left-wing radicals, the Nazis also strongly supported free enterprise. They privatised a number of state enterprises during the Third Reich, and hailed the business elite as the biologically superior type of human, who had won their right to rule through the forces of Darwinian selection in the business world.

They were not at all socialist.

Now Prager U tries the same trick with the Alt-Right. The argument runs that because the ‘Alt’ stands for ‘Alternative’, it is therefore different from traditional American Conservativism, and so has more in common with the left. This is another lie. As Kevin Logan here states, the Alt-Right are just an even more poisonous version of Conservatism, and have nothing in common with the left.

This is just part of a long-running strategy the Republicans have been running for a few years now, in which they’re trying to deny the rampant and very obvious racism in their own ranks, and project it back on to the Democrats and those further left. In the case of the Democrats, this party was indeed the more right-wing of the two originally, and was the party of the Klan. But this was before Lyndon Johnson won over the Black vote by introducing Medicare, Medicaid and other welfare programmes. However, the Republicans have used this to try to argue that ‘progressive’ are responsible for racism, because of the racist history of parts of the Democrat party. Even though this was before Johnson’s reforms of the late ’60s.

Kevin Logan Thanks the French People for Not Electing Le Pen

May 9, 2017

Kevin Logan, who’s an English male feminist and anti-Fascist, posted this video yesterday saying, ‘Merci’ to the people of France for voting for Macron instead of Marine Le Pen, the head of the far right Front National.

He states that had she won, it would have been a horrible symbolic betrayal of the regular French army and the French underground resistance, who fought to keep the Nazis out of their country. Le Pen herself would very definitely have been in the other camp during the War, a collaborator. Her victory would have been especially insulting to their memory, as yesterday, the 8th May, is Victory in Europe Day, which is celebrated as a national holiday over in La Patrie.

He states that he’s not saying that Macron is a perfect candidate, or that he supports all his views. But he’s better than Le Pen.

The video ends with a picture of the French flag and the revolutionary slogan ‘Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite’ and a particularly tinny version of the Marseillaise as it would sound, if played on a home computer in the 1980s.

A victory for Le Pen wouldn’t just have been an insult to the memory of the true French patriots, who fought against Fascism and the Nazi occupation. It would have been an assault on the very values modern France is built on, which emerged during the French Revolution.

The Nazis despised the French Revolution, although Conservative historians have also argued that Fascism owes much to the style of activist politics and militant nationalism that also emerged in revolutionary France. Nevertheless, when Hitler seized power he wrote that this ended the legacy of the French Revolution. Or some such similar words. And Germans could not get into the SS unless they could prove that you were of pure German descent all the way back to the symbolic date of 1785.

11 million people still voted for Le Pen, which is frightening. But for the moment, the genuine liberal, democratic traditions of France have been preserved.

Vive la France!

The Empire File’s Abby Martin on Trump’s Advisor, Steve Bannon

March 22, 2017

In this video from Telesur’s The Empire Files, Abby Martin discusses the repugnant rise on Steve Bannon, the head of Breitbart and pillar of the Alt Right now serving as the chief advisor in Trump’s cabinet. She describes how Bannon began his career as an officer in the US navy. An ardent militarist with a love for war and staunch supporter of Ronald Reagan, Bannon was nevertheless disappointed at not seeing active combat as the conflict he was hoping for with Iran did not materialise. He left the navy to work in the US financial industry for Goldman Sachs, before leaving them to form his own investment house. He got the job with Goldman Sachs after personally meeting the first head. After selling his investment company two years later, he began making right-wing documentary films. These are apocalyptic dystopias of a collapsing America under assault from armies of criminals. But they weren’t successful beyond the restricted circles of the Tea Party. So in 2004 he moved to working for an internet company, IGE, or Internet Gaming Entertainment. This made its money from paying people to mine the Virtual resources in internet game such as World of Warcraft to sell to the games’ players. Bannon managed to convince Goldman Sachs to plough $60 million into this fantasy world. However, IGE was run by some ‘highly problematic’ people. Its founder, Marc Collins-Rector, was wanted for child rape, and eventually all three of the company heads were sued for the abuse of underage boys. Eventually IGE itself collapsed, sued in a class action by games.

A new company, Affinity Media, rose from the remains of IGE. Bannon overthrew the head of this company and replaced him with himself. He then left it a few years later to work for Breitbart.

The film also discusses his abusive second marriage to Mary Louise Bacard, whom he married after she became pregnant. Bannon postponed marrying her until only three days before she gave birth, stating that he wasn’t going to marry her unless the children were normal. Fortunately, amniocentesis scans showed they were. He did not pay much attention to his two newborn daughters and refused to pay child maintenance. Less than a year into the marriage, a domestic argument broke out between Bannon and Bacard, which ended with Bannon becoming violent and trying to strangle her. The police had to be called, and Bannon was charged with domestic misdemeanour, battery and witness intimidation. The trial broke down, however, as Bacard did not appear in court. Bacard divorced him, and later revealed that Bannon and his lawyers had threatened to ruin her life if she pursued the charges against him. After the divorce, Bacard also had the terms of Bannon’s visitation rights to their children changed after she caught him hitting one of the 17 month old babies. She also said that he argued with her in front of them and that she did not feel safe.

It is not just his wife he has abused. He has also been charged with the coarse verbal abuse of female employees.

Martin also goes into Bannon’s opportunist support for Conservative and reactionary political movements, which he thought he could promote as vehicles for his own views, such as the Tea Party and then Sarah Palin, about whom he made a documentary. Curiously, this does not include an interview with Palin herself.

Bannon became friends with Andrew Breitbart, the news agency’s founder, because of their shared love of reactionary media. Breitbart even admiringly referred to Bannon as ‘the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party’, referring to the Nazi propagandist who directed Triumph of the Will, about the Nuremberg rally and an equally celebratory account of the Munich Olympics. Breitbart was a protégé of Matt Drudge, the creator of the Drudge Report, who converted the style and approach of Conservative talk radio, in which subjects were discussed in a manner unsuitable for television, to the internet. Drudge took other media stories, but manipulated their headlines and contents to fit its bias against the progressive Left, women, the working class and ethnic minorities. Along with Bannon, Drudge also picked up and promoted the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. She notes that while Jones is viewed as an internet ‘sideshow’, he has an audience of millions that hang on his every word. Bannon was brought into Breitbart to encourage outside investment into it. But the company was itself experiencing severe problems. These stems from it being blacklisted after it manipulated footage of a female government employee to make it appear that she was advocating violence against Whites. After Breitbart’s death, Bannon took over the leadership of that company too. He then set up the Government Accountability Institute, which issues spurious reports alleging government conspiracies. These include the allegation that protest movements are secretly funded by the government. Among the millionaires supporting Breitbart is Robert Mercer, the investment banker who ran anti-Muslim ads attacking the Ground Zero Mosque and advocating the death penalty, and who has one of the largest private collections of machine guns. Other donors included the billionaire Koch brothers. Martin notes how the Institute acted to allow these millionaires to launder money, which could be invested in Breitbart. The money donated to the IGA was then used to pay the wages of Breitbart employees, which is illegal.

Ex-employees have stated that Bannon has a tight, dictatorial control of the company and expects both journalists and guests to follow his editorial line. Among those, who have been published in his organisation are the anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller, Michael O’Flynn, Trump’s short-lived national security advisor, and the bigot and paedophile enabler, Milo Yiannopolis. She shows how the site manipulates and aggregates news stories to attack Blacks and Muslims. Following the rise of massive anti-Muslim feeling in Europe, Breitbart has focused on promoting and playing on this fear. Breitbart’s audience is mainly angry White men, and the organisation’s audience figures shot up from 8 million to 18 million after the election of Donald Trump.

Martin discusses how Bannon has also attacked traditional Conservativism, stating that he wants to destroy the traditional Republican party as well as everything left of it. He is a populist, but only defends and promotes the White working class. He rejects ‘globalism’ in favour of economic nationalism. She states how this has been used by extreme right-wing regimes since Nazi Germany to divert attention away from capitalism as the cause of systemic economic crises. Bannon is happy to describe himself as an economic nationalist, but vigorously rejects the accusation that he is a White Nationalist, despite his attacks on non-White immigrants as a threat to Judeo-Christian civilisation, particularly Muslims. His views on Islamic immigration are even more extreme than Trump’s. If he was in charge of government, then not a single Muslim would be allowed into America. He has made documentaries showing American border towns as under siege from immigrants. Unlike Trump, he also does not want legal, well-educated and productive immigrants to stay in the country. There exists a tape, which shows him arguing against Trump on this point, when Trump protested about an Indian man, who was deported back to his homeland, where he set up a successful company employing thousands of people. Breitbart also runs stories portraying Black Americans as violent criminals and welfare scroungers. Bannon also claims that the Alt Right’s appeal to racism is entirely coincidental. He looks back to the 1950s as a golden age, whose stability and prosperity has been destroyed by the decline of Judeo-Christian civilisation. She notes that he does identify correctly some of the current problems, such as the increasing lack of upward mobility and the poverty caused by neoliberalism, and also points out that the 1950s were definitely not an era of prosperity for Black Americans and others, who were exploited and brutalised. In his view, the civil rights and other protest movements of 50s and 60s destroyed the working class and small businesses, and allowed big business and big government to collude against working Americans. She states that in his hatred of the civil rights and other movements, he attacks the very people, who have been hurt the most by globalisation. The video includes a clip from one of his wretched documentaries in which he criticises ‘White guilt’ for encouraging the belief that ‘everyone should have a house’. She then moves on to discuss another of his tawdry epics, in which he attacks the Occupy Wall Street movement. He tries to portray organic popular protest movements as vehicles for Communists, Democrats or George Soros, and attacks millennials for supposedly undermining American culture and values with the vapidity and materialism of popular culture. He even goes as far as to blame this for the rise of ISIS.

Martin makes the point that Bannon’s message was extremely effective during the 2016 election campaign, because it addressed issues that the Democrats did not want to confront. She credits Bannon with formulating the most extreme elements of Trump’s Muslim ban and his harsh hostility to the media, as well as showing how Trump’s proposal to publish a list of crimes committed by immigrants is also strongly similar to Breitbart’s strategy. She also points out that Bannon’s militarism may, as a Chinese army officer observed, make Bannon’s prediction that in five to ten years America and the Chinese will be at war a reality. Bannon has said several times that Islam and China are expanding because they believe the Judeo-Christian West is in retreat. And Trump has also appointed more generals to his cabinet than previous administrations.

Martin concludes the piece by stating that Bannon’s rise shows how corrupt and illegitimate the system is, and that the Democrats, who wish to fight the same wars and are in debt and the pockets of their own corporate donors, are unable to fight him. He can only be fought by a united, multicultural progressive movement on the streets.

David Pakman on the Alt-Right

November 26, 2016

In this video, David Pakman describes the origins, ideology, conduct and influences of the Alt-Right, the Fascist movement which has come into prominence through the election of Donald Trump. Their Nazism was shown quite clearly in a speech by their founder, Richard Spencer, last weekend, when he raised his right arm in the Fascist salute, and screamed ‘Hail Trump! Hail our race! Hail victory’. It’s a short, effective description and demolition of the Alt-Right, its intellectual pretensions and fluidity, which shows that, ultimately, the Alt-Right are a profoundly anti-intellectual group with nothing to say, except insults on the internet.

Pakman begins by explaining that the Alt-Right are an amorphous movement, which nevertheless sees itself as sharing a number of goals. These are to combat feminism, Islam, and ‘political correctness’, and protect the borders of White nations, preserve White and western culture, and empower authoritarian government leaders, who will carry out their goals. They have largely been ignored by the corporate media, although briefly mentioned by Killary, but have been very evident on-line, on internet message boards and YouTube, for a long time.

They are a combination of Conservatism, White nationalism, non-interventionism and the internet. It is the latter that give the movement its pseudointellectual pretensions. It is also characterised by trolling campaigns and the use of news outlets like Breitbart. They also use more extreme sources like the explicitly Nazi websites, the Daily Stormer and The Right Stuff. They hope to be a new revolutionary movement, but are heavily derivative of older movements. Their only novel trait is the internet.

He then lays out the reasons why different political groups despise them. Progressives despise the Alt-Right for the White nationalist xenophobia, their support for ‘White’ values, and their bigotry to women, Muslims and other groups.
Libertarians dislike ’em because of their anti-immigrant stance, their social conservatism, and their populist empowerment of the state and protectionism. And Establishment Conservatives also hate them because they are too blatantly racist and misogynist and their non-interventionist stance on foreign policy. Although the Alt-Right are not always Christian, they are always anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.

The Alt-Right coalesced around Donald Trump’s election campaign as Trump freely expressed his own bigotry about Latinos, women and Muslims, and his right-wing policies on labour and social issues, civil liberties and the environment. Trump himself claims to know nothing about the Alt-Right, which means he’s either lying or really is ignorant. Anything is possible with him. Although Trump’s supporters are mostly low education, low information blue-collar workers with no connection to internet culture, Alt-Right trolls have adopted him as their hero.

The membership of the Alt-Right is mostly American, and as a movement it’s difficult to pin down precisely. Some members of the Alt-Right are just racists, some misogynists, while others reject one or all the above attitudes. They do, however, use the same internet memes, gifs, tired catchphrases and insults. Sometimes, however, it seems that they themselves do not know what their movement is or stands for.

Pakman states that they stand for a particular set of values. These are White culture, anti-multiculturalism, nativism, anti-immigration, anti-Semitism, men’s rights, and gamer-gate, which as internet trolls, they regard as being very serious indeed.

The movement began developing during the Bush administration as a reaction against Dubya’s neo-Conservativism and the Conservative political establishment. They draw on Palaeo-Conservativism, Pat Buchanan and Joe Sobrin. They are also influenced by Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign for the presidency, which degenerated, becoming increasingly socially conservative and bigoted. The Alt-Right also picked up momentum during Obama’s occupation of the White House in opposition to a president, who was Black and left of centre. It finally formed around Richard Spencer, a White supremacist, who founded the blog ‘Alternative Right’ in 2010. This is internet site that gave the Alternative Right its name.

Pakman then discusses the strange case of Milo Yiannopolis, who has single-handedly brought the Alt-Right to media attention. Yiannopolis has stated several times that he does not consider himself to be a member of the Alt-Right. He is also gay and half-Jewish, and the fact that he fronts a homophobic, anti-Semitic movement shows not just how gimmicky Yiannopolis’ own media performance style is, but also the fluidity of the Alt-Right as a movement.

Although the Alt-Right is biased against Muslims and Jews, it’s members are not necessarily Christian. Many are atheists, although they claim to support Christian values, and adhere to social conservatism. Most of them believe in evolution, often distorting and using it to claim the existence of distinct races to justify their racism. They have a distinct hierarchy of races, and see White gentiles as the best.

Pakman, however, believes that they do have one redeeming quality in their opposition to political correctness and identity politics, as the authoritarian left stifles conversation on race, Islam, and feminism. However, he dislikes the way they themselves hypocritically adopt p.c. attitudes and identity politics for White people and men. They attack the way women, and racial and religious minorities try to censor discourse, but do it themselves, including playing the victim card, just like the groups they attack. Some even go so far as to talk about White genocide. Pakman asks whether it is true that Whites and men are victims, either in America or the world. He also makes the point that the Alt-Right are only unified through internet trolling. Are there any other movements that are defined by indecency simply through the sake of indecency? Their only power is the anonymity of the internet, and their use of its memes and repetitive insults. They are simply an unoriginal, failed attempt to rebrand White supremacy, misogyny and anti-feminism with a tech-savvy twist.

They have absolutely nothing to say and no arguments. They are just a cop-out. They are the most anti-intellectual, unimaginative group of drones on the internet.

Hitler, Mussolini, Trump and Rhetorical and Political Inconsistency

March 9, 2016

A number of media commenters have pointed out the inconsistencies and contradiction in Donald Trump’s speeches as he tries to drum up support for his presidential campaign. Kyle Kulinski over at Secular Talk, for example, has pointed out how Trump has argued for separate, and opposite positions on the Middle East, healthcare and the economy. For example, on the Middle East he has at one moment declared that America should go in much harder to carpet bomb whole cities, and torture and kill not just terrorists, but also their families. At other moments, sometimes just after he has argued passionately for the preceding policy, he has completely reversed his position. Instead of renewing America’s campaign in the Middle East, he has argued instead that America should not get involved, and instead leave Vladimir Putin to sort out ISIS.

His position on healthcare is similarly muddled. At one point he appeared to be arguing for something like the socialised medical service advocated by the Democrat, Bernie Sanders. He has then immediately reversed his position, and stated instead that he intends to repeal Obamacare, and increase competition and free enterprise. He has since been forced to clarify his position, and has since released a detailed description of his policy. This makes it clear that his policy is based very much on increasing competition, and allowing the insurance companies to deny or increase charges for people with severe and difficult to treat forms of illness. And by the way – this is exactly one of the reasons why supporters of the NHS in England actively oppose the introduction of insurance based health care. It actively denies care to those most in need, the chronically sick.

Trump’s stance on industry and the economy is also unclear. He has said at various points that if he got into power, he would prevent corporations leaving America to keep jobs in the country. At other moments, he’s stated that he intends to keep wages low. The two positions aren’t quite contradictory. Corporations are moving abroad to take advantage of the cheap labour available in the Developing World. So keeping wages low would encourage some companies to stay in America. This would, however, keep blue-collar workers in the in-work poverty into which they’ve been plunged by the Neo-Lib policies of successive administrations.

Hitler’s own policies, as stated in his speeches, were also a mixture of contradictory attitudes and positions. He at once appeared to be anti-capitalist and the defender of capitalism, and tailored his rhetoric to suit the differing audiences in the places where he was speaking. In rural areas with a strong tradition of anti-Semitism, he’d concentrate on stirring up hatred and resentment against the Jews. In industrial areas with a strong background of working class politics, either Socialist or Communist, he’d instead focus on the ‘Socialist’, anti-capitalist elements of the Nazi programme. And in 1929, speaking to a meeting of leading German businessmen, he claimed to be the defender to German private industry against the forces of Marxist Socialism.

Mussolini too changed his position frequently. Denis Mack Smith, in his biography of the Duce, Mussolini (London: Paladin 1983) describes how Mussolini’s frequent changes of position, and adoption of extreme views, came from his attempts to drum up excitement and interest amongst his audience. On page 39 he writes

Mussolini’s journalistic style prompted him to take an extreme position whenever possible. Extremism was always dramatic and eye-catching. He was far more concerned with tactics than with ideas, and his violent changeability was bound to seem confused it measured by strict logic; but he had discovered that readers liked extreme views and rarely bothered much about inconsistency. If he appeared successively as the champion of the League [of nations] and then nationalist, as socialist and then conservative, as monarchist and then republican, this was less out of muddle-headedness than out of a search for striking headlines and a wish to become all things to all men.

And on page 40 he notes that Mussolini

called himself a man for all seasons, ‘an adventurer for all roads’. As he said, ‘I put my finger on the pulse of the masses and suddenly discovered in the general mood of disorientation that a public opinion was waiting for me, and I just had to make it recognise me through me newspaper.

This sounds very much like Trump. And like Mussolini, Trump is also fiercely nationalistic and xenophobic, attacking Mexicans and Muslims, and encouraging the violent expulsion of protestors from his rallies. Trump probably wouldn’t be a ruthless butcher like Hitler or Musso, but he would turn America into a much less free, much more authoritarian and brutal place.

Young Turks: Terrorists More Motivated by Politics than Religion, Study Finds

December 15, 2015

This is another video from The Young Turks, which is extremely relevant as it takes apart the view that terrorists and suicide bombers are motivated solely or mainly by religion. Robert Pape, a professor at the University of Chicago, and the founder of that university’s Centre for Security and Faith, studied the motives of suicide bombers and other terrorists going back to 1980. He found that in 95 per cent of cases they were far more motivated by politics, and particularly the desire to retaliation after a military intervention, often a military occupation. The attacks were an attempt to take or retake territory that was important to the terrorist. This was the dominant motivation for terror attacks, including the recent massacres in Paris.

Uygur and Iadarola point out that suicide bombing are the tactics adopted by the losing sides. America doesn’t use suicide bombers, because it has the advantage of drones, tanks and aircraft. The Japanese also turned to using suicide tactics in World War II – the Kamikaze pilots – when they were losing, not when they thought they were winning, as at Pearl Harbour. The same is true of other organisations using suicide bombers, like the Tamil Tigers.

They also make the case that while religion is part of it, like Christian fundamentalists, who hate gay people, this is more of a case of someone looking for and adopting a worldview, that confirms their existing beliefs. They also cite Lydia Wilson, a journalist for The Nation, who also interviewed ISIS terrorists. She found that they had a ‘woeful knowledge’ of even the basic tenets of Islam, and had difficulty answering questions about sharia law, jihad, or even the caliphate. But such knowledge wasn’t necessary to support the ideal of fighting for the caliphate. As could be seen from the actions of one British ISIS fighter, who ordered ‘Islam for Dummies’ on Amazon.

The Turks compare their ignorance of Islam with that of Dear, the right-wing fundamentalist Christian, who shot staff and patients in an attack on Planned Parenthood. They also point out that terrorist attacks and suicide bombings have been carried out by secular organisations and individuals. The Turks also point out that military intervention is not necessarily a bad thing. The Korean War succeeded in keeping South Korea free of Stalinism, and World War II was, obviously, a military intervention, that was exactly the right thing to do. Suicide and terrorist attacks do not necessarily make the original military action wrong. They’re just something to be expected as a consequence.

This report sounds pretty much spot on, from what I understand about terrorism. Bassam Tibi, the German-Egyptian writer on Islam and the problems it is experiencing through modernisation, states in his book Islam and the Cultural Accommodation of Social Change states that the Egyptian Islamist terrorist he personally interviewed in Egypt had only a superficial understanding of Islam. A few years ago, the anthropologist Scott Atran also pointed out that violence and terrorism were not solely the product of religion. He pointed out that the organisation that had made the most use of suicide bombings was the Tamil Tigers, who were secular organisation. Atran himself is an atheist, and he made this point as a rebuttal to the claims that religion was mainly responsible for such violence by members of the New Atheism, like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.

A~s for reading one’s own political views into a particular religion or holy book, that’s always been a problem. It’s called ‘elective affinity’, and sociologists of religion have acknowledged and studied its importance. One example I was taught at College was the declaration by a 19th century British Tory that ‘the Bible is Conservative through and through’. It’s a classic example of the way a person with strong political opinions believed he had found them in his holy book through projecting his own prejudices and opinions onto the text.

As for the political motivations of many terrorists, there’s an interesting review of a book on the Lobster site by Carol Shaye, one of the officials involved in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Shaye has since become extremely cynical about the whole process because of the massive corruption at all levels of Hamid Karzai’s regime. She found that the Taliban fighters she interviewed almost exclusively joined because they felt it was a solution to this problem.
Of course, the Taliban isn’t. It is, however, a brutal and murderous collection of genocidal maniacs and mass-murderers. But the point remains.

The Image of the 19th Century Rural Poor

May 7, 2014

Country Poor pic

This is another photograph of the poor, this time from the countryside. It’s of a farm labourer and his family from Jacob Bronowski’s book accompanying and with the same title as his blockbuster science series, The Ascent of Man (London: BBC 1973) pp. 260-1. In that part of the book, dealing with the Industrial Revolution, Bronowski shows what the reality of life was like for most of the people in the British countryside during the 18th and 19th centuries. The caption for the photo reads:

‘The Labourer lived in poverty and darkness. The first photographs of rural life come as a shock. They belie any idyll of rusticity.’

In the main body of the text, he writes

‘We dream that the country was idyllic in the eighteenth century, a lost paradise like The Deserted Village that Oliver Goldsmith described in 1770:

Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain,
Where health and plenty cheared the labouring swain.

How blest is he who crowns in shades like these,
A youth of labour with an age of ease.

That is a fable, and George Crabbe, who was a country parson and knew the villager’s life at first hand, was so enraged by it that he wrote an acid, realistic poem in reply.

Yes, thus the Muses sing of happy Swains,
Because the Muses never knew their pains.

O’ercome by labour and bow’d down by time,
Feel you the barren flattery of a rhyme?

The country was a place where men worked from dawn to dark, and the labourer lived not in in the sun, but in poverty and darkness.’ (p. 260).

In addition to being a brilliant scientist and science populariser, Bronowski was also a member of the Fabian Society. He wrote one of their pamphlets on ‘Socialism and Science’. Conservatism relies very much on an highly selective, idealised past. This is particularly true now as the Tories attempt to remove or minimise the institutions of the welfare state. One of the Times’ blue-blooded reviewers talked about a new ‘social restoration’ of the aristocracy under Thatcher, harking back to the ancient aristocratic order of lords and peasants. This was what it was really like for most people in the countryside in the 19th century, in stark contrast to the fantasies of the upper classes. And it’s what Osborne and co. are trying to bring back.

The Spectator, A British Investment Bank, And the Globalised Chains of British Industry

April 27, 2014

I also reblogged on Friday another piece from Mike, over at Vox Political, The Tories have run out of momentum, ideas and even arguments criticising a piece in the arch-Tory magazine, The Spectator, by Frasier Nelson. Nelson was pondering the lead Ed Milliband was making over the Tories in the polls, and attempting to do his pit to prevent a Labour victory next year by criticising some of Milliband’s policies. Mike pointed out that his article was very much an ‘own goal’, as rather than showing how wrong Milliband and his policies were, they actually showed the opposite. Of course what frightened Nelson was the prospect of further state regulation. Mike turned the arguments around by showing how, if one replaces ‘regulation’ with ‘help’, all Nelson’s comments about Labour and state regulation actually appear as a ringing endorsement of Milliband’s policies. He’s invited Speccie readers to come over and comment on his piece, but so far, none have.

One of Milliband’s policies that particularly caught Nelson’s scorn was Milliband’s suggestion that there should be an investment bank for Britain, and two high street banks. This, said, Nelson, was a throwback to Neil Kinnock’s policies in the early 1980s. So it is. And it’s right.

The authors of the book Socialist Enterprise: Reclaiming the Economy, also urged the establishment of a British investment bank, because the existing banking and financial structure in Britain is geared to overseas, not domestic investment. The book was written in 1986, but it’s still true 28 years later. And British manufacturing has suffered as a result.

As for the foreign investment, particularly from the Far East, that the Conservatives have tried to attract to Britain, this has not supplied the amount of financial support that British industry requires. One of the complaints and criticisms made of the utility companies a few months ago was that they were mostly owned by foreign companies. These used them as a source of income, while not investing in their expansion or improvement. This is almost to be expected. The Chinese and other Developing Nations that Cameron and previous administrations have appealed to for investment in Britain are intent on developing and expanding their own industries and economy. They therefore have little interest in propping up the economy of what many of them see as a competitor and colonial oppressor.

I used to work with a former diplomat, who told me that the Chinese still feel an immense humiliation against Britain for their defeat in the Opium Wars and the conquest and domination of their country by the European powers and America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was of the opinion that as China became a global power, it would deliberately destroy our economy, before moving on to do the same to the Japanese.

In this respect, de-industrialising Britain is similar to industrialising Russia in the 19th century, according to Lenin and the Russian Populists, who preceded him. In his Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin argued that Russia had effectively been colonised economically by the European powers. Like their formal colonies, these used Russia to supply raw materials and agricultural produce to their manufacturing industries, and as a market for their own finished goods. They did not, however, want Russia itself to industrialise and provide a competitive threat to their own manufacturing industries and economy. The only solution, Lenin argued, was for the Russian workers and peasants to seize power in the revolution and ‘Smash capitalism at its weakest link’. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, Russia would industrialise and take its place as a modern, industrial power.

Britain doesn’t need a Revolution and consequent bloodshed. But we do need a proper investment bank to supply the financial support British manufacturing industry actually needs, and which has been so lacking under the globalised economy promoted by the Neoliberals. Of course, this is going to upset High Tories like Frasier Nelson, for whom any kind of state intervention is automatically a Bad Thing, especially as it curtails the financial sector’s ability to make money however they want, regardless of the consequences. In his opposition to the Bank, Nelson has shown how little the Tories actually care about promoting British industry, beyond trying to find yet another foreign buyer. It’s another example how they’re prepared to sacrifice the wider economy for their greed of the financial sector.

Arizona Allows Shops to Refuse Gays – Others Could Soon Suffer

February 27, 2014

There was a headline on MSN News yesterday that Arizona had passed a law allowing shops to refuse to serve gays. This is extremely ominous, not just for gay people, but for other minority groups, including Blacks. Despite the considerable liberalisation of attitudes towards homosexuality and gays over the past forty years or so since the Stonewall riots in America, homosexuality is still extremely controversial even over this side of the Atlantic. A friend surprised me a few years ago by pointing out just how many US states still have laws banning sodomy. These laws not only prohibit homosexuality, but also certain forms of heterosexual sex.

For many people, this is simply a moral issue without any connection to the wider issue of gender, ethnic or religious equality. They see homosexuality and homosexuals as deeply immoral, and clearly want the right to refuse to serve them. It’s a view shared by many over this side of the Atlantic. However, it also has profound and deeply disturbing implications for other groups.

The ideology behind the move appears to me to be not just hostility to gays, but also an attempt to appeal to the issue of personal freedom. Homosexuals are not banned from being served in shops in Arizona, the proponents of the law would argue. It’s just that they’ve given shopkeepers the right and freedom to refuse to serve them.

It’s a right that I’m afraid will be used to justify the passage of laws allowing shopkeepers and employers to refuse to serve and take on other groups, such as those of a different ethnicity or religion. And this is being argued for.

A year or so ago the transatlantic Right were trying to rehabilitate George Wallace, the pro-segregation American politicians left in a wheelchair after an assassination attempt. They argued that despite his support for segregation, Wallace himself was not personally racist. They stated that he was a member of NAACP – the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, one of the major American Civil Rights organisations. They stated that he was one of the first to end segregation in his department store and open it up equally to both Whites and Blacks. His resistance to the end of segregation, it was claimed, came from his belief that the passage of laws demanding the equal treatment of White and Black would be an attack on personal freedom. The argument runs that he wasn’t racist, worked to end racism, but respected the rights of others to be racist in their own business. A similar argument could be used to justify the new law allowing shops to refuse to serve gays.

Other sections of the American right are using similar arguments against Abraham Lincoln and his liberation of the slaves. Guy Debord’s Cat has covered this development in the American extreme Right over on his blog on one of his posts on the weird mental world inhabited by some of the commenters on the Telegraph blogs. Again, there is a serious, respectable historiographical issue concerning Lincoln’s attitude to the slaves. Rather than being a hero of the anti-slavery movement, Lincoln was, it has been argued, personally deeply racist and quite prepared to sacrifice the slaves if it would mean holding the US together. He only liberated the slaves at the very last moment as an attempt to undermine the South. Furthermore, it has been argued, no slaves were actually freed as a result of his legislation.

To many of those on the Right, however, Lincoln is a figure of hate not because of his highly questionable and ambivalent attitude to slavery, but because he passed legislation banning it. This is viewed very much as an attack on personal freedom and the sanctity of private property, and so he has been denounced in some quarters as a ‘Socialist’. It’s a view and argument very much that of the opponents of anti-slavery legislation throughout the world at the time. It’s horrifying that such views are being advanced now.

The Arizona law against gays presents a terrible danger, not just to gays, but also to the whole notion of equality as it has developed since the mid-19th century. There is a real danger of similar legislation being passed allowing the discrimination and subjection of others, whether on the basis of their race or religious beliefs, apart from their sexual orientation. And it will be supported by people claiming not to support racism or religious discrimination personally, but simply defending the personal freedom of those, who are. And that really will be a form of ‘liberal Fascism’, regardless of how Jonah Goldberg and the rest of the American Right feel about the Left.