Posts Tagged ‘Feminism’

Nigel Farage Reveals Contempt for Royal Family to Ozzie Tories

August 13, 2019

Yesterday, the Groaniad reported that Nigel Farage had made some unpleasant, and quite possibly impolitic, comments about the royal family atthe Conservative Political Action Conference in Sydney. The Brexit party’s fuhrer spared the Queen his sneers, but went on to attack Prince Harry and Megan Markle for their ‘irrelevant’ social justice and environmental concerns, called the late Queen Mother a ‘slightly overweight gin drinker’. He then went on to say that he hoped the Queen would continue to live a long time to stop ‘Charlie boy’, as he called Prince Charles, becoming king, and that William would live forever to stop Harry ascending the throne. He also bewailed how Megan Markle changed Harry’s laddish behaviour. According to today’s I, page 9, the Fuhrage said

Terrifying! Here was Harry, here he was this young, brave, boisterous, all male, getting into trouble, turning up at stag parties inappropriately dressed, drinking too much and causing all kinds of mayhem. And now he’s met Megan Markle and it’s fallen off a cliff.

The I explained that when Fuhrage referred to him as being ‘inappropriately dressed’ at stag parties, he meant the time when Harry turned up at one dressed in Nazi uniform. According to the I, a spokesman for the man ‘Judge Dredd’ satirised as ‘Bilious Barrage’ claimed that the Groaniad had taken his comments out of context. But as Mike says in his article about this, it’s irrelevant whether Farage meant what he said or not. He was telling his right-wing audience what they wanted to hear: that he was their friend.

He was raising money from rich foreigners again.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/12/what-he-thinks-they-want-to-hear-farage-attacks-royals-in-speech-to-far-right-aussies/

Now I’m aware that some of the readers of this blog may well be republicans, who believe that the monarchy is a vestige of feudal privilege and that we would be better off with a proper democratic constitution and an elected presidency. I’m also aware that what Farage said at the conference would be unremarkable if it came from a member of the public or a journalist. A few years ago, before his career imploded due to plagiarism, Johan Hari wrote a very long article in either the Independent or Guardian attacking the royal family. A tranche of government material had been declassified and released to the national archives. These revealed that ministers and senior civil servants had been worried about Prince Charles writing letters to newspapers and various official bodies trying to influence government policy. He was, for example, very keen to stop the closure of the grammar schools. The officials found his interference a headache because the monarchy is supposed to be above politics. They are definitely not supposed to try to influence government policy.

The Tory press, including and especially the Heil, despise Charles. I can remember the Rothermere’s mighty organ claiming that that the Tories were discussing ways to ensure that the Crown passed directly from the Queen to William, completely bypassing Charles. The reason they cited for this was that Charles was too close to Laurens van der Post, the author of Testament to the Bushmen. Under van der Post’s influence, the Heil claimed, the future heir to the throne had become too New Age in his spiritual beliefs. He had indicated that he wanted to be known as ‘Defender of Faith’ when he ascended the throne, an inclusive title to cover all religions, rather than ‘Defender of the Faith’, meaning exclusively Christianity. As he would be the head of the Church of England, this would create a constitutional crisis. I wonder if the real reason was that Charles appeared a bit too left-wing, especially in his concern for the unemployed. And Charles’ office also spoke out against the decision by John Major’s government to close down Britain’s mining industry.

Hari was also scathing about the Queen Mother. He claimed that she was certainly no democrat, complaining that it was ‘so unnatural’ when she was a young woman. Ministers were also upset at the government apparently having to spend £1 million a year keeping an office open for her so she could get the results at Ascot. Private Eye has also described her as ‘greedy’ and criticised Charles for hypocrisy over his views on architecture. Charles caused outrage a little while ago by describing modern buildings as ‘monstrous carbuncles’. But the Prince himself was also employing the same type of architects to design similar buildings. They also attacked him for the colossal overpricing of his organic honey.

Now we live in a democracy, where you are allowed to criticise the government and the monarchy. One where people do, often. But what makes Farage’s comments unwise is that they come from a ruthlessly ambitious politician. Attacks on the royal family are bound to be controversial because they still have a central role in the country’s constitution. The Queen is the head of state, and the royal family act as this country’s ambassadors. They also have a politically unifying role. Some people may find it easier to respect a head of state like the Queen, who is above party politics. To many people the royal family also embody British history and tradition, and they are still regarded with respect by millions of British and commonwealth citizens. I dare say this is particularly true of Conservatives. I’ve a Conservative friend, who hates the Scum because, in his view, it has done nothing but run down the royal family. And looking at the wretched rag, I can’t say he’s wrong either. Nor is it alone – all of the papers run stories trying to create some controversy about the royal family. The latest of these are about Markle, and how she is apparently throwing her weight around and causing some kind of feud with the rest of the royals.

Farage’s piece of lese majeste Down Under is controversial and offensive because it comes from a politician, who clearly hopes one day to serve in government. If he did, it would surely create tensions between him and the Crown. It’s also impolitic, as even though the culture of deference is supposed to have gone, the constitutional importance of the monarchy means that any criticisms politicians have of the royal family or differences of opinion between them should be settled discreetly. Farage has shown himself to be incapable of maintaining a tactful silence on the matter.

Of course, what Farage really hates about Harry and Megan, along with Conservative rags like the Spectator, is that Harry has dared to be environmentally concerned, like his father. He’s also fallen behind Markle’s feminism, so obviously they despise him for that. And there’s also a nasty tone of racism there was well. They certainly wouldn’t have objected if he’d married a White American. But instead he married a woman of colour. Farage’s apparent view that Harry dressing up as a Nazi officer was just natural masculine hi-jinks shows just how seriously he takes the issue and the offence it caused. I’ve no problem with comedies spoofing the Nazis, like Mel Brooks’ The Producers or the BBC’s ‘Allo, ‘Allo. But the Nazis themselves were far from a joke, and people are quite right to be angry at those who think dressing up as them is a jolly jape. But Farage and his audience obviously don’t. Quite possibly the Conservatives he addressed are still pining for a White Australia policy. But in their environmentalism and their social concerns, Harry and Megan, as Mike says, are just showing themselves to be a modern couple. The monarchy also has to move with the times, whatever reactionaries like Farage like to think.

Farage’s comments aren’t just disrespectful to the royal family, they also show how he places his own political ambitions above them as an institution as well as showing his contempt for the genuinely liberal attitudes Harry and Megan have espoused. I hope they lose him votes with that part of the Conservative-voting public, who still revere the her Maj and the other royals above the sneers of press and media. 

 

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Giles Coren Racially Abuses Megan Markle

August 6, 2019

Just as the CST this weekend decided to smear 36 people as anti-Semites, largely because they supported Jeremy Corbyn, and hated the Tories, Rachel Riley, and Tom Watson, Times‘ columnist Giles Coren made his own racist comment about Prince Harry’s consort, Megan Markle. Harry had said that he intends to have only two children because of the the current environmental crisis. So Coren jumped in and declared that he really said it because Markle had ‘raised the drawbridge’ and it was really due to domestic squabbles between the royal couple. He then went on and declared that they had booked a meeting with a marriage guidance counselor, but had got Jane Goodall instead.

That’s Jane Goodall, the primatologist, who studied gorillas.

The good peeps on Twitter were not amused, and pointed out just how racist the tweet was. It’s the old sneer about Black people being subhuman monkeys. They also predicted that if Coren was taken to task for it, he’d immediately start trying to excuse it by saying he wasn’t being racist, honest, and then give out some remarks supporting him by his White friends, while issuing some kind of non-apology.

Zelo Street concluded his article on this nasty little piece of privileged racism

From Coren there has so far been silence. But he will have to say something, even if he attempts to cover his tracks by pretending he didn’t mean what he clearly did mean.
Attempts to normalise racism are worrying. Attempts to normalise racism coming from a supposedly quality paper are not just worrying – they are totally inexcusable.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/08/giles-coren-right-royal-racist.html

Coren is the Times’ restaurant critic, and like several other ‘slebs, he has quaffed deep of the well of mediocrity. It’s unlikely he would have got his job, and appeared on TV – he was one of the ‘Supersizers’ who every week looked back at the cuisine in different periods of the past with Sue Perkins – if he didn’t come from a privileged background.

He is also sadly not alone in his sneers and abuse at Markle. The I’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown commented on it in her column in this morning’s edition of the paper. She noted the ugly racism hiding behind these sneers. They’re based on outrage at an American woman of colour with genuinely feminist views marrying into the royal family. How dare she! Especially after she edited Vogue to list the leading, most influential and inspirational women.

I’ve no doubt that part of the sneer also comes from part of the Tory right’s bitter hatred of environmentalism. The Daily Heil published a whole slew of articles a few years ago declaring global warming to be fake, because the Russians apparently said so. And Trump’s government is doing its level, horrendous best to close down and silence the Environmental Protection Agency for the Republicans’ supporters and donors in the petrochemical industry, like the notorious Koch brothers. I’ve got a feeling the Times is one of the other newspapers, whose columnists have tried to discredit climate change. I seem to remember one of the producers of the BBC science documentary series, Horizon, remarking at a talk at the Cheltenham Festival of Science a few years ago how he had been forced to put right gently another very well established journo, who didn’t believe in it.

I believe a number of members of the royal family are also patrons of the World Wide Fund for Nature, what used to be the World Wildlife Fund, and so do have an interest in conservation. Which would suggest that Harry’s statement on why he was having no more than two sprogs is entirely genuinely. One of the problems is overpopulation, although in the West birthrates are actually falling to or below replacement level, so that there may well be a demographic crisis due to this. Quite apart from all the nutters, who believe that it’s all part of the ‘Great Replacement’ in which the Jews are secretly destroying the White race to replace them with non-White immigrants.

This isn’t the first Coren has expressed noxious, right-wing views either. A little while ago he took it upon himself to sneer at people from council estates. I have no idea why, except perhaps just sheer snobbery. Now he’s found a new target in Megan Markle. And it’s an example of the racism, snobbery and reactionary anti-environmentalism that now permeates and shames the Tory press. And it shows just how nasty the Times has become under Murdoch.

 

Boris Johnson and His Cabinet of Privileged Thugs Seize Office

July 25, 2019

So it’s finally happened. As just about everyone expected, but nobody outside his circle of the Tory far right actually wanted, yesterday Boris Johnson finally slithered into office. It was already on the cards on Monday, when the papers published this piccie of an expectant, jubilant Boris.

It sounds ridiculous, but I know people, who were genuinely unsettled by this image. They described him as looking mad, possessed even. I think it was probably due to a loathing of the man’s vile personal character and views coupled to his goofy expression. It also struck me that with his eye’s wide and his mouth wide open, there’s a certain superficial resemblance to the expression on this notorious American mass murderer, Charles Manson.

Which means that when they saw the picture of Johnson, subconsciously they saw this:

Which is enough to give anyone the creeping horrors.

Now Johnson isn’t a vile, unrepentant serial killer and cult leader like the late Manson. But he is an obscenely wealthy aristo, who has just appointed a cabinet of similarly obscenely wealthy aristos, none of whom seem to have the old virtues of genuine concern for the poor of the Tory paternalists. Because being ‘wet’ went out with Maggie Thatcher. They also stand for nothing more than their own enrichment and the simultaneous impoverishment of the less fortunate. They are vehemently pro-Brexit, anti-welfare and for privatisation and deregulation, despite the immense harm these zombie economics have done to this country and its proud, fine people. And it hardly needs to be said that they’re also pro-fracking and against the environment.

Two days ago on Tuesday, male feminist and anti-Fascist YouTuber Kevin Logan put up a video, Super Rich F**ks, which exactly described the Tory front bench. It was a piece of musical satire, mirrored from Dirty Little Owl’s channel, which showed images of various leading Tory politicians, with captions showing their personal wealth and a short piece about their horrendous voting record, while a song plays in the background viciously sending them up.

It begins with the statement that the Tories have a combined net worth of £2.4 billion, before going to the following –

Michael Gove

Net worth, £1 million +

Consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability.

Chris Grayling

Net worth, £1.5 million

Almost always voted for reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms. (Bedroom tax).

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson

Net worth £1.5 million

Almost always voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits.

Is a massive child.

Theresa May

Net worth: £2 million

While her husband’s £1.1 trillion investment firm avoided UK tax, she cut 2,000 police, raised tax on the self-employed and took benefits from 60,000 disabled people.

Penny Mordaunt

Net work: £2.5 million

Always voted to reduce help with council tax for those in financial need.

Philip Hammond

Net worth: £8.2 million.

Consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices.

Sajid Javid

Net worth: £8.5 million

Almost always voted against spending public money to create jobs for young people who’ve spent a long time unemployed.

Lord Stratchclyde

Net worth: £10 million

Voted against free school meals and milk.

Wryly commenting on the girth of the above aristo, the video comments that ‘clearly hasn’t suffered a want of meals himself.’

Jeremy Hunt

Net worth: £14 million

Here the video quotes his views advocating the destruction of the NHS:

‘Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of healthcare in Britain.’

Adam Afriyie

Net worth: £50 million

Voted for reduction in benefits for disabled and ill claimants required to participate in activities intended to increase their chances of obtaining work.

Zac Goldsmith

Net worth: £75 million

Voted in favour of proposed spending cuts and changes to the welfare system in favour of spending on new nuclear weapons.

Lord Deighton

Net worth: £95 million

Voted against protections for pensions being ‘raided’ when the master trust fails.

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Net worth: £100 million

Voted for cuts in Housing Benefits for recipients in homelessness hostels, refuges, sheltered housing and accommodation for people with ongoing support needs.

Richard Benyon – richest MP in the UK

Net worth: £110 million

Voted to set the rate of increase for certain benefits, payments and tax credits at 1%, rather than in line with the increase in prices at 2.2%.

The Marquess of Salisbury

Net worth: £330 million

Receives £250,000 each year of taxpayers’ money for his inherited 10,000 acres, mostly in Jersey.

Lord Ashcroft

Net worth: £1.2 billion.

A tax exile in Belize who has poured millions into the Conservative Party over the years and strongly supported Brexit, which would remove Britain from the jurisdiction of forthcoming tax avoidance rules in the EU.

This bit has a clip from Panorama showing Brexit hiding in the gents’ toilets to avoid having to answer questions on tax avoidance.

I dare say that some of these grotesques are no longer in power, like Theresa May, thanks to Johnson’s massive purge of the cabinet. But those, who have replaced them are pretty much the same. They are what Private Eye once described as ‘the futile rich’. Their only concern is to grab more money for themselves, and steal it from the mouths of the poor.

And the press are complicit in this. Owned by millionaires themselves, they’ve now started a campaign of truly nauseating sycophancy, praising Boris to the rafters. Toby Young even raved about how Boris was a type of ‘Nietzschean superman’.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/07/tory-propaganda-assault-begins.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/07/toby-young-says-gissa-job-bozza.html

And the Beeb enthusiastically joined in last night on the One Show, where one of the guests was his father.

It’s all just Tory lies, one after another. Boris won’t do anything for this country. He doesn’t stand for more investment in the NHS or public services. He won’t put 20,000 more rozzers on the street. But he will privatise the NHS and cut welfare spending like the Tories always have. And Brexit will decimate our manufacturing industry, just as they’re anti-environmentalism will destroy our natural environment.

Get these thugs and hypocrites out now!

Boris, do what you said ought to be done when Blair transferred power to Brown and call an election so we can kick your sorry rear end out of No. 10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soubry Turns on Allen for Massive Election Defeat of Change Party

May 28, 2019

Here’s an interesting little piece from today’s I for the 28th Mary 2019. Change UK came very much bottom of the poll in the Euro elections this Thursday, and the recriminations have started. Anna Soubry as criticised her party leader, Heidi Allen, for telling people to vote tactically. She considers that Allen was effectively telling them not to vote for their party.

The article by David Hughes, titled ‘Allen’s bizarre strategy hit votes, says Soubry’, on page 10, runs

Senior figures in Change UK were involved in a public row after the party formed by breakaway Tory and Labour MPs failed to win any MEPs.

Anna Soubry, the party’s Brexit spokeswoman, accused leader Heidi Allen of “bizarre” behaviour for suggesting their supporters engage in tactical voting.

Former Tory minister Ms Soubry said “over 600,000 people went and voted for us, a genuinely new party”, which was an “extremely good” result, she claimed.

But she criticised Ms Allen, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today: “I think it is rather bizarre for an interim leader on the eve of a poll to tell people essentially not to vote for their party.” Mocking the leader, she added: “Let’s engage now in big, grown up politics.”

Former Tory MP Ms Allen acknowledged that her party needed to learn from what went wrong in the European Parliament elections before the next general election.

I caught a snippet of one of the female members of Change UK talking on the Beeb the other day comparing her party’s performance with that Farage’s Brexit. She said that Brexit’s success wasn’t surprising, as it wasn’t really a new party. It was simply another vehicle for Nigel Farage and his campaign against the EU. Which is exactly true. It’s simply another version of UKIP when it was under Nigel Farage’s leadership, complete with the racism, anti-environmentalism, anti-feminism, planned destruction of the welfare state and privatisation of the NHS. All of which the female speaker for Change UK didn’t mention, probably because they’re also mostly policies shared by the Tories, Blairite Labour and Change UK, with the possible exception of the anti-feminism.

She then complained that Change UK really was a genuinely new party, trying a different type of politics. A politics that was no confined to party interests. Here she was utterly wrong. There was absolutely nothing new about Change UK. It was the same old Thatcherite neoliberalism, still demanding austerity, the privatisation of the NHS and the destruction of the welfare state. It very happily continued the existing system of parliamentary corruption by working for the interests of its rich, corporate donors, instead of the British electorate. That’s why it was registered as a private company, rather than a political party, so that they could hide their accounts. It was, unlike the Tories, pro-Remain, and tried to dress up its solid hostility to policies that would genuinely improving conditions for working people by claiming that it was somehow centrist and non-partisan. Which is what the Lib Dems have also been saying for decades. And many people would have been put off voting for Change UK because of their selfish rejection of democratic principle by refusing to hold by-elections in their constituencies after they switched parties.

The simple fact is that Change UK is a party no-one wants and practically no-one voted for. But they really can’t accept that, and so have to carry on with all this rubbish about being a brave, new party and finding someone they blame for a defeat all of them deserved. I doubt, however, that the recriminations and backbiting are going to stop here. Time to get the popcorn in and watch as they melt down!

The Good News in the Euro Election: Sargon, Dankula and Tommy Robinson Lose Massively

May 28, 2019

There was some crumb of comfort to Labour supporters and other anti-Fascists after the Euro elections. Although Farage’s disgusting Brexit party got 36 per cent of the vote, UKIP was wiped out. And that meant that their far right candidates Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, Mark Meechan, aka Count Dankula, and the infamous Tommy Robinson are very definitely not going to the European parliament.

In this video from the American left-wing Youtube news site, the Progressive Voice, the host goes through the stats for the Euro election. He mentions that UKIP’s leader, Gerard Batten, whom he describes as ‘Sargon’s daddy, in a way’, also failed to get elected to the European parliament. He explains that the entry of Sargon, Dankula and Robinson, who ran as an independent, and others like them caused Farage to leave UKIP, complaining that they were too right-wing for him. He states that Farage was also on the verge of becoming anti-Islam, like Robinson, however. The host then reads out the report on the massive losses of the extreme right Kippers from the Independent. At the time the article was written, the results had yet to be announced for Scotland, so it was unknown how Mark Meechan had fared. Nevertheless, the Progressive Voice states that he definitely lost, though he didn’t know what the exact result for him was.

But the results for Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, or Tommy Robinson, as a prefers to be known, were very clear. He lost spectacularly in England north-west constituency, coming eighth, and lost his deposit. He lost his deposit and left the count early, complaining about how he had been banned on social media by the ‘establishment’. It was this, he claimed, that had stopped him from winning.

In the south-west, UKIP fared a little better, but not much. They were sixth on the ballot, with only 3.2 per cent of the vote. Sargon was their second candidate in that constituency.

The Progressive Voice then shows the figures for all the parties from Britain Elects twitter account for the south-west. The Brexit Party were first at 36.7 per cent, Lib Dems 23.1 per cent, Greens 18.1 per cent, Conservative 8.7 per cent, Labour 6.5 per cent, then UKIP, and finally Change UK at 2.8 per cent. He explains that the Brexit Party were able to make their massive leap to nearly 37 per cent because they’re a new party founded by Farage after he left UKIP. And UKIP’s share of the vote has fallen by 29.1 per cent. The Progressive Voice then declares that Sargon, Dankula and Robinson are clowns, who should stay on YouTube. But Sargon’s YouTube account has been demonetized because of his antics, so the Voice doesn’t know where he gets his money from. He suggests it might be from subscribers. He also mentions that Sargon has taken a couple of milkshakes, referring to the incidents where he had them thrown at him, and says he doesn’t know how he feels about that.

The Progressive Voice is, like the rest of us, highly amused by Robinson and Sargon losing the election, laughing as he reads their results out. And he goes on to describe Robinson’s antics when he lost later in the video as ‘hilarious’. This was when Robinson left early claiming he’d lost because of the media. The Voice concludes by saying that these three are clowns, and this is the result they got for so being.

The male feminist and anti-Fascist Kevin Logan, who has put up a number of videos on his channel attacking Sargon, put up another yesterday showing his sober analysis of the statistics for Sargon’s failure. In the titles, he puts it all down to Benjamin’s ‘reverse Midas touch’. In Greek legend, everything that Midas touched turned to gold. In Sargon’s case, everything he touches turns, well, something really smelly that usually gets used to fertilise the garden.

He starts with the statistics for the party, narrowing down to where it states that UKIP now have zero MPs. Their vote share is 3.2 per cent, down 29. 7 per cent, and Benjamin only got 53,739 votes. He then shows a picture of Batten with Sargon, both of whom have ‘Not an MEP’ written in front of them. There’s then photographs of Sargon with milkshake all over him and various logs from Burger King, which may have supplied them, and being pelted with fish in Cornwall. The soundtrack for the video is laughter from the old record, The Laughing Policeman.

As you can see from the above title photograph, Sargon’s been the kiss of death for just about every organisation and issue he’s taken up, from Gamergate, Kek, the Skeptics, his brief Liberalists organisation and now UKIP.

I admit, it’s not much consolation now that the biggest number of votes when to the Brexit party, who are scarcely less as extreme and dangerous as UKIP. But it is something.

Jeanette Winterson’s Cyberfeminist New Tale of Frankenstein, AI and Sex Robots

May 26, 2019

A week or so ago I put up several articles criticising Ian McEwan’s latest book as another example of mainstream, literary writers’ appropriation of Science Fictional subjects. As I said in these articles, what annoys me about this is the higher respect given to these works, even though genre authors have frequently tackled the subjects much better. Private Eye in its piece describing how the literary set were turning to robots and AI said that after McEwan’s book would come one by Jeanette Winterson. This is Frankissstein: A Love Story, which was reviewed in Friday’s issue of the I, for 24th May 2019 by Lucy Scholes, on page 44 of the paper.

I realise that it’s dangerous to comment on a book you’ve never read, and that reviews can be notoriously inaccurate guides to what a book or other work is actually like. I can remember the Oxford poet, Tom Paulin on the Late Review about two decades or more ago really attacking the Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace, as a piece of Nazi cinema in precisely so many words. He had a point in that some groups had felt that the film was somehow racist and discriminatory, particularly in the portrayal of Jar Jar Binks. Binks, it was held, was a caricature of Blacks, Hispanics or gays. But many others didn’t find anything racist or homophobic in the movie, and Paulin’s attack was itself a grotesque misrepresentation of the movie itself.

But Scholes’ brief description of the book and its themes raise issues that deserve comment and criticism.

The Plot

The book is split between two periods. The first is that night in 1816 in the Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva when Byron, his lover, Claire Clairmont, the Shelleys and their doctor, John Polidori, all met to write a ghost story, the evening which saw the birth of Mary Shelley’s tale of the monstrous creation of artificial, human life, Frankenstein. The second is a contemporary tale about a romance between a young transgender doctor, Ry Shelley, who meets and falls in love with the charismatic Victor Stein at a cryonics facility in the Arizona desert. Stein is a leader in the field of Artificial Intelligence, who, according to the review, ‘envisions a bodyless utopia in which race, faith gender and sexuality no longer exist.’

Caught up in this tale is Ron Lord, a millionaire, who has made his fortune from advance sex robots, and his partner, the evangelical Claire, who has designed a version for Christians, and an investigating journalist, Polly D. Ron Lord’s empire of sex robots its misogynistic. His deluxe model offers three orifices and interesting conversation, in which they tell the user he’s very clever and asks him if he knows anything about Real Madrid. Looking at their names, it seems very clear to me that they’re supposed to be the modern counterparts of Byron’s party 200 years ago. But it’s a moot point how accurate this portrayal is about what they would be like if they lived now. As for Claire’s invention of the ‘Christian Companion’, this seems to be a gibe by Winterson at Christian hypocrisy. Winterson’s a lesbian, who had a miserable childhood growing up in an extreme Christian sect. This formed the basis for his book Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, which was adapted as a TV drama by the Beeb. This seems to have established the 9.00 Sunday night slot as the venue for intense dramas about gay women. It was followed a few years later by Fingersmith, a lesbian drama set in the Victorian underworld. And now there’s Gentleman Jack, now playing on BBC 1, based on a real Victorian aristocratic lady, who married her gay lover. I’m very much aware that many Christians do hate gays, and that in response many gay men and women have turned away from Christianity and religion. But this isn’t necessarily the case. I know one woman, who was brought up by her mother and her lesbian partner, who grew up perfectly well adjusted. She was deeply religious herself, and went on to marry a vicar. She also loves her mother, and respects her for the excellent way she feels her mother brought her up.

Cyberspace as Disembodied Platonic Realm

Some of the ideas in Winterson’s book also seems strangely dated. Like the idea of AI as offering a utopia in which people are disembodied entities without race, gender, sexuality or religion. This sounds like it’s based on the views of some of the cyberfeminists back in the 1990s. They hailed the internet as forum in which women would be free to participate as individuals without gender. Now there is a real issue here with misogyny on the internet. There are some sites and forums which are very hostile to women, so much so that a few years ago there were comments that there no women on the internet, as those who were seemed few and far between. But the solution to that problem is to create a culture in which women are free to participate and interact without their gender being issue, rather than forced to disguise or deny it.

It’s also vulnerable to the opposite criticism from feminist academics like Margaret Wertheimer. In her The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace, Wertheimer criticised cyberspace for being too masculine. It was a disembodied, Platonic realm of mind like the heaven of religious belief. Women weren’t interested in such ideal states, and so were put off it. This idea was influential. One of the museums and art galleries held an exhibition of Virtual worlds created by artists experimenting with the medium. One of the women artists, whose work was featured, included as part of her world the sound of the viewer breathing as they entered her artificial reality. She had done so, she told New Scientist, because the absence of any kind of physical interaction in these Virtual worlds was the product of male scientists and engineers, who made the passage through them like that of a disembodied being. As a woman, she wanted to rectify this through the inclusion of details that made it appear that the viewer was physically there.

It’s over 20 years since these arguments were made, and much has changed since then. There are now very many women on the internet, with female sites like Mum’s Net and the feminist Jezebel. And some of the online games and worlds, like Second Life, do allow their users to interact as physical entities as the games’ characters or citizens.

Robot-Human Romance and Sex

As for her view of sex robots, it’s true that the creation of an artificial woman purely as a sex slave is misogynist. At the moment such machines aren’t really much more than sophisticate sex dolls, and some of those, who use them do seem to be very misogynist. One of the denizens of the Manosphere, the Happy Humble Hermit, who really does despise women and feminism, apparently has a link on his web page to a firm making them. But despite dire warning that these machines are a threat to women’s status and real, genuine, loving or respectful sexual relationship, the existing sex robots aren’t popular. A Spanish brothel which specialised in them has had to get rid of them because of lack of custom. Women don’t have to fear being replaced by compliant, subservient female robots, as in Ira Levin’s Stepford Wives, just yet.

But science fiction also shows that there is an interest, at least among some people, for genuine romantic relationships between robots, and humans and robots. One of the Star Wars spin-off books published in the 1980s was Hardware Honeymoon, whose cover showed C-3PIO holding hands with a female robot. The robot seems to have become the subject of some women’s fantasies. One of the independent comics from California was Wet Satin, whose female creator based her stories on women’s sexual fantasies. One of these was about a robot, which looked remarkably similar to the Star Wars robot. Rather less luridly, Tanith Lee wrote a book in the 1980s about a woman having a romance with a robot in The Silver Metal Lover. You could go on. There is a desire for sex with robots, but this seems in most cases to be within the framework of a romantic relationship with a genuinely sentient being, not a mechanical sex slave.

Stein’s Disembodied Utopia Horrific

As for Stein’s idea of a post-human utopia of disembodied minds, this is profoundly unattractive, as Scholes herself says in her review, saying ‘As with all brave new worlds, though, the reality is rarely perfect’. It seems to be based on the Transhumanists hope that in the near future technology will have advanced so far that that humans will be able to download their minds into computers, so that they can exist as pure disembodied entities in cyberspace, or move into robot bodies, like the hero at the end of the South African SF film, Chappie. But Winterson’s, or Stein’s cybernetic dream of posthuman, post-flesh utopia is horrifically sterile. Part of what makes diversity and multiculturalism such powerful ideologies is that people are naturally drawn, fascinated with and treasure difference. It’s why western tourists travel around the world, to Asia, Africa and South America, to enjoy the experience of different cultures and meeting people of different races and religions. There is friction and hostility between different peoples, all too often exploding into horrific violence. But the reduction of humanity to disembodied minds doesn’t solve the problem. It doesn’t genuinely promote tolerance, equality and the feeling of common humanity so much as negates the problem by destroying the physical and spiritual differences that form the basis of human identity. It’s certainly not an idea that’s popular in SF. In just about all the Science Fiction I’ve read, people retain their gender and other aspects of their identity even after they cross over into cyberspace. When they appear, either in cyberspace itself, or conjured up in computer displays for characters in the real world, they appear as they did in life, complete with their gender and race. And I’ve no doubt that the vast majority of people would find that far more preferable to the strange disembodied existence Stein offers in Winterson’s book.

LGBTQ and Transgender Issues With Winterson’s/ Stein’s Utopia

Which also raises the question about its handling of LGBTQ issues. The inclusion of a transgender character seems to be a deliberate attempt to make the book very relevant to contemporary issues, now that transgender rights have overtaken gays as the issue of the moment. Some transgender people seem to look forward to a future without physical gender. I can remember reading an interview with the first, or one of the first, people to undergo the operation, April Ashley, in an interview in one of the Daily Mail’s Sunday supplements years ago. She looked forward to a time when humanity would have moved beyond gender, and pregnancy would become a matter of simply taking a pill. But I think such people are a very small minority. Back in the 1990s there was a demand from gay Science Fiction fans for Star Trek to tackle homosexuality and include gay characters or stories. This was several years before the new, revived Dr. Who did so, and so would have been extremely controversial. Star Trek – The Next Generation tried to make an effort in that direction with a story in which Lieutenant Riker formed a relationship with a member of an alien species, the J’Nai, who had evolved past gender. However, from time to time there were throwbacks, who were persecuted. They would be hunted down and then treated so that they were proper neuter members of their society. The alien with whom Riker has fallen in love is one such throwback, a female. She is caught by the authorities. Riker tries to free her, but it is too late. She is now neuter, and so has no interest in any sexual or romantic relationship with him. The story’s a metaphorical attempt to deal with the underlying issues around homosexuality, gender identity and forbidden sexuality, but was bitterly criticised by gay SF fans because it didn’t tackle the issue of homosexuality overtly. The Federation was, remember, an organisation in which humanity had moved beyond racial and cultural prejudice and sexism, and gay Trekkers and their supporters felt that the prejudice against homosexuality would also have no place in such a future. But they were also highly critical about how the story presented gays. They felt that it showed them unfairly as wanting to abolish gender. And Winterson’s book does seem to do the same with its depiction of a romance between the transgender character, Ry Shelley, and Stein, with his dream of an asexual disembodied world.

Conclusion

I may well be doing Winterson’s book a great disservice, but it does seem peculiarly dated for a book which is trying so desperately to be acutely relevant. And I do feel that readers would probably get a better idea of the issues about cyberspace and AI by going elsewhere. I think there’s probably a better fictional treatment of these subjects waiting to be written. And as for human-robot romance and sex, this has also been very extensively explored in genre SF. And some of this almost certainly represents what people really want from such relationships than simple sex robots.

As for the book’s inclusion of Mary Shelley, Byron, Claire Clairmont and Polidori, Brian Aldiss also did it, or something like it, in his 1970’s SF story Frankenstein Unbound. This was filmed by B-movie maven Roger Corman. It’s not supposed to be a good film, but even so, it seems far more to my taste than Winterson’s book.

 

 

 

To Stop the Fash, Vote Labour against Farage

May 23, 2019

At the risk of repeating myself, I’m asking everyone to vote Labour today to stop the rise of Fascism generally and Nigel Farage’s grubby Brexit party in particular. Mike’s put up a piece this morning making this point, and citing some great tweets from people who know exactly what’s at stake.

As Zelo Street pointed out yesterday, Farage is not a man of the people. He’s one of the elite he rails against, hobnobbing with George Osborne and nipping round to Buck House for garden parties with the Queen. He’s a millionaire financier who wants to privatise the NHS and destroy the welfare state. He will do absolutely nothing about low wages and exploitative part time and zero hours contracts. And if he wins, he will receive immense support from Tory defectors and donors, flocking to him in reaction to the failures of their own party. Or else his victory will encourage them to become even more virulently right-wing.

He is anti-feminist and racist. One of his old teachers has said that he used to sing Nazi songs when he was a schoolboy and was something of a Fascist even then. The Brexit party, like UKIP, is not just against the EU but against immigration, and particularly and most vehemently against non-Whites and Muslims. Under Farage, UKIP used an photograph of a long line of Muslim immigrants waiting to get into the West that was exactly like a similar picture of Jewish migrants fleeing eastern Europe used by the Nazis.

Hope Not Hate are so worried about the Far Right winning that they are urging their supporters to tweet that they are voting today, and that they will take people to the polling booths to stop Farage winning by voting for any other party except those of the far right. This is the message I got from them today by email:

I’ve just done the most important thing I can do in this campaign – vote.

This election has been extraordinary. From Nigel Farage to Carl Benjamin to Tommy Robinson, we’ve seen a huge number of people standing for office on a platform of hatred and division.

The most effective antidote to the poison they seek to spread is a simple act that all of us can engage in today – voting.

That’s why I’m sending you this email. I need you to do two things:

    1. Click here to send a tweet saying that you’re voting today
    2. Head to your polling station today and #VoteHOPE

Those standing on a platform of hate all have one thing in common – they are relying on a low voter turnout to win their elections. That’s why it’s so important that as well as voting yourself, you also get everyone you know to do the same.

Whether it’s taking your colleagues to the polling station on your lunch break, or posting on social media to reach as many people as possible, it’s vital that we get everyone we know to a voting booth before 10pm.

Good luck, and have a great day.

Nick Lowles

CEO, HOPE not hate

One of those links is for donations to the organisation. I haven’t done so myself, but I do encourage everyone to take their advice about voting. Obviously, they’re not asking people specifically to vote Labour. But I believe that only the Labour party will stand a chance of defeating the Fuhrage and the rest of the Fascists through creating a strong anti-Fascist bloc in Europe and attacking the root causes of the rise of Fascism: neoliberalism.

People have fought and died to get working men and women the vote. Use it, and vote wisely.

But if you can’t vote Labour, then please vote for one of the mainstream, non-racist parties.

It’s imperative to vote Labour. But even more so is the need to stop the Fash (Fascists) winning.

No pasaran!

 

Rees-Mogg’s Book Savaged by Critics

May 21, 2019

Here’s an interesting piece from yesterday’s I for 20th May 2019. It seems that Jacob Rees-Mogg fancies himself as a literary gentleman, and has written a book about a number of eminent Victorians. And it’s been torn apart by the critics.

The article by Dean Kirby, ‘Rees-Mogg’s ‘silly’ book torn apart by critics’, on page 5 of the paper, reads

Jacob Rees-Mogg’s new book has been panned by critics as “staggeringly silly”. 

The work by the Conservative MP, The Victorians: Twelve Titans Who Forged Britain, tells the story of 12 figures from the era. 

But, writing in the Sunday Times, historian Dominic Sandbrook described the book as “so bad, so boring, so mind-bogglingly bad”. And in a Times review, A.N. Wilson said it was “staggeringly silly”. 

Rees-Mogg clearly has literary as well as political ambitions, and it looks very much like he’s using the one to boost the other. Boris desperately wants to be the leader of the Tories, and published a biography of Churchill a year or so ago. Presumably this was partly to show how he was a true Tory intellectual – if such a creature can be said to exist – and was somehow the great man’s spiritual and ideological are. Rees-Mogg is also angling for the Tory leadership, and he’s done the same, though in his case it’s a selection of the 12 great figures from the Victorian period that he feels have created modern Britain.

I’m not remotely surprised he’s chosen the Victorians, and even less surprised by the rubbishing its received from Sandbrook and Wilson. The Victorian period was an age when modern Britain began to take shape. It was a period of massive social, economic, political and technological change, as Britain moved from a rural, agricultural society to an urban, industrial one. New scientific ideas emerged, were debated and taken up, there was rapid technological innovation with the creation of the railways and the spread of mechanised factories. Overseas, the British Empire expanded massively to take in Australia, New Zealand, the Canadian West, parts of Africa and Asia. It’s a fascinating period, and Tories and Libertarians love to hark back to it because they credit Britain’s movement to global dominance to the old Conservative principles of free trade and private property, as well as Christian benevolence. It is a fascinating period, and certainly Christian philanthropy did play a very great part in the campaigns against the slave trade and other movements for social reform, such as the Factory Acts.

But it was also a period marked by grinding poverty, misery and social upheaval. Trade unions expanded as workers united to fight for better pay and conditions in the work place, Liberal ideology changed to keep up with the movement in practical politics towards state regulation and interference, and socialism emerged and spread to challenge the dominance of capitalism and try to create a better society for working people. The Victorian period also saw the emergence of feminism following the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman in the late 18th century. And the massive unrest in Ireland caused by the exploitation of the Roman Catholic Irish peasantry by absentee landlords, and the hostile reaction by some elements of the British establishment during the Potato Famine, has created a legacy of bitterness and violence that continues to this day. I doubt that Rees-Mogg or any of the other Tories are very enthusiastic about tackling or describing these aspects of Victorian history.

I’m also not surprised that the book’s been savagely criticised. Rees-Mogg supposedly read history at Oxford, but nobody quite knows what period he studied. And his ignorance of some extremely notorious events is woeful. Like when he claimed that the concentration camps we used against the Afrikaners during the Boer War were somehow benevolent institutions. In fact, they were absolutely horrific, causing tens of thousands of deaths from starvation and disease among women and children, who were incarcerated there. And which, again, have left as lasting legacy of bitterness right up to today.

I think any book on the Victorian period written by Rees-Mogg would be highly simplified, ridiculous caricature of the events and issues of the period. Like Boris’ book on Churchill, I doubt that it’s a serious attempt to deal objectively with all aspects of its subject, including the more malign or disturbing events and views, rather than an attempt to present the Tory view. An exercise in Tory historical propaganda, as it were.

What’s also interesting is that it’s been the right-wing press – the Times and Sunday Times – that’s savaged it. This seems to me to show that Rees-Mogg’s ‘magnificent octopus’, to quote Blackadder’s Baldrick, was too much of a travesty even for other Tories, and that there is a sizable body of the Tory party that doesn’t want him to be leader. Or at least, not Rupert Murdoch. And as the Tory party and the Blairites have shown themselves desperate to do whatever Murdoch says, this means there’s going to be strong opposition to a bid from Mogg to become Prime Minister.

What A Surprise! Anti-NHS Thinktank Funded by Tobacco and Fast Food Industries

May 18, 2019

One of the fascinating articles Mike put up yesterday was about an article in the British Medical Journal that reported that Institute of Economic Affairs, a right-wing think tank that funds the Tories and which demands the privatisation of the NHS, is funded by all the industries that actively damage people’s health: tobacco, gambling, alcohol, sugar and fast food. One of the major donors to this secretive think tank is British-American Tobacco. The report noted that the IEA had attacked campaigns against smoking, drinking and the obesity academic, and raised concerns that a future leader of the Tories would side with these industries against the interests of the British people.

Well, as Bill Hicks used to say ironically, ‘Colour me surprised!’

I don’t wish to sneer at the doctors and medical professionals behind this article, and am absolutely fully behind its publication. But I’m not remotely surprised. It’s almost to be expected that a think tank that demands absolute privatisation and deregulation in the interests of complete free trade, should be funded by those industries, which have the most to lose from government regulation. And in the case of the Tories, that has always included tobacco, alcohol and gambling. Way back in the early ’90s under John Major, when Brits were just beginning to get into the habit of binge drinking and the government was considering allowing pubs and nightclubs all day licences, there were concerns about the damaging effects of alcohol. People were demanding greater regulation of the drinks industry. But this was being blocked by the Tories, because so many Tory MPs has links to these companies. This was so marked that Private Eye actually published the names of these MPs, and the positions they held in various drinks companies.

As for gambling, the Labour government after the War tried to crack down on this, but it was the Tories under MacMillan, who legalised the betting shops. Later on, Tony Blair, taking his ideas from them, had plans to expand the British gambling industry further with the opening of ‘super-casinos’, one of which was to be in Blackpool, I believe. But fortunately that never got off the ground. Unfortunately, there has been a massive rise in gambling addiction, despite all the warnings on the the adverts for online casinos.

The Tories have also had a long relationship too with the tobacco industry, resisting calls for bans on tobacco advertising. Private Eye also reported how, after Major lost the election to Blair, former Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke then got a job with British-American Tobacco. As did, I believe, Saint Maggie of Grantham herself. BAT was employing him to open up markets in the former Soviet central Asian republics. The Eye duly satirised him as ‘BATman’, driving around in a car shaped like a giant cigarette, shoving ciggies into people’s, mostly children’s, mouths.

The Institute of Economic Affairs is a particularly nasty outfit that’s been around since the mid-70s. For a long time, I think it was the only think tank of its type pushing extreme free market ideas. A couple of years ago I found a tranche of their booklets in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. One was on how the state couldn’t manage industry. This looked at four examples of state industrial projects, which it claimed were incompetently run and a waste of money. One was the Anglo-French supersonic airliner, Concorde. The booklet had a point, as many of the industries they pointed to, like British Leyland, were failing badly. Concorde when it started out was a massive white elephant. It was hugely expensive and for some time there were no orders for it. But now it is celebrate as a major aerospace achievement. While the British aircraft industry has decline, the French used the opportunities and expertise they developed on the project to expand their own aerospace industry.

Looking at the booklet, it struck me how selective these examples were. Just four, out of the many other nationalised industries that existed at the time. And I doubt the pamphlet has worn well with age. Ha Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism and John Quiggin’s Zombie Economics have very effectively demolished their shoddy and shopworn free market capitalism, and shown how, rather than encouraging industry and prosperity, it has effectively ruined them. Read these books, and you’ll see just why we need Corbyn, whatever the champions of free market capitalism scream to the contrary.

Oh yes, and ladies, particularly, be warned. This is an anti-feminist organisation. Mike mentions in his article that it has a spokeswoman, Kate Andrews, who turns up regularly on Question Time to push for the privatisation of the NHS. Or rather, its reform, as they don’t want to alarm the populace by being too open about what they want to do. Despite this feminine face, this is an organisation that has very traditional views about gender roles. One of the pamphlets I found had the jaunty title Liberating Women – From Feminism. The booklet was written by women, and I know that some women would prefer to be able to stay home and raise their children rather than go to work. And that’s fine if it’s their choice. But this outfit would like to stop women having a choice. Rather than enabling women, who choose to stay home, to do so, they would actively like to discourage women from pursuing careers.

The IEA really is a grubby organisation, and the sooner it’s discredited everywhere, the better. Like the Tories.

Transgender Activists Making Death Threats Against their Opponents

May 15, 2019

Private Eye on Threats and Abuse Sent to SNP Joanna Cherry

This fortnight’s Private Eye for 17th – 30th May 2019 has an article in its ‘HP Sauce’ column, ‘Social Niceties’, on page 11 about the SNP MP Joanna Cherry’s questioning of Twitter UK’s head of public policy, Katy Minshall in parliament two weeks ago. Cherry, a Queen’s Council, stated that the wanted to concentrate on what Twitter is doing to protect women. The result of this has been that Cherry herself, according to the article, now needs police protection.

The examples of threatening and abusive content posted on Twitter given by the article seem to be by militant transgender activists against their opponents. The Eye reports that during the debate, Cherry showed Minshall a video clip posted by the Gamer Sonic Fox, ‘This is what I do to TERFS’, which shows a woman having her neck repeatedly cut open. TERFS is an acronym for feminists, who exclude transwomen from their definition of womanhood: Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists.

The Eye states that New Statesman journo Helen Lewis also protested against the clip. She was sent a video showing a man flaying a woman alive, with the comment “SHUT THE FUCK UP”. Lewis complained to Twitter, which initially claimed the tweet didn’t break their rules against behaviour, before finally changing its mind after Cherry said that she herself was going to challenge Minshall about it.

Cherry was herself then sent a violent image with the message “SHUT THE FUCK UP TERF”. She was then abused as a transphobe, which she responded to by posting to her proud record of championing LGBTQ rights for over 30 years. Cherry said ‘I am saddened by abusive nature of the current Twitter debate. As I have repeatedly stated publicly I deplore any abuse directed towards trans people.’

Lily Madigan, a 21 year old transgender activist and Labour Students’ national women’s officer, then attacked Cherry, saying “You can tell a lot about someone by how they respond to being called transphobic. This isn’t even an apology.’ Apparently Madigan has a record of abusing feminists on twitter.

Cherry received further violent and abusive tweets and messages after she raised her concerns about such messages being sent to women. One of those she received included a picture of a gun and the words “DO IT”, along with details of her regular constituency surgery. As a result, when she held her constituency surgery last last Friday, she had to be accompanied by two police protection officers.

Private Eye has published several articles about the abusive behaviour of transgender activists ranting against their feminist opponents as TERFs. After they argued that such rants by one activist were misogynist, they printed a later article reporting that the person had tried to rebut the criticism by claiming that most TERFS were men. Which is obviously unlikely, as it’s doubtful many men are radical feminists.

Speaker Cancels Conference Appearance due to Death Threats

I was talking to a friend of mine this weekend, who told me of another case where a speaker had to pull out of a conference, one that was incidentally completely unconnected to gender issues, because of death threats from transgender activists. It therefore appears that these death threats are not isolated incidences but symptomatic of a deeply militant, viciously intolerant attitude among some transgender activists.

I confess I don’t really understand all the points of the debate, but I believe it isn’t just a case of cisgender prejudice against transpeople. I believe that LGBTQ people should not be persecuted, and that transpeople should, generally, enjoy all the legal rights of the sex to which they have transitioned, and be regarded as members of such gender. But I think there are also genuine issues that need to be discussed. For example, the argument that some transwomen had an unfair advantage over cis-women, stemming from the time when they were biologically male, and so have higher testosterone levels, seems entirely reasonable. As is concerns that some children, who may be unhappy with their biological gender, are in danger because of a desire to see the child transition while that may not be appropriate. One of the women making this argument has done so from her own experience. When she was a child, she insisted that she was a boy and demanded that she be called Jack instead of her birth name. However, when she hit puberty, she left all that behind. I am not saying that this is true in each and every case, only that it may be in some case, and that the woman is right to express her fears.

These are very controversial issues in which tempers run high for reasons that are absolutely obvious. But it needs very careful thought and debate. It will not be solved through threats and intimidation, and I have absolute contempt for anyone who makes them, whatever their position on this issue is.