Posts Tagged ‘Feminism’

Vintage Space on NASA’s Plans for a Worm-Shaped Lunar Rover

October 23, 2021

Vintage Space is a YouTube channel specialising in space history, hosted by Amy Shira Teitel, who has written two books on the subject. One of these is about the two women, who struggled to get women into space. In this video, however, she talks about the plans one of NASA’s contractors, Astraneutics, drew up in the early years of the Moon programme for a lunar rover based on worms and snakes. At the time it was not known what the surface of the Moon was really like, and there were fears that the dust would be too deep to support a conventional vehicle. NASA handed the problem to one of their contractors, who believed that worms and snakes offered the best solution to the problem. These animals are able to move by distributing their weight and so a vehicle shaped like them would be able to move across the surface without sinking into the dust. There was also the advantage that such a rover would have no exterior moving parts. Teitel discusses the various designs for these rovers and the types of locomotion. There were three of these, one involving a simple process of expansion and contraction like a bellows, another walking on ridges around the vehicle and so on. The third type of locomotion was the most efficient, and would have allowed the rover to move at around 5 mph for several hundred miles. It would also contain a habitat for the astronauts. One of the designs therefore looks like a large, white worm with a single enormous eye at the front. The project was cancelled when a probe, Surveyor 4, landed on the Moon and showed that the layer of dust wasn’t very deep and that such eccentric vehicles would not be needed.

It’s an interesting piece of space history, and while I think it would have been difficult and expensive to build the worm rover in practice, as compared to the lunar rover which was used, I’m also a bit disappointed that it wasn’t built. Because artistically, it looks like a great, fun machine. You can imagine what it would have looked like with a number of these crawling slowly across the lunar regolith.

Graham Linehan and DJ Lippy Discuss the Gay Protests Against Stonewall on Friday

October 20, 2021

On Monday broadcaster and comedy writer Graham Linehan posted this video in which he spoke to DJ Lippy, who is one of the organisers of a mass protest against Stonewall the Friday.

The gay charity is coming under considerable fire. Because it gave misleading legal information to the organisations seeking its advice on delicate issues like transgender rights, a number of them, including the Beeb, have cut ties with it. I’ve also heard that they’re being sued. An increasing number of gays and lesbians are also upset with Stonewall. They feel that its concentration on trans rights and other alternative sexualities has dangerously diluted the charity’s original purpose so that it no longer adequately defends and fights for the rights of gay men and women. Lesbians are particularly affected. For example I’ve seen numerous videos in which gay women and their supporters, like Linehan, describe how lesbian spaces have been invaded by biological, straight men demanding they have sex with them on the grounds that, as they identify as women, they are therefore lesbians. As this video also makes it clear, they are also concerned about the way the trans ideology is erasing natural, biological femininity. A recent issue of the Lancet on women’s health didn’t refer to women, but ‘people with a cervix’ and thanks to Stonewall’s advice, NHS Scotland has removed the word ‘mother’ from one of its leaflets. I will state again that I do not want trans people persecuted, abused, assaulted or denied jobs or opportunities because of their condition. I believe very strongly that people with problems with their gender identity deserve compassion and support. But this goes too far. It denies biological reality and, in my view, is dangerous because of this. The blurb for the video below explains the reasons behind the protest and where it is all happening.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/come-o…

Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and their allies will take part in a national protest on Friday to ask all public and private organisations who have signed up to the Stonewall Diversity scheme to leave it and #ComeOutOfStonewall. They claim the charity no longer represents the interests of lesbians, gays and bisexuals and are critical of its authoritarian #NoDebate stance. What’s more they say the charity is misleading members of the scheme about the equality act, reflecting the law they would like it to be, rather the law as it is written. They are calling on these organisations #ComeOutOfStonewall and leave its Diversity Champion scheme. Stonewall has come under fire in recent months, and last week the Nolan Investigates podcast added to the pressure, asking serious questions about its relationship with Ofcom and the BBC. This follows on from the Reindorf Review which said its behaviour was having a ‘chilling effect’ on academic freedom at UK Universities Protests will take part in Belfast, Edinburgh and London. Protests will be held throughout the day, targeting many of the most prominent members of Stonewalls Diversity Champions scheme – including the BBC and Westminster. Their protest follows on from another event organised two weeks previously in which women’s rights activists dressed as dinosaurs targeted the offices of the Lancet and the Labour Party using the #HearMeRoar National co-ordinator Katy Worley said of Stonewall. “It’s thanks to the hard work of my lesbian and gay elders that I got to grow up in a world largely free of homophobia. But in the past few years I have been the victim of an alarming amount of homophobic and misogynistic abuse. This happens in spaces which are supposed to be safe for the LGBTQ+ community – often by those who identify as allies. I hold organisations like Stonewall directly responsible for this. They redefined homosexuality as attraction to the same gender, rather than sex– effectively erasing my sexual orientation. What’s more their failure to condemn this abuse has emboldened the bullies. We are here today to say Stonewall does not speak for us and we will not stop fighting until their anti-gay and anti-woman agenda is defeated.” London: Meet up: 12pm at the Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament Square. Edinburgh: Meet up: 1.30 at Waverley Gate, 2-4 Waterloo Place. Belfast: Meet up: 3.45 at BBC Broadcasting House, Can the Plan. Stonewall Cymru have been hired by the Welsh government to both commission and implement the LGBTQ+ Action plan in Wales, bringing in self ID by the backdoor. They are yet again writing and marking their own homework. Aside from the ethical concerns this action plan would abolish sex in law, impacting women, lesbians, gays and bisexuals. Merched Cymru and LGB Alliance Cymru want to #CanThePlan and have released guidance and resources for responding to the consultation. It takes five minutes to complete using this resource, and you do not need to be in the UK to fill it out. https://merchedcymru.wales/can-the-ac… Add a personal note about why you oppose the abolition of sex in law. Personal testimony can be so powerful when lobbying the government for change. The consultation closes on Friday the 22nd of October the same day as the protest, so please fill it in and share on your networks before this date. Retweeting the information under the #CanThePlan also helps these groups share their message. You can support the work of previous, current and future protests via this crowdfunder https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/terfasa…

Here’s the video.

Rosie Duffield Invited to Join Tories

October 9, 2021

I don’t know if this is true or not, but I caught a headline from the Torygraph yesterday that Rosie Duffield, the Blairite who claimed she needed protection at the Labour party conference because of threats from transgender activists, had been invited to cross the floor. In fact, as Mike showed in his piece about Duffield’s claim, it doesn’t seem to have happened. Duffield produced absolutely no threatening messages from social media or physical mail. It looked very much like she was following the example of a Jewish female MP, who claimed she had been sent anti-Semitic messages but didn’t produce any evidence of that either. But Duffield is right wing, with a record of demanding further cuts to welfare, punishing the poor for being poor. So it wouldn’t be a surprise if she had received just such an invitation. There have been stories that three Labour MPs are ready to defect, and I know some Tories would have liked Blairite MP Frank Field to join them.

However, even if those particular threats against Duffield were a product of her malign imagination, they’re all too credible because transgender activists can be threatening and violent. There have been a series of cases where TRAs (Trans Rights Activists) have physically attacked feminists demonstrators and beaten them. To add insult to injury, the same activists have then sued their victim for transphobia. Many women are extremely concerned and outraged at the trans ideology. Kelly-Jay Kean, for example, is particularly concerned about the way an increasing number of vulnerable children, particularly girls and young women, have become convinced they are trans or non-binary to the point they are taking up surgery. Other concerns are that the trans label has now become so broad that biological men are being allowed into women’s spaces, such as sports changing rooms, toilets, and prisons, on the grounds that they identify as women. Many of the men in women’s prisons have convictions for crimes against women and the result has been a series of rapes and sexual assaults to the point where the Californian prison service is giving out condoms and contraceptive advice to female inmates.

Underneath this is the concern that natal, biological femininity is being erased to accommodate the expansion of femaleness to include transwomen. The NHS has published medical literature referring to chestfeeding, instead of breastfeeding, and ‘birthing bodies’, instead of women/mothers. Yesterday Kean and her comrades demonstrated outside the offices of the Lancet because the prestigious medical journal had published a piece about how women’s disorders and diseases had not received the proper attention they deserved. This would be a fair comment, applauded by feminists, apart for one fact. It didn’t refer to women except by the reproductive organs natal women possess but not transpeople. Equally incendiary has been Keir Starmer’s refusal to say that only women have a cervix on an interview on television. Instead the Labour leader got angry and said it was a question that shouldn’t be asked. To anti-gender activists, this showed that Starmer was opposed to free speech. Which he is. But then, Jo Swinson of the Lib Dems couldn’t answer what a woman was when asked and posters with the dictionary definition of woman as ‘adult human female’ have been judged hateful and transphobic.

I am very definitely not trying to stir up hate here against genuine transpeople, who do need careful therapy and surgery. I do not want to see anyone persecuted and subjected to abuse and violence because of their gender identification. But there are reasonable concerns about the trans ideology and the extension of the concept of femininity to cover everyone who claims to identify as a woman. One of the maddest things I’ve encountered in this direction is a book published by a trans rights activists about sex between a biological man and a lesbian, and how that should be embraced by the lesbian. The argument is that, as the man identifies as a woman, he is therefore a lesbian, and should be embraced as such. The book then claims that as he identifies as a man, his male genitalia are therefore female. Which is utterly bonkers.

The gender critical movement has been attacked as right-wing, but very many of its members actually come from the left, such as Kean and Linehan. Last week Linehan said on his weekly video about the transgender craze, The Mess We’re In, that he was surprised at the silence in the Tory party about all this. This was in contrast to the state of the Labour party, which is tearing itself apart over the issue. He believed that they were waiting to hoover up women, who felt disenfranchised and marginalised by the trans movement.

If the invitation to Duffield to join the Tories is real, then it proves this is starting to happen.

And while liberal feminists support trans rights and initiatives to counter transphobia, this is increasingly rejected by gender critical feminists as well as ordinary women and their male supporters, who have been peaked by seeing just how extreme the trans ideology is becoming.

Duffield herself is a noxious individual, and her departure from Labour would be no loss. But it would be hugely damaging to the party as a whole if they alienated ordinary women just to cater to an extreme gender ideology.

Right-Wing YouTubers Ignore Serious Issues at Labour Conference to Concentrate on Race and Personalities

September 28, 2021

I’ve said several times that as the failure of Thatcherite free market capitalism increases, the Tories will try to divert attention away from it by concentrating instead on issues of race and immigration. And this is has happened in the shape of the right-wing YouTubers Alex Belfield and Sargon of Gasbag and the Lotus Eaters. For example, the privatisation of the utilities ain’t working. This is why Jeremy Corbyn in his brilliant 2019 manifesto argued for their renationalisation. Just over 50 per cent of the British public agree with the renationalisation of the electricity companies with only 14 per cent opposing. Keir Starmer is one of those, as he tied himself up in knots on the Andrew Marr show this Sunday denying that he had ever said he was in favour of nationalisation while he very much had talked in favour of common ownership in his campaign to become party leader. Mike in his piece about it asked what common ownership meant if not nationalisation. Well, there are other forms of social ownership, such as municipalisation. When Blair dropped the commitment to nationalisation – Clause IV – from the Labour constitution back in the 1990s, his apologists stated that it didn’t mean that other forms of common ownership would be ruled out and specifically pointed to municipalisation. On the other hand, people have said that despite these arguments, it was very clear what the removal of Clause IV meant: the end of Labour as a socialist party and a commitment to private enterprise. Conference challenged that as well when they voted overwhelmingly for return of the electricity companies to state ownership.

This is clearly an embarrassment to Starmer, especially as the motion was passed not just by the traditional Labour left, Corbyn’s supporters, but also by members of the party’s right. Which means that people across the party have woken up and realised that the private ownership of the electricity sector isn’t working.

So, how are popular right-wing YouTubers like Belfield, who makes much of having 300,000 supporters, and the Lotus Eaters responding to this decision? Well, from what I can see, they ain’t. Instead Belfield and the Lotus Eaters are making much of the statement by one of the hosts at the Conference yesterday that too many white men were putting their hand up, and that this didn’t represent the diversity of the people in the hall. Belfield and the Lotus Eaters both extensively discuss and criticise diversity and racial issues. Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, is an avowed anti-feminist. You’ll remember that he gained notoriety a year or so ago over a tweet he sent to Jess Philips telling her that he ‘wouldn’t even rape her.’ I think this is quite deliberate. They seem to be trying to appeal to the same constituency as UKIP, of which Sargon was briefly a member and which he helped to destroy. When he joined, everyone who didn’t have such strong views about race or migration immediately denounced his recruitment and left. Academic studies of UKIP, such as for example the book, Revolt on the Right, have found that the party’s core supporters were socially conservative older White men of 50 +, who felt left behind by Blair’s multicultural Britain. At the same time, the core supporters of the Republicans and especially Trump in America were supposed to be angry White men. Which explains why Belfield and the Lotus Eaters have seized on the statement by a conference host which sought to minimise them.

When not exploiting the call for fewer questions from White men, Belfield has been playing up personalities. Keith Vaz has returned, and this has been criticised by Belfield after reports of bullying by him. Belfield also attacked him for supposedly looking the other way when Asian workers in Leeds were being paid starvation wages by their Asian employers, a situation also ignore by Black Lives Matter. It’s a fair point, although the local Labour MP has pointed out that she repeatedly tried to get something done about it but was ignored by the local council. He also repeated the criticisms of Angela Rayner for calling the Tories ‘scum’. Well, it is unparliamentary language, but Nye Bevan, the Labour politico who set up the NHS and welfare state, famously called the Tories ‘vermin’. He was angry about the real poverty and suffering their policies had caused, and to which we’re returning thanks to Cameron’s, Tweezer’s and Johnson’s determination to drag us all back to the Victorian age. And then there’s Claudia Webbe, who stands accused of using misogynistic language against someone and threatening to attack them with acid. This is serious stuff, but it’s a distraction from the serious point that a majority of the party at Conference has decided that electricity privatisation is a failure. This is a direct assault on Maggie, and so can’t be tolerated.

The fact that Belfield and the Lotus Eaters aren’t arguing against electricity nationalisation, which they would have done at one time, shows that part of the Tory media realises very well that it isn’t working. They still support it, but have no arguments for keeping it in private hands.

So all they can do is make personal attacks and hope people will ignore the rest.

Peak Trans Refutes the Argument that TERFs Are Right-Wing

September 18, 2021

This is another video attacking the trans ideology and some of the arguments made by Trans Rights Activists against gender critical feminists, whom they call TERFS – Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists. Peak Trans is a channel specialising in videos challenging such arguments, and this is one in a series of them. This one attacks the accusation that opponents of the gender ideology are somehow right-wing, beginning with the very common claim that ‘TERFs are Fascists, literal Fascists’. This is not only repeated by ordinary people, but also by tenured academics who really ought to know better. Judith Butler, apparently, wrote a piece in the Guardian stating that gender critical feminists are the closest thing now to real Fascism.

It’s an absurdly stupid claim. Peak Trans made a list of the real horrors the Nazis and their allies were responsible for. These include the mass murder and extermination of whole ethnic groups, particularly the Roma and the Jews; forcible medical experiments on humans; mass atrocities against other populations including the disabled, gays, and so on. A moment’s calm reflection shows that gender critical feminists don’t stand for any of that. It’s an absurd claim, and perhaps more than a little insulting to the real victims of Nazi and Fascist atrocities. But Trans Rights Activists are more than capable of what could be seen as inciting violence, publishing tweets and memes celebrating violence and the killing of ‘TERFs’. Peak Trans provides a few examples.

Other accusations are that they are somehow Conservative, especially as anti-trans activists appeared at a conference of the Heritage Institute, a very right-wing group in America. Peak Trans points out that she has no time for their politics at all. The gender critical activists were there because the Heritage Institute is one of the very few organisations that offered them a space to air their views.

As for opposition to the trans ideology being Conservative, Peak Trans shows how it actually isn’t a straightforward left-right issue. Some left-wingers are gender critical, while some Conservatives, including former PM Tweezer, have been in favour of pro-trans policies, such as gender self-ID. Johnson and the present government don’t support trans ideology, but that doesn’t mean all of the Tories do.

Afghanistan Withdrawal – the Conspiracy Theories Start

September 2, 2021

For some the catastrophic departure of the western armed forces from Afghanistan has been almost unimaginable. This is not surprising, as successive governments have been telling us for years that the Taliban had been successfully contained and victory was only a few months away. They find it particularly incomprehensible that the US and western armed forces were so unprepared for the Taliban’s reconquest of the country, that President Biden has left 73 military planes and $80 billion worth of kit behind in the scramble to get out. One of these is the mad right-wing YouTuber and internet radio host, Alex Belfield. In the video below, Belfield wonders if all that military equipment has been deliberately left behind to be taken and used by the Taliban, in order to provide the pretext for more wars. He sees this as part of an overall strategy by out governments to keep us afraid. One of these ruses has been, so he argues, the Coronavirus. He seems to follow here the line of some of the sceptics that Covid doesn’t present a real threat, but has just been used by the government in order to justify a totalitarian seizure of power through the lockdown.

Belfield’s been sceptical about the Coronavirus and the lockdown almost from the beginning. His argument is usually that the lockdown is doing more harm than good to the economy and to the health, mental and physical, of the British people. He’s right in that clearly people’s businesses and wellbeing is suffering, but is completely and utterly wrong about lifting the lockdown and letting the disease take its course and carry off whoever it may.

But I can’t say that his paranoia about the US leaving behind so much military equipment is unwarranted. The American and British public were miss-sold the wars in the Middle East. We were told we were freeing Afghanistan from a brutal theocratic tyranny and defending America and ourselves from future terrorist attacks. We weren’t. The troops were sent in to secure the country so that an oil pipeline could be built, one which Bush’s administration had been in talks with the Taliban to build. The Taliban had pulled out, and so the NeoCons were looking for an excuse to invade. This came along in the shape of 9/11.

Ditto Iraq. We were informed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he was in league with Osama bin Laden. He wasn’t. Hussein had led a largely secular regime, which was cordially hated by bin Laden and his Islamist fanatics. We were told that the invasion would liberate the Iraqi people from Hussein, who really was a tyrant. But the invasion wasn’t about granting a grateful Iraqi people democracy. It was about Aramco, the joint Saudi-American oil company seizing the country’s oil reserves and the western oil companies grabbing its oil industry. Other multinationals, such as Haliburton, which employed various members of Bush’s family and cabinet colleagues, seized its state industries. Meanwhile the country descended into sectarian violence and chaos, the secular state and the feminism it promoted vanished, and the private military contractors – read: mercenaries – hired as part of the peacekeeping forces ran amok with drug and prostitution rings. They also amused themselves by shooting ordinary Iraqis for sport.

It’s been said that America is a ‘warfare state’. That is, its military-industrial complex is so pervasive and powerful that its entire economy is geared to and depends on war. It was suggested years ago in one of the publications of the old Left Book Club, as I recall, that this is deliberate. American political ideology rejects Keynsianism, the economic doctrine that maintains that the state should interfere in the economy through welfare spending, public works and so on to stimulate it. American political culture, on the other hand, rejects this in favour of laissez-faire. But the American economy still needs government intervention, and the only way the American state can do this is through war and military spending. Hence the continual need to find new wars to fight. First it was the Cold War, then the War on Terror.

I tend to believe in ‘cock-up’ rather than conspiracy – that the world is the way it is because of the incompetence of the authorities, rather than that there is some overwhelming and all-pervasive conspiracy against us. This does not rule out the fact that real conspiracies by the intelligence agencies, big business and various covert political groups really do occur. My guess is that the armaments left behind in Afghanistan are there as a result of incompetence rather than a deliberate plot to produce more war and international instability for the benefit of the war profiteers.

But after the lies that have sustained two decades and more of war and occupation in the Middle East, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was true.

Tokyo Bans Sale of Comics ‘Subversive of the Social Order’ to Children

August 28, 2021

It seems to me that there’s a real war going on in ostensibly democratic countries against freedom of speech and conscience. I don’t think this is confined to either the left or right either. In Britain we have had a successions of governments that have been determined to limit the right to public protest from David Cameron to Johnson with his wretched Criminal Justice Bill. And before then there was Tony Blair and his attempts to control what was being said about him and his coterie on state broadcasting, just as Berlusconi was doing to the Italian state media. John Kampfner wrote a rather good book about it, Freedom for Sale, a few years ago, arguing that governments from Blair to Putin were trying to bargain with their peoples. They got material prosperity in return for severe infringements on their ability to protest against their governments. Well, Blair was wretched, but he did at least tackle poverty with no little success. Cameron, Tweezer and Johnson are simply increasing it.

On the other side of the political aisle, the right are complaining about the imposition of curbs on free speech as part of the campaign against hate crime and the ‘cancel culture’. Some of this is exaggerated. Zelo Street demolished some of the claims Toby Young, Douglas Murray and the rest were making about right-wingers being prevented from speaking at universities by giving the precise statistics. These showed that, while it had happened, the percentage of speakers cancelled was minute. But I do think they have a point. For example, it should be accepted that trans people should not despised, persecuted or suffer discrimination. But I think there are legitimate issues and questions voiced by gender critical feminists about trans activism and that there are spaces that should only be reserved for ‘cis’ women. But to some people, simply voicing what to many people are reasonable questions and criticisms constitute hate speech. There are similar problems regarding the reporting and discussion of racial issues. Nobody should want to empower real bigots and Fascists, but it does seem that legislation put in place to protect minorities from real hate has now expanded into Orwellian thoughtcrime.

And these attempts to limit freedom of speech have got into what is permissible in comics. One of the astonishing snippets I found while flicking through Paul Gravett’s Comics Art yesterday, was that in 2011 Tokyo municipality expanded its ban on the sale of certain comics (manga) and animated movies (anime) to children under 18 by including materials ‘excessively disruptive of the social order’. (Page 72). I realise that Japan is a very conservative society. The right-wing Liberal Democratic party were in power for fifty years or so after the end of World War II. The country is very Confucian in that one respects one’s elders and superiors. Gender roles are very traditional, as are conceptions of nationality. I don’t know if it’s still the case now, but under Japanese law at one time a person could only be a Japanese citizen if both their parents were ethnic Japanese. I gather that there are ways you can become a naturalised citizen, but it’s extremely difficult. It’s also supposed to be a very conformist society, in which children are taught at school that ‘the nail that stands up must be hammered down’. But this attack on comics is extreme.

Such attacks on the four-colour funnies and related media haven’t been restricted by Japan by any means. In the 1950s there was a moral panic in America and the United States against comics, one of the major figures in which was the Austrian psychiatrist, Dr Frederic Wertham. Wertham was one of a number of left-wing, emigre intellectuals who believed that popular culture had assisted the Nazis into power. He believed that American youth was being corrupted into crime and sexual deviancy by comics. He accused Superman of being a Nazi, despite the fact that the character’s only similarity to Nietzsche’s superman is the name, and that the Man of Steel’s creators were American Jews. Batman and Robin were an idealised homosexual couple, an accusation that has continued to plague attempts to reintroduce Robin in the strips. Oh yes, and Wonder Woman was a sado-masochist feminist lesbian. I doubt any of these accusations would have been recognised by the kids who actually bought and read the strips. But Wertham’s denunciations were taken up by a variety of groups, from the religious right to the Communist party and led to the passing of laws across America banning or restricting the sale of comics to children. The ban led to the collapse of particular comic genres, specifically the horror and true crime comics, which were particular targets of the legislators’ ire. It also affected the SF comics, because some of them strayed into politically dubious areas. The superhero comics survived, not because they were the most popular, but because they were the type of comics least affected by the new regulations.

One of the SF comics singled out for censorship was a story in which an astronaut from Earth travels to a world populated entirely by robots. His face hidden in his spacesuit, he tells the robots that they’re being considered as candidates for joining a galactic federation. Shades of Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets by a slightly different name here. However, the robots are divided into two types, blue and orange, and there is hatred and conflict between them. At the end of the story, the astronaut informs them that they have been rejected because of these divisions. It was only when the people of Earth rejected their differences and united, that real progress was made, he states at the end of the story. In the last panel he removes his helmet, and reveals that he’s Black.

Shock horror! An anti-racist message! This was too much for one New York judge, who wanted the strip banned on religious grounds. He believed that God had only given speech to humanity, and hated the idea of talking robots. But the underlying issue is obviously its attack on racism at a time when Jim Crow was still very much in force. Eventually the judge had to back down, and the issue degenerated into a fight between the publisher, EC, and the authorities over how many beads of sweat they could show on the Earthman.

Well, at least there were comics creators in America prepared to deal with the issue. Pat Mills, the creator of zarjaz British comic 2000 AD, says in his book about British comics and his career in them, Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! that even in the late 1960s, the policeman heroes in British comics were making quite racist comments about Blacks. Part of what made 2000 AD’s predecessor, Action, so controversial was that Mills and the other creators there had been determined to make it as relevant as possible to contemporary British youth culture and deal with the issues and stories affecting and demanded by the young readership of the time. It was originally going to be called ‘Boots’, after Dr Martens’ distinctively rebellious footwear, followed by the years. So ‘Boots 1977′, Boots 1978’ and so on. But this was too much for the publishers, and the name Action settled on instead. In the end, the comic only lasted a couple of years because it was so controversial, with the major criticism that it was far too violent. 2000 AD was its successor, but here, unlike Action, the violence would be done in support of the law. This led to Judge Dredd, who was deliberately designed as a Fascist cop. The strip’s founding artist, Carlos Ezquerra, was Spanish, and so incorporated into Dredd’s uniform the style of the Fascists then making life a misery in Franco’s Spain, the helmet, the shoulder pads and the eagle badge. And I don’t think it’s an accident that the light reflected in Dredd’s visor looks like ‘SS’. Dredd was thus partly a comment by Mills and Wagner on some of the authoritarian trends in contemporary policing. Other strips tackled issues of racism and religious bigotry – Strontium Dog and Nemesis the Warlock, for example, and sexism, like The Ballad of Halo Jones. There was also a strong anti-war message in the ABC Warriors. Mainstream American comics had been tackling some of these issues for a decade or so previously. There were issues of Spiderman, for example, that tackled racism, and the Blaxploitation craze of the 1970s led to the appearance of Black superheroes like Powerman, Brother Voodoo and the Black Panther. Since then, and particularly since the collapse of the Comics Code Authority in the 1990s, comics have become an accepted and critically respected medium for the discussion of political and social issues. This has reached the point where Conservative and more traditional fans and comics creators believe that the medium and related forms of popular culture, such as SF and Fantasy film and television has become too politicised. In their opinion, contemporary comics writers and artists are too concerned with pushing overt messages about racism, sexism and gay rights at the expense of creating good, likeable characters and engaging plots and stories.

Martin Barker describes how comics have always been the subject of suspicion by the left and the right, going back to the Bloods and Penny Dreadfuls of Victorian Britain, and the cheap, popular novels being read by ‘the democracy’ in his Comics, Ideology and Power. Girls’ comics seem to me to have come in for a particular bashing. They were attacked by conservatives for being too radical and challenging traditional female roles. The left attacked them for being too conservative and not teaching girls their proper, traditional place. Barker shows how these attacks were way off, tearing to pieces specific criticisms of various strips. He argues that children actually subtly negotiate the content of the comics they read. They accept only those elements of the strips which appeal to them and ignore the rest. They do not simply accept everything they read. Barker’s final chapter is a passionate attack on those, who were trying to censor comics at the time he was writing. This included Thatcher and the Tories, but he was also angry at his own camp, the left. Brent and Lambeth councils were also leading an attack on popular literature through their zeal to purge their municipal libraries of anything they considered racist.

And they attack on popular literature has carried on. I remember the furore at the beginning of this century against the Harry Potter books. American Evangelical Christians accused J.K. Rowling of leading children into Satanism and the occult. Well, I admit I’ve only seen the films, not read the books, but I must have missed that one. It’s always seemed to me that the Harry Potter books actually were part of a long tradition of supernatural fantasy in children’s literature going right back to E. Nesbitt and beyond, and including The Worst Witch and Gobbelino the Witch’s Cat. Their attacks on Potter contrast with the Pope’s, who praised them and J.K. Rowling for encouraging children’s imaginations. There was also a rabbi, who wrote a piece praising Potter as a kind of model for Jews.

I’m not a free speech absolutist. I believe the promotion of certain opinions should be outlawed. Obvious examples include anything that encourages the sexual abuse of children or real hatred and violence towards minorities. I have no problem with the law banning the incitement to racial hatred. This was introduced in the 1920s or ’30s with the aim of combating the rise of real Fascism in the form of Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, Arnold Leese’s The Britons and other violent, deeply racist and anti-Semitic outfits. I also believe that parents have every right to exercise concern and control about what their children read or listen to, or are taught at school regarding certain highly controversial issues.

But I am afraid that the rules against certain types of hate are being used to silence perfectly reasonable criticism. One of the quotes that my accusers have cited to show that I am an evil anti-Semite is a statement where I say that every state and ideology should be open to discussion and criticism, even Israel and Zionism. There is absolutely nothing anti-Semitic in that. Even the wretched I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism states that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic only if it is applied solely to Israel. But that sentence makes it very clear that I don’t single out Israel and Zionism for especial criticism. I simply state that they should not be above it. But to the anti-Semitism hunters, this is obviously too much.

I am very much afraid that freedom of speech, discussion and conscience and true liberty of the press is under attack. The Conservatives want to close down any view that isn’t their own, all while arguing they’re simply standing up for free speech against the censorious ‘woke’ left. And there are forces on the left trying to close down reasonable debate and criticism under the guise of protecting people from hate.

We have to be careful, and defending freedom of speech and publication from attacks, whether by left-wing councils like Brent and Lambeth in the 1980s, or right-wing local authorities like Tokyo and its law of 2011.

This should not be a partisan issue, but should stretch across the political spectrum. But my fear is that it won’t. And as both sides struggle to establish the kind of censorship they want, real freedom of expression will die.

Mad Right-Winger Alex Belfield Calls for the Revival of Working Men’s Clubs

August 3, 2021

Certain commenters on this blog have described Alex Belfield as my favourite right-winger. Well, he’s not quite that, but I do admit, I watch his videos, which may not be a good thing at all. Belfield is, I’m fairly sure, a working class Tory. He talks about how he comes from a pit estate and inveighs against the way the White working class has been neglected by liberals in the BBC and politics. Who, as he sees it, all read the Guardian, eat oysters like Naga Manchetti, for whom he seems to have a particular dislike, and are determined to push ‘box-tickers’ like gays, the ‘ambivilacious’, by which he means trans and non-binary people, and folks of colour over ordinary working people. His audience is very much the same type of people, who formed UKIP’s constituency: working class Whites in their fifties and over, who feel left behind by the mainstream parties.

There is a genuine issue here. Tony Blair and his successors abandoned the working class in the pursuit of middle class votes and Tory swing voters. At the same time, they retained and promoted minority rights and issues, loudly supporting multiculturalism, feminism and gay rights. The result was that a large section of the working class has become alienated from the Labour party, with many socially conservative older members attracted to right-wing organisations and individuals like the Kippers, Nigel Farage and Belfield. About a decade ago, the BBC put on a series of programmes about race and contemporary racial politics in the UK. One of those was a documentary asking if the White working class was being written out of contemporary politics. The trailer for this showed a man, in stereotypical working class clobber, having words written in black on his face until he gradually became invisible. I think it’s a fair question, and the Labour left is serious about tackling this alienation within an anti-racist framework by working hard for all members of the working class. That’s the best way of fighting Fascism and right-wing populism. But the voices, who are most vocal about defending the White working class are people like Belfield.

And these are people whose political and economic views are actively hostile to working class interests.

Belfield in many ways is a case in point. A few days ago he put up a video lamenting the state of the country. He was particularly concerned about the NHS and the massive waiting lists that have emerged due to Tory maladministration. The Health Service, he declared, was no longer fit for purpose, and would and should be scrapped. He wants it sold off to private administration. In fact, it’s the Tories’ piecemeal privatisation of the NHS that is responsible for waiting lists and poor service, and this will only get worse as they hand over more of it to their noxious backers in the private sector. And if the NHS is sold off completely, it will be transformed into a for-profit service, funded by private medical insurance like America’s. The result will be disastrous. Thousands of people will die and go without the medical care they need because they won’t be able to afford it. Already GPs’ surgeries, that have been handed to private healthcare suppliers, have been closed and their patients left without their traditional doctors, because these surgeries haven’t provided as big a profit to their owners as they’d like.

By championing the NHS’ privatisation, Belfield is most definitely working against, not for, his working class viewers and listeners.

He’s also concerned about the lack of opposition to Boris Johnson from the Labour party. He has a point, although it seems to come from his opposition to the lockdown and frustration that all of the parties are supporting it. Looking at the recent dismal election results for Labour, Belfield had a few suggestions of his own how the party could win back votes. Instead of concentrating on issues no-one’s really interested in, like trans rights, Labour should go back to talking to its traditional working class supporters, and start listening to them and take on board the issues that matter to ordinary people. These are bread and butter issues like healthcare provision, jobs and getting enough money to put food on the table. I agree, although I do think that the debate over trans rights is immensely important, if only because of the massive expansion of the number of young women and girls now self-identifying as trans. Labour should be fighting for better healthcare, combatting unemployment and poverty.

But this means a wholesale rejection of Tory and Blairite neoliberalism, a neoliberalism Belfield supports.

It means kicking the parasites out of the NHS and renationalising it. It means restoring the welfare state, so that the poor, the disabled, the elderly and the unemployed are given enough to live on. It means ending the wretched gig economy, including fire and rehire and zero hours contracts. And it definitely means an end to the wage restraint which has seen working people effectively take a cut in wages, while the salaries of the elite become ever more obscenely bloated.

Belfield also clearly misses the decline of traditional working class communities. And this is where he got really interesting. He wanted the return of the old working men’s clubs.

Now I actually agree with him there. Traditional working and lower middle class communities had a solidarity and ethos of mutual support that has vanished as society has become more individualistic. Thatcherism, and it’s Labour party variety, Blairism, partly drew on the decline of the British working class. As more people moved out of the working class into the lower middle class, taking up white collar jobs and buying their own homes rather than living in council estates, the right became convinced that working people were no longer a political force. A few months ago I found a video from one of the right-wing political sites on YouTube, in which a pundit blandly declared that Labour was doomed when working people moved away from their traditional working conditions. When they stopped living in back-to-back housing, for example. I disagree. More people may have moved into the lower middle class, but very many of them still have the views, aspirations and desires traditionally associated with the working class. It doesn’t matter that many of them are now office workers – working conditions in many offices and call centres is as ruthlessly exploitative as Victorian factories. See books like White Collar Sweatshop. Working people, whether labourers or office clerks, still want job security, protection from zero hours and exploitative short term contracts. They want proper sick and maternity pay. They also want proper wages that will support them and their families. They also want and deserve proper NHS treatment, a working welfare state and public utilities that are owned and operated by the state for the good of the British people, not for private, foreign investors.

Which are all Corbynite policies.

The right in America and Britain has benefited from the decline in traditional working class communities. One book I read attacking the Neocons, Confronting the New Conservatism, argued that the neo-Conservatives had been successful in gaining public support because of the social atomisation that came from the decline of working class institutions. The decimation of the trade unions and other working class institutions meant that many working people only met collectively with others when they went to church. And the ‘White flight’ of White working class people to the suburbs away from Black communities in the urban core meant that Black and White Americans were separate and divided, and so the right could play on White racial fears.

This atomisation would be reversed if working class institutions, like the old working men’s clubs, came back.

I don’t think they could be called ‘working men’s’ clubs, not after the progress of feminism. Working people’s clubs, perhaps? It may not be possible to revive them, as it would mean taking on the aggressive individualism that has advanced over the last century, as well as reviving community entertainment and participation so that it could compete with TV, computer games and the internet. But if it could be done, it could very well lead to a very strong revival in working class consciousness. A working class consciousness that would be shared by the lower middle class.

And that could very well scupper all the Thatcherite and Blairite bilge of the last forty-odd years.

Which would be very upsetting for Tories like Belfield.

Let’s do it!

James Lindsay Versus the Postmodernists Who Think 2+2=4 Is Racist

July 10, 2021

No, I’m really not making this up. This is what some of the idiots who support Critical Race Theory actually believe. And it really does frighten me what will happen if this morons ever get the power they’re aiming for.

I came across the video from The Same Drugs in which host Meghan Murphy talks to James Lindsay. Murphy’s a feminist, who graduated in gender studies. She’s very definitely on the left and says that her views on welfare and the economy are socialist. However, she now describes herself as a liberal because of the immense importance of defending free speech and debate. Lindsay is also a man of the left. He’s a doctor of mathematics, although he says that he’s been away from the discipline for so long that he wouldn’t describe himself as a mathematician. He’s a member of the group with Peter Boghossian and Helen Pluckrose that attacks and refutes Critical Race Theory and the other forms of Postmodernism which reject rationality, evidence and reasoned debate because these are all supposed to be the oppressive values of White males.

I started watching this video, but didn’t get any further than about ten minutes because I was so astonished at what I was hearing. Lindsay apparently got into an internet argument with radical postmodernists and racial activists, who really do believe that 2+2=4 is a form of colonial oppression. Lindsay says the fight started when he put up a kind of Devil’s Dictionary in the tradition of Ambrose Bierce, giving satirical definitions of words sending up CRT and related ideologies. In this instance, it was about Critical Race Theorists rejecting 2+2=4 because by choosing four as the solution, other values were suppressed. This was then picked up by his opponents on the other side, who then posted on Twitter and social media that, yes, 2+2=4 was racist. One of these was the woman in charge of decolonising Seattle’s educational curriculum. Another was a Guardian hack, who snidely posted that it was rich of him to say that while using Arabic numerals. He points out that she couldn’t refute his mocking definition, because that really was what she believed. She could only respond by attacking him. And then he was met by a flood of people trying to prove that 2+2=5. When asked if you can do this, he replies by saying that it isn’t. All the proofs they’re using are wrong. This was then followed by people talking about how western traders cheated the various indigenous peoples around the world, who can’t count beyond three. Yes, they also exist. This was to show that 2+2=4 really was part of an ideology of imperialist and colonialist oppression. Lindsay states that the people arguing against him were maths educators rather than mathematicians, including someone on a science and technology course at Edinburgh University in Scotland.

This is genuinely frightening as it’s a rejection of one of the simplest, foundational sums of mathematics, and by extension, all maths simply for reasons of ideology. Of course people have been speculating that their might be other regions in the cosmos or multiverse in which 2+2=5 for some time. There’s a bit in the Tim Burton SF flick, Mars Attacks, in which Piers Brosnan’s scientist character explains this to a fashion journalist. Back in the 1990s I picked up a postmodernist book on maths, which claimed it was taking God out, and the body back in. And when I was at school there were various books for children which contained trick sums that gave stupid values for simple sums like 2+2=4. These were always based on a carefully concealed mistake.

Well, western maths goes all the way back to ancient Sumeria, Babylon and Egypt, and I’m very certain that these African and Asian cultures knew exactly that 2+2=4. As did the superb mathematicians of Islam, India, China and Japan. And I think it’s insulting to any Black people wishing to study maths and science that these idiots are now telling them that the foundational principles of western mathematics aren’t suitable for them and are a form of ideological enslavement which must be torn down in order to decolonise the discipline.

I am sure the people, who believe this nonsense regard themselves as intellectual sophisticates at the very cutting edge of maths and progressive politics. But I think they’re really just barbarians, who will wreck maths and science with pseudointellectual gibberish, destroying western civilisation for an intellectually bankrupt, racist ideology.

Karen Davis on the Woman Challenging a Spa over Biological Male in Women’s Area

June 29, 2021

This is going to be another controversial post, as it’s about women’s right to protest against the inclusion of biological men in women’s spaces on the grounds that they are transwomen, and identify as female. Davis is a Black American feminist, a teacher and musician with a degree in psychology and an absolutely razor sharp mind. She is one of the many voices criticising trans activism and transwomen on the Net, and does so not with prejudice, but with facts, statistics and logic.

Now to make it clear, I do not hate transpeople. I am sure there are some wonderful transmen and -women around, and I recognise that some people genuinely identify as members of the opposite sex and treatment and transitioning has worked for them. I do not wish to see anyone, including transpeople, bullied, abused, denied jobs, assaulted or otherwise persecuted simply for being what they are. As the author of Harry Potter, J.K Rowling said, they should be able to dress how they want, sleep with whoever will have them and live the best life they can. But their rights should not supersede women’s rights to safe, single sex spaces.

This is essentially a practical, real-life enactment of the Staniland Question. Helen Staniland is a Welsh lady, and one of Graham Linehan’s interlocutors with Canadian Arty Morty on his The Mess We’re In YouTube channel. She used to go around asking people if they would be happy, if their mother or daughter went to a women only space, like sports changing rooms, and saw a penis. Of course, most severely normal people privately wouldn’t, and say so privately to her. But the trans rights activists demand complete acceptance as women, and scream and holler prejudice and ‘transphobia’ if this supposed right is questioned. But the TRAs really don’t have an answer to her question, and so have been reduced to misrepresenting her as some kind of pervert or prurient woman obsessed with male genitals.

In this case, Karen Davis looks at a video of an angry woman, unseen, who challenges the staff at a spa because she has seen a naked, biological male in the women’s changing area. She saw a penis. And the staff are unsympathetic, at one point replying to her statement ‘It was a dick!’ with ‘Yes, and you’re being one.’ But this is a real problem with women’s right to their own, single-sex spaces allowing them to feel safe and comfortable.

The transgender individual didn’t have to use the women’s area. The spa contained men’s, women’s and coed spaces. If that person understandably didn’t want to use the men’s, then he could have used the coed, mixed space instead. But his demand to be seen as a woman overrode women’s desire and need not to have a biological male in their space.

Davis is also against transwomen being accepted as women, even if they have transitioned. It’s not a view I fully support, but I can appreciate her reasons for holding such a view. Especially as the medical literature shows that transexuals and transvestites have a higher incidence of other fetishes, including paedophilia and exhibitionism. There have been instances where transwomen, who have undergone gender reassignment, have committed acts of gross exhibitionism in women’s space, such as toilets, for example, and then posted it on the Net.

While Davis is particularly ferocious in her opposition to trans rights and denies that transwomen can ever be women, she and Helen Staniland have a point.

Biological men should have no place in women only spaces, like toilets and changing rooms. To allow them in contradicts the very reason we have them – to protect women from embarrassment and potential sexual harassment.

And women have every right to complain.