Posts Tagged ‘Feminism’

Rightwingers Outraged at Acquittal of the Four Who Toppled Colston’s Statue

January 7, 2022

As a Bristolian with long personal roots in the city, I feel I’ve got to tackle this. The four people responsible for pulling the down the statue of the 18th century slave trader and philanthropist in a massive Black Lives Matter protest last year were on trial for it this week. They were charged with criminal damage, and yesterday were found ‘not guilty’ by the jury. And the right has been predictably incensed. The story’s on the front page of the Daily Mail, which reports that the jury may have been placed under pressure to acquit by the defence, which urged them ‘not to be on the wrong side of history’. The prosecution is therefore planning to appeal the decision. Nigel Farage has released a video on YouTube about it. Mixed-race Tory commenter Calvin Robinson has appeared on GB News talking about it. And inevitably the Lotus Eaters have also released a video about it, with Callum and one of Sargon’s other mates expressing their poor opinion of the whole thing. The message from the right has been the same: this decision imperils every statue in Britain, because it legitimises attacks on them through an appeal to the emotions of the attacker regardless of the letter of the law. Calvin Robinson in his interview on GB News agreed with the two journalists, one Black, one White, that you had to be very careful about limiting people’s freedom of expression. However the decision to acquit was, he explained, based on a legal loophole in the criminal damage law. This permits such damage, if the property damaged or destroyed itself serves to promote a crime. The argument made by the accused in a feature about them in the Groan was that the statue constituted a hate crime against Black Bristolians. The right-wing critics of the decision have therefore argued that this makes every statue unsafe, as an emotional reason could be found for any attack on them. The person, who vandalised Churchill’s statue last year could get off because, despite defeating Fascism, Churchill was a racist and imperialist. They have also made the point that the decision also means that Conservatives also have a right to tear down Marx’s bust in London, as he was also racist and anti-Semitic, quite apart from the millions murdered under Communism. Darren Grimes, the repulsive spawn of the Guido Fawkes site, said that he could also therefore tear down the statue of Friedrich Engels in Manchester.

Jury Freedom and the Historic Acquittal of Guilty Murderers

Yesterday Simon Webb of History Debunked also joined the debate, comparing the decision to the jury’s acquittal of the attackers of three policemen during a riot in 1820s London. The cops had been stabbed, and one killed, but the jury acquitted their attackers because the cops had attacked in a particularly aggressive and provocative manner. Webb stated that back in the 17th and 18th centuries judges could and did send juries back to reconsider their verdict, and even imprison them if they didn’t give the right verdict as directed. It was, of course, a great improvement to allow the juries the freedom to judge themselves rather than according to the opinion of the beak. But this did raise problems in cases like this. Indeed. Juries won the right to judge freely according to their own judgement following arguments for such free trials by the Levellers and particularly when William Penn, a Quaker and the founder of Pennsylvania, was put on trial for preaching his radical views in Bristol. The jury repeatedly refused the judge’s order to find guilty, and were even imprisoned. They eventually won out, and the trial helped established true British justice.

Allegations of Bias against Witness David Olasuga

One of the other objections to the trial was that one of the witnesses was the historian, David Olasuga. whom the Lotus Eaters describe as a Black activist and who admitted that, had he been able, he would have joined the mob in toppling the status. There is indeed a problem with Olasuga as some of his historical interpretations are questionable. For example, he and Reni Edo-Lodge turned up in video by the Beeb laying a plaque in Liverpool to a victim of racist lynching. Except that Wootton, the lynched man, had been part of a gang of West Indians, who had launched an attack on a group of Swedes and Russians. When a cop intervened, the West Indians repeated stabbed and tried to slash his throat. They retreated to a house where someone, probably Wootton, shot three policemen, before he was chased down to the docks trying to escape. He was hardly an innocent victim. Olasuga has been one of the Black historians claiming that historically, Britain had a much larger Black community than it probably did. He claims that there were Blacks in Roman Britain. History Debunked has shown that this largely comes from one of the legions at Hadrian’s Wall coming from the Roman province of Mauretania. This has been confused with the present day country in West Africa. However, the Roman province of Mauretania was further north in Morocco. I think there are perfectly reasonable questions of bias in Olasuga’s testimony.

Political Bias in Prosecution of Vandals

And then have come the various commenters sneering and deriding Bristol. I’ve seen the usual rants about how it’s a ‘Communist’ or ‘left-wing’ shithole; it’s a lefty university town, and as terrible as Liverpool or London. Rather more interesting was one comment from a working class Bristolian, who had been having a meal at a cafe in the city, whose customers were largely Black West Indians. These people had all been solidly against the decision. I can well believe it. I don’t think the Black community Bristol or elsewhere in our great nation is a monolithic bloc. Just like other racial groups, like Whites, Asians or Jews aren’t either. As for the four defendants, they were White middle class liberal kids, who most likely didn’t come from Bristol. There was also speculation about what would happen if someone vandalised a statue to a Black personality, like Nelson Mandela. Would this be treated the same way? Not if the example of the vandalism done to a mural of Marcus Rashford was an example. Although the messages sprayed on it weren’t racist, it was nevertheless treated as a racist hate crime. Actually, you don’t have to look that far for a similar example. After Colston’s statue was torn down, a bust in one of Bristol’s parks of a Black writer and dramatist was vandalised and the cops were after those responsible.

Some Black Bristolians Genuinely Upset at Statue

As for the feelings of fear or outrage that the defendants claimed justified the attack, the Black interviewer on GB News and Robinson both questioned whether Black people are so emotional fragile that they would be upset simply walking past Colston’s statue. Some may well not be, but others definitely were. Asher Craig, Bristol’s deputy elected mayor, head of equalities and city councillor for St. George’s, was on Radio 4 last year giving her opinion about the statue and Bristol’s historic connection to the slave trade. The programme also talked to others about it, including one ordinary Black woman. She said that she felt physically sick having to walk past it on the way to work every morning. I understand and sympathise. I think her example was far better and more persuasive than the various political activists angrily demanding that it should be torn down. It was the voice of an ordinary, working-class woman, about how the statue affected her.

Arguments for the Preservation of the Statue

It also has to be stated that Black Lives Matter’s attack was deliberately against the wishes of Bristolians themselves. There had been several polls in the past about whether the statue should be taken down or not. The majority of people voted against it. Paul Stephenson, one of the organisers of the Bristol bus boycott in the 1960s against the bus company’s refusal to employ Blacks, gave his opinion on the issue in an interview with Philippa Gregory in the 1990s. Gregory had just had her novel, A Respectable Trade, about the Bristol slave trade adapted for television and there was an exhibition about the city and slavery then at the City Museum and Art Gallery. It has since been moved and is now on display, sans title, at the city’s excellent M Shed Museum. Stephenson has something of a mixed reputation. To some he’s a respected civil rights activists, while others regard him more a deliberate troublemaker. He declared to Gregory that Colston was a bloody mass murderer responsible for a ‘Holocaust in Africa’. This follows the statement of W.E.B. DuBois, the pioneering American Black rights activist, that slavery and the slave trade were a Black Holocaust. It sounds like hyperbole, a deliberately emotional exaggeration, but I believe it’s based on the accounts of 19th century anti-slavery activists about the fierce tribal violence generated by the slave trade, and the devastation of whole regions as a result. But Stephenson also said that he didn’t think the statue should be torn down. He believed it should remain standing with an additional note to remind people of his crimes. A similar argument was made by the Lotus Eaters, who felt that statues should be left standing, even though they may be to terrible people, because they’re history. And we need to learn from history if we are to move on.

It’s a perfectly good argument, and one advanced in the ’90s by radical anarchist band The Levellers. They took their name from the radical, proto-democrat, proto-socialist sect during the British Civil War. They also believed in ‘Godly reformation’ and so, along with the other merchandising at their concerts were copies of the Bible and Christopher Hill’s Marxist study of the British Civil War, The World Turned Upside Down. I particularly remember one of their songs that had the lines ‘I believe in justice, I believe in vengeance, I believe in getting the bastard’. But they also released a song protesting about the decision by Manchester’s Labour council to rename the town’s historic Free Trade Hall. They objected to it because it was the destruction of history and an attempt to rewrite the past. It’s strange and rather disconcerting that they should have the same view on this issue from a libertarian left perspective, as the Tories.

Lastly, it needs to be remembered that Colston was not honoured for enslaving Blacks. The statue was put up long after that was over. Rather it was because he was a great philanthropist, who gave much of his fortune away in charity. There were schools named after him and funded by his largesse. My old school used to celebrate Colston Day in his honour, when the children were given a few days off. A few were specially honoured and went to a special service at Redcliffe Church, where they were given a Colston bun.

Bristol Great City

Now for a few remarks on the decision and the views of the various right-winger, who have sounded off about it. Firstly, Bristol isn’t a shithole. It’s a large, great city with a proud history of trade, exploration, industry and invention with excellent museums and theatres. The Bristol Old Vic and its theatre school have a particularly excellent reputation and have produced some of the country’s great thesps. It has it’s problems. I believe that the Bristol’s Black community is one of the three largest in the country, along with Birmingham and London. It has its problems with marginalisation, lack of educational achievement, unemployment, drugs and violent crime, though this is by no means confined simply to Blacks. But it’s not particularly left-wing. Some areas, like Stokes Croft, have a reputation for radical politics. I’ve heard local people refer to it as ‘the people’s republic of Stokes Croft’. Other areas are Conservative, and all the shades of political opinion in between.

Academic Freedom and Marxist Indoctrination at Universities

As for the universities, the comment blaming them for the decision comes from the standard right-wing attitude that the unis are full of Marxists indoctrinating students. In fact, universities, courses and individual lecturers vary immensely. Some universities had a reputation, even in my day, for being hotbeds of left-wing activism, others were more Conservative. It also varies with the course you’re on. There hasn’t, traditionally, been much opportunity for far left-wing indoctrination in maths, science, medicine and engineering courses because of the nature of those subjects. Although it’s creeping in now in the form of ethnomathematics and the demands that the achievements of Black scientists and mathematicians should be particularly taught, it’s mostly been confined to the humanities. There have always been Marxist historians. These include the very well respected Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm and E.P. Saunders, and there is a specific Marxist view of history. You are taught about this on the historiography courses in history at University, along with other forms of history, such as women’s history, social history, what Butterfield called the ‘Whig view of history’ and more conservative and Conservative views. I’ve been taught by lecturers with feminist or left-wing views. I’ve also been taught by people with far more traditional views. I also know lecturer who determined to keep their political views out of the classroom. University is supposed to be a place of free speech and debate, and it’s important that this is maintained. Students should be encouraged to read sources and the historical literature critically, and make up their own views. This means an engagement with Marxism as well as other ideologies. I think Bristol university has particularly come under fire because it’s rather more conservative and traditional compared to the newer universities. It received funding from the Colston charities when it was established early in the last century. Hence I believe the granting of a chair in the history of slavery to a Black woman. It also has relatively few Black students, which contrasts with the population of the city as a whole. This is partly because it has very high standards, and as a rule Blacks generally have poorer grades than other racial groups. It is also no doubt because when I was young, going away was seen as part of university education and so you were discouraged from applying to the local university. Hence the university is now trying to give greater opportunities to study to more Blacks and ethnic minorities.

Queer Theory, Critical Race Theory and the Marxist Attack on Western Culture

Now I largely agree that the acquittal of the four defendants has set a dangerous precedent because it allows people to attack public monuments they dislike or which are controversial. James Lindsay, one of the group with Peter Boghossian and Helen Pluckrose that has attacked postmodernist Critical Theory, has argued that ideologies like Queer Theory and Critical Race Theory are deliberate attacks on traditional western culture and Enlightenment values. They are aimed at destroying the past to create a Marxist future, just as Chairman Mao did during the horrors of the Cultural Revolution. One of the ancient monuments the Red cadres smashed as part of the campaign against the ‘Four Olds’ was the tomb of Confucius! This sounds like an idea straight out of loony right-wing paranoids and conspiracists like Alex Jones and the John Birch Society, until he backs it up by reading chapter and verse from the founders of such postmodernist Marxism, like Marcuse, Horkheimer and others. And yes, I can quite believe that vandalism to a monument to a Black politico or celebrity, like Nelson Mandela, would be treated far differently and as a terrible hate crime than the attack on Colston.

But regardless of the defence’s plea to the jury to ‘be on the right side of history’, I think there would always have been pressure on the jury to acquit. Colston was a slave trader and had been controversial for decades. They naturally wouldn’t have wanted to acquit people who attacked a monument on that score, rather than the philanthropy the statue commemorated. And the defendants make a good point when they say that ‘he no longer speaks for Bristol’. There were others in the city who opposed the slave trade. As well as the slavers and the West Indian planters, Bristol also had a large abolitionist movement. If you go a little way from the centre of Bristol into Redcliffe, you’ll find the Georgian church where Jeremiah Clarkson, one of the leading 18th century abolitionists, collected the testimony of Bristol’s slavers as part of his evidence against the trade.

Other Statues Not Vandalised

As for other statues, none of those in the surrounding area were touched. Not the statue to Edmund Burke, the politician and founder of modern Conservatism through his book, Reflections on the Revolution in France. The Lotus Eaters are offering it, or reading through it, as their ‘book of the month’. I wonder if they’ll mention that Burke’s statue was signally left untouched by the rioters. As was the statue of a monk in Lewin’s Mead, which had before the Reformation been a monastic complex. They also failed to destroy the statue of Neptune and a sailor on the docks. Queen Victoria was left untouched on nearby College Green. They also didn’t destroy the statue of John Cabot outside the Council House, sorry, ‘City Hall’ and the Central Library. This was despite various ‘spokesmen’ for the Black community claiming that the City’s celebration of his discovery of Newfoundland and America, following Columbus, was a celebration of slavery. There may well be similar defences used on similar attacks on other statues, but I think such attacks will be far more difficult to defend. Churchill was indeed a racist and an imperialist, as well as personally responsible for sending troops to gun down striking miners in Wales. But to the vast majority of severely normal Brits he was also the man, who helped save Europe and the world from Nazism and the Axis. And that would also count powerfully in the case against anyone who vandalised his monument.

Historians also Successfully Defend Controversial Statues

As for testimony from historians, this can work against the iconoclasts. The BLM fanatics trying to get the statue of Cecil Rhodes torn down at Oxford university claimed that he was somehow ‘South Africa’s Adolf Hitler’. Now Rhodes was a grotty character and an imperialist, but this goes too far. Rhodes’ biographer tackled this claim on social media, at which the BLM protesters making it went quiet. They couldn’t refute it, and so went silent.

I therefore do not feel that other statues are necessarily in a greater danger than previously because of the acquittal.

Then there’s the question of any possible statue to replace it. There are rumours that it could be a Black person. Well, if there is, it should be of a Black person, who actually had contact and lived in the city. One of Bristol’s sporting heroes way back was a Black boxer. One of my aunts was friends with his daughter. I’d say this gentleman would be a good candidate for such a statue, because as a sports hero he united everyone from left and right, as well as being a citizen of Bristol.

Nigel Farage has suggested a memorial to the British navy. Absolutely. The British West India squadron did excellent work patrolling the seas for slavers. And they were by no means all racist. Captain Denman, giving evidence on a massacre of 300 unsold slaves by one of the West African slaving states to parliament, made the point that ‘it is remarkable given the advances they have made in the arts of civilisation’. He clearly believe European civilisation was superior, but had been particularly shocked because the African peoples responsible for the massacre were also comparatively civilised. Africans serving or aiding the British navy were also given the compensation payments awarded to British tars when they suffered injury and loss of limbs.

We also patrolled the waters between east Africa and India to stop western and Arab slavers, and one antipodean historian has written that in the Pacific, the royal navy was the chief protector of its indigenous peoples against enslavement.

It also needs to be remembered that one of the reasons for the British invasion of Africa was to stamp out slavery and the slave trade. I’ve no doubt that the main, if not the real reasons were simple hunger for territory and resources, and to stop those areas falling into the hands of our European imperial rivals – France, Germany, Italy and Portugal. But some of the officer involved took their duty extremely serious, such as Samuel Baker and Gordon of Khartoum. The Mahdi, against whom Gordon fought, and his followers were slavers outraged at the British government’s ban on it and the enslavement of Black Sudanese. There are therefore excellent reasons for putting up a memorial to the British navy and armed forces.

And I would also support a statue to Jeremiah Clarkson for his work in the city bringing the horrors of the trade to light.

In the meantime, despite the right-wing outrage at this act of vandalism, I think we should view the attack on Colston’s statue as a special case.

Claims of a general threat to British history because of it may well be exaggerated.

Torygraph Reports Archbishop of Canterbury Deeply Moved over Abuse of J.K. Rowling for Gender Views

December 17, 2021

This little article from the wretched Torygraph turned up on my internet news feed. According to the right-wing rag, Justin Welby, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, said he was deeply moved at the abuse suffered by J.K. Rowling and others like her for her views on gender during a debate on freedom of speech in the House of Lords yesterday. During the debate, Lady Jenkin, for the Conservatives, attacked the dangers of cancel culture and the abuse of gender critical women like J.K. Rowling and Kathleen Stock. She said that it wasn’t just the abuse on social media that was wrong, but that their livelihoods were being threatened. This was deterring more people from standing up in their defence. She also said that it wasn’t a case of women versus trans people.

Okay, the Tories in their own way are also trying to shut down debate and democracy through putting increasing restrictions on the right to demonstrate and proposing legislation that would allow them to ignore the judgements of the courts. And this is before we get to Priti Patel’s fascistic desire to strip members of ethnic minorities of British citizenship if they commit a crime, which would turn them into second class citizens.

But it is good that at last someone in authority is taking notice of the abuse and worse hurled by trans rights activists at J.K. Rowling. She’s been accused of hating trans people, and wanting them all dead. None of which is remotely true. She has said simply that transwomen are not women. As did professor Kathleen Stock, who was forced out of her post due student demonstrations including threats of violence. One of the worst aspects of Rowling’s persecution is the complete silence of PEN, the organisation that defends writers worldwide from persecution. A worthy cause, but Private Eye has run several articles in its literary section reporting that PEN has said not a dickie bird against Rowling’s persecution which has included death threats. This has demonstrated the power of the trans lobby, and the fear many have that if they too speak out, they will suffer the same treatment.

Of course trans rights activists have the right to express their views, but not to hurl abuse or issue threats of violence and death. These should be unacceptable whoever makes them. J.K. Rowling and others should have their freedom of speech respected and defended by the authorities against the mob. And it is excellent that it is being done at last, even if it is by the right.

Rose of Dawn Attacks the Mythology of the Trans Genocide

December 11, 2021

Rose of Dawn is a transwoman, who uses her YouTube channels, one of which has the provocative title ‘Trans Stupid’ to attack and debunk some of the malign and violent parts of the trans rights movement. She is, unfortunately, something of a controversial figure among some gender critical feminists, such as Karen Davies. Davies does not want transwomen speaking for women because she considers them to be still men, and so are encroaching on women’s proper territory, even when transwomen like Debbie Hayton and Blair White share much the same views and are welcomed by other gender critical types, such as Graham Linehan, as true allies.

In this video RoD attacks the mythology of the trans genocide. Some trans activists unfortunately believe that there is a mass holocaust of transpeople going on in Britain and America comparable to the Nazi murder of the Jews, gay men and the disabled, and that Britain’s NHS is actively involved. This is monstrously grotesque. RoD has obviously faced prejudiced herself as a transwoman. But she states that society is far more accepting of transwomen now than it was ten years ago. She also believes that the rights of transpeople to compete in sport isn’t a human right. To be fair, the gender critical feminists don’t believe in stopping transwomen from competing in sport. They just don’t want them competing with born women, because of the advantage they have in possessing bodies that were previously male. They feel that they should either compete with men, or in a special category for themselves.

I am very much aware that trans people haven’t had it easy, and that there are large parts of British society that are definitely not as welcoming as white metropolitan liberals. Grayson Perry, the Turner Award-winning potter and presenter of the excellent Channel 4 series, Grayson Perry’s Art Club, had a play broadcast on the Beeb. Entitled ‘Mr. Msunderstood’, it was about his own struggle to come to terms with his transvestism. Going back to the ’90s, I remember how Jenny Randles, one of Britain’s leading investigators of the UFO phenomenon, was deeply upset when one of the tabloids – I think it may have been the Scum or News of the Screws outed her as a transwoman. I am also aware that transvestism, at least in public, was considered gross indecency under the law, punishable by arrest and prison sentences.

However the murder stats for transpeople in the UK are very low. I think only one transperson has been murdered, thankfully, in the past few years. The murder rates in America are still higher, but still comparatively small. And I think that the country has a higher murder than Europe anyway. This has made the calls for a ‘trans day of remembrance’ in Britain rather ridiculous. The stats frequently used to show that transpeople are facing a wave of murder largely come from South America. These countries, beset by grinding poverty, have a massive murder rate anyway. But very man of the victims are sex workers, so it’s unclear whether they were murdered because they were trans, or because they were sex workers.

It seems to me that the myth of a trans genocide has arisen because some militantly, and in my view mentally unbalanced trans rights activists, have read extensively about the Nazi Holocaust and the murder of the disabled under Aktion T4, and mistakenly applied it to themselves. One trans mixed martial arts fighter or boxer appeared wearing a shirt bearing the slogan, ‘Stop the Trans Genocide’. This is not only profoundly mistaken but offensively so. As offensive and wrong as the various ‘D’ list celebs a few years ago promoting the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn, blithely joking with each other over whether 1938 had returned.

If there was a trans genocide comparative to the Holocaust, it would be very obvious. Transpeople would not be allowed on social murder to make the claim, there would be organised pogroms against them. And the BBC would very definitely not be allowed to show programmes or items presenting positive views of trans people and those fighting for their rights. Instead they would be rounded up by the police and security forces and sent to real concentration. There may be propaganda films, such as those made by the Nazis, suggesting that they were doing well in their new homes or successfully responding to treatment. There would also be propaganda campaigns against them as well as very public humiliation and ridicule promoted by the state. The statement ‘transwomen are not women’ or ‘Scots women won’t wheesht’ are in no way comparable to Nazi anti-Semitic slogans like ‘Die Jude is Euer Ungluck’ – ‘The Jews is your misfortune’, if understand it properly and the viciously anti-Semitic content of Nazi rags like Der Sturmer. There are no special ambulances operating under the NHS, like those operated by the SS, which gassed the congenitally disabled, or took them to the clinics and hospitals where they were. This part of the mythology seems to me related to the obnoxious nonsense former Republican American presidential candidate Sarah ‘Failin” Palin was spouting about single-payer healthcare. She didn’t want Americans to have an NHS like Britain’s because the elderly and severely disabled would have to face ‘death panels’ to decide whether or not they should live and have state funding spent on them. It’s a monstrously grotesque lie which unfortunately some ‘low information voters’ in the Land of the Free were deceived by. It also seems extremely similar to what these trans rights fanatics are saying when they make the claim that the NHS is similarly involved in the organised murder of transpeople.

And RoD is clearly right to state that it is dangerous nonsense. It’s clearly very harmful to tell genuinely vunerable people struggling with their gender identity and who may well suffer from a number of other mental conditions, to tell them that there is an organised campaign by the state and society to murder them.

Some of the comments to RoD’s video are also well worth reading, such as this comment from Kaien Shiriyaku, a gay Polish man, who grew up in the shadow of the real Holocaust as well as the prejudice and persecution Polish gays faced.

‘I was late for the premiere. Comparisons to holocaust are RI-DI-CU-LO-US! Since I’m from Poland, I wanna share something – when I was growing up I’ve met some people who survived the camps. It was a part of my school (the school was in the name of the victims from the area) and we had meetings once a year, when we were told how horrific those times were. People from the premiere chat already know – I grew up openly gay in the 90s. In Poland of all places. UK and US in the 90s were much more progressive than Poland at the same time. I’ve got my jaw dislocated once for being gay. Bullied constantly. My father kicked me out of the house once I was legal of age. I bet my acrylic nails those snowflakes wouldn’t survive 5 min in Poland, even today. Yes, we have it better now, times had change, however if you meet someone who is homophobic – be prepared to fight. You’re met with either acceptance, or vicious attacks here. All you need for the second one is to exit from a gay club during a football night at the wrong time.’

To be fair, this has occurred in Britain and America. Gays have been beaten up, and gay young people thrown out of their parental homes to live on the streets after coming out to their parents. But it isn’t like Poland, where increasingly strict anti-LGBT legislation is being passed and several areas have declared themselves to be ‘No LGBTQ’ zones.

Society isn’t perfect, but there is no trans holocaust in Britain and America, and such claims are actively harmful not liberating. They have to be stopped.

Teaser Trailer for ‘Return to Hogwarts’ Harry Potter Documentary

December 8, 2021

I found this video on the ‘Moviegasm’ channel on YouTube. It’s the trailers for the forthcoming documentary on HBO Max celebrating 20 years since the first Harry Potter movie. Entitled Return to Hogwarts, it naturally includes the films’ stars. Unfortunately, it won’t include J.K. Rowling herself. This is apparently because she’s too controversial, having been attacked as a transphobe because she does not regard transwomen as women, and has been accused of hating transpeople and wishing them dead. This is wrong.

I don’t believe Rowling hates transpeople by any stretch of the imagination. The accusation began when she issued a tweet backing another person, who had been attacked for stating that they didn’t believe transwomen were women. But in that tweet Rowling stated that transpeople should dress how they want, sleep with anyone who would have them and live their best lives before concluding with her statement about transwomen. For gender critical feminists and others who hold this view, this is just a statement of fact which must be lived with. I realise that it contradicts the desire most transpeople have to be regarded as proper members of the sex to which they have transitioned, although there are some transpeople like Debbie Hayton and Blair White, who don’t regard themselves as women. Rowling has further gone on to say that she doesn’t hate transpeople and has trans friends. She is, however, worried about the massive expansion of gender dysphoria amongst girls and young women, and believes that they are being harmed by a diagnosis being pushed on people, who are really suffering from various types of psychological disorder or anxiety. And unfortunately I think she’s right. While I’m aware that her views are controversial and if applied would stop transwomen getting certain sensitive jobs or sharing spaces with born women, such as prisons, Rowling has never expressed any hatred towards transpeople. Yet she has been grotesquely accused of hating them and wanting them dead.

However controversial her views are, Rowling is nevertheless the creator of the Harry Potter phenomenon. Her books were not only massively popular, but they encouraged children to read and crossed generations. Adults enjoyed reading them as much as children, which is a very rare gift confined to the greatest children’s writers. The Pope praised her for having given children the joy of using their imaginations. At the same time, American fundamentalists accused her of luring children into real magic and witchcraft with her books, which is just pure nonsense. As the books’ writer and the creator of the character, she should rightly have been included in the documentary.

Aside from that, while the documentary itself looks great, it’s on HBO Max so I wonder how many people will actually watch it.

Spinlaunch Plans on Throwing Satellites into Orbit

December 6, 2021

This video from the YouTube channel Interesting Engineering describes the plans for a very remarkable satellite launch system developed by Spinlaunch, a company I really don’t know anything about. It seems from this video that they’ve built a 157 metre vertically inclined centrifuge as a precursor for one they hope to build, which will be three times larger and used as a satellite launch system. Instead of sending satellites conventionally into space with rockets, the Spinlaunch system will throw them into space instead. The full size system will also use rockets, although they will only fire at an altitude of 61 km above the Earth to place 200 kilo satellites in orbit. The video looks forward to the new system being more sustainable and ecologically friendly than conventional launch systems.

It’s an interesting concept, and the idea of throwing vessels into space I think goes right back to Robert Goddard, the founder of American rocketry. From childhood Goddard wanted to send people to Mars, hence his determination to develop the technology to get people into space. Before settling on rockets, Goddard apparently thought about devices to throw ships into space. And there are indeed a number of problems with using rockets as launch systems. Space and Futurism YouTuber Isaac Arthur, in his video about spaceports, points out that currently launch sites have to be sited well away from any cities because of the sheer noise and power of the rockets. It’s possible that the Spinlaunch system may be able to solve this problem if such centrifuges are quieter than rocket engines. Glancing down the internet entries for similar videos, it seems that not everyone is impressed with the company’s claims. Atheist science vlogger and anti-feminist Thunderfoot has put up a video which suggests that he’s busted their claims. Other space vloggers, like Scott Manley, seem much more impressed with them, and the blurb for the video states that it’s been successfully tested. I honestly don’t know if the idea will work in practice, but it’ll be interesting to see if it ever takes off (pun intended).

Cartoonist Kayfabe on Trashman, 60s Underground Comix Anti-Hero

November 30, 2021

Here’s another video from YouTube comics creators and YouTubers, Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor, in which the two discuss one of ‘Spain’ Rodriguez’s best-known and most notorious characters, Trashman. Rodriguez was one of the major talents in ’60s underground comics. The two state he was first published by Evo and the East Village Other, and was part of a group of underground comix artists and creators called the Berkeley Tribe. Spain was fully part of the ’60s counterculture and Trashman was an explicit expression of that decade’s political radicalism and youth revolt. The Kayfabers remark that stylistically Spain appears influenced by mainstream comic artists, like the legendary Jack Kirby and John Romita at Marvel, he’s far removed from them in politics and content. Because Trashman was an agent of the ‘6th International’, gunning down the enemies of the people. The comic, The Collected Trashman, has the date ‘1969’ on it, but this doesn’t mean it was actually published them. Even so, it deals with the decade’s topics of distrust of the government, Vietnam, drugs, free love and hippies. There’s a lot of sex in it, so be careful about watching it at work. The two also compare Trashman to later heroes like Mad Max and Judge Dredd. Trashman careers about an urban environment in a souped-up car, to which armour and a set of tank tracks have been added, rather like one of the bizarre, demented vehicles in Mad Max: Fury Road. It might also be because of the mixture of automotive mayhem, extreme violence and urban dystopia that’s behind the Kayfaber’s comparison to Judge Dredd.

Rather more problematic to contemporary readers is Spain’s highly sexualised view of women. A number of underground comix creators were accused of sexism and misogyny, such as Robert Crumb, and I think Rodriguez may have been another one. But the Kayfabers argue that Rodriguez was doing it when feminism was emerging, and so was probably trying to get more publicity through notoriety.

It’s an interesting look at one of the best-known and remembered of the decade’s underground heroes. I don’t know if such a comic would be possible now. Certainly the decades of terrorism that followed the 60s from groups like the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany, the various radical terrorist groups running amok in Italy, and the IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland would probably make such a character deeply unappealing to large sections of the public, quite apart from the Fall of Communism. Trashman was going to be controversial even in the 1960s, with the rise of terrorist groups like the Weathermen and the violence at the Democratic National Convention. There’s even a story in the comic in which Trashman shoots that up.

Nevertheless, there are still students sticking posters of Che Guevara on their walls and the rise of Black Lives Matter and strong initial support for former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Bernie Sanders in the US shows that a sizable section of the British and American electorate want far more radical change than the right-wing cliques that have seized control of the Labour party in Britain and Democrats in the US are prepared to give them. Not that either Corbyn or Sanders ever remotely endorsed terrorism and violence, despite the vilification of the former by the British political and media establishment.

One of the complaints among some comics creators and fans is that Marvel and DC, the two main comics companies in the US, have moved too far leftward. Instead of producing good, enjoyable stories with strong plots and characters, the two are instead concentrating on explicit statements about social issues and promoting characters based solely on their gender, race or sexuality. This is putting readers off, and as a result American comics are in decline as people turn instead to Japanese manga, which eschews these issues. This is the view of Ethan van Sciver and the Comicsgaters. I can see their point of view, although the Guardian pointed out in an article a few years ago that comics have always dealt with political and social issues. That’s quite true. One episode of the Superman radio series in the 1940s was applauded by NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League as the Man of Steel had gone after the Klan. In the 1970s both Marvel and DC dealt with racism and the collapse of American self-esteem following Watergate. There were several issues of Captain America in which the Captain forswore his patriotic identity to call himself ‘Nomad’ following his own, brief loss of faith in his country. There were also a number of Hulk stories which showed a very strong critical attitude to the military, doubtless influenced by the unpopularity of the Vietnam War. However, Stan Lee, the man responsible with artists like Kirby and Ditko, for so many of Marvel’s most iconic heroes, also said in an interview that he was careful not to let the political content alienate those readers who didn’t agree with it.

The Kayfaber’s state that Trashman is a product of its times, though it can also be seen as a period piece set in that decade because of its timeless quality. Back in the 1990s the Heil went berserk at a similar radical, underground comic on sale in the shops. This was an anarchist version of Tintin, in which the boy detective was shown joining the struggle against the cops and the state. Of course, the book had absolutely no connection to anything Herge actually wrote or did. However, the rise of the internet has provided would-be comics creators with an opportunity for launching their own comics without the hindrance of the mainstream comics publishing industry. It’s therefore possible that as Thatcherite neoliberalism continues to collapse and show itself corrupt and bankrupt, underground comix heroes like Trashman may rise to stick it to oppressive capitalist authority once again. And especially if less radical ways of changing the system or expressing dissatisfaction are suppressed by Blairites and Thatcherite Labour leaders like Keir Starmer.

Lab Grown Goats and the Shape of Wombs to Come

November 19, 2021

I found this photo of goat fetuses growing in tanks filled with amniotic fluid in a Japanese lab in an old an old issue of Scientific American Presents – Your Bionic Future from autumn 1999. It illustrated an article by Tabitha M. Powledge, ‘The Ultimate Baby Bottle’, which had on the contents page the comment ‘Aldous Huxley was right. Artificial wombs are in our future.’ I hope, I really hope that they aren’t. At least, not in the way he portrayed it in Brave New World. In the book, the Fordists have abolished natural reproduction so that everyone is grown artificially in hatcheries. As a result, sex is only for pleasure – and as this is a hedonistic society there are plenty of orgies – and the words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are dirty terms of abuse. This is definitely not a society anyone would want to see realised. On the other hand, milder forms of such reproduction have also been suggested. The people of humanity’s first extraterrestrial colony also reproduce in hatcheries in Brian Aldiss’ and David Wingrove’s history of the future, The Third Millennium. And in Paul McAuley’s book, In The Belly of the Whale, the two human species on Fomalhaut also reproduce through cloning in hatcheries, but are placed with surrogate parents who raise them in something like a normal family structure after their birth.

The success of the Japanese scientists in growing the goat fetus’ generated a considerable interest at the time. It was widely predicted, as the Scientific American article did, that this would lead to artificial wombs. In fact there was speculation about possible breakthroughs in such research a decade earlier in the 1980s. About 1984/5 I remember an article appearing in the Absurder which predicted that some day people would be gestated in such devices.

I’ve got very mixed feelings about this. I can admire the scientific skill behind it, and it does touch that part of me that enjoys seeing Science Fiction become reality. I can also see that it would benefit women, who for one reason or another could not carry a baby to term. But I don’t know how women would react to such machines if they became possible. I realise that pregnancy and childbirth are fraught, dangerous times for women and their children. Many women go through everything from the discomfort of bad backs and morning sickness to far worse conditions that may seriously damage their health. The other night there was a piece on the One Show, for example, about the dangers to pregnant women from a condition that causes severe nausea. And then there are the problems and dangers in childbirth itself.

But femininity throughout history has been intimately bound up with motherhood. So much so that in many traditional societies the view of women has been that of baby factories, whose primary role is the bearing and raising of children. Modern feminism challenges this in order to give women the freedom to work outside the home in previously masculine roles and professions. But I am not sure if women would welcome the complete separation of femininity from motherhood. Would women feel somehow diminished, deprived of a vital component of their womanhood, if there was a wholesale move towards artificial reproduction? Part of the psychological motivation behind gender critical feminisms opposition to transwomen being accepted as women is a powerful feeling that this is men usurping and appropriating femininity, while marginalising natural biological women. Reading through some of the comments on Kellie-Jay Kean’s videos, I came across some women talking about the joy they felt as women bearing children. One women said that men’s lives must be so empty because of their inability to do so. Now these are just a few women’s views, but I do wonder how women with a similar attitude would look upon artificial wombs.

I also wonder whether there would be the same strong bond between parents, and especially mothers, and their children if babies weren’t born naturally but collected from the hatchery. I realise that the parents of adopted children are in a similar position, and generally greatly love their children, as, of course, to step-parents. I’m also well aware of the dreadful neglect and abuse some parents inflict on their kids. It’s perfectly possible, therefore, that bringing your baby home from the lab for their first time would have all the emotional impact of a natural birth and that the parental bond wouldn’t be affected. But nevertheless, I wonder.

And I’m also worried that such hatcheries could lead to the further mechanisation of what would once have been considered essential human traits, to produce genuine post-human creatures like the cyborgs of the transhumanists. These could be far beyond us in their capability while at the same time lacking in what we consider to be our essential human natures, like the Cybermen and Sontarans of Dr. Who.

These are deep, ethical issues. But fortunately, they have become pressing just yet, as the promised artificial wombs have yet to appear.

Claire Fox Speech in Parliament Against Housing Predatory Trans Identified Men in Women’s Prisons

November 19, 2021

Heaven help us, I can’t believe I’m actually agreeing with something Claire Fox has done. Fox is a thoroughly loathsome piece of work. She was in one of the Communist sects led by Frank Furedi, which published Living Marxism. As a genuine, paid-up member of the far left, she and the rest of the LM crew were fully behind the IRA’s right to armed struggle and their consequent bombing and murder of civilians. This continued right up to either the Omagh or Warrington bombing in the 1990s, which did much to discredit the IRA. Among the victims of the Warrington bomb were two small boys. While supporters of terrorism would naturally consider soldiers and politicians fair targets, I think severely normal people, British, Irish or whatever, hate the murder of innocent civilians and positively loathe that of children. The bombings were widely condemned, except by Fox, who defended it. She has never retracted or apologised for her comments.

Then, when Communism fell, she and the rest of the Living Marxism crew decided to abandon it as well. They crossed the floor to become right-wing Libertarian Tory contrarians. Living Marxism was rebranded as the Last Magazine, ’cause the Fall of Communism marked the end of history according to Francis Fukuyama. This went down the tubes, but Furedi and the rest went on to found Spiked. Which, as Zelo Street has so wittily put it, is so called because it should be. The other year the ghastly Fox was then taken up by the Tories for her work on their behalf, and is now a peer in the House of Lords. Ugh!

But this time she has done something right. One of the issues facing gender-critical feminists and anyone concerned with women’s safety is the move to house transwomen in women’s prisons. Unfortunately, this does not just mean the kind of people most us would naturally think of as a transwoman. I think most people, when they think of them have in mind gentle souls, whose identification with born women has led them to transition surgically. If this was the case, and all transwomen were like that, then I think there would be much less opposition to transwomen being placed in women’s prisons.

Sadly this is not the case. The trans category has been expanded so that it includes biological men, who identify as women but retain their male anatomy. Furthermore, the traditional rigorous medical examinations to confirm trans status have been, or are planning to be, scrapped in place of self-recognition. A male prisoner may therefore claim to be a really a woman only on his own say-so, and therefore demand to be placed in a women’s prison. This is a real problem for the safety of the women already there, as many of them are violent rapists and sex offenders. There has already been a series of rapes and sexual assaults in California’s women’s prisons, thanks to the legislation demanding that trans identified men be housed in them, to the point where the prison authorities are actually handing out condoms.

I realise this is a controversial issue, and people have been cancelled and thrown off university campuses for stating that there are only two sexes and other challenges to the trans ideology. I will state again that I am not anti-trans, and do not wish to see anyone persecuted, beaten, discriminated against or denied educational or employment opportunities because of their sexuality or gender identification. But I do believe there is an imperative need to keep women safe from dangerous predators.

I’ve blogged about this issue before. Gillyflowerblog, one of the respected commenters on this blog, has said in a previous comment about a post I made on Sargon of Gasbag and Posy Parker on the dangers of radical trans extremists on the dangers of involving the medical profession. She said: “Lastly, if a medical certificate is required to transition then do you expect the same for gay people. After all, the biology suggests heterosexuality. It is a very dangerous step to invole the medical profession”. I take her point. I’ve no doubt it is, and have every sympathy in this regard as once upon a time when homosexuality was a criminal offence people did seek medical intervention to correct it. However, while I recognise the dangers of medical intervention, you can do much to help women’s safety by removing biologically male rapists and predators from them. I understand the British government is doing so by building separate trans wings for them.

Belfield, the mad right-wing internet radio host, put up this video of Fox making her speech on his blog yesterday, with a comment about how loved her. Well, he would, as he’s as right-wing as she is. Nevertheless, Fox makes very good points, though this doesn’t alter the fact that she and her fellow Spiked crowd are still scumbags.

Professor Kathleen Stock Forced Out of Sussex University Due to Threats and Bullying by Trans Activists

November 1, 2021

This is appalling. It’s an attack on free speech and specifically academic freedom by violent student thugs. But unfortunately, it seems to have caused little outrage except from a few individuals on the right because those responsible for the threats are members of a minority, who claimed to be simply defending themselves from persecution.

Before I go on, I wish to make it very plain that I condemn the persecution of anyone for their sexuality or sexual identity. I don’t wish to see trans people denied jobs, ostracised, beaten or worse. I have every sympathy for those struggling with their sexuality or gender. I think it was still within my lifetime that public transvestism was illegal and punishable by a jail sentence. When I was at secondary school in the 1970s-80s we studied ‘relationships’ as part of the Religious Studies course, along with other important issues like television and media bias and influence. One of the piece in the textbook we were using was about a young man, who’d been arrested and jailed for crossdressing. This poor chap wasn’t loud and proud, but tormented by his sexuality. I’ve also got a feeling one of the methods used to treat it was aversion therapy, in which the patient got an electric shock when shown women’s clothes. I think the psychologist Hans Eysenck used this method to treat a transvestite trucker. It’s horrible, and probably explains some of the hysteria amongst trans rights activists when they falsely claim that gender critical feminists somehow want to kill them. I have seen absolutely nothing to suggest that anti-trans rights feminists actually do. But it seems to me that the trans activists are afraid that if they aren’t treated exactly as women, somehow the official persecution that existed forty years ago will somehow return.

But the trans rights activists are still perpetrating violent intolerance of their own, and this needs to be fought like any other kind.

Last week Kathleen Stock, a philosophy professor at Sussex University, finally gave up the struggle and announced she was moving on. Stock had been subjected to a campaign of threats and intimidation, including, I believe, smoke bombs, simply because she believes that transwomen aren’t women and that sexual identity is based in biological sex. That’s it. A group of anonymous students issued a series a threats demanding her removal. I think the university initially gave in, but then pivoted and backed her. Unfortunately, her union, the UCU, refused to do so. Despite support from the university, Stock announced she was leaving. The University gave her a very gracious farewell praising her and her work.

The trans activists and certain sections of the gay rights movement were highly delighted. There were gloating comments about her departure by an anonymous individual, Sussex Against TERFS, the Pink Paper and an SNP MP, all of whom saw this as some kind of victory. But while it might be for them, it is an attack on genuine free speech and democracy.

Western democratic society is built on free speech, and much of the west’s intellectual progress has come from the ability to investigate, research, examine and discuss without interference or censorship. These freedoms have been hard won, and as we’re seeing from the Tories’ assault on the right to protest, they are still under threat. Now free speech is not an absolute right. There are laws against certain types of speech, such as incitement to racial hatred the promotion of paedophilia and so on. The argument trotted out by the Trans Rights Activists in their attacks on gender critical feminists and their supporters is that somehow the denial that transwomen are women is an attack on trans people’s very lives. J.K. Rowling has been accused of wanting to kill trans people, simply because she said that transwomen weren’t women. Russell T. Davies, the creator of the Channel 4 gay soap opera, Queer As Folk, who revived Doctor Who nearly a decade and a half ago, gave a bizarre speech last week attack the LGB Alliance. This was set up by gay men and women as an alternative to Stonewall, because they felt that the latter was concentrating on trans rights at the expense of defending ordinary gay people. They have no animus towards trans people. They merely regard trans identity as a separate issue which should have its own organisation. But because of this they were attacked as ‘transphobic’, ‘Nazis’ and Fascists. In his speech, Davies left the endings off various words, and then declared that ‘when you exclude the ‘T’, you kill’.

What? No-one is talking about killing trans people, except the trans activists. It’s a nasty, malign accusation.

But the accusation unfortunately believed by all too many trans people, and is motivating some to acts of violence and death threats, such as those against Prof. Stock. Her departure from Sussex University has been covered by the Lotus Eaters and Alex Belfield, who states that he doesn’t believe that real trans people are behind the threats. He says instead that it’s probably their supporters. One of the Lotus Eaters states that the threat of violence were so serious that when Stock came to talk at his old university, there were bouncers on the door checking peoples’ bags to make sure they weren’t trying to smuggle a bomb into the auditorium.

This is not defending the rights of a minority. This is terrorism and Fascism. Almost literally.

This might sound incredible, considering that trans rights is generally considered to be a left-wing issue, but sections of Italian Fascism would have supported it solely because of the violence of its supporters. The Futurists, a radical avant-garde artistic movement linked to the Fascists, idealised ‘youth, speed and violence’. They praised ‘the slap, the punch, as the decisive argument’. And while they were vehemently hypermasculine and opposed feminism, they were impressed with the Suffragettes because of their dynamism and acts of violence and terror. In the 1940s the movement’s leader, Marinetti, raved about a coming war between lesbians and homosexuals, who would then united against normal men. Well, the violence and terrorist threats issued by militant trans activists aren’t quite like that, but they’re close, especially as Stock is a lesbian.

These Fascistic threats and violence should be stopped immediately. Anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Kean has said that the students responsible for them should be expelled. I agree. People have every right to protest, but this should not include threats of violence and real bullying.

The students making them are not defending democracy, but trying to destroy through a determination to stamp out any belief that disagrees with their own. It’s time this was halted.

Real tolerance is not only tolerating views you agree with or find acceptable. It is tolerating those you don’t. And it is time that the students responsible for these threats realised this.

Here are the video from the Lotus Eaters and Alex Belfield commenting on this. Yes, I know they’re terrible right-wingers, but this is such an important issue that I feel they should be heard. And I agree with Belfield when he states that he is horrified more people aren’t condemning Stock’s bullying. Absolutely. I wish more people were doing so too, especially from the left.

Because I don’t believe real threats and violence should be used against anyone in a democratic society, except perhaps real, violent Fascists.

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.