Posts Tagged ‘Folklore’

Dr Hakim Adi Replies to my Inquiry about Prehistoric African Invasion of Britain

August 3, 2022

A few hours ago I sent an email to Dr Hakim Adi of Chichester university about a claim he supposedly made in his recent book on the history of African and Afro-Caribbean communities in Britain. According to a post by Simon Webb of History Debunked on YouTube, Dr Adi claims that there is folklore of an African invasion of Britain prior to the Roman conquest. I queried the claim, as I have never heard of it, and suggested that it could be a garbled version of various archaeological, pseudo-historical and fictional accounts of migrations from Africa to Britain or aboriginal Black inhabitants of these isles.

Dr Adi has kindly replied to my inquiry. Here it is:

‘Dear David,

I have been informed that what someone referred to as a ‘crazy white supremacist’ has made a video about one of my books for children. In the circumstances you will understand why I don’t take such a ‘review’ of my book very seriously. 

 As that book is only 48 pages long, I feel sure that you have looked at what I have written for yourself. If not, perhaps you will care to look at a more developed version which is being published by Penguin next month. There I provide some of the latest archaeological findings and more ancient references https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/130682/hakim-adi

with my best wishes,

Professor Hakim Adi

Professor of the History of Africa and the African Diaspora’.

It’s not quite the reply I would have wanted, but some readers may enjoy his description of Simon Webb. I have sent a reply to Dr Adi thanking him for getting back to me and pointing me to the more developed version of his book.

Critical Race Theory, White Privilege and the Rhetoric of Ethnic Cleansing

August 2, 2022

As readers will have probably noticed, I have very strong objections to Critical Race Theory and particularly its concept of White privilege. Critical Race Theory is a postmodern revision of Marxism, dreamt up in the 1970s by Kimberle Crenshaw and a group of Black Marxist legal scholars in the 1970s. It replaces class as the instrument of oppression with race. ‘Whiteness’ is a bourgeois quality possessed by all Whites which guarantees them social, economic and political superiority to Blacks and other people of colour. Even if the individual White person is not racist. Racism, it also holds, has not declined, but is just better hidden. Whites must be made to know Black oppression and feel guilty about it. Much of the literature of Critical Race Theory and its activism is about deliberately humiliating Whites. For example, several years ago there were student riots at Evergreen College in Oregon. The college was very liberal, and there had been for decades since the 1970s an annual withdrawal of Black students during the summer months to mark the absence of Blacks during a critical phase in the civil rights struggle or so. By the middle of the last decade, this had changed into demands for the White students to absent themselves in favour of Blacks, in order to appreciate Black marginalisation. This was succeeded by a series of aggressive student demonstration in which Blacks and their White allies insisted on forcing Whites into inferior positions. At meetings, for example, Whites were required to sit at the back and not speak. Brett Weinstein, an evolutionary biologist with liberal views, describes it as ‘Black supremacy’. Not all Blacks supported this aggressive demonstration of racial vindictiveness, and one of Weinstein’s students, a young Black woman, shouted at the mob that she wasn’t oppressed. Students of whatever colour, who didn’t conform, were chased by the mob. Peter Boghossian, Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay also demonstrated the irrationality and vicious prejudice of this woke pseudo-scholarship in the spoof papers they sent to various woke, postmodern journals, which were eventually collected up and published as Grievance Studies. In one paper, they argued that White male students should be forced to sit on the floor in order to teach them about marginalisation and persecution. They believed this would be too much for the academic journal to which they had submitted it. Alas, no; it was accepted with a reply complaining that they didn’t go far enough: the young men shouldn’t just be forced to sit on the floor, but should be chained up as well.

Part of what worries me about the concept of ‘White privilege’ is that privilege is something usually said of rich minority groups, who haven’t worked for their position, such as the aristocracy. Or the half of the British business elite that has inherited the ownership of their companies, rather than having worked their way up. It also recalls the legal privileges that accompanied the European class system, particularly under feudalism, and the legal restriction placed on Blacks in Jim Crow America and in the White-ruled colonies, like Rhodesia, Malawi and South Africa, until the beginning of Black majority rule. For example, until the establishment of democracy in the 1920s in Britain, women were barred from voting and there was a property qualification on the franchise, so that the majority of working class men did not have the vote either. I also believe that there was a property qualification on serving on juries, which was only abolished by Woy, sorry, Roy Jenkins in his socially liberal reforms of the 1960s. Much of the ire directed at Jenkins from the right comes from his decriminalisation of homosexuality and his relaxation of the divorce laws. One splenetic right-winger- from the Daily Heil perhaps? – once described him as a destroyer of British society comparable to Stalin or some other totalitarian monster. Really? Just Jenkins on his own? With his ‘good claret expression’, to use the words of caricaturist Gerald Scarfe. The last time I looked, Britain’s buildings were all standing rather than reduced to rubble by the rampaging hordes, and Jenkins and the Labour party following him had sent a precise number of zero people to concentration camps or re-education centres. But a certain type of high Tory does want all this back. The Financial Times reviewed one such book, which looked forward to the return of the property qualification for juries so they would protect property rights, and the restoration of the old order before anti-discrimination legislation.

In fact there are very strong arguments against White privilege. For a start, east Asian such as the Chinese and Japanese, perform much better educationally and economically than Whites in America and Britain. In Britain the proportion of Asians in management positions, for example, is identical to Whites. In America, they earn more and occupy superior jobs. And while Blacks are sacked before Whites, Whites are sacked before east Asians. This isn’t because east Asians are superior in IQ. It’s because they seem to work harder and have a particular set of cultural skills that allow them to succeed. And in many instances, they earned their position through very hard work against prejudice and discrimination. One social study found that the Japanese in Canada were the most ‘privileged’ ethnic group. But Japanese Canadians had had a long struggle against punitive discrimination which was worse than that experienced by people of Japanese descent in the US. And immigrants to the US from the British Caribbean earn more on average not just to native Black Americans, but also to Whites. For Black conservatives like Thomas Sowell, Blacks are held back not by racial discrimination in the wider society, though he doesn’t deny this exists, but because the majority Black culture hasn’t acquired the necessary social and economic skills to uplift themselves And he is fiercely critical of multiculturalism because he believes it isolates and ossifies different ethnic groups into separate enclaves and cultural preserves, thus preventing from learning from and acquiring the skills of other, more successful groups. As for White privilege, it is hard to see what privilege a homeless White man possesses compared to tenured and respected Black academics and radicals like Crenshaw.

To me, Critical Race Theory and White privilege tackle the problem of Black poverty and marginalisation from the wrong end. Instead of seeing Black poverty as the anomaly which must be tackled, it sees White success as the anomaly, which must be destroyed if Blacks and people of colour are to take their rightful place in society. Thus White people must be brought down and Whiteness abolished. The Guardian, which promotes Critical Race Theory, as claimed that this doesn’t mean White people but Whiteness as the social quality that gives them their exalted place. But one of the writers anthologised in the collection of papers, Critical Race Theory, states that there is no difference between Whiteness and White people. And one of the fears of CRT’s critics is that after attacking Whiteness, the radicals will indeed move on to attacking Whites.

It seems to me that the Critical Race Theory and White privilege are essentially a continuation of the mindset that Whites enjoy their superior social position through mechanisms of power long after those legal mechanisms had been officially abolished and the ideology on which they were based was discredited. It’s an attempted to explain why, after the victories of the Civil Rights movement, the majority of Blacks are still poor. And the rhetoric of decolonisation over here seems to be a direct transference of the bitterness felt by indigenous Africans to privileged White settlers to mainstream British, White society. And that worries me, because of the brutality of the ethnic cleansing of the White farmers in Zimbabwe by Mugabe’s thugs at the beginning of the century. I also have to say that I’m worried about the trends in Afrocentric and other Black pseudohistory that claims that Blacks are the original inhabitants of the British isles. Simon Webb of History Debunked yesterday put up a post about the claims in a book on African and Afro-Caribbean communities in the UK, that there are folktales of Africans invading Britain before the Romans. Webb has his own racial biases and some the historical claims he makes are also false. But if he’s right about this, then the author of the book, Hakim Adi, a professor at Chichester university, is talking pure tosh. I am aware of no such folktales, not even when I was a member of the Society for Contemporary Legend Research back in the 1990s. The closest I’ve come to it was in the long-running and sadly missed Celtic warrior strip, Slaine, in the zarjaz SF comic 2000AD. This included a race of Black Atlanteans, the Rmoahals, described as giant aboriginals. The strip’s writer, Pat Mills, based them on a legend that the standing stones of the isle of Callanish in the Hebrides were built by Black-skinned giants who dressed in feathers. Aside from that, the only other source for this curious assertion may be a garbled memory of one of the waves of colonisation that swept over Britain and the continent during prehistory. The Neolithic reached Britain from the fertile crescent over two routes. One was directly across Europe itself, the other was across North Africa and then up from Morocco through Spain. But this occurred so long ago that it was lost to memory for millennia. Archaeologists have only now been able to reconstruct it by using genetic data. Has Adi heard a garbled version of this from within the Black community, from people who mistakenly thought this was a Black African invasion? It also reminds me of the claim made a few years ago that the ancient Egyptians settled in Birmingham before the Roman conquest. This appeared in the Independent, but has, I understand, since been discredited. It also seems to me to have a certain kinship to another piece of Black myth-making, that sailors from Mali discovered America before Columbus, but didn’t enslave the Amerindians. If this happened, it would be truly remarkable, as I’ve seen claims that the Malians didn’t have any ocean-going ships. And the Malinka were a powerful slaving nation, so if they did discover the Amerindians, there would have been nothing preventing them from enslaving them as well.

My fear is that this rhetoric and pseudohistory will cause Blacks, or a minority of Blacks, to see themselves as the oppressed, true inhabitants of Britain and attack the White British as colonialist oppressors. Even if, at present, they claim otherwise. When the Black Lives Matter movement broke out, its Bristol branch stuck up posters claiming that ‘We’ve always been here’ – which is hi8storically very debatable, although some Blacks have been present in Britain at various periods from the Middle Ages onwards. Claims of Black presence further back, such as the supposed Black skin colour of Cheddar man, are more conjectural. Webb has claimed that this reconstruction was based on a false interpretation and has since been retracted, but I have not seen him cite his source for this.

Marx himself held some extremely unpleasant racial views. He’s most infamous for his anti-Semitism, as shown by him sneering at his German rival, Ferdinand Lassalles, as ‘the Jewish ni++er.’ But he also had strong prejudices against European ethnic groups. He held that the Celts, Basques and the Slavs were backward peoples who had no intrinsic right to exist and national independence. When the 1848 Revolutions broke out, he was afraid that their bids for independence would stop the class revolution he wished to promote. In a chilling passage, he looked forward to the class war becoming a race war. This recalls the horrific ethnic cleansing and deportations Stalin inflicted on the national minorities in the USSR, including the Holodomor, the artificial famine in Ukraine which killed 7 million people.

Thomas Sowell in his book Conquests and Cultures talks about the ethnic cleansing by Muslim mobs of the Ibo people by Muslims in Nigeria and the horrific bloodbath of the Biafran war. The Ibos had previously been a minor, poor tribe but had seized the opportunities presented by western, Christian missionary education, which the northern Muslims had rejected as against their faith. As a result, Ibos were better educated and held better jobs and positions of responsibility even in the Muslim north. This was naturally resented, and the resentment grew into violence. Sowell notes that these tensions were heightened by the language each side used against the other. He writes

‘The problem was not simply that there were differences of opinion, but that there were not established and mutually respected traditions for airing those differences with restraint and accommodation. Vitriolic polemic in the press and in the political arena became the norm. Epithets like “fascist” and “imperialist stooge” became commo currency, along with unbridled expressions of tribal chauvinism.’ (p. 127). In the West there are respected means of airing such differences, but the insults sound very much like the language used by the woke, radical intersectional left against its opponents.

And there is anti-White racism and violence. Two decades ago the number of Whites killed in racist attacks was nearly the same as members of Blacks and other ethnic minorities. There have been armed attacks by Blacks on Whites in the past few weeks and months. One was when a man opened fire on the passengers on a subway. Another was when a Black man deliberately drove his car into a parade in a White community. He left behind a manifesto which made it very clear that this was an act of anti-White terrorism. But this was not treated as such by the Biden administration.

I am very pessimistic about the success of affirmative actions schemes in creating a sustainable Black middle class. As I understand it, this was originally intended to be only a temporary measure. Once Blacks had gained entry into education, the sciences, politics and business on a level comparable with Whites, these schemes were to be dismantled as they would no longer be needed. But forty years after the Runnymede Commission recommended ‘positive discrimination’ in which Blacks are to be favoured by offering places with lower grades to universities and colleges, and preferential job offers if they have lower qualifications, the mass of Black Britain still remains poor and marginalised. I don’t, however, know how bad the situation would otherwise be if these policies had not been implemented. It could be they would have been much worse.

Nevertheless I do fear that these policies will continue to fail and that, in their anger and desperation, some Blacks will begin pogroms against Whites, encouraged by the rhetoric and arguments of Critical Race Theory.

Labour Party Invite Me to Anti-Semitic Awareness Event Run by Sectarian, Fanatically Zionist Witch-Hunters Jewish Labour Movement

July 2, 2022

I got this email yesterday from Southwest Labour

‘Dear David James,

We are pleased to be inviting members in the South West to attend anti-semitism awareness training from the Jewish Labour Movement. It will take place over Zoom on Wednesday 6th July at 7pm. 

Please email’ ————–‘to register and the meeting link will be sent closer to the date.

Best wishes,

Labour South West’

I should cocoa! The very cheek! Just in case you need reminding, the Jewish Labour Movement was one of the Jewish organisations deeply involved in the witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour party for alleged ‘anti-Semitism’. I put ‘anti-Semitism’ inverted commas because these organisations, including those outside the party like the Chief Rabbinate and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism were not, in my opinion, genuinely concerned with anti-Semitism in its true and original sense. This is a hatred of Jews, simply for being Jews, regardless of political or religious opinions on their part. I have made this point again and again on this blog, citing some of the 19th century founders and leaders of modern organised anti-Semitism in Wilhelm Marr’s Bund Antisemiten or League of Anti-Semites. The Jewish Labour Movement used to be Paole Zion, Workers of Zion, and was virtually moribund until a decade or so ago when in received an injection of cash from person or persons unknown. The Labour Party has always had Jewish members and the parliamentary party has, or used to have, slightly more than the Tories. There are a number of other Jewish organisations in the Labour party and on the left, such as Jewish Voice for Labour and the Jewish Socialist Group, not to mention Jewdas, with whom Jeremy Corbyn spent a Passover Seder. Corbyn also received strong backing from the Haredi Jews, who believe it is their duty to stay in galut, exile, until they are called back to Israel by the Messiah. In the meantime, they are to cooperate with the peoples in whose lands they reside to build better societies and to ‘pray for the health of the city’ as commanded by the Prophet in the Hebrew Bible. And I’ve no doubt there are many other Jews in the Labour party, who are not party of any Jewish organisation, because, like Dr. Jonathan Miller, they consider themselves Brits, who happen to be Jewish, and don’t want to be part of a minority.

But these Jews and their organisations are not recognised as properly Jewish and are actively opposed and maligned by the Jewish Labour Movement. The JLM’s focus, like the other organisations behind the witch-hunt, is to combat anti-Zionism and silence any criticism of Israel’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians. And they do this by smearing their enemies as anti-Semites. And very many of their victims are Jews, which make their claims to be tackling anti-Semitism risible.

Mike was told by the Labour party that he would be allowed to remain in it after he was smeared as an anti-Semite if he attended anti-Semitism training by the JLM. Mike’s only crime was to point out that Ken Livingstone was entirely correct when he said that Adolf Hitler initially supported Zionism. He did. It was the Ha’avara Agreement, a shameful pact with the German Zionists to smuggle German Jews into British mandate Palestine. It was done as a way to cleanse Germany of Jews. The pact was short-lived, but it happened. Mike refused, as he is not and has never been and never will be an anti-Semite and attendance would have been taken as a tacit admission of guilt.

Jackie Walker is another of their victims. They secretly recorded her at workshop to discuss the best ways to commemorate the Holocaust. Holocaust Memorial Day not only commemorates the Jewish Holocaust, but also the many other genocides that have disfigured human history. Walker is a Jew by faith and blood. Her father was a Russian Jews, and so she knows from family experience more than most about real anti-Semitic persecution. Her mother was a Black American civil rights activist, and so was deeply concerned about another form of racial persecution against her people. Walker’s crime was to ask what the event would do about commemorating other holocausts, such as those against Black people. Since the great Black activist and scholar W.E.B. DuBois, many Blacks and White sympathisers have regarded the slave trade and slavery as a Black holocaust. Walker asked a decent question. But for some reason this was regarded as ‘anti-Semitic’ and she was smeared and purged.

I think most severely normal Brits are aware of the dangers of anti-Semitism. The documentaries about the Second World War and the Nazis shown on television necessarily include the Nazi persecution of the Jews and the Shoah. There have been a number of award-winning Hollywood films about the Holocaust and the heroes who rescued Jews, like Schindler’s List, which came out in the ’90s. I also remember the outrage and campaigning on the left in the 70s and 80s against the NF and BNP when they were marching about trying to get votes, and similar fears and disgust when the BNP briefly revived and its noxious leader, Nick Griffin, was invited onto Question Time. There are very many excellent books about the Holocaust, and some of the late Clive James’ best TV criticism is from the 70s when Fascist and Nazi scumbags like Oswald Mosley, Albert Speer and Baldur von Schirach were interviewed on British TV. James expertly took apart their lies and false protestations of innocence to reveal the real malignity underneath.

Part of my undergraduate course in history was on the rise of Fascist and Communist regimes in Europe, and I still have the books I bought during then. I’ve also done some reading on Fascism since then, including on its post-War varieties. I’m also interested in conspiracy theories, the most infamous of which are those about some secret Jewish conspiracy which controls both capitalism, socialism and communism to enslave the White race. These theories became prominent again in the ’90s when they were incorporated into the UFO mythology and the right-wing conspiracy theories about the Illuminati, another group who are supposed to be controlling world events, the economy and politics from behind the scenes. David Icke believed that the world is secretly run by Reptoid aliens. He caused alarm and outrage because he used quotations from the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Tsarist anti-Semitic forgery, to support his crank ideas. Icke isn’t an anti-Semite, and genuinely seemed to believe that the world was run by extraterrestrials rather than Jews. Other UFO researchers, like the late Bill English, did the same, though when they cited the Protocols they claimed they should be read as talking about the Illuminati, rather than the Jews. Nevertheless these quotations were in danger of making the Protocols seem respectable to the point where a branch of Waterstones in one of the northern towns stocked them.

I totally accept that respectable scholars and lay people have to be very careful when it comes to some of the material on topics like the Nazis and Holocaust. Real anti-Semites and Nazis try to disguise their awful views and attempts to deny or minimise the Holocaust by setting up respectable-sounding magazines. Often they use coded language. For example, a very respectable folklorist wrote a piece in one of the urban folklore magazines back in the ’90s to tell how he’d been taken in by such tactics and to warn other to be on the guard. He had been researching tales of atrocities committed by the Germans during the First World War. He came to the conclusion that one of these, the story that the Kaiser’s troops had crucified a Canadian soldier, was bogus and may have been just allied propaganda. He was then approached by a history magazine with a respectable-sounding title, who asked him if they could reprint his article. He innocently agreed, only to find out later it was a Nazi rag. Its editors were using stories of allied propaganda to suggest that the Holocaust was also nothing but fiction. But as an American judge has ruled, the Holocaust is so well documented that its existence cannot be sanely denied. The scholar was shocked and disgusted, and so wrote the article to let others know about the deception and to be on their guard about similar tactics and approaches.

As for coded language, the believers in a world-wide conspiracy to enslave humanity talk about the globalists, the Illuminati, or the global elite. Sometimes this is innocent of anti-Semitism, and they really are talking about a secretive group of leading politicos, capitalists and so on, which isn’t some Jewish conspiracy. But sometimes it isn’t, and is code for ‘Jews’. I’ve also noticed that while Simon Webb of History Debunked isn’t an anti-Semite or anti-Zionist by any stretch of the imagination, some of his commenters do seem to be. There’s a lot of talk by them about the Great Replacement, the idea that the Jews are trying to destroy the White race with non-White immigrate. There’s also comments about ‘small hatted people’, or ‘people with small hats’, which sounds very much like its about the Jews, referring to the kippa skullcaps many observant Jews wear.

Sometimes you really do need to be careful and be informed so you’re not taken in by such language and deceit. But the Jewish Labour Movement won’t help you.

They’re concerned to discredit criticism of Israel using literary criticism and citing entirely bogus conspiracy theories about the Jews from the past. Remember when Shai Masot was caught plotting with a senior British civil servant to decide who should or shouldn’t be in the cabinet? This could rightly be called a conspiracy. But if you called it that, or described the two as plotting, you were the using an anti-Semitic trope because of all the genuinely stupid, poisonous and entirely mythical anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in the past. The same if you report the atrocities committed by the Israeli state and IDF against Palestinians, especially if they can get in a reference to the Blood Libel, that Jews sacrificed Christian children to use their blood in the matzoh bread at Passover. This vile medieval smear has been responsible for numerous anti-Semitic pogroms. However, the Israeli state now is manipulating its memory to close down reasonable criticism. When the IDF shot a Palestinian woman a few years ago, one of the respectable newspaper cartoonists produced picture of her burning in the fireplace while Netanyahu, the-then president of Israel, hobnobbed with the US president. This was promptly denounced by the Israelis as anti-Semitic, because the fire recalled the gas ovens of the Holocaust. Similarly, when Gerald Scarfe drew a cartoon of the Israelis building their wretched wall to keep the Palestinians out using Arab blood, the Israelis again demanded a retraction and an apology because the blood supposedly referred to the infamous Blood Libel. And so another piece of entirely reasoned, reasonable and absolutely not anti-Semitic criticism and comment was again silenced. And this is what the Jewish Labour Movement also does in its events about anti-Semitism. They have nothing to do with making people genuinely aware of the threat of anti-Semitism and the way it is coded. They are all about discrediting justifiable criticism of Israel through using literary devices to make them apparently connected to past anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and innuendo.

I have absolutely no intention of going to this monstrous charade. If I want information and guidance on genuine anti-Semitism, I’d try to consult the JLM’s Jewish victims – Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Martin Odoni and others, self-respecting decent people, who have been smeared by the anti-Semitism witch-hunters as self-hating. Even though these people are Jewish and have fought against anti-Semitism and other forms of racism. Or I would contact Marc Wadsworth, the Black anti-racism activist. He was smeared as an anti-Semite, again using literary tropes, because he caught a Jewish Labour MP passing on a party brochure to a Torygraph hack. Oh, it was the trope of the disloyal Jew, they claimed. This was despite the fact that Wadsworth didn’t know the politico was Jewish, and had in the 1980s worked with the Board of Deputies about passing legislation to protect Jews against genuine anti-Semitic violence by the NF or BNP. Or I’d go to someone like Mike, who can tell fact from fiction, well-researches his stories and who was asked by a Jewish friend at College to be one of the readers in her performance commemorating the Holocaust’s victims.

All of the above have a far better understanding of anti-Semitism, or a more honest one than the Jewish Labour Movement and its highly ideological, distorted view of what counts as Jew hatred.

I’ve said it before: Judaism is a religion. The Jews are a people. Zionism is an ideology. Israel is a state. Judaism and its people are not synonymous with the modern state of Israel. Under a free society, all ideologies should be able to be examined and criticised, including Zionism. States can and do commit horrible atrocities, for which they should criticised. Israel should not be an exception merely because its people are Jews. Only hatred of Jews, simply for being Jews, should count as anti-Semitism.

Fight racism! Fight anti-Semitism! And don’t be taken in by bogus propaganda like that of the Jewish Labour Movement.

Are British Schools Really Teaching Children that Medieval British Rulers Were Black?

February 9, 2022

A day or so ago Simon Webb of History Debunked put up a video discussing the book, Negro Rulers of Medieval Scotland and England, by a Black American writer, Johnson. This claims that various British monarchs in the Middle Ages and early modern periods were really Black, including James I. He believed that this was a product of the prevalence of conspiracy theories in Black American and also Dutch Muslim culture. Conspiracy theories aren’t unique to either of these peoples. He stated that they were the reaction of people, who believe they are powerless. This seems to me to be about right, especially as they are most common in peoples where there is a strong distrust of the government. Black Americans generally suffer more from poverty, crime, unemployment, drugs and alienation than other demographic groups, and have been subject to overt oppression and exploitation. It’s therefore almost to be expected that conspiracy theories should be far more widespread amongst them than in the White population. Way back in the ’90s folklorists documented various rumours and urban legends in the Black community. Some of these erroneously claimed that named fashion designers and clothing firms wouldn’t market their brands to Black. Another was that Coca-Cola was putting chemicals in the water to sterilise young Black men. This was also very much not true, but given their history and treatment, you can well understand how some people could believe it. Webb considered that it was because of this conspiracy culture that some Black Americans were inclined to believe that some medieval British kings were Black. He compared this to an episode in the 1938 Evelyn Waugh novel, Scoop, in which the hero tries to arrange a visa to enter Ethiopia in order to cover the war there. He is told by an official that just about every major historical incident and invention, from the discovery of the circulation of the blood to the defeat of the Germans in the First World War, was due to Africans. Unfortunately, Webb stated, we can no longer laugh at such historical appropriations. White liberals were taking them seriously, and so books like Johnson’s were being taught in schools. This was also the reason why a Black woman had been cast by Channel 5 to play Anne Boleyn.

Now Johnson’s book clearly exists, as Webb showed its cover in his thumbnail and provided a link to its Amazon page. It seems to be the product of the same brand of Afrocentrism that drew on Gerald Massey’s 1881 Book of the Beginnings and David Macritchie’s 1884 Ancient and Modern Britons to claim that the inhabitants of the British Isles were originally Black. And it seems to me quite credible that some schools are teaching Johnson’s book. According to Stephen Howe’s book, Afrocentrism, there were 350 private, ‘afrocentric academies’, teaching 50,000 children in America in 1991. American public schools also have afrocentric curricula and even whole Afrocentric schools in the Black majority districts in Detroit, Baltimore and Milwaukee (see page 3). But I do wonder how many schools over here are teaching it. I don’t doubt that there are many Black activists and teachers that would like to. Last year during Black History Month the local BBC News for Bristol, Points West, discussed calls for Black history to be taught in schools. If I remember correctly, some were already supposed to have done so. But Britain also has a National Curriculum, which I would have thought would have prevented much Afrocentric material, at least of the extreme type, from being taught.

I also don’t know if books like Johnson’s were behind Channel 5’s decision to have Boleyn played by a Black thesp. It seemed far more likely to me that it came from the theatre, where Black actors have been cast in traditional White roles for a long time. I also think it was influenced by Armando Iannucci’s colour-blind film of Dickens that came out a few years ago. The Tudors are a part of the National Curriculum and have been a staple of British historical programming. Producers are always looking for a way to put a fresh angle on something, and following the BLM riots the TV companies were falling over themselves to promote, or be seen to promote, Black talent. Black History Month was set up partly as a way to motivate Black children at school and raise their academic performance. There may therefore be no other explanation for the broadcaster’s choice of actor than an intention to find a way to appeal to a Black audience as well. The only sure way of proving that the decision was based on books like Johnson’s would be if a document emerges from Channel 5 stating this is the case, or, failing that, they were working with a Black group that took the view that Boleyn and other members of the British 16th century nobility were Black. But Webb doesn’t produce any such evidence.

Some Black Americans may therefore be erroneously taught that Anne Boleyn and the rest were Black, but I see no evidence that such counter-knowledge is being taught in British schools just yet.

Two Fairy Sightings from 20th Century Britain

June 7, 2021

My last blog post was about a video I found on YouTube from Irish television in 1966. They were covering the attempt by an Irish docker, Tim Hayes, to spend 101 hours buried underground near a fairy fort in order to disprove the existence of the ‘Gentlemen’ or ‘Good People’. The film included a brief interview with a local man, who said he would definitely not want to interfere with the fairy fort, and would be extremely upset if anyone else were to do so or interfere with the field in which it lay. The film testifies to the continuing power of real belief in the fairies, despite the onward march of rationalism.

But it isn’t only in Ireland or the Celtic countries that belief in the fairies still persists. People are also still seeing them in England too. I found these two accounts from the 20th century in Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain, (London: Reader’s Digest 1973), p. 121.

All dressed in green

‘… When we were on holiday in Cornwall, my daughter and I came down a winding lane, and all of a sudden there was a small green man – all in green with a pointed hood and ears. We both saw him … we were cold with terror and ran for the ferry below.’ A 20th century description by a man from Shropshire.

A fairy guide

‘… It was on the Berkshire Downs, and we’d lost our way, and didn’t know what track to take. When I looked round, there was small man in green standing at my elbow. “You’ll be all right,” he said, “You take that one; you’ll be all right.” Then he didn’t disappear, but he just wasn’t there any more’. Described in 1962 by a Somerset farmer’s wife.

And sightings continue to the present day. I went to a folklore/ paranormal conference a few years ago here in Bristol on the fairies, which included people who very firmly believed in them. And when I was studying for my archaeology Ph.D. at Bristol university, I went to a seminar on fairies presented by the epic Ron Hutton. Hutton opened by singing the theme to the Southern vampire TV series, Tru Blood, before describing a sighting of a fairy one evening by a young man and a women in Glastonbury. Well, where else? The couple saw this strange light bouncing along the ground. One of them asked the other what on earth it could be, and got the reply ‘It’s a fairy. What else could it be?’

Having said that, you have to be careful of jokers. My mother had an old friend from college down in Cornwall. She went down there one year to visit her. They were out on a trip somewhere, and she, the friend, my father and the friend’s mother went on to wherever they were going, leaving the friend’s father behind to have a sit down and rest. When they returned they found that he’d been talking to an American woman. This was at a time when there was a spate of fairy sightings. The American had asked the old fellow if he’d seen any. Oh yes, he replied, he certainly had. They were at the bottom of his garden. That wasn’t remotely true, and when they challenged him on it, he replied, ‘Well, it’s what she wanted to hear.’ Sometimes that smiling old rustic telling you of his supernatural encounters may not be the naive, horny-handed son of toil in touch with the supernatural you believe him to be.

But in the spirit of this post, here’s another video I found on YouTube. It’s the folk-rock band Steeleye Span playing ‘Wee Wee Man’ about a fairy from the 1970s.

Will Race Activists Now Demand that Bristol’s Black Boy Hill Be Renamed?

February 16, 2021

Note I say ‘race activist’ not ‘anti-racist activists’ as I don’t believe that the demands for some monuments to be removed or renamed, in this instance four pubs owned by Greene King, are genuinely anti-racist. Rather they are the result of ignorance and a simmering resentment against a perceived injustice that in this instance doesn’t actually exist. It’s prejudice masquerading as a demand for racial justice.

The Daily Telegraph announced at the weekend that the brewery Greene King were going to rename four of their pubs, called ‘The Black Boy’. This came after the Torygraph had revealed that the brewery’s founder had received government compensation money for slaves he owned following the emancipation of enslaved people throughout the British Empire in 1837. The brewery’s current head made an apology for his ancestor’s participation in slavery and announced that they were going to change the names of those four pubs. Halima Begum, of the anti-racist organisation the Runnymede Trust, declared that the name change was very good news indeed, because BAME people walking past the pub would have been reminded every day of their oppression. The problem with this is that the pubs’ name may not actually refer to slaves. It could come from a racehorse owned by Charles II or the statues of Indians put outside tobacconists.

Simon Webb of History Debunked has put up a number of videos tackling some of the bad history promoted as truth by Black and anti-racist activists. In the one linked to below, he refutes the assertion that the names have anything to do with slavery. He states that he has a number of books on British history and folklore and none of them make that connection. There are a number of other possible sources for the pub name. One explanation is that it may refer to Charles II himself, as he was so dark complexioned that as a child his mother used to call him ‘the black boy’.

Webb is also massively unimpressed by Begum and her comments. He says scornfully that if BAME people were that upset every time they went past the pub, then why didn’t they change their route? He also believes that, as a foreign immigrant, Begum has no right to tell native Brits what to do, just as he would have no right to tell the people of Bangladesh what to do if he lived in their country.

I don’t agree with these latter comments. The same could be said of the Blacks in Bristol, who were upset by the reminder of their people’s enslavement by Colston’s statue, which they had to pass to go to work each day. It’s too glib just to say that they should change their route so they don’t have to go past offending monuments. However, there is a difference between Colston’s statue and those pubs. Colston was definitely a slaver, while those pubs probably don’t have any connection to the slave trade whatsoever.

As for Begum’s immigrant status disbarring her from having an opinion, it may well be that Begum is second or third generation British. She almost certainly regards herself as British, which is why she is angry at the perceived injustice the pubs’ name represents. I disapprove of her opinion, but she has a right to hold it.

This decision may well affect folks down here in Bristol. One of the streets in my great and noble city is Black Boy Hill, and local folklore has assumed that it comes from the city’s notorious participation in the slave trade. But that well be another piece of bad history. Years ago back in the ’90s the City Museum and Art Gallery in Bristol dealt with it in their ‘Respectable Trade’ exhibition on the city and slavery. This stated that there was no evidence connecting the street’s name to slavery, and that it may well have come from one of Charles II’s racehorses. That should have ended the matter. I certainly haven’t heard of any demands to rename the street, in contrast to those for the removal of Colston’s statue. Unfortunately it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the more historically ignorant peeps in Bristol now started demanding it to be renamed following Greene King’s pubs.

Webb says in his video that the connection with slavery may well have come from the American use of ‘boy’ as a demeaning term for Black men during slavery. It’s possible. I got the impression that much anti-racist activism and attitudes are strongly influenced by America despite the differences in history and culture between the two nations. It’s how the Black supremacist Sasha Johnson can posture as a British ‘Black Panther’ and scream that the cops are the Klu Klux Klan. I think the assumption that the name refers to a slave probably comes instead from the fact that wealthy ladies used Black children as page boys during the days of slavery, or simply that enslaved Blacks included children as well as adults.

However, it seems that there really is no connection between the name of these pubs and slavery. In which case, Halima Begum and her friends should actually stop allowing themselves to be guided by their racial prejudices and resentment and actually do some proper historical research of their own, rather than promote fake history. And while I understand that the desire to remove or rename monuments and buildings connected with slavery or celebrating slaveowners is part of a perfectly understandable desire for racial justice, I think it also detracts from the campaign against real, present day slavery. Back in the ’90s it was estimated that around 20 million people were in various forms of slavery around the world. That’s almost certainly grown. I think the figure now is 30 million. There have been slaves found and liberated recently in this country, from women brought here and abused by sex traffickers to immigrant workers on farms. They caught one of the farmers in Gloucestershire, one of the neighbouring counties to Bristol, doing this a few years ago.

I’d have far more respect for Begum and her like if she showed some concern over the victims of modern slavery than spouted bad history about the British slave trade, which ended well over a century and a half ago.

Trailer for HBO Series on Heaven’s Gate Suicide Cult

January 12, 2021

The ’90s were a decade marred by the mass deaths of cult members. There was the Order of the Solar Temple, the horrific immolation of the Branch Davidians in their conflict with the FBI and Heaven’s Gate. HBO Max started screening a documentary series about the latter on December 3rd last year. I found this trailer for it on YouTube. Although it’s just over 2 minutes long, it shows the cult’s main beliefs and the background to the tragedy.

The cult was led by a man and woman, here identified as ‘Do’ and ‘Ti’. They died wearing badges announcing that they were an ‘away team’, and believed that after they left their bodies, they would ascend to become aliens of a superior species and take their seats in a spacecraft in or following a visiting comment. Several of the men had been castrated. Their bodies were discovered covered in purple sheets.

The blurb for the series on its YouTube page gives a bit more information. It says

“Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults” is a thorough examination of the infamous UFO cult through the eyes of its former members and loved ones. What started in 1975 with the disappearance of 20 people from a small town in Oregon ended in 1997 with the largest suicide on US soil and changed the face of modern new age religion forever. This four-part docuseries uses never-before-seen footage and first-person accounts to explore the infamous UFO cult that shocked the nation with their out-of-this-world beliefs.

“Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults” is a Max Original produced by CNN and Campfire. Directed and executive produced by Clay Tweel (“Gleason”), the docuseries is also executive produced by Campfire CEO Ross Dinerstein (“The Innocent Man”) and Shannon Riggs, with Chris Bannon, Eric Spiegelman, Peter Clowney and Erik Diehn executive producing for the digital media company Stitcher (“Heaven’s Gate” podcast, “Sold in America” podcast).

Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults | Official Trailer | HBO Max – YouTube

The Fortean Times did a piece about the cult. As the TV series’ blurb says, the two cult leaders had been knocking around the UFO world for years. I can’t remember their real names, except that they had a couple of nicknames. Apart from ‘Do’ and ‘Ti’, they were also called ‘Him’ and ‘Her’. I think their message had started off claiming that they end was nigh, but that the Space Brothers were coming to help us. It’s a message shared by several UFO religions and Contactees. In the 1950s a Chicago psychic had claimed she had received similar messages telepathically from alien telling her that the world was going to end, but she was to assemble as many followers as she could. These would then be saved by the aliens, who would take them aboard their spacecraft. The psychic and her followers duly assembled on the date of the predicted arrival of the aliens, but the world didn’t end and the aliens didn’t show up. The group had, however, been joined by a group of sociologists from Chicago University, who were studying them. They were particularly interested in how the cult’s members continued to believe in its central message even after it had failed to come true. One of the sociologist’s published a book about it, entitled, When Prophecy Fails, which I think is now a classic of academic studies on UFOs and their believers. The psychic’s group differed from Heaven’s Gate in that none of them, I believe, committed suicide.

The aliens in which Heaven’s Gate believed were bald and asexual, and look very much like one of the stereotypes of UFO aliens taken from SF ‘B’ movies. The bald heads and large craniums show that the aliens are super-intelligent. It ultimately comes from a 19th century evolutionary theory, which held that as humanity evolved, the brain would expand at the expense of the body, and the sensual aspects of humanity would similarly wither. As a result, humans would become smaller, with larger heads and brains. The ultimate endpoint of this evolution are H.G. Wells’ Martians from The War of the Worlds. Astronomers at the time believed that Mars was an older world than Earth, and so Wells’ Martians are similarly far more advanced in their evolution than terrestrial humanity. They consist of large heads with tentacles. As their brains have expanded, their digestive systems have atrophied so that they feed by injecting themselves with blood.

It’s because their supposed aliens were asexual that some of the men in the group had travelled to Mexico to be castrated. It’s also been suggested that it may also have been because the group’s male leader was gay. If he was, and the group’s rejection of gender and sexuality stemmed from his failure to come to terms with his sexuality, then it’s a powerful argument for the acceptance of homosexuality. It’s far better for a gay person to be comfortable with their sexuality than to feel such shame and confusion that they mutilate themselves. This aspect of the Heaven’s Gate ideology also seems to me to be similar to the reason for some families referring their children for treatment as transgender. Opponents of the contemporary transgender movement have claimed that the majority of children referred to clinics like the Tavistock Clinic come from extremely homophobic backgrounds. They’ve argued that they’re seen as transgender by their parents, who have convinced the children of this, because it’s the only way the parents can cope with the child’s sexuality. They can’t accept that their son or daughter is gay, and prefer to believe that they have instead been born in the wrong body. Gay critics of the trans movement and their allies thus see the transitioning of such vulnerable children as a form of gay conversion therapy. That’s certainly how Iran views it. Homosexuality is illegal there, carrying the death penalty. However, gender reassignment surgery is paid for by the state. I got the impression that Iranians gays were offered the choice between death and having a sex change.

The cult’s description of themselves as an ‘Away Team’ was taken from the Star Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space 9 then on television. The ‘Away Team’ were what had been called in the Original Series the ‘landing party’ – the group that would beam down from the Enterprise to explore that episode’s planet. One of the cult’s members and victims was the brother of actress Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura in the Original Series and subsequent films.

Their belief that the world was about to be visited by an alien spaceship was the unfortunate consequence of a misidentification of a known star by a pair of German amateur astronomers. They had been out looking for a comet that was due to come close to Earth. They found it, but with it was an object they couldn’t find on their star maps. They therefore went on the web to inquire what it might be, and the myth developed that it was some kind of alien spacecraft many times bigger than Earth, which was following said comet. Of course, it was no such thing. It was a star that didn’t appear on the maps the pair were using because it was too dim to be visible to the naked eye. It was, however, bright enough for them to see it using binoculars. The Cult’s leaders took the appearance of this supposed alien spacecraft to be the spaceship they had long expected to take them all to a higher plane with tragic consequences. Although the world was shocked by this disaster and the cult’s apparently weird beliefs, folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand pointed out that their idea of being taken to heaven in a ship actually came from a strand of American Christianity. There have been a number of hymns written describing Christian believers going to heaven in just such a vessel.

The trailer for the series also says that the cult’s members were intelligent and came from good families. I don’t doubt this. I’ve heard that members of new religious movements are often of above average intelligence. Perhaps it’s because such people are more intellectually curious and less satisfied with conventional religion. However, it also seems, at least according to the Fortean Times article, that many of the cult’s members also had problems functioning independently. They apparently were always contacting somebody to help them solve ordinary, every day problems like how to peel an apple correctly. I wonder if they suffered from a psychological or neurological condition like autism, which left them unable to cope with ordinary life and so vulnerable to being dominated by a charismatic personality with a message that appeared to solve all their problems.

The series looks like a fascinating insight into one of the decade’s apocalyptic, extreme religions with its roots in the UFO milieu. However, the series will be over by now, and if it was on HBO Max, it’s doubtful that very many people will have seen it. But perhaps it’ll be repeated sometime on one of the more popular TV channels. And I hope that events and the landscape of religious and paranormal belief have changed in the meantime, so that there will never be another tragedy like it.

Silver Monoliths and the Great UFO Ball Invasion

December 30, 2020

I hope everyone’s having a great Christmas, despite the outbreak of an even more virulent strain of the Coronavirus, the consequent lockdown and Boris’ farcical deal with the EU. I haven’t posted anything over the past few days partly because I wanted to enjoy Christmas, and didn’t feel like dealing with all the misery Johnson’s coterie of thugs and entitled bandits and looters, and partly because I simply don’t find much of the news that’s surfaced over the past few days at all inspiring. I was intending only to publish odd, cheerful or uplifting stuff over the holiday period for a change, more in keeping with Christmas as the season of peace and goodwill. Well, that’s gone out the window, as I do intend to blog about serious issues. But for now here’s something far less grim than the faces and policies of BoJob, Gove, Priti Patel, Starmer and Rayner.

Among the serious news there have been reports over the last few weeks of a mysterious silver monolith appearing around the world. It first appeared in America, then disappeared, only to re-emerge in Britain, on the Isle of Wight or somewhere. It disappeared again and then moved to somewhere else in the globe. It’s a pity that some of the urban folklore magazines of the 1990s aren’t still around, as this is the kind of event they loved. Small press magazines like Dear Mr Thoms/ Letter to Ambrose Merton, Folklore Frontiers and the academic Contemporary Legend used to follow similar stories. Like the stolen garden gnomes that went around the world, sending their former owners postcards from whichever new location they turned up in. This is somewhat like that. But it most closely resembles a British UFO hoax from the early 1980s which was covered, I believed, by that venerable journal of the weird, the Fortean Times. I’ve forgotten quite when it all happened, but sometime in the early 1980s or perhaps the late ’70s, a number of silver spheres appeared around Britain making beeping noises. They were designed to appear like alien objects from a UFO. The silver monolith also looks to me like it’s intended to resemble the alien monoliths from Kubrick and Clarke’s classic SF film, 2001, but with the difference that theirs was pitch black. As far as I know, no-one has claimed responsibility for the supposedly alien spheres, although I think it was suggested they were the work of students. I think it’s highly unlikely that either spheres or the recent monolith are the work of aliens. However, latter did appear at the same time as an unexplained signal was received from Proxima Centauri. This is the nearest star to ours, at about four light years away. Scientists were excited about it because Proxima Centauri is believed to have two planets. One is a Jupiter-sized gas giant, but the other is a rocky planet like Earth. So there have been videos on YouTube asking whether what was picked up was another ‘WOW signal’, like the burst of radio noise from Eta Carinae in the 1970s that astonished radio astronomers. It was so close to what they expected a signal from an alien civilisation to be like, that someone wrote ‘Wow’ next to the printout of it. It’s been a matter of debate since whether it really did come from aliens or was natural. The signal was never repeated, like the recent signal from Proxima Centauri, so I think most scientists believe it’s almost certainly natural. I think the Proxima signal will probably prove natural too. But you never know, and we live in hope.

As for hoaxes and stunts like the silver monolith and beeping spheres, while they aren’t remotely the real UFO landing people hope for, they do no harm and keep people amused. And in these grim times, we definitely need everything we can get to keep our spirits up.

Ta-Ha Book on Learning Arabic

November 28, 2020

A.T. Ayyad, Teach Yourself Arabic: Rules of Reading and Writing (London: Ta-Ha Publishers 1982).

This is another book on Arabic that I bought when I was briefly trying to learn the language three decades ago. Ta-Ha are, I think, an Islamic publisher and this book begins with the Fatiha, the opening chapter of the Quran. I think they take their name from two of the syllables that begin various chapters of the Quran, whose meaning according to some Quranic scholars, is known only Allah.

Ayyad was a teacher of Arabic at the Lycee Francaise in Cairo from 1930 to 1953, and says in his introduction that the book is an English version of the methods used to teach the language to Arab students. The book is really a short – 114 pages – introduction to standard Arabic, and includes the alphabet as well as transliterations of the Arabic vocabulary. The book subtitle says it for understanding the rules for reading and writing the language, and it concentrates on grammar rather than vocabulary. It’s probably intended for those wishing to learn Arabic so they can read the Quran, but apart from the quote at the beginning of the book, the sample sentences and exercises aren’t religious. As well as practice exercises, it also includes sample conversations, traditional folktales and proverbs, as well as a section on punctuation, abbreviation and the numerical values of the Arabic alphabet. This seems to be used as a system of numerals rather like the Latin alphabet. There is also a grammatical appendix.

I am definitely no expert, but my guess is that this book gives a basic grounding in the standard, written language. Where I think it might be improved is by providing a little more information about actually writing the letters. Some books on languages that use a different alphabet actually show how they are written with diagrams of the individual pen strokes. This doesn’t. It simply shows the shape of the letters, leaving the reader to work out for themselves how to write them.

Fighting Racism Means Restoring the Welfare State

July 17, 2020

One of the most important things I learned when I was studying Geography for ‘A’ level nearly forty years ago was that poverty leads to political extremism. Part of the course was on the Third World, although I now gather that term, coined by Gandhi, is now out of favour. It was fascinating. We were taught that the countries of the Developing World varied in their levels of economic development and that many of their problems stemmed from the neocolonial system put in place when the European imperial power granted their independence. In return for their political freedom, the former colonies were required to confine themselves to primary industry – mining and agriculture. They were forced into a relationship with their former masters in which they were to trade their agricultural and mineral products for finished European goods. Punitive tariffs were imposed on industrial goods produced by these nations. They are therefore prevented from developing their own manufacturing industries and diversifying their economies. And as the primary resources they export to the global north are produced by a large number of countries, competition works against them. If one country tries to raise the price of copra, for example, the developed countries can simply find another nation willing to supply it at a lower cost. And so the Developing World is kept poor. And that poverty will drive people to political extremism – Communism and Fascism.

Poverty, Economic and Political Crisis and the Rise of Fascism

The same forces were at work behind the rise of Fascism in Europe. Part of the impetus behind the formation of Italian Fascism and German Nazism was frustration at the international settlement at the end of the First World War. Italy was angered by the great powers’ refusal to grant it the territories it claimed, like the Yugoslavian island of Fiume. Germany was humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles and the imposition of crippling reparations. The new democratic system in both countries was unstable. The Nazis made their first electoral breakthrough as the champions of the small farmers of Schleswig-Holstein in the 1920s. But arguable what gave them the greatest spur to power was the 1929 Wall Street crash and the massive global recession this caused. Combined with the breakdown of the ruling Weimar coalition between the Catholic Centre Party, the German  Social Democrats – the rough equivalent of the British Labour Party and the two Liberal parties – the crisis boosted Nazism as a mass movement and allowed President Hindenberg, then ruling by decree, to consider giving them a place in power in order to break the political deadlock. He did, and the result was the twelve years of horror of the Third Reich. Faced with rising unemployment, national humiliation and social and political chaos, millions of people were attracted by the Nazis denunciation of international capitalism and Marxist Communism and Socialism, which they blamed on the Jews.

The Collapse of Louisiana Oil Industry and the Witchcraft Scare

Sociologists and folklorists critically examining the witchcraft scare of the 1990s also noticed the role poverty and wealth inequalities have in creating social panics and the persecution of outsider groups. From the ’70s onwards a myth had developed that there existed in society multigenerational Satanic groups practising child abuse and infant sacrifice. A critical investigation by the British government over here – the Fontaine Report – and the FBI over the Pond found absolutely no evidence that these sects ever existed. But large numbers of people uncritically believed in them. As this belief spread, innocent people were accused of membership of such cults and their mythical atrocities. As the American folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand pointed out, this witch hunt emerged and spread at a time when the gap between rich and poor in America was increasing. One of the places hit by the scare was Louisiana. Louisiana had a strong oil industry, and the state levied a tax on its profits to subsidize local housing. This was fine until the industry went into recession. Suddenly ordinary, hard-working Louisianans found they could no longer afford their mortgages. There were cases where the banks were simply posted the keys to properties as their former owners fled elsewhere. With poverty and insecurity rising, people started looking round for a scapegoat. And they found it in these mythical Satanic conspiracies and in real, New Age neo-Pagan religions, which they identified with them.

1990s Prosperity and Positive Challenges to Affirmative Action

It’s a truism that poverty creates social and racial conflict, as different groups fight over scarce resources. There was a period in the 1990s when it looked like racism was well on the wane in America, Britain and Europe. Blacks were still at the bottom of American society, but some Blacks were doing well, and challenging stereotypes and the need for affirmative action. The Financial Times approvingly reported a self-portrait by a Black American artist, in which he pointedly exaggerated his ‘negrotic’ features in order to make the point that these didn’t define him. There were cases of Black college professors turning down promotion to senior, prestigious positions at their seats of learning because they didn’t want people to think that they hadn’t earned them through their own merits. They hated the idea that they were just being given these places because of their colour. Whites further down the social scale were also challenging the need for affirmative action in a different way, which didn’t involve racist abuse and violence. The FT reported that four American firemen had changed their names to Hispanic monickers, as this was the only way they believed they could get promotion under a system designed to give preference to ethnic minorities. Back in Blighty, some TV critics naively applauded the lack of racism in a series of Celebrity Big Brother, before that all shattered as Jade Goody and one of her friends racially bullied Indian supermodel and film star Shilpa Shetty. Sociological studies revealed that people’s accent was more important than their race in terms of social identity and acceptance. And then when Barack Obama won the American election in 2008, the chattering classes around the world hailed this as the inauguration of a new, post-racial America. But wiser voices reminded the world that the terrible racial inequalities remained.

Austerity, Poverty, and the Destruction of the Welfare State Behind Growth in Racism

All this has been shattered with the imposition of austerity following the banking crash, and the increasing impoverishment of working people across the world. The crash has allowed Conservative government to cut spending on welfare programmes, force through even more privatisations and cuts, and freeze and slash workers’ pay. At the same time, the top 1 per cent has become even more incredibly wealth through massively increased profits and tax cuts.

One of the many great speakers at last Saturday’s Arise Festival on Zoom – I think it was Richard Burgon, but I’m not sure – remarked that talking to people in the north, he found that they weren’t racist. They didn’t hate Blacks and ethnic minorities. But they were worried about access to jobs, opportunities and housing. He made the point that we need to restore these, to fight for all working people and not allow the Tories to divide us. He’s right. If you read rags like the Scum, the Heil and the Depress, the line they take is of virtuous Whites being deprived of employment and housing by undeserving immigrants. Who also sponge off the state on benefits, like the White unemployed the Tories also despise. But they’re obviously not going to tell the world that they are responsible for the shortage of jobs, the insecure conditions for those, who are lucky to have them, and that the shortage of affordable housing is due to them selling off the council houses and defining ‘affordable’ in such a way that such homes are still out of the pocket of many ordinary people. Even if enough of them are built by companies eager to serve the wealthy.

Austerity and Black Lives Matter

It’s austerity that has given urgency to the Black Lives Matter movement. Blacks and some other ethnic minorities have been acutely affected by austerity, as they were already at the bottom of society. If prosperity had continued, if the banking crash had not happened and austerity not imposed, I don’t believe that BLM would have received the wave of global support it has. Blacks would still have occupied the lowest rung of the social hierarchy, but conditions would not have been so bad that they have become a crisis.

White Trump Voters Whites Disadvantaged by Affirmative Action

At the same time, some disadvantaged Whites would not have given their votes to Donald Trump. While Trump is a grotty racist himself, who has surrounded himself with White supremacists and members of the Alt Right, some sociologists have counselled against accusing all of his supporters as such. Years ago Democracy Now’s anchorwoman, Amy Goodman, interviewed a female academic who had done a sociological survey of Conservative White Trump supporters. She found that they weren’t racist. But they did feel that they were being denied the jobs and opportunities they deserved through unfair preference given to other ethnic groups. She likened their mentality to people in a queue for something. Waiting at their place in line, they were annoyed by others pushing in ahead of them. And this was made worse when the queue jumpers responded to their complaints by accusing them of racism. I think the sociologist herself was politically liberal, but she stated that the Conservatives Whites she’d studied should not automatically be called racist and it was dangerous to do so.

Conclusion

It’s clear from all this that if we really want to tackle racism, we need to restore jobs, proper wages, trade union power, real affordable and council housing, and a proper welfare state. These are desperately needed by all members of the working class. I’ve no doubt that they’re most acutely needed by Blacks, but this certainly isn’t confined to them. Restoring prosperity would bring all the different racial groups that make up the working class together, and it would stop the resentment that leads to racial conflict by one group feeling disadvantaged for the benefit of the others.