Posts Tagged ‘Hilary Mantel’

The Iron Maiden Cover that Offended the Tories

October 10, 2018

Here’s a lesson for Tweezer and for any other politico who fancies prancing onto the stage to a rock or pop hit: popular music, like any other musical genre, comes from a variety of viewpoints. It can be simple, apolitical fun. But it can also be sharply, aggressively anti-establishment. And in 1980 Iron Maiden managed to upset the Tory party with the sleeve illustration to one of their singles, which showed Maggie Thatcher being struck with an axe.

The incident is described by Ian Christe in his book, Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal (London: Allison & Busby 2004). He writes

Touching the larger issues instigated by Punk, the NWOBHM bands also took a streetwise yet oblique approach to politics. The picture sleeves of “Sanctuary”, a single from Iron Maiden, depicted Prime Minister Thatcher being axed in an alleyway as she attempted to tear down an Iron Maiden flyer. The British government responded to the record’s popularity with an official censure, requiring that future editions place a black bar over the face of the tormented leader. For her troubles, Thatcher, who cut social programs, sold off government agencies and fought organized labour, was later nicknamed “the Iron Maiden” by the mainstream press. (p. 36).

Well, he’s wrong about Thatcher being called ‘the Iron Maiden’ by the press, She wasn’t. She was called ‘the Iron Lady’. But it shows how touchy the Tories were even then about anyone daring to malign or blaspheme against the Prime Minister. And their decision to censor the cover art so as to obscure Thatcher’s face is an extraordinary piece of censorship. It does recall the outcry the Republicans raised over the other side of the Atlantic, which ended the career of the comedienne who was shot holding the bloody, severed head of Donald Trump. And returning to this side of the Pond, they also vociferously denounced Hilary Mantel when she published her short story, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, on the grounds that it might encourage terrorism.

Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maiden’s front man, left the band in 1992 to be with his family. However, he was still active with an satirical slant. He made a novelty single for the election that year with Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean. And he wrote two books about a transvestite English aristo, Lord Iffy Boatrace. Here’s the covers from Christe’s book, p. 212.

For some reason the character’s name reminds me of that other Tory grandee, Jacob Rees-Mogg, though otherwise I’m sure the character bears no similarity to him whatsoever.

George Galloway: Torygraph Publishes Piece Speculating on Coup to Overthrow Corbyn

May 12, 2018

This is an excerpt from George Galloway’s Talk Radio Show, which I found on YouTube. He begins with talking about a conversation he had with James Whale, a fellow presenter, about the dangerous situation in the Middle East, where Israel is now facing an Arab, Russian and Iranian enemy. He pours scorn, however, on the juvenile scribblers, as Galloway sees it, who claimed that the missiles shot at the Golan Heights had entered Israel. Galloway states that the Golan Heights were illegally seized by Israel from Syria, and so are not part of Israel, no matter what the hacks say.

He then goes on to talk about Theresa May’s volte face, which has meant that victims of the Grenfell Tower fire will now be allowed onto the board investigating it. After that, he moves on to talking about how the Brexit negotiations are an appalling mess, and the whole affair something which all of us will have difficulty getting out of.

But the main subject of his ire is a piece published by Paul Carter in the Torygraph the day before, which may be 10th May 2018. The Torygraph had speculated on the possibility of a military coup against Corbyn. Galloway describes the article as chilling, and states that its author, Paul Carter, has no footprint in social media. The article claims that this coup would occur if the labour leader was elected to power and proceeded to enact to enact three particular policies. These were conducting a referendum to abolish the monarchy, taking us out of NATO, and taking us out of the western foreign policy consensus. Galloway himself wishes Corbyn would do all these, but the Labour leader will certainly not do any of them. The proximate cause of the Torygraph article is that it is 50 years since Mountbatten and the editor of the Mirror met to plan a coup against the Labour prime minister, Harold Wilson. Galloway states that Wilson was a political giant, who dominated the sixties and much of the seventies. He was right-wing Labour, a social democrat. But he had his house burgled and his mail intercepted because it was suspected that he was a Russian secret agent. If the coup had gone ahead, the country would probably be led by Mountbatten from the Despatch Box, probably from the House of Lords, unless he resigned and fought a bye-election. Not that such constitutional niceties would bother people, who had just overthrown their democratically elected leader.

He also makes the point that there were plans to intern 4,000 other leftists, including journalists, on the Shetland Islands. Galloway himself was too young at the time, but if they did launch a coup against Corbyn, this would be the last you’d hear of him for a long time, unless he managed to get onto Radio Free Shetland. He notes one expert, who has said that it would be much harder to launch a coup now that people have mobile phones and social media. It was easier fifty years ago when it was the editors of the newspapers to overthrow the government. But Corbyn would be wise to keep his mobile phone handy. If they did launch a coup, then millions would pour onto the streets to defended their elected leader? Or would they? Galloway leaves this as a matter of discussion for later in the programme. He says that eventually the plans for the coup were abandoned, because the conspirators thought better, including the government’s scientific advisor, Solly Zuckerman. But Galloway thinks this is false, and that they simply got cold feet.

Galloway then closes the segment with a piece about how popular the woman presenting the weather reports is becoming.

This is worrying, as it looks like a combination of smear piece and speculation by the Torygraph. Corbyn hasn’t any intention of trying to abolish the monarchy, taking us out of NATO or acting against the current foreign policy consensus, so it’s a smear to suggest that he might. The absence of any social media footprint for Paul Carter suggests that this is a pseudonym. And this in turn invites speculation that it’s someone from MI5 or another branch of the security services.

This wouldn’t be the first time MI5’s been acting against the government, if this is the case. The agency was convinced Wilson really was a KGB spy, and Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, have suggested that it was behind the smears circulating then about the Labour leader.

As for the coup they’re discussing, the plotting occurred later than the article claims. Mountbatten and the editor of the Mirror were making their plans in the mid-70s. And the Times was also looking forward to Wilson being toppled, though replaced by a civilian government of trusted members of the Labour party, like Shirley Williams, as well the Tories. These plots are discussed in Francis Wheen’s book, Strange Days Indeed: Paranoia in the 1970s, and by Ken Livinstone in his book Livingstone’s Labour. The date’s out, but otherwise everything that Galloway’s said about the proposed coup is correct. One of the reasons it failed is because one of the plotters approached Sandhurst, to ask if the old colonels there would help. They said they wouldn’t, and sent him away. Hurrah for Sandhurst!

Galloway says at the beginning of his discussion of the article that no-one else was talking about it. Which suggests that this is purely speculation and wishful thinking by the Weirdo Barclay Brothers and the paper’s managing director, Murdoch McLellan, and whoever is now the editor of this wretched rag. The paper’s been running articles attacking Corbyn, claiming that he’s an anti-Semite and so on, along with the Daily Mail. But this shows more than a hint of real desperation. For all the Tory and media talk about ‘peak Corbyn’, it seems they really afraid he’ll win the election. In which case, they want the troops to overthrow him. Not because they’re afraid he’ll do all the things they claim he will, but because his very mild socialist programme will cause the end of the Thatcherite consensus. The corporate rich could no longer look forward to a privatised NHS and railways, and parts of the electricity grid would also be renationalised, would which would also upset corporate profits. Not to mention that they could no longer rely on having a cowed, cheap workforce of the desperate on poverty wages, on zero hours contracts and kept in line by the threat of benefit sanctions and starvation.

This is all too much for the Torygraph and its scribblers. So they’ve started fantasising about the possibility of a coup. Just like the British stock exchange cheered the Fascists when they revolted against the Republican government at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

The Torygraph has just about gone full Fascist with this article. And its publication is more than a bit hypocritical for the Tories. Not after they went berserk and accused Hilary Mantel of encouraging terrorism when she published her short story, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. But this shows just how far Corbyn has rattled the Tories, and shown how some of them, at least as for the Torygraph itself, have started hankering after a coup to stop him.

The Anti-Semitism Allegations: A Very British Coup Against the Left

May 18, 2016

I was sent this clip from RT’s Going Underground by one of the great commenters on this blog. In this piece, the anchor Arshid Rattansi talks to Max Blumenthal about highly politicised nature of the anti-Semitism allegations. Blumenthal argues that they are being made to defend Israel from criticism, particularly after the Gaza conflict, and shows that those accused also include religious Jews, and those of Jewish descent, whose anti-racist beliefs and pride in their heritage should not be questioned.

Max Blumenthal describes himself in the clip as ‘an anti-Zionist’ Jew. He’s the author, according to a pop-up text in the show, of Life and Loathing in the Greater Israel. He says he was struck by the strong similarity between the accusations of anti-Semitism, directed at Jeremy Corbyn and the plot of the book, A Very British Coup, by the former Labour MP, Chris Mullens. In Mullens’ book, a former steelworker, Harry Perkins, becomes the British Prime Minister, and embarks on a very left-wing, Marxist programme, nationalising industry and setting up anti-nuclear zones. Perkins is very popular, and to topple him from power, the British establishment, the press and the right-wing of the Labour party, aided by the security agencies, manufacture quotes smearing him as an anti-Semite.

Blumenthal states that this is what is being done to Jeremy Corbyn, including groups within the Labour party that are close to the Zionist lobby. These are the Blairites in the Progress party-within-the-party and Labour Friends of Israel. Corbyn himself has said nothing anti-Semitic and has attended a meeting of the Labour Friends of Israel. On the other hand, he has embraced much of the programme of the BDS campaign – Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement, which seeks to persuade firms and consumers from dealing with firms or purchasing goods made in the occupied West Bank. He has also opened his office to anti-Zionist Jews, including Blumenthal himself. Blumenthal also makes the point that this started two years ago in 2014 when Ed Milliband, who was also Jewish, criticised the Israeli attack on Gaza. Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, who has joined in these allegations, was previously one of the spokesmen for Likud regime defending Israel’s actions during the attack. The definition of anti-Semitism used to justify these actions is highly partisan and politicised. It is not the definition used by some Jewish journalists and philosophers, which is that it is hatred of ‘Jews simply as Jews’, but hatred of the state of Israel. Regev even falsely accused Corbyn’s spokesman, Seaumas Milne in an interview, of saying that he wanted Israel’s destruction, before having to take that back 35 minutes later.

Some of those accused of anti-Semitism include Jews, and people of Jewish descent, whose character should be beyond reproach. In Britain, these include Jacqui Walker. Walker is a black woman of Jewish heritage, who is an anti-racist activist. She was suspended on these charges for a tweet she made saying that slavery was the Black equivalent of the Holocaust. Rattansi states that this isn’t anti-Semitic, just a very strong statement condemning slavery. In America, Bernie Sanders, also Jewish, has been attacked for being anti-Semitic for being critical about Israel. He was also forced to sack his ‘Jewish Outreach Officer’, Simone Zimmerman. Zimmerman is a very religious Jew, who is active in her community. But she also committed the heinous sin of objecting to Israel. Blumenthal states that Sanders and Corbyn have had some contact, but that criticism of Israel is far more muted in America, because AIPAC, the Zionist lobby in America is much more powerful than BICOM, its British equivalent. Blumenthal mentions an awkward moment during an interview Bernie Sanders gave to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Sanders’ raised the point that Comcast, the parent company, was owned by someone, who donated to AIPAC, and that one of its leading journalists, Wolf Blitzer, was also a leading journo and researcher for the lobbyists, and that therefore the show would not broadcast any material critical of Israel. Blumenthal makes the point, however, that there is a grassroots movement in the Democrats away from supporting Israel. This is largely from younger people, who are more secular, and because the country has become much more diverse.

The show has a caveat at the end, stating that they tried to get into contact with Comcast, who made the statement that they do not interfere in the editorial contents of their shows.

Here’s the interview:

CounterPunch have also published a series of articles about the anti-Semitism allegations, pointing out that these are all about the Zionist lobby trying to protect its own interests and Israel against what are perfectly legitimate criticisms. Blumenthal mentions that some of the allegations were made against people, who have criticised the Israeli premier, Benjamin Netanyahu. There’s nothing anti-Semitic about this. I can remember going to a science talk given by a British scientist, who was a staunch supporter of multiculturalism and who had clearly worked in Israel. He had nothing but contempt for the man, whom he described as ‘That b*stard Netanyahu’. There was no condemnation of Israel qua Israel, and certainly no condemnation of the Jewish people. Just a fair comment about the brutal thug governing the country.

As for the extension of the definition of anti-Semitism from its accepted meaning ‘hatred of Jewish as Jews’ to ‘hatred of the state of Israel’, this also won’t wash. Those on the left, who object to Israel, do so because they see it as a White, colonialist settler state, like apartheid South Africa, or indeed the USA. They do not object to it, because its people are Jews.

Moreover, the accepted definition of anti-Semitism, as hatred of Jews simply because of their ethnicity, is that of the person, who first invented the term, Julius Marr. Marr was the founder and leader of one of 19th century Germany’s leading anti-Jewish groups, the League of Anti-Semites. Marr coined the term to describe hatred of Jews based on their racial heritage, rather than their religion. Again, his definition doesn’t have anything to do with the state of Israel. The only way an anti-Semitism allegation against someone based on their opposition to Israel would be correct by that definition, would be if their objection to it was purely or mainly because Israelis were Jewish. This doesn’t appear to be the case in most of these allegations, if any.

As for the suspension of Jacqui Walker for commenting that ‘Slavery was Black people’s Holocaust’, it’s extreme and highly emotive, but it’s one that has certainly been said before. I think it was first made by the highly respected civil rights pioneer, W.E.B. DuBois, after he became a citizen of Ghana after the War. He compared the treatment of Blacks under slavery to the atrocities against the Jews by the Third Reich. In 1994 Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade came under the spotlight once again with the TV adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s A Respectable Trade, and the exhibition of the same name at the City Museum. One particular point of controversy is the statue to Edward Colson on the city centre. Many Black Bristolians wish to see the statue removed. Colson was a wealth patron, who donated generously to charity for the people of Bristol. It was with money donated by him that Colston girls’ school was set up, which still continues today. He made his money from the slave trade, however, and that’s the reason why his statue is so controversial. Gregory presented a feature on Bristol’s legacy from the slave trade during which she interviewed Paul Stephenson, a Black civil rights activist in the city. Stephenson, obviously, had nothing but hatred and contempt for Colson, saying that he was responsible for ‘a holocaust in Africa’. As far as I know, no allegations were made of anti-Semitism against Stephenson for his remarks.

And their people’s experience of persecution and exile from their ancestral homeland through slavery and its aftermath has led some Black writers to identify with the Jewish people. Also back in the 1990s the Black British writer, Caryl Philips, that the historical experiences of Blacks and Jews in this fashion were so close, that sometimes he believed he was Jewish. This caused a little controversy, with Hilary Mantel, the Jewish author of Wolf Hall, writing in reply that Phillips shouldn’t be so daft, as the Jewish experience was unique to Jews. Phillips might be mistaken about the identity of Black and Jewish historical suffering, but he was not anti-Semitic. Far from it.

However, underlying these accusations is a renewed feeling of insecurity amongst Britain’s Jews. There have been reports that anti-Semitic attacks have gone up, especially after the Israeli attack on Gaza. A few years ago there were a couple of festivals celebrating the Jewish contribution to British culture. There was a festival of Jewish literature, which was a general festival of books by Jews. Non-Jews were welcome to come, and the writers speaking at this event included, I believe Howard Jacobson and Hilary Mantel. There was also a festival of Jewish comedy, which was featured on the One Show. It was also covered on Radio 4. The blurb for the radio programme about it stated that one of the reasons it was being staged was because Jews were facing competition as comedians from other ethnic groups. There has thus been some insecurity amongst British Jews about their place in Britain, partly caused by the growth of other ethnic groups in Britain’s changing diverse society. The allegations of anti-Semitism made by the Zionist lobby against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party reflect and draw on this insecurity. Of course, attacking Jews because of the actions of the Israelis is wrong, and should be condemned as anti-Semitic. But this does not make condemnation of Israel for its actions and treatment of the Palestinians anti-Semitic.

Hunter S. Thompson and Hilary Mantel on Blowing Away Maggie Thatcher

January 31, 2016

Generation Swine Cover

Remember the fearful bate the Tories got in last year over Hilary Mantel’s short story, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher? This was a counterfactual narrative, speculating on what would have happened if someone had managed to blow away the Leaderene, as almost happened when the IRA bomb blew up the hotel the Tory delegates were staying in during their Brighton Conference. Thatcher escaped, but it left Norman Tebbitt’s wife crippled and in a wheelchair. Unable to cope with the idea that someone might actually want to off their idol, the Tories worked themselves up into a howling frenzy, baying that the prize-winning lady novelist was encouraging terrorism.

It’s hard to see how this could be so. Mantel’s one of the great figures in contemporary literary fiction. As well as winning literary prizes and awards, her book about Thomas Cromwell, Cardinal Wolsey and the dark intrigues of the Tudor court, Wolf Hall, was turned into an acclaimed drama series by the Beeb. She’s very far from a Marxist or Irish Republican radical firebrand, let alone an Islamist jihadi, spewing hate for the Kufar and demanding the destruction of the ‘Little Satan’ by fire and sword. These groups don’t need much encouragement from genteel, respectable novelists. They’ve got their own sources of propaganda, fanning their fanaticism. I somehow don’t think they’re terribly interested in modern highbrow literature. You don’t, after all, see them hurriedly putting down the Times Literary Supplement as their latest butcher gets up to vomit out his rant in the latest beheading video from ISIS. In fact, considering that one group didn’t even have a copy of the Qu’ran, and a British jihadi had to order Islam For Dummies to get acquainted with even the rudiments of the faith he claimed to be fighting for, I’m frankly amazed that any of them can even read. Possibly they do so much screaming of ‘Allahu Akbar!’ because it’s just about the only Islamic phrase they know.

But long before Mantel raised a stir discussing Thatcher’s possible assassination, Hunter S. Thompson had done the same, in a piece addressed to his illustrator, Ralph Steadman. Steadman had been having problems with his son’s behaviour. From the letter’s contents, it appeared that his son had been smashing windows. Thompson ascribed this to the boy’s father’s own profession as a cartoonist, one of whose targets was the PM.

England is the wrong place for a boy who wants to smash windows. Because he’s right, of course. He should smash window. Anybody growing up in England today without a serious urge to smash windows is probably too dumb for help.

You are reaping the whirlwind, Ralph. Where in the name of art or anything else did you ever see anything that said you could raw queer pictures of the prime minister and call her worse than a denatured pig-but your own son shouldn’t want to smash windows

And Thompson made it very clear that he shared the lad’s anger and contempt for the Saint of Finchley:

The prime minister is a denatured pig, Ralph, and you should beat her like a gong. Draw horrible cartoons of the bitch, and sell them for many dollars to The Times and Private Eye … but don’t come weeping to me when your own son takes it into his head to smash a few windows.

He goes further, and states that the lad should be taking pot shots at Maggie, instead of just acts of petty vandalism.

You snivelling hypocritical bastard. If your son had your instincts, he’d be shooting at the Prime Minister, instead of just smashing windows.

Are you ready for that? How are you going to feel when you wake up one of these mornings and flip on the telly at Old Loose Court just in time to catch a news bulletin about the prime minister being shot through the gizzard in Piccadilly Circus … and then some B.B.C. hot rod comes up with exclusive picture of the dirty freak who did it, and he turns out to be your own son?

The piece was published in April, 1986, and was included in the volume of pieces from the great man’s journalism, Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ’80s. That first came out in 1988, and was republished by Picador in 2011. To my knowledge, the Tories signally failed to work themselves up into any lather about Thompson wondering how it is that Steadman’s son hasn’t assassinated Maggie, despite the fact that this took place at about the same time the PM’s life, as well as so many others, was threatened by Northern Irish paramilitaries. Possibly it’s because they knew humour and satire when they saw it, though that’s unlikely. More likely, they just hadn’t read it. I got the impression that the staple reading of the Tory classes, when it isn’t the Sun, is the Times and Telegraph, and the glossy magazines of the County set, like Sporting Gun, Shooting & Conservative, The Lady and Country Life. Bile-soaked pieces of radical journalism, filled with the blazing hate of the man, who invented gonzo journalism for the political classes, TV preachers and the depraved and debauched creatures prowling business and the dark undergrowth of modern society, probably wasn’t on their literary horizon. They probably didn’t notice. Either that, or they were afraid of Thompson. He was a life-long gun freak, like that other countercultural literary icon and drug fiend, William S. Burroughs. Holed up in the Rockies as he was, the Tories may have been afraid of Thompson as he had more firepower available for him than they did.

So as far as I know, they ignored Thompson’s piece on Steadman’s son and the possible shooting of the Leaderene. If they were aware of it, they probably realised it was all literary artifice and satire. Thompson probably did hate Thatcher, but he wasn’t recommending that anyone should shoot her. Not if Nixon had escaped, anyway. And they should similarly have recognised that it was all literary artifice and the craft of the novelist when Mantel too wrote her piece about the assassination of Maggie. But this was too much. By the time she wrote, they’d elevated her into a virtual saint, St. Maggie of Monetarism, the high priestess of the idolatrous cult of von Hayek and Milton Friedman. Mantel uttered blasphemy, which they just had to decry.

It shows the stupidity, emotionalism and sheer selectiveness of the Tory party when it comes to any assault on Thatcher and the squalid political values she stood for. Unable to understand literary fiction, they had to censor it instead. Just as they’re doing their level best to clamp down on ordinary free speech. Thompson, had he lived, could have had a field day with this new generation of Tory swine.