Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

Sam Seder on Bercow’s Propose Ban on Trump in Parliament

February 10, 2017

Sam Seder, the host of the American internet news show, Majority Report, yesterday covered John Bercow’s proposed ban on Trump speaking to the House of Commons. Seder and his colleagues discuss a report on one of the other news shows, that Trump was planning to meet the Queen on a visit to this Sceptred Isle. According to Seder, the show had a Brit on to talk about the visit. The Brit stated that Her Maj had met a wide variety of ‘really horrible people’ including ‘serial killers’, and so she would have no trouble in meeting Trump. Comparisons are then made with John Wayne Gacy, who killed nearly a twenty men and boys.

He then shows the clip of Bercow’s speech, in which Bercow makes the point that addressing the House is an earned honour, not a right; that there are plenty of precedents for a head of state not being allowed to address parliament on a state or diplomatic visit; that the three keyholders to parliament – the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Speaker of the House of Lords and the Lord Chamberlain, were usually united, but on this occasion he would break with the others. Bercow stated that even before Trump’s ban on Muslim travel to the US, he would have been opposed to Trump’s visit. He was even more opposed now.

Seder and his team then finish with impressions of Trump demanding to sit on the throne.

It’s very clear that Seder and the rest of his crew find British parliamentary attitudes to Trump, in lumping him in with mass murderers and Bercow’s proposal to ban him hugely amusing. But as I’ve said in my last post, Bercow is right about everything he’s said. He also made it clear that parliament should not allow Trump to speak, if it took seriously its aim of combatting racism, sexism and supporting equality.

Quite apart from the fact that, even if Trump himself is not, many of his close supporters, like Richard Spencer and Steve Bannon, are anti-Semites and White Supremacists. The prospect of Trump addressing parliament is very much like the home-grown British Fascist, Oswald Mosley, and his attempts to get elected in the 1930s. As well as his party’s thuggery and brutality to Jews and left-wingers.

Yes, comparing Trump to some of the mass murderers, who’ve met the Queen is funny. It’s less of a joke when you consider that the murderers the Brit was talking about were probably heads of state responsible for horrific crimes against their own people. And allowing Trump to address parliament in reality would be a very grim joke, with very few laughing.

Kevin Logan: Britain Tells Trump to ‘F*** Off’

February 3, 2017

Okay, the language ain’t big and ain’t clever, and I duly apologise to the refined ladies and gentlemen who visit this blog. But the sentiments behind the coarse language is exactly right. Kevin Logan is a sweary male feminist, who has a vlog, ‘The Descent of the Manosphere’, ripping into anti-feminists and racists of various stripes, many of whom are connected to or sympathetic to the Alt-Right. So naturally, he really isn’t a fan of the Orange Duce.

In this short video, he praises the internet petition to stop Trump from going on a state visit, where he will meet the queen as our head of state. He notes that the petition so far – he posted the video on Monday – has more than 1 million signatures, which makes it the most signed petition in the site’s history. The petition isn’t to stop Trump meeting Theresa May, so government business will continue as usual, presumably. The petition beats an early one, also immensely popular, which wanted to ban Trump from entering Britain completely.

Logan applauds Trump for having united the British people in this issue, who are now more divided than they have been since the English Civil War. And he also praises Trump for having provoked the British into uniting to stop him from meeting the most archaic aspect of our constitution, the reigning monarch. And he ends by urging British citizens to go and sign the petition.

Logan also mentions that Trump has managed to make himself massively unpopular domestically in America, and shows footage of the mass demonstrations of people against his Muslim ban, waving placards and shouting ‘Let them in!’ and ‘No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!’

Congrats to Everyone who Joined the Women’s Marches against Trump

January 28, 2017

My congratulations and respect to everyone who joined one of the women’s marches against Trump in America and around the world last weekend. With 2 million plus people marching in the US – I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the precise number, but it was around something like 2 1/2 million or above – it was the largest single protest march in American history. And it really got The Donald riled. According to disgruntled members of his staff, he was privately very upset that it was being reported that more people had marched against him, than had turned up for his inauguration, and he despatched his spokesman to make a very strong speech about this point. And then got even more annoyed when the spokesman refused.

There was also a women’s march in Bristol, which was duly covered in the local press, including The Western Daily Press. I can’t remember the exact details from the article, but it was several thousand strong. All round the world, women and men were making their feelings about Trump and his vicious, insane policies and boorish personal views heard. Trump’s attack on Planned Parenthood in the US and abortion services around the world will cost women’s lives. His attack on the minimal welfare services in America will hit the poor and the working and middle classes, to the profit of the corporate elite. His attacks on Muslims and Latinos have emboldened the Alt-Right and other Nazis to crawl out of the shadows, as well as enabling a wave of racism throughout American society. And his narcissism, personal arrogance and belligerence make him a threat to world safety through his inability to control his anger and strike out at what feels is the very slightest insult.

He needs to be shown that ordinary people around the world are watching and judging. And we are not impressed, and will do everything we can to stop him.

Kristi Winters, a feminist Vlogger on YouTube, has put together a montage of images from the American march, backed by a song by a group of women, who composed and performed it specially for the march, which Kevin Logan put up on his YouTube channel. It gives an inspiring view of the march and the people, who went on it.

Young Turks Promotional Video Calls Out Mainstream Media Propaganda

January 22, 2017

The American internet news show, The Young Turks, has been running ads and sequences asking for people to support them financially by becoming members. This is one of those, a three minute or so video in which they appeal for members to support them in their attack on the mainstream media. I’m putting it up here not because I intend to become a member, although I do watch many of their videos. I’m putting it up here because they call and show mainstream news for what it is: propaganda. They say so in the video’s title, and the video consists of speeches and pieces by Cenk Uygur and the other hosts, intercut with montages from Fox news and the other channels making extremely mistaken predictions, or simply blatant lies.

The Young Turks aren’t the only left-wing or progressive internet news show. There are a number on the other side of the pond – The Jimmy Dore Show, Secular Talk, the David Pakman Show, Sam Seder’s Majority Report, Thom Hartmann all of them are taking on and providing a corrective to the fake news pumped out by the mainstream media.

This is the kind of material that is getting the BBC and Rupert Murdoch very worried indeed, as it attacks their position as opinion leaders. I’ve blogged before about how one of the hacks writing in the Radio Times said they were worried about public opinion becoming increasingly polarised as people turned away from mainstream news and its ability to shape the consensus view on this side of the Pond. The same hack in the very same hack mooted the possibility that, in order to win back viewers, the BBC could abandon any pretense at balance or objectivity for opinion, following the example of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News. Which would mean, in the Beeb’s case, changing from subtly right-wing, with the occasional liberal exceptions, into very definite unsubtle, indeed screamingly blatant extreme right-wing coverage. But it would be what the corporate establishment – the business and political leaders with whom people like Laura Kuenssberg and the Beeb’s head of news, James Harding – live amongst and mix with. Hence the rage and angry retorts when the BBC is accused of Conservative bias. Its senior staff are drawn from the same social class and probably the same families as the industrialists and financiers they regularly interview, to the point where they can’t see that there is a class and political bias in their programming. And it’s because they’re afraid of losing their influence that the Beeb has decided to launch a ‘Reality Check’ team to take on fake news. But only on the internet. The material pumped out by the mainstream press, run by Paul Dacre, Rupert Murdoch and the Barclay Twins, isn’t going to be touched. Because some of the staff might want a job with these companies later. They also don’t want to annoy these media moguls any more than they have to so that they’ll go round to the Tories and start demanding the Corporation’s privatisation again. And besides, the mainstream media needs to stand together against these outsiders.

This shows how craven and biased the Beeb and the mainstream media is. And how much we need the alternative news source on the internet to check and correct the propaganda and sheer fake news of the mainstream media.

Is Rupert Murdoch the Biggest Purveyor of Fake News?

January 14, 2017

Yesterday, I put up a piece commenting on a report in the I newspaper that the BBC had decided to set up a special team, Reality Check, to rebut fake news on the internet. James Harding, the head of BBC News, said that this wouldn’t be about policing the internet, and it wouldn’t attack the mainstream press.

This all rings very hollow, as at least in America, faith in the mainstream news outlets is at an all-time low. More people are turning to alternative news sources on the internet as a reaction to the bias and misreporting of the established news outlets and broadcasters. And the Beeb certainly has plenty of form when it comes to bias. Like editing the footage of the battle between the strikers and the police at Orgreave colliery during the Miners’ Strike, so that it appeared to show the miners attacking the police. The reality was the complete opposite. Barry and Savile Kushner in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, point out that the Beeb rarely allows a dissenting voice to be heard against austerity. When one is heard, they are interrupted or shouted down by the presenter, keen to maintain the government, establishment view at all costs. And Nick Robinson himself did a piece of deliberate misreporting worthy of TASS or Goebbels during the Scots referendum. He asked a question Scottish independence might have on the financial sector north of the border. Salmond answered it fully. This was then gradually edited down over successive news programmes, until it vanished altogether, with Robinson claiming that Salmond hadn’t answered the question.

So there’s plenty of very good reasons why you can’t trust the Beeb.

Now there is a considerable amount of fake news on the Net. The American elections have thrown up any amount of pure rubbish. In addition to the usual weirdness from the Ufolks, which claimed that Putin had told the Russian armed forces to prepare to defend the motherland against extraterrestrial invasion, there were the tin foil hatted claims of Alex Jones. Jones, the head of the conspiracy news site, Infowars, had come out with some truly barking, and very dangerous comments about Hillary Clinton. He claimed that she was part of some Satanic cult, which was abusing children from a pizza parlour in Philadelphia. She was also supposed to be demonically possessed, like Barack Obama, and may have been an alien or robot, at least in part. It’s entirely bogus, along with the reports others put up claiming that she suffers from a neurological illness contracting from eating children’s brains.

But the mainstream media has also produced bogus news. And one of the worst offenders is Fox News. Someone analysed how many of the stories Fox reported were actually true, and came out with the statistics that about three-quarters of the time they were rubbish. Put simply, if you watch Fox, you will be less informed that someone who doesn’t. There’s a reason why the network’s earned the nickname of ‘Faux News’. It’s very much like the old clip sometimes added to pieces on the internet, in which a man upbraids another for making an answer so stupid, that it’s lowered the IQ of everyone in the room, and the other needs to apologise. Well, that’s Fox writ large.

Fox News is also on the internet, along with many other newspapers and channels. So you can watch Bill O’Reilly tell lies about his career there. O’Reilly’s one of the channel’s veteran anchors. He was caught out claiming that he was actually in the Falklands or nearby parts of Argentina reporting during the Falklands War. He also witnessed a sectarian riot in Northern Ireland, and was present outside the house of one of the witnesses of the JFK assassination when he committed suicide. In fact, this was all shown to be bilge. In the Falkland’s conflict, for example, he was safely several thousand miles away in Buenos Aires.

Will the Beeb try and rebut some of the barking stories reported by Fox? No, of course they won’t. Fox is a mainstream news source, and is part owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the Times and the Scum over here. The Scum is notorious for its bias and mendacity, but somehow the Times and its sister paper, the Sunday Times, has managed to avoid this. Sometimes you wonder why, as the Sunday Times has also carried bogus stories.

Like the time it claimed Michael Foot was a KGB agent called Comrade Boot, for which the former Labour leader successfully sued for libel. And then there were the ‘Clinton Crazies’. These were a group of journos around the Sunday Times and the American Spectator, who believed that Bill Clinton was a violent mobster. The former governor and US president was supposed to be importing cocaine from South America through an airfield in his state. He was also responsible for ordering the deaths of 20 + aids and other figures, who had displeased him. One of the journos responsible for this nonsense was so paranoid, that during an interview with another journalist he kept the curtains closed, and anxiously peered out into the street at various intervals, in case ‘they’ were watching him from a parked car. One of the hacks, who produced this tripe later saw reason, and appeared on one of Adam Curtis’ documentaries stating very clearly it was all crazy nonsense. But the Sunday Times published it.

But the Beeb very definitely isn’t going to tackle Murdoch’s rubbish, because Murdoch is the favourite of the various parties that have occupied No.10 in recent years, both the Tories and New Labour. In exchange for favourable publicity for the Murdoch press, they’ve been very happy to concede greater advantages to the media mogul, despite numerous conflicts of interest and the construction of a near monopoly in private broadcasting.

Murdoch hates the Beeb with a passion. He’s been demanding its break up since the 1980s, publishing stories attacking the Beeb at every opportunity in his papers, including the Times. And so with the threat of privatisation now made extremely clear by the Tories, the BBC will very definitely not want to show how mendacious Fox is.

So you can expect the Beeb to crack down on the alternative news outlets on the Net, under the pretext that it’s fighting the rubbish put out by Jones and co., while doing nothing about the fake news churned out by the establishment. Like the Murdoch press, and the Beeb itself.

BBC Wants to Rebut Fake News, But Who’s Going to Rebut Theirs?

January 13, 2017

There’s a piece in the I today reporting that the Beeb intends to set up a ‘Reality Check’ news team to correct the fake news on the internet. The article, by Kim Sengupta, states

The BBC is to create a dedicated team which will identify and expose “fake news” stories being shared on Facebook and other social media.

The corporation said it was not seeking to “police the internet”. But its Reality Check team will identify and correct the most egregious examples of fabricated stories and outright “lies” circulated by fake news sites.

James Harding, the BBC director of news and current affairs, told staff: “The BBC can’t edit the internet, but we won’t stand aside either. We will fact check the most popular outliers on Facebook, Instagram and other social media.”

He added: ” We are working with Facebook, in particular, to see how we can be most effective. Where we see deliberately misleading stories masquerading as news, we’ll publish a Reality Check that says so.”

The BBC believes it can employ the credibility of its news organisation to assist Facebook. However, the corporation said it would not target stories published by “mainstream” media such as UK newspapers. (p. 13).

There are several aspects to this story. First of all, it shows the fear the mainstream media have of the internet. The newspapers, television and radio stations and moguls are being increasingly abandoned as more people, particularly the young, prefer to take their news from the Net, feeling that it’s more trustworthy. Journalists writing in the Radio Times and elsewhere have already whined about this threat to their ability to shape consensus opinion. One of them stated that the different news sites on the internet, with their various biases, was a danger because it meant that people were only looking at the news sources which agreed with their personal biases, and so opinions and views were going to become increasingly polarised. He made it very clear that he wanted the mainstream opinion to continue to shape consensus opinion.

This is obviously an attempt by the Beeb to try and exercise its position as a purveyor of respected, supposedly objective news, to combat the threat posed by the internet.

Okay, there’s an awful lot of rubbish put out by some websites. You only have to look at the content of much of Alex Jones’ Infowars show, which is real tin foil hat conspiracy theory material. Jones’ stock in trade is very loud allegations that the secret rulers of the world are Satanic aliens. Just before the election he was screaming that Hillary Clinton was either an alien, or a cyborg. Other sites on YouTube have ludicrously claimed that Killary has kuru, a degenerative neurological condition caused by eating human brains, contracted from cannibalistic orgies in which she has consumed the brains of children. It’s rubbish, and clearly fake news.

But there is a lot of news on YouTube, which isn’t fake, and which very much is a threat to the establishment. Like the reporting on the real Fascism of the Ukrainian government, and its persecution of ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians. The same is true of the information on what is really going on in Syria, which isn’t about freeing the enslaved Syrian people from a dictator, but about ousting a genuinely popular president in order to break Russian power and enrich the western allied oil companies and states still further. Oh yes, and we’re using al-Qaeda and ISIS, the very organisation we’re supposed to be fighting, to overthrow a secular government.

This alternative news is also under threat from the internet companies. I’ve put up a piece from The Jimmy Dore Show in which the American comedian reports how his pieces and those of others about the real nature of the Syrian conflict have been demonetised by Google in an attempt to discourage people from posting them.

And the Beeb itself has plenty of previous when it comes to bias and fake news. That infamous piece of film of the striking miners at Orgreave, which was shown backwards so that it appeared to show the miners attacking the cops when the opposites was true is a particularly notorious piece. Academics from Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities have reported how the Beeb is far more likely to report the views of Conservative politicos and businessmen, particularly from the financial sector, over those from the Labour party and trade unionists. The Kushner brothers in their book Who Needs the Cuts describe their anger at the way the Beeb automatically accepted the need for austerity, and consistently refuses to allow a dissenting voice onto their news shows. When one does appear, the presenter immediately gets annoyed and tries to cut them off or interrupt them. Nothing must stop the proles from accepting that the government is right in taking away more of their rights and destroying the welfare state in favour of corporate profit.

This isn’t just about combating the real, poisonous fake news. This is the mainstream media trying to suppress a danger challenge to the right-wing consensus. It’s about maintaining the credibility of establishment bias and fake news in the face of alternative reporting.

Vox Political on the Latest Kuenssberg Anti-Corbyn Bias Row

January 7, 2017

Yesterday, Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece commenting on the latest Kuessberg Kontroversy. It will surprise no-one that this is again over her biased misreporting of Jeremy Corbyn’s comments about armed police. The complaint was upheld by the BBC Complaints Division, only to be withdrawn when BBC News complained. So, as Mike observes, she staggers on because she has the support of very important people.

Mike also makes the point that this should not be seen in isolation. Remember the Change.org petition against her on the grounds of her egregious Tory political bias? He also points out the way her supporters have tried to deflect criticism from her with false accusations of sexism and misogyny. The Change.org petition was supposed to be full of sexist attacks on Kuenssberg. It wasn’t. There was only one possibly misogynistic comment out of hundreds, if not thousands. And then there was the instance where she was spontaneously booed at a Labour conference, which was used by Tom Watson and the Tories again to claim that Corbyn’s supporters were nasty sexist curs, who were biased against her because she was female.

Mike makes the point that as a result of Kuenssberg’s flagrant political bias, the Beeb’s reputation as an impartial broadcaster is in tatters, and wonders how long this can be allowed to continue.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/06/the-latest-kuenssberg-kontroversy-can-her-supporters-get-her-out-of-this-one/

Kuenssberg’s continued occupation of the post, and the facile way her supporters, including journos in the supposedly left-wing media, like the Guardian, raises serious questions not only about the Beeb’s impartiality, but also about how she got the job and the whole gender and class assumption behind her supporters in the rest of the media bubble. The accusations of sexism, which were thrown at Corbyn and Momentum from the Blairites were copied from the tactics Hillary Clinton used to deflect criticism from Bernie Sanders’ supporters. A group of them threw money at her, and called her a ‘corporate whore’. Which is exactly what she is, alongside just about everyone else in Congress. The politicians there are keen to accept donations and do the bidding of the big corporations, against the wishes and interests of the ordinary Joes and Josephines of the American public. But unlike Sanders, who didn’t take donations from industry, Clinton was extraordinarily corrupt. She was known for her connections to Wall Street, and had made much money giving talks to them. But unable to defend their candidate any other way, her supporters started moaning about how she the was the victim of ‘Bernie Bros’ and their vicious sexism. And the Blair camp, which copied nearly everything Bill and Hillary did, thought it was a good idea, and started making the same accusations against Corbyn. And when Kuenssberg started getting justified flack for her very blatant pro-Tory bias, her supporters – and various female hacks in the media – started defending her by falsely claiming that Corbyn’s supporters were only doing it because she was a woman.

This is rubbish. Kuenssberg’s gender isn’t the issue. I doubt whether most Corbyn supporters care about her sex one way or another. She’d get the same complaints if she were a bloke, just as Nick Robinson was deservedly criticised for his grotesque misrepresentation of Alex Salmond’s response to a question about Scottish independence. Or David Dimbleby’s increasing bias during Question Time. No-one objects to her because she’s a woman. People object to her because she’s massively biased.

But the defensiveness about her gender does raise the issue of whether she was promoted to her post because of it. Was she selected because she was a woman, and the Beeb was under pressure to be seen to be more diverse and representative? Indeed, was she given the post because she was the only female candidate, and so the Beeb was forced to choose the most inept and biased person for the job simply because of her gender? Or were there many other female candidates, who weren’t given the job, because unlike Kuenssberg, they actually cared about professionalism and journalistic standards, whereas the Tories and BBC management wanted a safe pair of hands? And in this case, a safe pair of hands means someone, who’d spout exactly the propaganda they wanted.

As for Kuenssberg media supporters, somebody – I can’t remember now who – remarked on how closely the media set were now tied through class and background to the political and economic elites. They were all comfortably middle class, went to the same schools and lived in pretty much the same areas as the Tory political and business leadership. And since Blair, the political object has been to increase the numbers of women and Black and Asian people in important positions in business and politics, while at the same time reinforcing class barriers and penalising the poor and unemployed. Hence the automatic support of some of the female hacks in the Guardian for Kuenssberg despite the massive harm the Tory government she supports is inflicting on women.

And the Tories are hurting women in particular. Traditionally female jobs in the service sectors have been particularly hard hit through Cameron’s and May’s austerity. As for cuts to welfare services, there have been numerous reports of women having to starve themselves so they can put food on the table for their families. And at its most extreme, I’m still haunted by one of the cases Stilloaks put up on his blog giving the names and information on the people who have starved or taken their own lives because of Cameron’s bloody cuts to disability benefit. One of these was a young woman her killed herself and her baby after her benefit was cut off.

Let’s be clear: men and boys are also being starved and killed by the Tories. But so long as the Tories’ cuts hit women and girls particularly hard, no-one has any right to try to defend Kuenssberg’s pro-Tory bias with grotty, mendacious claims of misogyny.

Kuenssberg’s a disgrace to journalism and so are the hacks who support and defend this lying propagandist. She is one of the long list of reasons why people around the world are turning to the internet and alternative news channels, rather than a complacent and deeply corrupt mainstream media.

Pro-NHS Political Comment in Paul McAuley’s ‘Something Coming Through’

December 27, 2016

something-coming-pic

One of the books I’ve been reading this Christmas is Paul McAuley’s Something Coming Through (London: Gollancz 2015). McAuley’s a former scientist as well as an SF writer. Apart from novels, he also reviewed books and contributed short stories to the veteran British SF magazine, Interzone. He was one of the writers who created the gene punk genre, sometimes also called ‘ribofunk’. This was the genetic engineering counterpart to Cyberpunk, where, instead of using computers, individuals, criminals and corporations used genetic engineering to redesign new forms of life, or spread invasive memes throughout the population to control the way people thought. Back in the 1990s he was one of the guests on the BBC Radio 3 series, Grave New Worlds, in which computer scientists, writers and artists talked about the transhuman condition. This was back when everyone was talking about cyborgisation, and the potential of contemporary technology to produce new varieties of humanity. Apart from McAuley, the guests also included J.G. Ballard and the performance artist Stelarc, who has personally explored the implications of cybernetics for the human body in a series of performances. In one of these he had a mechanical third arm, operated through electrical signals picked up through the stomach muscles. He also gave a modern music performance, in which he was wired up to the internet via galvanic stimulators. A search engine then went about finding images of body parts on the Net. When it found one, that part of the body was electronically stimulated so that it moved. There were also booths in three cities around the world, where participants could also press buttons to move Stelarc via electric impulses. Apart from Kevin Warwick, the professor of robotics at Warwick university, is the person who’s come the closest to being Star Trek’s Borg.

McAuley’s Something Coming Through and its sequel, Into Everywhere, follow the fictional universe he created in a series of magazine short stories about the alien Jackaroo and their impact on humanity. Following a short period of warfare, including the destruction of part of London with a nuclear bomb by terrorists, the Jackaroo turned up and declared that they wish to help. These aliens bring with them 15 artificial wormholes, which act as gateways to 15 worlds, which the Jackaroo give to humanity. Humanity isn’t the only race that the aliens have helped, and the worlds they give to humanity are covered with the ruins and artefacts of previous alien civilisations, now vanished. The Jackaroo themselves are never seen. They interact with humanity through avatars, artificial beings that look like human men. These have golden skin and features modelled on a number of contemporary celebrities. They’re also bald, wear shades, and dress in black track suits. Their motives for helping humanity are unclear. They claim they just want to help, and that it is up to humanity themselves how they use the worlds they have given them. But they are widely suspected of having their own agenda, and despite the protestations of non-interference they are suspected of subtly manipulating humanity.

Accompanying the Jackaroo are the !cho, another alien race, who are equally mysterious. They move about the world in opaque tanks supported on three skeletal legs. Nobody has ever managed to open one up, or scan the tanks using X-rays or ultrasound. It is, however, widely believed that the !cho are sentient colonies of shrimp. Their motives, and their relationship with the Jackaroo, are also unknown.

Something Coming Through follows the adventures of Chloe Millar, a researcher for a company, Disruption Theory, in London, and Vic Gayle, a cop on Mangala, one of the Jackaroo gift worlds. The objects and ruins left from the Jackaroo’s previous client civilisations can be highly dangerous. Some of them are still active, despite the many thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions of years of abandonment and decay. These can infect humans with memes, algorithms that alter psychology and behaviour. The strongest, most intact of these become eidolons, artificial entities that can take possession of their human hosts. Disruption Theory is a company specialising in researching the effects of these memes as they break out to infect people in Britain. This often takes the form of small sects, whose leaders speak in tongues, uttering nonsense as they try to put in human terms the alien concepts running their consciousness. Millar, the heroine, is investigating a couple of orphaned Pakistani children, who have apparently been infected by an eidolon from one of the gift worlds. Out on Mangala, Vic Gayle is also investigating the murder of a man, who has recently arrived aboard one of the Jackaroo’s shuttles.

Unlike much SF, the book doesn’t indicate how far in the future the story’s set. This is, however, very much a world not too far from the early 21st century of the present. The political structures are much the same, with the exception that the gift worlds are under the control of the UN. People still work in recognisable jobs, and shop and purchase the same brands of clothing. Complicating relations with the Jackaroo is a British politician, Robin Mountjoy and the Human Decency League. The League objects to contact with the Jackaroo as a danger to the dignity of the human race. Their leader, Robin Mountjoy, is described as being ‘in his mid-fifties, a burly man with thinning blond hair and a florid complexion, dressed in an off-the-peg suit. Although he was a multimillionaire, having made his fortune constructing and servicing displaced-persons camps, his PR painted him as a bluff, no-nonsense man of the people whose common sense cut through the incestuous old boys’ networks of the Westminster village’. (p. 51). The League isn’t strong enough to form a government of its own, and so has gone into a coalition with the Conservatives. While Mountjoy is clearly fictional, he does seem to be inspired by Nigel Farage and UKIP, with Britain attempting to gain independence from smooth talking mysterious aliens rather than the EU.

One of the other characters is Adam Nevers, a cop with the Technology Control Unit. This is the branch of the British police tasked with protecting the country from dangerous alien technology. Nevers is described as coming from the entitled upper ranks of society, who go straight from university into high ranking jobs. Which looks to me very much like a comment on the privileged upbringing and expectations of absolute deference and entitlement from certain members of the British upper classes.

Apart from the social and psychological disruption caused by alien contact, this is also a world wear the NHS has finally been privatised. McAuley shows the practical impact this has people’s lives. Without the safety net of state healthcare, people are dependent on their employers to help pay their medical bills, or borrowing money from friends. In his acknowledgements, as well as the many other people who helped him with the book, McAuley also thanks ‘the NHS for life support’. (p. 375). Which suggests that he’s also suffered a period of illness, and is very much aware how much he and everyone else in the country needs the NHS.

I liked the book for its convincing portrayal of the world after sort-of personal contact with an alien civilisation, and the frontier societies that have emerged as Mangala and the other gift worlds have been settled and colonised. I was also fascinated by McAuley’s description of the alien life-forms, and the archaeological exploration of the remains of the planets’ previous civilisations for the technological advances these artifacts offer. I was also drawn to it as it offered a different take on the old SF trope of alien contact. The appearance of the Jackaroo is described as an ‘invasion’, but it’s not really that. The aliens have a ‘hands off’ approach. They haven’t conquered the Earth militarily, and political power is still exercised through traditional human institutions and parties, like the UN and the Tories. Nor are they more or less at our technological level, like many of the alien races in Star Trek, for example. We don’t form an interplanetary federation with them, as they are clearly extremely far in advance of humanity, which is very much the junior partner in this relationship.

It’s not really a political book, and really doesn’t make any overt party political statements. With the exception that rightwing xenophobes would probably form a party like UKIP to join the Conservatives against pernicious alien influence, just like the Kippers under Farage came very much from the right wing, Eurosceptic section of the Tories. But its comments on the class nature of British society does bring a wry smile, and its advocacy of the NHS is very welcome. It doesn’t preach, but simply shows the fear the characters have of sickness or injury in its absence.

And with all too real terrestrial morons like Daniel Hannan, Jeremy Hunt, Dave Cameron, Theresa May, Tony Blair, Alan Milburn and the rest of the right-wing politicos, who have done and still are doing their best to undermine the health service, such comments are badly needed throughout the British media.

‘I’ Newspaper: Joshua Bonehill Found Guilty of Harassing Liverpool Jewish MP

December 8, 2016

After all the false accusations of anti-Semitism made smear genuinely decent people, here’s a story about a real anti-Semite. Yes, it’s that old Nazi troll, Joshua Bonehill-Paine, the ‘Founder’ and wannabe fuehrer of legions of Fascist storm troopers that don’t actually exist. Today’s I newspaper (8 December 2016) carried a report by Emily Pennink, Anti-Semitic blogger guilty of harassing Jewish MP, that Bonehill has been found guilty of racially harassing Luciana Berger, a Jewish MP for one of the constituencies in Liverpool. The article states

A racist internet troll was found guilty yesterday of harassing the MP Luciana Berger in a series of anti-Jewish rants he sent after the jailing of a fellow far-right extremist.

Joshua Bonehill-Paine, 24, wrote five hate-filled blogs about the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree after Garron Helm was sent to prison for four weeks in October 2014. Bonehill-Paine denied racially aggravated harassment but was convicted by an Old Bailey jury.

Helm, 21, from Merseyside, had admitted posting a picture on Twitter which showed Ms Berger, 35, with holocaust-era Star of David on her forehead and the hashtag “Hitler was right”. Over the next four months, Bonehill-Paine posted articles online calling her a “dominatrix” and “an evil money-grabber” with a “deep-rooted hatred of men”. In one, he claimed the number of Jewish Labour MPs was a “problem”.

He illustrated his posts with offensive pictures. Throughout, Bonehill-Paine, of Yeovil, Somerset, was on bail awaiting sentence for claiming on Twitter that several people were paedophiles. Giving evidence in person, Ms Berger said she felt sickened by the blogs and “very much under attack”. (p. 21).

Bonehill’s a weird character, who’s been hauled before the beak several times for his bizarre, far-right antics. He’s been arrested for trying to steal police uniforms from a police station, threatening to defecate in a supermarket, falsely accusing a pub of not serving members of the armed forces so as not to upset Muslims, and harassing a young woman when she spurned his advances. This included him sending her an Iron Cross, which he claimed had belonged to Adolf Hitler.

He’s set himself up as the leader of a vast and growing Fascist party that doesn’t seem to exist except in his own imagination. He gave a public speech announcing the launch of one of these shadowy parties in one of the parks in his home town of Yeovil, to a handful of people comprising a couple of police officers and a journalist. Even so, the audience massively outnumbered his Fascist legions, which consisted of precisely one person: himself. He claimed that the real meeting was being held in an undisclosed pub elsewhere in the town.

It’s a moot point whether or not Bonehill himself believes the Nazi tripe he spouts. In a passage he wrote on his blog, which he has since denied, Bonehill claimed that he was only pretending to be a Nazi. It was, he claimed, an invented personality he created, inspired by David Bowie’s persona of Ziggy Stardust. It was intended to deceive and upset both Nazis and anti-Nazis.

Bowie himself did seem to come dangerously close to flirting with Fascism in the 1970s. There’s footage, which has been played by the Beeb on shows about the late pop idol’s life, in which he states that there could only be one real choice for prime minister, and so he was putting himself forward as the Fascist candidate. But Bowie very definitely wasn’t racist. His second wife, Iman, was, I believe, a Somali. The Nazis themselves hated Jazz, the ancestor of rock and roll, as Black music which corrupted Whites. And despite the homosexual undercurrent in Nazism, they hated gay men and sent them to the concentration camps. The ambiguous sexuality of the Ziggy Stardust persona would have been very definitely illegal in Nazi Germany.

It’d be good to think that if this is just a prank by Bonehill, that this time he just might take notice of where it’s getting him and drop it. Unlike Bowie and Stardust, there’s nothing clever or innovative about it. It’s just stupid, offensive and annoying. And it’s about time he realised this, and where it’s getting him, and stopped it.

Two South Asian Rock Bands

December 6, 2016

This is a little break from politics. Looking around the Net, I found a number of Rock/ Heavy Metal bands from India and Pakistan. Here’s two of them. This Punkh, a Hindi band, performing with the German robot rockers, Compressorhead.

And this is The Nuke, a band from Pakistan, performing their track, Waaday (Promises).

I don’t speak either Hindi or Urdu, and so have no idea what the lyrics mean. However, the music’s good, solid Rock and they both have the genuine spirit and aesthetic. I’ve put them up because they both contradict western perceptions of these nations’ culture. Unless you have some contact with these communities, you simply don’t expect either country to have anything in the way of Rock music. My guess is that most people in Britain would think of Ravi Shankar and sitar music, Bollywood, and possibly Bhangra in connection with Indian music. As regards Pakistan, most of our impressions of the area are reports of terrorism and Islamic militancy. There have, however, been concerts over here of Pakistani musicians performing traditional Sufi music. This shows an entirely different side of these nations’ culture and their music.