Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

RT: Government Wishes to Define Google and Facebook as ‘Media Outlets’, Impose Tougher Regulation

October 12, 2017

This shows how desperate the government is about people getting news from alternative media and the internet, news and opinion that very definitely isn’t approved by Tory Central Office and the shills for big business. In this short video, RT reports that the government is considering defining Facebook and Google as ‘media outlets’, as this would allow them to impose the same kind of tough regulations imposed on broadcasters. The programme’s host talks to Neil Wallis, described as a ‘media commenter’, and a spokesman for the Christian advocacy group, Christian Voice, for their views.

Wallis states that this is a gross intrusion into freedom of speech, and states that it is unworkable, and cannot and should not work. He admits that there have been ‘gross excesses’ on Google and Facebook, and that the two should be doing more to crack down on dubious content like fake news or terrorism. However, the legislation goes too far in threatening to impose censorship. He also makes the point that such regulations would be extremely difficult to impose. He states that he makes dozens of Tweets during the day, often retweeting stories. Each of these would constitute under the kind of legislation the government is proposing a new publication, and someone would have to monitor them. In short, it would simply be too cumbersome and difficult to monitor and regulate the sheer amount of online posting.

The spokesman from Christian Voice states that there should be greater regulation, because too often material is posted on the web by anonymous individuals, of whom nothing is known. He also makes the point that people posting in haste may make far more extreme statements than they would otherwise do face to face. He therefore thinks it is fair to pass legislation that would require people using the two companies only to post the type of comments that they would make in a face-to-face conversation.

He is, however, concerned by the government’s statement that they wish to examine particularly the issue of religion on the Net, and LGBTQ rights and issues. The spokesman states that if this means limiting what can be said about Islam or homosexuality, then it is an infringement of free speech.

This looks very much like the Tories getting worried about people passing on uncensored and unspun news over the internet, bypassing the censorship and bias of the mainstream broadcasters and the rightwing press. And in order to justify their censorship, they’re trying to use the pretext yet again of protecting people from cyberbullying, online radicalisation by Islamist terror groups, and, I would assume, the threat to children from online pornography. The report doesn’t mention the last, but that’s been one of the major concerns that has been used to justify previous attempts to regulate content on the internet, such as that imposed by David Cameron’s wretched government.

The Neil Wallis interviewed by RT has the same name as the former editor of the News of the Screws, Neil ‘Wolfman’ Wallis, who used to turn up regularly along with the sordid little rag he edited in the pages of Private Eye’s ‘Street of Shame’ column. If that’s the case, then Wallis probably isn’t the best spokesman for press freedom, on the grounds that his publication regularly abused it to invade the privacy of various celebs and other, more ordinary people, whose private lives should have been no concern of anybody except themselves. The most egregious example of this spectacular lack of journalistic ethics and integrity was the phone-hacking scandal, but the Screws had been at the bottom end of the journalistic barrel doing pretty much the same type of pointless muckraking for most of its existence. Think of Mahmoud Mazher, the ‘Fake Sheikh’, who went around trying to get celebrities and politicians to make indiscreet comments or otherwise catch them out. In his guise as an Arab dignitary, he tried to get George Galloway to say something vile in support of the Holocaust. Galloway was wise to him, having recognised Mazher’s 7 ft tall driver and bodyguard, nicknamed ‘Jaws’ because of his immense height and mouthful of gold teeth. Galloway’s an ardent critic of Israel and its barbarous oppression of the Palestinians, but he’s not an anti-Semite. When Mazher tried prompting him into praising the Shoah, Galloway replied instead that the Holocaust was an horrific crime against humanity. And so the ‘Fake Sheikh’ went off unsatisfied.

But even if it the same Neil Wallis, he still has a point, despite his own and his former newspaper’s squalid and sensationalist brand of journalism. Such regulation would be a further, damaging attack on freedom of speech.

It’s clear that the spokesman for Christian Voice is in general far more supportive of such legislation, except where it touches what can be said about Islam and homosexuality. This probably reflects his own bigoted views against a competing religion and same-sex attraction. However, even there he has a point. A few years ago, it was reported that Christianity had overtaken Judaism as the most persecuted religion in the world. And very many of the countries that persecute Christianity, especially severely, are Muslim. With the increase in Islamphobia and racism in the West, there is a need to protect Muslims and their religion from bigotry and prejudice. However, this should not be used to limit reasonable criticism, including rejection of Islam, or any other religion or ideology.

The same should be true of any discussion of homosexuality. Prejudice against homosexuals should be condemned, as should any attempts to encourage discrimination or violence towards them. But people should be allowed to object to homosexuality as a simple matter of free speech.

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RTUK on Tweets about the Tory Conference

October 5, 2017

Mike has been quoting the reactions and comments of the people on Twitter to the Tories pronouncements and policies. In this short clip, RTUK do the same, showing some of the Tweets from people, who were less than impressed by the performances and antics at the Tory conference. Including one person, who remarked on May’s disastrous speech when she was handed her P45, started coughing, and then the ‘F’ fell off her slogan.

RTUK on the True Scale of Hidden and Rural Homelessness in the UK

September 30, 2017

This is another excellent piece from RTUK. And it shows why we’re better off looking at alternative sources of news on the Net than relying on flagrantly biased BBC. Even when those alternative sources are owned by Putin’s Russia.

This report discusses the true scale of hidden and rural homelessness in the UK, which is much bigger than previously considered. Among the chilling statistics, it reports that 1 in 10 people experience homelessness every year, and that homelessness has increased 50 per cent since the Tories took power in 2010. In London, 12,500 people are forced to sleep on sofas or the Tube every night. Nationally, 70,000 people were sofa surfing, 20,000 people sleep in unsuitable accommodation, 12,500 living in squats, 9,000 living in tents. A spokesman for Centrepoint states that the statistics are patchy and unclear, and that homelessness is often unreported by the general public, because they don’t know the homeless people they see sleeping rough. This prevents it from gaining the attention it needs to attract proper political action.

Not all towns deal with the problem in the same way. While most councils try to get the homeless into a hostel or similar, Carlisle is trying to solve the problem by giving the homeless tents, toiletries and other things they need, a policy which is praised by one homeless man, a Mr. Dubka, interviewed on the programme. The programme does report the government’s response, which says that it is committed to tackling homelessness and has devoted £550 million to this goal by 2020. The government is also about to pass the Homelessness Reduction Bill intended to force council to act in cases where people are about to become homeless.

But councils are still finding it difficult to cope, as budgets have been slashed by 70 per cent from 2014, councils are forced to concentrate on the urban centres, a point supported by a spokesman for another charity, Porchlight. The programme also cites statistics collected by Herriott Watts University. It concludes that on the one hand, it’s good that the figures for rural homelessness are finally being included and pressure is being placed on the government to include them in its Homelessness Reduction Act, but on the other funding is still being reduced.

I am not surprised that there are a high number of ‘hidden homeless’ in London and around the country. A little while ago I found a study of homelessness in New York, written by an American social scientist and based on his doctoral research in the 1980s and 1990s, when it was briefly a major issue in American politics. It’s actually more difficult to define the scale of the homelessness problem in New York, because many of the homeless aren’t living on the streets. They are sleeping on friends’ couches, or in basements or closets or other areas given to them to sleep in by kindly janitors. And although the problem is much bigger in the 21st century than it was twenty or so years ago, it has practically disappeared as a political issue.

Many of those homeless in New York are graduates. I wonder how many are also people with university degrees in this country, who can’t find accommodation in the cities in which they moved to attend uni, because of a shortage of affordable housing.

The report also makes another excellent point, though one by tacit demonstration rather than open statement. The government has said that it’s devoting £550 million to the problem by 2020. This looks impressive, but as the programme shows, this is actually a cut of 70 per cent. It shows why you should be always very careful about accepting the government’s stats when they are given in isolation without corresponding data to compare it with.

Also, whatever they say, this government will do the barest minimum to tackle homelessness. Due to Tory policies, the wider British economy depends on house prices remaining high. And they can only remain high if there’s a demand for them.

Deborah Lipstadt on the Lies of the Holocaust Deniers

September 30, 2017

This is a quarter of an hour TED talk by the respected historian, Deborah Lipstadt, on the lies of those, who would deny the Holocaust, and in particular David Irving and the coterie surrounding him. I think Lipstadt is a member of staff at the Holocaust Museum in America. In the 1990s she proved to be David Irving’s nemesis after he sued her for libel. Her testimony utterly wrecked whatever serious academic reputation Irving had, and the last thing I heard he was banged up in jail in Austria. That country, like Germany, has laws against denying the Holocaust. No doubt he’s there with others like him, trying to fend off the attentions of Wolfgang der Kannibaler.

Lipstadt begins her talk by saying that the first time she heard about Holocaust denial, she laughed, because the Holocaust is one of the best documented genocides in history. There is plentiful documentation, as well as eye-witness testimony from the victims and survivors, the Poles, who lived around the wretched death camps, the people in the towns and villages, who saw the Jews being rounded up and herded away, and lastly by those responsible for those terrible crimes. She makes the point that while they often claimed to have been forced to commit them – they were only following orders, or some such – they never denied that they had committed their monstrous crimes against humanity.

Then a few years later she was asked by academic colleagues to look into the milieu of Holocaust denial, and find out what was behind them. She laughed again. But she describes them as ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’. They don’t look like Nazis. They try to look like professional academics, adopting an air of respectable academic discourse. They have a slick academic journal, the Historical Review, they don’t describe themselves as Holocaust deniers, but ‘revisionists’, and they don’t wear Nazi uniforms.

But underneath all that it’s the same anti-Semitism, the same racism and the same Nazism.

So she wrote her book on them, and then a few years later got the news from her British publisher, Penguin, that she was being sued for libel by David Irving, whom she had named in her book. Irving certainly doesn’t believe in the Holocaust. At one point he said that more people had died in Bobby Kennedy’s car at Chappaquiddick than in the camps. She was told by friends that she could just ignore the suit. She replied that she couldn’t do that, as English law, unlike the American and other legal systems, demanded that she prove her case. If she couldn’t, or simply didn’t try to fight her case in court, then by default Irving would have won. And if that happened, she couldn’t look another Holocaust survivor in the face.

She states that she won, not by proving it happened, but by disproving what Irving claimed happened. She did so by looking up every footnote Irving made, and looking at the source literature cited. And in every one – not just one or two, or even several instances, but every case – he alters and falsifies what these documents and books actually say. He leaves things out, inserts things that weren’t there, invents witnesses, alters the sequence of events. The tril ended with the judge ruling that Irving was indeed a liar and a Holocaust denier, but in the type of severely erudite and strong language members of the judiciary use when sending down villains.

Lipstadt says that the trial was important, because not only did it discredit Irving, it also discredited others like him. Because they’re all deeply interconnected. They cite him and he cites them, so that the evidence of Irving’s book effectively shows all of them to be liars.

She ends by making the important point that there is more at stake here than just Irving’s reputation. She talks about how we’ve moved into the supposed age of ‘fake news’ with the internet, and the way this has flattened the difference between reality and falsehoods. She also talks about how academic freedom has dictated that everything should be up for discussion. The internet has enabled the Nazis in the form of the Alt Right. But it isn’t the case that everything is only a matter of opinion. There are such things as facts, and there are some matters which should not be up for academic debate, like the Holocaust. Truth exists, and needs to be defended.

This last piece is an attack on radical postmodernism, which claims that there is no objective truth, only competing narratives. As for Irving, she says that he was slightly passe at the time he sued her. I got the impression that it was the opposite. Irving had appeared in the papers with his book doubting the scale of the Holocaust, and caused a massive controversy when he was invited to speak at the Oxford Union. The trial between her and Irving was filmed as Denial, with I think Timothy Spall as the odious Irving.

From RT: ‘The Sun Won’t Be Able to Boast They Won It Ever Again

September 29, 2017

Yesterday Mike over at Vox Political put up a brilliant piece reporting how the media, and particularly the Beeb, got very defensive after Jeremy Corbyn remarked at the Labour Conference on the attacks against them from the press and media. He particularly mentioned the Daily Mail, and went further to praise the way social media had worked to provide a more balanced, objective coverage of the Labour party and its leadership.

This was cheered by many people on Twitter, who were really impressed by the way Corbyn had shown he was strong enough to criticize the Heil, which is the second largest selling newspaper in the country. The Beeb and the rest of the media also responded by getting very huffy about the criticism directed at them. In the case of the Beeb this was the old nonsense that they are utterly impartial, and only fools believe otherwise, while the social media in highly unreliable and just retails falsehoods.

It’s a flat-out lie. Since the Beeb began to try to tear down Jeremy Corbyn, the BBC has received any number of angry letters criticizing their flagrant bias, with Nick Robinson and Laura Kuenssberg specifically criticized. Robinson is, of course, the ‘Macclesfield Goebbels’, who was head of the branch at the Tory party when he was at university there, and who then went on to have a very long career in the party. Apart from his clear bias against Labour, he was responsible for an appalling piece of doctored news worthy of Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany during the debate about the Scots Referendum. He asked the-then leader of the SNP Alex Salmond about what would happen to the Scots financial houses in Edinburgh if Scotland voted for independence. Salmond supplied him with a full answer. This was then heavily edited in subsequent reports so that it appeared first that Salmond fudged the answer, and then Robinson claimed he hadn’t answered at all.

As for Kuenssberg, who has also shown herself to be so biased against Labour, I’m considering calling her Arnalda Mussolini, after Arnaldo Mussolini, the brother of the Italian dictator, who produced propaganda for his sibling’s dictatorship. Arnalda was declared to be completely unbiased, despite the fact that she spoke at a fringe meeting at the Tory conference.

And it is by no means fools or the uninformed, who seriously doubt the Beeb’s objectivity. Experts at the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff, and the authors of books like The BBC: The Myth of a Public Service have also produced ample proof of the corporation’s bias against Labour and the left.

After Corbyn took a well-aimed pot shot at the Heil, McDonnell dared to criticize the Scum. In this clip from RT, he states that the Sun under Rupert Murdoch was extremely biased against Labour, and that people have realized it and seen through them. This is shown by the results of the last election. And people’s skepticism towards the Scum and the other established media is now so strong, that the Scum will never again be able to claim that it was ‘the Sun Wot Won It’, as that newspaper did after yet another victory for Thatcher in the 1980s.

It looks to me we’re going to get more angry denunciations of the entirely justified criticism of their bias by the Beeb and the rest of the press and mainstream media, and more frightened ranting about how pernicious and unreliable social media is. In fact, McDonnell is absolutely right. People are turning more to social media and the internet for their views. It was the internet that was partly responsible for the rise of Barak Obama. It is social media and the internet that’s driving much of the support for Corbyn and the return of socialism in the Labour party.

And Corbyn’s and McDonnell’s gibes about the Heil and Scum show that the Labour leadership now has a confidence and combativeness that it lacked under Blair. Blair accepted totally the idea that you couldn’t possibly act against the wishes of a hostile press. Hence he was keen to get the support of the Murdoch press, including the Scum, and wanted desperately to get the Heil over on his side. He succeeded with Murdoch, but was disappointed, though still hopeful, with Vere Harmsworth’s mighty organ.

In fact, the circulation of all the papers is falling, including that of the Scum. The Times’ circulation is now so low that, were it not the British paper of record, it would have been closed down long ago. The Scum has shown in the past that it has the ability to swing elections, but even so there is massive public cynicism and dissatisfaction with the Murdoch press and its extreme right-wing bias. The impression I had is that while Murdoch can influence elections, and curry influence with mercenary politicos like Blair by offering them good publicity in exchange for business favours, the Murdoch empire’s readership is contracting so that it may never be able to do this again in the future.

Let’s hope that’s the case, and that a Labour victory will show how utterly petty and insignificant the Scum now really is.

Pat Mills Talks to Sasha Simic of the SWP about the Politics of 2000AD

September 15, 2017

This comes from the Socialist Workers’ Party, an organization of which I am not a member and which I don’t support. But this is another really great video, in which one of the great creators of the British comics for over forty years talks about politics, social class, the role of capitalism and women and feminism, not just in 2000AD, but also in comics and publishing generally, and the media.

Mills was speaking as part of annual four day convention the Socialist Workers hold on Marxism. Simic introduces himself as the person, who gets the annual geek slot. As well as a member of the party, he’s also a convener of USDAW. And he’s very happy in this, the centenary of the Russian Revolution, to have on Pat Mills.

Mills starts by saying that as he was growing up in the 50s and 60s, he read the same books everyone else did – John Buchan, Ian Fleming, Dennis Wheatley, Sherlock Holmes and the Scarlet Pimpernel. But there was something about it that made him angry, and it was only looking back on it that he came to realise that what infuriated him was the fact that these were all authors from the upper and middle classes, who created heroes from those class backgrounds. He makes the point that these were good writers, but that some of their work was very sinister the more you go into it. Like John Buchan. Buchan was the major propagandist of the First World War. Mills says that Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s infamous spin doctor, had nothing on him. He promoted the First world War, for which he was rewarded with the governorship of Canada.
He states that he doesn’t want to go too far into it as he’ll start ranting. Nevertheless, he’s glad to be able to talk to the people at the SWP’s convention, as it means they have a similar opinion to him, and he doesn’t have to censor himself.

He makes the point that there are very, very few working class heroes, and believes this is quite deliberate. It’s to deprive working people of a strong role. When the working people do appear, it’s as loyal batmen, or sidekicks, and there is an element of parody there. And it’s not just in comics and literature. In the 1980s he was contacted by the producers of Dr. Who to do a story. He wanted to have a working class spaceship captain. He was told by the script editor that they couldn’t. They also didn’t like his idea to have a working class family. It was only by looking back on where this hatred of the heroes of traditional literature came from, that he came to realise that it wasn’t just that he didn’t want to have any generals in his work.

He also talks about how it’s easier to get away with subversion in comics, as comics are treated as a trivial form of literature, which nobody really cares about. The profit motive also helps. So long as it’s making money, comics companies don’t care what’s going on. And this explains how he was able to get away with some of the things he did in Battle. He states that the way he works is by pretending to write something mainstream and inoffensive, and then subvert it from within. An example of that is Charley’s War in Battle. This looks like an ordinary war strip, but in fact was very anti-war. Even so, there were times when he had to be careful and know when to give up. One of these was about a story he wanted to run about the entry of the Americans into the War. In this story, a group of White American squaddies are members of the Klan, and try to lynch a Black soldier. Charley wades in to help the Black guy. The management rejected the story on the grounds that they didn’t want anything too controversial. Mills decided to draw in his horns and bite his tongue at that point, because he had a bigger story lined up about the British invasion of Russian in 1919, when we sent in 20-30,000 men. It was, he says, our Vietnam, and has been whitewashed out of the history books.

He also makes the point that subversion was also present in the girls’ comics. Even more so, as there was a psychological angle that wasn’t present in the boys’. For example, there was one story called ‘Ella in Easy Street’, where a young girl reacts against her aspirational family. They want to get on, and so the father has two jobs, and the mother is similarly working very hard to support their aspirations. But Ella herself is unhappy, as it’s destroying what they are as a family. And so she sets out to sabotage their yuppie dream. Mills says that it’s not all one-dimensional – he looks at the situation from both sides, pro and con, but the story makes the point that there are things that are more important that materialism and social advancement, like family, comradeship. He says that such a story could not be published now. It’s rather like The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, where the hero, in the end, throws the race as a way of giving the system the finger.

Mills reminds his audience just how massive girls’ comics were in the ’70s. They were bigger, much bigger, than the boys’. 2000AD sold 200,000 copies a week in its prime. But Tammy, one of the girls’ comics, sold 260,000. This is really surprising, as women read much more than we men. These comics have all disappeared. This, he says, is because the boys’ took over the sandpit. He has been trying to revive them, and so a couple of stories from Misty have been republished in an album.

This gets him onto the issue of reaching the audience, who really need it. In the case of the stories from Misty, this has meant that there are two serials on sale, both of which are very good, but in a book costing £17 – odd. The only people going to read that are the mothers of the present generation of girls, perhaps. To reach the girls, it needs to be set at a lower price they can afford. This is also a problem with the political material. If you write something subversive, it will receive glowing reviews but be bought by people, who already agree with you. He wants his message to get further out, and not to become a coffee table book for north London.

He talks about the way British comics have grown up with their readership, and the advantages and disadvantages this has brought. British comics has, with the exception of 2000AD, more or less disappeared, and the readership of that comic is in its 30s and 40s. People have put this down to demographics and the rise of computer games, saying that this was inevitable. It wasn’t. It was our fault, says Mills. We fumbled it. Games workshop still have young people amongst their audience, while the French also have computer games across the Channel, but their children are reading comics.

Mills goes on to say that it’s easier writing for adults. Writing for 9 and 10 year olds is much harder, because if they don’t like a story, they’ll say. He says to his audience that they may think the same way, but they’re much too polite to say it at conventions. And they had to respond to their young readers as well, as the kids voted on it every week. They’d tell you if they thought it was a bad story, even if you thought it was the best one so far, and asked yourself what was wrong with the little sh*ts.

He also talks about how difficult it is to break into comics. He has friends, who have been trying for decades to get into 2000AD, and have been unsuccessful. His advice to people trying to do so is: don’t bother. There’s nothing wrong with you, it’s 2000AD. And this also effects text publishing. All the publishers have now been bought up, so that HarperCollins have the fingers in everything, such as Hodder and Stoughton. And their politics aren’t ours.

The way round this is to get into web publishing. Here he digresses and talks about pulp fiction, which is a close relative of comics. He was talking to a guy at a convention, who writes pulp fiction and puts it on the net. It only costs a few pence. The man writes about a zombie apocalypse, but – and this is true, as he’s seen the payment slips – he’s pulling in £3,000 a month. Mills says that this is important as well. He wants to get his material out there, but he also wants to eat. This shows you how you can make money publishing it yourself. Later on in the video, after the questions and the comments from the audience, he goes further into this. He mentions some of the web publishers, one of which is subsidiary of Amazon, which will allow people to publish their own work. He also talks about self-publishing and chapbooks. He found out about these while writing Defoe, his story about Leveller zombie killer in an alternative 17th century England. Chapbooks were so called because they were cheap books, the cheap literature of the masses. And this is what comics should go back to. He says that everyone should produce comics, in the same way that everyone can also make music by picking up an instrument and playing a few chords.

He also praises some of the other subversive literature people have self-produced. Like one piece satirizing the British army’s recruitment posters. ‘Join the army’, it says, ‘- like prison, but with more fighting’. Mills is fairly sure he knows who wrote that as well. It was another guy he met at a convention, who was probably responsible for the anti-war film on YouTube Action Man: Battlefield Casualties. He enormously admires this film, and is envious of the people, who made it.

He also talks about some of the fan letters he’s had. One was from the CEO of a school, he talks about the way reading 2000AD opened up his mind and changed his moral compass. The man says that everything he learned about Fascism, he learned from Judge Dredd, everything about racism from Strontium Dog, and feminism from Halo Jones. He and his headmaster, whom he names, were both punks and he’s now opened a school in Doncaster. The most subversive thing you can do now is to try to create an open-minded and questioning generation of young people. The letter is signed, yours, from a company director, but not an evil one, and then the gentleman’s name.

He concludes this part of the talk by describing the career of James Clarke, a member of the Socialist Labour Party, the Communist Party, a lion tamer and conscientious objector. During the War he ran escape lines for British squaddies in France. And people say that pacifists are cowards, Mills jokes. How much braver can you be than sticking your head in a lion’s mouth. He wrote a pamphlet defending a group of comrades, who tried to start the revolution by following the example of the Irish Nationalists and blow things up with a bomb. The pamphlet argued that this was wrong, and that if the working class wanted to gain power, they should concentrate on confronting capitalism through direct action. He also wrote poetry. Mills describes Clark as being a kind of Scots Tom Baker. One of these is a biting satire of Kipling’s If. The poem begins by asking if the reader can wake up every morning at 5 O’clock, or 4.30, and then labour at their machines, and see their wives and children suffer deprivation while those, who haven’t earned it take it all the profits, and describes the backbreaking grind of hard working life for the capitalist class in several stanzas. It ends with the statement that if you can do all that, and still be complacent, then go out, buy a gun and blow your brains out.

Clearly, I don’t recommend any actually do this, but it is a witty and funny response to Kipling’s poem. I found it hugely funny, and I do think it’s a great response to what was voted Britain’s favourite poem by the Beeb’s viewers and readers a few years ago. Can you imagine the sheer Tory rage that would erupt if someone dared to recite it on television!

Many of the comments are from people thanking Mills for opening their eyes and for writing such great stories. They include a man, who describes how Mills’ works are on his shelf next to his copy of Das Kapital. Another man describes how he used to buy 2000AD just after going to church on Sunday. So after listening to some very boring sermons, he came back from Baptist chapel to read all this subversion. One young woman says that the zines – the small press magazines, that appeared in the 1990s – seem to be still around, as she has seen them at punk concerts. Another young woman says that although comics are seen as a boys’ thing, when she goes into Forbidden Planet near her, there are always three girls in there and two boys. She also talks about how many young women read Japanese manga. Mills states in reply that manga stories generally are light and frothy, and so not the kind of stories he wants to write. But as for women in comics, he says that he spoken several times to students on graphic novel courses, and each time about 75 per cent of them have been women, which is good.

He also talks about Crisis and Action. The Third World War strip in Crisis was about the politics of food, and was set in a world where food production was dominated by a vast multinational formed by the merger of two of today’s megacorporations. Mills states that when the strip covered what was going on in South America, that was acceptable. However, at one point he moved the story to Brixton, finding a Black co-writer to help with the story. At that point, the White Guardian-reading liberals started to be uncomfortable with it. There was also a story in which Britain leaves the EU. This results in the rise of a Fascist dictatorship, and the EU responds by invading Britain. Mills says that he’s been trying to get Crisis relaunched, but the company are stringing him along with excuses, probably because it’s easier than arguing with him.

Mills obviously did the right thing by finding a Black co-writer. Marvel suffered a barrage of criticism with some of their attempts to launch a series of Black superheroes, like the Black Panther as part of the Blaxploitation wave of the 1970s. The Black Panther was particularly criticized. The creators were old, White dudes, who didn’t understand urban Black culture, even if the comics themselves were sincere in presenting a sympathetic view of Black Americans and combating racism.

He also talks briefly about Action, and the controversy that caused. What really upset Mary Whitehouse and the rest was ‘Kid’s Rule UK’, a strip in which a disease killed everyone over 16, and Britain was inhabited solely by warring street gangs. Mills used to take the same train from where he was living at the time with Mary Whitehouse. He said he was editing a Hookjaw script at the time, and notice Whitehouse over the other side of the carriage looking daggers at him. So he put in more carnage and more arms and legs being bitten off.

One of the most interesting questions is about the politics and morality of Judge Dredd. Dredd is a fascist, and in one of the strips it seemed to take the side of authority over subversion with no irony. This was in a story about the punks taking over Megacity 1. At the end of the strip, Dredd gets hold of the leader, and makes him say, ‘I’m a dirty punk.’ Mills actually agrees with the speaker, and says that there are people, who take Dredd as a role-model. He’s had letters from them, which he doesn’t like. He doesn’t know what these people do. Perhaps they have their own chapterhouse somewhere. He went cold inside when he heard about the story. It wasn’t one of his. It was by John Wagner, who isn’t at all political, but is very cynical, so this has some of the same effects of politics. But 75 per cent of Dredd comes from Mills. Mills states that it’s a flawed character, and that can be seen in why the two Dredd films never did well at the box office. Dredd was based on a particular teacher at his old school, as was Torquemada, the Grand Master of Termight, a genocidally racist Fascist military feudal order ruling Earth thousands of years in the future. They were both two sides of the same coin. That was why he enjoyed humiliating Torquemada. But it isn’t done with Dredd. Yet it could have been different, and there could be instances where people have their revenge on Dredd without losing the power of the character. He states that it was because Chopper did this in the story ‘Unamerican Graffiti’, that this became the favourite Dredd story of all time.

It’s a fascinating insight into the politics of the comics industry. The zines and other self-published small magazines he describes were a product of the Punk scene, where people did start putting together their own fanzines in their bedrooms. It was part of the mass creativity that punk at its height unleashed. As for the web comics, he talks about a couple that he finds particularly impressive, including those by the author of the dystopian science fiction story Y – the Last Man, set in a future in which all the men in the world have been killed by another disease. A number of my friends used to publish their own small press magazines in the 1990s, as did Mike. Mike started his own, small press comic, Violent, as an homage to Action when it was that comics anniversary. Mike was helped by some of the artists and writers from 2000AD, and so some of the tales are very professional. But probably not for delicate, gentle souls.

Amongst SF fandom, chapbooks are small books which another publishes himself. And they have been the route some professionally published authors have taken into print. Stephen Baxter is one of them. I think his Xelee stories first appeared in a chapbook he sold at one of the SF conventions.

Looking back at Kids Rule UK, this was my least favourite strip in Action. I was bullied at school, and so the idea of a Britain, where everything had broken down and there was nothing but bullying and juvenile violence really scared me. Action took many of its strips from the popular culture of the time. Hookjaw was basically Jaws. One-Eyed Jack seemed based very much on the type of hard-boiled American cop shows, if not actually Dirty Harry. One of the SF movies of the late sixties was about an America in which teenagers had seized power, and put all the adults in concentration camps were they were force-fed LSD. One of the four Star Trek stories that were banned on British television until the 1980s was ‘Miri’. In this tale, Kirk, Spock and the others beam down to a planet occupied entirely by children, as all the ‘grups’ – the adults – have been killed by disease. Kids Rule UK seems very much in the same vein as these stories.

Mills’ story about Dr. Who not wanting to show a working class family, let alone a spaceship captain, shows how far the series has come when it was relaunched by Russell T. Davis. Christopher Eccleston basically played the Doctor as northern and working class, wile Rose Tyler’s family and friends were ordinary people in a London tower block. As for not wanting to show a working class spaceship captain, that probably comes from very ingrained class attitudes in the aviation industry. A friend of mine trained as a pilot. When he was studying, their tutor told the class that the British exam included a question no other country in the world required, and which was particularly difficult. He stated that it was put there to weed out people from working or lower middle class backgrounds, as they would fail and not be able to retake the exam, as their competitors from the upper classes could.

It’s great to hear Mills encourage people try to produce their own work, and not be disheartened if they are rejected by mainstream publishers. I’m also saddened by the absence of any comics for children. They offered me when I was a lad an escape into a whole world of fun and imagination. And at their best, they do encourage children to take an interest in real issues like racism, sexism, bigotry and exploitation. I hope some way can be found to reverse their disappearance.

Website for Late SF Artist Peter Elson

September 13, 2017

Going through the Net the other day, I found a website dedicated to the work of the late SF artist and illustrator, Peter Elson. Steve Holland in his Sci-Fi Art: A Graphic History (New York: HarperCollins 2009) notes that Elson was one of the school of artists that was influenced by Chris Foss’ work in the 1970s. Elson was apparently unable to adapt after that style of SF illustration fell out of favour, and spent the last years of his life working on theatre illustration.

An example of Elson’s work, from Holland’s Sci-Fi Art: A Graphic History.

He’s still one of my favourite SF artists.

The site’s Peter Elson Science Fiction Illustrator, and it’s at
http://www.peterelson.co.uk/index.php

The brief biography notes that he was a fan of the original Eagle comic, and has a suitable tribute by his friend, Carol Butfoy, who met him at Ealing School of Art, and formed a management agency with him, partly to handle his work. She concludes

The kind of cover art that Peter and many of his contemporaries produced will probably not be seen again. It was a golden age of SF and Fantasy illustration. You can still find the covers, sometimes in reprints, mostly as second hand copies at boot sales. They shine out for their magical ability to take you into a world you can scarcely imagine. It’s what great art always used to do, and Peter was a great artist.

If you want to see more of his work, including landscapes, vehicles and illustrations for Dr. Who, then go to the above site.

Sunday’s Anti-Sharia March in Bristol – A Liberal Façade Hiding Real Fascism

September 12, 2017

Last Sunday afternoon, 10th September 2017, there was a demonstration against sharia law in Bristol by the groups Gays Against Sharia and British and Immigrants Against Terrorism. RT posted up a video about it yesterday, and it was also covered by ITN News, but not the Beeb. They were met by a counterdemonstration, Bristol Against Fascism.

http://www.itv.com/news/westcountry/update/2017-09-10/gays-against-sharia-march-starts-in-bristol/

If you look at some of the videos that have been posted, this could seem to many like a liberal demonstration against radical Islam. There is a section of the Muslim community, which would like sharia law incorporated into British law. And the preachers of hate, who have stood in front of their congregations to whip up hatred against Jews and Christians have also violently denounced gays. One picture of the march shows a White man and Black gent in African dress, supposedly united in the opposition to Islamic law and bigotry.

There’s also a video on YouTube by one of the march’s supporters, Greek Anne UK Lover, who is at pains to argue that these are nice liberal people, and it wasn’t an EDL march.

Well, it may not have been, but many of the same people were involved. At one point she shows a poster of the various people, who were expected to speak. And they include the usual Islamaphobes and Nazis. One of them was Paul Weston, of Liberty GB. Liberty GB is, or was, an anti-Islam political party, and Weston is part of the ‘counterjihad’ movement. I think Liberty GB could be fairly described as the political wing of the EDL. It was certainly allied to it, and Weston is associated with the members and leaders of the far right counterjihad movement, including Pamela Geller of the Atlas Shrugs website, Robert Spencer and so on.

One of the other speakers, or at least among those listed on her wall, was Jack Buckby. Buckby’s the founder of the ‘National Culturalists’, another far right organization, who were thrown off campus by the students’ guild at Liverpool uni as Fascists. He’s also one of the two extreme rightists photographed sitting bang right next to Jacob Rees-Mogg at the annual dinner of the Traditional Britain Group. This is another far right, anti-immigrant group, various of whose members are also fascinated with Nazis and quite like the idea of the return of feudalism. Mogg, of course, tried to distance himself from them as soon as the Independent published the story. He claimed that he didn’t know who they were when he accepted their dinner invitation. Which sounds highly unlikely to me.

As for Buckby himself, there’s absolutely no doubt that he is a Fascist. He used to be a member of the BNP, and Hope Not Hate has piccies of him proudly shaking the hand of Nick Griffin.

The march’s liberalism is therefore something of a façade. Behind it are the usual bigots and Nazis, who are deeply opposed to Islam as a whole, and not simply sharia law and Muslim terrorism.

But this again follows the standard policy of EDL. In many of their demonstrations, they tried to present themselves as multicultural liberals, among whose banners were Jews and Sikhs. But a Channel 4 documentary screened a few years ago also showed that, despite their liberal protestations, their members were by and large the same racists and White supremacists as those in the BNP and NF.

I am also at a loss why they should be marching in Bristol. I’ve no doubt that a few members of the Muslim community down here might be supporters of Islamist terrorism. But I’ve heard of no major scandals. To my knowledge, there haven’t been Muslim hate preachers standing on street corner spouting their bigoted bilge.

But there have been various Islamophobic attacks in the city, including one on a local mosque, and the EDL did hold a demonstration here a year or so ago. One of the other news reports stated that none of the marchers came from Bristol. It doesn’t look like a response to a local issue. Just the usual islamophobes trying to stir up more hatred.

Don’t be deceived by the appearance of liberalism and multiculturalism. Behind it were genuine racists and Nazis. Sharia law and Islamist terrorism should be opposed, but these aren’t the real issues here. This is all about drumming up hatred against Muslims. And once they’ve done that, the Nazis would come out of the woodwork and start preaching hate against the other groups Blacks, Asians, Jews, and the gays they claim to want to protect.

The march’s supporters have made videos denouncing Antifa and the other counterprotesters as intolerant fascists, but actually, Antifa and the other anti-racists were quite right.

Batman and Wonder Woman Praising the Values of Tolerance and Multiculturalism

September 5, 2017

On a more positive note, I also found on Tomorrow and Beyond this pair of comic book panels, showing Batman and Wonder Woman reminding their young readers that America is composed of people of all races, religions, cultures and ethnicities. And that ‘Justice For All’ means for All of them.

From the style of the art, it looks like it comes from an earlier era of the strips. My guess is that they come from around the Second World War II, when the American government promoted pluralism and racial, religious and national tolerance to fight the Nazis, the absolute antithesis of those values.

And clearly, they’ve been rescued from comic book history and put up by the blogger because they’re as necessary as ever, now that Trump is in the White House, supported by his cronies in the Klan and Alt-Right.

Don’t believe the Republicans and their hate speech and propaganda. These are the values that have genuinely made America great, spoken by American popular culture’s two greatest heroes, not counting Superman, Spider-Man and Mighty Marvel’s stable.

Satirical Painting of Trump as Villainous Octopus

September 5, 2017

Here’s another piece of satire I also found over at the SF/ weird art site on Tumblr, Tomorrow and Beyond. It shows Trump as a giant octopus that has torn through the White House, while marching to its gates is a queue of the venal, corrupt, malignant and clownish. Which just about describes Trump’s presidency, his cabinet and relations with big business.