Posts Tagged ‘Jazz’

History Debunked Refutes Ethnomathematics/Rehumanizing Mathematics

September 8, 2020

This is another video from History Debunked. In it, youtuber and author Simon Webb attacks Ethnomatics, sometimes also called Rehumanizing Mathematics. This is a piece of modern pseudo-scholarship designed to help Black children tackle Maths. The idea is that Blacks perform poorly compared at Maths compared to other ethnic groups. This is held to be because Maths is the creation of White men, and this puts Blacks off studying and mastering it.

The solution has been to scrutinise African societies for their indigenous Maths, especially the Dogon of Mali. They have been chosen as the chief model for all this, as they possessed extremely advanced astronomical and mathematical knowledge. In the 1970s there was a book, The Sirius Mystery by Robert K.G. Temple, which claimed that they owed this advance knowledge to contact with space aliens. Apparently this claim was subsequently dropped 10 – 15 years later, and the claim made instead that they were just superlative astronomers and mathematicians themselves. But Dogon Maths is held to be different from White, western Maths because it’s spiritual. History Debunked then goes on to demonstrate the type of pseudo-scientific nonsense this has lead to by providing a link to an Ethnomathematics paper and reading out its conclusion. It’s the kind of pretentious verbiage the late, great Jazzman, Duke Ellington, said stunk up the place. It’s the kind of postmodern twaddle that Sokal and Bricmont exposed in their Intellectual Impostures. It’s deliberately designed to sound impressive without actually meaning anything. There’s a lot of talk about expanding cognitive horizons and possibilities, but History Debunked himself says he doesn’t understand a word of it. And neither, I guess, will most people. Because it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just there to sound impressive and bamboozle the reader into thinking that somehow they’re thick because they don’t, while the fault is entirely the writers.

I think History Debunked is a man of the right, and certainly his commenters are Conservatives, some with extremely right-wing views. He’s produced a series of videos attacking the pseudo-history being pushed as Black History, and apparently Seattle in America is particularly involved in promoting this nonsense. But he expects it to come over here in a few years. Given the way Black History month has jumped the Atlantic, I think he’s right.

There’s been a particular emphasis on find ancient Black maths and science for some time I know. For a brief while I got on well with a Black studies group when I was a volunteer at the slavery archives in the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum. That was before I read their magazine and got so annoyed with it and its attitude to Whites that I sent them a whole load of material arguing to the contrary, and pointing out that in places like the Sudan, Blacks were being enslaved and oppressed not by White Europeans, but by the Arabs. I also sent them material about the poor Whites of South Africa, who also lived in grinding poverty thanks to Apartheid. This was stuff they really didn’t want to hear, and I was told that if I wanted to talk to them further, I should do so through someone else. They were also interested in finding examples of Black maths and science. I sent them photocopies and notes I’d made of various medieval Muslim mathematicians. These were Arabs and Persians, like al-Khwarizmi, who gave his name to the word algorithm, Omar Khayyam, best known in the west for his Rubayyat, but who was also a brilliant mathematician, al-Haytham, who invented the camera obscura in the 12th century and others, rather than Black. But they were grateful for what I sent them nonetheless, and I thanked me. This was before I blotted my copybook with them.

I’m reposting this piece because, although it comes from the political, it is correct. And you don’t have to be right-wing to recognise and attack this kind of postmodern rubbish. Sokal and Bricmont, the authors of the book I mentioned early attacking postmodernism, were both men of the left. Sokal was a physicist, who taught maths in Nicaragua under the left-wing Sandinista government. They wrote the book because they took seriously George Orwell’s dictum that writing about politics means writing clearly in language everyone can understand. And even if you believe that Black people do need particular help with maths because of issues of race and ethnicity, Ethnomathematics as it stands really doesn’t appear to be it. It just seems to be filling children’s heads with voguish nonsense, rather than real knowledge.

I also remember the wild claims made about the Dogon and their supposed contact with space aliens. Part of it came from the Dogon possessing astronomical knowledge well beyond their level of technology. They knew, for example, that Sirius has a companion star, invisible to the naked eye, Sirius B. They also knew that our solar system had nine planets, although that’s now been subsequently altered. According to the International Astronomical Association or Union or whatever, the solar system has eight planets. Pluto, previously a planet, has been downgraded to dwarf planet, because it’s the same size as some of the planetoids in the Kuiper Belt. Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince discuss this in one their books,The Stargate Conspiracy (London: Little, Brown & Company 1999), which claimed that the American intelligence agencies were secretly preparing a fake UFO landing in order to convince everyone that the space gods really had arrived, and set up a one-world dictatorship. This hasn’t happened, and I’ve seen the Fortean Times and other weird magazines trying to explain their book as a high-level hoax which people took too seriously. I don’t believe this, as they seemed very serious at the time. The Dogon believe that the first human ancestors, and some of their gods, came from the sky. Hence Temple’s claim that they were contacted by space aliens. Picknett and Prince, however, sided with sceptics like Carl Sagan. They argued instead ithat the Dogon owed it to a French priest, anthropologist or colonial administrator, I’ve forgotten which, who visited them in the 1920s and who was extremely interested in astronomy. This seems to me to be far more likely than that they either got it from space aliens or that they far better mathematicians and astronomers than they could have been at their level of development.

The Dogon are fascinating as their homes and villages are laid out to be microcosms of the male and female human body and the universe. The book African Mythology by Geoffrey Parrinder, London: Hamlyn 1967, describes the layout of a Dogon house thus:

The shape of the Dogon house is symbolical. The floor is like the earth and the flat roof like heaven. The vestibule is a man and the central room woman, with store rooms at her sides as arms. The hear at the end is her head. The four posts are the man and woman entwined in union. So the family house represents the unity of man and woman and God and the Earth. This is accompanied by the elevation and ground plan of a typical Dogon house. (p. 49).

There’s also this diagram of an idealised Dogon village:

The caption for the diagrame reads:

Like the house, the Dogon village represents human beings. The smithy is at the head like a hearth in a house. The family houses in the centre and millstones and village represent the sexes. Other altars are the feet. (p. 51).

Truly, a fascinating people and I have no problem anybody wanting to study them. But it should be in anthropology, ethnography or comparative religion, not maths.

But it struck me that if teachers and educators want to enthuse and inspire young minds with what maths Africans were studying, they could start with ancient Egypt and the great Muslim civilisations of the Sahara and north Africa, like Mali. Aminatta Forna in one of her programmes on these civilisations was shown an ancient astronomical text from the medieval library of one of these towns, which she was told showed that Muslims knew the Earth orbited the sun before Copernicus and Galileo. I doubt that very much. It looks like a form of a combined helio-and geocentric system, first proposed by the ancient Greeks, and then taken up by some medieval astronomers not just in Islam, but also in Christian Europe. In this system, all the other planets when round the Sun, which orbited the Earth. Close to the modern system, but not quite. But it showed that the Black citizens of that civilisation were in contact with the great currents of Muslim science, and that they would have had learnt and taught the same kind of Maths that was being investigated and researcher right across the Muslim world, from India to Morocco and further south to Mali. One of the Black educationalists would like to translate one of these books from Arabic, the learned language of Muslim civilisation, and use it as an example of the kind of maths that was also taught in Black Africa.

Or you could go right back to ancient Egypt. Mathematical texts from the Land of the Nile have also survived in the Moscow and Rhind mathematical papyri. These have various maths problems and their solution. For example, problem No. 7 of the Moscow papyrus is about various calculations for a triangle. This runs

Example of calculating a triangle.

If you are told: A triangle of 2 thousands-of-land, the bank of 2 of 2 1/2;

You are to double the area: result 40 (arurae). Take (it) 2 1/2 times; result [100. Take its square root, namely] 10. Evoke 1 from 2 1/2; what results is 2/5. Apply this to 10; result 4. It is 10 (khet) in length by 4 (khet) in breadth. From Henrietta Midonick, The Treasury of Mathematics: 1 (Harmondsworth: Pelican 1965) p. 71.

It’s amazing to think that the boys at the scribal school were being taught all this millennia ago. It gives you a real sense of connection with the ancient schoolkids reading it. You can imagine them, hunched over with their pen and ink, busily cudgeling their brains while the teacher prowls about them. The Babylonians were also renowned as the pioneers of early mathematics. They even uncovered a school when they excavated Ur of the Chaldees in the 1920s, complete with the maths and other texts the schoolboys – female education didn’t exist back then, but I’m willing to be corrected – were required to learn. As a schoolboy character in the Fast Show used to say: ‘Brilliant!’ You don’t need to burden modern African societies like the Dogon with spurious pseudo-history and pseudo-science, when the real historic achievements of ancient Egypt and medieval Africa are so impressive.

It struck me that even if you don’t use the original Egyptian maths texts to teach maths – which would be difficult, as their maths was slightly different. Their method of calculating the area of a field of four unequal sides yields far too high a figure, for example – you could nevertheless inspire children with similar problems. Perhaps you could do it with assistance of a child or two from the class. You could bring them out in front of everyone, give them and ancient Egyptian headdress, and then arranged the lesson so that they helped the teacher, acting as pharaoh, to solve it. Or else pharaoh showed them, his scribes, and thus the class. This is certainly the kind of thing that was done when I was a kid by the awesome Johnny Ball on the children’s maths and science programme, Think of a Number. And every week, as well as showing you a bit of maths and science, he also showed you a trick, which you could find out how to do by dropping him a line. It was the kind of children’s programme that the Beeb did very, very well. It’s a real pity that there no longer is an audience for children’s programmes and their funding has subsequently been cut.

Here’s History Debunked’s video attacking Ethnomathematics. He also attacks a piece of ancient baboon bone carved with notches, which he states has been claimed is an ancient prehistoric African calendar. He provides no evidence in this video to show that it wasn’t, and says its the subject of a later video. If this is the one I’m thinking of, then that is a claim that has been accepted by mainstream archaeologists and historians. See Ivor Grattan-Guinness, The Fontana History of the Mathematical Sciences (London: Fontana Press 1998) p. 24.

If you want to know more about ancient and medieval maths, and that of the world’s many indigenous cultures, see the book Astronomy before the Telescope, edited by Christopher Walker with an introduction by the man of the crumpled suit and monocle himself, Patrick Moore (London: British Museum Press 1998).

This has chapters on astronomy in Europe from prehistory to the Renaissance, but also on astronomy in ancient Egypt, Babylonia, India, Islam, China, Korea and Japan, North and South America, traditional astronomical knowledge in Africa and among Aboriginal Australians, Polynesia and the Maori. It can be a difficult read, as it explores some very technical aspects, but it is a brilliant work by experts in their respective fields.

Adele’s Adoption of Black Style Is In a Long Tradition of White Anti-Racism and ‘Allyship’

September 1, 2020

One of the controversies that has now broken out in the wake of Black Lives Matter has been over the dress and hairstyle Adele adopted yesterday. She was hoping, like many folks, to attend the Notting Hill carnival. But it was cancelled due to the restrictions on large gatherings imposed by the Coronavirus. I’ve heard that they held a Virtual one online instead. Adele decided to signal her support for the carnival by posting a picture of herself in a bikini showing the Jamaican flag and with her done in a Black hairstyle. So the league of those wanting to find any excuse to be offended have accused her of ‘cultural appropriation’.

I really don’t accept this. I believe that she wore the bikini and the hairstyle as a genuine gesture of support to the Carnival and the Black culture that created it. And moreover, without people like Adele adopting Black fashions and Black music, Black culture would not have the acceptance it does among Whites and the racism Black people experience would be much, much worse.

Real Appropriation of Black Music and Culture

I am very much aware that cultural appropriation has occurred. Black people have complained for a long time that ‘the White man stole the Blues’. One of the great stars of the Big Band era, Benny Goodman, is a case in point. Goodman was a White man, but all his hits were written by Black Jazzers. One of the most notorious cases is that of ‘Tar-ra-ra Boom-de-ay’ in the 19th century. It’s credited to a White musician, but he heard it from a Black lad singing it on the streets. And cultural appropriation also doesn’t just apply to Blacks. Native Americans are also uncomfortable when Whites adopt their traditional culture, like some of the New Agers and pagans, who have adopted aspects of their religion. And I can’t say I blame them. But what Adele has done is the opposite, and goes right back to the 1920s and before when White youths began adopting Black fashion and music.

The ‘White Negroes’ of Jazz and Rock-n’Roll and Anti-Racism

One of the first in the 1920s was ‘Mezz’ Mezzrow. He was a White kid, who first immersed himself in the emerging Jazz scene. He adopted Black culture to such an extent that he has been called ‘the first White Negro’. Later on, one the ‘White Negroes’ – I’ve forgotten which one, painted himself with melanin in order to see what being Black in America was really like. I think he got an unpleasant surprise. But this didn’t stop him writing a book pleading for reconciliation between Whites and Blacks. And after Jazz faded with changes in youth culture, it’s place was taken by rock’n’roll. The books on music I’ve read state clearly that it’s a hybrid musical genre – a mixture of White Country music and Black barrel house Jazz. I’ve got a feeling that the primacy given to the guitar in rock and pop, rather than the piano or keyboard, comes from the old Blues master Howlin’ Wolf when he was performing in Chicago. Little Richard, who passed away recently, once claimed in an interview that it was thanks to him Blacks and Whites started dancing together. Before he started performing, he noticed that White the dance floors were full of Blacks tripping the light fantastic, the Whites just stood around the edges watching. ‘White spectators, we used to call ’em’, he reminisced. Then he started playing and they suddenly joined the Blacks on the floor. ‘So a decade before Dr. Luther King, we had integration’.

Nazi Hatred of the  White Adoption of Black Culture

And those Whites that did adopt Black music got real hate for it from the real racists. It comes from the old biological determinism that sees culture as the product of biology. By this standard, Whites are somehow betraying their race and degrading themselves by adopting Black music and fashion. Back in the 1980s there was a book, The Best of Signal, which published articles from the big popular Nazi mag of the Third Reich. It was published by a mainstream publisher as I think one of the very many titles on the Nazis, the Third Reich and World War II that appear every year. I found a copy in a secondhand bookshop. One of the articles in it was an explicit attack on the contemporary Jazz scene in America. It showed a groups of American youths – I can’t remember whether they were White or Black – wearing the characteristic ‘Zoot suits’ and made it very plain what the writer and the vile regime he served thought of them. When White kids in the 1950s started listening and dancing to rock’n’roll, Conservative voices accused them of taking over ‘Negro sensuality’.

And the same criticisms was still being voiced in the 1990s. That was the decade that saw the emergence of the Militia movement in the US and the gathering of various neo-Nazi outfits in the Hayden Lakes area, where they started building communes and compounds. These are real Nazis, not the casual racists who are often simply called it for their vile opinions. I think Louis Theroux went to one of them in his Weird Weekends. It was built like an armed fort or concentration camp, complete with watchtowers and barbed wire fencing. The obergruppenfuhrer Theroux interviewed proudly showed him the stack of greeting cards he’d had printed for his storm troopers to send. For most people, it would have been blasphemy, as it showed Adolf Hitler as Santa coming down a chimney bringing presents. In the interview I read, the writer tried to tackle one of these Nazis on the subject of Whites. The reply they got was that contemporary White culture had been corrupted by Black. They listened to Black music, wore Black fashions and danced like Blacks. Except he didn’t say Blacks. He said ‘N***ers’. It’s the same sentiments David Starkey got rightly panned for in 2012 or so when he was asked what was responsible for the riots. He blamed Black music. When it was pointed out to him that a fair proportion, at least, of the rioters were White, he stated that ‘they have become Black’. I don’t doubt that same White racists would condemn Adele for her choice of dress and hairstyle yesterday.

Blacks and Musical Apartheid

And these sentiments are contributing to apartheid in music. One of the complaints that has been voiced in the wake of the Black Lives Matter has been by Black musicians about the racism in their industry. I remember reading newspaper interviews 25-30 years ago by Black British musicians complaining about the musical apartheid they found when they toured America and parts of the continent, like Austria. They found there that music was strictly compartmentalised between ‘White’ and ‘Black’. One section dealt with Black performers another with Whites. I can’t remember who the Brit muso was, but she was really shocked because back here in Blighty she performed for people of all colours. But when she went to America, there was an expectation in the record company that she’d only perform for Blacks. At the same time, she and other Black musos, when they toured Austria, found their CDs and records put in the section of the music stores devoted to Black music.

I’ve also heard since then about the racism and abuse Black artists have had to face when they’ve tried performing in ‘White’ genres. A friend of mine told me a little while ago about the amount of hate the founder of the Heavy Metal band, Living Colour, got. Living Colour was an all-Black band, who wanted to produce awesome Rock. And apparently they got a lot of hate from both sides, Blacks as well as Whites, for daring to play a ‘White’ style of music. A month or so ago Radio 4 one started broadcast a piece about a Black American Country and Western performer. I can’t remember who he is, but I think he’s pretty old and has been playing it for a long, long time. And he’s suffered the same kind of abuse from the same type of people. It’s hard for me not to think that by accusing Adele of cultural appropriation, her critics are supporting the same kind of racist attitudes that would keep Whites and Blacks from appreciating and performing music outside very strict racialised boundaries.

Whites and Black Fashions and Hairstyles

As for Whites adopting Black hairstyles, I’m old enough to remember the ’70s and the big Afros that were in style then. From what I understand, they did so as part of the ‘Black is beautiful’ movement. Instead of adopting White hairstyles, Blacks in America and Britain wanted to wear their hair more naturally. And because of the influence of Black musical culture, so did many Whites. Leo Sayer had one, and when I was child I honestly thought he was Black. I don’t know if anyone from the Black community complained, but as this was also when the NF were back on the rise over here, along with organisations like the ‘Anti-Paki League’ – that’s what they called themselves – I think people had colour had worse to worry about.

I only came across the accusations of cultural appropriation for Whites adopting Black culture in the 1990s, and that was only in the American satirical comedy, Spin City. This starred Michael J. Fox in one of his last roles, as the head of the communications team for a fictional New York senator. In one episode, his Black co-workers are upset because one of the Whites has moved into a Black neighbourhood. And to fit in, he’s started wearing stereotypically Black clothes. Like turning up in an African robe. Fox’s character tries to explain that the man isn’t trying to be racist. He’s just trying to identify with the people of his new community. He also tries to explain to the man that he is, inadvertently, causing offence. The next day the guy comes in very obviously wearing a hat. Fox whips it off to reveal that the guy’s had his hair dressed in dreadlocks.

At roughly the same time that was on, I knew White people with dreads. As there still are. And the Black people I’ve known and worked with had absolutely no problem with it. They told me they had White friends, who looked good with it. Victor Lewis Smith, the satirist, TV critic and practical joke responsible for such shows as TV Bile and Inside Victor Lewis Smith, used to wear dreadlocks. Now I’ve got very mixed views about Smith. Some of his material I found funny, but in other ways he could be anything but. And he was an ex-public schoolboy, and so could be accused of cultural appropriation. But I don’t think anyone did.

Western Black Traditional Culture, Hip Hop Fashion and Ethiopian Dreadlocks

It seems to have begun with some Black Americans claiming Whites were stealing Black culture when they took over Hip Hop fashion in the 1990s. But I also remember one Black celeb scornfully pointing out that expensive trainers and the designer accessories also aren’t a traditional part of Black culture. And then a few years ago there was a video clip going round on YouTube of any angry Black female student haranging a young White lad in an American university because he had his hair in dreads. It was clipped and repeated in posts by Conservative Whites attacking the aggressively intolerant anti-racist culture in parts of American academia. And now that same attitude appears to have crossed the Atlantic.

But what was said about Hip Hop style not being part of traditional Black culture, could also be said about dreadlocks. Don’t mistake me – they are an authentic part of African Black culture. They were taken over by the Rastafarians from the hairstyle worn by Ethiopian warriors. They did so because at the time – I don’t know if they still do – they revered the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie Makonnen as the Black messiah they believed was foretold in the Bible, who would liberate western Blacks from their bondage. But it’s a hairstyle that was introduced from Africa, not one that was preserved in the traditional culture of Black slaves and their descendants. And many of the Blacks who wear it just do it because they like the style, but aren’t Rastafarians. Which, if we’re strict about the issue of cultural appropriation, raises all kinds of awkward questions. If it’s wrong for Whites to adopt Black styles, it could be argued that it’s also wrong for western Blacks, as the same dress and hairstyle properly belongs to its original African people.

Black Performers in White Makeup

And then there’s the question of how you judge Black performers, who have adopted White hairstyles and makeup. There are a number of videos, for example, where Beyonce actually looks White. She has straight hair, which appears blond rather than brown or black, and her skin has been made up to appear very pale. Certainly much paler than she appears in other videos, where she appears much darker. I am not accusing her of racism. But if people start flinging accusations of cultural appropriation around, then it could be applied to Black musos like Beyonce.

Skin Whiteners and the Damage to Black Skin

And incidentally, I am also very much aware of the harm being done to Black people by the feeling that somehow they should try to make themselves appear more ‘White’. Akala apparently discusses his book on race and racism the use of skin lighteners by many Blacks in a desperate attempt to appear Whiter. It’s nasty stuff. These chemicals work by taking off the top layers of skin. Other Black and ethnic minority writers have attacked their use. And there was a nasty incident that got into the pages of Private Eye’s ‘Funny Old World’ column. It was during a boxing match in Ghana. One of the boxers had been using these wretched potions, and as a result he lost the skin on part of his face after a particularly vicious blow from his opponent. Which provides an extreme, and very graphic argument why people shouldn’t use them. Skin has its own natural beauty, whatever shade it is.

I realise this is a long article and that some of the outrage is understandable coming after the condemnation of certain comedians for appearing in makeup as Black characters, like Bo Selecta and Lucas and Walliams in Little Britain. But Adele was not in Blackface, and she is nowhere near the Black and White Minstrels, who were subject of massive controversy in the ’70s before being axed in ’80s because they did perform the old Black minstrel songs in Blackface.

But Adele seems to be coming from a completely different direction. She’s following a century-old tradition in which the White aficionados of Black culture have shown their appreciation by adopting it. People like Mezzrow, who would now be viewed, using the jargon of intersectional feminism, as ‘allies’.

White Youth, Black Music and the anti-Racism Campaigns of the 1980s

It was people like Adele, who helped push back against the NF and BNP in the 1980s. Rock Against Racism before it collapsed thanks to a takeover attempt by the Socialist Workers Party brought Black and White youth together through a series of concerts by some of the great bands of the day. But I’ve friends, who are worried we’re losing that musical culture. I was watching the old episodes of Top of the Pops one of the cable/ satellite channels has been repeating. Yeah, I know it was cheesy and some of the bands that appeared were jokes even in their time. But some of the bands were awesome. The first pop video I ever bought was UB40. In case you’re too young, they were a reggae band with Black and White performers. I bought the video of their tour in Russia. They were one of the first western groups that were able to play when Gorby gave the country glasnost. And they rocked! The video shows the crowd dancing after their translator tells them that they can. This was the country that banned Boney M’s ‘Ra-Ra Rasputin’ as evil and subversive. There were other bands, too, who mixed White and Black performers. Quite apart from White groups like Madness, who played Ska- more Black music – and wore the characteristic suits. Yes, they took over Black music and culture, but it came from a place of affection and solidarity. The kids of my generation saw them bands like them on TV, in concert, heard them on the radio and absorbed the general anti-racist message as it was coming out.

A New Apartheid in Music?

But my friend was afraid that this is being lost because of hardened attitudes that Black and White performers should stay to certain genres within very racially defined boundaries. So racially mixed bands can’t come forward and perform. Because it’s cultural appropriation, or somehow betraying Black culture or some nonsense. Whatever it is, it’s still segregation.

Conclusion

I think before accusations of cultural appropriation are directed at people like Adele, there are some, who should do a bit of reading first. About Mezrow and the adoption of Black culture and music by alienated Whites. There are some classic studies of it. I think one of them has the title ‘White Youth and Black Culture’. They should understand why the Punks took over the Pogo – it came from the jumping style of dancing of the Masai. And at the same time they did so, they were mixing it on the streets giving the real Fascists – the NF, BNP and the rest of the scumbags the hiding they deserved.

Adele’s trying to show anti-racist solidarity. And it’s the people denouncing her for cultural appropriation who are strengthening real racism.

Because the opposite side of that coin is that the Whites, who do adopt Black culture are somehow betraying their Whiteness. And that’s always been an argument for real racism and apartheid.

 

 

‘I’ Article on ‘Bardcore’ – Postmodern Fusion of Medieval Music and Modern Pop

August 5, 2020

I’m a fan of early music, which is the name that’s been given to music from the ancient period through medieval to baroque. It partly comes from having studied medieval history at ‘A’ level, and then being in a medieval re-enactment group for several years. Bardcore is, as this article explains, a strange fusion of modern pop and rock with medieval music, played on medieval instruments and with a medieval vocal arrangement. I’ve been finding a good deal of it on my YouTube page at the moment, which means that there are a good many people out there listening to it. On Monday the I’s Gillian Fisher published a piece about this strange new genre of pop music, ‘Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1199’, with the subtitle ‘Bardcare reimagines modern pop with a medieval slant. Hark, says Gillian Fisher’. The article ran

“Hadst thou need to stoop so low? To send a wagon for thy minstrel and refuse my letters, I need no longer write them though. Now thou art somebody whom I used to know.”

If you can’t quite place this verse, let me help – it’s the chorus from the 2011 number one Somebody That I Used to Know, by Gotye. It might seem different to how you remember it, which is no surprise – this is the 2020 Bardcore version. Sometimes known as Tavernwave, Bardcore gives modern hits a medieval makeover with crumhorns a plenty and lashings of lute. Sometimes lyrics are also rejigged as per Hildegard von Blingin’s offering above.

Algal (41-year-old Alvaro Galan) has been creating medieval covers since 2016, a notable example being his 2017 version of System of a Down’s Toxicity. Largely overlooked at the time, the video now boasts over 4.4 million views. Full-time musician Alvaro explains that “making the right song at the right moment” is key, and believes that Bardcore offers absolute escapism.

Alvaro says: “What I enjoy most about Bardcore is that I can close my eyes and imagine being in a medieval tavern playing for a drunk public waiting to dance! But from a more realistic perspective , I love to investigate the sounds of the past.”

In these precarious times, switching off Zoom calls and apocalyptic headlines to kick back with a flagon of mead offers a break from the shambles of 2020. Looking back on simpler times during periods of unrest is a common coping mechanism, as Krystine Batcho, professor of psychology at New York’ Le Moyne College explained in her paper on nostalgia: “Nostalgic yearning for the past is especially likely to occur during periods of transition, like maturing into adulthood or aging into retirement. Dislocation or alienation can also elicit nostalgia.”

The fact that Bardcore is also pretty funny also offers light relief. The juxtaposition of ancient sound with 21st-century sentiment is epitomised in Stantough’s medieval oeuvre, such as his cover of Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie. Originally from Singapore, Stantough (Stanley Yong), 35 says: “I really like the fact we don’t really take it very seriously. We’re all aware what we’re making isn’t really medieval but the idea of modern songs being “medievalised” is just too funny.”

One of Bardcore’s greatest hits, is Astronomia by Cornelius Link, which features trilling flutes and archaic vocal by Hildegard. It’s a tune that has been enjoyed by 5.3 million listeners. Silver-tongued Hildegard presides over the Bardcore realm, with her cover of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance clocking up 5 million views. Canadian illustrator Hildegard, 28, fits Bardcore around work and describes herself as “an absolute beginner” with the Celtic harp and “enthusiastically mediocre” with the recorder. Her lyric adaptations have produced some humdingers such as “All ye bully-rooks with your buskin boots which she sings in rich, resonant tones.

HIldegard, who wishes to remain anonymous, believes the Bardcore boom can be “chalked up to luck, boredom and a collective desire to connect and laugh.”

In three months, the Bardcore trend has evolved with some minstrels covering Disney anthems, while others croon Nirvana hits in classical Latin. While slightly absurd, this fusion genre has ostensibly provided a sense of unity and catharsis.

The humming harps and rhythmic tabor beats evoke a sense of connection with our feudal ancestors and their own grim experience of battening down the hatches against the latest outbreak. Alongside appealing to the global sense of pandemic ennui, connecting to our forbears through music is predicated upon the fact that they survived their darkest hours. And so shall we.

While Bardcore’s a recent phenomenon, I think it’s been drawing on trends in pop music that have happening for quite long time. For example, I noticed in the 1990s when I went to a performance of the early music vocal group, the Hilliard Ensemble, when they performed at Brandon Hill in Bristol that the audience also included a number of Goths. And long-haired hippy types also formed part of the audience for Benjamin Bagley when he gave his performance of what the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf probably sounded like on Anglo-Saxon lyre at the Barbican centre in the same decade.

Bardcore also seems connected to other forms of postmodern music. There’s the group the Postmodern Jukebox, whose tunes can also be found on YouTube, who specialise in different 20th century arrangements of modern pop songs. Like doing a rock anthem as a piece of New Orleans Jazz, for example. And then there’s Orkestra Obsolete, who’ve arranged New Order’s Blue Monday using the instruments of the early 20th century, including musical saws and Theremin. There’s definitely a sense of fun with all these musical experiments, and behind the postmodern laughter it is good music. An as this article points out, we need this in these grim times.

Here’s an example of the type of music we’re talking about: It’s Samuel Kim’s medieval arrangement of Star Wars’ Imperial March from his channel on YouTube.

And here’s Orkestra Obsolete’s Blue Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More on the Collapse of David Starkey’s Career after Racist Slavery Comments

July 4, 2020

Yesterday I put up two pieces on the outrage at David Starkey’s dismissive comments about Blacks and slavery in his interview on the Reasoned YouTube channel with Darren Grimes. Starkey was asked if slavery was a genocide. He replied that it wasn’t, as otherwise ‘there would be so many damn Blacks in Britain and Africa, would there?’ The outrage against this display of racism has been so strong, that many organisations are severing their connections with TV’s former favourite expert on the Tudors. Starkey resigned from the Mary Rose Museum, Dan Snow’s History Hit channel said that they hadn’t made any original films with him, and were removing one featuring him that they had acquired from a third party. And Fitzwilliam College at Cambridge University stated that they were reconsidering his honorary fellowship. This all came from Zelo Street.

But Mike also put up a piece about the controversy which added further details about the devastating effect Starkey’s comment is having on his career. His publishers, HarperCollins and Hodder & Stoughton, have condemned his comments and stated that they will not be publishing any more of his books. HarperCollins have also said that they are examining his backlist in the light of his remarks. He had signed a three-book deal with publisher. One had already been published, while two were forthcoming. One of these, the second part of a biography of Henry VIII was due to come out this September. These books have now gone.

Fitzwilliam College didn’t wait til next week before considering what to do about him. They contacted Starkey, and have announced that the Master has accepted Starkey’s resignation with immediate effect.

Canterbury Christchurch University also announced that they were terminating his position as visiting lecturer, declaring that his comments were unacceptable and went against the values of the university and its community.

Mike has put up a series of tweets attacking Starkey for his comments from some of the left-wing peeps on Twitter. This includes some of the descendants of the victims of slavery and the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the West Indies. One of those was from Kerry-Ann Mendoza, the might woman behind The Canary. She commented “I’m descended from the indigenous people of the Caribbean: the Kalinago. You’ve likely not heard of us. We were virtually annihilated during the first waves of slavery, which is when the Slavers moved on to importing Black Africans to the Caribbean. So f*** you, David.”

I think the Kalinago are the Caribs, one of the many Indian peoples of the West Indies before the Spanish conquest, along with the Arawaks and the Taino. The latter two peoples were completely wiped out, although I think some Arawaks still survive in South America. After they were conquered, the Amerindians were worked to death under the most brutal conditions mining gold for the Spanish conquerors. The Caribs put up very tough resistance, and it was a long time before they were forced off their ancestral lands. They fought both the Spanish and us, when we entered the Caribbean to conquer territory from the Spanish. We initially claimed that we were intervening on their behalf, but turned against them as soon as it proved useful.

Nevertheless the Caribs survived. Those in the West Indies are called ‘Black Caribs’ as they intermarried with escaped slaves. They have their own reservation. A few years ago there was a documentary following them as they made contact with the other Caribs in South America, rediscovering their language and ancestral skills and culture. Another documentary series on Channel 4, I believe, on the lost civilizations of the Caribbean revealed that genetic analysis of the present day population of one of the islands of the Spanish Caribbean showed that the people were also partly descended from the indigenous peoples. This was a surprise, as it was believed that the Amerindians there had been completely exterminated and had not intermarried with the European settlers. But they had, and now some of their descendants are trying to recreate the heritage, including the religion, of their indigenous ancestors.

The people’s of the ancient Caribbean had an advanced culture. Like the Maya and other peoples on the South American mainland, they played a ball game and built courts for it. One people also left behind stone balls carved with petroglyphs, designs and symbols which to my eyes look somewhat like the glyph writing of the Maya. These people and their culture, however, are now extinct, and so the meaning of these monuments is lost.

Apart from the outrage Starkey’s comments about genocide and slavery produced, others were also angry at what he had said about Black Lives Matter. He had compared them to a rich entitled lady shopping at Harrods, claiming that they ‘usually have lots of money and big cars’. Aaron Bastani, who produced a short video tearing apart Starkey’s claim that slavery wasn’t genocide because Blacks survived, and his stance that the British empire was benign, commented on this remark of Starkey’s ‘These morons have been allowed to set the political agenda in this country because they have been elevated by the media. Millionaires that help billionaires.’ Absolutely.

Others were also understandable furious that while other organisations were dropping Starkey, he still seemed to be acceptable to the Beeb. One of these was Jackie Walker, the Black Jewish activist smeared as an anti-Semite. Jackie’s mother was a Black American civil rights activist, and she is an expert on slavery and Caribbean history. She commented “Just let what he’s saying sink in, then ask how come the BBC/media allow this man to comment on history.” Tom London rhetorically asked if the Beeb had done any soul-searching after Jeremy Corbyn had complained about David Starkey’s comments about the ethnicity of the rioters in 2011. Starkey had appeared on Question Time and declared that they were all Black. When it was pointed out to him that they were also White, he refused to change his views, because ‘they had become Black’ by taking over Black culture. There are White youths who imitate Black gangster culture, but you obviously can’t blame it all for the riots. Starkey’s comments could have come from the racist right, which has been blaming Black music for corrupting Whites ever since the 1920s and the invention of Jazz. Craig Murray remarked that the Beeb has known Starkey was racist for at least nine years, but it has never stopped them inviting him on to spread his poison. Simon Maginn called on the Beeb to condemn his comments about ‘so many damn Blacks’ and will refuse to give him any further airtime and remove him from iplayer. Anything less would be racist.

Meanwhile, Grimes seems to have emerged unscathed, despite the fact that he was responsible for the video. He made a kind of apology yesterday, stating that he should have questioned Starkey’s comments, but claiming that the interviewer isn’t responsible for what the interviewee says. But Lewis Parker commented “You didn’t just interview a racist. You interviewed him, nodded your head in agreement, edited the video, posted the video, and then promoted it. Also, the video is still up on your YouTube channel. What a sad sad excuse.”

Starkey’s career is thus sinking fast, thanks to his bigoted comments. It remains to be seen whether he will still be a welcome guest at the Beeb. Unfortunately, given the Corporation’s overtly Tory stance, my guess is that he will.

But odiously Grimes has so far escaped any kind of real punishment for his part in this debacle. And I’ve no doubt that he, and other ignorant and malign extreme right-wing pundits like him will still somehow be feted as real journalists with valuable, insightful opinions in the future.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/07/03/racist-historian-dropped-by-publisher-and-university-after-shocking-interview-remarks/

 

Bonkers Hateful Riley Compares Durham Miners’ Brass Band to KKK

July 17, 2019

Has Rachel Riley’s mind finally snapped? Is she really trying to discredit herself? Does she actually believe socialists and trade unionists are really anti-Semites? And does she think that of all working people? I ask this because yesterday Mike put up a piece reporting Riley’s deranged sneer at a tweet about Durham Miners’ Brass Band. They had held their annual gala at which they’d played the Israeli folk song, ‘Have Nagila’. This had been put on the web by Charlotte, who tweeted ‘A brass band playing Hava Nagila at Durham!! Chag Miners’ Sameach friends’ followed by three hearts. This was too much for the hateful Riley, who commented

‘As tasteful as showing Black Panther at a Klan rally’.

Which makes you wonder just how much hatred Riley has for the organised working class. From this sneer, quite a bit.

It really is quite irrational, and a very nasty smear at good people. Hava Nagila’s a great tune, which is widely enjoyed by all kinds of folks. I’ve got the sheet music for it at home here, and have enjoyed playing it. I’ve never heard anyone say that it’s offensive for non-Jews to play it. And it’s clear that Charlotte not only really loves the song, but she also might be Jewish. I can’t speak Hebrew, but know enough about Judaism to know that the chagim is the Hebrew word for the Jewish feasts and holy days. So the phrase ‘chag …. sameach’ might be a special greeting or phrase indicating approval. It seems very clear to me that Charlotte enjoys it being played regardless of the ethnicity or religious affiliation of the people playing it.

And the Durham Miners’ haven’t done anything to deserve the implied smear that they’re racists and anti-Semites. They’re simply working people playing great tunes. They replied to Riley with the following tweet

Dear Rachel Riley

Your damaging comments regarding one of our community brass bands has caused great hurt to good people.

Hava Nagila has been played at the Durham Gala by many bands over many years.

We invited you to Durham to meet and learn from the men, women and children who play in brass bands, celebrating their culture alongside music around the world.

It’s a very gracious response to a very ungracious sneer. But I doubt that Riley will take them up on their invitation. She seems too convinced in her twisted views of the working class and their organisations. She really does seem to believe that Jeremy Corbyn, his supporters, and by extension the entire Labour party and trade union movement are anti-Semites who want the destruction of Israel. But as has been said many times by very many people, some very strong members of the Jewish community, Judaism and Israel are not synonymous, no matter what Benjamin Netanyahu wants everyone to believe. Nor do everyone, who support the Palestinians, including Jeremy Corbyn, hate Jews or even the Israeli people. What they want is for the Israeli slow-motion ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, and the Israeli state’s machinery of oppression and apartheid to stop. As do many Israelis, to whom the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, pays tribute in his book, Ten Myths about Israel.

As for the Durham miners’ and their brass band, there’s absolutely nothing there to show that they in any way deserve Riley’s accusation. There’s nothing to indicate what views, if any, they have about Israel. And in fact, I’d say that if they’re playing it, it indicates that they have a positive view of Jews. The real anti-Semites and racists object to playing anything from other races and ethnicities. The Nazis didn’t like Jazz, because it was invented by Black people. Similarly they violently objected to modern music composed by Jews, just as they hated art and literature created by them, because they thought it was part of the plot to ‘jewify’ Germany. Genuine anti-Semites and Nazis therefore wouldn’t have played ‘Hava Nagila’ or any other kind of Jewish music. And in fact, for all we or anyone else know, some of the band themselves may even be Jewish, have some Jewish ancestry or have Jewish friends or relatives.

And there’s a nasty parallel here to the outrage Garrison Keillor caused last Christmas or so ago, with a comment he made which was very much seen as anti-Semitic. I think he was annoyed about the number of seasonal songs that had been written by Jews, like ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer’. So he posted a comment saying that Jews should stop colonising Christmas, or something like that. This naturally cause great offence, and people of all backgrounds replied to tell Keillor exactly what they thought of him. But it seems Riley holds similar views about music and ethnicity/ religion. Just as Keillor objected to Jews writing music celebrating a Christian festival, so Riley appears to hate the idea of working class non-Jews playing a Jewish song, based on no more than her own prejudiced views. If Keillor’s unacceptably prejudiced for his own comment, then so’s she.

It seems to me that Riley’s rage and hatred at Corbyn and his supporters is becoming increasingly irrational. Assuming that it was ever rational in the first place. it reminds me a little of the conspiracy theorists, who made themselves tinfoil hats in order to stop the CIA/Russians/Red Chinese/THEM beaming their mind-control rays at their brains. Years ago somebody made a documentary about the weird fears and myths some White Protestants in the American south have about Blacks and Roman Catholics. The film’s called The Darkness at the Top the Stairs, if I remember rightly, and records some really bizarre ideas, like:

  • Black people have a secret powder they put on themselves to make them appear White. Thus, your best friend could be Black, and you wouldn’t know it.
  • Roman Catholics are telepathic and use their powers to make Protestants think about Roman Catholicism. If you find yourself suddenly thinking about the Pope, it’s because somewhere a Roman Catholic is beaming this image into your mind.

I don’t think Riley has quite reached this level of deranged paranoia yet, but if she’s accusing decent people like the above brass band of being anti-Semites, simply based on her own weird political and ethnic assumptions and prejudices, then it seems to me that she’s not far off.

Mike in his piece about this nasty incident compares it to Riley’s own attack on Mike for his article reporting how she bullied a schoolgirl suffering from anxiety. He invited his readers to look at Riley’s tweet about the band and decide for themselves who they thought was right. As Riley is suing Mike, he also asked his supporters if they knew other people, who were as offended by her attack on the band as he was, and might consider donating to his fund to defend himself from her suit. Mike ended his article

It’s only my personal opinion but I think that Ms Riley’s behaviour is utterly unacceptable. If you agree, please spread the word about my campaign as widely as possible.

Did Rachel Riley’s ‘Durham Miners’ tweet upset you? Support Mike’s libel fight!

Mike’s right: Riley’s behaviour is unacceptable, but she’s getting away with it. As one of Mike’s great commenters, Mark C., says

Every day she is showing her true colours; this seemingly has nothing to do with anti-semitism, and everything to do with her hatred of the Labour movement and its desire to level this country’s playing field.

I wonder how long and how far she can go on before people in this country wake up and realise how crazy and venomously hate-filled she is.

 

 

‘I’ Newspaper Smears Corbyn’s Labour as Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theorists: Part 3

March 10, 2019

The next anti-Semitic conspiracy theory Verber claims is held by people in the Labour party is ‘Twisting or denying the facts of the holocaust’. The example he gives of this is ‘Chris Williamson’s series of unfortunate events’. He writes of this conspiracy theory

Wander into any coffee shop in Tel Aviv and you will hear all manner of Israelis criticising the government of the day. But none of the Nazis’ anti-Semitic policies are remotely similar to any passed by Israel. The Nazis set out to murder every Jew in Europe and then – had they got their way – across the globe.

Each innocent Palestinian life that has been lost in the conflict with Israel is a tragedy, as it every Israeli life. But Gaza is not Auschwitz. Comparing the two is a lie, a low blow deliberately calculated to cause hurt and pain to a community still in trauma.

Other versions of this conspiracy theory include attempts to play down the Holocaust’s significance or event to question its existence.

Now look what’s being done here. It’s a classic example of ‘bait and switch’. For most people, ‘twisting or denying the facts of the Holocaust’ would mean straight out Holocaust denial, or the noxious variants of it that minimise the numbers murdered. But that’s not what concern Verber. He’s upset because, gasp, some people are comparing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazis. His statement that none of Israel’s policies are comparable to the Nazis is a flat-out lie. Firstly, Israel is an apartheid state. Only Jews can be citizens. This is identical to the Nazis’ policy that only ethnic Germans could be German citizens. The country’s indigenous Arabs also live under separate laws and may only use specific roads. Many municipalities in Israel have passed legislation forbidding property to be let to non-Jews. Furthermore, the country was born partly through a series of massacres against the Arabs. Those making the claim that Israel resembles Nazi Germany, like Tony Greenstein, qualify that statement by saying that it is like Nazi Germany before the launch of the Holocaust in 1942. Gaza is not Auschwitz, as Verber says. But I don’t think anyone has said it was. It has, however, been described as an open-air ghetto.

As for comparisons to Nazi Germany being hurtful to a community still in trauma, this is massively hypocritical. Israelis accuse their politicians of being Nazis all the time. There was even a cartoon in one newspaper of Netanyahu in Nazi uniform.

Now we come to what Verber calls ‘Chris Williamson’s series of unfortunate events’. This begins with Williamson signing a petition against Islington Council’s banning of Jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon, a Holocaust denier. Verber notes that he later claimed that he didn’t know about Atzmon’s views. It’s possible. Atzmon considers himself to be a supporter of the Palestinians, although the mainstream Palestinian solidarity movement doesn’t want to have anything to do with him because of his toxic views about Jews. But Atzmon is hardly a household name, and if the petition claimed that he was being banned because of his support for the Palestinians, then it’s quite possible that Williamson signed it in all innocence.

But there is more half-truths and malign insinuations that follow. He states that Williamson has several times shared a platform with Jackie, who has been suspended for falsely accusing Jews of financing the slave trade and playing down the importance of the Holocaust, and defended Ken Livingstone, who said that Hitler supported Zionism. I’ve dealt with the accusations against Walker and Livingstone ad nauseam. Neither of the two are racist, and especially not Walker, who is a Black Jew, believes in Judaism as a religion, sends her daughter to a Jewish school, and has a Jewish partner. The quote the CAA used to claim that she believes Jews financed the slave trade was lifted out of context from a personal discussion with three friends, where it was understood that she was talking about how some Jews financed and profited from the slave trade. Which is true, as she cites the literature and authorities to back up her comment. As for downplaying the importance of the Holocaust, she did no such thing. She was secretly recorded by the Jewish Labour Movement at their Holocaust Memorial Day workshop questioning the exclusive focus on Jews at the expense of other ethnicities, that have also suffered Holocausts. She also asked them to give her a definition of anti-Semitism she could work with. When Marc Wadsworth asked the same question at his tribunal, when he was smeared as an anti-Semite, the tribunal called for an adjournment. When they returned, it was accompanied with four lawyers, all arguing. Walker was singled out because she did not accept the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism, because it is used to suppress criticism of Israel. As for Leninspart, he was right about Hitler and Zionism. Before the Final Solution was introduced, the Nazis were keen to find anyway of getting rid of Germany’s Jews. And this meant sending them to Israel through the short-lived Ha’avara Agreement. Which is historical fact.

Verber also goes on to say that Williamson has warned of ‘certain dark forces ‘ using their contacts in the media and power to undermine Corbyn. But as we’ve seen, there is abundant evidence to show that these fears are not unfounded, not least as regards Israel.

Verber concludes this section with the words

Outright Holocaust denial has been moved to the fringes even of the world occupied by conspiracy theorists. Given the vacuum, new and more subtle ways of trivialising and attacking the Holocaust have had to be created.

Well I dare say, but this doesn’t apply to criticism of Israel for ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians or the smears against Walker and Livingstone. The last two haven’t denied or played down the Holocaust at all, and neither has Williamson. This is just more lies and smears from him, to try to make them seem anti-Semitic monsters.

BBC 4 Looks Back at Tomorrow’s World

November 22, 2018

Tonight, Thursday 22nd November 2018 at 9.00 pm BBC 4 are looking back at the 1980’s BBC science show, Tomorrow’s World. The programme’s entitled Tomorrow’s World Live: for One Night Only, and the blurb for it in the Radio Times runs

Dr. Hannah Fry joins former presenters Maggie Philbin and Howard Stableford for a one-off live revival of the much-loved science and technology series, which ran from 1965 to 2003. They will be looking at the programme’s archive, discovering the latest in British inventions, testing new technologies in the studio and looking forward to the innovations that will shape our future. (p. 97).

The other short piece about the show by Mark Braxton, on page 95, says

To think the BBC’s flagship science show might have been called “To Be Announced”. Creator Glyn Jones only came up with the title the night before RT went to press back in July 1965. But then there was always something excitingly seat-of-the-pants about Tomorrow’s World.

The influential series ran for 38 years, fronted by a conveyor belt of hosts from the old-school (blazer-sporting Spitfire pilot Raymond Baxter) and the smooth (Michael Rodd) to the long-running (Judith Hann, for 20 years).

It soon became known for things going awry on live TV – Baxter later gamely spoofed both himself and the programme on The Goodies (“This entire studio is held together with string.” Crash!). But the fact is that this was the first chance the public had to see new tech in action: the home computer, artificial grass, the digital watch, personal stereos and so on.

So in this one-off special, ex-Tomorrow people Maggie Philbin and Howard Stableford take a fond look back and a peek into the future. though I won’t consider the project complete without Johnny Dankworth’s jaunty jazz theme and the show spelt out in cake, nails and fried egg.

The Radio Times also has an article on the show by James Burke, another of its presenters, on pages 18 to 21, which includes a list of the predictions the show got right and got wrong. I remember Burke presenting the Beeb’s coverage of the US space missions in the 1970s, like the Link-Up when US and Russian astronauts and cosmonauts docked in space for the first time, and then returned to Earth in each others’ craft, if I recall correctly. I was fascinated by it, despite being only eight at the time. Burke also presented the Beeb’s science blockbuster series Connections and The Day the Universe Changed.

And here’s the show’s titles and theme tune from the Revoxy Channel on YouTube.

More Tory Madness at the Polls: Theresa May Most Popular Leader Since Churchill

April 29, 2017

What are they on?
Or to put it another way, how stupid and gullible do they think the British public is?

I’ve blogged today about the unreliability of the polls. These supposedly show that May has a 16 per cent lead over Jeremy Corbyn, who is, as the Tories and the Blairites are constantly screaming, supposedly unelectable. But those same polls, as Mike has said on his blog, show that the Tory lead apparently fell by eight points in just one week. And the I newspaper also claimed in an article this past week, that while May was in an overall lead, Labour was far more popular with young people.

All this is I can believe. I also mentioned in my last article about the polls a piece by Guy Debord’s Cat, where he argued that polling isn’t designed to provide an objective description of how popular our leaders are, or who really thinks what about a particular issue. They’re carefully manufactured by the polling companies – largely Tory – and the media – also largely Tory – to show the results they want, in the hope of influencing the electorate, thus showing the power of the press as opinion formers.

Hence the constant refrain from the Blairites, the Tories and their lickspittles in the press that Jeremy Corbyn is supposedly massively unpopular with suitable polling figures trotted out to show this. Supposedly. In fact, the media and Corbyn’s opponents within and outside the Labour party are absolutely terrified of him being popular. If – terrible thought! – Corbyn actually wins the election, it will put an end to nearly forty years of Thatcherism in one form or another. The rich might have to start paying their fair share of the public purse again, while the poor might start seeing improvements to wages, services and proper welfare provision. One that provides them with the maintenance they need and treats them with the respect and dignity they deserve. And it will stop the privatisation of the NHS, which UNUM, Branson, BUPA, Circle Health and the other private healthcare providers angling to get some of the market occupied by the NHS are so keen on.

Now I’m prepared to accept that May probably is in the lead over Corbyn in terms of personal popularity, because of the relentless campaign by the mainstream media to promote her. That lead, however, needs to be heavily qualified. Richard Seymour in his book Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics has pointed out that the ‘Project Fear’ the mainstream media has launched against Corbyn in the hope of terrifying people into not voting for him has backfired. People are reacting against the media’s demonization and constant lying. And so far from making Corbyn unpopular, he’s become more so with people expressing their support for the Labour leader, and getting news and information about him, not from the papers, TV or radio, but from social media on the Net. This is being done spontaneously by ordinary people not connected to the Labour party.

But this is one claim about May’s popularity I find extremely difficult to believe.

According to Have I Got News For You, who announced this straight-faced, Theresa May is the most popular British Prime Minister since the War.

As the little lad used to say on Different Strokes way back in the ’80s: ‘What you talkin’ about, Willis?’

So we’re being asked to believe that Theresa May, who doesn’t want to appear in the leader debates, says she doesn’t want to talk to the press, and makes very few public appearances, and when she does, they’re very carefully stage-managed, is more popular than, well, great British Prime Ministers like Clement Atlee, Harold MacMillan, Harold Wilson or even Tony Blair and Maggie Thatcher? Thatcher was a disaster for this country, but she was massively popular. She was also was massively unpopular, to the point where she was supposedly the most popular and unpopular British Prime Minister since the War. She’s still the great, molten idol of the Tories and Blairite Labour. The first thing Blair did was have her round No. 10 for tea after he won the election.

Thatcher was so strident and strong that she got the nickname ‘the Iron Lady’. May, by contrast, is very definitely weak and wobbly, as Mike’s pointed out, despite all the cries by the Tories and the press that she’s ‘strong’ and ‘stable’.

So the question has to be asked: do the Tories and the press really think that we’re all that stupid to believe this rubbish?

Or, alternatively, have they been drinking too much, or partaking of Jazz cigarettes or other illicit recreational substances? I mentioned in an earlier post that the mugwumps about which May was asked, apart from being an Algonkin word meaning ‘great chief’, were also the strange lizard creatures in David Cronenberg’s film version of The Naked Lunch. Very roughly based on the novel by William S. Burroughs, this is about a pest control man, who suffers massive, very weird hallucinations after he becomes addicted to the poisons he uses to exterminate the bugs and other vermin. The mugwumps in the movie are just some of the bizarre creatures he sees.

Boris Johnson this week called Corbyn a ‘mutton-headed mugwump’, and now the Tory press reckons she’s the most popular Prime Minister since Churchill. Whether or not illegal substances are involved, someone’s clearly tripping.


Theresa May and Mugwump celebrate her lead in the polls. Don’t have nightmares.

Anti-Fascist Songs by Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly

February 19, 2017

I think my political views and biases have made an impression on the search engines on YouTube, as these came up in the ‘recommended’ and ‘you may also like’ bars. Not that I mind – they’re classic, American working class folk and jazz. The machines decided that I might like Woody Guthrie’s Tear the Fascist Down, and All You Fascists Bound to Lose, as well as Mr. Hitler by the Blues/Jazz legend Huddie William Leadbetter, or Leadbelly.

Here’s Tear the Fascist Down

All You Fascists Bound to Lose

Mr. Hitler

It’s a bitter fact of history that at the time Leadbelly was singing this, Blacks were still very much treated as second class citizens with Segregation in the south. Still, he was absolutely right to lampoon and attack Hitler. I also think that popular music had a strong role in bringing Blacks and Whites together to challenge racism. The Nazis hated Jazz. They regarded it as ‘Negro music’, whose raw sexuality was corrosive of White culture and would corrupt virtuous White youth. But it and Blues very swiftly became popular amongst Whites as well as Blacks, and produced numerous ‘White Negroes’ like ‘Mezz’ Mezzrow, who not only listened to Black music, but were highly sympathetic to the people and their sufferings, which produced it. And the same thing happened later when Rock ‘n’ Roll emerged from the fusion of Black barrelhouse Jazz and White Country music. A few years ago I was watching a rock documentary, which mentioned Little Richard. One of the speakers was a Black musician, who remembered how the crowd at dance halls were divided before Little Richard came along. The floor of the dance hall was clustered with Black people dancing, while the Whites tended to cluster around the edges. ‘White spectators, we called ’em’, he recalled. Then when Little Richard came along, the Whites joined the Blacks on the dancefloor. ‘And so we had integration before Dr. Luther King’, the muso concluded.

Absolutely. And the very best popular has been entertaining, uplifting and drawing people together ever since.

‘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.