Posts Tagged ‘KIng’s College’

Maria the Witch on the Rise of Bolsonaro, Brazil’s Fascist Candidate

October 25, 2018

This is a mirror on Kevin Logan’s channel of a piece by Maria the Witch warning and explaining about the rise of Jair Bolsonaro, the Far-Right, Fascist candidate in the Brazilian elections. From what she says about herself at the beginning of the video, Maria is a Brazilian who studied in the US. However, Bolsonaro’s dangerous ascent to power has pushed her into making this video so that when the time came, she ‘wouldn’t be laughing like an Anglo’.

At the moment, Bolsonaro is only a few votes away from the Brazilian presidency, at 46 per cent he’s just shy of the 50% + 1 required for him to take power. At a 49 per cent approval rating, he’s way ahead in the polls.

As for who he is, the video has a clip of Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman explaining that he’s a former army officer, who has openly praised the country’s military dictatorship, which last from 1964 to ’85. He has a long history of making racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments, and encouraging police to kill suspected drug dealers.

Glenn Greenwalt of the Intercept explains that he’s been called Brazil’s Donald Trump, which radically understates the case. He’s much closer to Duterte in the Philippines or General Sisi in Egypt. He is far more dangerous than Trump, as democracy in Brazil is far more fragile. It lacks the political infrastructure that America and the UK have to limit the power of the president. He is likely to win against Lula’s successor – Lula da Silva was Brazil’s previous, left-wing president – because of the animus built up by the media and the business class against PT, the Workers’ Party.

As for his bigoted comments, he once said in an interview that he’d rather hear that his son died in a car accident than was gay. He defended torture and rape during the dictatorship, and when a member of Brazil’s lower house confronted him about it he told her she needn’t worry, because she didn’t deserve to be raped by him – meaning that she was too ugly for him to rape her. He’s made a whole slew of similar comments about Blacks and the indigenous peoples. More worrying are his models for dealing with crime. They’re taken from the world’s worst dictators like Pinochet. As in the Philippines, he wants to send in the army and police to slaughter indiscriminately anyone they consider to be a drug dealer or criminal without trial. He believes in military rule. He does not regard the military coup of 1964 as a coup, and wishes to replicate it. And he has the entire top level of the military supporting him.

The institutions that would constrain Bolsonaro or somebody like him in the US – a strong supreme court, the CIA or the FBI, and other political parties, don’t exist. Due to his popularity, there is a sizable part of the Brazilian population that fears he will bring back the worse elements of dictatorships, such as the summary execution of dissidents, shut down media outlets, and closed congresses.

Maria then asks how this is possible in a country that has been ruled for 14 years by the centre left PT. Back to Greenwald.

Greenwald explains that it’s similar to what is happening in America, the UK and Europe where this kind of extremism is spreading, and the media outlets that have aided its rise refuse to take any responsibility for it. The media is very oligarchical, and in the hands of a small number of very rich families. The journalists themselves are afraid of Bolsonaro and don’t support him, but continue to create the narrative that supports him: that Bolsonaro and PT are simply two sides of the same coin. PT are a left-wing dictatorship, like Bolsonaro represents a rightwing dictatorship, and both are equally bad. Greenwald makes the point that during the 14 years PT governed the country, there was a very free and open press that constantly attacked them. they impeached one of their presidents and put the other in prison, so the idea that it’s a dictatorship like that to which Bolsonaro aspires is grotesque. But this is what is normalizing Bolsonaro.

As for Lula da Silva, he was thrown in prison just as he was leading in the polls and banned all of the media from interviewing him. The Intercept/em> has tried, as have others, but there are prevented by a prior restraint order issued by the Supreme Court. He states that Brazilian institutions carry much of the blame for the rise of Bolsonaro, just as American institutions do for Trump and British for Brexit, and European globalization policies for the rise of the extreme Right on the continent.

Maria also explains that there have also been a series of events that have weakened Brazilian democracy, aimed not just at PT but also at other left-wing parties. Earlier this year councilwoman Marielly Franco was murdered, PT president Dilma Rousseff was impeached and then Lula was arrested.

There is then a segment from a report by Amy Goodman explaining that Franco was a member of Rio de Janeiro’s council, a human rights activist. She and her driver were assassinated as they returned from an event on empowering Black women. Franco was a Black lesbian, who was fiercely critical of the police’s killing of people in the favela neighbourhoods. The night before her death she had Tweeted ‘How many more must die before this war ends?’ In January alone 154 people were killed by the cops in Rio State. Goodman goes on to say that last month President Temer ordered the military to assume control of police duties in Rio. Dilma Rousseff was impeached three years ago by the Brazilian senate in a move she denounced as a coup. Lula was leading in the polls, but had been convicted of corruption and money-laundering, charges many believe were trumped up. Rousseff stated that this was the second part of the coup, after her impeachment.

The British human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, told The New Internationalist ‘Extraordinarily aggressive measures are being taken to put Lula in jail by the judiciary, by the media, by the great sinews of wealth and power in Brazil’.

Maria then goes to a Brazilian academic at King’s College, London, Anthony Pereira, the professor and director of the Brazil institute there, who explains that this is nothing new but a relapse into Brazil’s ‘fashy disease’ from the 1960s, which was never properly cured.

Pereira explains that the transition from dictatorship to democracy was unique in that it was very slow and gradual, and unlike the Chilean transition, informal. It was managed by the regime itself, which changed the rules when it feared instability, dividing the opposition and making a lot of deals. Tancredo Hernandez was the first civilian candidate to win the presidency indirectly in 1985. After he won the election, Hernandez talked to the military and many other politicians and promised that there would be no revenge, no trials for human rights abuses, and that he would make sure that the political elite could make a smooth transition from the military to the civilian. There was a church report organized by the diocese of Sao Paolo on the human rights abuses, and people knew there had been torture, but these revelations were not state policy. This informal transition kept things very much as they had been. This explains why Bolsonaro’s discourse – his rhetoric – sounds very much like what was said in 1964, talking about the unity of the Brazilian family, how the left cannot divide the country, it cannot allow women to be against men, Afro-Brazilians to be against Whites, for homosexuals to be against heterosexuals. It’s a bit like One Nation Conservatism in Britain where there is a view of an organic, hierarchical society, patriarchal, dominated by the social elite. It has a place for everyone, but it rejects what it calls ‘activism’, associated with subversion and not being really Brazilian. And it rejects the Left, because of its association with Communism, Socialism and Venezuela. It’s a unity which excludes an awful lot of people.

Maria goes on to recommend that people watch the full pieces by Pereira and Greenwald explaining the country’s relationship with the workers’ party, PT. She also recommends that people look at the videos by the Intercept and Democracy Now. She states that people should be interested in this, not just because one of the world’s largest countries is going full Fascist, not just because the US and Britain have both had a hand in Brazil’s dictatorship, but also if they don’t want her to be silence or, worse, hunted down. She also recommends another female left-wing YouTuber from Brazil for those of her viewers who speak Portuguese. The videos and links to them are shown at the end of Maria’s video.

I’ve put this up as it seems that every Fascism in one guise or another is on the rise again. And the Fascist in one part of the world embolden and strengthen the stormtroopers in others. It’s also important to know that Britain also was involved in supporting the Brazilian dictatorship.

And Greenwald is right in that the forces that are enabling the rise of Bolsonaro are the same as those aiding the rise of the extreme right over here: globalism – not just confined to the Continent, but also a part of British economic policy – and an oligarchic media that is heavily biased against the Left.

And I was talking a few weeks ago to a left-wing minister at my local church, who wondered if Corbyn would ever be allowed to take power if he was elected. If his fears are justified, then what has happened to Lula da Silva will be repeated over here to stop Jeremy Corbyn and a genuine reforming, Socialist Labour government.

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The Smearing of the Innocent: The 1950s Anti-Comics Scare and the Anti-Semitism Smears against Labour

May 5, 2018

Frederic Wertham is a figure, who casts a very long shadow over the history of the American comics industry. Born Friedrich Wertheimer, he had emigrated to America from Germany in 1920. A psychiatrist with left-wing political views, he had moved to England to study medicine at King’s College and been influenced by the Fabians before finally moving to America. He was an expert in the study of the brain, and the neurological causes of behaviour, working under the leading expert in the organic causes of madness, Emil Kraepelin.

The carnage of the First World War made him concerned to understand the causes of violence, and the outbreak of the Second World War made him into an activist determined to combat it. In so doing, he became one of the leaders of a moral crusade against comics. The funny papers were supposed to contain all manner of subversive attitudes and doctrines, and were spreading criminality and sexual perversion amongst their young readers.

In some ways, he was an admirable figure. He was particularly concerned with the problem of children and violence, working with kids living in some of the most violent and exploitative environments of America. He gave the results of his studies into the mental health of children in racially segregated schools over to Thurgood Marshal, where it became part of the evidence civil rights activists used in the court cases that ended segregated schooling. With the support of prominent civil rights leaders, he opened a free psychiatric clinic for the poor in Harlem.

He became concerned about the influence of comics through his work with youngsters at the clinic. He noticed that all of them read comics. This should have been no surprise, as 90 per cent of all American children read comics. Those who didn’t were generally the children of the rich, who were kept away from such cheap literature. He was also strongly influenced by his fellow √©migr√© from Germany, Theodor Adorno, who blamed the rise of the Nazis on the mass culture created by capitalism.

He began his attack on comics in 1948 when Collier’s ran an interview with him, entitled ‘Horror in the Nursery’, and which ended with him declaring that ‘the time has come to legislate these books off the newsstands and out of the candy stores’. As a result, churches organised the boycott of retailers selling comics and citizens’ groups wrote to their politicians demanding action. More than 50 cities passed laws restricting the sale of comics. Comic books were also burned in a weird parallel to the book burnings in Nazi Germany. These began in Binghampton, New York. Volunteers went from house to house, asking if there were any comics. They’d then try to persuade the householder of their dangerous nature, encouraging them to surrender the offending literature, which would be taken to the local schoolyard to be burnt.
The comics industry managed to survive by passing voluntary codes of conduct. This managed to allay fears for a few years, until 1952-4 when Estes Kefauver, running for the Democratic presidential nomination, began his campaign against juvenile delinquency. Kefauver discussed the issue with Wertham, who had just written his book, The Seduction of the Innocent. This has become rightly notorious for its wild claims against comics. In 1953 Wertham became psychiatric adviser to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. In May the following year, the Subcommittee came to New York to examine the influence of the funny papers. It was this hearing that led to the near annihilation of the comics industry and the passage of legislation outlawing the crime and horror comics.

Among the allegations Wertham made were that Wonder Woman was a lesbian and Batman and Robin were a gay couple. Crime comics encouraged children to emulate the crimes contained in the stories. He also accused comics of spreading racism and Fascism, including Superman. He said of the Man of Steel that ‘superman has long been recognised as a symbol of violent racial superiority’. It’s rubbish, of course. Superman has never been remotely Nazi. The two creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were both Jewish, as were most of the creators of the American comics industry. In 1946 the Superman radio show had broadcast a story, which had been partly created with the assistance of the Anti-Defamation League. In this, the Man of Steel fought against a KKK-style organise intent on destroying an interfaith organisation run by a rabbi and a Christian priest. The show was praised by organisations like the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the Negro Press Association for its work combatting racial and religious prejudice and promoting respect.

Superman wasn’t the only comic Wertham and the others smeared as racist, but comics generally. Wertham often went against the explicit content and moral of the stories, and twisted them to suit his own prejudices. One example was a horror novel, in which a father organises the lynching of his daughter’s boyfriend because he’s Latino. The thugs he gets to the job instead kill his daughter. It’s a nasty tale, but clearly not an endorsement of racism by any means. But because the strip included a racist term for Hispanics, Wertham and the rest seized on it as an example of the racism in comics.

This reminds me of the anti-Semitism used by the Tories, the Israel Lobby and the Blairites in the Labour party today against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. This has led to decent, anti-racist people being smeared and libelled as racists and Holocaust-deniers. This includes Jews, many of whom are anti-racist activists, who themselves or their families have suffered anti-Semitic abuse and assault. The parallels become even closer as Comics were also suspected of spreading Communism. in 1948, the police commissioner of Detroit declared that comics were full of ‘communist teachings, sex and racial discrimination.’ Which is similar to today’s smears that Corbyn’s supporters and Momentum are really hard-left Trotskyites and Communists, rather than real, middle of the road socialists wanting a return to the Social Democratic consensus and a proper welfare state.

The people making these smears against the Labour left go through their posts on-line, and then, like Wertham, take things out of context, twist their meaning and omit anything that shows that their victims are not the racist monsters they wish to paint them. And they are utterly despicable. And it’s a nasty, politically motivated campaign to prevent Labour coming to power, at least under Jeremy Corbyn.

Now some comics at the time of wertham’s campaign were very definitely unsuitable for children. But not all, and certainly not Superman and the rest of the DC favourites. But as Martin Barker shows in his book, Comics, Ideology and Power, it was another incident in a long history in which the upper classes have been suspicious of popular literature, and have attempted to censor and control what the hoi polloi read. Just as the upper classes and the media are now attempting to use smears again to stop people voting for and joining Corbyn’s Labour party.