Posts Tagged ‘London’

Boris Johnson Cynically Tries to Appeal to Gay Community

July 14, 2019

Boris Johnson and supporters.

This weekend and last has been the occasion for gay communities across the world to hold their annual Pride celebrations. Yesterday Bristol’s gays held a march, before going on to hold a pop concert up on Durdham Downs. I think last weekend was Pride Day in America, as it also was in London. According to Points West down here, Bristol Pride was a huge success, with thousands of people enjoying the occasion celebrating diversity. I’ve no doubt this was also the case in America and London. But one person, who was definitely not welcome at the party was Boris Johnson when he tried to use it for a bit of electioneering.

Johnson put out the following Tweet

Salute all those celebrating today. I have fond memories of my pink Stetson march as Mayor! Britain leads the world in LGBT+ equality and I’ll continue to champion the cause if I am lucky enough to become our country’s Prime Minister.

This was grossly hypocritical, as Johnson has been a massive homophobe. As Britain’s gay community and their supporters well knew, and weren’t going to let Johnson forget it.

Chloe tweeted back

you called gay men ‘tank-top wearing bum boys’ and compared same-sex marriage to a person marrying a dog, didn’t attend london pride 2011-2015, allowed gay marriage ban in bermuda, and have a homophobe running your leadership campaign – so fuck your salute and fuck you too.

Amy Ashenden also tweeted

The UK is far from leading the world on LGBT+ equality and YOU are a homophobe! Don’t think we don’t see through your attempt to look pro-LGBT in time for leadership election.

Other tweeters told Johnson precisely where he could stick his salutes. Jack D remarked

So, how about you take this tweet…and shove it so far up your back passage it comes to rest next to all your other ideas. Bigot.

Quite.

Mike remarked in his piece about it that this was far from being an isolated incident, and that Johnson had very many times expressed views that could cause him embarrassment were he to become Prime Minister, stating

And you can bet that, if he becomes PM after July 23, that is exactly what will happen. And with a clown as prime minister, you can be sure the whole world will be laughing at us…

… Even people who are usually afraid of clowns.

Boris Johnson caught out over London Pride – if he becomes PM this could happen daily

Now it’s possible that Johnson could have changed his mind on gay rights. When Tony Blair first introduced civil partnerships and then gay marriage, polls were quoted showing that 75% of the British public were against it. Since then the number of people, who are against gay marriage has apparently fallen to 50% or below. And having grown up in the 1970s and ’80s, I can understand why some people have trouble coming to terms with it. Although homosexuality had been decriminalised by Labour’s then Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, c. 1967, there was still massive hatred against gays. John Hurt risked his career playing Quentin Crisp, the gay rights activist and personality, in the BBC drama The Naked Civil Servant. I can remember listening amazed one lunchtime at school when one of the older lads told us that the previous night’s edition of Whicker’s World had shown a gay wedding in Las Vegas. Attitudes were beginning to change in the 1980s thanks to campaigners like Peter Tatchell and ‘out’ pop stars and celebrities like Boy George, Mark Almond, Jimmy Summerville, and bands like Bronski Beat and the Communards. The ‘8os also saw Labour controlled local councils attacked by the right-wing press and media for funding gay organisations and festivals, along with attempts to tackle other forms of prejudice, like racism. This was when Thatcher tried to pass legislation banning schools from teaching that homosexuality was natural, and there were real fears that this would be just the prelude to the Tories rounding up gays and imprisoning them in concentration camps like the Nazis. And as Thatcher was friends with the Chilean Fascist dictator, General Pinochet, the Union of Conservative Students was supporting apartheid South Africa and demanding the hanging of Nelson Mandela and adoption of racial nationalism and there was a very strong strain of Fascism and intolerance in the party, this was not an unreasonable fear.

It was David Cameron, who tried to change this and modernise the party, the same way Blair had modernised Labour. The Tories were to be thoroughly anti-racist, putting up Black and Asian candidates, cutting links to the Monday Club and expelling those with links to the Far Right. They were also now to be pro-gay. The party started fielding openly gay candidates, whereas in the past it had many closeted gays. Many of these were extremely anti-gay themselves, and there were a number of very high profile resignations when these Tories were outed. I can remember one of the new, openly gay Tory politicos confessing that his favourite band were The Scissor Sisters. As this fellow was very much an aristo, I wondered if the band really were his favourite, or if he had been advised to say they were in order to appear down with the kids. Like various Tories claimed to like the Spice Girls when they were riding high in the charts.

But there seems to be a very strong element of homophobia in the Tory party, just as the racists still exist despite Cameron’s purges. And they’re even stronger in UKIP and Fuhrage’s Brexit Party. The internet author Moggsmates released a number of tweets from Johnson’s and Rees-Mogg’s supporters’ groups revealing just how racist the pair’s respective supporters were. And I don’t doubt that they hold similar horrendous views about gays.

The gay community is very wise to reject Johnson’s cynical attempt to marshal their support. And all Britons, whatever their sexuality, should realise from this just how unprincipled and cynical Johnson is in his electioneering.

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Tom Watson’s Racism and the Anti-Semitism Smears

July 7, 2019

Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, is one of Jeremy Corbyn’s most vocal critics. He’s one of the most important Blairites in the Labour party spreading the anti-Semitism smears and witch hunt. But, as Tony Greenstein has pointed out time and again, Watson himself has actually backed real racists in the Labour party, and promoted their fearmongering and scapegoating of ethnic minorities.

Greenstein mentions some of these incidents in his post today, in which he urges Corbyn’s supporters to join a protest in support of Chris Williamson. Williamson is an important Corbyn ally, and Greenstein and very many others fear that if he is removed, then Corbyn’s position becomes untenable. What Williamson said about Labour being too apologetic over the anti-Semitism smears wasn’t itself anti-Semitic. The scale of anti-Semitism in the Labour party is low, very much lower than in mainstream society, and much lower, I would imagine, than in the Tories. It has been exaggerated and blown out of all proportion by a right-wing political and media establishment desperate to find any means of discrediting a genuine socialist and his supporters, and an unrepresentative Jewish establishment desperately trying to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel’s slow genocide of the Palestinians.

Greenstein mentions several instances of the Blairites’ racism, which involved Watson. Neither Watson  nor the other ‘moderates’ opposed the illegal and very racist Windrush deportations. He also states that Watson bullied Yvonne Davies to prevent her standing for Sandwell Council, because she opposed a BNP-style march.

Watson also supported Phil Woolas, who ran a very racist campaign against his Lib Dem opponent. This portrayed all Muslims as Islamist fanatics and claimed that the Lib Dem candidate supported them. Greenstein produced this image of the offending, and very offensive leaflet.

Greenstein states that Woolas’ agent stated that their strategy was to ‘make the White folks angry’, because if they didn’t, Woolas was ‘gone’. It was because of this leaflet that Woolas was removed as MP by the High Court. Watson complained in an article in Labour Uncut, in the article ‘Tory Lies, Lib Dem Lies, Phil Woolas and the Mystical Shaman of Truth’

‘I’ve lost sleep thinking about poor old Phil Woolas and his leaflets.’ He felt ‘like a piano has been dropped on my head. It is the most brutal truth of all – the realisation that you are on your own in politics.‘

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/07/if-you-cant-defend-chris-williamson-you.html

It’s clear from all this that Watson is very far from being an anti-racist activist, genuinely concerned with protecting Jews from anti-Semitism. It’s just the latest convenient pretext for an entirely politically-motivated attack on Corbyn. Because Corbyn wishes to empower working people, which includes Jews, against the neoliberal elite. And in this, Watson has much in common with this guy, whatever he pretends about anti-racism and anti-Semitism.

The march in support of Chris Williamson against the NEC is on Tuesday, July 9, 9 a.m., at 105 Victoria Street, London SW1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boris Johnson – A Racist Candidate for a Racist Party

June 21, 2019

A few days ago, Ian Blackford, an SNP MP caused an uproar in parliament by having the temerity to call Johnson what he is, and say what a very large number of the British public are thinking and saying: that Johnson is a racist. He cited a poem Johnson had published in the Spectator when he was its editor, about how a giant wall should be built around Scotland and the gates closed to turn it into a giant ghetto, who inhabitants should be exterminated. He mentioned again Johnson’s infamous comments about Black Africans, describing African children as ‘grinning pickanninies’ with ‘watermelon smiles’, as well as his infamous Torygraph article attacking the burka. He described those women, who chose to wear it as looking like letterboxes or bin bags. This caused a storm of outrage from the Tories, who accused Blackford of unparliamentary conduct and Blackford did get a caution from Bercow as a result. But as Mike showed today on an article in his blog, very many ordinary Brits on Twitter agree with Blackford. Johnson is a racist, and indeed, so is his party. This was also made very clear by a post about Johnson and his noxious racism on Zelo Street. Johnson had been asked about his derogatory comments about Muslims. He responded by saying that he was mistaken, and apologised, but he felt that people wanted someone who talked straight about these issues to be their Prime Minister. This drew massive applause from the Tories. The article pointed out that the article wasn’t mistaken, it was racist, and by applauding him and supporting his leadership bid, the Tories were showing that they supported and shared his racism.

Now there are stresses created by multiculturalism and the problems of adapting to an increasingly ethnically and religiously diverse society. One the one hand, there are fears that alienated Muslims and other minorities may create parallel societies away from mainstream institutions and values. On the other, many Whites do feel marginalised by the growth of non-White communities, with the ‘White flight’ from the multiracial urban centres to the suburbs or rural communities. A few months ago there was a documentary about the last Whites in the East End of London, which discussed how the number of Whites in this part of the capital was declining as they moved away and the older generation died off. Several of the people interviewed on the programme were Black and Asian, who lamented how the White members of their shared community were dwindling. One Muslim gent lamented that his son or children would not see any more White people in this area.

But the Tories don’t try to solve these problems constructively. They don’t try to bring people of different colours, ethnicities and religions together. They just try to exploit White, and particularly White English racism and resentment for their electoral advantage. 

The animus towards Scotland is a case in point. The poem’s recommendation that the Scots people should all be imprisoned behind a gigantic wall actually seems to me to be highly unoriginal. Apart from the fact that the emperor Hadrian did it with his wall, it was done again more recently in the horror flick World War Z. In this Hollywood blockbuster, the world is suffering from a zombie apocalypse. The whole of Scotland, or as near as makes no difference, gets infected, and so they’re sealed off from the rest of Britain behind a wall and an enormous part of gates. I did wonder what the great Scots philosopher and political scientist, Rab C. Nesbit, would have said about it all. Probably ‘What in the name of God! Govan’s no that bad!’

I don’t think the poem was by any means isolated. From what I can remember, it was probably part of a campaign against Scotland, the SNP and New Labour, and with the latter, specifically Gordon Brown. I can remember the Heil publishing a series of articles in which he more than suggested that Scotland was now far more privileged than England. Devolution meant that the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish now had their parliaments and assemblies, but the English didn’t. And while the English couldn’t vote on Scots issues, thanks to devolution, the Scots were voting on English matters. Moreover, New Labour’s leadership was dominated by Scots – Tony Blair, Derry Irvine and Gordon Brown. The attacks on the Scots were a very cynical ploy by the Tories to overturn Labour’s majority. Labour held the majority of British constituencies, but this depended on their seats in Scotland. If those were removed, then the Tories would hold the majority of seats in England. I’ve heard that during New Labour’s term in office, the Tories were on the verge of breaking up and that there were suggestions that the party should be dissolved and rebranded instead as the ‘English Nationalists’. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do remember reading articles in the Heil about the fate of the Tory party if Britain and Scotland went their separate ways. This seems to be the background to that nasty little piece of anti-Scots bigotry in the Speccie.

And the Spectator tried the same with Blacks.

They had to be more careful about this, as they couldn’t get away with it to the same extent as their sneers about the Scots. The Scots are largely White Europeans, rather than a race, nor a persecuted minority in the same way as Blacks and other people of colour have been, and so it’s permissible to make jokes about them or abuse them in ways that would be viewed as racist if done to other groups. But the Spectator tried the same tactics. Way back c. 2004 it ran an article, ‘Blackened Whites’, argued that Whites were unfairly accused for racism. This started out by saying that despite all the rhetoric of multiculturalism and pluralism, there was one group that wasn’t welcome in the streets of central London: White men. London certainly is a very ethnically diverse city, and the last time I looked at the stats over a third of its population were Black or Asian. But that doesn’t mean that Whites aren’t welcome in central London, or other areas where there’s a large Black or Asian population. It looks to me that the article was attempting to play up the resentment some White men feel about affirmative action programmes aimed at ethnic minorities and women. And in this the Tories were – and still are – copying the Republicans, who were deliberately targeting ‘angry White men’.

And this is apart from the Speccie’s contributor, Taki, the Greek playboy, who regularly made racist and anti-Semitic comments in his column. Most recently he caused offence once again when he published a piece praising the Greek Golden Dawn, a bunch of Nazis, who beat up immigrants and left-wingers. One of their leaders was charged with the murder of a left-wing activist.

There is also the deeply ingrained racism of the Tory papers the Scum, Depress and Heil. Or the scandal of institutional Islamophobia in the Tory ranks, as well as the long tradition of racism within the Tory party. Some of us can still remember the scandal caused by the Union of Conservative Students and their racist antics, including the demand that the Tory party should adopt racial nationalism – the ideology of the Nazi fringe, like the National Front and BNP – as their official policy in the 1980s. Zelo Street has also published a series of articles about the findings of one individual on Twitter or Facebook, who revealed the viciously racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic posts by supporters of Boris Johnson and Rees-Mogge on social media.

Despite David Cameron’s efforts to modernise the party and clean up its image, the Tories are still very much a racist party, and so its no surprise that a sizable number of them are supporting Boris Johnson’s bid to lead it.

As for how we should deal with them, I remember the episode of Rab C. Nesbit in which Burnie, the younger of his two sons, decides he’s a Nazi. This ends with Nesbit grabbing Burnie’s ear to administer a suitable walloping while singing ‘Gettest thou to buggery, thou horrid little shite’. I don’t support cruelty to children, and we can’t do it to Johnson. Unfortunately.

But we can all recognise his racism and that of his vile party, and take our votes and our hopes for a better Britain elsewhere.

Examining Jeanette Winterson’s Ideas on AI and Literature

June 4, 2019

Last Saturday’s I for 1-2 June 2019 carried an interview in its ‘Culture’ section with the literary novelist, Jeanette Winterson, about her latest work, Frankissstein. This is another take on Frankenstein, with one strand of the book set in the contemporary world and exploring AI, the downloading of the human mind into computers and literature. Winterson’s the second literary novelist, following Ian McEwan, to turn to the world of robotics for their subject matter. I’ve critiqued both of them, based on reviews in the papers, because this comes across to me very much of another instance of ‘literary’ novelists appropriating Science Fiction subjects and issues, while disdaining and ignoring the genre itself.

Winterson’s interview with Max Liu was also very interesting in other respects, and worth reading. While I am not remotely inclined to read her book, and have real objections to some of her statements on philosophical grounds, I also found that there was much that she said, which I agreed with. Particularly about the exploitation of British communities under Brexit.

The Interview

The article, on page 49, was prefaced with the statement Jeanette Winterson talks to Max Liu about AI and why the novel could die if it doesn’t reinvent itself’. It ran

Jeanette Winterson would like to upload her brain to a computer. “It were possibl, I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to find out what it’s like to live without a body,” she says when we meet to discuss Frankissstein, her new novel about artificial intelligence. “I had a very religious upbringing, so to me, the idea that the body is just a house is normal.”

The 59-year-old wrote about her Pentecostal childhood in her semi-autobiographical debut novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985), and her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2011). For the past couple of years, she has been reading about AI and robotics at the same time as thinking about Mary Shelley’s Gothic classic, Frankenstein. In her latest novel, the young Shelley appears as a character.

“I started writing about Mary in Italy at the beginning of the 19th century then worked my way to the present,” says Winterson. “There was no point setting a novel about AI in the future, because I wanted readers to realise the future is here. We don’t know how far big money has gone in developing AI, but I suspect it’s much further than we think.”

Winterson believes “we’re living in an ahistorical world where people don’t know how we got here”, the pace of change since the Industrial Revolution leaving us bewildered. “By its nature, reading slows us down,” she says,”so I’m pushing against the acceleration of modern life, creating imaginative space for readers to inhabit. Anybody who can imagine something is in control.”

Her new novel’s present-day characters include Ry, a transgender doctor, and Winterson says: “One of my godchildren identifies as transgender and I’ve been reading a lot about that because I thought I needed to understand. The idea of identity being provisional fed into this novel. Much Western thought rests upon the idea that there is a core self that we can know and perfect, but probably there isn’t.

Ray falls in love with Ron, who is trying to make his fortune by designing sex dolls. Ron plans to exploit post-Brexit tax breaks by opening a factory in Wales. “I hate to see how my class has been manipulated by people who have no thought and no care for them,” says Winterson. “I’m ashamed of my country for turning its back on a European project and choosing nationalism.”

Were she to live for another 100 years, Winterson says she would retrain as a scientist. Does this mean she doesn’t see a future for the novel?

“The novel is only on its way out if it doesn’t change,” she says. “In the 80s, it was too middle-class and too male. Then Angela Carter came along and was so fresh, but she had a terrible time initially. The example of English literature’s conservatism that kills me is when Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac won the Booker in 1984 and Carter’s Nights at the Circus wasn’t even shortlisted. It was the year before I published Oranges and I just thought: “This is so dull.”

In Frankissstein, one character says the urge to write comes from vanity, but Mary counters that it’s about hope. Which is it from Winterson? “My writing is a message in a bottle. I won’t be here long enough to get my brain uploaded, so I’m chucking this message overboard in the hope it will move the conversation on.”

Moravec, Transhumanism and Max Headroom

It would be interesting to find out what Winterson had been reading as her research for her book. My guess it would almost certainly include Hans Moravec and the downloaders and transhumanists. They aim to upload their minds into machines. A little while ago they held a party at which they avowed their intention to meet each other on the other side of the Galaxy in a million years’ time. Which is some ambition. I think Moravec himself believes that by this middle of this century the technology should have been perfected that will allow a human brain to be read in such minute detail that its functions can be reproduced on computer. This was the premise behind the Max Headroom pilot, 20 Minutes into the Future. In this tale, broadcast on Channel 4 in the 1980s, Headroom, a computer-generated TV personality, is created when his human original, an investigative journalist in a dystopian future London, knocks himself unconscious going through a crash barrier to escape the villains. The journo’s body is retrieved, and used by a teenage computer whizzkid, Brice, who seems to spend his whole life in the bath, to create Headroom as an experiment. The character takes his name from the last thing his original sees before he goes through the barrier: a sign saying ‘Max Headroom’.

Sladek’s The Muller-Fokker Effect

I also wonder if she read any of the SF literature about downloading and cyberspace, including one of the first novels to tackle the subject, John Sladek’s The Muller-Fokker Effect, published in 1970. This is about Bob Shairp, a man reduced to date and stored on computer tape. I haven’t read it, but according to Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove in their history of Science Fiction, The Trillion Year Spree,

it is a deeply satirical book, homing in on the US Army, evangelism, newspapers and the like for its target, with an overall sense of fun reminiscent of the work of Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick and Sheckley. (p. 307).

Future Shock and the Global Rate of Change

Winterson’s comment that it was useless to set the book in the future, as the future is already here, is very similar to the remarks I heard about two decades ago by William Gibson, one of the founders of the Cyberpunk SF genre. Speaking at the Cheltenham Festival of literature, Gibson said that the future was already here, it was just wasn’t spread out the same everywhere, so there were parts of the world, such as the developing countries, where it wasn’t present to the same extent as the more advanced West. As for her comments about living in an ahistorical age, where people don’t know how we got here, and the pace of change is accelerating, this sounds very close to Alvin Toffler and his idea of future shock, where societal change is now so advanced and rapid that it is profoundly disorienting. But it is possible to exaggerate the speed of such changes. I can remember reading an article a few years ago, that argued that the impact of modern technology is vastly overestimated. The internet, for example, it was claimed, isn’t half as revolutionary as it is made out as it is only a development of earlier technologies, like the telegram. It’s a contentious claim, but in many ways the most rapid technological, social and economic changes were in the century following Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1937. That was when Britain was transformed from an agricultural, almost feudal country into a modern, industrial society. Britain’s empire expanded massively, communications improved allowed the rapid movement of information, goods and people across the globe. It was the period when new transport technologies like the railway, the automobile, the electric tram, dirigible balloons, aeroplanes and the rocket were created, along with inventions like the X-Ray, electric light, the telegram, telephone, radio and the first experiments in television, and, of course, sound recording and the cinema. Contemporary technological advances can be seen as refinements or improvements on these, rather than completely new inventions.

Transgender People and the Question of Core Personality

I also have objections to her comments about whether or not there is a core, human personality. I’ve no doubt that one argument against it is that many people would be very different if they had had a different upbringing. If they’d been born into a different class, or allowed to study a particular subject at school or university, or if they’d decided to pursue a different career. And, obviously, if they’d been born a different gender. But twin studies suggest that people do have some aspects of their character determined by their biology rather than their upbringing. And I don’t think she makes her argument by pointing to transpeople. As I understand it, many transpeople believe very strongly that they have a core personality or nature. It’s just that this is at opposition to their biological gender. Hence their desire to change. It isn’t simply that they simply decide at some point that they want to change their sex, which would be the case if it was simply the case that they had no core personality. But perhaps Winterson’s godchild is different.

Computers and the Existence of Self 

I’m also suspicious of the idea, as it sounds rather close to the ideas of Daniel Dennett and Susan Blackmoore that consciousness is an illusion and that the brain is simply a meat machine for running memes, discrete units of culture like genes are discrete units of biological information. On the other hand, when she says that existing as a disembodied entity on a computer doesn’t seem strange to her because of her religious background, she’s in agreement with Paul Davies. In his book, God and the New Physics, he stated that he’s prepared to accept that life can exist outside the body because of the way computers could be used to simulate human personalities. I can remember reading that the wife of one of the leading downloaders was a Methodist minister. He commented about this apparent contradiction between their two disciplines by saying that they were both trying to do the same thing, but by different methods.

The Manipulation of the Working Class

I do agree wholeheartedly, however, with Winterson’s comments about how her class is being manipulated by people, who give them no thought and no care for them. The idea that the creation of tax breaks for businesses after Brexit would allow an amoral entrepreneur to build a factor for sex robots in Wales is all too credible. Just as I agree with her about Britain turning it’s back on the EU, though I also have strong criticisms of the European Union. But Brexit has been and is being used by the Tory extreme right and its related movements, like UKIP and Farage’s noxious Brexit people, to manipulate the working class and exploit them. If you look at what Boris Johnson and Farage want, the privatisation of the NHS to American private healthcare firms is very much on the table.

Conservatism, Sexism, Literature and Literary Snobbishness

She was also right about the conservatism and sexism of the literary world in the 1980s. Private Eye’s literary column attacked Hotel du Lac for its snobbishness at the time. And the Orange Prize for literature was set up because it was felt that women were being unfairly excluded from the main literary prizes. However, the remarkable success of women writers in winning the mainstream awards has also, in the view of Private Eye a few years ago, also called into question the reason for Orange Prize. Why have a separate prize for women when that year the lists were dominated by female writers? And as for Angela Carter, I wonder if some of the problems she had didn’t just come from her writing feminist magic realist tales and fairy stories, but also because the genre SF/Fantasy crowd liked her. Flicking through an old SF anthology I found in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday, I found a piece by her about literary theory along with pieces by other, firmly genre figures. A few years ago Terry Pratchett commented that the organisers of the Cheltenham Festival looked at him as if he was going to talk to his fans about motorcycle maintenance, and he was certainly subject to appalling snobbery by the literary critics when he started out. I think it’s therefore quite possible that Carter was disdained by those who considered themselves the guardians of serious literature because she was too genre. But I also wonder if Winterson herself, despite her deep love of Carter’s work, doesn’t also have the same attitude that sees genre fiction as somehow not proper literature, as she, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and the others write.

I have to say that I don’t see the death of novel being anywhere near imminent. Not from looking along the shelves at Waterstone’s, and particularly not in the genre fiction, crime, horror, and SF. But it says something about the apparent lack of inspiration in literary fiction that it is turning to SF for its subjects. Winterson said some fascinating things in her interview, but to me, genre SF still did AI, robots and downloading first and better than the mainstream novelists now writing about it.

 

Black British Politico John Archer’s Address to African Progress Union

May 31, 2019

I think for most of us outside the Black anti-racist movements, this country’s Black history and its tradition of Black activism against racism, imperialism and exploitation is largely unknown. It’s overshadowed to a large extent by the inspirational American civil rights movements of the 1960s, and its heroes and heroines. Towering figures like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Rosa Parks. A few Black British anti-slavery activists from the 18th and 19th century, like Olaudah Equiano and Mary Prince, are known to a certain extent, as well as the Crimean War nurse and heroine Mary Seacole. But that’s it. And I think for most mainstream Brits, Blacks and other non-Whites only entered politics and got elected to public office in the 1980s with Diane Abbott, Bernie Grant, Paul Boateng and others.

But Black and Asian activism goes right back to the 19th century, and Britain has had elected BAME politicians since the early 20th century. The BBC 2 series, Victorian Sensations, mentioned two in the second episode of the series broadcast Wednesday night, 29th May 2019. Victorian Sensations is about the massive scientific, social and political changes that shook Victorian society in the 1890s. Last week’s was on scientific advances in electricity and Roentgen’s discovery of X-rays, which revolutionised medicine. The pioneers of X-ray examination, however, paid a terrible price for their research in skin cancer caused by their machines. One British pioneer ended up losing the fingers on one hand, and another arm was amputated completely.

This week’s edition was on ‘Degeneration’, and the late Victorians’ fears of racial, social and imperial decline. This covered the ideas of racial decline in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Francis Galton and the birth of the eugenics movement, aimed at preserving and improving British biological stock; the controversy over the New Woman, liberated Victorian ladies, who dared to move out of the traditional female domestic role and pursue masculine hobbies like cycling; Hans Nordau’s book, Degeneration, Lombroso’s Criminal Man, and the fears about mental illness, which resulted in entirely blameless people banged up in lunatic asylums for the most trivial reasons, like a pathetic young man, who was incarcerated for masturbation. It also covered Oscar Wilde, the Aesthetic Movement and the Decadents, including Arthur Symonds, Havelock Ellis and the first sympathetic scientific research in homosexuality. But one of the most interesting pieces in the programme was right at the end, when presenter Paul McGann spoke to a modern Black activists about two Black British activists, who came to Britain from the West Indies, and founded pioneering Black anti-racist movements. One of them was Celeste Matthews, who became a Methodist minister, and founded a Black rights magazine attacking imperialism, Lux.

Another pioneering Black rights activist, who gained public office later in the second decade of 20th century was John Archer. He was elected Mayor of Battersea in 1913, becoming the first person of African descent to hold public office in London. In 1918 he became the first president of the African Progress Union, a post he would hold for three years. This was formed to promote ‘the general welfare of Africans and Afro peoples’ and spread knowledge of Black history. There’s an extract from the speech he gave at the Union’s first meeting in Colin Firth’s and Anthony Arnove’s great anthology of British radical writing and activism throughout history, The People Speak: Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport (Edinburgh: Canongate 2013). This runs

The people in this country are sadly ignorant with reference to the darker races, and our object is to show to them that we have given up the idea of becoming hewers of wood and drawers of water, that we claim our rightful place within this Empire … That if we are good enough to be brought to fight the wars of the country we are good enough receive the benefits of the country … One of the objects of this association is to demand – not ask, demand; it will be ‘demand’ all the time that I am your president. I am not asking for anything, I am demanding. (p. 189).

Unfortunately we really don’t know about the great history of Black activism in this country. Victorian Sensations gave a small glimpse of this on Wednesday, and I’d like to know more. Not only is this worthwhile in itself, as a piece of British history that’s been unfairly neglected, but we also need it to combat that growing racism that’s spreading across Europe and which has resulted in Farage’s Brexit party getting 36.7 per cent of the vote in the Euro elections last week.

Change UK Candidates Warned against Speaking to Hack Who Libeled Mike

May 31, 2019

This fortnight’s edition of Private Eye for 31 May – 13 June 2019 carries a very interesting little snippet on its ‘HP Sauce’ column on page 11. The article ‘The Rachel Papers’, reported how BoJo’s sister, Rachel Johnson, opened her loud mouth to Henry Zeffman of the Times and bitterly criticised her party’s leadership and fellow members. In the words of the article, her comrades Heidi Allen, Sarah Woolaston, Chuka Umunna, Anna Soubry and indeed the rest of their politicos, were presented by Johnson as ‘blithering idiots’. But the most interesting part of this article for me and other friends and followers of Mike and his work, was the beginning of the piece. Which stated that the candidates had been warned that Gabriel Pogrund of the Sunday Times wanted to contact them, and that they should not speak to him. The article said

ON 14 May the new Change UK party warned everyone on its candidates’ confidential WhatsApp grou about Gabriel Pogrund from the Sunday Times. He had been “trying to contact various candidates for a pieces he’s working on. If he contacts you, please do not speak to him.”

“Understood,”said Carole Tongue, who stood for Change in London. “what’s he after?” asked Kathryn Heywood in the North East. “I smell a stitch-up,” said Michael Taylor from the North West.

Pogrund, or Poo-Grunt, as I think he should be better called – and yes, I know it’s just infantile name-calling, but that’s all I think this poisonous hack deserves – was the journo, who wrote the article back in 2017 smearing Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, partly based on material leaked to him from the Blairites in the Labour party. From this, and the Eye’s article, it can be inferred that Pogrund is a known smear merchant. There’s more than a little irony here, as the ex-Labour politicos, who split to form Change UK, were more than happy to claim that they were leaving because of the rampant anti-Semitism they claimed was in Labour. And now they stand revealed as being terrified of speaking to one of the hacks responsible for promoting this vile lie.

In fact I think they’re quite right to avoid talking to him. Mike had a call from him, and despite Mike telling him the truth about these smears against him, the Sunset Times still went and libeled him anyway. He, or at the very least, his editor, is not remotely interested in truth, just in smearing and destroying the lives and careers of anyone who dares to criticise Israel, neoliberal Thatcherite capitalism and the Tory party.

He’s a poisonous liar, and even the politicos keen to promote some of his lies realise it and try to avoid him.

Mike Presents Two Good Reasons Not to Vote Tory in these Elections

May 20, 2019

With the European elections looming on Thursday, Mike today has presented two very good reasons why no decent, thinking person, should vote Conservative. Or rather, the Tories themselves have.

The first is Tory grandee Michael Heseltine. The former member of Thatcher’s and Major’s cabinets, who is an ardent pro-European, has said that he will not vote for the party of which he is such a prominent member because of its determination to take us out of the European Union, and because it is infected with extremism. I’ve no doubt this won’t surprise his detractors in the Tories, as Maggie herself once sneered at him as ‘a socialist’. He isn’t, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t exactly right in this instance. The Tories do want to take us out of Europe, and they are infected with extremism.

And the second reason exactly proves Heseltine’s point. It’s Boris Johnson, the man who would be Prime Minister. Or in his case, Chief Chump. BoJo has shown himself to be ruthlessly self-seeking, treacherous, conniving, mendacious, vain and massively incompetent. This is the man, who lied that leaving Europe would save the country £300 million + a year better off, and that this money would be spent on the NHS. Nothing of the sort has happened, and Boris was then forced to bluster about how it wasn’t a lie, and nothing was really promised when he plastered it all over the sides of buses. It was just an example, of what could be done with the money. Honest, guv’. And then when the issue of the EU came round again, he was trying to repeat the same lie. He also squandered millions of public money when he was mayor of London on three watercannon, which are illegal in mainland Britain, and so couldn’t be used. And then he wasted £65 million on the plans for a garden bridge that would never be built. This is the same man, who, when he was head of the Foreign Office, started to recited ‘The Road to Mandalay’ when being shown round Thailand’s holiest temple. And couldn’t work out why it might not be tactful when the British ambassador gently told him it wouldn’t be appropriate. The man, who went to Russia to cool tensions down with Putin’s government, and on his return made a speech stoking them back up again. And this is apart from the racism, the comments about ‘grinning pickanninies’ and the membership of the European Research Group. Who, jokingly, called themselves the ‘Grand Wizards’. But it wasn’t a reference to the rank in the Klan, no, honestly.

The fact that Boris sincerely wants to be Prime Minister shows exactly how far to the right it has lurched, and how utterly bereft of talent and integrity its leaders are. Don’t vote for them, in any election.

EU elections: Conservatives deliver two clear reasons NOT to vote for them

Private Eye on Brexit Party’s Claire Fox’s Support for Murderous Fascists

May 6, 2019

The furore over UKIP’s lurch to the far right and Batten’s recruitment of such controversial, deeply bigoted YouTube personalities and activists like Sargon of Akkad, Count Dankula, Paul Joseph Watson and Tommy Robinson has somewhat obscured the issue of just how politically extreme Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party is. The Brexit party seem to be eating UKIP alive at the polls, but although it’s somewhat more moderate than UKIP, Farage himself was credibly accused of racism and Fascist sympathies when he was in charge of the party. He also wants to privatise the NHS and carry on the other Tory policies of destroying the welfare state and impoverishing its working people. All for the benefit of the extremely rich, like himself. And when he was in charge of UKIP, it also was full of racists, anti-feminists, those, who bitterly hated gays and Muslims. And his Brexit party also contains its fair share of very offensive characters.

One of these is Claire Fox, formerly of the Revolutionary Communist Party, who, like the rest of her comrades, ditched Marxism and moved to the libertarian extreme right. Zelo Street have published a series of pieces refuting her claims to have joined the Brexit Party from the Left, and revealing her disgusting comments supporting IRA terrorism at the time of the Warrington bombing. Fox, then in the RCP, wrote a piece justifying the atrocity, declaring that Irish nationalists had the right to use all and every means necessary to achieve freedom for Ulster. Which meant the right to kill innocent men, women and children. When she was asked about these remarks a few days ago, rather than disavow them she doubled down and confirmed her support. And she isn’t alone in supporting Irish Republican terrorism either. Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, one of the Brexit party’s candidates in London, was also a member of the RCP, which as a whole supported Irish nationalist terrorism.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/05/nigel-farages-terrorist-sympathisers.html

Private Eye has also published a piece about Fox’s offensive views in its current issue for 3 – 16 May, 2019, ‘Outfoxing Nigel’, on page 10. It’s written by ‘Ratbiter’, otherwise known as the Absurder journo Nick Cohen, who has taken time off from ranting about how Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite. His accusations there are rubbish, and some of his claims are seriously skewed. But in this instance he may well be right. The article runs

“I’ve been a left-wing campaigner for 35 years,” Claire Fox wrote in the Daily Mail after posing alongside Nigel Farage to announce her candidacy for the Brexit Party. “You’d struggle to find a pair of more unlikely political bedfellows.”

Apart from Brexit, is there anything the “left-wing” Fox and the right-wing Farage have in common? Just about everything, as it turns out.

Fox’s Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) was one of the weirdest sects on the far left. Its leading cadres – Frank Furedi, Mick Hume, Brendan O’Neill and Fox herself – decided in 1997 that there was no future in Leninism, since “the working class has no political existence”, and tried their luck with the media class instead.

The RCP’s successor organisations, the Institute of ideas and Spiked magazine, exploited the limitless appetite of the BBC and Tory press for “contrarian” opinions. Such was their success in thinking the unthinkable and saying the unspeakable they drew a $300,000 donation from the billionaire Koch borthers, who fund dozens of right-wing causes.

Farage could not fail to be impressed. He and his former Ukip colleagues opposed attempts by the EU to improve ‘elf and safety, and the rebranded RCP had little time for public safety either. Fox denounced the mollycoddling of the “anti-bullying industry”, arguing that teachers who tried to protect children were sapping their “resilience”.

Famously, Farage doesn’t much like East Europeans. At times, it seems as if the only East Europeans he can stand are dictators: Viktor Orban may have censored the media, packed the judiciary and presided over epic corruption, but to Farage he is a “defender of Hungarian culture” against the EU.

Although Fox told the Mail she disagreed with Farage’s demands for immigration conrols, she and her old RCP comrades have had no problems with the most brutal controls imaginable in on Europeans who stay in their own countries. When Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic organised rape and death squads in the 1990s to “cleanse” Bosnia’s Muslims, they had no more loyal defenders than the RCP’s magazine Living Marxism.

After Penny Marshall of ITN and Ed Vulliamy of the Guardian revealed the appalling conditions in Serb prison camps at Omarska and Trnopolje, Living Marxism declared that the journalists had faked the pictures. Fox and friends and offered no defence of their story when ITN sued for libel. They did not recant when survivors gave testimony in the Hague or when mass graves were found near Omarska. Last year the journalists who run London’s Frontline Club considered inviting Fox to speak. Vulliamy insisted she apologise to the camp victims first, but Fox refused to back away from the modern equivalent of Holocaust denial. Naturally, the BBC thinks she is the ideal person to have as a regular panelist on the Moral Maze.

To be fair to Farage, he has never endorsed bullying children, indeed he broke down when describing how his own children had been bullied. He may have won the Brexit referendum by demonising East European immigrants but he has never covered up their murder. And although he endorses Orban, he has yet to act as a propagandist for Balkan strongmen who have been convicted of crimes against humanity.

The question is now how Fox can bear to be in same party as Farage, but how Farage can bear to in the same party as her.

Francis Wheen on RCP Violence

I’m not surprised the LM/Spiked crowd support bullying children. Francis Wheen in his book on paranoia in the 1970s, Strange Days, describes how the international training camps the Revolutionary Communist Party ran were rife with violence. One girl was raped in one, and a young Black American stabbed to death in another. But the Party’s leader refused to do anything about it, and indeed approved of the violence, because he felt it would toughen the working class up for revolution.

Fox and Ulster Terrorism

As for Fox’s support for IRA terrorism, I’m also disgusted, but not surprised. I think there were quite a few on the extreme left like her. But the murder of innocent civilians is utterly disgusting no matter who does it, whether it’s the IRA, Ulster Loyalists or the British state. And it’s an insult not just to the victims of terror, including the mothers who reached across the aisle in Ulster to demand an end to the violence. I’ve also met plenty of Roman Catholic Northern Irishmen, who would like a united Ireland, but thoroughly reject sectarianism and violence.

Serb Atrocities in Bosia

I’ve also come across allegations that some of the stories about Serb atrocities in the war in Bosnia were falsified by the media and British state in order to provide a pretext for keeping British and other NATO troops stationed in the Balkans. However, the carnage inflicted on the Bosnian people was quite real. Way back in the 1990s Mike spent a week as a guest of a Bosnian Muslim family in a visit arranged by a human rights organisation to show the destruction caused by the war in the Muslim region. Mike enjoyed his stay and his hosts were great people. But the damage caused by the Serb assault was everywhere. Although the war was over by that time, conditions were still very dangerous as the retreating Serbs had left booby traps.

I also used to do voluntary work with a former member of the British armed forces and the British diplomatic team sent to negotiate an end to the war. He told me that, although all the parties in the war, Croats and Muslims as well as Serbs, committed atrocities, on the whole most of them were committed by the Serbs. I’ve also spoken to British army officers, who were sent into Bosnia as part of the peacekeeping forces, and they described some of the atrocities that the Serb forces committed.

Zelo Street in their article on Fox’s disgusting views quoted Times hack Otto English, who wondered how James Glancy, another Brexit candidate in the Euro elections and former member of the SBS felt about Fox celebrating the murder of his comrades. Or Ann Widdecombe about rubbing shoulders with the people, who supported the Brighton Bombing that killed and maimed so many of the Tory party.

Farage’s Brexit Party is far Right, and so should be kept out of power. They aren’t quite a revolting as Claire Fox, whose disgusting views mean that she should be kept out of any party that’s trying for electoral respectability, and definitely not be given a platform on radio or TV to broadcast them.

Don’t Be Fooled: Farage’s Brexit Is Still a Far-Right Nasty Party

April 26, 2019

Nigel Farage has also unveiled his new anti-EU vehicle, the Brexit Party. They’re currently eating UKIP alive at the polls as old UKIP supporters abandon the party because of Batten’s embrace of far right controversialists and racists, like Mark Meechan, Carl Benjamin and Tommy Robinson. But while UKIP have lurched towards the far right in pursuit of relevance and seeking new members, even under Nigel Farage it had a reputation for racism and contacts with the Fascist right. This was despite the party’s constitution absolutely forbidding it from accepting anyone, who had previously been in a racist or Fascist party. Which is why Tommy Robinson, who was formerly in the EDL and BNP, can only be Batten’s special adviser, not an actual member.

Zelo Street this week has also put up a very timely piece going through the Brexit party’s candidates and leading members, to show just how nasty they also are. They include Bill Etheridge, who is a friend of the White Pendragons, a Fascist group who turned up at a rally against London mayor Sadiq Khan complete with a gallows. They claim they aren’t racist, but this is somewhat contradicted by their reason for objecting to Khan being mayor: he’s a Muslim. And despite claims to the contrary, there is nothing playful about carting round a gibbet like you really are threatening to lynch someone. Etheridge himself was forced out of the Tory party and joined UKIP after he and his wife posted pictures of themselves on Facebook posing with golliwogs in 2011. And his former girlfriend, Lorraine Chew, called him a ‘dirty, disgusting cheat’ believing he was having an affair, after finding a half-used tube of Viagra in his car.

Also joining the party is Lance Forman, who has previously been a member of far-right group Turning Point UK. This is British branch of the American ultra-conservative organisation Turning Point. They provoked controversy a few weeks ago when Black American conservative activist, Candace Owens, declared that Hitler wasn’t a nationalist, but a globalist, and that he would have been all right had he stuck to Germany. Which is very, very obviously offensive, dangerous nonsense.

They were also joined by Claire Fox, who is supposed to be a woman of the Left. She isn’t. She’s a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Zelo Street states that RCP lost a lawsuit in the ’90s against ITV News at the same time they were denying the Srebrenica massacre by the Serb forces during the war in Bosnia. The Revolutionary Communist Party were always a disgusting organisation. Francis Wheen in his book on paranoia in the 1970s, Strange Days Indeed, states that their leader actually encouraged the lawlessness and violence during their training camps, in which a Black man was stabbed to death and a girl raped, because he wanted to make his members hard and tough ready for the revolution. After leaving the RCP, Fox became a member of the Libertarian far right. Yep, she’s another who wants to privatise everything and destroy the welfare state. She also allegedly defended Gary Glitter’s right to download images of child abuse.

And then there’s the Fuhrage himself, whom the great man of Crewe succinctly describes thus:

Nigel Farage, expenses cheat, the MEP whose European Parliament attendance record is one of the worst of all 750 or so MEPs. Nigel Farage, who wants the NHS replaced by something more in line with the wishes of his pals in the USA. Nigel Farage who has been named in Congress as the go-between who delivered that memory stick to the Ecuadorian embassy. Nigel Farage who endorsed Roy Moore.

Roy Moore is the American Republican politico, who has been credibly accused of a string of sexual assaults against underage girls.

And now the party also boasts former Tory cabinet minister Anne Widdicombe, who supported manacling women prisoners, even when they were in hospital giving birth.

As Zelo Street says, the Brexit party really is the new nasty party.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/04/nigel-farage-new-nasty-party.html

Shock Horror! Jewish Telegraph Hails Corbyn as ‘Prime Minister in Waiting’ Who Supports Jews!

April 23, 2019

Five days ago on the 18th April 2019, the Skwawkbox published a very interesting little piece about an article by Geoffrey Alderman in the Jewish Telegraph, which actually praises Jeremy Corbyn. The Jewish Telegraph was, you will remember, one of three Jewish newspapers, another of which was the Jewish Chronicle, which together ran an article condemning Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as viciously anti-Semitic and a danger to the future of Jews in this country. Alderman is a well-known history prof, who received an award from Oxford University for his work on Anglo-Jewish history. His latest piece for his fortnightly column in the Jewish Telegraph was entitled ‘Horrors! Corbyn’s a ‘PM in Waiting’ – Accept It’.

The Skwawkbox notes that Alderman is still critical of Labour, but dismisses the allegation that Labour represents an ‘existential threat’ to Britain’s Jews. He attacks ‘various scare stories’ to point out that there is no danger of Labour banning the kosher butchery of animals, banning male circumcision, or of Diane Abbott closing down synagogues once she is Home Secretary.

Alderman also went to state that Corbyn has an impressive record of supporting Jewish communal initiatives, like putting his name to Abbott’s 2010 early day motion supporting the resettlement of Yemeni Jews in Britain, and attending a ceremony in 2015 in his constituency in Islington to commemorate the original site of the North London synagogue.

He also pointed out that Tweezer and Johnson had also adopted the UN resolution condemning Jewish control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including the Jewish Quarter and the Wailing Wall. He states that he had suggested then that the Jewish community could express their displeasure at this by disinviting Tweezer and Boris from all Jewish communal events, and that Jewish groups should refuse to cooperate with the government over initiatives like the anti-terrorist ‘Prevent’ campaign.

The Skwawkbox article concludes

A single article does not, of course, necessarily signal a complete change of editorial direction – but the publication of this article is a striking contrast to last year’s front page, which the Telegraph shared with two other publications to attack Corbyn as a threat.

See: https://skwawkbox.org/2019/04/18/jewish-telegraph-pm-in-waiting-corbyns-impressive-record-of-support-for-jewish-initiatives/

The Skwawkbox is correct, and Alderman’s article clearly shows that he’s an ardent Zionist, who supports Israeli expansionism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. But it also shows that, perhaps, the united front the right-wing British Jewish establishment has put on to try and discredit Corbyn may be beginning to fracture. Possibly because there’s now a real possibility that Corbyn will get into No. 10, and that the Jewish establishment will then have to work with him regardless.