Posts Tagged ‘Mao’

Thoughts and Prayers for Pittsburgh after Nazi Shooting Outrage

October 28, 2018

The people of Britain, as I’m sure others were across the world, were shocked by the news of the terrible shooting yesterday at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. BBC News this evening reported that the gunman killed eleven people. He walked into this place of worship carrying a semi-automatic rifle and two handguns. I think the dead included two police officers. One of his victims was 97. What makes this even more heinous is that, as I understand it, it was done during a service for babies.

This, unfortunately, is only the latest mass shooting in the Land of the Free. There have been many, many, indeed too many others – at schools, nightclubs, sports events and other places of worship. A little while ago another racist shooter gunned down the folks in a black church. Another maniac attacked a Sikh gurdwara. And the Beeb’s reporter also stated that there had been another shooting in Kentucky, which had been overshadowed by the Pittsburgh shooting.

The alleged killer, John Bowers, is reported to have a history of posting on anti-Semitic websites. Yesterday, 27th October 2018, Hope Not Hate published on their website a piece about Bowers by their researcher Patrik Hermansson. Bowers had been a frequent poster on Gab, a social network associated with the Alt-Right. Hermansson states that Bowers’ name was removed from the network after it was published, but it still retained archived material posted by him. His profile banners in recent months included the number 1488. This is a White Supremacist code. The 14 refers to the infamous 14 Words of one particular neo-Nazi. I can’t quite remember the exact quote, but it’s something about creating a White homeland and securing ‘a future for White children’. The ’88’ bit is simply a numerical code. The 8 stands for the 8th letter of the alphabet, which is H. 88 = HH, which stands for ‘Heil Hitler’. on the 21st June 2018 he posted this prayer

Lord,

Make me fast and accurate. Let my aim be true and my hand faster than those who would seek to destroy me. Grant me victory over my foes and those that wish to do harm to me and mine. Let not my last thought be “If only I had my gun” and Lord if today is truly the day that You call me home, let me die in a pile of brass.

He also watched videos by Colin McCarthy, a far-right author of books claiming that Whites now suffer more racial violence at the hands of Blacks than the reverse, and that racial discrimination against Black is a hoax.

He has also posted messages expressing his disappointment that George Soros hasn’t been assassinated, presumably referring to the far-right Qanon conspiratorial movement. Another message supported the Rise Above Movement, a far-right ‘Fight Club’.

He also posted that ‘HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and let my people get slaughtered.’ The Beeb tonight said that he was angry at a Jewish charity for bringing Jews into the country. This sounds like the post they were referring to.

https://www.hopenothate.org.uk/2018/10/27/exclusive-pittsburgh-shooters-social-media-profile-reveals-white-supremacist-views/

From this it appears that Bowers believed in all the stupid conspiracy theories about the Jews secretly plotting to destroy the White race. It’s foul nonsense which has been disproved again and again, but there are still people who believe and are determined to promote it.

The Beeb in their report also discussed whether anything would be done about the availability of firearms in America after this. Their reporter said ‘No’. On the other hand, he said that while Trump couldn’t be blamed for this outrage – he condemned it – there would now be pressure on him to retreat on some of the incendiary rhetoric, which appears to have had a role in encouraging another right-winger to post letter bombs to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. This would, however, be a problem for Trump, as this has occurred in the run-up to the mid-term elections, when the contrary pressure was on to increase the verbal attacks against political opponents.

Kevin Logan, a vlogger who attacks and refutes the misogynist Men’s Rights movement and various racist and Fascistic individuals on YouTube, posted a video last night arguing that Trump really was anti-Semitic. This was based on some of Trump’s comments, which appear to be dog-whistle remarks about the Jews. To everyone not a Nazi, they appear to be perfectly innocuous. But to the members of the Alt-Right, they’re clear expressions of his own racial hatred. And then there’s his support amongst the Alt-Right, and his foul statement equivocating the morality responsibility behind the violence at the ‘Unite the Right’ racist rally in Charlottesville last year. Remember, he claimed that there were ‘good people on both sides’. No, the violence was done by the Nazis and Klansmen who turned up. And it’s automatically true that people chanting ‘the Jews will not replace us’ are not good people. Trump also took a suspiciously long time distancing himself and condemning a nasty, anti-Semitic comment from David Duke, a leader of the Klan down in Lousiana. Who is, needless to say, bitterly anti-Semitic. Logan’s an atheist, so he doesn’t offer prayers, but states very clearly that he stands in solidarity and sympathy with the victims of the Pittsburgh shooter. And ends his piece with the Spanish anti-Fascist slogan ‘No Pasaran!’ – ‘They shall not pass’.

I don’t think Trump is an anti-Semite, as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is Jewish and his daughter converted to Judaism to marry him. But his supporters are Fascists, and Trump does seem to have far-right sympathies. And he has rightly condemned the shooting. Nevertheless, he doesn’t condemn the type of people who support and commit these actions. Like the Alt-Right, like Richard Spencer, Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon, the far-right politicos, who served in his cabinet.

And the problem isn’t confined to Trump by any means. Some of the rhetoric coming out of the Republican party is extraordinarily venomous. I can remember one Republican Pastor denouncing Hillary Clinton back in the 1990s as ‘the type of woman who turns to lesbianism, leaves her husband, worships Satan and sacrifices her children’. Which is not only poisonous, but stark staring bonkers. Secular Talk a few years ago commented on the two hosts of a church radio station, who declared that Barack Obama was full of a genocidal hatred towards Whites and was planning to kill everyone with a White skin in the US. He would, they blithely announced, kill more people than Mao and Stalin combined. No, he didn’t. As for the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, he claimed that Barack Obama was possessed by Satan, Hillary was having a lesbian affair with one of her aides, and was a robot, at least from the waist down. Or she was an alien, or possessed by aliens. He also said something about her having sex with goblins. Oh yes, and she was also a Satanic witch. Back to Barack Obama, Jones claimed that he was planning to have a state of emergency declared to force people into FEMA camps and take their guns away. He also said on his programme that the Democrats were running a paedophile ring from out of a Boston pizza parlour. He also denied that the various school shootings that have tragically occurred were real. Instead they were government fakes, intended to produce an outcry against guns so that, once again, the government could take the public’s guns away. Leaving them vulnerable and ready to be slaughtered by the globalists.

I don’t know whether Jones is a charlatan or a nutter. It’s unclear whether he really believes this bilge, or just spouts it because it’s a money-maker and gets him noticed. Either way, YouTube and a slew of other internet sites and networks have refused to carry his material because of its inflammatory and libelous nature. Someone walked into the pizza parlour he named as the centre of the Democrats’ paedophile ring with a gun, demanding to free the kids he claimed were kept in the basement. There were, obviously, no children, and no basement. Fortunately, the incident ended without anyone being killed. The grieving parents of kids murdered in some of the school shootings he falsely claimed were fake took legal action against him because they had people turning up accusing them of being ‘crisis actors’ sent in by the government as part of the staged event. The shootings weren’t staged, and understandably the parents were angry.

Trump’s rhetoric is part of the problem, but it’s not the whole problem. It’s not just the political rhetoric that needs to be curtailed, but also the vicious demonization of those of other races, and the encouragement of Fascist organisations. In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims, relatives and first responders of this latest killing. May they be comforted, and no more have to suffer as they and so many before them have.

Steve Bannon Forecasts War with China in ‘Five to Ten Years’

February 4, 2017

Here’s another example of American militarism and belligerence to frighten you. In this clip from Majority Report, the host, Sam Seder, and his team discuss Steve Bannon’s prediction in March last year that in five years’ to a decades’ time, America would be at war with China. Bannon is a notorious alleged anti-Semite and White supremacist, who is now an important adviser to Trump. In March last year, he was talking to Lee Edwards of the right-wing Heritage Foundation on Breitbart Radio. The two were discussing the Fall of Communism before moving on to China’s increasingly aggressive stance regarding the islands in the South China Sea. The two stated that the 89 million members of the Chinese Communist party still adhered to Mao’s belief that power grows out of the barrel of a gun. This is why they were occupying and fortifying the islands under the pretext that these were ancient Chinese territories, actions Bannon considered to be a direct, ‘throw-down’ challenge to the US, when the Chinese come over here. It was then that Bannon predicted that war would break out within the next decade.

Unfortunately, this belligerence really isn’t confined to Trump and the Republicans. Counterpunch also published several articles about the way Hillary Clinton also seemed determined to start some kind of conflict with China over the same disputed territories. I don’t believe, however, that you have to go back to Chairman Mao or Communism to find the causes of China’s aggressive pursuit of its territorial claims to these islands. I gather that China still feels bitter resentment and humiliation, after all well over a century, to Britain and the West for our acquisition of Hong Kong during the Opium War, and the western conquest and domination of the country in the late 19th century. No matter what the ruling ideology is, China as a country is more or less a capitalist economy, and it’s determined to play a major role as a world power. This might be based partly on Mao’s ideas, but Maoism as an economic movement is highly respected, but more or less obsolete.

This is a terrifying prediction, as China also has nuclear arms, and any armed conflict with America could easily escalate into nuclear Armageddon. Let’s hope this prediction is utterly false, and that a more peaceful approach to solving these issues prevails.

Why Shouldn’t the Middle Class Do Workfare?

August 14, 2016

One of the arguments advanced by workfare’s supporters is that the unemployed should have to work for their benefits, in order to give something back to society for supporting them and the amenities they use. Guy Standing makes an interesting rebuttal to this argument in his A Precariat Charter. He remarks that if there is such a duty to provide free or cheap labour, then it should apply to all citizens equally, who use the state’s services. He then argues that, as it’s the elite and the salariat – the middle class, salaried workers – who use the state infrastructure the most, they should have to perform the most workfare. But they aren’t. It’s levied instead on the poor and unemployed. (p. 268).

Something like compulsory workfare existed for the elite and middle class in Mao’s China. Under his version of Communism, those holding middle class jobs had to perform stints of manual labour in order to form the classless, workers’ state that he envisioned. This was one of the harshest and most utopian of Mao’s policies, and was widely attacked. Clive James, the highly respected TV critic, reviewed a documentary on Mao’s China in his column in the Observer, which showed how such forced labour broke the health of the intellectuals and artists, who were forced to do it. Now some of these stories are truly harrowing, and I’ve got every sympathy with one of the victims interviewed, a ballerina, who was forced to work as a swineherd, because Mrs Mao didn’t like her performance. But this doesn’t change the argument: if it’s unacceptable for the middle and upper classes to have to perform forced labour as part of their duty to society, then why should those, whose only crime is not to have a job?

The fact that this question is never raised – I’ve only seen it put forward by Standing – says much about the differing attitudes to class and social status in the British society, and the need to criminalise and punish the unemployed.

Friedrich Engels on the Difference between Socialism and Communism

June 19, 2016

Engels Communism Pamphlet

This morning I posted up a few extracts from Friedrich Engels’ Principles of Communism, published by Pluto Press. The Principles of Communism was the first draft of the Communist Manifesto. Unlike the Manifesto, it’s short – only about 20 pages or so, laying out the essence of Communism in the form of a catechism – short answers to particular questions.

Florence, one of the great commenters on this site, posted this remark in response to the piece:

Not having a copy of the Engels text to hand, I think many would be interested in his thoughts on how socialism and communism differ. It is at the heart of many misunderstandings at the moment!

This is a really big issue, and whole books have been written about the topic. Here’s what Engels says in the pamphlet:

24 How do Communists differ from Socialists?
The so-called Socialists are divided into three categories.

The first category consists of adherents of a feudal and patriarchal society which has already been destroyed, and is still daily being destroyed, by big industry and world trade and their creation, bourgeois society. This category concludes from the evils of existing society that feudal and patriarchal society must be restored because it was free of such evils. In one way or another all their proposals are directed to this end. This category of reactionary socialists, for all their seeming partisanship and their scalding tears for the misery of the proletariat, is nevertheless energetically opposed by the Communists for the following reasons:
(I) It strives for something which is entirely impossible.
(II) It seeks to establish the rule of the aristocracy, the guildmasters, the small producers, and their retinue of absolute or feudal monarchs, officials, soldiers and priests – a society which was, to be sure, free of the evils of present day society but which brought with it at least as many evils without even offering to the oppressed workers the prospect of liberation through a Communist revolution.
(III) As soon as the proletariat becomes revolutionary and Communist, these reactionary Socialists show their true colours by immediately making common cause with the bourgeoisie against the proletarians.

The second category consists of adherents of present-day society who have been frightened for its future by the evils to which it necessarily gives rise. What they want, therefore, is to maintain this society while getting rid of the evils which are an inherent part of it. To this end, some propose mere welfare measures while others come forward with grandiose systems of reform which under the pretence of reorganising society are in fact intended to preserve the foundations, and hence the life, of existing society. Communists must unremittingly struggle against these bourgeois socialists, because they work for the enemies of Communists and protect the society which Communists aim to overthrow.

Finally, the third category consists of democratic socialists who favour some of the same measures the Communists advocate, as described in question 18, not as part of the transition to Communism, however, but rather as measures which they believe will be sufficient to abolish the misery and the evils of present-day society. These democratic socialists are either proletarians who are not yet sufficiently clear about the conditions of the liberation of their class, or they are representatives of the petty bourgeoisie, a class which, prior to the achievement of democracy and the socialist measures to which it gives rise, has many interests in common with the proletariat. It follows that in moments of action the Communists will have to come to an understanding with these democratic Socialists, and in general to follow as far as possible a common policy with them, provided that these Socialists do not enter into the service of the ruling bourgeoisie and attack the Communists. It is clear that this form of co-operation in action does not exclude the discussion of differences.

From what I learned at College, there are a number of differences between Communism and Socialism, and there are a number of different forms of Socialism.
The main difference, which split the Socialist parties off from the Communists at the end of the 19th century, was over the question of whether a revolution was needed to bring about the power of the workers. Marx and Engels were part of the European revolutionary tradition, though they did not oppose fighting elections and in part of their writings looked forward to a peaceful transition to Socialism.

Reformist Socialists, such as Eduard Bernstein in the German Social Democrats, pointed out that instead of getting poorer as Marx and Engels had predicted, the European working class seemed to be becoming better off. He therefore recommended that the SPD should concentrate on fighting elections and promoting the interests of the workers that way, rather than on trying to bring down the system through revolution.

Communism also differs from Socialism generally in that it sees the essence of history as the struggle between succeeding classes. It sees the motor of history as being economic relationships, in which each classes creates in turn the class that eventually is destined to overthrow it. Thus feudalism and the rule of the aristocracy gave rise to bourgeois capitalism. This cleared away aristocratic rule and set about instituting democracy instead. The bourgeoisie in their turn created, through mechanisation and big business, the working class, who do not own the means of production, but merely work at the big machines owned by the factory masters. The working class are therefore the last class to be created by the process of Dialectal Materialism, and will overthrow the bourgeoisie and private property.

There’s also an exclusive emphasis on the role of the working class in the struggle to create a Socialist system. The working class are seen as the only genuinely progressive or revolutionary class, as opposed to the lower middle class or the peasants. This has been modified. For example, Mao based his revolution on the Chinese peasantry, and so significantly modified Marxism in this respect. As did the Russian revolutionaries, who brought about a Communist state in the Soviet Union, when most of the population were still peasants and the working class only constituted a small minority. Marx and Engels expected the first Socialist states to be in the industrialised nations of Western Europe, and were very doubtful about a Socialist revolution succeeding in the Russian Empire.

Marxists also believe in the transvaluation of values. That is, there is no objective, eternal set of moral values. Each society develops a system of morality appropriate for its time, based on the economic foundations of that society. Thus, while Marx is scathing about the exploitation of the poor, nowhere in his writing is there a moral condemnation of that exploitation.

His attitude is in marked contrast to other Socialists, who came to Socialism through religion and ethical considerations, such as some of the Fabians. Lenin and the Russian Communists were extremely sniffy about them, as Marxism considers that it gives an objective account of the origins of society and social change, in contrast to the subjective analysis based on morality of other forms of Socialism.

Communism also differs from other forms of Socialism in that it regards Socialism as merely a transitory period during which people will get so used to sharing, that eventually the state will wither away and something like anarchism will emerge instead.

Finally, Communism in practice has largely consisted in nearly total nationalisation and a one-party state, although China is now one of the major capitalist nations, and reforming, dissident Communists like Imre Nagy in Hungary and Anton Dubcek in Czechoslovakia, and also Mikhail Gorbachev, wished to replace the coercive Communist system of Stalinism with ‘Communism with a human face’, in which other parties would be permitted and the Communist party would have to fight elections like everyone else.

The Young Turks: Trump Supporter on CNN Claims Klan Progressive Democrats

March 3, 2016

In this piece from the Young Turk they discuss the answer a Trump supporter, Lord, gave to the interviewer Van Jones when he picked Trump up on his courting of the Klu Klux Klan. Jones is Black, and so naturally very worried about the way Trump is doing his best to gain support from the Klan and other White supremacists. Lord’s response was that the Klan were Democrats and progressives.

The Turks’ succinct answer to that was, ‘In that case, why is Trump courting the support of a leftist group?’

Cenk Uygur and John Iadarola then go on to point out that yes, the Klan was indeed part of the Democrat party decades ago, when the Democrats were the American Conservative party. But this changed during the Civil Rights era, after which the Republicans courted the Klan as part of their ‘Southern Strategy’. This was the Republicans’ electoral strategy by which they allowed the Democrats to take the votes of Blacks and minorities, and concentrated on getting the votes of Southern White men. Uygur states that the Republicans have admitted this, and apologised for it. He states that he even had Pat Buchanan on his show, who admitted they got several decades of power out of the tactic.

Now the situation has changed. The Democrats are now the American left, while the Republicans are the party of the right. This was not the case previously, when the Republicans were the more liberal party. But there was also a spread of political opinions in both parties. Both Republicans and Democrats had liberal and Conservative wings. That has now changed, so that if you’re a liberal, you’re most likely a Democrat.

They then go on to describe the essential ideological difference between Conservatives and liberals/ progressives. Conservatives are most concerned to protect tradition and the way things are now. Liberals and progressives are more concerned with equality and expanding it. Decades ago, Conservatives were concerned to keep Blacks segregated and preserve White privilege, because that was the way things were and they wanted to preserve this as something valuable. Liberals on the other hand, wanted to give Blacks equality, and have since wanted to give equality to other groups, such as women and gays. The Klan were against equality for Blacks, so obviously they weren’t progressives.

They make the point that not all progressives are good and wonderful. They point to Castro’s takeover of Cuba and Mao’s China as oppressive, murderous regimes. They point out that you can have liberal economic policies, but be intensely conservative in others. The desire to concentrate and preserve power is, according to them, an aspect of Conservatism. Stalin and Mao were liberals, who moved to the right. Conservatives claim that Hitler was a liberal, but this has always been wrong. Hitler started out on the Right, and remained on the Right.

They also make the point that Lord should not be allowed back on to CNN, and not because of his support for Trump. Lord is a passionate supporter of Trump, and has even written a book about him. Trump’s policies are terrible – his declared policies of building a wall between America and Mexico, and banning Muslims from entering the US are horrendous, but they’re his opinions and so people should be allowed on air to discuss them. But Lord shouldn’t be allowed on air, because he knew absolutely nothing about history. Either that, or he’s lying. They point out that there’s a problem, in that Jones on CNN didn’t have the time to explain the issues the way they have. He was just given a few seconds to make a comeback to Lord’s ludicrous statements. And so they state that the producer should have sat down with Lord afterwards and said that they weren’t going to have him back on simply because he knew nothing about American history, and they weren’t going to let him distort history on air.

UKIP Candidate: Licence Islamic Clergy and Mosques

February 17, 2015

I found this piece on the Ham & High site through Hope Not Hate’s news column. Entitled, Hampstead and Kilburn Ukip candidate: ‘My great aim is to licence the mosques’ it reports the highly controversial views on Islam by Magnus Nielsen, the UKIP candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn. It describes Nielsen’s background and career, including his reasons for joining UKIP in 1993. He seems to feel that the EU is about to collapse, and that UKIP has the necessary policies for getting the country ‘back on track’ when it does.

However, the article begins with his highly controversial attitude towards Islam. It notes that he got into the news last year for describing Islam as ‘organised crime under religious camouflage,’ and that it’s founder, the Prophet Muhammad, ‘was a gang leader of criminals’.

He now declares that his ‘great aim is to licence the mosques and licence the clergy’.

“So that if the clergy are preaching doctrine that is in contravention of UK law and human rights then they lose their licences.

“If the mosque can’t find a licensed imam, they have to close down until they can.”

When asked if the same should apply to other religions, whose preaching he could find offensive, such as Roman Catholic priests or Jewish rabbis, Nielsen shrugged it off with the reply “I don’t think the other religions would present the same sort of problem”.

The interviews at http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/politics/hampstead_and_kilburn_ukip_candidate_my_great_aim_is_to_licence_the_mosques_1_3956520.

Now Nielsen should be entitled to express his view of Islam and its founder, no matter how bigoted and offensive others may find it, without fearing for his life in attacks like those against Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish supermarket in France, and Lars Vilks and a local synagogue in Copenhagen this weekend.

Nielsen’s anti-Islam Comments close to Hate Speech

His attitude to Islam is, however, extreme and some would consider that they border on the illegal. His description of the religion as ‘organised crime’ seems to me to come very close, if not actually into, hate speech. It suggests that all Muslims are criminals, or criminal sympathisers, simply because of their religion. It is illegal in Britain to make comments designed to stir up racial or religious hatred. While anti-Islam bigots like Geert Wilders are generally very careful to argue that they’re aren’t racists, because Islam is not a religion, it certainly comes close to what they act would consider as provoking religious hatred.

Licencing and the Erosion of Freedom of Belief

As for his plans to licence Islam and the mosques, this is a profoundly dangerous and deeply counterproductive policy. Firstly, gives the state the power to regulate and interfere with citizens’ private religious beliefs. While there should be limits to what is legally acceptable, such as the promotion of terrorism, this gives the state too much power to decide what their citizens may or may not believe. It brings the country close to having the same highly authoritarian attitudes towards religion, like China, where only government approved religious groups are officially tolerated. The result of this has been the vicious persecution of Falun Gong, as well as those Christians, who do not wish to submit to official government control. And this is after the vicious persecution of all religions, including Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity, by an aggressively atheist form of Communism during Mao’s bloody ‘Cultural Revolution’. If such laws are applied to one religion, it could quite easily be applied to another, or stretched to include a secular philosophy that, in the view of the authorities, presented a similar danger. It isn’t hard to see how an intolerant, fiercely nationalist regime could move from licencing and banning Islam as potentially terrorist, to prosecuting conscientious objectors and anti-War activists amongst other religions or secular Humanists for being ‘insufficiently patriotic’, or harmful to morale in wartime.

The Libertarian Alliance’s Attack on Charities for Political Liberalism

The threat presented by such legislation isn’t an exaggeration. In the 1980s what became the Libertarian Alliance carried out a long campaign to have various charities and international aid organisations deprived of their charitable status. These charities’ campaigns against hunger and poverty in the Developing World were, they argued, political. And hence they attacked respectable charities like the Roman Catholic organisation, CAFOD. And this is quite apart from the concerns American liberals had about the sweeping provisions of Bush’s Patriot Act, and the powers granted to the authorities to investigate perceived anti-American individuals and groups. Among those placed under suspicion were even Quaker anti-war protest groups.

Official, Reforming Islam vs. the Islamist Counterculture

It’s also useless and counterproductive. The Egyptian-German scholar, Bassam Tibi, in his book Islam and the Cultural Accommodation of Social Change, points out that the mosques in Egypt are already strictly controlled by the state. Furthermore, the country’s westernisation and modernisation movement came from its Islamic leaders in the 19th century. These were members of the ulema – Muslim clergy – who were impressed by the great advances in the natural sciences and engineering that the West had made. They wished to introduce these to the Egypt and the Islamic world so that their people could also enjoy the benefits.

The radical Islamism of the terrorist extremists comes from outside this official milieu. It’s an underground movement that has been formed in opposition to the official, liberal Islam of the 19th century reformers and their 20th and 21st century successors. Despite the close supervision of the mosques in Egypt, and the proscription and persecution of the extremists, these groups still emerged to become a powerful, destructive force. I can’t see that licencing the mosques over here would have any effect in stamping out extremism. Most of the domestic terrorists appear to have been radicalised outside the mosques, often on-line. This form of propaganda by the extremists would continue, and it is probably that an underground Muslim counterculture would emerge, parallel but outside and beyond official, tolerated Islam.

Licensing Islam Would Drive Moderates Away

It may even have a negative effect. Lobster’s columnist, Corinne DeSouza, has written about the failure of the British intelligence agencies, particularly in Iraq. She notes that since Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq, far fewer Iraqis have offered their services to British intelligence. It’s not hard to see why. While some would be prepared to pass sensitive information on to a sympathetic foreign power in the hope of overthrowing an oppressive dictatorship, far fewer would want to take the step of becoming an active collaborator with a foreign occupying force. Similarly, if the mosques and their clergy were licenced, it would possibly drive away liberal Muslims and actively discourage them from passing on information about terrorism or extremist preaching to the authorities. Licensing the mosques would be a sign that, as far as the British authorities were concerned, Muslims did not really have a place in British society and were barely tolerated. Few Muslims would wish to co-operate with authorities in a regime that automatically viewed all Muslims, regardless of sect or shade of belief, as potential terrorists and traitors. Any Muslim that did so could easily find themselves reviled as a ‘chocolate Muslim’ – an Islamic ‘Uncle Tom’.

Bigots Also Unpopular in British Islam

There is a problem in this country with preachers of hate. Finsbury Park mosque was closed because it was a centre promoting terrorism. I also recall a number of other scandals with other extremist preachers, like Kalim Saddiqui. He was actually filmed by the Beeb back in the 1990s telling his congregation that ‘British society is a massive killing machine, and killing Muslims comes very easily to them.’ Saddiqui was one of the most notorious of the bigots, and there were demonstrations and protests against him by moderate Muslims. One of the complaints of the moderates is that you don’t hear enough of the counterdemonstrations, only of the protests and ranting of the militant firebrands.

Stress Common Britishness; Treat All Extremists with Same Rights and Contempt

Much more positive is an even-handed approach to tackling extremism, to show that it’s not Islam that is under suspicion or attack, but simply those, who would preach murder, hate and death in its name. And that those prosecuted for such offences will be treated exactly the same as their non-Muslim counterparts, demanding death and horror in the name of whatever they believe in.

The Sacrifice of Isaac: Francis Wheen Spouts Mumbo Jumbo

June 3, 2013

You may remember that way back in the last decade there was a spate of sceptical books attacking what their authors saw as pseudo-science. These included various New Age beliefs, and very often also Creationism and Intelligent Design. These books included Bad Science, by the Roman Catholic writer and science jounralist, Ben Goldacre, and How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World, by Francis Wheen. Wheen’s a left-wing journalist, who has, I believe, written for the Guardian. He is a frequent guest on the News Quiz, a satirical panel show about the news on BBC’s Radio 4. In his introduction he stated that part of his purpose in writing the book was to defend the Enlightenment. These revivals of what he considered irrationalism threatened it. He confessed his admiration for the Enlightenment and its values, including its secularism.

Strange Days and Paranoia, Terrorism and Psychiatric Abuse of Dissidents in the 1970s

Now Wheen is an excellent writer. His book on the paranoia and chaos of the ’70s, Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia, is very good. It begins with Nixon and Watergate, and expands to include the fear surrounding Mao and the Gang of Four. He traces the way Mao’s doctrine of guerilla warfare formed the template for that decades western urban terrorists, including the Provisional IRA in Britain, the Rote Armee Fraktion or the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany and the Maoist terrorists in France. These latter emerged following the failure of the 1968 uprising to topple French capitalism, and drew intellectual inspiration and support from radical academics. One of these latter appears to have done little except march around his university campus disrupting the classes of other lecturers he considered to be bourgeois and reactionary. He also discusses the murky events surrouding Harold Wilson’s prime ministership and the preparations to remove him in a coup by those who suspected him of being a KGB agent. One of the most fascinating, and relevant pieces in the book is his description of how Soviet psychiatry came up with a new mental illness that would justify the forcible incarceration of dissidents. This was done under the pretext that they must be insane to challenge the great, Soviet workers’ paradise. The Soviet political abuse of psychiatry strongly influenced the BBC SF series, Blake’s 7. In the series, the totalitarian Federation used mind control, including drugged food and water, and the conditioning, brainwashing and psychiatric brutalisation of dissidents to maintain its brutal and corrupt rule. This particular episode in Soviet history should be particularly alarming and provide a stark warning to people of faith concerning some of the pronouncements made by contemporary atheists. Some of the New Atheists, like the Rational Response Squad, made it clear they thought religion was a psychiatric disorder. Even now some professional neurologists have stated that they look forward to the day when neuroscience will be used to cure radical or dangerous religious beliefs. Blake’s 7’s fictional federation also closed churches. Science Fiction has been described as the literature of warning, and Blake’s 7 provided a fictional treatment of the Soviet psychiatric persecution of dissidents. The Soviet medicalisation of religion as a psychiatric disorder is one that some atheist scientists now seem to be following on their own. They’re either unaware of or unconcerned by their totalitarian predecessors.

Wheen’s Mumbo Jumbo and the Sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis

Much of Wheen’s book on ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ is unremarkable. It tackles some of the bizarre New Age beliefs. It shows his own left-wing views in criticising Thatcherism and her pursuit of the free market. Wheen is, however, an atheist. Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, to which Wheen has contributed, has joked about how Wheen called him an ‘irrational theist’. The book makes it clear that Wheen views religion as not just wrong, but dangerous. It shows the effect of 9/11 and the subsequent jihadi attacks on atheist opinions towards religion in general. Wheen does not consider them the action of just one religion, or even or a movement within that religion, but due to religion as a whole. He specifically blames the patriarch Abraham and the sacrifice of his son, Isaac, for causing suicide bombing. God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac is, in Wheen’s view, a demand for the blind faith and for believers to give up their lives in the service of their God. It is the origin of the blind faith of the suicide bombers. He then rants about how Abraham was a barbarian who should be excluded from the tables of civilised people.

This is profoundly wrong. Wheen misses the point about the sacrifice of Isaac completely. His Comments do, however, say volumes about received atheist opinion towards religion. Mostly, this is that many prominent atheists actually aren’t concerned about the basic facts behind religious events and phenomena before they utter their opinions.

Abraham and God’s Mercy: God Unlike Pagan Gods, Does Not Demand Human Sacrifice

For Jews, Abraham is not a symbol of fanaticism and blind faith, but mercy. This is shown by his conversation with the Almighty concerning the number of good people, who would have to be in Sodom before the Lord destroyed the city. This goes down to about ten, showing that even if only a minuscule number of righteous people are present in a place so steeped in evil that the outcry against it goes up to the Lord Himself, God will withhold His anger from it. As for the sacrifice of Isaac, that has to be seen in the context of the pagan religious practices of the Ancient Near East. Human sacrifice was an accepted part of the ancient Near Eastern religions. It’s found in the law codes of the Hittites. In ancient Phoenicia, Canaan and Carthage infant children were burned alive as sacrifices to the pgan gods. The tophets, the sacrificial altars on which these poor mites were killed, have been found in the remains of Carthage itself. The remains of these sacrifices have also been found in ancient Canaan. The point the story of God’s command for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac makes is that the Lord does not want people to sacrifice humans to Him. Yes, He rewards the faith that makes people wish to fulfill His commands, even to death, but does not want them to make that sacrifice. Abraham does indeed make the pyre and prepare to sacrifice his son, but this is halted by God sending a ram, caught in a thicket, for the patriarch to sacrifice instead. The whole point of the story is against suicide bombing.

Wheen Ignorant of Scholarship on Ancient Paganism and the Meaning of Isaac’s Sacrifice

Few people are experts in Ancient Near Eastern culture. But you don’t have to be. I remember studying the sacrifice of Isaac in RE (Religious Education) at my old Church of England School. Wheen went to one of the British public schools, which in this case, for transatlantic readers, means that he went to an elite private school. Despite having a very expensive education, he clearly either didn’t study this part of the Bible in RE, or simply wasn’t paying attention when they did. Even if they didn’t study that part of the Bible, Wheen could still have tried to understand it simply by consulting a commentary. There are a number of good commentaries on scripture, some of which are available online. But Wheen didn’t. He simply assumed that the apparent message he read into the text was the correct one. His failure to consult a commentary or what Christians and Jews actually historically believe and say about this event also shows a completely dismissive attitude towards their beliefs. He appears to beleive that traditional Jewish and Christian views of scripture are of so little importance, so automatically wrong, that an atheist should not even remotely consider studying them before making their pronouncements.

The Marxist Origin of Suicide Bombing

As for suicide bombing, although this is now a favourite weapon of militant Islam, it was first used by the Tamil Tigers. As Marxists, they were atheists, who clearly wre not following a divine command, still less of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus Christ. But this is not mentioned by Wheen. Possibly he didn’t know about it. It does, however, show the deep antipathy of part of the atheist Left towards Judeo-Christian religion. There’s also an element of the secularist belief that all religions are somehow the same. If that is true, then therefore all religions must be equally violent. Thus Wheen sought to find the ultimate origin of the contemporary jihadist attacks not in today’s politics, or the violent theology and ideology of the terrorists themselves, but further back in Abraham’s lifetime, so he could blame and disparage all of the three Abrahamic faiths. Wheen’s other book are well worth reading, and much of his book on Mumbo Jumbo is too. Rather than being a product of reasoned thought and careful consideration, Wheen’s views on the sacrifice of Isaac in the Old Testament are merely the product of atheist ignorance and anti-religious bigotry.