Posts Tagged ‘Multiculturalism’

Hyper Evolution – The Rise of the Robots Part 2

August 5, 2017

Wednesday evening I sat down to watch the second part of the BBC 4 documentary, Hyperevolution: the Rise of the Robots, in which the evolutionary biologist Ben Garrod and the electronics engineer Prof. Danielle George trace the development of robots from the beginning of the 20th century to today. I blogged about the first part of the show on Tuesday in a post about another forthcoming programme on the negative consequences of IT and automation, Secrets of Silicon Valley. The tone of Hyperevolution is optimistic and enthusiastic, with one or two qualms from Garrod, who fears that robots may pose a threat to humanity. The programme states that robots are an evolving species, and that we are well on the way to developing true Artificial Intelligence.

Last week, Garrod went off to meet a Japanese robotics engineer, whose creation had been sent up to keep a Japanese astronaut company of the International Space Station. Rocket launches are notoriously expensive, and space is a very, very expensive premium. So it was no surprise that the robot was only about four inches tall. It’s been designed as a device to keep people company, which the programme explained was a growing problem in Japan. Japan has a falling birthrate and thus an aging population. The robot is programmed to ask and respond to questions, and to look at the person, who’s speaking to it. It doesn’t really understand what is being said, but simply gives an answer according to its programming. Nevertheless, it gives the impression of being able to follow and respond intelligently to conversation. It also has the very ‘cute’ look that characterizes much Japanese technology, and which I think comes from the conventions of Manga art. Garrod noted how it was like baby animals in having a large head and eyes, which made the parents love them.

It’s extremely clever, but it struck me as being a development of the Tamagotchi, the robotic ‘pet’ which was all over the place a few years ago. As for companionship, I could help thinking of a line from Andrei Tarkovsky’s epic Solaris, based on the novel by the Polish SF writer, Stanislaw Lem. The film follow the cosmonaut, Kris, on his mission to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris. The planet’s vast ocean is alive, and has attempted to establish contact with the station’s crew by dredging their memories, and sending them replicas of people they know. The planet does this to Kris, creating a replica of a former girlfriend. At one point, pondering the human condition in a vast, incomprehensible cosmos, Kris states ‘There are only four billion of us…a mere handful. We don’t need spaceships, aliens…What man needs is man.’ Or words to that effect. I forget the exact quote. I dare say robots will have their uses caring for and providing mental stimulation for the elderly, but this can’t replace real, human contact.

George went to America to NASA, where the space agency is building Valkyrie to help with the future exploration of Mars in 2030. Valkyrie is certainly not small and cute. She’s six foot, and built very much like the police machines in Andrew Blomkamp’s Chappie. George stated that they were trying to teach the robot how to walk through a door using trial and error. But each time the machine stumbled. The computer scientists then went through the robot’s programming trying to find and correct the error. After they thought they had solved it, they tried again. And again the machine stumbled.

George, however, remained optimistic. She told ‘those of you, who think this experiment is a failure’, that this was precisely what the learning process entailed, as the machine was meant to learn from its mistakes, just like her own toddler now learning to walk. She’s right, and I don’t doubt that the robot will eventually learn to walk upright, like the humanoid robots devised by their competitors over at DARPA. However, there’s no guarantee that this will be the case. People do learn from their mistakes, but if mistakes keep being made and can’t be correctly, then it’s fair to say that a person has failed to learn from them. And if a robot fails to learn from its mistakes, then it would also be fair to say that the experiment has failed.

Holy Joe Smith! I was also a reminded of another piece of classic SF in this segment. Not film, but 2000 AD’s ‘Robohunter’ strip. In its debut story, the aged robohunter, Sam Slade – ‘that’s S-L-A-Y-E-D to you’ – his robometer, Kewtie and pilot, Kidd, are sent to Verdus to investigate what has happened to the human colonists. Verdus is so far away, that robots have been despatched to prepare it for human colonization, and a special hyperdrive has to be used to get Slade there. This rejuvenates him from an old man in his seventies to an energetic guy in his thirties. Kidd, his foul mouthed, obnoxious pilot, who is in his 30s, is transformed into a foul-mouthed, obnoxious, gun-toting baby.

The robot pioneers have indeed prepared Verdus for human habitation. They’ve built vast, sophisticated cities, with shops and apartments just waiting to be occupied, along with a plethora of entertainment channels, all of whose hosts and performers are robotic. However, their evolution has outpaced that of humanity, so that they are now superior, both physically and mentally. They continue to expect humans to be the superiors, and so when humans have come to Verdus, they’ve imprisoned, killed and experimented on them as ‘Sims’ – simulated humans, not realizing that these are the very beings they were created to serve. In which case, Martian colonists should beware. And carry a good blaster, just in case.

Garrod and George then went to another lab, where the robot unnerved Garrod by looking at him, and following him around with its eye. George really couldn’t understand why this should upset him. Talking about it afterwards, Garrod said that he was worried about the threat robots pose to humanity. George replied by stating her belief that they also promise to bring immense benefits, and that this was worth any possible danger. And that was the end of that conversation before they went on to the next adventure.

George’s reply isn’t entirely convincing. This is what opponents of nuclear power were told back in the ’50s and ’60s, however. Through nuclear energy we were going to have ships and planes that could span the globe in a couple of minutes, and electricity was going to be so plentiful and cheap that it would barely be metered. This failed, because the scientists and politicians advocating nuclear energy hadn’t really worked out what would need to be done to isolate and protect against the toxic waste products. Hence nearly six decades later, nuclear power and the real health and environmental problems it poses are still very much controversial issues. And there’s also that quote from Bertrand Russell. Russell was a very staunch member of CND. When he was asked why he opposed nuclear weapons, he stated that it was because they threatened to destroy humanity. ‘And some of us think that would be a very great pity’.

Back in America, George went to a bar to meet Alpha, a robot created by a British inventor/showman in 1932. Alpha was claimed to be an autonomous robot, answering questions by choosing appropriate answers from recordings on wax cylinders. George noted that this was extremely advanced for the time, if true. Finding the machine resting in a display case, filled with other bizarre items like bongo drums, she took an access plate off the machine to examine its innards. She was disappointed. Although there were wires to work the machine’s limbs, there were no wax cylinders or any other similar devices. She concluded that the robot was probably worked by a human operator hiding behind a curtain.

Then it was off to Japan again, to see another robot, which, like Valkyrie, was learning for itself. This was to be a robot shop assistant. In order to teach it to be shop assistant, its creators had built an entire replica camera shop, and employed real shop workers to play out their roles, surrounded by various cameras recording the proceedings. So Garrod also entered the scenario, where he pretended to be interested in buying a camera, asking questions about shutter speeds and such like. The robot duly answered his questions, and moved about the shop showing him various cameras at different prices. Like the robotic companion, the machine didn’t really know or understand what it was saying or doing. It was just following the motions it had learned from its human counterparts.

I was left wondering how realistic the role-playing had actually been. The way it was presented on camera, everything was very polite and straightforward, with the customer politely asking the price, thanking the assistant and moving on to ask to see the next of their wares. I wondered if they had ever played at being a difficult customer in front of it. Someone who came in and, when asked what they were looking for, sucked their teeth and said, ‘I dunno really,’ or who got angry at the prices being asked, or otherwise got irate at not being able to find something suitable.

Through the programme, Japanese society is held up as being admirably progressive and accepting of robots. Earlier in that edition, Garrod finished a piece on one Japanese robot by asking why it was that a car manufacturer was turning to robotics. The answer’s simple. The market for Japanese cars and motorcycles is more or less glutted, and they’re facing competition from other countries, like Indonesia and Tokyo. So the manufacturers are turning to electronics.

The positive attitude the Japanese have to computers and robots is also questionable. The Japanese are very interested in developing these machines, but actually don’t like using them themselves. The number of robots in Japan can easily be exaggerated, as they include any machine tool as a robot. And while many British shops and businesses will use a computer, the Japanese prefer to do things the old way by hand. For example, if you go to a post office in Japan, the assistant, rather than look something up on computer, will pull out a ledger. Way back in the 1990s someone worked out that if the Japanese were to mechanise their industry to the same extent as the West, they’d throw half their population out of work.

As for using robots, there’s a racist and sexist dimension to this. The Japanese birthrate it falling, and so there is real fear of a labour shortage. Robots are being developed to fill it. But Japanese society is also extremely nationalistic and xenophobic. Only people, whose parents are both Japanese, are properly Japanese citizens with full civil rights. There are third-generation Koreans, constituting an underclass, who, despite having lived there for three generations, are still a discriminated against underclass. The Japanese are developing robots, so they don’t have to import foreign workers, and so face the problems and strains of a multicultural society.

Japanese society also has some very conservative attitudes towards women. So much so, in fact, that the chapter on the subject in a book I read two decades ago on Japan, written by a Times journalist, was entitled ‘A Woman’s Place Is In the Wrong’. Married women are expected to stay at home to raise the kids, and the removal of a large number of women from the workplace was one cause of the low unemployment rate in Japan. There’s clearly a conflict between opening up the workplace to allow more married women to have a career, and employing more robots.

Garrod also went off to Bristol University, where he met the ‘turtles’ created by the neuroscientist, Grey Walter. Walter was interested in using robots to explore how the brain functioned. The turtles were simple robots, consisting of a light-detecting diode. The machine was constructed to follow and move towards light sources. As Garrod himself pointed out, this was like the very primitive organisms he’d studied, which also only had a light-sensitive spot.

However, the view that the human brain is really a form of computer have also been discredited by recent research. Hubert L. Dreyfus in his book, What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Intelligence, describes how, after the failure of Good Old Fashioned A.I. (GOFAI), computer engineers then hoped to create it through exploring the connections between different computing elements, modelled on the way individual brain cells are connected to each by a complex web of neurons. Way back in 1966, Walter Rosenblith of MIT, one of the pioneers in the use of computers in neuropsychology, wrote

We no longer hold the earlier widespread belief that the so-called all-or-none law from nerve impulses makes it legitimate to think of relays as adequate models for neurons. In addition, we have become increasingly impressed with the interactions that take place among neurons: in some instances a sequence of nerve impulses may reflect the activities of literally thousands of neurons in a finely graded manner. In a system whose numerous elements interact so strongly with each other, the functioning of the system is not necessarily best understood by proceeding on a neuron-by-neuron basis as if each had an independent personality…Detailed comparisons of the organization of computer systems and brains would prove equally frustrating and inconclusive. (Dreyfus, What Computers Still Can’t Do, p. 162).

Put simply, brain’s don’t work like computers. This was written fifty years ago, but it’s fair to ask if the problem still exists today, despite some of the highly optimistic statements to the contrary.

Almost inevitably, driverless cars made their appearance. The Germans have been developing them, and Garrod went for a spin in one, surrounded by two or three engineers. He laughed with delight when the car told him he could take his hands off the wheel and let the vehicle continue on its own. However, the car only works in the comparatively simply environment of the autobahn. When it came off the junction, back into the normal road system, the machine told him to start driving himself. So, not quite the victory for A.I. it at first appears.

Garrod did raise the question of the legal issues. Who would be responsible if the car crashed while working automatically – the car, or the driver? The engineers told him it would be the car. Garrod nevertheless concluded that segment by noting that there were still knotty legal issues around it. But I don’t know anyone who wants one, or necessarily would trust one to operate on its own. A recent Counterpunch article I blogged about stated that driverless cars are largely being pushed by a car industry, trying to expand a market that is already saturated, and the insurance companies. The latter see it as a golden opportunity to charge people, who don’t want one, higher premiums on the grounds that driverless cars are safer.

Garrod also went to meet researchers in A.I. at Plymouth University, who were also developing a robot which as part of their research into the future creation of genuine consciousness in machines. Talking to one of the scientists afterwards, Garrod heard that there could indeed be a disruptive aspect to this research. Human society was based on conscious decision making. But if the creation of consciousness was comparatively easy, so that it could be done in an afternoon, it could have a ‘disruptive’ effect. It may indeed be the case that machines will one day arise which will be conscious, sentient entities, but this does not mean that the development of consciousness is easy. You think of the vast ages of geologic time it took evolution to go from simple, single-celled organisms to complex creatures like worms, fish, insects and so on, right up to the emergence of Homo Sapiens Sapiens within the last 200,000 years.

Nevertheless, the programme ended with Garrod and George talking the matter over on the banks of the Thames in London. George concluded that the rise of robots would bring immense benefits and the development of A.I. was ‘inevitable’.

This is very optimistic, to the point where I think you could be justified by calling it hype. I’ve said in a previous article how Dreyfus’ book describes how robotics scientists and engineers have made endless predictions since Norbert Wiener and Alan Turing, predicting the rise of Artificial Intelligence, and each time they’ve been wrong. He’s also described the sheer rage with which many of those same researchers respond to criticism and doubt. In one passage he discusses a secret meeting of scientists at MIT to discuss A.I., in which a previous edition of his book came up. The scientists present howled at it with derision and abuse. He comments that why scientists should persist in responding so hostilely to criticism, and to persist in their optimistic belief that they will eventually solve the problem of A.I., is a question for psychology and the sociology of knowledge.

But there are also very strong issues about human rights, which would have to be confronted if genuine A.I. was ever created. Back in the 1970s or early ’80s, the British SF magazine, New Voyager, reviewed Roderick Random. Subtitled, ‘The Education of a Young Machine’, this is all about the creation of a robot child. The reviewer stated that the development of truly sentient machines would constitute the return of slavery. A similar point was made in Star Trek: The Next Generation, in an episode where another ship’s captain wished to take Data apart, so that he could be properly investigated and more like him built. Data refused, and so the captain sued to gain custody of him, arguing that he wasn’t really sentient, and so should be legally considered property. And in William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the book that launched the Cyberpunk SF genre, the hero, Case, finds out that the vast computer for which he’s working, Wintermute, has Swiss citizenship, but its programming are the property of the company that built it. This, he considers, is like humans having their thoughts and memories made the property of a corporation.

Back to 2000 AD, the Robusters strip portrayed exactly what such slavery would mean for genuinely intelligent machines. Hammerstein, an old war droid, and his crude sidekick, the sewer droid Rojaws and their fellows live with the constant threat of outliving their usefulness, and taking a trip down to be torn apart by the thick and sadistic Mek-Quake. Such a situation should, if it ever became a reality, be utterly intolerable to anyone who believes in the dignity of sentient beings.

I think we’re a long way off that point just yet. And despite Prof. George’s statements to the contrary, I’m not sure we will ever get there. Hyperevolution is a fascinating programme, but like many of the depictions of cutting edge research, it’s probably wise to take some of its optimistic pronouncements with a pinch of salt.

Hope Not Hate Launches New Report on Breitbart’s Aims in Britain

March 8, 2017

The anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organisation Hope Not Hate has published a new report on their website into Breitbart and its political aims here in Britain. The report shows how Breitbart isn’t a news organisation so much as a media campaigning group for the Far Right, and wants to promote the brand of White nationalism that has propelled Trump to the White House here in Britain. Thus, the wretched company has been meeting and supporting Nigel Farage and UKIP. The front page of the report states

When former UKIP leader Nigel Farage was snapped having dinner with President Trump and his family by a fellow diner in late February, it caused a flurry of interest from the British media. What was not reported, but of far more significance, was the meeting Farage had earlier that afternoon.

Farage gatecrashed dinner with Donald Trump because he was in the area. In fact, he had just spent three hours at the White House with the President’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

The pair had a lot to catch up on. They had a lot to discuss and plan.

As this report shows, Bannon and Farage have got to know each other well over the last few years.

UKIP had been identified by Bannon’s Breitbart operation several years ago. Bannon launched Breitbart London to help UKIP ahead of the 2015 General Election. Breitbart’s key funder Robert Mercer supplied Farage’s anti-EU campaign, Leave.EU, with the data tools that helped secure the Brexit vote and the UK’s departure from the European Union.

In turn, Farage’s Brexit success provided Bannon, and his political master Donald Trump, with the inspirational story of the underdog defying the political establishment.

This report shows that Breitbart is not a news website or a media outlet in any ordinary sense and its staff are not mainstream journalists. Breitbart is a political project, with a specific political agenda, staffed by willing propagandists.

It distorts and fabricates news to deliberately incite anger in its supporters and fear in others. It pollutes the political space and demonises and vilifies its opponents.

Breitbart is just one part – albeit a vital part – of a wider political project that set Britain on a path to leave the European Union and got Donald Trump elected to the most powerful job in the world.

Unfinished business

But even with Trump in the White House the project is not yet complete. Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer have far bigger plans which they will seek to execute over the next few years. Bannon will use his clearly strong influence over the President to carry out his aggressive nationalism and strong anti-Muslim views at home and abroad. Mercer will use his financial muscle and data analytics to sway elections and shift opinion.

Breitbart intends to expand its operations into more countries in the hope of assisting more far right leaders gain power and laying the ground for what they consider is an inevitable conflict with Islam.

And in Britain, this operation will be at the heart of a new political venture, likely to be launched in a matter of months, to create a new far right party and run by multi-millionaire Arron Banks and Nigel Farage.

Based on the social movement model of Italy’s Five Star Movement but with the nationalist and populist politics of Trump, this new party will sweep aside UKIP and hope to capitalise on the uncertainty and compromise that will undoubtedly accompany Brexit.

While Banks and Farage will lead this new party, it will be Breitbart that provides the engine power.

It was this that Farage was discussing with Bannon at the White House.

The report also details the organisations links with the far right in this country, including some deeply unpleasant people and organisations. It gives a timeline of the company’s history from its foundation in 2005 to today, and a section on its right-wing stance against multiculturalism, feminism, immigration, gay and trans rights and its demonization of Muslims as predatory rapists intent on the domination of the West. It also explains that, according to an article in the Observer, Breitbart is merely one of a number of extreme right-wing organisation owned and founded by Richard Mercer, a hedge-fund manager. One of these is Cambridge Analytica, and small data analysis company that specialises in psyops – that is, producing propaganda designed to play on the recipients’ emotions, rather than convince them through rational argument. Cambridge Analytica also has links to Andy Wigmore, the director of the Leave campaign.

According to the report, Breitbart see themselves as fighting a war on two fronts, based in Texas and London respectively. In Britain, Breitbart has supported the anti-Muslim organisation, Pegida UK, led by Stephen Lennon, AKA Tommy Robinson, the founder of the English Defence League. They also plan to move into Europe to support Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France, the Alternative fuer Deutschland in Germany, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party in Austria. Wilders is also one of their columnists. They also want to start an edition in Italy. Another section takes apart their journalistic style, showing how it really is little more than ‘fake news’. This consists in running highly emotive and very misleading headlines, which aren’t really backed up or supported by the article beneath. This section in particular looks at articles by Anne-Marie Waters, Virginia Hale, Milo Yiannopolis, Donna Rachel Edmunds and Chris Tomlinson trying to drum up fear and hatred against Muslims through very biased and distorted reporting of rape and other attacks in Germany, Denmark and Sweden, which cite either unreferenced information, or official statistics while omitting other pieces of information from the same sources that disprove or severely qualify their arguments.

The article also argues that Raheem Kassam, one of Breitbart’s editors, had a major influence in making the Fuhrage much more Islamophobic and aggressive in his debating style. Kassam and another advisor were dropped from UKIP after Patrick O’Flynn complained that they had turned Farage into a ‘snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive man.’ It then goes on to examine the role Breitbart played in the civil war that erupted in the Kippers between Farage’s supporters and opponents. It also discusses Farage’s meetings and support for Trump, and warns that Kassam may be winding down his support of UKIP in order to launch a more extreme party. There are also individual sections on particular leading executives and writers at Breitbart, their careers and their very unpleasant connections to other parts of the far right. Raheem Kassam, for example, started out as a member of the Tory youth section, the Young Britons, before moving on to the Conservative Bow Group, setting up the short-lived British Tea Party, which was backed by the Libertarian thinktank, the Freedom Association. Hope Not Hate describes this last group as ‘anti-union’. They are, as well as extremely anti-Socialist and anti-working class in general. In the 1980s they earned notoriety when their links to Fascist Central American dictators and their death squads were revealed. He’s also been involved in the Neo-Con Henry Jackson Society, the Tax-Payer’s Alliance and Student Rights, a right-wing campus monitoring group which has no links to students or the trade unions, and which has been condemned by genuine students unions for its targeting of Muslims students and their events at London unis. He’s also worked for the neo-con The Commentator and is a fellow at Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum. Pipes is a rightwing American professor specialising in the Middle East. He’s also appeared on Ezra Levant’s wretched anti-Islamic TV show on Rebel Media in Canada. In his campaign for leadership of UKIP, he gave a prominent place to Anne-Marie Waters of Sharia Watch and also former members of the EDL and the BNP on what the report describes as ‘case by case basis’.

Other senior staff at UKIP include James Delingpole, Simon Kent, Donna Rachel Edmunds, Oliver J.J. Lane, Chris Tomlinson, Virginia Hale, Nick Hallett, Liam Deacon and Jack Montgomery. Delingpole is a former Telegraph and Spectator columnist, who predictably rants on about ‘cultural Marxism’. He has a bitter hatred of environmentalism, which he thinks aims at establishing a Green dictatorship worse than Hitler’s. But then, he also believes that the White, middle-aged, public school and Oxford educated White male is the section of the population most discriminated against.

Simon Kent is an Ozzie journo, who’s also worked for the Sunday Telegraph over here as well as a range of right-wing newspapers in Australia and Canada, including the Sun News Network in Canada.

Donna Rachel Edmunds was a Conservative councillor in Lewes and worked for Roger Helmer, before she left the party for UKIP. She founded the UKIPDaily.com blog, has written for The Commentator and the Freedom Association. She’s also another wretched fan of Von Hayek and Ayn Rand. She’s also given sympathetic coverage to Stephen Lennon, Geert Wilders and the extreme right-wing Sweden Democrats as well as Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson.

Oliver JJ Lane is a former researcher for the military thinktank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a former Conservative candidate for Nuneaton and Bedworth, and is a former chairman of the British Monarchist League. The article also states that he has ‘liked’ a number of racist pages on the Net, including

the premier “alt-right”/new right publisher Arktos, the openly pro-fascist page “Rational Ethno-Nationalism” and the Nazi blood-and-soil page “Artaman: Hyperborean Garden”. Lane has also “liked” a page titled “European Traditional
Family” which posts Nazi propaganda of Aryan families, and the “strictly non muslim” group “The Beauty of European Girls and Women”, dedicated to white women of “pure european descent”.

The article also claims that he’s an associate of Gregory Lauder-Frost of the Traditional Britain group, which also has links to the Nazi right. I’ve also come across material from them which makes it clear that not only do they despise Islam, they also hate and would like to abolish the NHS.

Chris Tomlinson is a former mobile phone technician, who writes for the Canadian Conservative Party. He’s a fan of the French far-right Identitarian Movement, an activist in the Alt-Right, and a member of the Austrian Nationalist Party.

Virginia Hale is an east Asian studies graduate, who defines herself as a ‘palaeoconservative’. She’s also obsessed with White genocide, and has written a series of articles attack non-Whites and immigration, and corresponded with many of the leaders of the Nazi and Far-Right fringes.

Hallett’s another Tory, having been a member of the Young Britons’ Foundation, The Conservative Way Forward and has run the Margaret Thatcher Centre, a museum dedicated to the foul leaderene. His articles have also been promoted by CulturalMarxism.Net, Infowars and American Renaissance, which has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Centre as specialising in academic racism.

Liam Deacon is a former, moderately left-wing journo, whose articles became very anti-immigrant and right-wing in tone after he joined Breitbart. Jack Montgomery is an activist with the Leave.EU campaign.

The reports also lays out how Breitbart also provides a platform for extremists such as Geert Wilders, Katie Hopkins, Anne-Marie Waters and the anti-Islam campaigner, Robert Spencer, the founder of Jihad Watch, his colleague, Pamela Geller, Stephen Lennon, Ingrid Carlqvist, one of the writers at the infamous Gates of Vienna Blog, Frank Gaffney, a former director of nuclear forces and weapons under Ronald Reagan. Needless to say, he’s also anti-Islam and anti-immigration, and Daniel Pipes, another anti-Islam activist.

The article also discusses the way Breitbart in its comments section has given a platform to the members of the European Fascist right. This doesn’t just include the Front National, AfD and Wilders’ PVV, but also Jobbik in Hungary, the Golden Dawn in Greece, and the BNP. It also examines its highly distorted coverage of recent violence by Muslims and immigrants in Sweden.

A final section by the report’s author, Nick Lowles, considers Breitbart an important far-rightwing threat, and details the magazine’s intentions to monitor, rebut and combat it.

The report can be read at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/features/breitbart/breitbart-report-2017-03.pdf

The Anti-Semitism Allegations: A Very British Coup Against the Left

May 18, 2016

I was sent this clip from RT’s Going Underground by one of the great commenters on this blog. In this piece, the anchor Arshid Rattansi talks to Max Blumenthal about highly politicised nature of the anti-Semitism allegations. Blumenthal argues that they are being made to defend Israel from criticism, particularly after the Gaza conflict, and shows that those accused also include religious Jews, and those of Jewish descent, whose anti-racist beliefs and pride in their heritage should not be questioned.

Max Blumenthal describes himself in the clip as ‘an anti-Zionist’ Jew. He’s the author, according to a pop-up text in the show, of Life and Loathing in the Greater Israel. He says he was struck by the strong similarity between the accusations of anti-Semitism, directed at Jeremy Corbyn and the plot of the book, A Very British Coup, by the former Labour MP, Chris Mullens. In Mullens’ book, a former steelworker, Harry Perkins, becomes the British Prime Minister, and embarks on a very left-wing, Marxist programme, nationalising industry and setting up anti-nuclear zones. Perkins is very popular, and to topple him from power, the British establishment, the press and the right-wing of the Labour party, aided by the security agencies, manufacture quotes smearing him as an anti-Semite.

Blumenthal states that this is what is being done to Jeremy Corbyn, including groups within the Labour party that are close to the Zionist lobby. These are the Blairites in the Progress party-within-the-party and Labour Friends of Israel. Corbyn himself has said nothing anti-Semitic and has attended a meeting of the Labour Friends of Israel. On the other hand, he has embraced much of the programme of the BDS campaign – Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement, which seeks to persuade firms and consumers from dealing with firms or purchasing goods made in the occupied West Bank. He has also opened his office to anti-Zionist Jews, including Blumenthal himself. Blumenthal also makes the point that this started two years ago in 2014 when Ed Milliband, who was also Jewish, criticised the Israeli attack on Gaza. Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, who has joined in these allegations, was previously one of the spokesmen for Likud regime defending Israel’s actions during the attack. The definition of anti-Semitism used to justify these actions is highly partisan and politicised. It is not the definition used by some Jewish journalists and philosophers, which is that it is hatred of ‘Jews simply as Jews’, but hatred of the state of Israel. Regev even falsely accused Corbyn’s spokesman, Seaumas Milne in an interview, of saying that he wanted Israel’s destruction, before having to take that back 35 minutes later.

Some of those accused of anti-Semitism include Jews, and people of Jewish descent, whose character should be beyond reproach. In Britain, these include Jacqui Walker. Walker is a black woman of Jewish heritage, who is an anti-racist activist. She was suspended on these charges for a tweet she made saying that slavery was the Black equivalent of the Holocaust. Rattansi states that this isn’t anti-Semitic, just a very strong statement condemning slavery. In America, Bernie Sanders, also Jewish, has been attacked for being anti-Semitic for being critical about Israel. He was also forced to sack his ‘Jewish Outreach Officer’, Simone Zimmerman. Zimmerman is a very religious Jew, who is active in her community. But she also committed the heinous sin of objecting to Israel. Blumenthal states that Sanders and Corbyn have had some contact, but that criticism of Israel is far more muted in America, because AIPAC, the Zionist lobby in America is much more powerful than BICOM, its British equivalent. Blumenthal mentions an awkward moment during an interview Bernie Sanders gave to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Sanders’ raised the point that Comcast, the parent company, was owned by someone, who donated to AIPAC, and that one of its leading journalists, Wolf Blitzer, was also a leading journo and researcher for the lobbyists, and that therefore the show would not broadcast any material critical of Israel. Blumenthal makes the point, however, that there is a grassroots movement in the Democrats away from supporting Israel. This is largely from younger people, who are more secular, and because the country has become much more diverse.

The show has a caveat at the end, stating that they tried to get into contact with Comcast, who made the statement that they do not interfere in the editorial contents of their shows.

Here’s the interview:

CounterPunch have also published a series of articles about the anti-Semitism allegations, pointing out that these are all about the Zionist lobby trying to protect its own interests and Israel against what are perfectly legitimate criticisms. Blumenthal mentions that some of the allegations were made against people, who have criticised the Israeli premier, Benjamin Netanyahu. There’s nothing anti-Semitic about this. I can remember going to a science talk given by a British scientist, who was a staunch supporter of multiculturalism and who had clearly worked in Israel. He had nothing but contempt for the man, whom he described as ‘That b*stard Netanyahu’. There was no condemnation of Israel qua Israel, and certainly no condemnation of the Jewish people. Just a fair comment about the brutal thug governing the country.

As for the extension of the definition of anti-Semitism from its accepted meaning ‘hatred of Jewish as Jews’ to ‘hatred of the state of Israel’, this also won’t wash. Those on the left, who object to Israel, do so because they see it as a White, colonialist settler state, like apartheid South Africa, or indeed the USA. They do not object to it, because its people are Jews.

Moreover, the accepted definition of anti-Semitism, as hatred of Jews simply because of their ethnicity, is that of the person, who first invented the term, Julius Marr. Marr was the founder and leader of one of 19th century Germany’s leading anti-Jewish groups, the League of Anti-Semites. Marr coined the term to describe hatred of Jews based on their racial heritage, rather than their religion. Again, his definition doesn’t have anything to do with the state of Israel. The only way an anti-Semitism allegation against someone based on their opposition to Israel would be correct by that definition, would be if their objection to it was purely or mainly because Israelis were Jewish. This doesn’t appear to be the case in most of these allegations, if any.

As for the suspension of Jacqui Walker for commenting that ‘Slavery was Black people’s Holocaust’, it’s extreme and highly emotive, but it’s one that has certainly been said before. I think it was first made by the highly respected civil rights pioneer, W.E.B. DuBois, after he became a citizen of Ghana after the War. He compared the treatment of Blacks under slavery to the atrocities against the Jews by the Third Reich. In 1994 Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade came under the spotlight once again with the TV adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s A Respectable Trade, and the exhibition of the same name at the City Museum. One particular point of controversy is the statue to Edward Colson on the city centre. Many Black Bristolians wish to see the statue removed. Colson was a wealth patron, who donated generously to charity for the people of Bristol. It was with money donated by him that Colston girls’ school was set up, which still continues today. He made his money from the slave trade, however, and that’s the reason why his statue is so controversial. Gregory presented a feature on Bristol’s legacy from the slave trade during which she interviewed Paul Stephenson, a Black civil rights activist in the city. Stephenson, obviously, had nothing but hatred and contempt for Colson, saying that he was responsible for ‘a holocaust in Africa’. As far as I know, no allegations were made of anti-Semitism against Stephenson for his remarks.

And their people’s experience of persecution and exile from their ancestral homeland through slavery and its aftermath has led some Black writers to identify with the Jewish people. Also back in the 1990s the Black British writer, Caryl Philips, that the historical experiences of Blacks and Jews in this fashion were so close, that sometimes he believed he was Jewish. This caused a little controversy, with Hilary Mantel, the Jewish author of Wolf Hall, writing in reply that Phillips shouldn’t be so daft, as the Jewish experience was unique to Jews. Phillips might be mistaken about the identity of Black and Jewish historical suffering, but he was not anti-Semitic. Far from it.

However, underlying these accusations is a renewed feeling of insecurity amongst Britain’s Jews. There have been reports that anti-Semitic attacks have gone up, especially after the Israeli attack on Gaza. A few years ago there were a couple of festivals celebrating the Jewish contribution to British culture. There was a festival of Jewish literature, which was a general festival of books by Jews. Non-Jews were welcome to come, and the writers speaking at this event included, I believe Howard Jacobson and Hilary Mantel. There was also a festival of Jewish comedy, which was featured on the One Show. It was also covered on Radio 4. The blurb for the radio programme about it stated that one of the reasons it was being staged was because Jews were facing competition as comedians from other ethnic groups. There has thus been some insecurity amongst British Jews about their place in Britain, partly caused by the growth of other ethnic groups in Britain’s changing diverse society. The allegations of anti-Semitism made by the Zionist lobby against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party reflect and draw on this insecurity. Of course, attacking Jews because of the actions of the Israelis is wrong, and should be condemned as anti-Semitic. But this does not make condemnation of Israel for its actions and treatment of the Palestinians anti-Semitic.

TV Documentary from 1999 on Contemporary British Fascism

April 3, 2016

This is more Fascism – British this time – for those that can stomach. And some of it is hard to take. This is a British documentary, The Lost Race, broadcast in 1999, that charts the career of the various Fascist parties and movements in Britain from c. 1979 to the end of millennium. It follows the NF, BNP and other Fascist splinter groups, like the Third Position after Margaret Thatcher’s election victory of 1979 took the wind out of their sails by taking many nationalist votes from the NF. Faced with defeat after it was almost on the verge of becoming a mainstream party, the National Front split, the British National Party emerged as the dominant party of the Far Right, and British Fascism in general began a process of self-examination and exploration trying to find ways to recover their position.

The documentary covers some of the bizarre intellectual movements within the BNP at this time. This includes Nick Griffin’s attempt to turn his stormtroopers into ‘political soldiers’ following the ideas of the Italian Fascist and occultist aristo, Giulio Evola and the Italian Fascist, Roberto Fiore. This involved trying to cultivate a mystical, spiritual dimension to the Fascist revolt, and the ideas of the late Libyan dictator, Colonel Gaddafi. I think Nick Griffin travelled at least once to Libya, and he tried to get the other goose-steppers to study Gaddafi’s notoriously muddled and incoherent ‘Green Book’. One of the former Fascists interview, now standing as a ‘National Liberal’ local councillor in one of the London boroughs, describes how he got a copy for the local council. It’s on their shelves, but no-one’s read it. Also highly influential in this stage of the BNP’s development were the ideas of the Romanian Fascist, Corneliu Codreanu, who tried to form a mystical nationalism based on a synthesis of love of the land with Eastern Orthodox Christianity. This also failed to ignite any interest. It’s hard to see how Griffin expected it to be otherwise. Codreanu’s Iron Guard was a failure, even in Romania. From what I understand, in the 1930s they tried to overthrow the Romanian government in a coup. King Carol formed a government of his own from the traditional Rightist groups, which then counterattacked and massacred the Fascists, including Codreanu. His ideas were also unlikely to have any resonance for contemporary Brits, considering the very different intellectual climate in western Europe. The early Russian intellectuals, for example, used to contrast the mystical mindset of their own country with western rationalism and its obsession with the law and legal niceties, in contrast with their own preferences for utopianism and solving social problems through a complete restructuring of that society.

As for the International Third Position, this can be summed up as plain, old fashioned segregation. In their case, Blacks and Asians were to be allowed to remain in Britain, but would be kept separate from Whites through a system of apartheid. This also eventually died the death, as the traditional stance of the BNP and Nazi groups always was for an end to non-White immigration and the deportation of Blacks and Asians back to their countries of origin.

One of the Fascist groups also made an abortive, and borderline fraudulent attempt, to set up a Whites-only Nazi commune on a farm in France. The documentary makers themselves go there, and visit the site in the company of one of the local dignitaries. They find the site abandoned and dilapidated. Its British owners only stayed there once, and were looking to sell the place. Despite this, they were still appealing for money for the project in the various extreme Right-wing journals.

This made sense of some of the things I’d heard about the extreme Right at the time. Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke in his book on contemporary Nazi occultism, The Black Sun, discusses some of the links between Libya and European Neo-Nazis, who adopted a pro-Islam view linked with their anti-Semitism. Larry O’Hara, who did a doctorate, I believe, on the contemporary British Far Right, mentions the Third Positionists several times in some of the articles he wrote for Lobster in the 1990s. He also briefly mentioned the attempt in France to found a Nazi commune in his own conspiracy journal, Notes from the Borderland.

The BNP/NF also tried to gain support by copying the Liberals, and concentrating on ‘parish pump’ politics, local issues at council level. It’s about this new electoral strategy that they talk to the ‘National Liberal’ town councillor in London.

The documentary also discusses the extreme violence of the Far Right, and the rise of Combat 18, an extremely violent, expressly Nazi organisation that specialised in attacking left-wingers and anti-fascists. It was founded in 1979 by the American Klansman and Nazi, Harold Covington, whose members shot day five civil rights protestors.

What I, and no doubt many others, found particularly repulsive was the way the NF/ BNP tried to recruit and indoctrinate schoolchildren. The various Nazi periodicals encouraged pupils to inform on staff, who were supposed to be promoting ‘Communist’ ideas. These were then beaten up by the storm troopers. The programme includes an interview with a teacher, who was attacked by two men in school, after one of his pupils wrote such a snitch letter to one of the Nazi rags. The man was beaten because he had taught Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto. From that, you could be forgiven for thinking he was indeed a Marxist. Except he wasn’t. The documentary makers ask him this straight out, and he gives them a flat denial. The school’s course at the time involved teaching them about the Soviet Union for a term, which involved obviously studying the ideological foundations of the state in Communism. The next term, however, they were due to study America, and the term after that Europe. So no, the teacher was definitely not a Communist. And even if he was, it would have been a matter for official censure and discipline if he was trying to indoctrinate his young charges, and definitely not ground for a savage physical attack.

The Nazis also launched their own ‘comic’ intended to draw children into their vile world of racial nationalism. There’s a clip of one of them hanging around outside a school’s gates, selling copies of The Stormer to the children leaving school. The Stormer took its name from Der Stuermer, one of Goebbel’s vile propaganda rags. The documentary briefly shows a page from the ‘comic’, with strips like ‘Ali the Paki’ clearly intended to promote hatred towards Blacks and Asians through playing up racial stereotypes. I’ve got a feeling that The Stormer was banned, and the Nazis producing and distributing it sent to jail for incitement to racial hatred following police raids on their homes. Good. The footage of the Nazi shouting to all the schoolchildren to get their copies of it, only 10p is genuinely repulsive and creepy. It has the same kind of overtones as paedophiles hanging around school gates, trying to get their claws into young, vulnerable children in their turn. It’s one that makes you want to take a bath after you’ve seen it.

The documentary, however, states that these attempts by the NF and BNP to revive their flagging membership and electoral support ultimately died, as in those 20 years Britain became used to and more comfortable with being a multicultural and multi-ethnic country. There’s an interesting section where the presenter asks John Tyndall, the leader of the NF, if he would deport, say, someone who was half-black, or a quarter. Tyndall gets very tetchy indeed, and gives an evasive answer about how these issues would be dealt with on a case by case basis.

This was at the time a little too optimistic, as in the early years of this century the BNP seemed to be in the ascendant. Fortunately, that passed when just about everyone turned on Griffin and the BNP. These groups are still around, but they’re smaller than they used to be, though still as nasty, and now openly anti-Semitic, whereas before they kept that hidden.

Here’s the video.

Owen Jones: Paris Attacks Do Not Show Multiculturalism Has Failed

December 27, 2015

This is another great political video I found over on Youtube. It’s Owen Jones responding to his critics about the Paris attacks. Several of them had written in asking whether they had shown that multiculturalism has failed.

Jones is the author of the excellent Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, and here gives an excellent defence of multiculturalism after the horrors of the Paris massacres. He points out first of all, that France isn’t quite a multicultural society. The official stance is that everyone in France, regardless of their ethnic origins or religious faith are French, and have to conform to certain French norms. He points out that the French census does not include a section on religion. I’m not surprised. The official French stance on the question of the relationship between religion and the state is laicism. This means something like ‘secularism’. France is a secular republic where there is clear separation between church and state.

Jones also points out that Islamist terrorists themselves tend to come from atheist households, and may only have a very tenuous understanding of the religion they claim to defend. As shown in the purchase of Islam for Dummies through Amazon by one ghazi for the faith. He sees the a more immediate cause for their hatred and violence in the marginalisation and despair of the banlieus, the ghetto-like suburban developments, which are the main areas for migrants and their families around Paris.

He also makes it very clear that whatever ISIS and the other Islamists claim about being hardened warriors, striking terror into their enemies, the truth is far different. He describes them unequivocally as ‘losers’. That’s what they are. Many have problems with depression, theft and other forms of criminality. They’re less than impressive. Islamism just seems to be a channel for the hatred and violence within their own already dysfunctional, screwed-up personalities.

Kipper Councillor Says Bristol Elected Mayor ‘Looks Like Scruffy Little Asylum Seeker’

May 4, 2015

I found this story in today’s Bristol Post , ‘UKIP councillor claims George Ferguson looks like a ‘scruffy little asylum seeker’ through the Hope Not Hate site. Michael Frost, who became UKIP’s first ever councillor in Bristol, representing Hengrove, made the remark when speaking on community radio. He was on BCfm radio’s Politics Show.

He apparently said that “I think the way he presents himself, to dignitaries and places that he has to go and people he has to see, he looks like a scruffy little asylum seeker, who’s got dressed in a pound shop. I’m appalled by his appearance.”

Ferguson himself laughed off the remark, but observed that it was insulting to asylum seekers. He also said that Frost should ask himself, if foreign heads of state really thought he was that scruffy, why he got such good feedback.

Tim Malnick, a Green councillor, who was on the show with Frost, was also offended by the comment. He said he was sorry, but the metaphor of an asylum seeker as scruffy was ‘stereotypical’.

Frost apparently has responded in turn, by describing Malnick as ‘looking like an asylum seeker’.

The story can be read at: http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/UKIP-councillor-slams-George-Ferguson-looks-like/story-26438061-detail/story.html

Frost, according to the article, is also a candidate in the parliamentary elections for UKIP for north-west Bristol. Let’s hope the people there have the good sense not to elect him. He sounds utterly crass and charmless. He makes a comment he should realise would be inflammatory and seen as racist, and when he’s criticised for it, he makes the insult again.

As it stands, a lot of people in Bristol do think Ferguson is scruffy. Ferguson strides about in red trousers, including for funerals, when he adopts a ‘dark claret’ pair. Many of the people I know, especially the older generation, feel that this especially shows a lack of respect, and Ferguson should wear a more conservative colour.

The elected mayor is also far from my favourite local politician. He’s a former Lib Dem, who suddenly decided he was an independent, when it came to standing in the elections for mayor. He seems to be a supporter of all the neo-liberal twaddle about cuts, and last Christmas pushed through £90m of them. He denied that they would have much of an impact, however, and told Bristolians that we ‘shouldn’t be afraid of them.’

However I or anybody feel about Ferguson and his wardrobe, Frost was wrong to compare him to an asylum seeker. It shows the contempt for immigrants and the global poor characteristic of the Kippers. And it also shows the party’s contempt for their opponent’s views and general insensitivity when Frost repeated the insult about the Green councillor. It both shows that Frost doesn’t think he’s said anything wrong, and that he just doesn’t care if he has and has no reservations whatsoever about showing his contempt for those who do.

The ward he represents, Hengrove, is just down the road from me. It’s like Stockwood, the other area of south Bristol that John Langley, the porn star, hopes to win for the Kippers. Both areas are normal suburbs. Their populations are mostly White, but there are some Black and Asian people there.

I raised the issue of the large numbers of people voting for the Kippers in Hengrove, when Mike and I met the local Labour candidates for my part of Bristol. I was worried, as this has never been an area, which showed much support for the NF or other goons from the Fascist right. She said that from her experience of talking to people on doorsteps, the driving motivation for them voting for the kippers was job insecurity.

Presumably, the people there have, or had, bought into all that nonsense UKIP had spouted about not being like ‘LibLabCon’, and having some alternative economic views. This has led a lot of their prospective supporters to imagine that they were somehow a centrist party. I’ve even reblogged material from the Angry Yorkshireman, that showed that most of their members were almost as left-wing as Labour regarding nationalisation and state intervention.

Except that the party isn’t. It’s been described as ‘the Tories on steroids’. They are even more committed to deregulation and privatisation, including the NHS, as the Tories. They are also very firmly in favour of destroying the remaining shreds of the welfare state and basic workers’ rights like sick pay, paid maternity leave and paid holidays.

As for international relations, while they object to immigration and the EU, they have no objection to international agreements like the TTIP, which would be used to lock in the privatisation of the NHS, and allow big business to sue national governments if they pass legislation harming their profits.

Like Veolia did a few years ago when they used a similar trade agreement to sue the Egyptian government, when it raised the minimum wage for its people.

The Kippers don’t represent the workers, and they don’t represent the small businesspeople, who would lose trade if we were taken out of European Union. Any trade we did then, would have to go through the tariff barriers intended to stop the EU being flooded with cheaper produce from elsewhere in the world. Which would then also mean us.

No, the Kippers stand solely for big business, as well as racial bigotry, Islamophobia, anti-feminism and a bitter hatred of gays. And the people of Bristol are very well aware of it. I was talking to one of my uncles today about the election, and he described Farage as ‘that Britain for the Whites guy.’

Exactly. And Michael Frost’s comments bear out this image of racial hatred and intolerance. Bristol is a large, multicultural city, and hopefully the Kippers and their intolerance will not find much support on Thursday. Frost’s comments show you why they, and not asylum seekers, should be kept out.

Great Dictator Bonehill Launches New Fascist Party with Mighty Members of Just Himself

April 12, 2015

The EDL News site, which is actually dedicated to criticising and attacking the EDL and the Far Right, today reports the launch of yet another addition to Britain’s Fascist legions. On Saturday, ‘Founder’ Bonehill formally announced the inauguration of ‘Liberty’ to bring about the downfall of modern democratic, multicultural, multiracial Britain in one of the parks in Yeovil.

Derek Fender, the article’s author, states

Comedy pound shop fascist, Joshua Bonehill launched his new political group in a park yesterday in front of two cops, two journalists and three antifascists.

Disappointed that no one actually turned up, he claimed in the local newspaper that he had secretly launched the group a hour earlier in a cafe and 50 people turned up with ten from Yeovil and one from Northern Ireland.

He goes on to state that it was probably the least successful launch of a Fascist party ever. This hasn’t stopped Bonehill, who has said that he’s going to hold another meeting, this time with someone other than himself in attendance.

Despite their propaganda, British Fascism is generally marked by extremely low membership. Anti-Fascist researchers estimated that the actual core membership of the NF/BNP was actually only 200. The party had a very high membership turnover, with most leaving after only two years. While there are very many people in Britain opposed to immigration, most aren’t interested in full-blown Fascism.

With the implosion of the BNP, the membership of the various Fascist groups has got lower, especially as many of the Nazis seem to have gone off and joined UKIP as the ostensibly democratic equivalent.

Even so, the membership of the some the extreme Right parties was trivially small well before then. Way back in the 1990s Private Eye reported the launch of another Far Right, anti-immigration party in Cheltenham. Its founders considered it a resounding success, held as it was in one of the members’ front room.

So there was little chance of them holding mass torchlight rallies and marching on the Town Hall. Or even organising a grand booze-up in a beer hall. There would, however, have been just enough of them to open a few tins of beer or sherry while watching videos of Hitler’s speeches.

The minuscule size of Bonehill’s party is small, even by Fascist standards. But it isn’t unknown. Way back in the 1930s Mosley was approached by a retired colonel in Lancashire, who offered to merge his mighty party and its legions with Mosley’s BUF, provided the Colonel was recognised as effectively joint leader. Mosley looked into it, and found that the grand membership of the Colonel’s sqaudristi consisted of just one: the colonel himself. And so the deal was off.

This should have served as an object lesson in how not to run a Fascist movement, but it’s been lost on the sawdust Caesars running British Fascism, who become more and more like P.G. Wodehouse’s Spode every day. In addition to Bonehill trying to convince the world that his new movement consists of anyone other than himself, there’s Raikes and the New British Union. Raikes is desperately trying to revive the spirit of Mosley’s National Union of Fascists, complete with uniforms and draped flags. According to Hope Not Hate, he was also active writing letters to the leaders of the other Fascist grouplets trying to get them to merge their parties with his and place themselves under his inspired leadership.

The response, as they say, has been disappointing.

As for the name Bonehill has chosen for his new party, this seems to have been copied from Paul Weston’s Liberty GB. This was formed as the political wing of the EDL, and like them has been suffering from catastrophically dwindling membership. The name’s also similar to the Libertas, anti-EU Irish party, perhaps Bonehill’s hoping that there’s still a few of their supporters around, who’ll get confused and vote for him instead.

The article on Bonehill and his farcical attempt to restart his career as Fuehrer is at: http://edlnews.co.uk/2015/04/12/joshua-bonehill-launches-new-political-group-in-a-park-in-front-of-two-cops-two-journalists-and-three-antifascists/ Go and there and be entertained by the latest antics of one of Britain’s most determined enemies of liberal democracy. That is, as far as the court orders will allow him.

The park, on the other hand, looked really nice. It’s just a pity that it had Bonehill in it doing more Fascist posturing.

Gary Lineker Tweets his View on Nigel Farage

April 3, 2015

This was also posted up on the SlatUKIP page. Gary Lineker tweeted it during the leader debate last night. Lineker was apparently the ‘Mr Clean’ of the Beautiful Game, who never fouled anyone during his long career. And despite the reputation of some of the fans for moronic racism and violence, the modern game is very multicultural and multinational. Also, I think Lineker at one time was playing for a Japanese club. So someone with his international background and reputation for fairness probably isn’t going to be impressed by Farage’s knee-jerk xenophobia.

Lineker on Farage

Hope Not Hate’s Day of Action against UKIP 21st-22nd March

March 10, 2015

The anti-racism and religious extremism group, Hope Not Hate, is planning a day of action to oppose UKIP later this month. The group remarked on the way Farage attempted to capitalise on the horror of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris last month. He blamed multiculturalism and immigration for the attacks, and stated that there was now a ‘fifth column’ within Britain that hated mainstream British society. He also claimed that most French cities had no-go areas for non-Muslims.

He repeated the same comments at the end of last month when he addressed the CPAC Republican conference in America.
Hope Not Hate’s Nick Lowles wrote:

“Farage’s incendiary language is dangerous and will only whip up fear, suspicion and hatred. He is clearly moving to the right, so we need to redouble our efforts to stop him and his party.

“Hope not hate is calling a national weekend of action for 21/22 March.

“With just 65 days to go until the General Election, we need to step up our campaign. UKIP boast that it will win several seats and, more worryingly, could hold the balance of power in a hung parliament. UKIP also poses a real threat in 410 council wards.

“If you are appalled by Farage whipping up hatred and are worried about UKIP holding the balance of power, then please sign up to get involved.”

More information can be found on their site at http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/page/s/get-involved-2015.

Hat tip to Mike over at Vox Political for also reporting this.

Explaining the Rise of UKIP

May 12, 2014

UKIP Book pic

Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support For The Radical Right in Britain, by Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin (Abingdon: Routledge 2014) traces the history and changing fortune of UKIP from its foundation in 1991 as the Ant-Federalist League to today, when the party appears to have overtaken the Lib Dems to take its place as one of Britain’s leading the parties. It’s part of a series of texts published by Routledge on the theme of ‘extremism and democracy’. Most of these books are devoted to the Fascist and racist Right, though it also includes a book on Left-wing terrorism, general political extremism, and studies of terrorism in America, from the KKK to al-Qaeda. A fair bit of the book is statistics taken from sociological and political surveys, dealing with political, social and economic attitudes and electoral performance. Most of these are straightforward, but not exactly easy or riveting reading. Much more interesting is the history of the party itself. It also includes sample quotations from UKIP supporters explaining their reasons for supporting the party, and rejection of the three others.

Leadership Challenges and the Referendum Party

It covers the various leadership struggles, including perma-tanned talk show host Robert Kilroy-Silk joining the party, only to leave after failing to take control. It also suffered in its early days from competition from James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party, a true single-issue party that solely existed to campaign for a referendum on Europe. With the advantage of Goldsmith’s considerable fortune behind it, UKIP was very much the poor relative, lagging behind the Referendum Party in both funding and publicity.

UKIP, the BNP and the Conservatives

It also looks at the way UKIP has changed its name and identity as it has tried to differentiate itself both from the BNP and, rather more gradually, the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative party. It’s founder, Dr Alan Sked, was a Liberal and historian at the London School of Economics. He became a Eurosceptic during the 1980s when running the European Studies course at the LSE. Sked stated that ‘I just kept meeting all these bureaucrats and other Euro-fanatical academics who came to give papers, politicians from different parts of Europe, and reading endless MA theses on the EU. I just came to the conclusion that the whole thing was mad.’ (p. 21). Sked was influenced by Thatcher’s ‘Bruges speech’, in which she attacked the dangers of Euro federalism, and joined the Bruges group. The authors describe this as ‘a right-wing think tank that received financial backing from Sir James Goldsmith’. Sked called the new group the Anti-Federalist League as he intended it to follow in the footsteps of Cobden and Bright’s anti-Corn Law league in the 19th century. Sked states ‘I thought it would be the equivalent of the anti-Corn Law League. Just as the anti-Corn Law League converted [Robert] Peel to free trade, the anti-Federalist league would convert the Tory Party to Euroscepticism and British independence.’

As an anti-EU, anti-immigrant, but ostensibly not a Fascist party, UKIP’s progress has been overshadowed by the BNP. After the League’s failure in the 1992 elections, it was re-launched with its present name. The ‘UK’ was chosen instead of ‘British’ in order to differentiate it from the British National Party, who had just captured council seats in London’s East End. Since then the party has suffered a series of controversies over the activities of racial extremists in its ranks, one of whom was a mole for the BNP. Sked himself left the party he founded because he believed it had been heavily infiltrated by the Nazi Far Right. In the 2009 European elections Farage himself admits he was under pressure from a faction in the party, including members of the National Executive Committee, led by the tennis player, Buster Mottram, and by some Conservative MEPs to do a deal with the BNP. UKIP had suffered badly from competition with the BNP. The deal would preserve the party from competition and defeat by the BNP by dividing the country between them. UKIP would have free reign in the south, while the BNP would concentrate on the north of England. In fact part of UKIP’s success since 2010 has come from their active competition for votes from the BNP. In Oldham Paul Nuttall targeted the members of the White working class, who were not racist, but voted for the BNP because no-one else was representing them. Farage said of this strategy:

We [said] on the doorstep: ‘If you’re a BNP voter cause you’re a skilled/ semi-skilled worker who thinks his job has been seriously impinged upon, his income’s gone down, his local community’s changed and he’s not happy with the make-up of the local primary school, whatever it may be. If you are a BNP voter for those reasons but you don’t support the BNP’s racist manifesto and you are effectively holding your nose at voting BNP, don’t vote for them, vote for us. We are a non-racist, non-sectarian alternative to the British National Party.’ It was the first time that we ever said to BNP voters: ‘Come and vote for us.’

It could be said of this approach that the BNP was approaching the White voters, whose attitude is ‘I’m not racist, but …’

Lord Pearson and Anti-Islam

Pearson of Rannoch, the party’s leader in 2010, was also known for his vitriolic views against Islam, which he sees as fundamentally incompatible with the British tradition of gender equality and democracy. He invited Geert Wilders to Britain to present his film, Fitna, to parliament. The book discusses these views, and the impact they had on the party.

UKIP’s Neoliberal and Anti-Socialist Domestic Policies

The party has also had to struggle to forge its own identity rather than act as an off-shoot of the Tories. Sked founded it to act as a pressure group on the Conservatives, and at various times the party’s election strategy has been strongly geared towards influencing them. Under Pearson, the party deliberately did not contest seats where there was a Eurosceptic Conservative candidate, and a full-fledged alliance with the Tories was mooted. The book’s authors consider that it was finally in their election manifesto of 2010, where the party outlined their domestic policies, that UKIP became a radical right party in its own right. The authors write

For the first time they went into a general election with relatively detailed proposals on domestic and foreign policy and a costed economic programme, all of which were organised around four central principles: personal freedom; democracy at the national and local level; small government; and tax reduction. UKIP were pushing ahead with a clear attempt to rally a coalition of socially conservative and financially insecure working-class voters, offering them tough opposition to the EU and immigration, but threatening also a range of measures designed to appeal to their economic needs and right-wing ideological preferences: a flat-tax to help the lowest paid workers, investment in the manufacturing sector, new jobs for manual workers, more police on the streets, stronger prison sentences for criminals, grammar schools, an end to political correctness, Swiss-style referenda, a more proportional election system and the restoration of British values. UKIP were no longer the single-issue, anti-EU pressure group: they had become a fully-fledged radical right party. (pp. 84-5).

Although these policies were designed to appeal to a working class electorate, UKIP is a party of the Libertarian Right. This emerged in the years from 2005-10 under the leadership of their chairman, David Campbell-Bannerman. The book states that he was

tasked with leading a policy review, designed to rebrand UKIP as campaigning for independence from the established political class, whether in Brussels or Westminster. Activists talked of presenting the disgruntled electorate with a ‘radical libertarian alternative’ to the ‘social democratic consensus’. (p. 71).

UKIP are populist Neoliberals, like the rest of the contemporary political parties. They are not moderates, and as the rejection of the ‘social democratic consensus’ indicates, are anti-socialist. It was also in this period that UKIP’s electoral base shifted. UKIP began receiving increased support in areas with a higher proportion of working class voters than average, with poor education and health. They lost support in in areas with larger than average proportion of middle class professionals and university graduates.

Blue-Collar Support for Radical Right and Growing Middle Class Influence in Left-Wing Parties in Europe

In fact the changes in the composition of UKIP’s supporters and constituency mirrors that of the other radical right parties across Europe, from Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France to Jorg Haider’s Freedom Party in Austria, the Northern League in Italy, and the People’s Party in Denmark. These expanded into the working class voters, who were left behind as the manufacturing sector of the European economy shrank, and the Social Democratic parties that were originally founded to defend them shifted instead to appealing to the middle class. These were far more liberal and cosmopolitan in outlook than their fellows in the lower classes. The book describes this situation thus

As the financially more secure and socially more liberal middle classes in Europe continued to grow, so their influence on electoral competition and centre-left politics became ever stronger. These new groups brought a distinct set of values and priorities to the left-wing parties they joined. Their ‘post-material’ agenda prioritised issues like the environment, civil liberties, global social justice and human rights, prompting centre-left parties to overhaul their strategy to win them over. Socialist economic ideas of a planned economy and strong state intervention were downplayed, and replaced by an acceptance of a strong role for free markets and a globally integrated economy. Redistribution and workers’ rights were also given less emphasis, with a greater focus on improving public services, a cause which united both ‘new’ and ‘old’ left, and on efforts to boost opportunities rather than equalise access to resources. Across Europe, the centre-left also shifted more firmly in favour of European integration. Whereas previously some social democrats had been openly hostile towards the Europe project, viewing it as a capitalist club that opposed socialism, from the 1980s they became more supportive, viewing the EU instead as a valuable mechanism through which they could tame capitalism and entrench social democratic principles at the supranational level.

But as Przeworski predicted, these changes came with a cost: the new middle-class agenda marginalised the left’s traditional voters. Their old working-class electorates became dissatisfied with a political system where their traditional voice appeared to have been lost and showed a growing willingness to back more radical parties that articulate their sense of abandonment from the mainstream and responded to their concerns about issues that aroused little interest among new left elites: immigration; national identity; the perceived threat from the EU; and rapid social change more generally.

Alienation of Working Class British Voters from Labour Party

In Britain many White working class voters became increasingly alienated from Labour because of its attempts to retain the loyalty of the ethnic minorities. These had become a significant part of the electorate by the turn of the millennium, and their support for Labour was no longer guaranteed. Many Muslims, for example, had expressed their opposition to the invasion of Iraq by joining the Lib Dems or Respect. Labour attempted to win their support through a liberalisation of the immigration system, tougher legislation against racial discrimination and the promotion of more Black and Asian candidates for parliament. The result of this was that many of the disadvantaged White voters felt that Labour cared more about immigrants than them. Furthermore, the party’s promotion of laissez-faire economic liberalisation also alienated many of the same voters, who now believed that the party was only concerned for the rich. Previously the voters alienated by Labour’s anti-racism would have voted Conservative, but they were also alienated from Cameron’s party by his adoption of the same attitudes to race and multiculturalism as Blair. The result has been that these voters turned to UKIP.

UKIP and the Contrasting Fortunes of the SDP

The book notes that UKIP’s apparent breakthrough into mainstream electoral politics is very recent. Even in the middle of the last decade the party was gaining only 1-2 per cent of the vote on average. For most of the party’s history, very few of their candidates ever even gained enough votes to retain their deposit. They also compare the party’s rise with that of the SDP. When this split from the Labour party, it had a fair size of the vote and was expected to break the mould of the two-party system. Instead it eventually collapsed and was merged with the Liberals. The authors see its failure, compared with the apparent success of UKIP, as due to the origins of the SDP in a split at the top of politics, rather than arising from the electorate itself.

UKIP and Future Labour Electoral Strategy

The book also has a section considering what UKIP’s success means for the other parties, including Labour. They say about this

The dilemma Labour face is between short-term and long-term strategy. In the short term, the strong temptation for Labour will be to sit back and let UKIP divide the Conservative vote at the next general election, thereby lowering the bar for their own victory and a return to power. Some Labour commentators have taken pleasure in the irony of an electoral split undoing the right in the same way as the left has been undone many times in the past. Yet such as ‘laisser faire’ approach to UKIP comes with serious longer-term risks. As we saw in chapters 3 and 4, the UKIP vote comes primarily from ‘left behind’ social groups who were once solidly Labour. UKIP have driven a wedge between the struggling, blue-collar ‘Old Left’, who once supported Labour on economic grounds, and the educated, white-collar ‘new Left’ who often back them on the basis of social values. If they allow UKIP to become established as part of the mainstream political conversation, either with MPs at Westminster or a strong presence in labour heartlands, the centre-left risks making that divide permanent. It will be much harder for Ed Miliband and his party to win back working-class voters with Ukippers running continuous and high profile campaigns on Europe, immigration and traditional British values. Labour also need to remember that UKIP’s rise has been driven as much by populist hostility to the political establishment as by ideology or policy. This does not hurt them much at present, as they are in opposition and therefore not the main focus of anti-system feeling. If they were to win the next elect, they would find UKIP’s populist barbs directed at them. A failure to combat UKIP before 2015 will result in a stronger populist opponent to future Labour governments.

UKIP: Neoliberal Party Exploiting Working Class Support

The book describes UKIP as a paradox. This is absolutely correct. They are a working class party, whose leadership has adopted all the Neoliberal policies of the Conservative Right. Despite their demands for more democracy, they are very strongly anti-working class. if you want examples, go over and look at the Angry Yorkshireman’s discussion of their domestic policies over at Another Angry Voice. And their deputy leader, Paul Nuttall, has stated that he wishes to privatise the NHS. The right-wing, Eurosceptic, anti-NHS Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan has also suggested that the Tories should form an alliance with UKIP. If UKIP did gain power, either by itself or in coalition with the Tories, it would be the working class that would suffer immensely. UKIP have raised and brought to prominence a number of pressing and vital issues – like the continuing role of race and ethnicity in politics, the need to protect an increasingly alienated working class, but they themselves are no solution to these problems.