Posts Tagged ‘Multiculturalism’

A Black American Intellectual’s Attack on Official Attitudes on Race

June 19, 2022

Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Race (New York: Basic Books 2013)

Thomas Sowell is himself a Black American intellectual. A former Marxist, he wrote an excellent book on Marxism which I’ve used on this blog, before crossing the floor to become a conservative. According to the blurb on the back flap, he is the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow for Public Policy at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. That’s the same Milton Friedman, I presume, who backed General Pinochet’s Fascist regime in Chile because only a Fascist regime could introduce the free market reforms and abolition of the welfare state Friedman wanted against the wishes of the workers. The same Milton Friedman whose monetarism was considered so daft by economics lecturers in the 1970s that they simply didn’t bother discussing or refuting them. The same Friedman who caused consternation in Tory ranks in the late 1980s when he announced that his policies were a failure.

Race and IQ in the views of the Progressives

The book is a survey of official attitudes to race, intelligence and social, economic and intellectual achievement from the Progressive era around the close of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th up to the late 20th century and today. These two periods had markedly different attitudes towards race, and especially its supposed links to intelligence. During the Progressive era, senior academics, intellectuals, politicians and policy makers followed the social Darwinist dogmas of their day and believed that race defined intelligence. They believe in a racial hierarchy of peoples, with Nordic Whites at the top, southern Europeans below them, Black Africans below them and right at the bottom aboriginal Australians. This led to brutal, callous and genocidal attitudes towards race. Francis Galton, Darwin’s cousin, declared that ‘we should not be sentimental about the gradual extinction of inferior races’. They were particularly worried about the decline in superior Nordic immigrants from Europe and mass immigration from the supposedly inferior peoples from southern Europe. Hence they were keen to impose legislation limiting the arrival of the latter. They were also afraid that intellectual inferior Whites from the lower orders would also outbreed their more intelligent social superiors, and so imposed legislation providing for their sterilisation and isolation. These men weren’t cranks. They included leading academics from America’s best universities, and politicians like American presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Most of the examples Sowell gives were on the political left. They believed in conservation, state intervention, publicly owned utilities and strong trade unions. He does, however, mention that over here in Britain eugenics’ supporters included Ernest Beveridge, H.G. Wells and Conservatives like Winston Churchill.

The American authorities thus initiated a programme of IQ testing, the results of which do appear to show that they were right about the average IQ of certain racial groups at the time. But many of the groups whose IQ scores were low have gone on to achieve considerable social and economic success. Blacks had an average IQ of 85, but other immigrant groups like Greeks, various Slavic peoples also had IQs in the low 80s, while Spanish immigrants had an average IQ, on these tests, of 77. These low-scoring peoples also included eastern European Jews, which is astonishing given the massive uplift of the Jewish community and their prominence in academia. As for the Chinese, who believers in the Bell Curve consider are superior to Whites in intelligence, they were found to have an IQ of 98. Interestingly, Blacks from the northern US scored higher on IQ tests than southern Whites. This racist ideology had a direct effect on Black employability. Under Wilson, various state departments, such as the post office, began to sack their Black workers. But not all of those who believed in the link between race and IQ were monsters. One psychologist stated that he took 3 sessions with a child before administering the test. He believed the children he saw were more intelligent than the tests showed. he therefore spent time getting them used to him. In the first three sessions he let them play, drawing on the blackboard, making things with clay. It was at the fourth session he administered the test. Using this technique, the children’s test scores went up by 8 points. This psychiatrist still believed that this was a small amount, but it is roughly half of the 15 per cent average difference between Black and White IQs. The link between IQ and race was later discredited when another psychiatrist issued damning criticisms against it, one of which was that the tests were not often not administered in a language the subjects, often immigrants, understood. The same psychiatrist also did not believe that Blacks were incapable of being educated, but thought that they could achieve much more given better teaching methods.

General Rise in IQ

He also notes that IQs generally are rising, and that no-one really knows the true range of the Black IQ, or even that of the human race as a whole. The reason why average IQs have always remained at 100 is that they’ve been periodically renormed to keep 100 as the average level. If they weren’t, and psychiatrists continued using the same standards, then the average Black IQ would 104. As for the range of Black intelligence, he cites the example of a nine year old girl, who by one set of tests had an IQ of 140, and 200 by another set. Unfortunately, his scepticism towards racial differences in IQ does not extend to the Bell Curve, whose authors and work he defends. He notes that they state in the book that there isn’t enough evidence to decide one way or another if IQ is affected by race.

But IQ alone does not explain why some groups outperform others, even when their intelligence is exactly the same. For example, Chinese with an IQ of 100 perform at the same level in jobs, education and so on, as Whites with IQs of 120 or so.

Culture and Historic Environment as the Determining Factors in Ethnic Skills and Performance

Sowell believes that the performance of ethnic groups depends on the environment in which these groups historically lived and their traditional culture. These create skills which have allowed minority groups the world over to achieve prominence in business and academia, such as the Germans in Latvia and Bohemia, the Jews in eastern Europe, and the Chinese in Indonesia and Malaysia. These groups have often prospered despite immense persecution, like the Jews. For example, Italian immigrants to the US and Australia were dirt poor. But they always repaid their debts, hence a separate bank was set up in California, the Bank of Italy, was set up to cater to them. This bank eventually became the Bank of Italy. At the same time there was a marked disparity between the achievements of Jewish and Italian kids at school. The two groups lived in the same areas and attended the same schools. But Jews did much better than Italians. Why? Sowell puts this down to different cultural attitudes towards education. Even the poorest Jews had a respect for learning, while there was a hostility to it in the Italian south, from which many of the latter migrants came. When there Italian government introduced compulsory schooling, there were riots, and attacks on teachers and schools. He takes issue with some of these groups now being described as ‘privileged’. A survey of different races in Toronto declared that the Japanese were the most privileged people in the city. But the Japanese owe their success to their own efforts, not privilege. They were also subjected to restrictive legislation and were interned during the Second World War for far longer in Canada than in the US. He is also highly sceptical that racism accounts for the poor performance of American Blacks. While they’re often the last to be hired, and the first to be fired, the next in line for sacking are Whites. Asians are the last to go, and perform better generally than Whites, even in White owned companies. But this is not mentioned in discussions about race, as it would cast doubt about the poor performance of Blacks being solely due to White racial prejudice.

White Racism as the Cause for Black Marginalisation

And it’s White racial prejudice which is the dominant explanation for Blacks lagging behind Whites and the rest of society today. This began with Gunnar Murdal’s 1944 book, An American Dilemma, which claimed that this was due to ‘confused and contradictory’ attitudes among Whites. But Sowell considers this an insufficient explanation, as American Blacks made their greatest progress, both professionally, economically and educationally, during the period before the Civil Rights Act, when racism and overt discrimination was far more acute. He also describes how White racial attitudes changed over time. For example, from 1840 to 1890 some areas were remarkably racially tolerant. In these cities, Whites and Blacks lived in the same areas. As time went on, Blacks not only exercised their right to vote, but also were elected themselves in areas where the majority of voters were White. There were no zoning regulations and the communities weren’t segregated. Sowell believes this was because the Black communities that had moved north in this period had become acculturated and had the same values and standards of behaviour as their White neighbours. This changed with mass Black migration from the south. Sowell draws on observers to the south, like Alexis de Toqueville, Frederick Olmsted and others, to argue that there is a common southern culture, shared by Blacks and Whites, and ultimately coming from the British immigrants that settled those areas. This culture rejects education in favour of aggressive masculinity., The new Black migrants had none of cultural values of the previous Black arrivals,. Crime rates shot up, dismaying the traditional Black citizens as well as Whites. As a result, these communities introduced zoning laws segregating the two colours.

As time went on, the Progressives called themselves liberals, and the explanation for Black underachievement and poverty changed from intelligence to White racism. The solution for these ills, as proposed by the intellectuals, is multiculturalism. Blacks are to be given greater access to academic places through preferential treatment that allows them to get into universities with lower grades than White applicants. At the same time, the features of Black culture that are holding the Black community back are either excused or simply denied as well as the racist attacks by Black gangs on Whites and Asians. Multiculturalism, according to Sowell, is not only not working, it is actually positively harmful.

Affirmative Action Holding Blacks Back Educationally

The book argues that, contrary to the claims made by some educationalists, there doesn’t need to be a ‘critical mass’ of Blacks in a class to get the bright Black students to do better. What works instead is when bright blacks are put in with Whites at the same intellectual level. As for university admissions, much harm is being done through mismatching Black applicants with the wrong colleges. Elite American universities are giving places to Black students, who without such preferential placements would have gone instead to second tier universities. These students find it difficult to keep up, and drop out. The second tier universities, denied a pool of applicants from these aspiring Blacks, offer places instead to Blacks, who would have gone to third tier institutions. And these two drop out, all the way down the line. This is a controversial assertion, and has been argued against, though the professors doing so have not made their research available to scrutiny by others. The book instead to the academic results achieved by the University of California when they dropped giving such preferential placements. There were drops in admissions at the some campuses, but of the Blacks who attended, more passed with better grades. He also argues from the example of Amhurst College that teaching Black history and insisting on Black culture also isn’t necessary for Blacks to get ahead. Amhurst was a Black only college that sent a small but significant number of students on to Stanford. Alumni from the college have said that they were taught Black history as it affect America, like slavery and abolition. But beyond that, it wasn’t taught and there was no interest in it. They said they knew about as much about Africa as they knew about Finland.

He also criticises such academic preferential programmes on the grounds that they don’t work for the poor who really need them. Instead the places offered go to members of the upper classes of the groups targeted. In America, that means the children of lawyers and businessmen. And it’s the same with the Indian version of affirmative action.

The Decline of Black Communities Following the ‘White Racism’ Explanation

Sowell also gets angry about how multiculturalism has led to the decline of life in Black communities. Anything done by Whites for Blacks is immediately suspected of being for some sinister, racist purpose. When a subsidized housing project was built in Harlem in the 1960s, writer James Baldwin declared that it showed how much Whites hated Blacks. That was why people were urinating in the lifts, smashing anything they could, and fornicating in the playground. Sowell argues that there was never a time when this would have been acceptable, and it didn’t occur before the ’60s and White racism became the explanation for everything. He cites the memoirs of other former residents of Harlem, who say that when they lived there, none of this vandalism and loutish behaviour occurred. He cites Theodore Dalrymple, one of the columnists in the Spectator, who declared that the same destructiveness is found among lower class Whites in Britain. They can’t blame racism, so it must come from a common attitude of resentment fostered by the post-60s intelligentsia.

He also argues that most Blacks were against the race riots of the 60s, citing polling data. One of the polls showed that 58 per cent of Blacks thought the riots were harmful for them. But the rioting was excused by the media, which claimed that the anger that fuelled it was quite rightly felt by all Blacks. Sowell is concerned and angry at the way Black culture is being dragged down to the lowest common denominator of rioters, criminals and vandals. He suggests that Black underperformance in schools comes from a resentment of intelligent, academically able Blacks by other students, who will attempt to stop them from achieving. And the same attitude, according to Dalrymple, exists among White Brits. From my own experiences at school forty years ago, I think Sowell has a point. There is a resentment among some Blacks and some Whites, not all, against anybody, who seems to be doing better than them, and they will bully them. For Sowell, this clearly harms the Black community when middle class Blacks feel compelled to emulate the poor behaviour of their less-achieving classmates.

Multiculturalism Preventing Blacks from Acquiring Social Skills Leading to Achievement

This attitude prevents Black Americans from acquiring the same civic qualities and skills that other groups have in their progress upward through society. For example, German Jews were highly acculturated, compared to more recent immigrants from eastern Europe. They took it upon themselves to educate and uplift them. As a result, eastern European Jews from Romania and elsewhere were told to learn English, speak without vulgarity ‘and learn the uses of soap’. Two Black newspapers in one of America’s northern cities advised Black arrivals not to dump their rubbish in the yard or the passage by their houses, watch their language, and not to talk too loudly on the tramcars. In other words, to act couth. Sowell doesn’t mention it, but similar attitudes were impressed on the British working class during the 19th and early 20th century as part of the culture of working class respectability.

Again, there’s a similar example from Britain. In the 1980s or 1990s, according to the Independent, the head of education in one of the northern towns had lost her job following accusations of racism by the Pakistani community. She’d been concerned at the way they took their children out of schools to send to Pakistan for three months at a time. This was damaging their educations. But the Pakistani community denounced her as racist, and had her sacked. It was over a decade before the council realised she was right and had the courage to reverse the policy.

Multiculturalism Creating Anti-White Racism and Violence

And then there’s the racial animosity produced by multiculturalism and its attitude that all Black America’s problems are due to White racism. This has led to racist mob attacks by Blacks against Whites and Asians, but they aren’t reported. In one, where a gang of Blacks attacked a White girl and 10 others, the cops when they arrived weren’t interested in taking down their statements or particulars, but told them simply to go home. As for a girl left bleeding from a punch, they laughed at her and joked ‘White girl bleed a lot’, which became the title of a book arguing that there was more violence by Blacks against Whites than the reverse. When these attacks occur, the race of the attackers is never identified. They are just unspecified ‘youths’. And if the details are given, then racism as a motive is both denied and justified. After a White woman was gangraped in Central Park by Blacks, a New York Times hack declared that racism wasn’t a cause, but it was part of their motivation as resentment against their treatment by White society. At the same time, a White academic has redefined racism so that it depends on power and privilege, as a way of denying Blacks can be racist.

Something very much like this has happened in Britain. Back at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of this one, Whites were briefly the ethnic group suffering most racist assaults. And it was noted that the number of racist murders of Whites was nearly at the same level as the White racist murder of Blacks. And then there were the Asian grooming gangs, were allowed to get away with their predations for 20 years because the police and authorities were afraid of being accused of racism. And there have been the same accusations of the media cover-up of racist assaults and murders of Whites.

Another White academic felt that it was only right that young Whites should be denied places under academic preference schemes, considering how he had benefited from White privilege. Sowell states that he was therefore punishing someone younger, who had nothing to do with it, for something he himself had done. He makes the point that these decision are not about abstract people, but affect real individuals.

Slavery

He also discusses slavery, which is now held to be simply a case of Whites enslaving Blacks. But it has existed all over the world, from the days of the Roman Empire onwards. Before the arrival of Europeans, Africans enslaved other Africans, and there were more slaves in India than in the whole of the USA, and slavery was also extensive in China and southeast Asia. White Europeans were also enslaved by the Barbary pirates. Before the technology existed to transport slaves en masse, most civilisations enslaved people of their own race. As for racist lynchings, fewer Blacks were lynched in American history than Armenians were killed by Turks, or Ibo tribesmen by Nigerians in one year.

The Racism Industry and Its Assault on Business

He is also critical of what he terms the race industry and particularly the American equivalent of the Equal Opportunities Commission/ Equalities and Human Rights Commission. This prosecutes companies for not employing the correct number of ethnic employees according to demographic statistics, leading to long, expensive cases costing millions of dollars which drag out over the years from court to court. And this is despite no individual actually claiming they were subjected to racism by that corporation. Few companies can afford this process, and so they settle out of court. While this technically means that no offence has been made, it is taken by the department as an admission of guilt and a victory for them.

And what also infuriates Sowell is that none of the intellectuals, who ever pushed these policies, whether it is the racism and genetic determinism of the Progressive era or contemporary multiculturalism, ever has to take the consequences of their views. But academics, news people, politicians and educators will pay the price if they speak out against these orthodoxies. But intellectuals, meanwhile, promote these views with impunity, seeing themselves as the anointed on the side of the angels.

Sowell’s Right-Wing Bias

The book has a clear conservative bias. It’s no accident that Sowell marks out the Progressives as the promoters of social Darwinism, despite the same views being held by the right. Big businessmen during the Silver Age of the 19th century used social Darwinist arguments to oppose welfare and safety at work legislation. It was no use passing these laws, they argued, because the poor would never really benefit and would instead become a burden on society while outbreeding their brighter, more successful social superiors. But American conservatives are now using past racism to discredit anything left-wing. Previous generations of left-wingers were supposedly racist, so you shouldn’t back their policies today. It’s pure guilt by association. He likewise blames the expansion of the welfare state for the decline of the Black family, and argues that Black employment fell as a result of minimum wage laws passed in the 1930s. The motive of some of those arguing for them was that they were needed to prevent Chinese workers undercutting Whites. But this did happen, and resulted in race riots against the Chinese in 1909 in Britain. Then a number of companies sacked their White workers and replaced them with Chinese, causing the riots and racist attacks on Chinese people. After this, the firms sacked the Chinese workers and rehired the Whites. As for minimum wage laws today, these are desperately needed whether the workers are White, Black, Brown, Yellow or whatever. Without them the mass poverty we’re already seeing thanks to neoliberalism and the war in Ukraine will become particularly acute.

Decline of Marriage Not Due to Welfare State

I also disagree with his statement that the decline of marriage and the two-parent family among Black Americans is due to the welfare state or its expansion. I’m sure he’s right that this occurred in America about the same time as LBJ passed the welfare legislation of the late 60s, but as Sowell himself says, correlation is not causation. In Britain the marriage rate declined as a result of the sexual revolution of the 60s, but only really got going in the 1970s,, several decades after the introduction of the welfare state by Clement Attlee’s Labour government in 1948. The decline of marriage as an institution might have been aided by the socially liberal legislation passed by Roy Jenkins in the 1960s, which made divorce much easier, but I think it has far more to do with a changing attitude towards sexual morality than greater welfare provision. At least over here in Britain.

Racial Tensions Increasing

But I do think he has a point about multiculturalism and the way it is leading to greater racial tensions. At one point in the book he states that in the 30s, 40s and 50s Whites would go into Harlem for entertainment and parties. This rings true, if only because this was the heyday of some of the great Jazz musicians and their orchestras – Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Howlin’ Wolf, Duke Ellington. Yeah, I know, some of these were really in New Orleans, while Howling Wolf was in Chicago. At the end of a good evening’s fun, people were even able to sleep in Central Park unmolested. I believe that as well, as I’ve read interviews with various writers – I think one of them was veteran journalist of UFOs and the weird John Keel – who have done so.

And I do believe that attributing all of Black America’s problems to racism is making the situation worse. Note here that Sowell doesn’t deny racism existed or exists now. He just doesn’t believe that it’s the ultimate cause of Black America’s dire situation, not when other groups have suffered the same persecution, started out with the same low IQ scores, but have managed to rise and prosper like Jews, Asians and the Chinese. And here the book becomes a warning. Throughout history the resentment of the success of one ethnic group by the others, from the Czechs’ resentment of the Sudetenland Germans, to the Chinese in southeast Asia and Malaya, the Indians and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, and the Jews in eastern Europe, has resulted in terrible official persecution and ethnic cleansing. Here he could have added the White farmers in Zimbabwe, attacked, beaten and murdered by Robert Mugabe’s thugs. These tensions have been exacerbated by versions of affirmative action. This suggestion also contains another veiled criticism of socialism, as the resentments he criticise also apply to those at the bottom of society against those at the top, and he is very much against redistributive economics. But redistributive economics through a strong welfare state in Britain has meant that there hasn’t been the level of grinding poverty that there is in the US, where the living standards of some parts are worse than some developing countries. This may be one of the reasons why the crime rate here in Britain and Europe has traditionally been lower than the US. People traditionally haven’t been as desperate. Quite apart from the fact that if social tensions in America and Britain have got worse, it’s because of an increasing gap between the rich and everyone else, so that ordinary Americans and Brits don’t feel that the system is rewarding them as it should for their hard work.

Critical Race Theory as an Explanation for the Failure of Affirmative Action Programmes

Sowell states that these affirmative actions programmes were, in many cases, only supposed to be temporary. But they have always been renewed. We’ve had positive discrimination in Britain for forty years now, ever since riots of 1981/2. These were also supposed to be only temporary. I think the intention was that after Blacks gained proper demographic representation proportional to the White majority, the situation would become self-sustaining. The programmes could be discontinued because Blacks would no longer need such official help. But this hasn’t happened. Blacks still lag behind, and have been particularly hard hit by austerity and the banking crisis.

I think this is one reason why the radical left is pushing Critical Race Theory and White privilege, even though some of this is obvious nonsense. CRT holds that the level of racism is the same today as 100 years ago. It’s just better hidden. But I doubt that very, very much. At the same time, all Whites are racist and benefit from the privilege of having White skin. But this is also not true, as shown by the White vagrants you can see on the streets and the very fact that many of the BLM protesters were White. There is institutional racism, but I don’t think it can be held to be the source of all the Black community’s problems. And I do fear that the belief that White racism is responsible for Black poverty and marginalisation is just increasing racial tensions. CRT and White privilege seem to me to be a desperate attempt to explain why previous anti-racism policies haven’t worked, and making even more dubious claims. Sowell states that the supporters of multiculturalism never give any supporting evidence for their views, and are never asked for any. It’s just assumed they’re right. The Black Tory MP, Kemi Badenoch, has today been reported as stating that the concentration on race is resulting in greater segregation. She may well have a point.

Perhaps now’s the time that multiculturalism and its accusations of racism as the cause of Black poverty and marginalisation should be questioned.

Macron to Regulate French Islam in Campaign against Islamism

February 15, 2022

The ex-Muslim atheist Harris Sultan discussed the plans of French president Emmanuel Macron to tackle radical Islamic preaching in the country’s mosques in video with his co-host Nuriyeh Khan on their channel a few days ago. France, like Britain, has suffered a series of Islamist terror attacks, one of the worst being the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Macron has therefore decided to start clamping down on preaching in the mosques. He intends to set up a board that will monitor and censor the imams’ sermons. At the same time the importation of imams from abroad will be restricted and an emphasis placed instead on creating and promoting home-grown Muslim clergy. Sultan approves of these measures. He states that they were doubtless going to be greeted with shouts of ‘islamophobia’, but thinks that’s just BS. He also approved of the fact that Macron wasn’t trying to outlaw the wearing of the hijab. This became a major cause of Muslim outrage in France a few years ago when the government tried to ban it in schools because it was against the French state’s official policy of laicism, secularism. Out of a Muslim population of five million, only a few thousand women wear the headscarf and any ban on it would have the danger of pushing Muslims into the hands of the Islamists, not away from them. As for the proposed board, Harris states that French Muslims can’t really complain as such a board exists in Saudi Arabia, where every sermon has to be passed by the state censors. In his own country of origin, Pakistan, no such board exists and as a result the country has become increasingly radicalised.

Sultan is particularly appalled at religious intolerance and violence, not just in Islam, but also in Hinduism and other religions. He’s posted very many videos about blasphemy cases and lynching in Pakistan. The laws against blasphemy were first enacted by the British as a way of preventing inter-religious violence as they applied to all religions. However, General Zia imposed the death penalty for it and made them really apply only to Islam during his dictatorship in the 1970s. As a result there are 200 or so people on death row because of the law. It’s used against Christians, Hindus and other religious minorities, but also against other Muslims of different sects. Sometimes the accusation is levelled as a cynical means of getting rid of the opposition in a dispute over property. People have also been murdered and mass lynchings carried out of others, who’ve been accused of blasphemy. Hence Sultan’s desire to see the bitterly intolerant, fanatical preaching that fuels such hatred and violence curtailed.

I’ve also seen the other two proposals put forward nearly a quarter of a century ago in the ’90s by a liberal British imam in the pages of the Financial Times. He was felt it was also necessary to restrict the importation of foreign imams. At the time, and it may well still be the case now, there was a shortage of imams for British mosques. As a result foreign imams from countries like Pakistan were given greater preference when immigrating to Britain. And many of them shared the vicious intolerance present in their home countries. He wanted to see the education and promotion of imams from the already settled Muslim community, who shared the British values of pluralism, multiculturalism and tolerance.

I have mixed feelings about the idea of a board of censorship. It looks like another infringement of the right to free speech, one of the very cornerstones of western liberal democracy. But unfortunately I can also see that it may well be necessary, not just in France but also over here. Way back in 2007 Channel 4 caused a storm of controversy with an edition of its Despatches documentary, ‘Undercover Mosque’. The producers had secretly sent in their journalists to film the preaching in a hundred or so British mosques. In doing so they recorded the imams preaching violent hatred against Christians, Jews and gays. However, instead of outrage at the intolerance of the preachers, there was a storm of protest against the programme itself. It was accused of being islamophobic and one police force considered and finally decided against prosecuting the producers. I am very, very much aware that not all Muslims by any means hold these views, and it may be the case that rather than be influenced by them, their congregations listen politely before going back to work and forgetting all about it. But I do believe that such violently intolerant preaching is far more common than is realised. And while there’s a tendency to think that such a measure is only needed in France, I can also see it being demanded over here.

However the creation of a board to censor sermons may not work. In Egypt, Islamism has emerged in opposition to official, state-regulated Islam. Official Egyptian Islam has been more or less liberal since the early 19th century., when the Muslim clergy realised how far behind the west their country was in science and learning. They thus went on trips to Europe to research European advances in order to introduce them and their benefits back home. I have a feeling that the Egyptian state also closely monitors what is taught in the mosques. But the radical groups demanding the return of sharia law and the creation of a Muslim state, and which have carried out terrorist attacks on foreigners, has emerged outside and in opposition to mainstream Egyptian Islam. There’s a danger that this could also occur in France, and that the fanatics and terrorists will set up their own, underground, parallel set of mosques.

There’s also the problem that many of the terrorists are self-radicalised. They often don’t go to the local mosque, and the congregation there haven’t seen them in years. Instead of getting their weird, vile ideas from the local imam, they’ve got them instead from the net. Macron’s proposals aren’t going to help tackle this type of fanaticism, though the creation and expansion of a domestic French Muslim clergy may change the culture to such an extent that such lone wolf terrorists really are seen by everyone as total outsiders, whose views and actions violate a native French Islam.

The article from which Harris gets the report also states that Macron may well be putting these proposals forward in order to take votes away from the extreme right and boost his centrist party. He approves of this, stating that the centre and the left should be tackling this problem rather than the far right. And he’s correct. The far right uses such issues to create further hatred and division in order to legitimise the further persecution of ethnic minorities. You can see that with Tommy Robinson and his exploitation of the outrage over the Muslim grooming gangs. But unfortunately the left tends to be silent when it comes to anti-White racism. Some of this comes from a desire not to be accused of racism, some of it to avoid making a common cause with the right and people who really are racist, but also partly because they find anti-White racism literally unthinkable. This is shown in the attempts by Critical Race Theorists to redefine racism as abuse plus institutional power. This clearly criminalises White racism, but exempts it from marginalised Black and ethnic minority groups.

Macron’s proposals show that French politicians are taking an increasingly firm line over Islamic preaching, and it’s better that democrats like Macron do it than the country suffers a military coup. Which is what a group of ex- and serving army officers and men threatened a year or so ago.

Mad Right-Winger Alex Belfield Calls for the Revival of Working Men’s Clubs

August 3, 2021

Certain commenters on this blog have described Alex Belfield as my favourite right-winger. Well, he’s not quite that, but I do admit, I watch his videos, which may not be a good thing at all. Belfield is, I’m fairly sure, a working class Tory. He talks about how he comes from a pit estate and inveighs against the way the White working class has been neglected by liberals in the BBC and politics. Who, as he sees it, all read the Guardian, eat oysters like Naga Manchetti, for whom he seems to have a particular dislike, and are determined to push ‘box-tickers’ like gays, the ‘ambivilacious’, by which he means trans and non-binary people, and folks of colour over ordinary working people. His audience is very much the same type of people, who formed UKIP’s constituency: working class Whites in their fifties and over, who feel left behind by the mainstream parties.

There is a genuine issue here. Tony Blair and his successors abandoned the working class in the pursuit of middle class votes and Tory swing voters. At the same time, they retained and promoted minority rights and issues, loudly supporting multiculturalism, feminism and gay rights. The result was that a large section of the working class has become alienated from the Labour party, with many socially conservative older members attracted to right-wing organisations and individuals like the Kippers, Nigel Farage and Belfield. About a decade ago, the BBC put on a series of programmes about race and contemporary racial politics in the UK. One of those was a documentary asking if the White working class was being written out of contemporary politics. The trailer for this showed a man, in stereotypical working class clobber, having words written in black on his face until he gradually became invisible. I think it’s a fair question, and the Labour left is serious about tackling this alienation within an anti-racist framework by working hard for all members of the working class. That’s the best way of fighting Fascism and right-wing populism. But the voices, who are most vocal about defending the White working class are people like Belfield.

And these are people whose political and economic views are actively hostile to working class interests.

Belfield in many ways is a case in point. A few days ago he put up a video lamenting the state of the country. He was particularly concerned about the NHS and the massive waiting lists that have emerged due to Tory maladministration. The Health Service, he declared, was no longer fit for purpose, and would and should be scrapped. He wants it sold off to private administration. In fact, it’s the Tories’ piecemeal privatisation of the NHS that is responsible for waiting lists and poor service, and this will only get worse as they hand over more of it to their noxious backers in the private sector. And if the NHS is sold off completely, it will be transformed into a for-profit service, funded by private medical insurance like America’s. The result will be disastrous. Thousands of people will die and go without the medical care they need because they won’t be able to afford it. Already GPs’ surgeries, that have been handed to private healthcare suppliers, have been closed and their patients left without their traditional doctors, because these surgeries haven’t provided as big a profit to their owners as they’d like.

By championing the NHS’ privatisation, Belfield is most definitely working against, not for, his working class viewers and listeners.

He’s also concerned about the lack of opposition to Boris Johnson from the Labour party. He has a point, although it seems to come from his opposition to the lockdown and frustration that all of the parties are supporting it. Looking at the recent dismal election results for Labour, Belfield had a few suggestions of his own how the party could win back votes. Instead of concentrating on issues no-one’s really interested in, like trans rights, Labour should go back to talking to its traditional working class supporters, and start listening to them and take on board the issues that matter to ordinary people. These are bread and butter issues like healthcare provision, jobs and getting enough money to put food on the table. I agree, although I do think that the debate over trans rights is immensely important, if only because of the massive expansion of the number of young women and girls now self-identifying as trans. Labour should be fighting for better healthcare, combatting unemployment and poverty.

But this means a wholesale rejection of Tory and Blairite neoliberalism, a neoliberalism Belfield supports.

It means kicking the parasites out of the NHS and renationalising it. It means restoring the welfare state, so that the poor, the disabled, the elderly and the unemployed are given enough to live on. It means ending the wretched gig economy, including fire and rehire and zero hours contracts. And it definitely means an end to the wage restraint which has seen working people effectively take a cut in wages, while the salaries of the elite become ever more obscenely bloated.

Belfield also clearly misses the decline of traditional working class communities. And this is where he got really interesting. He wanted the return of the old working men’s clubs.

Now I actually agree with him there. Traditional working and lower middle class communities had a solidarity and ethos of mutual support that has vanished as society has become more individualistic. Thatcherism, and it’s Labour party variety, Blairism, partly drew on the decline of the British working class. As more people moved out of the working class into the lower middle class, taking up white collar jobs and buying their own homes rather than living in council estates, the right became convinced that working people were no longer a political force. A few months ago I found a video from one of the right-wing political sites on YouTube, in which a pundit blandly declared that Labour was doomed when working people moved away from their traditional working conditions. When they stopped living in back-to-back housing, for example. I disagree. More people may have moved into the lower middle class, but very many of them still have the views, aspirations and desires traditionally associated with the working class. It doesn’t matter that many of them are now office workers – working conditions in many offices and call centres is as ruthlessly exploitative as Victorian factories. See books like White Collar Sweatshop. Working people, whether labourers or office clerks, still want job security, protection from zero hours and exploitative short term contracts. They want proper sick and maternity pay. They also want proper wages that will support them and their families. They also want and deserve proper NHS treatment, a working welfare state and public utilities that are owned and operated by the state for the good of the British people, not for private, foreign investors.

Which are all Corbynite policies.

The right in America and Britain has benefited from the decline in traditional working class communities. One book I read attacking the Neocons, Confronting the New Conservatism, argued that the neo-Conservatives had been successful in gaining public support because of the social atomisation that came from the decline of working class institutions. The decimation of the trade unions and other working class institutions meant that many working people only met collectively with others when they went to church. And the ‘White flight’ of White working class people to the suburbs away from Black communities in the urban core meant that Black and White Americans were separate and divided, and so the right could play on White racial fears.

This atomisation would be reversed if working class institutions, like the old working men’s clubs, came back.

I don’t think they could be called ‘working men’s’ clubs, not after the progress of feminism. Working people’s clubs, perhaps? It may not be possible to revive them, as it would mean taking on the aggressive individualism that has advanced over the last century, as well as reviving community entertainment and participation so that it could compete with TV, computer games and the internet. But if it could be done, it could very well lead to a very strong revival in working class consciousness. A working class consciousness that would be shared by the lower middle class.

And that could very well scupper all the Thatcherite and Blairite bilge of the last forty-odd years.

Which would be very upsetting for Tories like Belfield.

Let’s do it!

BLM Protests – Brillo Retweets Far Right Conspiracy Theorist

June 3, 2020

Remember when Andrew ‘Brillo Pad’ Neil had Alex Jones on his programme years ago? This resulted in farce when Neil asked the right-wing, Libertarian Jones about guns and the high rate of shootings in America. I think it came in the wake of yet another crazed gunman going into a school, shopping mall, church, synagogue or mosque or somewhere and shooting innocents. The right to bear arms is sacrosanct to Republicans and Libertarians, and so Jones responded with a long rant about how Americans will never give their firearms up and that there’d be another 1776 if anyone like Britain tried. He then started screaming nonsense, including ‘metal shark!’ at one point. The camera pulled away from Jones to show Brillo making the ‘nutter’ sign behind his head.

It’s a debatable but fair question whether Jones is mad. He’s promoted some immensely stupid theories, like the Democrat Party operating a paedophile ring out of a Boston pizza parlour, that Obama was the Antichrist, Hillary Clinton a Satanist cyborg, and that the world is being run by ‘the Globalists’ intent on enslaving humanity and turning us all into dehumanised cyborgs to serve demons or malevolent aliens. He is most notorious for ranting about how ‘they’ were putting chemicals in the water ‘to turn the frickin’ frogs gay’. He’s been widely ridiculed for that, but as Blissex, one of the great commenters on this blog reminded me on another post about Jones, he does have a point. Frogs and other amphibians are suffering from industrial pollutants that mimic female hormones and so cause reproductive abnormalities in males. Jones pushes all manner of outlandish theories, but some people have said that off-air he’s calm and rational, and his bizarre antics on camera may just be to garner viewers.

Whatever the real state of Jones’ mind, Brillo is now no longer in a position to sneer at Jones for pushing whacky and dangerous conspiracy theories. Because now he’s done it himself. Yesterday Zelo Street reported that Neil had taken exception to criticism of his comments on a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Colorado, and retweeted the bonkers comments by Spectator USA contributor Andy Ngo. Nadine Batchelor-Hunt had responded to his approving comments about the demonstration in Colorado by telling him that as a White guy, he shouldn’t be telling Black people how to protest. This is essentially the same point some Black Civil rights leaders in America in the 1960s told their White supporters when they said they should ‘be in their own space’. The result was the formation of a radical, White, working-class identity movement, which was crucially anti-racist as some of the White poor turned to their own situation and demanded change. I can’t see Brillo, former editor of the Sunday Times, the Economist and head of the Spectator board, wanting to see that develop. He replied “Looks like most of the folks protesting are white. I’m not telling anybody what they should do; just approving of a particular form of protest. Why make an issue of my colour. I don’t take kindly to what people tell me I should or should not do”.

Zelo Street commented that this was a remark from his privileged perspective. I think however, that Neil has the right to make whatever comment he likes about the protest. It might seem condescending, but people have the right to their own opinions whatever colour they are. But then the great newsman went overboard, and retweeted this from the Speccie’s sister paper.

‘We are witnessing glimmers of the full insurrection the far-left has been working toward for decades. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis was merely a pre-text for radicals to push their ambitious insurgency,’ writes [Andy Ngo]”.

Ngo is a member of the American far right, despite being Asian. He wrote a farcical piece about Islam in Britain, ‘A Visit to Islamic Britain’ for Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, and has hosted the infamous Carl Benjamin, the man who broke UKIP, on his podcast. Zelo Street commented that it was shameful for the Speccie to give Ngo a platform, and even more so for Brillo to retweet him. They also wondered if BBC News and Current Affairs would take a dim view of being linked with Ngo through Neil. And this is apart from some of the deeply unpleasant characters who write for the British Spectator, like the anti-Semitic supporter of the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, Taki.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/brillo-boosts-far-right.html

The American far right is riddled with bizarre conspiracy theories. When Obama was ensconced in the Oval Office there were any number of loons proclaiming that he was an anti-White racist who would immediately launch a genocide of Whites. Or that he was closet Muslim, who would impose the Shariah. Or a Nazi, Communist or militant atheist. Jones ranted that Obama would become absolute dictator by declaring a state of emergency, suspending the rule of law and forcing Americans into FEMA camps. It didn’t happen. There are also loony conspiracy theories going around the American and British right about ‘cultural Marxists’ trying to create a new Communist dictatorship through destroying traditional, Christian morality and replacing it with multiculturalism and gay and trans rights. It’s a garbled misreading of Gramsci’s theories of hegemony, and ultimately has its roots in the Nazis’ denunciation of ‘cultural Bolshevism’.

But I’ve got a feeling that the Spectator USA always was a haven for demented conspiracy theories. Way back in the 1990s a magazine with a very similar name, The American Spectator, and a group of Sunday Times journos, got it into their heads that Bill Clinton was at the heart of a vast criminal conspiracy. They believed that Slick Willy was importing drugs from Latin America through a secret airbase in Arizona. Anyone who crossed or otherwise displeased him was then executed by his gangsters. This theory was partly based on the real fact that about 19 of his aides had died, but investigations had shown that their demise had absolutely nothing to do with Clinton. The conspiracy theories were even later denounced and ridiculed by a former believer, one of the ‘Clinton Crazies’. Adam Curtis has discussed this bizarre affair in one of his excellent documentaries.

It looks to me that The American Spectator was a previous incarnation of The Spectator USA, and that, despite the Clinton Crazies having come and gone, there still is a paranoid mentality out there. And Brillo, as former editor of the Sunday Times, and head of the Spectator’s board, shares it.

You don’t have to invoke non-existent conspiracies to explain the protests and riots in America. They come from endemic racism, poverty and lack of opportunity, quite apart from the casual killing of Black Americans by the police. This has been simmering away for several years. Now it’s exploded again. What is needed is calm, rationality and justice.

What we don’t need is more stupid, inflammatory rhetoric by Trump, Ngo or Brillo.

Radio 4 Adaptation on Saturday of Verne’s ‘The Mysterious Island’

March 25, 2020

According to next week’s Radio Times, Radio 4 next Saturday, 28th March 2020, is broadcasting an adaptation of Jules Verne’s ‘The Mysterious Island’ at 3.00 pm. The blurb for it runs

‘Drama: To the Ends of the Earth: the Mysterious Island

Three very different people escape the American Civil War by stealing a balloon – which crashes near a deserted island. But perhaps it is not quite as deserted as they think. Gregory Evan’s dramatisation of Jules Verne’s sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.’

What struck me about this is that Captain Nemo is played by an Asian actor, Sagar Arya. There’s a bitter controversy at the moment over ‘forced diversity’, the term used for writers, directors and producers altering the gender and race of established characters in order to make traditional, or long-established stories, plays, films or TV series more multicultural, feminist or otherwise inclusive. It might be thought that this is another example, but it would be wrong.

In an interview with Alan Moore I found on YouTube a few months ago, the comics legend behind Watchmen, V for Vendetta and a series of other strips and graphic novels, explained why he made Nemo an Indian prince in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. The comic, which was made into a film a little while ago starring Sean Connery, imagines a kind of late 19th – early 20th century superhero group formed by Alan Quartermain, the Invisible Man, Dorian Grey, Dr. Jekyll and his alter ego, Mr Hyde, and Captain Nemo. The group travels on their adventures in Nemo’s ship, the Nautilus. The strip was drawn by 2000 AD art robot, Kevin O’Neill, whose art back in the 1980s for an edition of the Green Lantern Corps was judged too horrific for children by the late, unlamented Comics Code. So far, however, I have heard of no-one being left psychologically scarred by his art on The League. Moore stated that he made Nemo Indian, with O’Neill’s art consequently showing the Nautilus’ interior decorated with Indian art and architectural motifs, because that is exactly how Verne described him in The Mysterious Island. He wasn’t at all like James Mason in the Disney movie.

Now I dare say that the Beeb may very well have chosen to adapt The Mysterious Island for radio in order to give this favourite Science Fiction character a new, multicultural twist. But it is faithful to Verne’s original conception of the character. It’ll be interesting to hear what it’s like.

Here’s the video from the AlanMooreVids channel on YouTube, in which Moore talks about the strip. It’s a segment from the BBC 4 series on comics, Comics Britannia. The video shows O’Neill’s art, and the artist himself working. Moore praises his collaborator on the strip, saying that he take the most disturbing of his ideas and make them two or three times more upsetting. But he admires his skill for the grotesque, which in Moore’s view places him up there with the caricaturists Gilray and Hogarth. It’s high praise, but I think Moore’s actually right. If O’Neill had become a caricaturist instead of a comics artist, I think he would be admired as the equal of such greats as Gerald Scarfe and Ralph Steadman.

A Conservative Accusation of Liberal Bias at the Beeb

February 15, 2020

Robin Aitken, Can We Trust the BBC (London: Continuum 2007).

Robin Aitken is a former BBC journalist, and this book published 13 years ago argues that the BBC, rather than being unbiased, is really stuffed full of lefties and the broadcaster and its news and politics programmes have a very strong left-wing, anti-Conservative bias. Under Lord Reith, the BBC upheld certain core British values. Its news was genuinely unbiased, giving equal time to the government and opposition. It also stood for essential institutions and such as the monarchy, the constitution, the British Empire and Christianity at home, and peace through the League of Nations abroad.

This changed radically between 1960 and 1980 as the BBC joined those wishing to attack and demolish the old class-bound institutions. Now the BBC stands for passionate anti-racism, ‘human rights’, internationalism and is suspicious of traditional British national identity and strongly pro-EU. It is also feminist, secular and ‘allergic to established authority whether in the form of the Crown, the courts, the police or the churches.’ This has jeopardised the ideal at the heart of the Corporation, that it should be fair-minded and non-partisan.

Aitken does marshal an array of evidence to support his contention. This includes his own experience working for BBC Scotland, which he claims was very left-wing with a staff and management that bitterly hated Margaret Thatcher and made sure that the dismantlement of the old, nationalised industries like shipbuilding was properly lamented, but did not promote it as ‘creative destruction’ as it should, nor the emergence of the wonderful new information industry north of the border. A later chapter, ‘Testimonies’, consists of quotations from other, anonymous rightists, describing how the Beeb is biased and bewailing their isolated position as the few Conservative voices in the Corporation. He is particularly critical of the former director-general, John Birt. Birt was recruited in the 1990s from ITV. He was a member of the Labour Party, who brought with him many of his colleagues from the commercial channel, who also shared his politics and hatred of the Tories. He goes on to list the leading figures from the Left, who he claims are responsible for this bias. These include Andrew Marr, the former editor of the Independent, and the left-wing, atheist journo and activist, Polly Toynbee.

Aitken also tackles individual topics and cases of biased reporting. This includes how the BBC promoted the Labour Party and the EU before Labour’s landslide victory in the 1997 general election. The Conservatives were presented as deeply split on the issue and largely hostile to EU membership. The EU itself was presented positively, and the Labour Party as being united in favour of membership, even though it was as split as the Tories on the issue. Another chapter argues that the Beeb was wrong in challenging the government’s case for the Iraq Invasion. He claims that in a poll the overwhelming majority of Iraqis supported the invasion. The government did not ‘sex up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ in order to present a false case for war, and it was wrong for the Beeb to claim that Blair’s government had.

The chapter ‘The Despised Tribes’ argues that there are certain ethnic or religious groups, who were outside the range of sympathy extended to other, more favoured groups. These include White South Africans, the Israeli Likud Party, Serb Nationalists under Milosevic, the Italian Northern League, Le Pen and the Front National in France, the Vlaams Blok in Belgium, American ‘Christian Fundamentalists’, conservative Roman Catholics, UKIP ‘and other groups who have failed to enlist the sympathies of media progressives’. These include the Orange Order and Ulster Protestants. He then claims that the Beeb is biased towards Irish Republicans, who have successfully exploited left-wing British guilt over historic wrongs against the Roman Catholic population. He then goes on to claim that Pat Finucane, a lawyer killed in the Troubles, was no mere ‘human rights’ lawyer but a senior figure in the IRA.

The chapter, ‘The Moral Maze’ is an extensive critique of a Panorama documentary claiming that the Roman Catholic condemnation of premarital sex and contraception was causing needless suffering in the Developing World through the procreation of unwanted children and the spread of AIDs by unprotected sex. This is contradicted by UN evidence, which shows that the African countries with the lowest incidence of AIDS are those with the highest Catholic populations. The Catholic doctrine of abstinence, he argues, works because reliance on condoms gives the mistaken impression that they offer total protection against disease and pregnancy, and only encourages sexual activity. Condoms cannot offer complete protection, and are only effective in preventing 85 per cent of pregnancies. The programme was deliberately biased against the Roman Catholic church and the papacy because it was made from the viewpoint of various groups with an explicit bias against the Church and its teaching on sexuality.

Aitken’s evidence is impressive, and I do accept part of his argument. I believe that the Beeb is indeed in favour of feminism, multiculturalism and human rights. I also believe that, the few remaining examples of the Beeb’s religious programming notwithstanding, the Corporation is largely hostile to Christianity in ways that would be unthinkable if applied to other religions, such as Islam. However, I don’t believe that the promotion of anti-racism and anti-sexism is wrong. And groups like the Northern League, Front National and other extreme right-wing political and religious groups, including UKIP, really are unacceptable because of their racism and should not be given a sympathetic platform. Their exclusion from the range of acceptable political and religious views is no bad thing.

But the book also ignores the copious documentation from the various media study units at Cardiff, Glasgow and Edinburgh universities of massive BBC Conservative bias. Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis have a chapter in their book on the gradual, slo-mo privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS, on the way the media has promoted the Tories’ and New Labour’s project of selling off the health service. And this includes the Beeb.  The Corporation was hostile to Labour after Thatcher’s victory, promoting the SDP splinter group against the parent party in the 1983 election, as well as the Tories. This pro-Tory bias returned with a vengeance after the 2010 Tory victory and the establishment of austerity. Barry and Savile Kushner show in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, how the Beeb excludes or shouts down anyone who dares to question the need for cuts to welfare spending. Tories, economists and financiers are also favoured as guests on news shows. They are twice as likely to appear to comment on the news as Labour politicians and trade unionists.

And we have seen how the Beeb has pushed the anti-Labour agenda particularly vigorously over the past five years, as it sought to smear Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as institutionally anti-Semitic at every opportunity. Quite apart from less sensational sneering and bias. The guests on Question Time have, for example, been packed with Tories and Kippers, to whom presenter Fiona Bruce has shown particular favour. This has got worse under Johnson, with the Beeb now making it official policy not to have equal representation of the supporters of the various political parties in the programme’s audience. Instead, the majority of the audience will consist of supporters of the party that holds power in that country. Which means that in England they will be stuffed with Tories. Numerous members of the BBC news teams are or were members of the Tory party, like Nick Robinson, and a number have left to pursue careers at No 10 helping Cameron, Tweezer and Boris.

The evidence of contemporary bias in favour of the Tories today is massive and overwhelming.

With the exception of particular issues, such as multiculturalism, feminism, a critical and sometimes hostile attitude towards the monarchy, and atheism/ secularism, the BBC is, and always has been, strongly pro-Tory. The Birt era represents only a brief interval between these periods of Tory bias, and I believe it is questionable how left-wing Birt was. Aitken admits that while he certainly was no Tory, he was in favour of free market economics.

This book is therefore very dated, and overtaken by the Beeb’s massive return to the Right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trust in Beeb Falls Below 50 Per Cent

December 19, 2019

A few days ago Zelo Street put up an article commenting on a letter Joel Benjamin sent to the Beeb’s Director-General complaining about the corporation’s massive pro-Tory, anti-Labour, anti-working class bias. Benjamin had taken the step of writing to Tony Hall directly because he didn’t trust the Corporation’s complaints service. He stated that it was

a private contract administered by criminally negligent outsourcing company CAPITA. Experts in dull, pro-forma response letters, which fail to address the complainants concerns and a symbol of much that has gone awry at the BBC and in neoliberal, corporatist Britain. 

He also listed the following specific examples of the Beeb’s bias towards the Tories.

To which Zelo Street added a few more of their own.

‘(a) the use of newspaper columnists, editors and press hangers-on in paper reviews, allowing the press to mark their own homework and therefore perpetuate right-wing bias,(b) the blatant use of the BBC’s Sunday Politics by veteran presenter Andrew Neil to push climate change denial, and (c) Neil and political editor Laura Kuenssberg, along with Robbie Gibb, orchestrating a resignation from the shadow cabinet live on the Daily Politics just before PMQs to the benefit of the Tories…(d) Ms Kuenssberg effectively taking dictation from Vote Leave’s Matthew Elliott over the campaign breaking electoral law, (e) Refusal to discuss the misbehaviour of Cambridge Analytica, to the extent of having Carole Cadwalladr shouted down during a paper review on The Andy Marr Show™, (f) a whole string of instances where the Question Time audience has been infiltrated by Tory plants, and (g) loading panel shows with right-wing pundits and other hangers-on.’

Benjamin particularly resented the Beeb’s dismissive attitude towards criticism. He wrote

Instead of BBC management being responsive to public criticism this election, licence fee payers were subject to Francesca Unsworth, the BBC’s Director of News and Current Affairs – publishing a letter in the Guardian – framing complainants as peddlers of “conspiracy theories” in the wake of a highly visible series of self-ascribed “mistakes,” each, coincidentally, benefitting Boris Johnson and the Conservatives, whilst harming the Labour opposition. Despite the pushback to Unsworth’s article, you then chose to to double down, blame licence fee payers, and cry conspiracy

He also remarked that the Corporation’s bias was

clearly unacceptable, yet a natural consequence of a broadcaster answerable not to the public, but directly to an increasingly brutalising, fact free, and tone deaf Government, that ultimately wants the BBC abolished. In this context, your servile, pro-establishment political coverage looks to fee payers like feeding Conservative crocodiles, in the vain hope the BBC get eaten last.

See: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1T55oQGHV1bJUzljHSE3akPlguzrmZCYcTDZ53WBGdGs/edit

But what is also remarkable is the extent to which people share this dissatisfaction with the Beeb. Zelo Street reported that a poll by YouGov at the start of this month – December 2019 – had found that trust in the BBC had fallen to 44 per cent. 48 per cent, on the other hand, distrusted the Corporation. This was a marked drop from October, when 51 per cent of respondents to the survey trusted the Corporation, and 41 per cent didn’t.

The Street remarks that not everyone will share Benjamin’s views and his wider analysis, but they may understand his frustration, particularly at the Corporation’s refusal to listen to the people that actually support it by paying the licence fee.

He also warns that the Tories are determined to inflict further damage on the Beeb in order to create an utterly compliant media landscape. And if that happens, Hall and the rest of them may find themselves out of a job. Unless they actually start listening to their critics, and realise that there is a problem.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/12/bbc-charge-sheet-looks-grim.html

Now I dare say that many of those, who distrust the Beeb come from the Right. People who think that the Beeb really is biased against the Conservatives, because Johnson tells them it is while running away from interviews, his comments echoed and supported by the right-wing press. I’ve come across complaints from those on the extreme Right, who despise the Corporation because it generally supports multiculturalism, feminism and gay rights. Which in their view makes it anti-White and anti-British.

But the Left have every reason not to trust the Beeb. Joel Benjamin and Zelo Street are right: the Corporation has been massively biased. And not just in this election either. One commenter to Zelo Street’s post reminded readers how the Corporation was also biased in the referendum on Scots independence.  They were. I remember how Nick Robinson was so dissatisfied with Alex Salmond’s very full answer to a question on the effect independence would have on the Scottish financial sector, that it was progressively cut down during subsequent news bulletins with Robinson claiming that Salmond had made an unsatisfactory answer. Finally it disappeared altogether, and Robinson claimed the-then leader of the SNP hadn’t answered it. Which is a piece of newspeak worthy of Orwell.

I despise the corporation’s political bias and its knee-jerk contempt for its critics. Any and all criticism of the Corporation is met with the same response: that the Beeb is criticised for bias by both Left and Right, with the implication that the Beeb isn’t biased and it’s all somehow in the critics’ imagination. But studies cited by Benjamin in his letter show that isn’t the case. And in some of the recent instances of glaring bias, the Beeb tries to excuse them by claiming that it was all a mistake.

This won’t wash. Not any more.

The Beeb does make some excellent programmes. But I’m sick and tired of its massive political bias to the point where I’d happily see nearly all their newsroom sacked. Johnson has said that he’s considering decriminalising nonpayment of the licence fee. And the Tories and their donors, particularly Rupert Murdoch, have been clamouring for the Beeb’s privatisation for nearly four decades.

The Beeb may soon find it needs all the help it can get. But it’s rapidly losing them on the Left, and may well end up regretting this.

 

 

Desperate, Paranoid ‘Sun’ Puts Up Conspiracy Map

December 8, 2019

This shows how weird and desperate Tom Newton-Dunn, the Scum’s political editor, is to smear Jeremy Corbyn. Zelo Street yesterday put up an article revealing that Newton-Dunn had written an article declaring that former members of British intelligence had revealed that Jeremy Corbyn was at the centre of a network of ‘hard-left’ extremists. The article carried a chart, known apparently as the ‘Traitors Chart’, which purports to reveal the connections between such subversive groups as ‘International Marxism’, the People’s Assembly, Stand Up To Racism, Stop the War Coalition and ‘Left-wing media’.

It’s classic far-right conspiracy stuff. It’s the kind of chart that the far-right uses to prove that the supposed subversive groups are all ultimately controlled by the Illuminati or the Jews. Zelo Street states that anyone looking for subversion and treachery, whether from the right or the left, isn’t going to find it at the Beeb, the Guardian, the NEC or People’s Assembly. The fact that these organisations were on this map should have been enough to have it pulled. But it wasn’t. And one of those organisations threatened to complain to IPSO. Peter Geoghegan of Open Democracy declared it was ‘pitiful shite’ and threatened to complain, because his organisation was on there despite winning numerous press awards. But they were a subversive organisation because they had received funding from George Soros. Yep, the George Soros, the infamous Jewish banker at the heart of so many real anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Zelo Street was also flattered because the chart included it, even though the connection with Guardian is utterly erroneous. But that’s only because the paper once ran a feature on the site and its author. Apart from that, there’s absolutely no connection. He’s never written for them or done anything else for the newspaper.

Andrew Bartlett commented

Tom Newton Dunn sharing fascist conspiracy theories should be the end of his career. But it won’t be. So feel free to laugh in the face of any journo moralising about fake news or extremism when that beetle is still invited on Newsnight and so on.

To which Zelo Street adds that Newton-Dunn regularly appears on Andrew Marr’s show, who also appears on the chart. Which should make for some interesting explanations the next Newton-Dunn turns up in that studio.

The article has, however, now been taken down. The text explaining this and redirecting those looking for it says ‘legal removal’, which suggests that m’learned friends might have had something to do with it.

Zelo Street concludes

‘Publishing drivel like this in a mainstream newspaper is going to get someone hurt or even killed. Newton Dunn should have been sacked for going anywhere near it.

But as it’s the Murdoch press, he’ll probably get a promotion instead. Same old, same old.’

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/12/sun-conspiracy-map-busted.html

There are several things to be said about this farce. Firstly, the Scum and the Tories are trying to run another version of the ‘Zinoviev letter’, trying to link Corbyn to evil left-wing subversives. The Scum ran a version of this in the 1987 when it printed pictures of Labour MPs with quotations showing how far-left they were and so a threat to British society. I also would not be surprised if former members of the intelligence services were also trying to discredit Corbyn with this smear. In the 1960s and ’70s MI5 was running the smear that the-then Labour leader, Harold Wilson, was a KGB agent. IRD, that branch of the intelligence services supposedly tasked with combating Communism, ran disinformation linking Labour MPs with the Communists, Soviet Union and the IRA. And the Integrity Initiative, another intelligence outfit, which although private has extensive links with British intelligence and the cyberwarfare branch of the SAS, has lost its charitable status, at least in Scotland. Instead of countering Russian propaganda, it chose to smear Jeremy Corbyn and other left-wing political figures, both here and on the continent instead.

The use of the chart also clearly shows the Tories’ desperation to smear Corbyn, because a casual glance at it would show to most people that it was ludicrously wrong. Unfortunately, there really are loonies out there on the far right, who do seem to think that the Beeb is an extremist organisation. Because the Corporation promotes multiculturalism in its programming, as well as defends Muslims from the charge that they are all terrorists. The kind of people, who would agree with this map that the BBC is full of left-wing subversives, would probably be the same rabid islamophobes and racists, who think that there is a Jewish plot to encourage non-White immigration in order to destroy the purity of the White race.

Which raises real questions about racism at the Scum.

The Scum has a history of racism stretching right back almost to its appearance in the late 1960s, and was fined several times for its bias by the press complaints authority. In the early part of this century Private Eye revealed that there had been 19 such judgments against the wretched paper. The use of this chart therefore suggests that there is real, very deep-seated racism at this paper and it verges on the anti-Semitic extreme right.

And it also makes me wonder if Newton-Dunn and co. aren’t heading towards the same kind of sheer paranoid lunacy that has got hold of Rachel Riley and Tracy Ann Oberman. They seem to believe that not only is the Labour leader a real threat to Jewish life and safety in the UK, but that he’s also persecuting them personally. Like when Oberman declared on Twitter that she was being stalked by him, because he happened to turn up at the Manchester theatre in which she was performing, to see a play. Which he was entirely entitled to do, as he was one of the theatre’s founders and patrons.

I’ve written a couple of pieces about how Oberman reminds me of some of the more notorious paranoiacs on the American conspiracy fringe. Like Steve Renstrom, the artist who believes that Senator Alan Cranston is at the centre of a global conspiracy that has killed millions, including the actors Natalie Wood and Jim Belushi. Or Dr. Francis E. Dec, who believed that there was a Jewish-Communist-CIA conspiracy to reduce the world’s peoples into FRANKENSTEIN COMPUTER GOD TV EYESIGHT SLAVES. This was the same conspiracy which had forced him into a run-down neighbourhood with ‘apoidal Nigers’. He obviously means ‘Blacks’ here, but the misspelling of the racial smear shows how far gone Dec’s mind is. Niger, as any fule kno, is a country in Africa, and one of that continent’s great rivers.

How long will it be, we wonder, until Newton-Dunn similarly goes bonkers, and starts writing completely insane pieces like this before they finally put him away.

By the evidence of that conspiracy chart, not long at all!

Israel Lobby Thugs Try to Close Down Book Launch with Threats and Intimidation

September 25, 2019

This can’t be left unchallenged. Yesterday a group of thugs from the Israel lobby, egged on by their fellows and supporters on social media, forced Waterstones in Brighton to abandon a book launch. When the event was moved to the Rialto, they tried the same tactics there, only for the management of that venue to stand firm.

The book in question was Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief by Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller. This is a critical examination of the anti-Semitism crisis in the Labour party, particularly the denunciations of the party last summer that claimed it was institutionally racist and an existential threat to Britain’s Jews. The promotional material about the book, published by Pluto Press, however, states that

This book clears the confusion by drawing on deep and original research on public beliefs and media representation of antisemitism and the Labour Party, revealing shocking findings of misinformation spread by the press, including the supposedly impartial BBC, and the liberal Guardian.

Bringing in discussions around the IHRA definition, anti-Zionism and Israel/Palestine, as well as including a clear chronology of events, this book is a must for anyone wanting to find out the reality behind the headlines.

The authors are mainstream academics specialising in media studies, Jewish/Gentile relations and anti-Semitism. Mike, in his excellent article on the issue, gives their academic fields and qualifications. They are

Greg Philo is Professor of Communications and Social Change at the University of Glasgow, and Director of the Glasgow University Media Unit. Mike Berry is a lecturer in the Journalism School at Cardiff University. Justin Schlosberg is a media activist, researcher and lecturer in Journalism and Media at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is a former Chair of the Media Reform Coalition and Edmund J Safra Network Fellow at Harvard University. Antony Lerman is Senior Fellow at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue in Vienna and Honorary Fellow of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations at Southampton University. He has written on multiculturalism, racism, antisemitism, and Israel/Palestine for the Guardian, Independent, New York Times, Haaretz, Prospect, Jewish Chronicle and London Review of Books. And David Miller is Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol. He is a founder director of Public Interest Investigations and a director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies. 

As Mike points out, they are academics, not anti-Semites. The two don’t go together, except in the pseudo-academia set up to provide a spurious intellectual veneer for the real hard right. Which these professors certainly don’t represent.

But this hasn’t stopped the Israel lobby and its supporters, both institutional and individual, going berserk and throwing around gross accusations of – what else! – anti-Semitism. The event was supposed to begin at 7.30, and would feature a panel discussion with the authors and Ken Loach. Two venues were forced to cancel it through intimidation and bullying that was so intense, an employee at one of the venues could not return to work.

The organisations supporting the bullying, and claiming the event was anti-Semitic were the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Sussex Jewish Representative Council. The individuals giving their support to it included one charmer giving his Twitter handle as #JC4 and then an icon of a toilet, Neil Barstow, Natalia Sloam, Nobody Norman Esq, Heidi Bachram, Ian Mackintosh, Jane Habib, Curry Fleur and Fiona Sharpe.

Mike states that he would like to see all the above interviewed by the rozzers about the threats suffered by the staff at Waterstone’s and the Rialto. He states it is especially abhorrent coming from those, who claim the moral high ground, and are using threats of violence to silence those they have smeared as anti-Semites and prevent them from exonerating themselves. He also points to a Tweet by one Gary Spedding, a venomous individual, who wrote an on-line article smearing Mike as an anti-Semite, which he refused to take down when Mike contacted him to show it was wrong. Spedding also added a few more ad homs against him on the way. It is to be hoped that Spedding also gets his collar felt about this.

Mike goes on to state that he does acknowledge that there is anti-Semitism in the Labour party. It just doesn’t exist in the book the Zionist fanatics were attacking, nor amongst the staff at Waterstones or the Rialto.

He concludes

These aren’t campaigners fighting prejudice against Jews.

They are vicious, hate-filled bigots.

And they need to be stopped before they seriously harm somebody.

One more thing – they did get an aspect of their campaign right: the slogan “Don’t host hate”. That’s a good slogan, and it can very clearly be applied to these bigots.

So I’m having it. If you see these people, or anyone else pushing their message, then flag it up with #DontHostHate

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/24/bullying-bigots-tried-to-stop-book-launch-when-will-they-be-arrested/

Tony Greenstein, another victim of the anti-Semitism smear campaign, and a self-respecting Jew, who has always campaigned against racism and anti-Semitism as well as Zionism, has more information on this disgraceful thuggery on his blog at:

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/09/book-burners-r-us-waterstones-shameful.html

Tony begins his article by describing the way the Israel lobby tried to prevent the performance of the play, Sedition, by the socialist playwright Jim Allen, 25 years ago. This drew the Israel lobby’s ire because it was about the 1944 trial in Jerusalem of the Zionist leader, Erich Kasztner, who had made a deal with Adolf Eichmann which sent half a million Hungarian Jews to death in Auschwitz. The play was due to be staged at the Royal Court. It was taken off, but so great was the public indignation against the attack on it, that it was performed instead at London’s Conway Hall and became the subject of a book, Dramas Played Off Stage.

Tony continues

That is what we need to see happen with Bad News for Labour. The Zionists know that their anti-Semitism smear campaign in the Labour Party is fraudulent and that they have cowed and coerced timid Corbyn into going along with the nonsense that the Labour Party is full of anti-Semites including himself. We must ensure that this book is publicised because it contains all the ammunition and evidence we need to demonstrate that the ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign has nothing to do with antisemitism and has no evidential basis. 

It is shocking enough that the supporters of Israeli Apartheid have been able to ‘persuade’ through threats and abuse, venues like the Holiday Inn, Jury’s Inn and Friends Meeting House into cancelling meetings with Chris Williamson. The cancellation on Monday night of a book by 5 academics of Bad News for Labour – Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief takes this one step further. It is an attack on freedom of thought and inquiry and demonstrates the police state mentality of Zionism’s rabid supporters.

He goes on to quote the great German Jewish poet, Heinrich Heine, “Where books are burned, in the end, people will be burned” – which prophesied the mass book-burnings and murder of the Nazis. Justin Scholsberg, one of the authors, said last night that it was worse than McCarthyism and approached the book-burnings of the Nazis. Tony states

Cancelling a book launch and threatening to boycott Waterstones for holding the event is a Nazi tactic. It demonstrates just how far along the road to destroying our civil liberties and freedom of speech the Zionists have travelled. Literally Zionism is the enemy of a free society, not only in Israel/Palestine but in Britain, Europe and the United States.

He then goes on to discuss the culpable silence of the so-called liberal press about this incident, except for The Canary and the Skwawkbox, and calls upon his readers to imagine the outrage the Right would go into if the Left had done something similar against the genuinely racist books some of them have produced, like Douglas Murray’s racist Strange Death of Europe – Immigration, Identity and Islam.

And there’s much more in his very full article about the incident and the excuses made by Waterstone’s CEO for pulling the book launch from his store.

Tony and other Jewish anti-Zionists have long provided very detailed descriptions of just how violent and threatening the militant Zionists are, and their determination to shut down any criticism of their favourite apartheid state. They smear their opponents as anti-Semites – decent people like Mike, Martin Odoni, Tony Greenstein himself, Jackie Walker, Cyril Chilson, and Chris Williamson, so that they receive vile abuse. Some, like Walker and Williamson, have been sent death threats. Greenstein has also been assaulted by Jewish American Zionists. And a little while ago Tony also put up a piece describing how the CST – the paramilitary Community Security Trust – which is supposed to defend Jews, acts like Fascist stormtroopers when stewarding pro-Israel events. This includes beating up Muslims and anti-apartheid Jews. One rabbi was even hit in the face by these squadristi.

The people organising this campaign of abuse and intimidation should be called to account. And this includes the Board of Deputies. They are not above the law, and they are repeatedly demonstrating glaringly clearly that they do not represent the Jewish community of this country as a whole. They only represent the United Synagogue, and the pro-Israel branch of that. They are a viciously sectarian organisation, who actively support those who raise their fists at the people they consider the ‘wrong sort of Jew’. 

Establishment Media Bias and the Cheltenham Literary Festival

September 23, 2019

Someone really ought to do a study of the way the big literary festivals – Haye-on-Wye, Cheltenham and the others – select the books and media celebs they want to push and the way they try to manipulate public opinion towards the establishment consensus. Because, believe me, it is there.

In a couple of weeks’ time, right at the beginning of October, it’ll be the Cheltenham Literary Festival. As it’s booklet of coming events tells you, it’s been proudly going for 70 years. I think it was set up, or given a great deal of assistance when it was set up, by Alan Hancock, who owned a secondhand bookshop on Cheltenham’s Promenade. It was a fascinating place, where you could acquire some really fascinating, valuable academic books cheaply. But it had the same internal layout as the fictional setting of the 1990’s Channel 4 comedy, Black Books, but without Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey or Tamsin Grieg.

The festival’s overall literary stance is, very roughly, broadsheet papers + BBC, especially Radio 4. It pretty much shows what’s captured the attention of the newspaper literary pages and the BBC news team, several of whom naturally have books coming out, and who are appearing. In past years I’ve seen John Simpson, Simon Hoggart, Quentin Letts, Giles Brandreth and John Humphreys talk or appear on panels. This year they’ve got, amongst others, Emily Maitlis and Humphrey’s again.

Much of the Festival’s content is innocuous enough, even praiseworthy from a left-wing perspective. For example, there are a number of authors talking about their books about empowering women and ethnic minorities. These include Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene talking about their book, Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible, which is what it says: a guide for Black girls. Other topics and books discussed are on how empowered Black men are, and various feminist works about how gynaecological problems should be discussed openly, and the changing nature of the female muse. Rather than being passive creatures, modern muses are active, liberated women conquering business, sports, the arts and science. There’s also a piece on the future of masculinity, titled ‘Will Boys Still Be Boys’, which asks what will happen to boys now that the idea that there is a natural realm of masculinity, such as superiority and aggression, has been disproved. The concern with ethnic minority authors has always been there, or at least since the 1990s. Then, and in the early part of this century, a frequent theme of the Festival was ‘crossing continents’, which gave a platform to prominent literary authors from outside Europe and the West. It also gave space to Black and Asian literature from the UK. I can remember too, how one of the events staged at the Festival was a celebration of Black British poetry, much of it in Caribbean Patois.

The Festival also caters for more popular tastes. In the past it had speaking the Fantasy author, Terry Pratchett, along with the approved, heavyweight literary types. It has events for children’s books, and this year features such media celebrities as Francis Rossi from Status Quo and Paul Merton. So, something for everyone, or so it seems.

But nevertheless, the Establishment bias is there, especially as so many of the speakers, like Maitlis and Humphreys, are drawn from the mainstream media. Back in the 1990s the Festival was sponsored by the Independent. Now it’s sponsored by the Times, the Murdoch rag whose sister paper, the Sunset Times, has spent so much time smearing Corbyn and his supporters as Communist infiltrators or vicious anti-Semites. Maitlis and Humphreys are BBC news team, and so, almost by definition, they’re Conservative propagandists. Especially as Humphreys is retiring, and has given interviews and written pieces for the Heil. Any chance of hearing something from the Cheltenham Festival about the current political situation that doesn’t conform to what the Establishment wants you to hear, or is prepared to tolerate? Answers on a postcard, please. Here’s a couple of examples. One of the topics under discussion is ‘Populism’. I don’t know what they’re planning to include in it, but from previous discussions of this in the media, I’m prepared to bet that they’ll talk about Trump, possibly Boris Johnson, the rise of extreme right-wing movements in Europe and elsewhere in the world, like Marine Le Pen former Front National in France, the AfD in Germany, Orban and so on in Hungary, Bolsonaro in Brazil and the Five Star Movement in Italy. All of whom are definitely populists. But they’ll also probably include Corbyn and Momentum, because Corbyn is genuinely left-wing, challenges the Thatcherite neoliberal consensus and will empower the masses. All of which threatens the Establishment. There are also individual politicians speaking this year, but the only one I found from the Left was Jess Philips. Who isn’t remotely left-wing in the traditional sense, though she is an outspoken feminist.

The other topic is about what should be done with Putin. Now let’s not delude ourselves, Putin is a corrupt thug, and under him Russia has become once again a very autocratic state. Political and religious dissidents, including journalists, are being attacked, jailed and in some cases murdered. Among the religious groups he’s decided are a threat to Mother Russia are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m not a member of the denomination, and find their doorstep campaigning as irritating as everyone else. But they are certainly not a dangerous cult or terrorist organisation. And they have stood up to tyrants. They were persecuted by the Nazis during the Third Reich, with their members imprisoned in the concentration camps, including a 17 year old boy, because they wouldn’t accept Hitler as a secular messiah. For which I respect for them. The Arkhiplut has enriched himself, and rewarded his cronies with company directorships, while assassinating the oligarchs, who haven’t toed his line. And I still remember the genocidal butchery he unleashed in Chechnya nearly two decades ago, because they had the temerity to break away.

But geopolitically, I don’t regard Putin as a military threat. In terms of foreign policy it seems that Putin is interested solely in preserving the safety of his country from western encirclement. Hence the invasion of the Ukraine to protect the Russian minority there. If he really wanted to conquer the country, rather than the Donbass, his tanks would be in Kiev by now. I’ve blogged before about how Gorbachev was promised by the West that in return for allowing the former eastern European satellites to break away from the USSR, they would remain neutral and not become members of NATO. That’s been violated. They’ve all become members, and there are NATO military bases now on Russia’s doorstep. The Maidan Revolution of 2012 which overthrew the previous, pro-Russian president of Ukraine was stage managed by the American state department and the National Endowment for Democracy under Hillary Clinton and Victoria Nuland. There’s evidence that the antagonism against Putin’s regime comes from western multinationals, who feel aggrieved at not being able to seize Russian companies as promised by Putin’s predecessor, the corrupt, drunken buffoon Boris Yeltsin. Putin also seems to be quite genuine in his belief in a multipolar world, in which his country, as well as others like China, are also superpowers. But the Americans are interested only in maintaining their position as the world’s only superpower through ‘full spectrum dominance’: that is, absolute military superiority. The US’ military budget supersedes both the Russian and that of the four other major global countries combined. Arguably, Russia ain’t the global threat. America and NATO are.

Festivals like that of Cheltenham are important. They’re business arrangements, of course. They exist to sell books. But they also encourage literacy, and allow the public to come face to face with the people, who inform and entertain them through the written word. Although here the books’ pages of Private Eye complained years ago that the Festival and others like it gave more space to celebrities from television, sport, music and other areas, rather than people, whose primary living was from writing. But the information we are given is shaped by the media – by the papers and broadcasters, who give the public the news, and the publishers, who decide which books on which subjects to publish. And then there’s the bias of the individual festivals themselves. And in the case of Cheltenham, it is very establishment. It’s liberal in terms of feminism and multiculturalism, but other conservative, and increasing Conservative, in others. It’s through events like Cheltenham that the media tries to create and support the establishment consensus.

But that consensus is rightly breaking down, as increasingly more people become aware that it is only creating mass poverty. The Establishment’s refusal to tolerate other, competing opinions – their demonisation of Corbyn and his supporters as Communists, Trotskyites and Nazis, for example – is leading to further alienation and disaffection. Working people don’t find their voices and concerns reflected in the media. Which is why they’re turning to the online alternatives. But Festivals like Cheltenham carry on promoting the same establishment agenda, with the odd voice from the opposition, just like the Beeb’s Question Time. And this is going to change any time soon, not with lyingt rags like the Times sponsoring it.