Posts Tagged ‘News’

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.

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Robert Mugabe, the Butcher of Zimbabwe, Dies

September 8, 2019

on Friday the media reported the death of Robert Mugabe, the former president of Zimbabwe. Mugabe had been the leader of one of the country’s two opposition, nationalist movements against White colonial rule. There’s seems to have been more than a little optimism over his taking over the mantle of government. Ian Smith, the country’s previous president, had been so opposed to Black majority rule that he had unilaterally declared the country independent of Britain. Nevertheless, he declared that Mugabe was the best man for the job. As a symbol of the country’s new, African identity, the country’s name was changed from Rhodesia, after Cecil Rhodes, the infamous 19th century British imperialist, to Zimbabwe. This is a massive fort, dating from at least the 12th century, whose size and construction so astonished western archaeologists that it was considered the work of outsiders – the Chinese or the Arabs – before it was firmly demonstrated that it was indeed the work of the indigenous peoples, probably the Shona.

These new hopes were to be tragically and horrifically disappointed. Mugabe soon demonstrated that he was a brutal thug, determined to use violence and mass murder to hang on to power. He and the other members of his wretched party looted the country of millions, enriching themselves while they forced the mass of its people into abject poverty and starvation. Mugabe was a member, I believe, of the Shona, historically one of the weakest and most persecuted peoples in that part of Africa. Mugabe was determined to reverse this, and began his reign by attacking and butchering the Ndebele. Zimbabwean soldiers entered Ndebele villages to beat and murder their inhabitants. And it wasn’t just the Ndebele. He soon moved on to other groups and peoples. The thug’s approach to campaigning was simple. During his elections he sent his thugs into villages to break the arms of the local people. They then told them that if the didn’t vote for Mugabe, they’d come back and break their other arms.  In the early part of this century he moved on to attacking White farmers. There appears to have been some agreement with the British government during the negotiations for Black majority rule that Britain would pay a sum to the Zimbabwean government, which would then be used to buy White-owned farms, which would then be handed over to Blacks. Mugabe claimed this money had not been paid, and moved his troops in. The farms were invaded, their owners brutally dispossessed. As with the Ndebele, those who resisted were savagely beaten and killed.

This came at a time when race relations in this country were also fragile. I think it was about the same there was a general election, and once again immigration was an extremely contentious issue. Black groups, such as Operation Black Vote, were also campaigning for a greater number of Black and Asian MPs. I think part of the rise in racism at the time may well have been due these racial issues in Britain coinciding with genuine, anti-White political persecution in Zimbabwe. For those, who really fear and hate Blacks and Asians, the organised attack on the country’s White minority by its government may well have confirmed their deepest fears.

There may also have been something to Mugabe’s accusation that the money to purchase the farms properly had not been paid. When I was working as a volunteer at the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum, a fellow volunteer asked me if I knew what going on at the National Archives. He’d been there in order to study a parliamentary paper from the 1980s about the negotiations for the handover to Black rule. However, he was told it was unavailable, and wondered whether it was being deliberately kept out of circulation for some very dubious reason.

Not that this makes Mugabe any better. As Mugabe filled agriculture and industry with his thugs and butchers, the country’s economy collapsed. Inflation reached the exorbitant levels of Weimar Germany. Previously, Zimbabwe had been one of the most prosperous countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It was actually an exporter of food, and called the continent’s breadbasket. Under Mugabe, this catastrophically collapsed. There was starvation and famine, except for Mugabe and his obscenely rich gang. Zimbabweans began fleeing over the border into South Africa as illegal immigrants simply to survive.

Mugabe fought off several challenges to his leadership, including by Musaveni, before eventually conceding some kind of power sharing agreement. I think he officially retired as President a few years ago. This was cautiously welcomed, as even though Mugabe himself was gone, his successors were still members of his party, who had been willingly complicit in his crimes against humanity.

Reflecting on the old thug’s death on the breakfast news, I heard John Simpson describing how fiercely intelligent Mugabe was. He excelled in embarrassing and humiliating reports by turning the questions against them. Simpson said that every action he did was clearly well thought out in advance. I can actually believe it. Contrary to what many people actually believe, intelligence and education doesn’t necessarily make anyone more moral.

As for Mugabe himself, his death reminded me of a passage from one Tom Sharpe’s books, Riotous Assembly. Published in 1971, this was savage satire of South African police force. One of the characters in it is Constabel Els, a brutal thug, who prides himself on having killed two Blacks with the same bullet. At the book’s climax, Els is himself nearly killed preparing the scaffold for the execution of an Anglican bishop he and his superiors have framed for the murder of a Black cook. The gibbet collapses, taking with it part of the jail, and freeing the Black prisoners. Believing Els to be dead, they dance and sing:

Els is dead, Els is dead,

He’s gone to the Devil where his soul belongs.

Raper of our women. Killer of our men,

We won’t see the swine again!

I think that probably describes how many feel the way about the passing of this old brute.

‘I’ Newspaper: ‘Have I Got News For You More Trusted than News’

September 22, 2018

Yesterday, Friday 21st September 2018, the I carried a story by Adam Sherwin, which reported that according to its two stars, Paul Merton and Ian Hislop, people see the satirical panel game as more reliable than the news itself. The article said

Have I Got News For You is a more trusted source of news for viewers than official bulletins, the show’s stars have claimed.

Team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton said the long-running satirical series now plays a vital role in challenging “fake news”.

Hislop said: “One of the most cheering things about Have I Got News For You is quite a lot of people get their information from us, which should be terrifying in a properly functioning society.

“I walked in through the door of this hotel today and a man came up and said, ‘I absolutely love Have I Got News For You’ and I said, ‘That’s really nice of you’. He said, ‘I’m from Israel… It’s the only sensible news we get’. And you just think, ‘Oh’.

The Private Eye editor added: “We’ve a very big fan base among immigrants and people from backgrounds where they can’t believe you’re allowed to be this rude, which is a thrill compared to the countries they come from.”

Meron said: “That’s certainly part of the element of its longevity is thatpeople come to it for the news.” (p. 5).

Now I prefer to watch Have I Got News For You rather than the news because I get so irritated with the Beeb and its very strong bias against the Labour party and particularly Jeremy Corbyn. And Hislop’s right that in a properly functioning society it would be alarming that more people are tuning into a comedy show for the news rather than the news itself.

But we don’t live in a properly functioning society. We live in a society dominated by very right-wing politics, almost uniformly promoted by the media. And it’s very much because of this that alternative news sources, particularly on the internet, have been growing at the expense of the mainstream broadcasters and print publishers.

But Private Eye and Have I Got News For You have also not been averse to spreading ‘fake news’. I stopped watching Have I Got News For You and reading the Eye a little while ago because I got sick and tired of their anti-Labour, anti-Corbyn bias and their promotion of the lies justifying current British foreign policy: that Putin is going to take over the whole of Ukraine and is a threat to NATO, and that we should stand solidly behind the rebels in Syria. Even though those same rebels are Islamists, of the same stripe that launched 9/11 and have been campaigning against every secular, nationalist or socialist regimes in the Middle East. And have been aided in this by the West, which saw them as a useful force against Communism and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. And now that they’ve shown themselves to be a real threat to peace in the region, they’re being supported again for simple reasons of global geopolitics and the greed of western multinationals and the oil industry.

But you don’t read about this in Private Eye, or see it on Have I Got News For You.

I’ve gone back to reading the Eye and watching HIGNFY, because they’re funny, interesting and do provide an oppositional voice. But they are still themselves unreliable, and have their own, hidden biases, which need to be guarded against. This goes beyond the simple attitude that HIGNFY is a comedy show, and so shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Both the show and the Eye are still part of the media establishment, and so share some of their assumptions and prejudices.

BBC Director of News Warns Young Turning Away from Beeb

June 18, 2018

Last Friday, 15th June 2018, the I newspaper carried an article reporting a warning about the Beeb’s future given by Fran Unsworth, the Corporation’s Director of News and Current Affairs, at the Women on Air conference. Young people are increasingly turning away from the Beeb, and if this continues, it will threaten the Beeb’s future as it no longer has an audience.

The article, under the title, Youth Exodus from News ‘Threatening BBC’s Survival stated

The BBC’s existence is under threat if it cannot encourage more younger viewers to watch its news services, a senior executive warned.

Fran Unsworth, BBC director of news and current affairs, said the corporation was playing a “deadly serious” version of The Generation Game. She told the Women On Air conference: “The most significant challenge facing the BBC is how we reach younger audiences. Less and less are under 35. Our very existence might be called into question.”

Recent BBC figures showed that 16-24 year-old spend more time watching Netflix in a week than with all of BBC TV, including the BBC iPlayer. The sizes of audiences tuning in for scheduled news bulletins is declining rapidly, the Digital News Report, published yesterday, found. (P. 9)

The remainder of the article dealt with the issue of getting more female experts on television news. Unsworth stated this was right, but they couldn’t just sack people.

Okay, I’m not the best person to explain why young people under 35 aren’t watching the Beeb, as it’s well over a decade since I was that age. I can’t really talk about changes in entertainment tastes, as I don’t share many of them. Or at least, I’m not interested in some of the programmes that excite the reviewers in the media, like the various TV dramas about detectives hunting down deranged serial killers, and uncovering a web of lies and corruption. Or equally tense dramas about child abuse. My taste in detective television basically extended to Columbo and Van Der Valk, when he was last on back in the 1990s.

But I can make a good guess why young – and older – people aren’t tuning into BBC news. And it’s because of the Beeb’s appalling pro-Tory bias. Young people are the section of the British public in which support for Jeremy Corbyn is strongest. And the Beeb’s coverage of Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour party has been overwhelmingly, and very blatantly biased. And it’s become very, very obvious. The Corporation no longer has the same strong position as Britain’s trusted news broadcaster it once had. People are able to get their news now from a wider variety of sources through the internet, as well as the Corporation’s competitors on the commercial channels. And these news shows, such as RT, Democracy Now, Telesur English, Al-Jazeera, and in America The Young Turks, Secular Talk, Sam Seder’s Majority Report, the David Pakman Show and so, present a very different picture of what’s going on in the world. While the Beeb runs the establishment propaganda that our invasions and interventions in the Middle East and elsewhere are all for humanitarian reasons, these show how the real motivation is simply western corporate imperialism. They will also show just how the Israeli state is oppressing and viciously persecuting the Palestinians, and how the US – and Britain- has sponsored coups in Latin America, Iran and elsewhere, which have overthrown liberal and socialist regimes and installed Fascist dictators. All to protect US and British corporate interests, of course.

The Beeb, however, is very much part of the establishment, and its broadcasting is very much aimed at the corporate and political elite on the one hand, where it reflects their interests and concerns, and on the other aimed at getting the rest of us to accept it. There isn’t anything particularly unique about this. The Corporation’s bias against Labour is shared by the rest of the lamestream media and press. But they’re also increasingly under pressure from these alternative news sources.

If the Beeb really wants to get young people, and a large part of the older generation, back watching the news, then they should change their bias and start reporting Corbyn and the Labour party objectively and truthfully, as well as stop repeating flag-waving establishment propaganda about the wars in the Middle East. But this would be too radical a change, I fear. It would mean clearing out all the various Tories in the Beeb’s news teams, like Laura Kuenssberg and Nick Robinson, or telling them to do their job properly. And so the Beeb is stuck as the voice of a right-wing, Tory, imperialist establishment, while more and more people take their news from elsewhere.

Labour’s Emily Thornberry Condemns Tory Abstention from Vote on Gaza

May 22, 2018

More ringing condemnation of the government’s attitude to the Gaza massacre from Labour’s Emily Thornberry. In this video from RT, Thornberry discusses why Tweezer and her gang declared last Tuesday they were in favour of a vote on Gaza, only to decide against it three days later. She states that the answer to this issue can be found in the statement they issued on Friday, which called for the Israelis to make their own independent investigation.

Thornberry makes the point that this is a contradiction in terms, but it’s consistent with Tory policy. This is the same government, she points out, that said that the Saudis should be allowed to make their own independent inquiry into their bombing of weddings. This is the same government that said that Bahrein should be allowed to make its own investigation of the torture of nine year old children in its prisons. And she goes on to say that before the government extols the virtues of Netanyahu’s government, she will remind them of the last time the Israelis conducted an independent inquiry. This was in 2014, when four boys playing hide and seek in a fisherman’s hut were blown to pieces by an Israeli bomb. Israel conducted its own inquiry, and came up with a nasty piece of nonsense completely exonerating the IDF, claiming that the hut was really a Hamas terrorist compound. She states that that is what an independent inquiry by Israel looks like, rather than the international commission of inquiry that the government opposed on Friday, and that it is nothing short of a disgrace.

Absolutely. And just as disgraceful was the response of the American news media to the murder of a group of children by the IDF. I think the company in this case was CNN, but I’m not sure. It may also be the same kids Thornberry’s discussing in the video above, I don’t know, but during the bombardment a report for one of the American news channels showed during his report a group of children playing football. Minutes later the children were all dead, killed by an IDF bomb. The reporter did his job, and included that in his report.

And guess what? It led to all kinds of outrage and internal questions at his company, and he got the sack. The Israel lobby does not like the world’s media reporting their crimes against humanity, and will do everything to close them down and get their reporters the sack. I can remember when they did it to one of the Beeb’s female reporters when she unguardedly expressed her disgust at the Israeli’s bombardment of Gaza back in 2014. They accused her of being ‘anti-Semitic’. She, or one of the other reporters, also said that what provoked her comment was a group of Israelis nearby, who were making comments and celebrating the bombardment.

This is not only what the Tories defended, when they abstained from voting, but it’s also what the Israel lobby – the Blairites, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Labour Friends of Israel, Jonathan Arkush of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the rest are also defending: the butchery of civilians and children. All done using the tactic of smearing those, who report and protest these crimes as ‘anti-Semites’. Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

What You Didn’t See at the Zionist Anti-Corbyn Rally

March 29, 2018

The papers and TV news were naturally full of the anti-Corbyn rally organised by the Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies of British Jews. They claim Corbyn is an anti-Semite and sides with anti-Semites in the Labour party. As I’ve blogged about countless times before, this is vile rubbish. Corbyn and his supporters aren’t. The real reason they were protesting is that he wants a just settlement with Palestinians which will stop the ethnic cleansing and the theft of their land. But this is too much for the racial nationalists of the Israel lobby, who are driven into a sanctimonious, self-righteous fury if anyone dares to mention how racist Israel is, or reports the brutality it metes out to the Palestinians and other Arabs.

Amongst the piccies of the pro-Israel racists and hypocrites all decrying Corbyn in the I newspaper was this little photo below.

It’s of a group from Labour Against the Witch Hunt. The I never commented on them, which seems to me to indicate that they either didn’t know who they were, and thought they were another group of anti-Corbyn protesters. Or the I knew full well who they were, but were afraid to point them out in case they too were smeared as anti-Semites simply for reporting them.

Labour Against the Witch Hunt very definitely aren’t connected to the Israel lobby, and the British mouthpieces like the Jewish Leadership Council. They directly opposed to them. They’re for all the Labour members, that have been wrongly expelled, suspended or smeared as anti-Semites. As I’ve stated repeatedly, these people include self-respecting, secular and Torah observant Jews and genuinely anti-racist gentiles. Many of these people, Jews and gentiles, have been attacked by real Nazis for trying to combat racism and anti-Semitism. And the Jews smeared are often people, who have suffered anti-Semitic abuse and assault. And I have no doubt that many of them did have family members butchered in the obscenity of the Holocaust.

But they are not going to get coverage from the press, the Beeb and the other TV channels. Because these are all biased towards the Tories, or else back the Blairites, who are deeply enmeshed in the Israel lobby. And the power of the Israel lobby is too strong for many editors. These bigots are so arrogant, that they even claimed respected BBC jouros like Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin were anti-Semitic, simply because they dared to report Israeli atrocities during the invasion of Lebanon. And when Jonathan Dimbleby criticised these smears, he too was investigated for anti-Semitism.

Corbyn isn’t an anti-Semite, and this isn’t about anti-Semitism. This is about the Israel lobby using it as a weapon to get rid of a Labour leader they hate and fear, backed by a craven, mendacious and deeply compromised press. It’s long past the time it was stopped.

ITV Programme Next Thursday on Martin Luther King

March 14, 2018

Next Thursday, 22nd March 2018, ITV are broadcasting at 9.00 pm a programme about Martin Luther King, presented by that British newsreading institution, Sir Trevor McDonald. The blurb for this in the Radio Times runs

On the 50th anniversary of the civil rights leader’s death, Trevor McDonald travels to the Deep South of America to get closer to the man who meant so much to him and so many others. As well as finding out about the horrors of lynching in 20th-century America, he asks Naomi Campbell, General Colin Powell and the Reverend Al Sharpton what Martin Luther King all means to them. Disturbingly, he also meets a former member of the Ku Klux Klan who admits that he would once have targeted him because of the colour of his skin. (p. 103).

There’s also a section three pages further back, on page 100, which adds a bit more. This says

It’s 55 years since Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream speech’ in Washington transfixed the world and became a rallying call for the American civil rights movement. Fifty years after King’s assassination, Trevor McDonald looks at a remarkable life that was cut short. he talks to friends of King’s, including singer Harry Belafonte.

It’s the small, if familiar, details that still move. Like hearing how the mighty gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, seeing King struggling with notes for his speech, prompted him loudly with “Tell them about the dream, Martin”. What followed was off the cuff and remains spine-tingling to this day.

MLK was also politically far more radical than he is often portrayed. A month or so ago there were a series of articles and videos by Counterpunch and the various American left-wing news programmes pointing out that the rather anodyne image of King as preaching simple racial reconciliation was carefully crafted to exclude his criticism of capitalism and American imperialism. King did believe in racial reconciliation between White and Black, but he also believed that capitalism and big business was keeping Whites and Blacks divided in order to weaken the working class, and allow ordinary folks of whatever colour to be exploited.

He was also an opponent of the Vietnam War, which he saw as more corporate imperialism to exploit and oppress the coloured people of that country, just as Blacks in America were being exploited.

This stance led him into conflict with the Democrat Party and the president, Lyndon Johnson. After MLK made a speech denouncing capitalism and the war at the Riverside Church, Johnson removed King’s bodyguards. It was an ominous measure that everyone knew would ultimately mean King’s death.

And King also didn’t mince his words when it came to describing the atrocities of the Vietnam War and American imperialism. You may remember the fuss the Republicans kicked up about the Reverend Jeremiah Cone, the pastor at Barack Obama’s church. Cone was also strongly anti-American because of what he viewed as the country’s intrinsic racial injustice, shouting out ‘God dam’ America!’ The Republicans claimed that he was anti-White, and that his hatred of Whites must also be shared by the Obama, then just campaigning for the presidency, because Obama had worshipped in the same church without objection for something like 20 years. I honestly don’t know if Cone was anti-White or not. It’s possible he was. But his comments on American imperialism were very much in line with what MLK, who certainly wasn’t racist, also said.

This is an issue I shall have to go back to, as it’s still very, very relevant today, when the racist right is once again trying to goose step back into power, and western imperialism is exploiting and plundering the countries of the world, all under the pretext of freeing them from terror.

Another Satirical Song: Boris Johnson and Gove Sing ‘Reunited’

December 5, 2017

This is another piece of musical satire from Dutch Wogan on YouTube. In this piece, he has Boris and Gove talk about getting back together again with the help of Rupert Murdoch after stabbing each other in the back. Here’s the lyrics:

GOVE: I was a fool to ever stab your back
Gove minus Boris is a lonely track
My leadership bid backfired when Maybot got rid
Thankfully Rupert Murdoch got me reinstated
Hey hey

BORIS: I spent the evening watching BBC News
And laughed my arse off when I saw you lose
I got foreign sec while you got it in the neck
But now let’s work together ‘cause the government’s a wreck
Hey hey

BOTH: Reunited and it feels so good
Reunited ‘cause we understood
To achieve our dream we need to work as a team
We both are so ambitious, so we’re reunited
Hey hey

Ken Livingstone Praises RT’s Coverage of the War in Yemen

November 25, 2017

Okay, this is a clip of RT getting one of their fans to blow their trumpet for them, but ‘Red Ken’ Livingstone is right. He praises RT’s coverage of the war in Yemen, and its news reporting, as it reveals the stories that the Americans would rather not be covered. He states that during the evening he flicks between the news on the BBC, RT and Sky, and all of them inevitably have a bias that reflects their national interests. But when he looks back at the American coverage of the Vietnam War in the 1960s and ’70s, the bias was horrendous. RT is much better, as it shows the British public what the Saudis are really doing in Yemen.

And not just the Saudis. The Americans and we Brits have been very keen to sell them all that ‘marvellous kit’ David Cameron enthused about when he went to see a BAe System plant in Lanchashire. Yemen is a human rights atrocity, with seven million people starving in famine, and the Saudis deliberately butchering civilians, including women and children, in schools, factories and mosques. But we’re allied to the Saudis through big oil, and are desperately keen to sell them arms they don’t need and can’t maintain, simply to keep our own bloated military-industrial complex awash with money. All while ordinary Brits starve.

You can expect the Tories and their Zionist bedfellows to go berserk at this one. ‘Red Ken’ was regularly slandered in the 1980s as a ‘Communist’. Those, who knew him, were very frank in denying this. He wasn’t. He was not averse to using bits of Marxist ideology or phraseology when it suited him, and he certainly used them when it was convenient, but he wasn’t one himself. But he was a real danger to entrenched capitalist interests, not least because he believed in workers’ control. And that really loosened the bowels of the newspaper proprietors.

And the appartchiks at New Labour and their friends in the Israel lobby have been trying to smear him as an anti-Semite since. Just like they’ve been smearing thousands of others. It’s because he dared to point out that Hitler briefly made an agreement with the Zionist pioneers to smuggle a few Jews out of Germany to the nascent White European Jewish colony in Palestine. This was entirely factually correct. It was the Ha’avara agreement. But you’re not allowed to mention historical fact. It’s anti-Semitic if you do. Never mind that ‘Red Ken’s’ administration in the GLC was regularly mocked for being anti-racist, anti-homophobic and pro-feminist. Never mind that he gave money to real Jewish Socialist groups, which upset the Tory Jewish establishment at the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and condemned anti-Semitism along with other forms of racism – against the Blacks and Irish, for example, in his book, Livingstone’s Labour. He’s an anti-Semite. Because he dares to criticise Israel, when few others will dare to do so, and he frightens the Blairites by actually standing up for workers’ rights when they just want to kow-tow to big business.

Lembit Opik Goes through the Papers on RT: Loss of International Agencies, Cruelty to Animals and Tory Austerity Deaths

November 22, 2017

This is another great piece from RT. It’s their version of that section on the British mainstream news shows, like Andrew Marr and the morning news, where they go through the papers with a guest commenting on stories of interest. In this piece from RT’s Going Underground, main man Afshin Rattansi’s guest is Lembit Opik, the former Lib Dem MP for one of the Welsh constituencies. Opik lost his seat at the election some time ago. Before then he was jocularly known as ‘the Minister for Asteroids’ by Private Eye, because his grandfather was an astronomer from one of the Baltic Countries, and Opik himself took very seriously the threat of asteroid Armageddon in the 1990. I can remember meeting him at a talk on ‘Asteroid Impacts’ one year at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, where he and the other panellists, including Duncan Steele, an Australian astronomer who now teaches over here urged the world’s governments to set up an early warning system to defend Earth from such catastrophes.

Here, Opik picks out the stories from the papers about how Britain has lost its position as the seat, or with a member on, three international regulatory agencies as a result of Brexit. We no longer have a candidate sitting at the International Court of Justice. The European Medical Agency will go to Amsterdam, and the European Banking Authority will go to Paris. Opik makes the point that all these agencies are leaving Britain, as there’s no point in them being here if we’re not in the EU.

There’s a bit of lively, spirited disagreement between Opik and Rattansi, which doesn’t seem to be entirely serious. And in fact, the tone of their conversation makes me wonder if they didn’t have quite a good lunch with liquid refreshment. Rattansi is something of a ‘Leave’ supporter, and says in reply that they can go. We don’t want them. And perhaps if the International Court of Justice actually worked, we could prosecute some of those responsible for war crimes.

Opik’s next story is about a ruling by the Tories that animals don’t feel pain, and have no emotions. Which he points out will amaze anyone, who’s ever had a dog or seen one howl. He and Rattansi then comment about how this is all about the Tories trying to make it easier for themselves to go fox hunting, and for Trump and his children to kill more animals.

Opik then goes on to a funnier story, which nevertheless has a serious point. Documents released to Greenpeace under the Freedom of Information Act have shown that Britain lobbied Brazil over obtaining the rights for Shell and BP to drill for oil in more of the Brazilian rainforest. This is a serious issue. What makes it funny is that the government tried to redact the information. However, they got it wrong, and instead of blacking out the embarrassing pieces of information, they highlighted them instead in yellow marker. Which they then sent to Greenpeace’s head of operations. Opik then goes on to make the very serious point that this is information, that the government was trying to hide from us.

The last story is from the Independent. It’s about the finding by one of the peer-reviewed British medical journals that the Tories’ austerity policy is responsible for 120,000 deaths, in what has been described as ‘economic murder’. Opik’s sceptical of this claim, as he says he’s seen stats misused like this before. Rattansi counters in reply by saying that it does come from a peer-reviewed medical journal. Opik does, however, accept that Tory austerity policies have harmed some people, but is sceptical whether its 120,000.

These reports show that Britain is losing its influence on the world stage as a result of voting to leave the European Union. There’s even the possibility that we will lose our place on the UN Security Council if Scotland breaks away. It’s also interesting to hear Rattansi remind Opik that David Davis, the Tory MP, claimed that Britain wouldn’t lose her position as the base for various international agencies and ruling bodies if we left the EU. This is another failed prediction from the Tories. Or another lie, if you prefer.

As for the Conservatives ruling that animals don’t feel pain, the Independent states that this is ‘anti-science’. Absolutely. I think anyone, who has ever kept a pet knows that animals do feel pain, and do have emotions. Or at least, creatures like birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. My guess is that they’ve passed this ruling not just as a way of making the return of fox hunting easier, but as part of an attack on a whole range of animal rights legislation, which they probably see as a burden on farming and industry. Like whatever legislation there is protecting the wellbeing of farm animals or regulating vivisection. And it is very definitely an ‘anti-science’ ruling. It seems that new discoveries are being made regularly showing how animal cognition and mental abilities are much more sophisticated than we previously believed. For example, crows are able to make and use tools. They’ll use sticks to open tin cans, for example. This amazed scientists when they first discovered it, as tool use was previously considered to be confined to primates. And in yesterday’s I there was a report on the finding by scientists that sheep can recognise human faces. And yes, the I has also carried several stories over the years about how scientists have found that dogs really do have emotions. When I read these, my reaction was ‘No sh*t, Sherlock!’ It’s very obvious that dogs do have emotions. But not, apparently, to the baying anti-science morons in the Tory party.

Mike put up the story about medical researchers finding that Tory policies have killed 120,000 people in the UK. I don’t entirely blame Opik for being sceptical, as there have been similar claims made that have been vastly inflated. However I don’t doubt that this is true in this case. We have over a hundred thousand people forced to use food banks, and millions of people living in ‘food insecure’ households, where they don’t know when they’ll eat again. Even if poverty and starvation do not directly cause their deaths, they are a contributing cause by leaving them vulnerable to other factors, such as disease or long-term illness, hypothermia and so on. And there are at least 700 people, who have been directly killed by the Tories’ austerity. These people died of starvation, or diabetic comas when they could not afford to keep their insulin in a fridge, or in despair took their own lives. They’ve been commemorated and their cases recorded by Johnny Void, Stilloaks, Mike at Vox Political, and the great peeps at DPAC.

Many of these poor souls actually left notes behind saying that they were killing themselves because they couldn’t afford to live.

But the DWP has refused to accept it, and blithely carries on repeating the lie that there’s no link between their deaths and austerity. And certainly not with the murderous sanctions system introduced by David Cameron and Ian Duncan Smith.

Rattansi was right about the failure of the International Court of Justice to prosecute the war criminals, who led us into the Iraq invasion and other wars in the Middle East. But nevertheless, there was an attempt to have Bush, Blair and their fellow butchers and liars hauled before international justice for their crimes against humanity. A group of British, Greek and Canadian lawyers and activists tried to bring a prosecution, and the lawyer in charge of looking into the case was, at least initially, interested. Then American exceptionalism won out once again, and the US placed pressure on the court to throw out the case.

Being tried for war crimes is just something that happens to other, lesser nations, you see.

If there were any true, international justice, Blair and the rest of New Labour and Bush’s vile neocons would find themselves in the dock, like the other genocides and mass-murderers who’ve been punished. And I’d just love to see Cameron, Smith, Damian Green, Esther McVie and Theresa May join them for their ‘chequebook genocide’ against the disabled.

But unfortunately that ain’t going to happen. However, we can at least get them out before they kill many more people.