Posts Tagged ‘Police’

Starvation: the Latest Part in the Tories Long Campaign against Young Mothers

March 28, 2017

Mike this evening put up a piece reporting that a survey of 300 young mothers found that they were experiencing severe financial problems. Two-thirds of those questioned said that they were only just managing, and a quarter had been forced to use food banks.

This is disgusting, and Mike takes apart the equally revolting attempts of the DWP to put a positive spin on these statistics. They claimed that it was ‘encouraging’ that more children were living in ‘working households’. Mike points out the obvious: this has absolutely nothing to do with child poverty. Similarly, doubling free childcare for three and four years may look like an improvement, but it’s questionable how many this will actually help.

And he also shoots down the lie that ‘work coaches’ are ‘encouraging people into jobs’. They don’t encourage. They just bully, adding more stress to people already under considerable financial strain.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/28/young-mothers-are-starving-because-they-are-shortchanged-on-benefits-and-cant-find-paying-work/

Mike makes clear the reasons why these young women are starving: they’re being short-changed on benefits, and can’t find paying work. This is, of course, all part of the Tories long campaign to create a cowed, impoverished workforce willing to accept any job, no matter how poor the conditions and pay.

But it’s also part of the deeper Tory hostility to young mothers. Mike acknowledges this in his article, stating that the Tories’ hidden policy here is to prevent people having children at a young age. He’s right, and some of them have expressed their hatred of young mums in particularly grotesque rhetoric. Way back in the 1970s Maggie’s mentor, Keith Joseph, declared that unmarried teen mothers were ‘a threat to our stock’ – a nasty eugenicist turn of phrase, for which he was rightly pilloried. It’s even more sinister when you realise that Sweden continued sterilising people on eugenics grounds right into the 1970s. Among those targeted for sterilisation as a threat to Swedish genetic stock were promiscuous young women. I don’t know if Joseph wanted to see such legislation introduced here, so he could sterilise a few British unmarried mothers. Given his comments, it really wouldn’t surprise me.

A little while ago I posted up here episodes I found on YouTube of a BBC series broadcast in the 1980s investigating government secret and the way this undermined democracy. In one edition of the programme, they discussed the way the police had compiled secret reports and records of ordinary people they found suspicious, even though they had committed no crime. These included young people simply following the latest fashions in dress and music, like punks. In one area, they were also writing down the names of young pregnant women, who did not appear to have boyfriends.

And then in the 1990 there was the unsavoury spectacle of Peter Lilley prancing about the stage at the Tory conference one year, reading out his ‘little list’ in what he thought was a parody of the Mikado. On it, amongst all the other people, like the unemployed and welfare recipients he and the rest of the attendees hated were unmarried mothers.

This is why so many young mothers are finding it so difficult to cope now. The Tories have always despised them as part of the ‘undeserving’ poor, to use the language of the Victorians that Maggie thought was so ‘virtuous’. And so I doubt very much whether they are at all sorry to see these poor young women starve. In fact, given the eugenicist views expressed by Keith Joseph, I can imagine some are probably only too delighted.

Which raises the question whether these women are also part of those targeted for ‘chequebook genocide’ – the term Mike has coined for those the Tories seem happy to see starve to death after having their benefits removed. Mike coined the term in response to the deaths and mass poverty caused by the DWP and their wretched Work Capability Assessment. As Jeffrey Davies on here has pointed out, the congenitally disabled were the subject of Nazi extermination as well as the Jews, Gypsies and others they considered subhuman. Mike and many other bloggers from the Left and disability rights movements have speculated whether the Tories have the same policy, but heavily disguised. The news that a quarter of young mothers now have to use food banks makes you wonder if they’re also targeted for extermination as a threat to ‘our stock’, in the same way that the Swedes also forcibly sterilised promiscuous young women.

Peace, Thoughts and Prayers to the Victims of Today’s Attacks in London and Parliament

March 22, 2017

Joanna, one of the great commenters here, posted this. She speaks for all of us.

I would like wish the family of the police officer who died today, peace and condolences during the coming days and weeks, and I hope all those who were injured today, a swift and complete recovery!! My heart goes out to all of those who were affected by the terrorist attack!

Absolutely. May God bless all the victims and their families of today’s horrible violence.

Schools Display and Document Folder on the 1920s General Strike

March 13, 2017

The General Strike: Jackdaw No.l05, compiled by Richard Tames (London, New York and Toronto: Jackdaw Publications Ltd, Grossman Publishers Inc., and Clarke, Irwin and Company 1972)

I picked this up about 20 years ago in one of the bargain bookshops in Bristol’s Park Street. Jackdaw published a series of folders containing reproduction historical texts and explanatory posters and leaflets on variety of historical topics and events, including the Battle of Trafalgar, the slave trade, the voyages of Captain Cook, Joan of Arc, the Anglo-Boer War, the rise of Napoleon, Ned Kelley and Wordsworth. They also published another series of document folders on specifically Canadian themes, such as the Indians of Canada, the Fenians, Louis Riel, Cartier of Saint Malo, the 1867 confederation of Canada, the vote in Canada from 1791 to 1891, the Great Depression, Laurier, and Canada and the Civil War.

This particular folder is on the 1926 general strike, called by the TUC when the Samuel Commission, set up to report into the state of the mining industry, published its report. This recommended that the mines should be reorganised, but not nationalised, and although the miners were to get better working conditions and fringe benefits, they would have to take a pay cut. The folder included a poster giving a timeline of the strike and the events leading up to it, and photos of scenes from it, including volunteer constables practising self-defence, office girls travelling to work by lorry, the Conservative prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, and buses and train signal boxes staffed by volunteers. There’s also a Punch cartoon commenting on the end of the Strike. It also contains a leaflet explaining the various documents in the folder, along suggested projects about the issue and a short bibliography.

Poster and timeline of the Strike

Leaflet explaining the documents

The facsimile documents include

1. A leaflet arguing the Miner’s case.

2. Telegram from the Transport and General Workers’ Union to a local shop steward, calling for preparations for the strike.

3. Pages from the Daily Worker, the official paper of the T.U.C. during the Strike.

4. Notice from the Met calling for special constables.

5. Communist Party leaflet supporting the Strike.

6. Handbill giving the proposals of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the leaders of the Free Churches for an end to the Strike.

7. Handbill denouncing the strike as ‘The Great ‘Hold-Up’.
The accompanying pamphlet states that this was very far from the truth, and that it was a government lie that the T.U.C. were aiming at a revolution.

8. Emergency edition of the Daily Express.

9. Conservative PM Stanley Baldwin’s guarantee of employment to strike-breakers.

10. Contemporary Analysis of the causes of the Strike’s failure, from the Public Opinion.

11. The British Gazette, the government’s official paper, edited by Winston Churchill.

12. Anonymous letter from a striker recommending that the T.U.C. shut off the electricity.

13. Appeal for aid to Miner’s wives and dependents.

14. Protest leaflet against Baldwin’s ‘Blacklegs’ Charter’.

The General Strike was one of the great events of 20th century labour history, and its collapse was a terrible defeat that effectively ended revolutionary syndicalism and guild socialism as a major force in the labour movement. It left a legacy of bitterness that still persists in certain areas today.

The jackdaw seems to do a good job of presenting all sides of the issue, and the final section of the explanatory leaflet urges children to think for themselves about it. And one of the folder’s features that led me to buy it was the fact that it contained facsimile reproductions of some of the papers, flyers, letters and telegrams produced by the strikers arguing their case.

Looking through the folder’s contents it struck me that the strike and the issues it raised are still very much relevant in the 21 century, now almost a century after it broke it. It shows how much the Tories and the rich industrialists were determined to break the power of the unions, as well as the sheer hostility of the press. The Daily Express has always been a terrible right-wing rag, and was solidly Thatcherite and anti-union, anti-Labour in the 1980s. Since it was bought by Richard Desmond, apparently it’s become even more virulently right-wing and anti-immigrant – or just plain racist – than the Daily Heil.

The same determination to break their unions, and the miners in particular, was shown by Thatcher during the Miner’s Strike in the 1980s, again with the solid complicity of the media, including extremely biased and even falsified reporting from the BBC. It was her hostility to the miners and their power which partly led Thatcher to privatise and decimate the mining industry, along with the rest of Britain’s manufacturing sector. And these attitudes have persisted into the governments of Cameron and May, and have influenced Tony Blair and ‘Progress’ in the Labour party, who also bitterly hate the unions and anything that smacks of real working class socialism.

Counterpunch on the Threat of Military Policing in America by 2030

February 19, 2017

Last week there was a chilling piece in Counterpunch by John Whitehead. The left-wing American magazine, the Intercept, had obtained a five minute promotional video by the Pentagon. This forecast that by 2030 conditions in American cities will have decayed to the point where the army is being sent in as a police force.
He writes

The U.S. military plans to take over America by 2030.

No, this is not another conspiracy theory. Although it easily could be.

Nor is it a Hollywood political thriller in the vein of John Frankenheimer’s 1964 political thriller Seven Days in May about a military coup d’etat.

Although it certainly has all the makings of a good thriller.

No, this is the real deal, coming at us straight from the horse’s mouth.

According to “Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity,” a Pentagon training video created by the Army for U.S. Special Operations Command, the U.S. military plans to use armed forces to solve future domestic political and social problems.

What they’re really talking about is martial law, packaged as a well-meaning and overriding concern for the nation’s security.

The chilling five-minute training video, obtained by The Intercept through a FOIA request and made available online, paints an ominous picture of the future—a future the military is preparing for—bedeviled by “criminal networks,” “substandard infrastructure,” “religious and ethnic tensions,” “impoverishment, slums,” “open landfills, over-burdened sewers,” a “growing mass of unemployed,” and an urban landscape in which the prosperous economic elite must be protected from the impoverishment of the have nots.

He then makes connections between the demands by the commentary in the Pentagon’s video to ‘drain the swamp’, with the same slogan used by Donald Trump. He also points out that Americans have become used to the all-powerful surveillance state, which can pinpoint your location and gain information through mobile phones and personal computers.

For further information, see: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/16/coming-soon-to-a-city-near-you-military-policing/

Whitehead states that it’s like the ’60s political thriller, ‘Seven Days in May’. It’s actually far closer to the urban dystopias of Cyberpunk and similar SF, like Blade Runner, Elysium, James Cameron’s Strange Days and John Carpenter’s Escape from New York and its sequel, Escape from LA. This is the America the Pentagon believes will arise within the next fifteen years. Back in the 1990s there was a programme on one of the Beeb’s documentary slots arguing that the cyberpunk future that had been forecast would arise from Thatcherism hadn’t emerged, and that thanks to free market economics, countries all round the world were actually prospering. This is just right-wing biased reporting and wishful thinking. It’s becoming painfully evident that neoliberalism is destroying countries around the world, and immiserating their citizens in even more grinding poverty. But it makes massive profits for big business, so they and their shills in the media will keep that very carefully covered up. The predictions were true. They just go their timing wrong.

There’s another point to be made here as well about the brutal methods America has used around the world to enforce its domination. These have included organising Fascist coups and right-wing military dictators. Critics of this policy that have argued that in addition to the harm done to the countries that have been the victims of these policies, there is the added danger that inevitably the repressive measures empires use to oppress the indigenous peoples of their colonies return to be used on the people of the imperial homeland itself. And this will be the case in America.

Unless neoliberalism is comprehensively scrapped, wealth is redistributed and the widening gap between the poor and the rich is closed.

Here’s the opening titles from Escape from New York, to show the kind of America such SF depicts, and which may arise in the next decades unless we do something to stop it.

William Blum on the Police Bombing of Black Americans

February 9, 2017

I found this passage in William Blum’s America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy absolutely mind-blowing as it says so much about Reaganite and post-Reaganite America’s willingness to use deadly force, regardless of who gets killed, and the militarisation of the police.

In the chapter on human rights and torture, Blum discusses the continuing misuse of American drone strikes to assassinate terrorist leaders. These are notorious, as most of the victims so far have been civilians, including women and children. Blum mentions that Amnesty International has protested several times against their use. He makes the point that drones are only ever used against poor countries, like Yemen and Pakistan, and would never be used against America’s allies in the Developed world, like Britain. But bomb strikes have been used by the police in America against terrorists in poor Black neighbourhoods, with the resulting massive loss of innocent lives and destruction of people’s homes. He writes

Can it be imagined that American officials would fire a missile into a house in Paris or London or Ottawa because they suspected that high-ranking al-Qaeda members were present there? Even if the US knew of their presence for an absolute fact, and was not just acting on speculation, as in the Predator cases mentioned above? Well, they most likely would not attack, but can we put anything past Swaggering-Superarrogant-Superpower-Cowboys-on-steroids? After all, they’ve already done it to their own – US drone attack killed two American citizens in Yemen in 2011, and on May 13, 1985, a bomb dropped by a police helicopter over Philadelphia, Pennsylvania burned down an entire block, some sixty homes destroyed, eleven dead, including several small children.. The police, the mayor’s office, and the FBI were all involved in this operation to evict an organization called MOVE from the house they lived in.

The victims in Philadelphia were all black of course. So let’s rephrase the question: can it be imagined that American officials would fire a missile into a residential area of Beverly Hills or the Upper East Side of Manhattan? Stay tuned. (p. 127).

No, of course they wouldn’t.

But what in the name of Heaven is a police force doing with bombs? This whole affair reads like something from a dystopian SF novel. You know, something like Stephen King’s The Running Man, which was set in a Fascist America where the cops shoot people rioting to get bread. That one was filmed in the 1980s with Arnie. Or The Hunger Games. It does not sound like the actions of a responsible democracy based on ‘justice for all’.

I’m not disputing that sometimes it is necessary to use force against armed, violent criminals and terrorists. But I am absolutely amazed that the US police was militarised to the extent that the used bombs. As for the victims being Black, that explains so much about why so many Blacks in America hate the police, and the entire point behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

Trump Insults Australian Prime Minister and Mexican President

February 4, 2017

Another day, another example of how absolutely, constitutionally unsuited for government, or even civilised company, Donald Trump is. Yesterday there was the news that Trump had managed to insult the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, and threatened the president of Mexico with invasion.

Trump had been discussing an agreement signed last November between Obama and the Ozzies in which America promised to take a few of the refugees coming to Australia, who were temporarily settled in the camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Dictator Drumpf really doesn’t like the idea of taking prospective immigrants to Oz, and made his opposition very plain. According to the Washington Post, the orange megalomaniac told Turnbull that it was ‘the worst deal ever’, accused the Ozzie PM of trying to send him the next Boston bombers and said he was worried that the deal would kill him politically. He also told Turnbull that he’d already spoken to four national leaders that morning, including Putin, and that this was the ‘worst call so far’. The phone call was expected to last an hour, but Drumpf rang off after only 25 minutes.

Here’s the Young Turks video in which John Iadarola and Ana Kasparian discuss Trump’s highly undiplomatic phone call.

Then there are reports that in his phone call to the Mexican president, Trump is supposed to have accused the Mexican army of cowardice in trying to sort out the drug cartels, and threatened to send US troops to do the job instead. He is claimed to have said

‘You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.’

There have been denials that this was ever said from the Mexican president’s office, but it appears to be true. John Iadarola, discussing the report in the video below, suggests that the denial might be an attempt by President Pena Nieta to save face. When he stood up to Drumpf last week, his approval ratings unsurprisingly shot up. Trump talking to him like this looks like a humiliation, and so he may have wanted to cover it up to prevent his approval ratings plummeting accordingly. It does, however, unfortunately seem to be true.

Iadarola and Kasparian make the point in the video about Trump’s insulting phone call to Premier Turnbull that Drumpf is perfectly happy to bomb the nations of the Middle East, but as soon as their citizens want to move out and seek refuge in America, he’s gets upset. In fact Australia’s immigration policy is itself highly controversial. I can remember Duncan Steele, an Australian astronomer at one of the British universities, saying at the Cheltenham Festival of Science in the 1990s that their treatment of refugees made him ashamed to be an Ozzie.

As for the drug war in Mexico, the drug cartels are indeed ‘bad hombres’. Actually, I think that term gives a romantic gloss to gangs of utter scum, who are completely subhuman in their cruelty and barbarism. In one of the Mexican provinces where they’re particularly strong, the gangs were engaged in feminicido – feminicide – as a kind of very sick sport. They got their kicks raping and killing women. And far from being cowards, the Mexican cops, who take them on are as hard as nails. A few years ago the on-line humour magazine, Cracked, did a list of the toughest real life vigilantes. Top of the list was a secret organisation of Mexican coppers, dedicated to rubbing out the gangs and their members. The identities of their members were unknown, to prevent reprisals against their families. The overall impression given was that these men were like the Punisher, but even more ruthless and absolutely dedicated.

I’ve no doubt that the Mexican army isn’t as good, as well trained or as well equipped as the Americans. But considering that America and her allies are still in Iraq and Afghanistan after nearly a decade and a half, I really don’t see that the Americans would have any more success in dealing with the drug cartels than the Mexican authorities.

Quite apart from the fact that you don’t tell the head of a friendly neighbouring state that you’re going to invade his country if he doesn’t sort a domestic problem out. Trump really has no idea how that sounds, not just to other nations generally, but specifically to Latin Americans. There’s considerable resentment of America in Central and South America, particularly in Argentina. It dates from the 19th century. Before then, many Spanish American liberals were solidly in favour of the US as the kind of modern, progressive country they wished their nations to be.

Then the US invaded Mexico, and causing these intellectuals to reverse their previous positive attitudes. They became bitterly resentful of what they saw as the US’s contemptuous, colonialist treatment of Latin America. It was the start of what I think is called ‘Arielismo’, in which South America writers used the character of Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the brutish servant of the wizard Prospero, as a metaphor for the imperialist contempt with which they perceived Americans treated their Spanish-speaking neighbours to the south and their culture.

The Young Turks in the video above also talk about how Trump’s brusque, insulting treatment of his Mexican opposite number may imperil the NAFTA trade agreement with Mexico. This has resulted in a loss of jobs in America, as firms have shifted their locations south to take advantage of the cheaper labour there. But they argue that it has also benefited America.

Trump is clearly one of the most undiplomatic presidents in American history. You really do wonder how long it will be before this loudmouthed buffoon starts another bloody war, or a major international incident, simply because he can’t keep a civil tongue in his head.

He can’t even be counted on to behave decently with our head of state. Mike a few days ago carried a story on his site that Prince Charles had been told not to lecture Drumpf on global warming, if he meets him, as otherwise the Orange Supremacist will ‘explode’. Now I’m well aware that not everyone reading this site is a monarchist, and the exaggerated deference, with which they’re treated should definitely go. I’m referring to all those arcane rules of behaviour, which dictate that you must only talk to the queen if she speaks to you. Those rules should have no place in the 21st century. But that does not excuse another head of state from going on a rant at ours.

Wirral In It Together on the Non-Disclosure of Police Findings in ‘Brickgate’

January 14, 2017

I had this kind comment by Wirral In It Together about my article reporting on ‘Brickgate’. This was Angela Eagle’s spurious claim that supporters of Jeremy Corbyn had thrown a brick threw her office window. Not only had Mike over at Vox Political and myself covered it, I also recall seeing Wirral In It Together’s blog posts. Here he adds a few more details on how the police’s conclusions had to be kept back for legal reasons, with the result that the press were given the freedom to repeat Eagle’s lie.

Wirral In It Together writes

Have just found your excellent articles on this subject. You may or may not know that I blogged on it also. I also complained to IPSO which was not upheld. I made an FOI request to the police where the information needed to be basically dragged out of them. They found almost immediately after the incident that although the brick was found on site, there was no conclusive evidence that it was used to break the window, but couldn’t release this information for fear of adversely impacting on the ongoing investigation. So the media jumped in and smeared, with Angela Eagle and her press person Imran Ahmed’s loyal assistance.

Here’s a link to a Twitter moment with all the info I posted, collected in one place: https://twitter.com/i/moments/808788741477302272

Is Rupert Murdoch the Biggest Purveyor of Fake News?

January 14, 2017

Yesterday, I put up a piece commenting on a report in the I newspaper that the BBC had decided to set up a special team, Reality Check, to rebut fake news on the internet. James Harding, the head of BBC News, said that this wouldn’t be about policing the internet, and it wouldn’t attack the mainstream press.

This all rings very hollow, as at least in America, faith in the mainstream news outlets is at an all-time low. More people are turning to alternative news sources on the internet as a reaction to the bias and misreporting of the established news outlets and broadcasters. And the Beeb certainly has plenty of form when it comes to bias. Like editing the footage of the battle between the strikers and the police at Orgreave colliery during the Miners’ Strike, so that it appeared to show the miners attacking the police. The reality was the complete opposite. Barry and Savile Kushner in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, point out that the Beeb rarely allows a dissenting voice to be heard against austerity. When one is heard, they are interrupted or shouted down by the presenter, keen to maintain the government, establishment view at all costs. And Nick Robinson himself did a piece of deliberate misreporting worthy of TASS or Goebbels during the Scots referendum. He asked a question Scottish independence might have on the financial sector north of the border. Salmond answered it fully. This was then gradually edited down over successive news programmes, until it vanished altogether, with Robinson claiming that Salmond hadn’t answered the question.

So there’s plenty of very good reasons why you can’t trust the Beeb.

Now there is a considerable amount of fake news on the Net. The American elections have thrown up any amount of pure rubbish. In addition to the usual weirdness from the Ufolks, which claimed that Putin had told the Russian armed forces to prepare to defend the motherland against extraterrestrial invasion, there were the tin foil hatted claims of Alex Jones. Jones, the head of the conspiracy news site, Infowars, had come out with some truly barking, and very dangerous comments about Hillary Clinton. He claimed that she was part of some Satanic cult, which was abusing children from a pizza parlour in Philadelphia. She was also supposed to be demonically possessed, like Barack Obama, and may have been an alien or robot, at least in part. It’s entirely bogus, along with the reports others put up claiming that she suffers from a neurological illness contracting from eating children’s brains.

But the mainstream media has also produced bogus news. And one of the worst offenders is Fox News. Someone analysed how many of the stories Fox reported were actually true, and came out with the statistics that about three-quarters of the time they were rubbish. Put simply, if you watch Fox, you will be less informed that someone who doesn’t. There’s a reason why the network’s earned the nickname of ‘Faux News’. It’s very much like the old clip sometimes added to pieces on the internet, in which a man upbraids another for making an answer so stupid, that it’s lowered the IQ of everyone in the room, and the other needs to apologise. Well, that’s Fox writ large.

Fox News is also on the internet, along with many other newspapers and channels. So you can watch Bill O’Reilly tell lies about his career there. O’Reilly’s one of the channel’s veteran anchors. He was caught out claiming that he was actually in the Falklands or nearby parts of Argentina reporting during the Falklands War. He also witnessed a sectarian riot in Northern Ireland, and was present outside the house of one of the witnesses of the JFK assassination when he committed suicide. In fact, this was all shown to be bilge. In the Falkland’s conflict, for example, he was safely several thousand miles away in Buenos Aires.

Will the Beeb try and rebut some of the barking stories reported by Fox? No, of course they won’t. Fox is a mainstream news source, and is part owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the Times and the Scum over here. The Scum is notorious for its bias and mendacity, but somehow the Times and its sister paper, the Sunday Times, has managed to avoid this. Sometimes you wonder why, as the Sunday Times has also carried bogus stories.

Like the time it claimed Michael Foot was a KGB agent called Comrade Boot, for which the former Labour leader successfully sued for libel. And then there were the ‘Clinton Crazies’. These were a group of journos around the Sunday Times and the American Spectator, who believed that Bill Clinton was a violent mobster. The former governor and US president was supposed to be importing cocaine from South America through an airfield in his state. He was also responsible for ordering the deaths of 20 + aids and other figures, who had displeased him. One of the journos responsible for this nonsense was so paranoid, that during an interview with another journalist he kept the curtains closed, and anxiously peered out into the street at various intervals, in case ‘they’ were watching him from a parked car. One of the hacks, who produced this tripe later saw reason, and appeared on one of Adam Curtis’ documentaries stating very clearly it was all crazy nonsense. But the Sunday Times published it.

But the Beeb very definitely isn’t going to tackle Murdoch’s rubbish, because Murdoch is the favourite of the various parties that have occupied No.10 in recent years, both the Tories and New Labour. In exchange for favourable publicity for the Murdoch press, they’ve been very happy to concede greater advantages to the media mogul, despite numerous conflicts of interest and the construction of a near monopoly in private broadcasting.

Murdoch hates the Beeb with a passion. He’s been demanding its break up since the 1980s, publishing stories attacking the Beeb at every opportunity in his papers, including the Times. And so with the threat of privatisation now made extremely clear by the Tories, the BBC will very definitely not want to show how mendacious Fox is.

So you can expect the Beeb to crack down on the alternative news outlets on the Net, under the pretext that it’s fighting the rubbish put out by Jones and co., while doing nothing about the fake news churned out by the establishment. Like the Murdoch press, and the Beeb itself.

Pro-NHS Political Comment in Paul McAuley’s ‘Something Coming Through’

December 27, 2016

something-coming-pic

One of the books I’ve been reading this Christmas is Paul McAuley’s Something Coming Through (London: Gollancz 2015). McAuley’s a former scientist as well as an SF writer. Apart from novels, he also reviewed books and contributed short stories to the veteran British SF magazine, Interzone. He was one of the writers who created the gene punk genre, sometimes also called ‘ribofunk’. This was the genetic engineering counterpart to Cyberpunk, where, instead of using computers, individuals, criminals and corporations used genetic engineering to redesign new forms of life, or spread invasive memes throughout the population to control the way people thought. Back in the 1990s he was one of the guests on the BBC Radio 3 series, Grave New Worlds, in which computer scientists, writers and artists talked about the transhuman condition. This was back when everyone was talking about cyborgisation, and the potential of contemporary technology to produce new varieties of humanity. Apart from McAuley, the guests also included J.G. Ballard and the performance artist Stelarc, who has personally explored the implications of cybernetics for the human body in a series of performances. In one of these he had a mechanical third arm, operated through electrical signals picked up through the stomach muscles. He also gave a modern music performance, in which he was wired up to the internet via galvanic stimulators. A search engine then went about finding images of body parts on the Net. When it found one, that part of the body was electronically stimulated so that it moved. There were also booths in three cities around the world, where participants could also press buttons to move Stelarc via electric impulses. Apart from Kevin Warwick, the professor of robotics at Warwick university, is the person who’s come the closest to being Star Trek’s Borg.

McAuley’s Something Coming Through and its sequel, Into Everywhere, follow the fictional universe he created in a series of magazine short stories about the alien Jackaroo and their impact on humanity. Following a short period of warfare, including the destruction of part of London with a nuclear bomb by terrorists, the Jackaroo turned up and declared that they wish to help. These aliens bring with them 15 artificial wormholes, which act as gateways to 15 worlds, which the Jackaroo give to humanity. Humanity isn’t the only race that the aliens have helped, and the worlds they give to humanity are covered with the ruins and artefacts of previous alien civilisations, now vanished. The Jackaroo themselves are never seen. They interact with humanity through avatars, artificial beings that look like human men. These have golden skin and features modelled on a number of contemporary celebrities. They’re also bald, wear shades, and dress in black track suits. Their motives for helping humanity are unclear. They claim they just want to help, and that it is up to humanity themselves how they use the worlds they have given them. But they are widely suspected of having their own agenda, and despite the protestations of non-interference they are suspected of subtly manipulating humanity.

Accompanying the Jackaroo are the !cho, another alien race, who are equally mysterious. They move about the world in opaque tanks supported on three skeletal legs. Nobody has ever managed to open one up, or scan the tanks using X-rays or ultrasound. It is, however, widely believed that the !cho are sentient colonies of shrimp. Their motives, and their relationship with the Jackaroo, are also unknown.

Something Coming Through follows the adventures of Chloe Millar, a researcher for a company, Disruption Theory, in London, and Vic Gayle, a cop on Mangala, one of the Jackaroo gift worlds. The objects and ruins left from the Jackaroo’s previous client civilisations can be highly dangerous. Some of them are still active, despite the many thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions of years of abandonment and decay. These can infect humans with memes, algorithms that alter psychology and behaviour. The strongest, most intact of these become eidolons, artificial entities that can take possession of their human hosts. Disruption Theory is a company specialising in researching the effects of these memes as they break out to infect people in Britain. This often takes the form of small sects, whose leaders speak in tongues, uttering nonsense as they try to put in human terms the alien concepts running their consciousness. Millar, the heroine, is investigating a couple of orphaned Pakistani children, who have apparently been infected by an eidolon from one of the gift worlds. Out on Mangala, Vic Gayle is also investigating the murder of a man, who has recently arrived aboard one of the Jackaroo’s shuttles.

Unlike much SF, the book doesn’t indicate how far in the future the story’s set. This is, however, very much a world not too far from the early 21st century of the present. The political structures are much the same, with the exception that the gift worlds are under the control of the UN. People still work in recognisable jobs, and shop and purchase the same brands of clothing. Complicating relations with the Jackaroo is a British politician, Robin Mountjoy and the Human Decency League. The League objects to contact with the Jackaroo as a danger to the dignity of the human race. Their leader, Robin Mountjoy, is described as being ‘in his mid-fifties, a burly man with thinning blond hair and a florid complexion, dressed in an off-the-peg suit. Although he was a multimillionaire, having made his fortune constructing and servicing displaced-persons camps, his PR painted him as a bluff, no-nonsense man of the people whose common sense cut through the incestuous old boys’ networks of the Westminster village’. (p. 51). The League isn’t strong enough to form a government of its own, and so has gone into a coalition with the Conservatives. While Mountjoy is clearly fictional, he does seem to be inspired by Nigel Farage and UKIP, with Britain attempting to gain independence from smooth talking mysterious aliens rather than the EU.

One of the other characters is Adam Nevers, a cop with the Technology Control Unit. This is the branch of the British police tasked with protecting the country from dangerous alien technology. Nevers is described as coming from the entitled upper ranks of society, who go straight from university into high ranking jobs. Which looks to me very much like a comment on the privileged upbringing and expectations of absolute deference and entitlement from certain members of the British upper classes.

Apart from the social and psychological disruption caused by alien contact, this is also a world wear the NHS has finally been privatised. McAuley shows the practical impact this has people’s lives. Without the safety net of state healthcare, people are dependent on their employers to help pay their medical bills, or borrowing money from friends. In his acknowledgements, as well as the many other people who helped him with the book, McAuley also thanks ‘the NHS for life support’. (p. 375). Which suggests that he’s also suffered a period of illness, and is very much aware how much he and everyone else in the country needs the NHS.

I liked the book for its convincing portrayal of the world after sort-of personal contact with an alien civilisation, and the frontier societies that have emerged as Mangala and the other gift worlds have been settled and colonised. I was also fascinated by McAuley’s description of the alien life-forms, and the archaeological exploration of the remains of the planets’ previous civilisations for the technological advances these artifacts offer. I was also drawn to it as it offered a different take on the old SF trope of alien contact. The appearance of the Jackaroo is described as an ‘invasion’, but it’s not really that. The aliens have a ‘hands off’ approach. They haven’t conquered the Earth militarily, and political power is still exercised through traditional human institutions and parties, like the UN and the Tories. Nor are they more or less at our technological level, like many of the alien races in Star Trek, for example. We don’t form an interplanetary federation with them, as they are clearly extremely far in advance of humanity, which is very much the junior partner in this relationship.

It’s not really a political book, and really doesn’t make any overt party political statements. With the exception that rightwing xenophobes would probably form a party like UKIP to join the Conservatives against pernicious alien influence, just like the Kippers under Farage came very much from the right wing, Eurosceptic section of the Tories. But its comments on the class nature of British society does bring a wry smile, and its advocacy of the NHS is very welcome. It doesn’t preach, but simply shows the fear the characters have of sickness or injury in its absence.

And with all too real terrestrial morons like Daniel Hannan, Jeremy Hunt, Dave Cameron, Theresa May, Tony Blair, Alan Milburn and the rest of the right-wing politicos, who have done and still are doing their best to undermine the health service, such comments are badly needed throughout the British media.

‘I’ Newspaper: Joshua Bonehill Found Guilty of Harassing Liverpool Jewish MP

December 8, 2016

After all the false accusations of anti-Semitism made smear genuinely decent people, here’s a story about a real anti-Semite. Yes, it’s that old Nazi troll, Joshua Bonehill-Paine, the ‘Founder’ and wannabe fuehrer of legions of Fascist storm troopers that don’t actually exist. Today’s I newspaper (8 December 2016) carried a report by Emily Pennink, Anti-Semitic blogger guilty of harassing Jewish MP, that Bonehill has been found guilty of racially harassing Luciana Berger, a Jewish MP for one of the constituencies in Liverpool. The article states

A racist internet troll was found guilty yesterday of harassing the MP Luciana Berger in a series of anti-Jewish rants he sent after the jailing of a fellow far-right extremist.

Joshua Bonehill-Paine, 24, wrote five hate-filled blogs about the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree after Garron Helm was sent to prison for four weeks in October 2014. Bonehill-Paine denied racially aggravated harassment but was convicted by an Old Bailey jury.

Helm, 21, from Merseyside, had admitted posting a picture on Twitter which showed Ms Berger, 35, with holocaust-era Star of David on her forehead and the hashtag “Hitler was right”. Over the next four months, Bonehill-Paine posted articles online calling her a “dominatrix” and “an evil money-grabber” with a “deep-rooted hatred of men”. In one, he claimed the number of Jewish Labour MPs was a “problem”.

He illustrated his posts with offensive pictures. Throughout, Bonehill-Paine, of Yeovil, Somerset, was on bail awaiting sentence for claiming on Twitter that several people were paedophiles. Giving evidence in person, Ms Berger said she felt sickened by the blogs and “very much under attack”. (p. 21).

Bonehill’s a weird character, who’s been hauled before the beak several times for his bizarre, far-right antics. He’s been arrested for trying to steal police uniforms from a police station, threatening to defecate in a supermarket, falsely accusing a pub of not serving members of the armed forces so as not to upset Muslims, and harassing a young woman when she spurned his advances. This included him sending her an Iron Cross, which he claimed had belonged to Adolf Hitler.

He’s set himself up as the leader of a vast and growing Fascist party that doesn’t seem to exist except in his own imagination. He gave a public speech announcing the launch of one of these shadowy parties in one of the parks in his home town of Yeovil, to a handful of people comprising a couple of police officers and a journalist. Even so, the audience massively outnumbered his Fascist legions, which consisted of precisely one person: himself. He claimed that the real meeting was being held in an undisclosed pub elsewhere in the town.

It’s a moot point whether or not Bonehill himself believes the Nazi tripe he spouts. In a passage he wrote on his blog, which he has since denied, Bonehill claimed that he was only pretending to be a Nazi. It was, he claimed, an invented personality he created, inspired by David Bowie’s persona of Ziggy Stardust. It was intended to deceive and upset both Nazis and anti-Nazis.

Bowie himself did seem to come dangerously close to flirting with Fascism in the 1970s. There’s footage, which has been played by the Beeb on shows about the late pop idol’s life, in which he states that there could only be one real choice for prime minister, and so he was putting himself forward as the Fascist candidate. But Bowie very definitely wasn’t racist. His second wife, Iman, was, I believe, a Somali. The Nazis themselves hated Jazz, the ancestor of rock and roll, as Black music which corrupted Whites. And despite the homosexual undercurrent in Nazism, they hated gay men and sent them to the concentration camps. The ambiguous sexuality of the Ziggy Stardust persona would have been very definitely illegal in Nazi Germany.

It’d be good to think that if this is just a prank by Bonehill, that this time he just might take notice of where it’s getting him and drop it. Unlike Bowie and Stardust, there’s nothing clever or innovative about it. It’s just stupid, offensive and annoying. And it’s about time he realised this, and where it’s getting him, and stopped it.