Posts Tagged ‘Presidential Nomination’

The Smearing of the Innocent: The 1950s Anti-Comics Scare and the Anti-Semitism Smears against Labour

May 5, 2018

Frederic Wertham is a figure, who casts a very long shadow over the history of the American comics industry. Born Friedrich Wertheimer, he had emigrated to America from Germany in 1920. A psychiatrist with left-wing political views, he had moved to England to study medicine at King’s College and been influenced by the Fabians before finally moving to America. He was an expert in the study of the brain, and the neurological causes of behaviour, working under the leading expert in the organic causes of madness, Emil Kraepelin.

The carnage of the First World War made him concerned to understand the causes of violence, and the outbreak of the Second World War made him into an activist determined to combat it. In so doing, he became one of the leaders of a moral crusade against comics. The funny papers were supposed to contain all manner of subversive attitudes and doctrines, and were spreading criminality and sexual perversion amongst their young readers.

In some ways, he was an admirable figure. He was particularly concerned with the problem of children and violence, working with kids living in some of the most violent and exploitative environments of America. He gave the results of his studies into the mental health of children in racially segregated schools over to Thurgood Marshal, where it became part of the evidence civil rights activists used in the court cases that ended segregated schooling. With the support of prominent civil rights leaders, he opened a free psychiatric clinic for the poor in Harlem.

He became concerned about the influence of comics through his work with youngsters at the clinic. He noticed that all of them read comics. This should have been no surprise, as 90 per cent of all American children read comics. Those who didn’t were generally the children of the rich, who were kept away from such cheap literature. He was also strongly influenced by his fellow √©migr√© from Germany, Theodor Adorno, who blamed the rise of the Nazis on the mass culture created by capitalism.

He began his attack on comics in 1948 when Collier’s ran an interview with him, entitled ‘Horror in the Nursery’, and which ended with him declaring that ‘the time has come to legislate these books off the newsstands and out of the candy stores’. As a result, churches organised the boycott of retailers selling comics and citizens’ groups wrote to their politicians demanding action. More than 50 cities passed laws restricting the sale of comics. Comic books were also burned in a weird parallel to the book burnings in Nazi Germany. These began in Binghampton, New York. Volunteers went from house to house, asking if there were any comics. They’d then try to persuade the householder of their dangerous nature, encouraging them to surrender the offending literature, which would be taken to the local schoolyard to be burnt.
The comics industry managed to survive by passing voluntary codes of conduct. This managed to allay fears for a few years, until 1952-4 when Estes Kefauver, running for the Democratic presidential nomination, began his campaign against juvenile delinquency. Kefauver discussed the issue with Wertham, who had just written his book, The Seduction of the Innocent. This has become rightly notorious for its wild claims against comics. In 1953 Wertham became psychiatric adviser to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. In May the following year, the Subcommittee came to New York to examine the influence of the funny papers. It was this hearing that led to the near annihilation of the comics industry and the passage of legislation outlawing the crime and horror comics.

Among the allegations Wertham made were that Wonder Woman was a lesbian and Batman and Robin were a gay couple. Crime comics encouraged children to emulate the crimes contained in the stories. He also accused comics of spreading racism and Fascism, including Superman. He said of the Man of Steel that ‘superman has long been recognised as a symbol of violent racial superiority’. It’s rubbish, of course. Superman has never been remotely Nazi. The two creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were both Jewish, as were most of the creators of the American comics industry. In 1946 the Superman radio show had broadcast a story, which had been partly created with the assistance of the Anti-Defamation League. In this, the Man of Steel fought against a KKK-style organise intent on destroying an interfaith organisation run by a rabbi and a Christian priest. The show was praised by organisations like the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the Negro Press Association for its work combatting racial and religious prejudice and promoting respect.

Superman wasn’t the only comic Wertham and the others smeared as racist, but comics generally. Wertham often went against the explicit content and moral of the stories, and twisted them to suit his own prejudices. One example was a horror novel, in which a father organises the lynching of his daughter’s boyfriend because he’s Latino. The thugs he gets to the job instead kill his daughter. It’s a nasty tale, but clearly not an endorsement of racism by any means. But because the strip included a racist term for Hispanics, Wertham and the rest seized on it as an example of the racism in comics.

This reminds me of the anti-Semitism used by the Tories, the Israel Lobby and the Blairites in the Labour party today against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. This has led to decent, anti-racist people being smeared and libelled as racists and Holocaust-deniers. This includes Jews, many of whom are anti-racist activists, who themselves or their families have suffered anti-Semitic abuse and assault. The parallels become even closer as Comics were also suspected of spreading Communism. in 1948, the police commissioner of Detroit declared that comics were full of ‘communist teachings, sex and racial discrimination.’ Which is similar to today’s smears that Corbyn’s supporters and Momentum are really hard-left Trotskyites and Communists, rather than real, middle of the road socialists wanting a return to the Social Democratic consensus and a proper welfare state.

The people making these smears against the Labour left go through their posts on-line, and then, like Wertham, take things out of context, twist their meaning and omit anything that shows that their victims are not the racist monsters they wish to paint them. And they are utterly despicable. And it’s a nasty, politically motivated campaign to prevent Labour coming to power, at least under Jeremy Corbyn.

Now some comics at the time of wertham’s campaign were very definitely unsuitable for children. But not all, and certainly not Superman and the rest of the DC favourites. But as Martin Barker shows in his book, Comics, Ideology and Power, it was another incident in a long history in which the upper classes have been suspicious of popular literature, and have attempted to censor and control what the hoi polloi read. Just as the upper classes and the media are now attempting to use smears again to stop people voting for and joining Corbyn’s Labour party.

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Jimmy Dore Show: Obama and Killary Back Trump’s Embassy Move to Jerusalem

December 9, 2017

More geopolitical arrogance and stupidity, but this time it’s from the Democrats.

A few days ago Trump caused astonishment and outrage around the world by announcing that he was planning to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As The Young Turks have explained, this is immensely controversial as Jerusalem is also a holy city to the world’s Muslims and Christians, who will resent all of the holy sites being under Israeli control. However, it’s done to support the Likudniks and other Israeli right-winger, who want Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. And it’s also strongly supported by the Christian Zionist right in America, who are looking forward to the restoration of Israel, and an apocalyptic war between Good and Evil, seen as America, Israel and Christianity versus Islam, which will lead to Christ’s Second Coming. Jerusalem is also claimed by the Palestinians. It was taken from them by the Israelis, but the city still has a large Arab population.

In this piece from The Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his co-hosts, Steffi Zamorano and Ron Placone, discuss Trump’s decision, and how its being supported by key leaders of the Democrats: specifically Chuck Shumer, the leader of the Democrats in Congress, Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The clip begins with a series of quotes from Arab and other Middle Eastern leaders condemning the move. These include Manuel Hassassian, the leader of the Palestinian delegation, who describes it as an attack on the Palestinians, and also the Middle East’s Muslims and Christians. El-Sisi, the current military strongman ruling Egypt, also condemns it, as does Erdogan, the Islamist president of Turkey. Erodogan states that he was almost going to cut off diplomatic relations with Israel in retaliation. As Dore points out, Turkey’s America’s ally.

Dore also points out that the move is against America’s best interests and only serves Israel. And Israel is beholden to America. Last year, Congress voted to give it $38 billion of military aid. This is a country that has single-payer healthcare. But Americans can’t have it, because it’s too expensive. The money has to go to Israel to keep their military awash with cash. On the other hand, if America didn’t support Israel, what other country would stand up for them? No-one.

But you expect the Democrats would be different. But they’re not. Chuck Schumer has said that he was pressing Trump to move the embassy to Jerusalem, and took the president to task for his indecision. There’s also a clip from Barak Obama, in which he declares Jerusalem to be the indivisible capital of Israel, and supports moving the American embassy there. If you look at the signs around the podium, it’s clear that he’s speaking at an AIPAC gathering. AIPAC is the main, pro-Israel lobby group in the US. And then there’s a quote from Hillary Clinton, from all the way back in 1999, in which she states she wants the American embassy moved to Jerusalem.

This shows very clearly that the corporatist, Clintonite Democrats as corrupt, arrogant and dangerous on this issue as Trump and the Republicans. But followers of Dore’s show probably won’t be particularly surprised by this. Dore has made a number of videos pointing out the corruption and imperialist agenda of the corporate Democrats, including Killary and Obama. Obama carried on the privatisation and welfare cuts of Bush and the Republicans. He also expanded the wars in the Middle East from two to seven. But he got away with it because he cloaked it all in vague, progressive rhetoric. All that stuff about ‘hope and change’. Dore doesn’t mention it, but race was also a factor. Obama was America’s first Black president, and his election was hailed as a breakthrough for Black people. When he was elected there were celebrations in Africa, and the Nobel Committee gave him a peace prize. Just like they did to Kissinger. But despite the stupid, vicious rhetoric from lunatic Republicans about how Obama hated Whites, and was planning to kill them all in concentration camps, Obama was solidly Conservative in his policies, and did precious little for Blacks. Poor Whites have seen their incomes and life expectancy drop, and Black life expectancy has risen. This has resulted in the racist fringe shouting about ‘White genocide’, and mobilised them in support of Trump. But Black income has dropped even further than poor White, and it’s been projected that in a few decades the average Black family will have absolutely zero wealth.

As for Hillary Clinton, she has shown herself to be every bit as militaristic, imperialist and hawkish as the male politicians and generals that surround her. She fully supported the Iraq invasion, and when Obama was in office was ramping up tensions with China and Russia. Susan Sarandon has commented on interviews that if she’d won the election, America could well have been at war by now. I think Sarandon’s right. As for the reason’s for the new Cold War against Putin and Russia, some of this is an attempt by Clinton to deflect attention from the way she and her coterie stole the presidential nomination away from Bernie, and her massive ties to Wall Street. But it’s also been suggested that it’s also rage by American capitalism against Putin, for making Russia economically independent after they had poured so much money into the privatisation of the economy under Yeltsin.

It’s glaringly obvious to just about everyone how massively stupidly dangerous the current Cold War with Russia, because of the potential for it to develop into a real war. And there were NATO generals predicting that it would. One of them even published a book claiming that by May this year (2017) we would be at war with Russia. Such a conflict could easily become a nuclear war, resulting in the destruction of all life on our beautiful, fragile world.

Mercifully, we aren’t at war with Russia. But the fact that Obama and Hillary were keen to stoke tensions with Putin shows how dangerous they are. Just as their support for Trump moving the American embassy to Jerusalem.

Obama, Hillary and Schumer are unfit for office. Their support for America’s imperialist wars, the new Cold War and the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem are a positive threat to world peace. And the Arab and Muslim leaders who denounced the move are right: it shows absolute contempt and disregard for the feelings of Arabs and Muslims.

It’s been shown that much of the support for terrorist campaign against the West in the Middle East comes from anger at the repeated western military interference in the affairs of the Middle East – the invasions and the overthrow of Middle Eastern leaders, when they are perceived as an obstacle to western political or commercial interests. The Iraq invasion is one example, but so too is the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadeq, the last democratically elected prime minister of Iran. He was overthrown because he dared to nationalise the Iranian oil industry.

Trump’s decision has sparked riots and protests throughout the Middle East. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if it also doesn’t serve to provoke another wave of terrorism directed against us. But I very much doubt that Trump, Killary, Obama and the other major political figures will comment on the way western imperialism is stirring up anti-western sentiment in the Middle East. Instead we’ll just have more discussion about the nature of Islamism – which is indeed part of the problem. And the islamophobic right will start ranting about how it’s all due to something intrinsic in Islam itself, and that Muslims hate us because of our freedoms.

Schumer, Obama and Hillary’s support for Trump’s decision serve yet again to show how corrupt the corporate Democrats are. They have to go. A growing number of Americans want a third party, which will really represent American working people. And the Democrat elite’s support for the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem is further evidence that a third party is needed, if the Democrat party can’t be reformed and the Clintonites and corporatists cleaned out.

Killary Appearing at Cheltenham Literary Festival Today – But Will They Ask the Really Awkward Questions

October 15, 2017

Hillary Clinton was due to appear at the Cheltenham Literary Festival today, 15th October 2017, undoubtedly as part of her tour promoting her book, What Happened? In it, she tries to examine and explain how she came to lose the American presidential election to the orange maniac, whose now bringing us just that little bit closer to war with Iran, and nuclear Armageddon. Various American progressive and radical news shows, like The Young Turks, the Jimmy Dore Show and Secular Talk have extensively reviewed her book and ripped it to shreds very effectively. Some of the videos are quite long, but the problem with Hillary’s campaign can be summed up very simply: her. Clinton is a horrible person, and a horrible candidate. She is part of the corporate elite, personally corrupt in the sense that she is very much in the pocket of Wall Street and big business, and a warmonger, who was ramping up international tensions with Russia and China unnecessarily even before she lost the election. Now it’s even worse as she and the other corporatist Democrats try to cast the blame on Russian interference, rather than look much closer to home to the weakness of Clinton herself. She is massively out of touch with ordinary, working American people.

A majority of the population now want single-payer healthcare, like the rest of the Developed World. And which the Germans have had since Bismarck’s ‘Socialist Law’ of the 1870s, when the real Iron Chancellor tried to crush the rise of Germany’s Social Democrats by stealing a bit of their thunder. While Bernie Sanders has shown how America could easily afford it, and it would be cheaper both for the state and for ordinary Americans, Killary herself has declared that it’s ‘utopian’. Which is why it been working very well in Germany and the Scandinavian countries for more than a hundred years, and the French and Swiss have similar systems which mix state payment and private insurance. But this is still too far-fetched and difficult for the world’s only superpower.

Her record gets much worse when it comes to Black Americans. Bill Clinton was so popular with America’s Black population, and had the same easy charm that many of their politicians and celebrities have, that he was hailed as ‘the first Black president’. But Bill and his wife were responsible for putting in place the legislation that’s seen a massive proportion of Black men jailed for drug offences. She drew an artificial distinction between crack and ordinary cocaine, to make it appear that the one favoured by Blacks was a greater threat than the other, and so deserved greater punishment. Pushing this legislation, she talked about the threat of ‘superpredators’ at a time when this term was nearly exclusively used to describe young Black men.

On the world stage, she was responsible for arming Islamist rebels in Libya so that they overthrew Colonel Gaddafy. Gaddafy was certainly no saint. He was a dictator, who tortured and locked up his political opponents. But he kept the nation together and made sure that his country was paid a fair price for their oil after it had been run as an Italian colony from the late 19th century onwards. During the decades of his people’s struggle for independence, one third of the population was killed. It was a secular state, albeit one where the official ideology, as laid out in his Green Book, was a mixture of Islam and Arab socialism. There was free education and free healthcare. Libya was the most prosperous African country, and Gaddafy himself stood up for the continents’ rights in global affairs. And while he used the Islamists to assassinate his political rivals elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East, they weren’t allowed to terrorise his people.

After Gaddafy was toppled, the country descended into civil war between rival factions, including the Islamists. It is still divided between two completing authorities. Its education and healthcare systems have been destroyed, and the Islamists have seized control of large parts of the country.

And then there’s the issue of the coup in Honduras. Up until 2012 or so, this had a liberal president, who actually wanted to raise the living standards of the peasants and urban working class, who were desperately poor, as well as protect the land and livelihood of the country’s indigenous peoples. And, as usually happens in South and Central America when the establishment is faced with the threat of a liberal regime, he was overthrown by a right-wing coup. This installed a Fascist dictator, who started rounding up, imprisoning, killing and torturing opposition leaders, activists and trade unionists. America has legislation designed to prevent it from supporting foreign coups. Killary decided to get around this by officially declaring that the coup wasn’t military, so that America could continue giving aid to the Fascist government.

And in her own party, Hillary was in cahoots with the head of the Democratic National Convention, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, so that Democratic nominations were fiddled to steal the nomination from Bernie Sanders. Sanders was by far the better candidate, with far greater appeal to working Americans. But he’s a self-declared ‘Democratic Socialist’, who wants single-payer healthcare, a renewed American welfare state, stronger trade unions, and an altogether better deal for America’s poor and working people. And unlike the Clinton’s, Bernie has genuinely taken an interest in promoting the welfare of America’s ethnic minorities. He was one of the first, if not the first, mainstream American politician to go to the reservations of America’s First Peoples to seek their views on improving conditions for them.

But this was all too much for Hillary, whose entire electoral strategy consisted of turning against the party’s core constituency amongst blue-collar workers, Blacks and other minorities, to appeal to Republicans. Just like the Clinton’s mate, Tony Blair, pursued the Tory vote as the expense of the British White working class over here.

But Killary can’t accept any of that, and so blames everyone else in her book except herself, including Jill Stein, the head of the Green Party. Clinton’s tried to present herself as some kind of feminist, whose victory in the election would somehow be a step forward for America’s women, despite the fact that she would do nothing for them. Bernie was much more popular amongst the female population, because he promised women – and men – work and proper healthcare. As did Jill Stein. Stein was a doctor. I put up one of her election broadcasts I found on YouTube, in which Stein talked to a group of women about the necessity for a single-payer healthcare system. She stated unequivocally that it was especially needed for America’s women. And I don’t doubt for a moment that Stein’s absolutely right. From what I’ve seen, the cost of giving birth alone under the American private medical system is tens of thousands of dollars, so much so that American couples have to spend years saving up and then worrying if it’ll bankrupt them before starting a family. It’s a situation that also shows how hollow the Republicans’ concerns about the falling American birthrate is. Their solution is to try to ban abortion. I think Mussolini in Fascist Italy also did that. But he also passed legislation to give Italian women state aid in raising a family. It was part of the Fascists’ reactionary campaign to take women out of the workplace and back in the home and the kitchen, but even then it was far less reactionary in its methods than that of contemporary Conservativism.

The electorate knew that Hillary wasn’t going to do anything for ordinary women, and so voted for the other candidates. And so Killary responded by trying to smear Sanders as a misogynist, just as the Blairites in the Labour party tried to smear Jeremy Corbyn over hear. It hasn’t worked.

And Killary’s still trying to present herself as some kind of feminist ‘everywoman’. When she appeared on America’s Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon a few days ago, the show’s female writers and a tearful Miley Cyrus also appeared to write ‘thank you’ notes to her praising her for being such an inspiration to them. The Humanist Report produced the video below rightly critiquing not just Hillary, but also the other mainstream comedians, who have politicos on their show, whether the comedians are Fallon, Bill Maher or whoever. He attacks them because they are using their comedy to promote a corporatist agenda regardless of whether the politicians are from the Democrats or Republicans. The Report’s presenter urges his audience to watch intelligently and critically. They can’t and shouldn’t censor, but they should hold presenters and broadcasters, even himself, up to a higher standard.

I am very definitely not a Humanist, but it’s an excellent point that can’t be repeated too much. Here’s the video.

I wonder just how many of the really tough questions have been or will be put to Hillary at the Cheltenham Literary Festival today. My guess is that they’ll ask some awkward questions, but nothing too hard or likely to make her feel uncomfortable.

As for Hillary’s appearance in Britain, I was talking about it to a friend of mine in Cheltenham the last time I was up there a week or so ago. He told me that one of his American friends had wondered what she was doing over here. The obvious answer is that Britain has a special relationship with America, and American politics directly affects this country, and indeed the rest of the world. But his reply was different. He said: ‘Because you owe us an apology’.

When George ‘Dubya’ won the election in 2000, Americans went on social media to apologise to the rest of the world. I think something similar is needed now. But instead of ordinary Americans apologising, it should be Hillary apologising to the ordinary Joes and Josies across the US for being such a transparent corporate shill that she lost to someone as bigoted, stupid and murderous as Trump.