Posts Tagged ‘racism’

Tony Greenstein: Richard Spencer, Founder of the Alt-Right, Declares Himself ‘White Zionist’

August 18, 2017

Tony Greenstein, a Jewish socialist and anti-Zionist, as well as opponent of all other forms of racism, has put up a very interesting piece on his blog commenting on Richard Spencer’s declaration that he is ‘a White Zionist’. Spencer is the leader and founder of the ‘Alt-Right’ movement, which takes its name from the website he founded. He is a racist and White supremacist, and one of the organisers of the Nazi march in Charlottesville last weekend, which saw the stormtroopers surround the hall in which a multicultural, multi-racial meeting against the racists was being held. The Nazis also surrounded a synagogue, chanting ‘Sieg heil!’ The rabbi and one of the officials smuggled the Torah Scroll out of the building because they were afraid these thugs would desecrate it.

The whole march was like something from the Third Reich, with the Nazis carrying torches, bearing shields with Nazi insignia, and chanting ‘Blood and Soil’, one of the Nazi slogans, and ‘the Jews shall not replace us’. There have been documentaries on the Beeb over here about how, amongst their other atrocities against the Jews, the Nazis also invaded synagogues and brutalized the rabbis and congregation during Krystalnacht. That was the evening when the Nazis smashed the glass front windows of Jewish businesses.

Greenstein notes that apart from Spencer, Trump’s administration has included other anti-Semites and racists. Such as Steve Bannon, the former head of the racist and White supremacist Breitbart News, Steven Miller, who formulated Trump’s immigration policy and was mentored by Bannon, and the infamous Sebastian Gorka.

Gorka’s one of the founders of the New Democratic Coalition in Hungary, which includes Jobbik, an openly racist, anti-Semitic party. He has also given his support to the Hungarian Guard, Jobbik’s anti-Semitic militia, and has the Vitezi Rend, a medal for a chivalric order created by the Hungarian dictator, Admiral Horthy, who presided over the deportation of his country’s Jews to the death camps.

But Spencer also claims to respect Israel and has talked about having an alliance with the Jews. When Rabbi Matt Rosenberg of Texas A&M Hillel challenged Spencer to learn the Torah with him, which was God’s revelation of radical inclusion and love, Spencer threw it back at him. Would he be so supportive of such radical inclusion if the entire Middle East could move to Israel? He then went on to state that he respects the Jewish people because they didn’t assimilate to the nations around them, and that is what he wants for America, his country.

Greenstein has also included two articles about Spencer and his views on Israel, one of the Israeli paper Haaretz and the other from Y-Net. The Y Net article states that Israel isn’t shocked by the presence of anti-Semites in the White House, as an upsurge in anti-Semitism is good for Israel.

The article states

As the Jews in Israel long for immigrants with a certain affiliation to their people, and as Zionism—like any other ideology—needs constant justification, we have a secret hope in our hearts that a moderate anti-Semitic wave, along with a deterioration in the economic situation in their countries of residence, will make Diaspora Jews realize that they belong with us. Is proof even necessary? No one will protest the assertion that the rise in anti-Semitism in France gave us some satisfaction, in the sense of “we warned you, didn’t we?” Late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not hesitate to make such a declaration, angering the French government and many Jews who see themselves as unconditional French citizens. Thousands of Jews from France who see Israel as a lifeboat, as an insurance policy, purchased apartments here and raised real estate prices in the coastal cities. That’s good. It proves Zionism was right. Furthermore, no one can deny that the economic crisis in the Soviet empire, coupled with the nesting anti-Semitism there, were the cause of the immigration to Israel of about 1 million Jews and their non-Jewish relatives, most of whom have no affiliation to Jewish culture. Neither can anyone contradict the embarrassing fact that Israel worked to lock the gates to the US, the opening of which may have directed many of these Jews and their relatives there, and perhaps even most of them.

The article also states that the comfortable existence of American Jews raises the question of whether the foundation of Israel was worth it. Israel’s existence has not made Israel a normal state, and has not combated anti-Semitism but has partly served to increase it through the state’s maltreatment of the Palestinians. The article concludes

In order to remove these malignant doubts, it would be good to have some anti-Semitism in America. Not serious anti-Semitism, not pogroms, not persecutions that will empty America from its Jews, as we need them there, but just a taste of this pungent stuff, so that we can restore our faith in Zionism.

http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/the-neo-nazi-organiser-of.html

This is very much the same view as Greenstein’s own: that Zionists are perfectly happy allying and stirring up anti-Semitism, as they believe it will ultimately benefit Israel by causing Jews to migrate there.

It was statements like this, which got Livingstone suspended from the Labour party, when he told the historical truth that Hitler had forged a brief alliance with the Zionists to send Jews to Israel from Germany.

And it is because of this, entirely correct assessment of the Zionists’ attitude towards anti-Semitism, and their utilitarian view of the brutalization and persecution of diaspora Jews, that Mr. Greenstein himself has repeatedly been vilified as ‘anti-Semitic’ and ‘self-hating’.

The Young Turks: Indiegogo and Google Refuse to Host Nazi Internet Site after Charlottesville

August 18, 2017

A few days ago Mike put up a piece reporting how internet providers and servers are throwing out Nazi and White supremacist internet sites after the violent Nazi march in Charlottesville last Friday.

In this clip from The Young Turks, hosts Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian report and comment on Indiegogo’s and Google’s refusal to host the Nazi site, The Daily Stormer. The site takes its name from the Nazi newspaper, Der Sturmer, which was notorious for its anti-Semitic vilification of Jews. The Daily Stormer is blatantly racist and White supremacist, viciously denigrating Jews, Blacks and, of course, homosexuals.

After Heather Heyer, one of the protesters, was killed by the Nazi, who drove his car into 20 people, the Daily Stormer wrote a piece deriding her as ‘a 32-year old, fat, childless slut’. This was too much for their service provider, Indiegogo, who told them that they were terminating their contract.

The Stormer then tried to sign on with Google. They had no luck there. After three hours, Google told them they were refusing to host them, and they had 48 hours to find another web server, who would.

Uygur and Kasparian also attack the false equivalence Trump and the Republicans made between the anti-Nazis and the Nazis, especially Black Lives Matter. BLM came in for particular vilification for a chant some of the protesters on a march sang in mockery of the cops, ‘Pigs in a blanket, watch them fry’. The Republicans regularly portray and attack the left as being extremely violent, while in fact the violence comes mainly from the extreme right.

The Klan as the ‘Tip of the Spear’ of the Republican Party’s Racism

August 17, 2017

In this clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, Seder plays a clip of J.D. Vance speaking about the difference between today’s Klan and yesterday’s. As Seder says, they aren’t the Klan of your father’s great-grandfather’s time. They are not ‘knuckle-dragging slack-jawed yokels’. They are affluent and well educated. The leader of the demonstration at Charlottesville is a student at one of the country’s major universities.

This is true, and it’s been discussed before. But these middle class people, who find Nazism attractive, clearly haven’t been sufficiently well educated to realise that Nazi ‘scientific racism’, of the type that shows that Blacks and other ethnic groups are more stupid than Whites is pure pseudoscience, and that the conspiracy theories about the Jews supporting coloured immigration to destroy the White race through interbreeding is also sheer bull. As for their denial of the Holocaust, a California judge ruled against one of the Nazi magazines that it was so well documented and attested that it factuality could not be denied.

Seder also states that, although small in numbers, the Nazis at Charlottesville are just the ‘tip of the spear’ of racist politics in America. He talks about the state of Indiana, where a judge has recently condemned the state for introducing voter suppression laws against 1 of its 90 counties, which, coincidentally, happens to have the second largest Black and Mexican population in the state. The Republicans are engaged on disenfranchising Black and ethnic minority voters, all the while claiming that a Voting Rights Act, which protects their right to vote, is unnecessary, because there is no racism in the country anymore.

Seder states that he doesn’t deny that there aren’t racists in the Democrats. But there are more of them in the Republicans. The spear, of which the Charlottesville Nazis were just the tip, is the Republican party.

Norwegian Cruise Line Cancels ‘Alt-Lite’ Far Right Cruise After Complaints from Hope Not Hate

August 17, 2017

Here’s a piece of good news. Hope Not Hate today reported that Norwegian Cruise Line were cancelling a Caribbean cruise organized by Rebel Media, which would take Far Right sympathisers and activists to Honduras, Belize and Mexico. Rebel Media’s a Canadian far right organization, founded by Ezra Levant and Brian Lilley. Among their stars is the former head of the EDL, Tommy Robinson. The headline speaker for the cruise was going to be Gavin McInnes, the founder of the ‘Western Chauvinist’ Proud Boys. Proud Boys is a White supremacist, anti-feminist group. To be initiated into its ‘fourth degree’, a member has ‘to beat the crap’ out of an Antifa. They also have a militantly violent wing, the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, or FOAK.

As for McInnes, he has claimed not to be racist and to want to have nothing to do with the Alt-Right. But this rings more than a bit hollow after he’s made a video entitled, 10 Things I Hate about the Jews, and written pieces about White genocide and defending ‘transphobia’.

Hope Not Hate reported that they received the following message from Norwegian Cruise Line:

“We recently became aware that one of several affinity groups that booked space on an upcoming sailing was associated with and espoused views that are inconsistent with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings core values.

The company has therefore exercised its right to cancel this group’s reservation and provide a full refund. As a matter of policy, the company neither discusses nor discloses the identities of our individual guests or groups.”

The anti-racism, anti-religious extremism group states

Norwegian Cruise Line’s decision is most welcome and they are to be congratulated for taking this stand against racism, sexism, homophobia and hatred of all kind.

In the current climate, this is a valuable example that companies have the choice to act responsibly and to refuse to allow their platforms to be vehicles for the normalization and mainstreaming of bigotry.

HOPE not hate will continue its fight against Rebel Media and anyone who shares their politics of prejudice.

See: http://hopenothate.org.uk/2017/08/17/update-norwegian-cruise-line-cancel-rebel-cruise/

Rebel Media’s association with real, violent neo-Nazis and anti-Semites also discredits some of the claims made by its founder, Ezra Levant. As have the recent events in Charlottesville. Levant is Jewish, and one of the main figures in the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement. He has promoted his brand of islamophobia by demanding that the public attention be moved away from White supremacist groups in Canada to Islamism, which he has argued presents a bigger threat to Jews.

In his writings and broadcasts, Levant has stated that after the War, life was good for Jews in tolerant Canada. Most severely normal Canadians weren’t anti-Semites, and the membership of the Canadian Nazi party was minute. It was about thirty people. They were led by a sad individual skulking in a basement, who used to write grandiose, violent screeds against the Jews and other races he didn’t like with the assistance of his landlord. At demonstrations, the goose-steppers were massively outnumbered by Jews, left-wing counterdemonstrators, and the police who were there to keep order.

He is, along with his fellow bigot, Kathy Shaidle, who authors the blog Five Feet of Fury, bitterly critical of the ‘official’ Jews of the mainstream Canadian Jewish organization and its leader, Bernie Farber. This is because Farber and his organization link the Jewish experience of persecution and genocide, with those of other, persecuted peoples around the world. Way back in the early part of this century, when the Janjaweed Militia were wreaking havoc in Darfur, Farber and his organization held a ‘Shabat’, or Sabbath, for the African town’s people. The ‘Shabat’ here meant a day of fasting and religious contemplation. Christian Americans have also held formal fasts against wars. In the early 19th century, when America was in yet another war with its former colonial overlord, Britain, the Christian ministers of one of the statesBill organized a fast to end this strife between themselves and their British cousins.

As for Levant’s own programmes, they are glaringly, overtly biased, even when he invites a guest on from the other side of the debate. He introduces his guest with a tirade about how they’re wrong. From the clips I’ve seen, he does seem to be personally polite, which hasn’t been the case with Bill O’Reilly, the former main anchor at Fox News, before they sacked him sexual harassment.

I’ve no doubt that the membership of the Canadian Nazi party was a low as Levant says. So is the formal membership of all the various Nazi organisations in Britain and America. Way back in the 1990s one of the contributors to Lobster estimated that the BNP’s core membership was only about 200 or so people. If you read Hope Not Hate, that membership has declined even further, and the British Fascist right is divided between a number of small grouplets, all of which hate each other as much as the hate ethnic minorities, trade unionists and ‘Reds’.

I also read a few years ago that in America, the total membership of the Klan was 100,000, split amongst 100 different groups. I don’t know about the membership of the various Militias and Nazi groups, but I would imagine that they were similarly small compared to America’s vast population.

This does not mean that these organization don’t pose a violent threat. They clearly do. In the 1960s the NF was caught organizing paramilitary training weekends, which supposedly included lessons on bomb-making. One of the pieces of evidence for this was a can of weed killer found in a shed, which had the ‘weed’ scratched out and replaced with ‘Jew’. Yup, ‘Jew-Killer’. The NF and BNP deliberately recruited violent football hooligans, who embarked on a campaign of violence. Matthew Collins, one of the founders of Hope Not Hate, has described just how violent they are in his book about his time inside them, Hate.

As for Canada, the America Nazi party weren’t the only far right party in the country. One of the parties in the western province of Vancouver was the Social Credit party, which was anti-immigration, and pro-big business.

Despite his own Jewish heritage, Levant is clearly associating himself with anti-Semites by hiring McInnes as his main speaker for the cruise. And the Nazi violence in Charlottesville, which included surrounded the local synagogue and shouting ‘Sieg Heil!’, as well as the stats from a report from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, show only too clearly that, in stark contrast to Levant’s claims, the White racists are far more of a threat than Islamism in America, at least in America.

This isn’t to downplay the threat posed by Islamist terrorism, merely to keep it in perspective, and stop the persistent denials of Trump, Levant and their ilk that White racist terrorism either doesn’t exist, or isn’t a comparable threat.

It is. And Trump has done everything he could to aid and abet it, short of actually giving them guns and money. But organisations like Hope Not Hate, Life After Hate, Tell Mama, which encourages Muslims to come forward to report racist attacks, are doing an excellent job of combating White supremacist terrorism.

Trump Cuts Funding to Anti-Nazi Programmes

August 17, 2017

More evidence of Trump’s blatant sympathies with real Fascists and White supremacists. In this clip from The Young Turks, presenters Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian talk about Trump cutting funding to counter-terrorist programmes focusing on Nazism and White racist terrorism. Late in his presidency, Barak Obama gave a $400,000 grant to a group, Life After Hate. This is a group dedicated to getting people out of Nazi and White racist groups without them suffering retaliation from their former national comrades. This has now been dropped. They make the point that Obama wasn’t entirely a figure of unalloyed moral purity here. Obama left it late to give money to the group because he was intimidated by Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh’s a notorious blowhard on right-wing radio. He’s been around spreading hate and promoting free market Reaganonomics to his declining audience since the 1980s. He’s also a massive hypocrite, as he was caught a few years ago trying to smuggle through customs a large quantity of prescription drugs from the Caribbean, despite his denunciations of drug abuse. Hopefully, he won’t be around much longer as his station’s in financial trouble. It’s losing backers because they’ve finally woken to the fact that, rather than being a powerhouse of right-wing propaganda, he’s actually got fewer listeners than College radio stations.

After Trump cut funding to Life After Hate, there was a 20 per cent increase in calls for help to the organization from people fearing signs of radicalization in themselves or others.

Trump also froze $10 million of funding to the Countering Violent Extremism initiative of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. This wasn’t because Trump was not concerned about the threat posed by terrorist groups. He was just concerned with the threat posed by Muslim organisations, and wanted to sort through the funding to that it could be stopped for White racist organisations.

This was despite an official report from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security stating that White racist organizations were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 terrorist attacks. This was a greater proportion than other terrorist groups.

Trump also cut $900,000 of funding for a deradicalisation programme being run by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the same reason. It didn’t just focus on Muslims but included White nationalists.

Uygur and Kasparian also note that the Trump administration is stuffed full of people like Sebastian Gorka and his wife, Katharine, who believe that there is no White racist terrorism and are fanatically anti-Muslim. Uygur states that Gorka was known in far right, anti-Muslims circles for a long time before he joined Trump’s government.

That isn’t all. Gorka has also been a part of militant Hungarian nationalist and far right-wing organisations. These are not just anti-Muslim, but anti-Semitic. I’ve put up pieces from, I think, Sam Seder’s Majority Report where he discusses how Gorka has not only been a member of these organisations, but also sports the insignia of one of nationalist groups led by Admiral Horthy. Horthy was the dictator of Hungary from the 1920s to the end of the Second World War. He was another anti-Semite, who allied the country with Nazi Germany. Late in the War, when the Nazis were losing, he allowed them to round up and send 400,000 Hungarian Jews to the death camps. Tony Greenstein in one of his articles has pointed out that by this time, Germany was in such a weak position that he could have successfully refused to allow this, as the Nazis would have been desperate to keep one of their few remaining allies.

The report by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security also warned that White supremacist terrorism was growing, and would soon by a major threat. As we’ve seen a week ago in Charlottesville, this prediction is all too correct.

Presenters of Sam Seder’s Majority Report Defend Themselves against Accusations of Anti-Semitism

August 15, 2017

Readers of this blog will know very well that the Zionist lobby in Britain and America has repeatedly smeared decent, anti-racist people with the accusation that they are anti-Semites, when their only offence is that they have dared to hold Israel to the same moral standards as the rest of the world.

Israel is a racist state, which occupies the Palestinian territories on the West Bank, and which has engaged in a decades long campaign of brutalization and ethnic cleansing towards the indigenous Arabs population.

Those, who oppose this policy of massacre, persecution and expulsion include Torah-observant, and secular Jews as well as decent, anti-racist gentiles. Despite the fact that very many anti-Zionists and supporters of Palestinian rights are self-respecting Jews, who may be active members of their community, they are vilified as anti-Semitic, or self-hating, every bit as much as the non-Jewish opponents of the Israeli state. Indeed, some are subject to worse abuse.

Sam Seder’s Majority Report is a left-wing internet news programme. Mr. Seder and at least one other of his fellow presenters and staffers on the show is Jewish. In 2014 they made a series of videos reporting the carnage in Gaza, and fiercely criticized the Israeli state’s oppression of the Palestinian people. They also attacked and mocked a Republican mouthpiece, Ben Shapiro, for his stupid accusations about Obama’s administration similarly being anti-Semitic.

So, inevitably, the show received a message from a viewer accusing them of anti-Semitism. In this clip below, the presenters Michael Brooks and Matt Binder, defend themselves and the show from these accusations and make the point that criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitism. The presenter begins by stating that he reported the numbers of Palestinian and Israeli casualties, 500 Palestinians to 15 or 16 Israelis, not because he believed that they should be higher or more equal, but because he felt that there should be none at all. No-one should have died, regardless of whether they were Israeli or Palestinian. He also makes the point that his Jewish identity, which is specifically a German Jewish identity, is very important to him.

He states that the use of the accusation of anti-Semitism to close down a conversation about the systemic abuse of human rights by Israel, a sovereign state, is cynical and cheapens anti-Semitism. He states that he doesn’t often read the comments on YouTube. Sometimes the comments are anti-Semitic. Sometimes, after condemning actions by Hamas, and then offering an objective assessment condemning occupation, bombardment and civilians (by Israel), they have been called anti-Semitic. He states that he cannot understand the mindset, but believes some of those, who make the accusation are too caught up emotionally to make a rational judgement.

But with others, it is just a cynical ploy to stop criticism. And one which he states insults the long history of genocide, exodus, expulsion, torture and persecution that the Jewish people have suffered down the centuries. It cheapens also the Jews, who have been tortured and killed simply because of their Jewish identity by terrorists and suicide bombers. It’s a cheap, disgusting parlour trick. He states very clearly that Israel needs to be held to the same moral standards as a normal nation state, not criticized because it is Jewish, nor excused for its wrongful actions for the same reasons either.

The Israeli government and those before it have a policy of expanding Israeli settlement and limiting those of Palestinians. This is a vital issue, and using the accusation of anti-Semitism to stop it is disgusting and disingenuous.

Sam Seder is attacked because he mocked Ben Shapiro, who called Obama’s government one of the most anti-Semitic administrations. The presenter states that this is stupid, and calling Seder himself anti-Semitic is moronic. Seder, he states, is one of the most Jewish people around, outside the Ultra-Orthodox Jews, who live in Crown Heights. Many of whom, he says, are lovely people, as he used to live around there. If you’re going to describe him as ‘anti-Semitic’, at least say he’s self-hating instead.

As for Ben Shapiro, the presenter describes him as ‘a prepubescent little schmuck’ whose statement was too much even for Trump’s spokeswoman, Megyn Kelly. To call them, the producers of the show, anti-Semitic because they spent three minutes mocking him, shows how stupid the caller is, and they have to have compassion on that. But he also makes the point that it’s clearly wrong to call this mockery anti-Semitic, and claim it comes from the same motives as the Holocaust and the murder and torture of Jewish people, such as those, who were killed by the terrorists in Mumbai.

He and the producer then make a few sarcastic, but very accurate points about being called ‘anti-Semitic’ and accused of denying the Holocaust in their turn, simply because they have told their accusers that they’re morons and made even more comments mocking Shapiro.

I’ve put this up as this response to the accusations of anti-Semitism by Sam Seder’s fellow broadcasters – Seder himself goes on to rebut it himself in a later video – because it’s also an excellent response to the smears made by the Zionist lobby over here against Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker and the many other decent people, who were targeted simply because they supported Jeremy Corbyn, as well as people like Mike, who was smeared simply because he dared to defend Livingstone, Walker and several of the others on grounds of historical accuracy.

Many of those smeared and suspended from the party were Jews, or of Jewish heritage, and had suffered genuine anti-Semitic abuse. One person had had her son attacked by a British Nazi. As for the non-Jews smeared as anti-Semites, like Mike, these were anti-racists, and many of whom similarly had a proud personal history of attacking anti-Semitism. Like Red Ken, who attacks it, along with anti-Black racism, and the British state’s recruitment of real Nazis in their battle with Communism during the Cold War, in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour. These were real Nazis, who had committed horrific crimes against Jews during the Holocaust.

For the non-Jewish people smeared as anti-Semites, the other point the presenter raised remains valid: the accusation of anti-Semitism is a cheap, disgusting rhetorical smear to try to shut down their pertinent criticism of the state of Israel for its crimes. And by using anti-Semitism in this way to deflect criticism of a sovereign nation – Israel- for its disgusting human rights abuses on the same grounds as other nations are attacked and criticized, grotesquely cheapens and insults the real history of Jewish persecution and the memory of those, who suffered.

Critics of Israel, who have suffered these smears, like Norman Finkelstein, have made the same point again and again. But the Zionist lobby carries on with the same vile libels. And the point needs to be made: as well as being a cheap response in itself, it’s also a case of crying wolf. As we’ve seen from the events in Charlottesville several days ago, there are now real Nazis on the march, killing people. These are the real anti-Semites, and if that accusation has to retain its power to shock and reveal just how vile the real Nazis are, then it should not be squandered on vilifying decent people, just for the benefits of the supporters of a vile, racist state, who can only defend their country by smearing decent people as the type of goose-stepping, chanting thugs, who killed an innocent woman and injured 19 others in Charlottesville.

RT’s Lee Camp on Facebook Prioritization of Corporate Media

August 14, 2017

Mike’s already blogged about this issue on his website, including posting this snippet from RT America’s Lee Camp, one of the satirical hosts of Redacted Tonight.

Facebook have decided that they are going to prioritize material from corporate media. Mike’s been hit by this policy, along with numerous other left-wing bloggers trying to bring you the truth that the Beeb and the mainstream media don’t want you to hear.

Camp calls this what it is: censorship. 44 per cent of Americans get their news from Facebook. And Zuckerberg, Facebook’s head, for his protests to the contrary, does look he’s thinking of running for president. He’s hired a former Clinton aide, and went the other week to a small town in Iowa, where he talked about politics. As Camp says, if he isn’t planning on running for president, then he really needs to get some friends.

This policy is also running with a campaign to cut out ‘fake news’. Camp admits that there is fake news out there, but when the corporate media talk about fake news, they mean the small, independent network of bloggers, activists and small broadcasters, like The David Pakman Show, The Young Turks, Sam Seder’s Minority Report and Secular Talk, who stand outside the corporate big boys like TimeWarner, Comcast, Fox, MSNBC and so on. The algorithm designed to recognize fake news is being created with the assistance of the New York Times. The Times has published some excellent pieces, but it’s also just signed a $600 million contract with the CIA.

He then reads out Facebook’s guidelines for contributors, where they state they do not want clickbait. He also points out that they’re also not interested in showing how America’s bombing Yemen into the ground, and causing a massive famine in one of the Middle East’s poorest nations. Because that doesn’t fit corporate America’s agenda.

He also reads out a few Tweets from ordinary Americans, who are massively unimpressed with this censorship. And he also advises his audience that if they want to continue to hear genuinely independent voices, they need to support those bloggers and vloggers, use independent platforms, and occasionally throw the creators the odd dollar or five.

Absolutely. And this has come as part of a general corporate attack on independent news creators. Google are demonetizing various videos over on YouTube. These seem to be mostly those created by the independent, left-wing news programmes and shows that I mentioned above. It’s affecting David Pakman, and The Young Turks, as well as Sam Seder, amongst others.

Mike’s pointed out that Facebook stands to lose money by this policy. Well, they do, but they’re monopoly capitalists, so they’re confident about retaining overall control of the medium, or at least their massive share of it. What they don’t want is a load of progressives and Socialists coming through, telling people that another world is possible: that the poor aren’t all idle scroungers, that tax cuts for the rich aren’t going to make those at the bottom of the pile richer, that racism is a tool to exploit the White man as well as marginalize and persecute Blacks, Mexicans and Asians, and that single-payer actually makes far more sense than insurance-based health care.

As for the New York Times, Counterpunch have had the Grey Lady in their sights for a very long time for the way it acted as a media cheerleader for the Iraq War, censoring and sanitizing the horrors that American and western forces were committing in the name of ‘spreading democracy’.

These corporate policies, however, show that the mainstream media are on the back foot on this. Their monopoly is being challenged, and despite the bullsh*t and spin they’ve put out about representing quality journalism against independent ‘fake news’, their hold on the media is being challenged and weakening. Last week Mike wrote a piece tearing an article in the Groaniad to pieces when they tried this line.

And their even more terrified now that very many people have liked and republished Ismahil Blagrove’s diatribe about the way corporate television don’t understand and have no interest in representing the views and hopes of ordinary people.

So, instead of supporting corporate media, go and check out independent blogs and vlogs like Vox Political, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, Kitty S. Jones, Guy Debord’s Cat, RT, the Canary, Chunky Mark, Aye Up, Let’s Talk, Tony Greenstein, Stilloaks, and many, many others. These are the people worth listening to, the people, who really talk about the harsh realities of Conservative Britain beyond the confines of corporate news.

Antisocial Media on the Ugly Story of Katie Hopkins

August 13, 2017

Antisocial Media is a vlogger, who makes videos laying into the far right and its various denizens. In this long video – it’s an hour and four minutes long – he presents the unlovely story of Katie Hopkins. Hopkins is the professional troll and Sun writer, who in 2015 wrote that she didn’t care about the thousands of dead migrants killed attempting to cross the Med into Europe, but wanted them deterred with gunboats. She then compared them to ‘cockroaches’. She has also applauded Trump’s avowed policy of banning Muslim emigration to the US. She has also made other statements aimed at working up hate and vilifying Muslims, such as blaming them as a whole for the atrocities committed by the Islamists and complaining that Muslims don’t do enough to distance themselves from the terrorists. She has also sneered at the Scots, fat people and written a long piece defended the footballer Adam Johnson after he was convicted of grooming and having underage sex with a 15 year old girl. Oh yes, and she also sneers at her own sex, women, for being too weak and pathetic. Because she didn’t like the Pussy Marchers at the Women’s March in Washington against Trump. And then she has appeared talking to Dave ‘Alt Right’ Rubin, of the Rubin Report, who tells her that he hasn’t seen anything racist or anti-Semitic in her material.

The clip begins with The Apprentice, the show that launched her on her path to infamy. Antisocial Media has a particular animus against the show, because not only has it launched her, but it also has Karen Brady as one of Alan Sugar’s little helpers. Yes, Karen Brady, who was elevated to the House of Lords, where she voted for tax cuts, which hurt the poor the most. Plus, The Apprentice is presented in the US by Trump. He also thinks that Alan Sugar looks like an angry testicle. Well, it’s a point of view, I suppose.
Hopkins was not a winner, but fell on her sword as she couldn’t guarantee to Sugar that she would take up the post with him if it was offered.

There then follows a clip with Sugar amazing everyone, when he appears on Breakfast TV to say he felt sorry for her. For all of five minutes. This was because there was an aftershow rap party, but she had made no friends on the programme and so no-one was talking to her.

Then there’s a clip of her appearing on Philip Schofield’s show, where she talks about how she doesn’t like very working class names like Charmaine or Bradley, because they show the child comes from a certain type of background characterized by bad behavior. Basically, she’s afraid they’re too chavvy. Opposing her is a woman, Anna-May Mangan, the daughter of an Irish immigrant, and a working-class mother. She makes the point that she was also isolated at school, because some parents didn’t want their children playing with an Irish girl. However, her daughter and working class friends have gone on to university, and despite having names like Kylie that Hopkins sneers at, have qualified as doctors and lawyers. Schofield then reads out a list of high achieving Americans, including doctors, sports people and musicians, who have the names Hopkins detests.

Antisocial Media then points out that you can see the direction of Hopkins’ future career there, as she deliberately takes up a position that she knows will be inflammatory and unpopular. However, despite the fact that the show is only watched by the elderly, housewives and the unemployed, the segment was immediately picked up and circulated on social media.

That led to Hopkins getting a job at the Sun, and, in 2015, making those vile comments about migrants. This part of the film includes a clip from Russell Brand taking her apart for this. Brand rightly points out that when she called them ‘cockroaches’, she was using exactly the same language as Heinrich Himmler, the head of SS, when he described Jews as ‘rats’ and ‘vermin’.

Also not impressed by this terminology was Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye. He interviewed Hopkins, who tried lying her way out of it. No, she wasn’t being malicious when she described them as ‘cockroaches’. She was admiring their fortitude and endurance, as we were all told that in the event of a nuclear war only cockroaches would survive. This is plainly bullsh*t of the highest order, and Hislop rightly calls her out on it. He simply goes on to read out the other hateful stuff she wrote about them.

She also gets short shrift from the comedian Josie Long, who also makes the point that describing these people as ‘cockroaches’ and saying ‘we need a final solution’ is very much the same language that the Nazis used of the Jews, and is very definitely not a joke.

Russell Brand also argues that there’s no point in hating Hopkins herself, as she’s just the product of the hatred and racism in a section of British and society and media. Or in his graphic phrase, ‘the pus oozing from the pimple’. Quite so. Antisocial Media then discusses how her comments led to a petition calling on her to be banned. He makes the point that this has allowed her to position herself as someone standing up for free speech, saying what can’t be said because of political and media bias. He argues instead that pressure should have been placed on the Sun’s editor and publishers, so that they should have to think very carefully before they give a job to someone like her, or publish their comments. And Josie Long points out that it isn’t enough to ignore her. She’s tried to that long enough already, and Hopkins is still here, along with Nigel Farage and other creatures of the extreme right.

Hopkins also tried defending her comments about Trump’s Muslim ban on Andrew Neil’s politics programme. She got shredded there too. Neil pointed out several times that she was accusing him of saying things he never had. When she then talked about how we had lost control of our cities to aggressive migrants, particularly Muslims, Neil pointed out that while insulting behavior was unpleasant, they hadn’t lost control as she said. He asked her to name one city where this had occurred. Hopkins couldn’t, and so started challenging him to join her in going round such a city to show what would happen. Neil said he’d quite like to, but they couldn’t if she wouldn’t tell them which area it would be. She then very obviously changed the subject to her joy that her child’s school still has a Nativity play, which Neil also pointed out. As for the Muslim community not condemning the acts of terror committed in their name, Neil rightly points out that they’ve done so. There have been marches by them against the terrorists.

Too right. There have any number of Muslim clerics, who have condemned the Islamists and terrorism across the Middle East. In India something like 200 of them signed a document condemning them. But this is too few of them, according to Hopkins.

One of Hopkins’ supporters is Paul Joseph Watson, of Infowars fame. Watson, pontificating about Muslim terrorism, declared that there were no cases of terrorists shouting ‘Katie Hopkins’ instead of ‘Allahu Akbar!’. Except there were. A group of White racists had daubed on a mosque somewhere the message ‘***** Leave’ and ‘We need a final solution’.

And her bigoted racist comments have garnered her support from the real Nazis. One of those who supported one of her statements on Twitter signed himself ‘Antijuden SS’. ‘Juden’ is the German word for ‘Jews’. Hopkins took the comment down, but it was up there for a year before she did so.

Then there’s the clip of her going on America television to attack fat people. She claimed fat people were unhappy, and so put on and then lost 50 pounds in order to shame them, make the point that they shouldn’t make excuses for themselves, and could lose weight without having a chef or personal trainer. Antisocial Media says he sort-of agrees with her, in a way, but still thinks she’s wrong because she’s obviously not going to encourage anyone to lose weight when she so obviously hates them.

As for Adam Johnson, Antisocial Media rips into her long screed in support of the footballer by stating that he was indeed grooming the girl, and that by blaming her, and claiming she seduced him, she was blaming the victim. And yes, legally you can make a judgement concerning what is the proper age of consent.

Antisocial media also states that, thanks to the Scots dying before the age of sixty, because they’re too lazy to work till the age of retirement, Hopkins has now gained the same notoriety as Alt-Right troll Milo Yiannopolis over in the US. Hopkins made the comment on the same day, but just before, a terrible helicopter crash, which made her comments appear even more offensive than they were. Now, like Yiannopolis, she’s guaranteed to produce a crowd of protesters whenever or wherever she appears.

As for her appearance with Dave Rubin, when he states that Hopkins has, in his opinion, never said anything racist or anti-Semitic, the video shows this to be completely untrue by putting up a selection of some of the disgusting things she’s said about Blacks and Muslims. She also talks about how Britain is succumbing to Islam, because of the rise of Muslim mayor in many British cities, such as the mayor of London. She also talks about the global schemes of George Soros.

You can here something like a wolf howling at this point. I think it’s been put in because it’s ‘dog whistle’ politics. It’s a racist statement, that’s coded so that only people aware of this type of racist language recognize it. Soros is very much a bete noir of the Far Right. He’s also a Hungarian Jew. This is why the Fascists running Hungary are putting up posters attacking him on bus stops all over their country and in the media. Soros funds various democracy and open society groups and institutes in Hungary, which is clearly a threat to the anti-Semites now goose-stepping around the corridors of power.

This also shows how selective the accusations of anti-Semitism may be the Zionists are. Soros is very anti-Zionist. He despises them because of the way Kasztner, the head of the Zionists in Hungary, betrayed his people to the Nazis. He allowed the Nazis to deport them in the hope that the Nazis would allow some of the survivors to go to Israel. So Soros doesn’t support Israel, and won’t give money to Zionist organisations.

This has sent Netanyahu and the Israeli government berserk, and they have been only too glad to give their support to the Hungarian stormtroopers in their demonization of Soros. For further information on this, see the article on Tony Greenstein’s blog at http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/israel-supports-viktor-orban-and.html.

As for Katie Hopkin’s appearance with Dave Rubin, it’s telling that amongst some of the stars of the Alt Right he gives prominence too is Millennial Woes. Millennial Woes is someone, who can only be described as a racist and a Nazi. He hates coloured immigrants, has said that they should be gunned down by warships, and also recommends the reintroduction of slavery. He is definitely not someone any decent person would want to share their views, or be associated with politically.

I dare say Katie Hopkins will be around for years to come. Because she is a troll, who gets off on being hated, she’s an unperson on Mike’s blog. He won’t mention her unless he really has to, and then he uses a suitable pseudonym or circumlocution.

On the other hand, Josie Long is right. She isn’t going away. I signed a petition on Change.org to get rid of her after her vile comments about a ‘final solution’. But I think Antisocial Media has a point when he says that the people, who really need to feel the heat are the editor and publishers of the Sun. But frankly, considering the Scum’s long history of appearing before organisations like the Press Complaints’ Commission for racism, and the apparently cavalier way Murdoch regards libel, I don’t think there’s much chance of them heeding the opinions of the British public on this issue.

‘I’ Article on Britain’s First Black Actor Manager in 19th Century

August 8, 2017

The I newspaper yesterday carried an article on a Black American, who moved to Britain in the 19th century to become this nation’s first Black theatre manager. The thesp in question, Ira Aldridge, has just been awarded his blue own plaque.

The article by Chantal da Silva, on page 19 of Monday’s edition, the 7th August 2017, reads

Britain’s first black Shakespearean actor has been honoured with the unveiling of a blue plaque in Coventry.

Ira Aldridge became manager of the Coventry Theatre in 1828. The actor, who died 150 years ago, put on performances which are believed to have inspired the people of Coventry to petition Parliament to abolish slavery.

Aldridge has now been honoured by the City: the Lord Mayor, Tony Skipper, unveiled a blue plaque celebrating his legacy as the UK’s first black theatre manager.

Professor Tony Howard, of Warwick University’s Multicultural Shakespeare project, said: “He’s been admired and respected for a long time as the first black Shakespearean actor, but people are less aware that the had also been the first black theatre manager.”

The ceremony, marking the 150s anniversary of Aldridge’s death, was attended by Earl Cameron, an actor who was trained by Aldridge’s daughter, Amanda.

Aldridge was born in New York in 1807 and worked as an actor in the US until the 1820s when he migrated to England and being brutally beaten in racist attacks. He rose to fame in the UK, managing to break down racial barriers, playing principal roles, including Romeo, Hamlet, Othello and King Lear.

The theatre building that Aldridge managed was demolished long ago, but the permanent memorial marks the site where it stood.

This is an excellent move, as Black activists have complained that there are too few blue plaques for great Black historical figures. I also think Radio 4 may have put on a programme about Aldridge way back in the 1990s. All I can remember of the programme was that it was about a Black American actor who came to Britain, and that he played Othello in whiteface. This sounds very much like Aldridge. As for playing Othello in Whiteface, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t, as at the time and for a very long time afterwards the part was usually played by a White actor in makeup. I think that tradition might have been ditched a few years ago, after people understandably complained.

Hyper Evolution – The Rise of the Robots Part 2

August 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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