Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

Book on the Evolution of the Human Brain

December 30, 2017

The Human Brain Evolving: Paleoneurological Studies in Honor of Ralph L. Holloway, edited by Douglas Broadfield, Michael Yuan, Kathy Schick and Nicholas Toth. Stone Age Institute Press, Gosport Indiana and Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. 2010.

This is another book I got much cheaper than the cover prise through Oxbow Books’ bargain catalogue. The book is a collection of papers from a two day conference by the Stone Age Institute in April 2007 to celebrate the life and work of Ralph Holloway, one of the great founders of the field. Holloway as he explains in the first paper in which he gives his personal perspective, started out studying metallurgy at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia in the 1950s. He then moved to the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where he took courses in anthropology and geology. After this, he enrolled in the Ph.D. programme in anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. There he became interested in exploring how evolution had shaped the development of primate brains. His interest in this area led him to do research in the brain casts from australopithecine skulls in South Africa, where his mentor was professor Phillip V. Tobias. In 1969 he settled down to study paleoneurology fulltime. His decision was partly made by the testicular trauma he suffered the previous year by the cops while in a student demonstration in New York. This gave him considerable with Prof. Tobias as the struggles he was having against apartheid and the fuzz in South Africa.

As Holloway himself explains, any study of the evolutionary development of the specialised structure of the human brain was very strongly discouraged when he was a student. The simple assumption was that humans got more intelligent as their brains got bigger. There was no investigation about how the particular areas of the brain, in which specific brain functions are located, developed. Indeed this was actively and vehemently discouraged. He says that his first mentor at Berkeley was Professor Sherwood Washburn, who kindly suggested that he take various courses in anatomy. When Holloway told him that he wanted to take the course in neuroanatomy, however, Washburn was horrified, and said that he would no longer be Holloway’s mentor if he did so, fearing that it would make him too specialised to be a physical anthropologist, an argument Holloway found unconvincing. He goes on to point out the paucity of material in physical anthropological textbooks from the 1950s to the present, pointing out that only one, published in 2008 actually does because its co-author, John Allen, is a neurologist.

The book’s contents include the following papers.

Chapter 1: The Human Brain Evolving: A Personal Retrospective, Ralph L. Holloway.

Chapter 2: The Maternal Energy Hypothesis of Brain Evolution: An Update, Robert D. Martin and Karen Isler.

Chapter 3: The Meaning of Brain Size: The Evolution of Conceptual Complexity, P. Tom Schoeneman.

Chapter 4: Human Brain Endocasts and the LB1 Hobbit Brain, Ralph L. Holloway.

Chapter 5: The Fossil Hominid Brains of Dmanisi: D 2280 and D2282, Dominique Grimaud-Herve and David Lordkipandze.

Chapter 6: The Evolution of the Parietal Cortical Areas in the Human Genus: Between Structure and Cognition, by Emiliano Bruner.

Chapter 8: Study of Human Brain Evolution at the Genetic Level, by Eric J. Vallender and Bruce T. Lahn.

Chapter 9: Brain Reorganisation in Humans and Apes, by Katerina Semendeferi, Nicole Barger and Natalie Schenker.

Chapter 10: Searching for Human Brain Specializations with Structural and Functional Neuroimaging, by James K. Rilling.

Chapter 11: Structural and Diffusion MRI of a Gorilla Brain Performed Ex Vivo at 9.4 Tesla, by Jason A. Kaufman, J. Michael Tyszka, Francine “Penny” Patterson, Joseph M. Erwin, Patrick R. Hof, and John M. Allman.

Chapter 12: The role of Vertical Organisation in the Encephalisation and Reorganisation of the Primate Cortex, Daniel P. Buxhoeveden.

Chapter 13: The Evolution of Cortical Neurotransmitter Systems Among Primates and their Relevance to Cognition, Mary Ann Raghanti, Patrick R. Hof, and Chet C. Sherwood.

Chapter 14: Sex Differences in the Corpus Callosum of Macaca fascicularis and Pan troglodytes, by Douglas C. Broadfield.

Chapter 15: Dental Maturation, Middle Childhood and the Pattern of Growth and Development in Earlier Hominins, by Janet Monge and Alan Mann.

Chapter 16: Perikymata Counts in Two Modern Human Sample Populations, by Michael Sheng-Tien Yuan.

Chapter 17: Mosaic Cognitive Evolution: The case of Imitation Learning, by Francys Subiaul.

Chapter 18: The Foundations of Primate Intelligence and Language Skills, by Duane M. Rumbaugh, E. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, ,James E. King and Jared P. Taglialatella.

Chapter 19: Hominid Brain Reorganisation, Technological Change, and Cognitive Complexity, Nicholas Toth and Kathy Schick.

Clearly this is a written at an advanced, technical level for a specialist academic audience. I’ve done little but skim through it so far, but have found some fascinating facts. For example, Holloway’s paper on the brain of the Flores Hobbit recognises that it does share some features of modern microcephalics, but also others that are very different. This could mean that the creature could have been an archaic hominid suffering from a peculiar form of neurological defects that now no longer exists.

Emiliano Bruner’s paper argues from the study of Neanderthal and Early Modern Humans that modern humans’ parietal lobes are actually larger than would have been predicted by evolutionary theory for hominids of our size.

Anne Weaver’s paper argues that, in contrast to the standard view that this area of the brain has not evolved in the course of the development of modern humans, 30,000 years ago the size of the Cerebellum increased relative to the Cerebrum. The cerebellum is the part of the human brain dedicated to motor coordination and related tasks.

Douglas Broadfield’s paper on sex difference in chimp brains takes further Holloway’s and Kitty Lacoste’s 1982 paper, which controversially showed that that the corpus callosum in women was larger than those of men. His study of this part of the brain in chimps shows that this development is unique to humans.

Paleoneurology is still controversial, and Holloway holds some very controversial opinions. He’s an evolutionary reductionist, who considers culture to be the sole product of evolution, and religion and politics to be intrinsically evil. It’s an opinion he recognises is not held by the vast majority of people.

He also laments how the anthropology course at Columbia has abandoned physical anthropology, and been taken over completely by social anthropology, stating that the majority appear ‘postmodern, post colonialist, feminist and political’. This led to him being marginalised and isolated at the faculty.

He also states that it is stupid, for reasons of ‘political correctness’ not to consider that the same evolutionary processes that have shaped the different physical forms of the various human races, have not also affected their mental capacities and evolution too. He describes this research as intensely political and near-suicidal, and describes how he was accused of being a Nazi because of his investigation into it. He states that one critic described it as the kind of research that got his relatives put into concentration camps.

Professor Holloway is clearly a decent, humane man, who has in his day stood up for liberal values and protested against institutional racism. However, while he states that the neurological differences between male and female brains are ‘more or less accepted’ today, there are still women neurologists, who argue against them. More recently they’ve argued that sex difference in the brain are a continuum between the extremely male and extremely female, with most people lumped somewhere in between. In fact, the sex differences in the brain are so small that you simply can’t tell by looking whether a brain is male or female.

Furthermore, anthropological science was used in the period of full-blown European colonialism to justify White rule over their non-White subject peoples, and certainly has been used by Nazis and Fascists to justify their persecution of Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and other ‘subhumans’. After the War, the British Fascist leader Oswald Mosley cited scientific papers on the differences in intelligence between the races to argue for a form of apartheid that would lead to the complete separation of Blacks and Jews from White, gentile Brits. This would affect only those, who were allowed to remain in Britain, because their culture was compatible with White, gentile British civilisation. See the section 13, ‘The Colour Question in Britain, Immigration, the Racial Question’ in his wretched book, Mosley – Right or Wrong, published by Lion Books in 1961. And of course, like all Fascist after the War, Mosley denied that he was actually racist!

Holloway knows from personal experience just how touchy this subject is, and is aware that the lower IQ scores made by Black Americans is still a subject of intense and acrimonious debate. But he thinks it silly to rule out the question of racial differences in human brain structure because of current political dogma.

This is too complacent. My impression here is Prof. Holloway has this rather more tolerant view of the acceptability of this direction of neurological investigation, because he is a White man from a privileged background. After all, in the 1950s very few working or lower middle class Americans could afford to do a university or college degree. It simply has not affected him personally, although he has stood on the barricades to denounce racism and support other liberal causes during the student unrest of the late ’60s. The same applies to women. In the second edition of the BBC popular science programme QED in the ’80s, a female scientist presented a programme on how male scientists down the centuries had tried to argue that women were biologically inferior, before concluding that ‘the tables are turning’.

Racial neurology and the neurology of gender differences is particularly dangerous now with the rise of the Alt Right and real White supremacists and Nazis surrounding Donald Trump, and the whole milieu of the Republican party and Libertarians in America. These are intensely racist, despising Blacks, Asians and Latinos, and using scientific evidence like the highly controversial ‘Bell Curve’ to argue that Blacks are intellectually inferior to Whites. I’ve also seen the islamophobes argue that Muslims also shouldn’t be allowed into Britain from the Middle East and Pakistan, as the average intelligence of the people from those regions is 75! Which to my mind is just ridiculous.

I’ve also heard from a friend, who keeps up with the latest neurological research by talking to some of the scientists involved, that recent studies of neuroplasticity have cast doubt on the amount of specialisation of brain function in specific brain regions. Moreover, everyone’s brain, male and female, is weird up differently. We may in fact know far less about the nature of the human brain, a point made by the neurologist and Humanist Professor Raymond Tallis in his book, Aping Mankind, written against precisely this kind of reductionism, which tries to reduce human cognition and culture by viewing it solely in terms of Darwinian theory in which humans are simply another species of ape.

This is a fascinating book, and offers many insights into the evolution of the human brain. But this is an area that is still developing, and intensely controversial. As such, other scientific opinions are available and should be read as well.

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Steeleye Span’s Seasonal Hit ‘Gaudete’

December 29, 2017

I remember when at least one pop band nearly every year during the 1970s and 1980s released a Christmas single. The classic examples are Slade’s ‘Well, Here It is, Merry Christmas’, and one of the other glam rock band’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’. These seem to have disappeared these past few years, possibly due to the collapse of the charts. A friend of mine told me that it was now nearly impossible to compile them in the way that had been done a few decades ago, because the music scene has become very fragmented, with different people listening to a wide number of musical genres. Or it may just be that public taste has changed, and people are no longer interested in buying songs about Christmas. Some of this might be due to the increasing secularisation and religious plurality of British multicultural society, but I doubt it. After all, people still put on school nativity plays, and there’s even been two British comedies about them. This is despite the scare stories run by the Daily Mail about ‘left-wing’ councils or schools banning such plays in case they offend Muslims.

One of the great pieces of British Christmas pop from the 1970s was Steeleye Span’s ‘Gaudete’, which was released in Christmas 1972. Steeleye Span were one of the great folk rock bands, who produced a series of great rock versions of folk songs. ‘Gaudete’ itself is a medieval carol, celebrating the birth of Christ. It’s in Latin. The first line means, ‘Rejoice – Christ is born of the Virgin Mary’.

I found this video of Steeleye Span with their lead singer, Maddy Pryor, performing it on the Park Records channel on YouTube. It was staged as part of the 35th anniversary tour. The band is obviously older, looking very definitely middle aged, but their musical skill has not dimmed with the years.

I realise that not everyone who reads this blog is a Christian, but I hope whatever your views on religion, you can still enjoy a piece of great medieval music, performed by some of the great folk artists of the 1970s.

Here it is. Enjoy!

A Soviet Space Santa

December 24, 2017

After the Russian Revolution, the Soviet Union became an officially atheist state. Christmas as a state holiday was banned, and religion was very strongly repressed and persecuted. The trappings of the holiday was, however, kept but transferred instead to New Year, so you had a ‘New Year’s Tree’ and so forth.

This is another fascinating pic from 70sscifiart. It shows a Soviet ‘New Year’ Santa looking out at one of the Salyut space stations, which the Russians were then using to smash the records for the longest stays in orbit by humans. It shows both the seasonal greetings and the pride the Russians had, and still have, in the achievements of their space programme.

70sscifiart is on Tumblr at http://70sscifiart.tumblr.com/. Go there for more vintage space art.

Update on Planned Book on Western Support for Fascist Dictators

December 24, 2017

Okay, a few months ago, Florence, one of the many great commenters on this blog, suggested I should write a book detailing the West’s support for the Fascist dictators that have plagued this planet and its people since the Cold War, as part of the campaign against the Soviet Union and Communism. She felt this was important, as many people on the left came to their political consciousness through campaign against such monsters as General Pinochet, and the institutionalised racist oppression of apartheid in South Africa. That has vanished, but class apartheid still remains, as explained by John Pilger in a recent interview on RT, and is still very much alive and used against the Palestinians in Israel. Florence wrote

In the early 70s I volunteered to help type up translation transcriptions of reports from torture victims of the “Shit” of Iran, as Private eye called him. (It was as evidence for Amnesty.) Its not something you can ever forget. When the revolution happened, it was simply new bosses at the same slaughter houses. This is another lesson learned; the violence required by a state to terrorise its own people seeps into the culture, and remains for generations (maybe longer, its too early to tell in most of the cases you cover in this interesting and evocative piece). The violence of the state becomes symmetrical in the revolution in many countries, Iran, Iraq, etc. that follows such repression.

(For this reason I also worry that, for example, the almost visceral hatred of the disabled (and other poor) in the UK bred by the eugenics of neoliberalism for decades will not be so easily dislodged with a change in government. )
I see that the experience of having lived through those times is no longer part of the wider political education of the younger members of the left. In Labour the excesses of the neoliberals all but wiped out that generation and the links. I talk sometimes to our younger members in the Labour party and they are fascinated – but totally clueless. I do try to point them at this blog for this very reason. They are oblivious to who Pinochet was, why it mattered to us then and now, the refuge given to that butcher by Thatcher, the entire history of the Chicago school etc. The traditional passing in of this history, personal history too, through social groups in the Labour party has all but broken down.

As a suggestion, perhaps you could edit your blogs into a book we could use in discussion groups? You would help us be that collective memory board for the newer (not just younger) activists. It would help tease out the older members stories of their personal part in the struggles at home and abroad, but more than that your pieces on the collision of religious and political also show the rich complexities of life.

I’ve started work on the book, and collected a number of the posts together in a series of chapters. These will be on:

Introduction and Florence’s request

General US/Western Interference

Pinochet Coup in Chile

Real Reasons for Iraq War

Russia and Ukraine

Gaddafi and Libya

Syria

British Recruitment Nazis, Exploitation of Guyana, planned internment of radicals.

Fake News and Domestic Propaganda, HIGNFY, Andrew Neil

I’ve still got to put them in some kind of narrative order, to they make a kind of progressive sense to the reader, rather than being simply jumbled up higgledy-piggledy. Once that’s done, I shall see about putting a cover to it, and sending it to Lulu, if anyone’s interested. Incidentally, my book Privatisation: Killing the NHS, should still be available from them, if anyone’s interested. I don’t know how many copies of this book I’ll sale, but I hope it helps do something to bring down this horrific, murderous wave of neoliberalism imperialism released by George Dubya and Blair, and extended by their successors.

2014 Re-Release Trailer for 2001

December 23, 2017

It’s Christmas, so I’m trying to intersperse the serious stuff I’m posting up here with lighter material, so that’s there some seasonal good cheer flying around. I found this on the Movie Clips Channel on YouTube. Kubrick’s epic SF film, 2001: A Space Odyssey was re-released at the cinema in 2014, thirteen years after the film’s nominal date. And it shows brief clips from the movie, mixed with suitable quotes from critics and directors. The clips are from some of the film’s iconic moments – the black monolith, the discovery of clubs and tools by primitive apemen, HAL, the lone astronaut jogging around the spinning living space inside the Odyssey, which gives it artificial gravity, to Khatchurian’s ‘Gayane’. The Odyssey itself, natch, the super-sleek space shuttle approaching the wheeling space station to the tune of Strauss’ ‘Blue Danube’, the symbolism of the Sun and moon appearing in line with the Monolith early in human prehistory, the strains of ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’, the Moon Lander descending to the underground moon base. And of course, the Star Gate.

Kubrick told Clarke he wanted to make the greatest SF movie of all time. And for many critics he did it. The film is epic, baffling and infuriating. When it was shown on BBC TV in Christmas 1983 or thereabout, my brother, father and myself all had an argument afterwards about what on Earth or space it all meant. It’s an intelligent, and paradoxically also a deeply religious one. Clarke, an atheist, who famously wrote the script, has made this point in interviews. It deals with intervention in human evolution by non-human intelligences, and has themes of death, rebirth and transcendence. Think of the last ten minutes or so of the movie, where Bowman ages before being transformed into the Star Child. And the pictures on his chamber walls are of the Madonna and Child. Again pointing up the theme of divine incarnation and birth with a salvific mission.

Back in the 1990s George Lucas re-released his Star Wars: Episode IV, which had been retouched with digital technology and computer graphics. Some of the critics got carried away, and announced that it was the greatest SF movie ever. Not so, replied the great man, who took out a whole page advert in the LA Times to say that 2001 was the greatest SF film of all time. A generous homage by one of the great masters of modern SF cinema.

There’s been a trend in some cinemas showing old movies. The other year one of cinemas around the country showed the original Blade Runner movie. Another showed the Czech SF epic Icarus. And one of the theatres in Cheltenham screened a series of old films, including the classic British comedy, The Ladykillers. This is film as it is made to be seen: at the cinema. My only regret is that I’ve managed to go to none of the re-releases, except Star Wars.

RT Video of Teachers’ Demonstration in Washington against Betsy DeVos

October 17, 2017

Betsy DeVos is Trump’s education secretary. She’s a multimillionaire member of the family behind the Amway pyramid scheme, who has never attended a public, that is, state school in her life, and as a bright red corporate Republican, hates them with a passion. She, like her master, Trump, wants to privatise them, and turn them into charter schools. This means that they will be able to circumvent the state legislation regulating teaching standards, the pay and conditions of teaching staff, just like Academies in the UK. And in the case of America, they will also be outside the legislation outlawing the teaching of religion in schools.

Teachers in America, like those in Britain, are extremely worried and angry. This is a video by RT America of a demonstration by public school teachers outside the Hyatt Regency Bellevue Hotel in the state of Washington last Friday, 13th October 2017. The assembled educators have placards proclaiming ‘Stop Fascism’, protesting the privatisation of the American school system, and demanding an end to the road from school to prison. I don’t know the particular symbolism, but some of the female demonstrators lined up to wear 17th/18th century dress with red capes, holding placards, which read out ‘This nightmare will end’.

Mike and I both went to Anglican church school in Bristol, and I have absolutely nothing against the teaching of religion in schools nor the state supporting faith schools. I’m not a secularist. Religious education in British schools hasn’t prevented the increasing secularisation of society. Religion, and more recently the attempts of secular philosophy to grasp with the deep issues of humanity’s existence, morality and meaning, have been part of human culture and identity for centuries, if not millennia. It can also be argued that we need proper teaching about each others’ religious beliefs as society has become more plural and multicultural, so that children do not get distorted or bigoted pictures of our fellow citizens and their religious beliefs or secular philosophies.

But I’m also aware that American society and educational tradition is different, and that there are quite legitimate concerns that what these schools will push is not education, but indoctrination. Just as there are concerns over here about the extremist agenda pursued by some of the new faith schools established in the UK.

Mine and Mike’s mother was a junior school teacher for many years, and I did my first degree at an Anglican teacher training college, and so have some understanding from the inside of what teachers face. Contrary to what the Republicans and Conservatives would have us all believe, teachers as a rule don’t want to indoctrinate children with lesbian feminist cultural Marxist propaganda, although they do want to make sure that girls as well as boys reach their academic potential, and they do have a statutory duty tackle prejudice, including homophobia. But most of all, teachers want to stand in front of a White board and teach. And those I know, who’ve done it state that it’s immensely rewarding. They want to see their pupils do well, and become bright, inquiring members of society. They want to pass on the interest and passion they have for the subjects they teach, whether English, maths, science, history, whatever to the children in their care.

I’m perfectly aware that there are some terrible teachers. But the good far outnumber the bad. Teachers in this country have been appallingly treated by successive governments ever since Margaret Thatcher, and the attempts to privatise, or part-privatise schools through their transformation into academies and charter schools threaten educational standards, as well as the pay and conditions of the teaching staff themselves. This country has suffered from wave after wave of qualified teachers leaving the profession as conditions have become worse, demands increased, and in some cases even dangerous. There have been cases where teachers are assaulted. At the same time, like other public sectors workers, pay has been cut or frozen. They have not been given the support they need by the authorities, and in the case of the Republicans in America and Conservatives over here, they’ve actually been demonised and vilified. Over the decades newspapers like the Scum, the Heil and even the Torygraph have run article after article trying to scare the British public with stories about how left-wing teachers are indoctrinating Britain’s children. Under Cameron, we had Michael Gove whining about history wasn’t being taught properly. It should be more patriotic, with children taught the approved Tory version of the First World War, rather than Blackadder. As Mike pointed out in a series of articles he put up about it, this would be to distort history for the Tories’ own benefit. As well as mistaking a comedy, based on history, with history itself.

In the 1980s, my mother felt so strongly about the threat to British education that she and the other teachers in her union took industrial action. As did very many others. This was not done selfishly to maintain their own privileges at the expense of their children. It was also because they were very much concerned that unless strike action was taken, the Tories would continue to run down the British education system. As they have, and Blairite New Labour as well.

The transformation of America’s public schools into charter schools is undemocratic, and hasn’t just been done by the Republicans. Obama also pushed for it. And like Blair in England, schools were often taken out of the state sector and made charter schools against the wishes of the community, parents, teachers, community groups, pastors and clergy. The Black community in particular has been threatened by the fall in educational standards that they represent. A year or so ago the veteran civil rights organisation, the NAACP, came out against them. There are books over here about the failings of academy schools. One of the pamphlets I’ve written is against them. If you want a copy, just let me know in the comments and I’ll get back to you.

But DeVos and the corporatists want a privatised school system both as a source of profit and because they would transform the school system from proper education, to a system of creating a passive workforce, who have enough knowledge to work for their corporate masters, but not enough to question, think for themselves, or even to be able to participate fully in art and culture. Art and music along with other humanities are being dropped from the curriculum in Britain as schools concentrate on the STEM subjects. And this is harming our children’s education.

C.P. Snow talked of the ‘two cultures’. He felt that there was a real gap between the arts and the sciences, so that the two formed distinct, separate cultures with little contact between each other. I think his fears, however true they were when he was writing, are somewhat exaggerated now. Science and mathematics has inspired much art down the centuries, as you can see from the weird paradoxes of Max Escher or the new scientific experiments that were painted during the 18th century by Wright of Derby. And scientists and science educators like the late Carl Sagan and even Richard Dawkins have expressed an extensive knowledge and keen appreciation of art.

This is why teachers are protesting against academies and charter schools: they want to preserve proper educational standards. They want to make sure that the poorest children have the same opportunity to achieve as the wealthiest. They want education to receive its proper status as a public good, not the preserve of the affluent, or simply another revenue stream for a grotty multinational like Murdoch’s. And although in Britain religion is taught, or supposed to be taught, in schools, there are safeguards and legislation against indoctrination. And teachers wish to preserve those as well.

So stand with your community teachers and teaching unions, and don’t let the Republicans in America or the Tories in Britain turn your school into an academy.

Hope Not Hate Infiltrates the Alt Right

September 21, 2017

The anti-racist/ anti-religious extremism website and magazine, Hope Not Hate, has posted up a piece by their contributor, Patrik Hermansson, describing his year-long mission to infiltrate the Alt Right both in Britain and in America. Mr. Hermansson is a young, gay and very anti-Nazi Swede. During his year amongst the assorted Nazis and Holocaust deniers, he met and became close to the far right London Forum and its leaders, Jez Turner, Stead Steadman and Mick Brooks. He also encountered smaller, associated Nazi groups like the Extremists Club and various Nazi Odinist groups, which worship the Norse gods.

He also met the Traditional Britain Group and its founder, Gregory Lauder-Frost. This has links, as has the London Forum, with the Nazi publisher, Arktos Media, and has hosted meetings, whose speakers have included other members of the international New Right such as Alex Kurtagic and Tomislav Sunic, John Morgan, formerly of Arktos, now working for Greg Johnson’s Countercurrents, Marcus Willinger of Generation Identity, and Richard Spencer and Mark Tait of the Alt Right. The Traditional Britain Group has also had links to Breitbart. The TBG has also hosted events attended by the UKIP MEP Gerard Batten, and Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who later apologized for attending.

Johnson has also set up groups like the London Forum in New York and Seattle. Guests and speakers at these events have included the anti-Semitic editor of the Occidental Observer, Kevin MacDonald, and the British Alt Right vlogger Colin Robertson, who vlogs under the monicker ‘Millennial Woes’. In Seattle, he also met the infamous Nazi ceramicist, Charles Krafft. Amongst other things, Krafft makes teapots of Adolf Hitler, one of which is shown. The Seattle Forum is Whites only, and is attempting to purchase land on which to found an all-White colony, Cascadia. He also met Jason Reza Jorjani, the co-founder of Alt Right Corporation and editor of Arktos Media, who later resigned his position at both to concentrate on overthrowing the Islamic Republic of Iran. Jorjani’s middle and surname suggest that he’s of Iranian heritage, so it’s no surprise that he wants to destroy the Islamic Republic and create an Indo-European world order. Many of the Iranian languages, like the majority language, Farsi, are Indo-European, the same as the Indian languages derived from Sanskrit. The father of the former Shah decided on renaming his country Iran, instead of Persia, following a suggestion from the Nazi ambassador in the 1930s. ‘Iran’ is derived from ‘Aryan’.

These groups attempt to offer a complete, parallel society to that of the mainstream, so that the people within it not only attend political events with their fellow Fascists, but also socialize and go to and organize cultural events with them.

They also have links to the White House, and its current denizen, Donald Trump.

The article also includes a diagram of the various groups and organisations making up the Alt Right, and the links between them.

Hermansson also describes how he found the year within the movement emotionally numbing. These are viciously racist groups, with a violent and genocidal hatred of Jews, non-Whites, gays and feminists. They deny the Holocaust and joke about the murder of the Jews by the Nazis. They also cheered at the new of the Orlando shooting, when a sexually repressed and conflicted gay Muslim took out his anger and self-loathing by murdering people at a gay nightclub, many of whom were Latinos/Latinas. Hermansson describes how meeting and immersing himself in this milieu every day has the effect of normalizing their extreme and disgusting views. He states

I learnt a huge amount about how people and groups are connected, how the movement operates and what it was planning. I found out how the movement interacts internationally and how important the social aspect of activism is in radicalising and retaining members. These groups attempt to become all-encompassing organisations that go far beyond politics, into art, religion and social life making them incredibly difficult to leave. Tragically I’ve seen how social pressure inside these groups can make ordinary people support genocide.

The far right is often treated with complacency. Should we let them into the public debate? Their views might be different, but aren’t they just other opinions

What’s obvious after a year inside the alt-right is that we cannot become complacent. These are not just opinions. These are organisations that actively foment hate and promote violence towards large groups of people. They are dangerous and their dangerous ideology must be confronted, wherever it appears.

The article concludes with his description of the events in Charlottesville.

In addition to the diagram, there are also numerous photographs taken by the author.

https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com/my-year-inside-the-international-alt-right

Sam Seder: Trump Advisors Shocked that He Says in Public His Private Racist Views

August 20, 2017

This is another important clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, in which Seder and his co-hosts discuss Trump’s vile moral equivalence between the Nazis at Charlottesville and the anti-Nazi counterprotesters. They make the point that his advisors, who are now declaring their horror at Trump saying that there were fine people on both sides – which means he thinks Nazis and White supremacists can be fine people – aren’t really horrified at his racism per se. They were quite well aware of how privately racist Trump was. What has shocked them is that he revealed it publicly.

After debating whether the mass resignations of the businesspeople on his manufacturing council did so out of genuine moral concern, or because they simply didn’t want to be associated with such noxious opinions simply for commercial reasons, they then get on to the topic of the two Jewish members of Trump’s cabinet, Gary Cohn and Steve Minuchin. Seder and his fellows on the programme are Jewish, so for them it’s particularly shocking and unacceptable that any self-respecting Jew should give aid to someone actively supporting Nazis. Seder says of Cohn that he must be profoundly grateful that it’s a long time till October, when he has to go to the synagogue for the Rosh Ha-Shanah festival. When he turns up then, there are going to be a lot of people looking at him. He states very clearly that the Jewish community should put pressure on Cohn to resign from Trump’s cabinet. Once he goes, Minuchin won’t want to be the only Jew left in it. After he’s gone, there’ll be a cascade of people resigning.

Seder debates which Jewish organization should put the pressure on these two men. He doubts the ADL would do it, because they’re a right-wing organization. J-Street might, possibly. But he concludes forcefully that there should be a coalition of left-wing rabbis, who believe in equality, who should stand outside their door first thing after sundown on Friday evening. This is when the Jewish Sabbath begins.

I’m not surprised that a couple of Trump’s leading officials are Jewish, despite his equivocation about the Nazis at Charlottesville. You can always find people in all races or religions, who are prepared to support those, who hate or would otherwise wish to harm their community. Karl von Luegerer, the anti-Semitic mayor of Vienna, who influenced Adolf Hitler, had Jewish friends. When he challenged about them by his fellow anti-Semites, he declared ‘I decide who’s a Jew and who isn’t’. One of the scandals of American support for the Nazis during the Third Reich was that this included prominent banking families, who advanced loans to them even while Jews were being deported and exterminated.

Many American, and for that matter, British Jews, are either emigrants or the children and grandchildren of Jewish Germans, who were forced to flee the country during the Nazi era. And these people had relatives, who were killed in the Holocaust. Michael Brooks has said in a previous video, in which he refutes criticism that the show and his boss, Seder, are anti-Semitic, that not only is he Jewish, but he’s specifically German Jewish. Trump’s willingness to support the goosesteppers has a direct, personal relevance for very many members of the American Jewish community.

Seder also attacks Cohn and Minuchin as they’re the weak links in Trump’s chain of command. The others aren’t directly affected by Trump’s support for the White supremacists and racists. They might even support it. But this isn’t the case for Cohn and Minuchin.

Regardless of their personal ethnic or religious background, I hope they, and others of Trump’s cabinet, do resign. Seder says in the video that the only Black official in Trump’s administration has done the decent thing and handed in his notice.

You can’t give the slightest support to Nazis and White supremacists. Trump states that there were ‘very fine people on both sides’. Part of the problem is that some Nazis and White supremacists can be personally very charming people. Way back in the 1990s I was listening to a programme on the Beeb, in which a German Jewish fellow described how he had successfully infiltrated and brought down a neo-Nazi group over there. He states that they included some people, who were otherwise perfectly friendly. They included not just real anti-Semites, but also normal Germans, who didn’t believe the Holocaust had occurred. Primo Levi, the Italian chemist and writer, states in his memoir of his incarceration during the Holocaust that there was personally no difference in character between the guards and the people interned. In his words ‘they had our faces’.

This is one of the aspects of the Holocaust, which make it so horrific and chilling. You don’t need to claim that Hitler was some kind of demon-possessed black magician, as some of the writers on the occult fringe have done. There was nothing supernatural or paranormal about the Nazis’ evil. Instead, it shows how otherwise normal people, who went back to their families at weekends or during leave as loving members, were capable of the most monstrous crimes against humanity.

As Mike pointed out with the Tweets he put up on his post from a very wide range of people, including Mr Sulu from Star Trek, George Takei, being a Nazi automatically rules you as a fine person. Or as Mr. Takei said, he ‘never met a fine White supremacist. Ever.’

Like Seder and his fellows, Takei has personal reasons to hate White supremacism. He’s a Japanese-American, who was active in the struggle to get reparations for the members of his community interned as enemy aliens during World War II.

Historians and political scientists have also pointed out that when the Nazis started out, they initially received miniscule support. The numbers, who voted for them in the early ’20s were comparable to those, who backed the BNP or NF today. The year before their election victory, Hitler’s party was bankrupt and had to go begging on the streets. One of the factors that boosted their support, apart from the Wall Street Crash and an agricultural crisis in Schleswig-Holstein, which allowed them to pose as the party of the beleaguered peasant farmers, was that influential members of the upper classes openly supported them. This included the philosopher Heidegger, who announced ‘Ich sage ‘Ja!’ – ‘I say ‘Yes!’.

This is the very good reason why no-one with any political power, or personal or social cachet, should give the slightest support to Fascism or Nazism. And why it’s necessary to condemn Trump, and deprive him of any support, for his own support for them.

Counterpunch on the Threat of Military Policing in America by 2030

February 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William Blum on the American Demonization of Iran

February 8, 2017

I bought a copy today of William Blum’s book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy – The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything (London: Zed Books 2013). Blum’s a long term, extremely vociferous and very knowledgeable critic of American foreign policy and its allies. He’s been protesting against the country’s assassinations, coups and manufactured wars and other interventions since the Vietnam War, and his website, the Anti-Empire Report, is highly recommended for telling you what the media is not reporting about the global actions of America and its allies.

The book’s chapters deal with:
US foreign policy vs. the world; Terrorism; Iraq; Afghanistan; Iran; George W. Bush; Condoleezza Rice; Human rights, civil liberties and torture; WikiLeaks; Conspiracies; Yugoslavia; Libya; Latin America; Cuba; The Cold War and anti-Communism; the 1960s; Ideology and society; Our precious environment; The problem with capitalism; The media; Barack Obama; Patriotism; Dissent and resistance in America; Religion, Laughing despite the Empire; But what can we do?

It’s a treasure trove of information showing just how unpleasant American foreign policy is, and how the military-industrial complex running it has not only bombed, murdered and exploited people all over the world, it also lies shamelessly and constantly to its own people as well as the world at large. Nearly every page has a telling fact that flips the conventional, establishment narrative right on its head.

The chapter on Iran is a case in point. Blum cites White House aides, journos and diplomats to show that Iran’s nuclear programme was never a threat, despite the hysterical table-thumping by the odious Tzipi Livni and the rest of the thugs now running Israel. Far from it. Over a decade ago, the Iranians were even responsible for negotiating some of the peace deals in Afghanistan, and even approached Bush through the Swiss ambassador for a deal to improve relations with America, in which they promised to give major concessions. Blum writes

Shortly after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran made another approach to Washington, via the Swiss ambassador, who sent a fax to the State Department. The Washington Post described it as ‘a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table – including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.’ The Bush administration ‘belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax’. Richard Haass, head of policy planning at the State Department at the time and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Iranian approach was swiftly rejected because in the administration ‘the bias was toward a policy of regime change.’

So there we have it. The Israelis know it, the Americans know it. Iran is not any kind of military threat. Before the invasion of Iraq I posed the question: What possible reason would Saddam Hussein have for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? he had no reason, and neither do the Iranians. (p. 105).

James Dobbins, Bush’s representative to the Bonn conference in which the parties in the Middle East negotiated the political settlement for Afghanistan, states that it was the Iranians who made sure that democracy and the war on terrorism were included in the Afghan constitution, not the Americans. (pp.104-5). Now that’s very, very definitely something I haven’t heard report on the Beeb. Have you?

But what struck me as urgently important this week was this passage

Not long ago, Iraq and Iran were regarded by USrael as the most significant threats to Israeli Middle East hegemony. thus was born the myth of Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the United States proceeded to turn Iraq into a basket case. The left Iran, and thus was born the myth of the Iranian Nuclear Threat. As it began to sink in that Iran was not really that much of a nuclear threat, or that this ‘threat’ was becoming too difficult to sell to the rest of the world, USrael decided that, at a minimum, it wanted regime change. The next step may be to block Iran’s lifeline – oil sales using the Strait of Hormuz. Ergo the recent US and EU naval buildup near the Persian Gulf, an act of war trying to goad Iran into firing the first shot. If Iran tries to counter this blockade it could be the signal for another US Basket Case, the fourth in a decade, with the devastated people of Libya and Afghanistan, along with Iraq, currently enjoying America’s unique gift of freedom and democracy. (Pp. 98-9, my emphasis).

The Americans have been gearing up for a war with Iran for the past decade. But this week Donald Trump’s advisers were banging their shoes on the table for war. An American warship had been fired upon by the Yemeni Houthi rebels. The Houthis are Shi’a, and so backed by Iran. At the same time, the Iranians test fired a ballistic missile that flew 500 miles before crashing. This was, assures Drumpf, a preparation for nuclear missiles. The Orange Generalissimo and his courtiers therefore started talking about a possible attack on Iran.

I’ve blogged earlier this week about how a war with Iran would be disastrous. It also wouldn’t be to liberate the Iranian people from a deeply authoritarian and repressive regime. It would be just another attempt by US-Saudi oil multinationals to grab their oil, just as America and Britain organised a coup against Mossadeq when he nationalised Anglo-Persian Oil in the 1950s.

Iran’s not a threat, and the Iranians were responsible for establishing clauses mandating democracy and denouncing terrorism in the Afghan constitution. This is all about finding a pretext for a new pack of lies to justify yet the invasion and looting of yet another country.