Posts Tagged ‘Seditious Libel’

Fascist Charles Gore’s Proposal for a Jewish State in Madagascar

February 20, 2018

Yesterday I put up a piece quoting Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists, who in 1961 gave his qualified support to Israel in his book Mosley-Right or Wrong? This is the kind of material the Israel lobby wishes to obscure or erase from history, as anyone who mentions that real anti-Semites and Fascists have promoted the idea of a Jewish homeland elsewhere as a way of removing them from their countries is immediately denounced as an anti-Semite. Thus, Ken Livingstone was smeared because he said, quite rightly, that Hitler initially supported Jewish migration to Palestine. This was under the short-lived Ha’avara Agreement between the Zionist authorities in Israel and Nazi Germany. And Mike has similarly been libelled as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier by the CAA because he dared to defend Livingstone and many of the other Labour party members, who have also been vilified and smeared for their support of the Palestinians.

But this doesn’t alter the facts of history. And Mosley certainly wasn’t alone amongst Fascists in supporting a Jewish state outside Britain.

One of the others was Charles Gore, a close friend and collaborator with Arnold Leese. Leese was a vicious anti-Semite, who founded a tiny Fascist group between the Wars, the Imperial Fascist League. He believed and promoted all the stupid, murderous conspiracy theories about the Jews, such as the myth that they were trying to enslave and destroy gentiles. In 1938 he was prosecuted for seditious libel after publishing a pamphlet repeating the ‘Blood Libel’ – the anti-Semitic myth that Jews murdered Christians in order to use their blood in the matzo bread at Passover. Gore wasn’t a member of the IFL, but he did collaborate with Leese when the latter wrote another pamphlet trying to justify himself after the trial, My Irrelevant Defence. And Gore also wrote a book arguing that a new homeland for the Jews should be set up in Madagascar.

This is discussed by Richard Thurlow in his book, British Fascism 1918-1985 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1987). He writes

Although not formally a member Gore had a profound influence on Leese. He thought that Fascism was played out in England and that the IFL should merge into a new organisation that he planned called the ‘National Union of British Workmen’. His literary pretensions were further highlighted when he sent a copy of his unpublished manuscript ‘The Island of Madagascar as a National State for the Jewish People and Why’ to Lord Rothschild, who forwarded it to the Board of Deputies in 1938. By this time Gore had split with Leese and offered information on the IFL to the Board of Deputies, which was declined. (P. 73).

I don’t think Gore was alone in arguing that Madagascar should be the new home of the Jews. I think it was considered at times by various other groups, including the early Zionists themselves, before they settled on Palestine. Other suggested locations for an independent Jewish state included Uganda.

It doesn’t matter what the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism or the Jewish Labour Movement (formerly Paole Zion) or indeed the rest of the Israel Lobby says. At various times anti-Semites and Fascists did support the demand for a Jewish homeland. And the above passage shows that Gore tried to interest the British community itself in his idea. It’s simple historical fact, and it is very definitely not anti-Semitic to mention it.

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Secular Talk: Trump Promises to Destroy the First Amendment

March 2, 2016

Donald Trump’s rage against the media for supposedly portraying him in a negative light has hit a new, very dangerous low. In this piece from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski discusses one of the Dimestore Duce’s speeches, in which he attacked journalists and the media as one of the lowest groups of humanity. He singled out in particular the New York Times and the Washington Post. When he got into power, he promised, he would extend the libel laws, so that people could sue them for their alleged lies and win ‘lots of money’.

Kulinski points out that this is Authoritarianism 101. The New York Times and the Washington Post are able to print their articles against Trump, because they’re protected by the First Amendment. You know, that pesky bit in the American Constitution that guarantees the people of America free speech. Trump wants to overturn that, and the protection it gives America, because journalists are saying nasty things about him.

Kulinski points out that there is absolutely no chance of this happening, as it would need a constitutional committee to be convened before there could be any change. But this is an authoritarian attitude. Authoritarianism is when you crack down and attack your enemies, while giving your friends a pat on the back. And you can see what he’s like by looking at how he behaves to his Twitter followers. Anyone who criticises him, he attacks mercilessly, while he praises those who supported him.

Kulinski also states that it’ll have a chilling effect on the media. Nobody, not even those who hate Trump, like to be attacked. So journalists will go softer on him, in order to avoid Trump lashing out at them again. So he’ll get them doing his propaganda for him. He also points out that what the New York Times and Washington Post wrote wasn’t libel. They merely discussed Trump’s failing businesses, like his casinos, using facts. Trump’s attack on free speech and promise to extend the libel laws is a threat, that should worry even his supporters.

Kulinski is absolutely right about this. Britain doesn’t have a written constitution, and our libel laws are extremely strict, so much so that they have been used to crack down on free speech. A while ago an American academic was sued for libel in a British court by a Saudi billionaire, Khalid bin Mahfuz, for what she wrote about the way the Sheikh’s charitable foundations had been used to fund al-Qaeda in her book, Funding Terror. She stated that the Sheikh was not involved in these transactions, nor was he even aware of them. And she was factually correct. This availed her nothing. Mahfuz won the case, arguing that while she was correct, it nevertheless harmed his professional reputation.

Private Eye printed a long piece reporting and attacking the judgement for it what it was – an attack that undermined the basis of democracy itself. In response, a number of American judges and states passed legislation officially declaring that British legal judgements and law had no validity in America, in order to protect free speech in their country from this and similar attacks.

And this hasn’t been the only time the libel laws have been used by the rich and corrupt to silence their critics. In the 18th and 19th centuries one of the way the British government sought to suppress those journalists and writers that criticised its corruption was to sue them for ‘seditious libel’. It why the great British journalist, Cobbett, spent several years in America, before returning to Blighty. Even foreign rulers got in on the act. One of the British radical journalists – I think it might even have been Cobbett again – was sued in the 1820s by the Russian Tsar when he described him as a tyrant, who ‘was ridiculous to his people’. Trump’s threat to expand the libel laws is a real danger to the genuinely great American tradition of free speech.

Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist, has boastingly called his show, Infowars, ‘1776 Worldwide’. He’s loudly backing Trump. What he fails to realise, is that Trump isn’t one of the Revolutionaries. He’s actually one of the Red Coats.

Twitter’s Censorship and the Totalitarianism of the DWP’s ‘Brand’

February 7, 2014

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Jon Woodcock, Brand Manager of the Department of Work and Pensions

I’ve reblogged Tom Pride’s article this morning on his site, Pride’s Purge, about Twitter’s censorship of a parody account satirising the DWP, @UKJCP. This was done at the request of Jon Woodcock, ‘Brand Manager’ at the Department of Work and Pensions. Woodcock wanted the account closed down because

‘it had been set up with the deliberate and malicious intent to devalue and criticise the work of Jobcentre Plus. In addition, there are a number of rude and potentially libellous tweets aimed at UK government, elected politicians and the heads of large private sector organisations who are committed to working with government on reducing unemployment.’

Woodcock appears to be somewhat confused about recent developments in freedom of the press, such as those that have occurred within the last 200 years or so. His pompous statements about the malicious criticism of Jobcentre Plus, and the potential libelling of their collaborators in the private sector recalls nothing so much as the way dissenting journalists in the 18th and 19th centuries were prosecuted for ‘seditious libel’ when satirising or criticising the government of the day and its ministers. Robin Day similarly hated the government being sent up. He described the satirical sixties TV show, That Was the Week That Was, which blazed the path now followed by the Not the Nine O’clock News, The News Quiz, Have I Got News For You, Spitting Image and Mock the Week as ‘deplorable’. Woodcock seems to share the same attitude. Presumably he winces every time Michael Portillo shows him his collection of early political cartoons. As his comments show, he does seem to be the type of man who’d like to censor Hogarth, Cruikshank, Gillray et al.

Then there’s the problem of why a government department should require a ‘brand manager’ at all. This is another idea that seems to have come in from general industry management culture. Many companies are extremely jealous about their brand imagery, to the point where they become extremely possessive and intolerant of anybody sending it up, or using the same kind of image as it’s part of general culture. In the 1990s Hollywood produced a film about the Loch Ness Monster. This was all well and good, but the film’s producers then tried to shut down a website about ‘Nessie’, because, as the producer’s of a film about the Loch Ness Monster, they decided that they owned copyright to the creature. Woodcock seems to come from this part of commercial culture.

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Josef Goebbels: Minister for Public Enlightenment and Brand Manager of the Nazi Party

It is also very like the commercial branding used by Josef Goebbels and the Nazi party. Also back in the 1990s, the SF author William Gibson wrote a novel, in which the central character has such a gift for branding and marketing that they feel physical pain when exposed to products or material, which have a very strong, brand identity. There was some controversy over the book because of a passage, in which the character talks about the Nazis having a very strong brand image. Talking about the book on BBC Radio 4’s arts show, Front Row, Gibson said that the passage was inspired by his own experiences in Vienna. He had been wandering down one of the Austrian capital’s side streets, and came upon a shop selling Nazi memorabilia left over from the Anschluss and the Third Reich. Gibson noted how branded it all was, with every article carrying Nazi insignia, including the notepaper. Unfortunately, Gibson was right. The Third Reich was very careful in the construction of its corporate image and that of its numerous subsections.

From 1930-33 the propaganda section of the Nazi issued detailed instruction regarding the slogans, images and themes that should appear in their posters, leaflets and party papers. The following directions, signed by Goebbels, were issued in preparation for Presidential elections of March-April 1932

‘(a) Reich Propaganda Department to all Gaue and all Gau Propaganda Departments.
… a striking slogan:
Those who want everything to stay as it is vote for Hindenburg. Those who want everything changed vote for Hitler.

(b) Reich Propaganda Department to all Gaue and Gau Propaganda Departments
… Hitler Poster. The Hitler poster depicts a fascinating Hitler head on a completely black background. Subtitle: white on black – ‘Hitler’. In accordance with the Fuhrer’s wish this poster is to be put up only during the final days [of the campaign]. Since experience shows that during the final days there is a variety of coloured posters, this poster with it completely black background will contrast with all the others and will produce a tremendous effect on the masses … .

(c) Reich Propaganda Department
Instructions for the National Socialist Press for the election of the Reich President
1. From Easter Tuesday 29 March until Sunday 10 April inclusive, all National Socialist papers, both daily and weekly, must appear in an enlarged edition with a tripled circulation. Two-thirds of this tripled circulation must be made available, without charge, to the Gau leadership responsible for its area of distribution for propaganda purposes… .
2. From East Tuesday 29 march until Sunday 3 April iniclusive, a special topic must be dealt with every day on the first page of all our papers in a big spread. Tuesday 29 March: Hitler as a man. Wednesday 30 March: hitler as a fighter (gigantic achievements through willpower, etc.). Friday 1 April. Hitler as a statesman-plenty of photos…
3. On Sunday 3 April at noon (end of an Easter truce), the great propaganda journey of the Fuehrer through Germany will start, through which about a million people are to be reached directly through our Fuehrer’s speeches… The press organisation is planned so that four press centres will be set up in Germany, which in turn will pass on immediately any telephone calls to the other papers of their area, whose names have been given them….’

From Nazism 1919-1945 – A Documentary Reader, 1: The Rise to Power 1919-1934, edited by J. Noakes and G. Pridham, (Exeter: University of Exeter 1983) 73-4.

And commercial companies were all too willing to exploit Hitler and the Nazis’ powerful brand. After Hitler seized power in 1933 under the Enabling Law, numerous German companies began marketing their products using the Fuehrer’s image. There was even a brand of sardines or smoked mackerel – I forget which – called ‘Gute Adolf’ – ‘Good Adolf’. The Italian Fascists were also no slouches in this direction. The manganello, the club Mussolini’s squadristi used for beating up their enemies, also appeared in advertising and other popular art, sometimes even as baby’s rattles.

These are simply the totalitarian expression of Jon Woodcock’s concern for his department’s brand image, taken to its most grotesque and extreme extent, and similarly used by regimes intolerant of dissent and desperate to compel the masses to give them their absolute and unthinking support.

Woodcock’s and Twitter’s censorship of @UKJCP should be a national scandal. It is, after all, another assault on free speech by a corrupt and intolerant regime that is seeking every opportunity to stifle it through legislation like the gagging laws. It also shows the way corporate branding in the hands of government departments is becoming totalitarian in its scope and basic attitudes.