Posts Tagged ‘Sexism’

Weinstein, Acting and the Sexual Exploitation of Women

October 18, 2017

The big news story this week has been the numerous accusations of rape, sexual assault and other forms of indecency against the big movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein. The papers and news broadcasts have been full of the accounts by actress after actress about how Weinstein assaulted or otherwise tried to degrade them for his own sexual gratification. And as the scandal has gone on, other women have also revealed how they too were demeaned or sexually exploited in order to get roles or keep their jobs in Hollywood. I saw one headline for a video about Weinstein on YouTube, which quoted one female celeb as saying that he was just ‘the tip of the iceberg. And I’m not remotely surprised.

Hollywood has always had a reputation for the dark side of the glamour of showbusiness. This isn’t just the sordid off-screen lives of some of the stars and directors and producers themselves, but also for the sexual exploitation of aspiring actresses. The most notorious aspect of this was the ‘casting couch’, in which producers would pressure actresses to sleep with them if they wanted to get a part. And I really wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing existed in the theatre. Something very much like it is portrayed in the film All That Jazz, in which Roy Schneider plays a dissolute theatrical producer, who in one scene sleeps with one of the women, whom he is supposed to be auditioning. The film tries to make it somehow less sleazy by having her asking him if he wants to go to bed with her.

And even when there is no personal sexual contact, there is nevertheless a culture where women are very much judged on their beauty and sexual allure in a demeaning manner. Jennifer Lawrence has told how she, along with a group of other young women, were made to strip naked, with only pads covering their private parts, while a female producer looked them over. In Lawrence’s case, she was told to lose a lot of weight in order to compete with the much thinner girls in the line-up. She has said how she told another, male producer about the experience afterwards, to be insulted by him in turn when he said that there was nothing wrong with her weight, and that she was perfectly ‘f***able’.

These stories have been about the American film industry, but I really don’t think we have cause for complacency over on this side of the pond. A friend of mine a while ago told me about a young woman he knew, who applied to enter one of the country’s most prestigious stage schools. She got an audition, during which she was asked to take her clothes off. When she asked why, she was simply told that they wanted to see if she would do anything to get a part.

I don’t know the person involved myself, and this could be another Friend-Of-A-Friend story, but it does have the ring of truth. Some British film stars have told in interviews how they were messed about by the stage schools or acting academies to which they had applied. Euan McGregor said on one interview that when he was trying to start out in acting, he tried several times to get into RADA. Eventually, he got an audition. So he spent £125 on a train ticket from Edinburgh to London. This was in the 1980s, when the money was worth rather more than it is now. When he got there, he found that there was nobody to see him except one man. He was told quite frankly that he hadn’t got in. When he complained that he’s spent a lot of money getting down there just for nothing, the man just replied ‘Well, you’re going to have a lot of disappointments’. Which shows just how arrogant and casually spiteful RADA was, at least to him.

And some men have also said that they were the subject of unwanted advances by powerful cinema executives, who tried to use the immense power they had over their careers to exploit them sexually.

It seems to me that the YouTube video is right. Weinstein is just the tip of the iceberg, and the whole showbiz industry is rotten with amoral, exploitative predators. It desperately needs cleaning out.

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Media Lies Exposed Again: Most Misogynist Abuse Comes from the Tories

September 6, 2017

Mike today put up a piece blowing away another lie that the Tories and their servants in the media have hawking: that the Left is full of misogynists, who harass and abuse women MPs. In fact Amnesty International have published a report showing that the opposite is true: most abuse comes from the right. And the female politico, who most often suffers it is Diane Abbott.

Who in the Left is honestly surprised by this? There are Conservative varieties of feminism, as you’d expect, but feminism, or women’s lib as it was known in the 1970s, is most often associated with the Left. And as the Austrian democratic socialist Marxist, Karl Kautsky argued, socialism is all about equality. This is why they champion the working class, and why left-wing governments, particularly Communist, have encouraged women to enter politics and the workplace, even if their countries’ traditional culture is very sexist, as it is in Russia and some of the countries of the former eastern bloc.

Conservatives, on the other hand, stress the importance of tradition, and despite having given Britain two female prime ministers, Maggie Thatcher and now Theresa May, this usually also means stressing and promoting traditional gender roles. Thus, while the right-wing broadsheets may earnestly discuss the issue of getting more women into the boardroom, and equal pay, the Daily Heil has been telling its female readers that stable families, and indeed western civilization as a whole, needs women to concentrate on staying at home to raise children, rather than both pursuing independent careers. The image the right projects of feminism is of angry misandrists, which has been a factor in why so many young women a few years ago rejected the term ‘feminism’, even when they had strong feelings about winning equality and rejecting sexism.

There’s also more than a little racism on the Tories’ side as well. The Tory right has always had links to Fascist right, including inviting members of central American death squads over to their annual dinners. A few days ago I put up a piece about Owen Jones’ video on YouTube, in which he commented on an odious conversation by the Tory youth movement, Activate, about gassing chavs and shooting peasants. This wasn’t the first time they had made Nazi comments and bullied the poor and underprivileged by a very long chalk. Jones discussed some prize examples of their foul behavior. This included the members of Oxford University Conservative society goose-stepping around like the real Nazis, singing songs about ‘Dashing through the Reich … killing lots of ****’, the last a very unpleasant terms for Jews. Their comrades north of the border ain’t no better either. This crew thought it would be jolly fun for one of them to dress up as a slave master, while another cringed before him as a slave. It wasn’t that long ago that the Tories in Scotland were known as the Unionist party, and their antics and Thatcher’s complete dismissal of the country was a large factor in the decision of so many Scots to vote for the SNP.

As for the Tory press, they’ve been consistently against coloured immigration since Windrush. And long before then, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they were busy campaigning against allowing ‘aliens’ – that is, eastern European Jews, to enter this country as asylum seekers fleeing the pogroms in eastern Europe. This anti-immigration stance has frequently been blatantly racist. Private Eye, when covering the prosecution of the Scum yet again for racism by the Press Complaints Commission, as it then was, noted that the wretched paper had had 19 judgements against it previously for its racist content. I can remember how the Torygraph, Mail and Express back in the 1980s railed against ‘unassimilable’ immigrants and the way they were forming little ghettoes.

Racism became a major issue in that decade following the 1981/2 riots, and the publication of government reports that revealed a massive culture of institutional racism and Black deprivation in Britain. To the Tory press, however, the riots were all the fault of racist Blacks. While there have been Black and Asian politicians before, Diane Abbott was one of the group of very visible Black politicians and activists to achieve public office during the decade, along with Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant, the leader of Brent Council. They were all very vocal in their opposition to racism. Grant died the other year, and I think Boateng more or less vanished into the depths of Whitehall. There are a number of other Black politicos, like David Lammy, Chuka Umunna and Oona King, but Abbott is one of the longest-serving and most reviled. The Scum tried running a Communism scare against the Labour party in the 1987 election, by putting up a two-page spread with the photographs of Labour MPs and candidates, below which was a few brief quotes or comments showing how they were a threat to British society. Red Ken is supposed to have said that he wasn’t in favour of the British army, but wanted the workers to be armed so they could guard the factories. Under Abbott’s was a quote, ‘All Whites are racist.’

That was very much the image she had at the time. She’s supposed to be very keen on tackling racism, because she felt that her mother’s career was blocked because of her colour. This is actually quite likely. But it’s highly questionable that she’s anti-White. Many of the stories the press published about the supposed hard-left extremists in the Labour party at the time were either exaggerations or completely made up. Ken Livingstone, whom the Eye has frequently mocked under the nickname, Ken Leninspart, really did believe in worker’s control. But he was never a Marxist, and in fact worker’s control used to form only a small part of the subjects he discussed with the, um, ‘gentlemen’ of the press. Most of the time it was rather more mundane. But they played up the worker’s control, and attacked it, because it frightened their proprietors and editors, quite apart from the rest of the middle class. The veteran gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell, who was also beginning his career as a Labour politico, was another who was made to appear much more extreme than he was. At one point the papers published a story about him going on holiday to one of the great gay centres on the American west coast. Except that he hadn’t, and didn’t even know the place existed. They also did the same thing to Marc Almond. In his case, they didn’t think he looked sufficiently effeminate, and so retouched his photograph.

Given this long record of telling porky pies about radical politicians, you can’t be sure that Abbot made the above comment, or that it represents her views now. But as Sid James remarked to Tony Hancock in ‘The Scandal Magazine’, mud always sticks, boy. They’ve carried on portraying her as a threat to White history and culture. A few years ago, the Daily Mail ran a story about how the London borough she represents in parliament decided to replace the paintings in their civic offices. Down came the traditional portraits of the White guys, who had previously served on the council, and up came paintings of Black children.

The story was part of a larger article about her, and didn’t offer any details about this, nor the reasons for the decision. Without putting it in so many words, it was presented merely as Abbott’s coterie of angry Blacks removing Whites from the history of the borough. How this supposed racist anger compares with her appearing regularly alongside Michael Portillo on Andrew Neil’s The Daily Politics, where she appears perfectly calm and genial with her White presenters, as befits a grande dame of British politics, I really don’t know.

Nevertheless, she remains a Tory bete noir, and given the fact that there have always been members of the party, who can’t understand why a Black person could ever object to golliwogs, the Black and White Minstrels or why you can make derogatory comments about Black people’s supposed character defects as a race, or use the unpleasant terms previous generations used to insult them, and it becomes quite easy to see why she should be the target for so much abuse.

As for the supposed sexism in the Labour ranks, there was never much substance to that anyway. It was never more than an attempt by wealthy, entitled right-wing Labour female politicians to smear their male rivals. These women had nothing to offer ordinary working Brits, including women. While ordinary women are finding it difficult to pay the bills and feed their families, thanks to the ravages of neoliberalism, these female politicians simply offered more of the same. More cuts, more privatization, more precarity. But like Hillary Clinton, from whom they got the tactic, they wanted to present themselves as representing women in general, even if in fact they only represented rich, entitled women like themselves. And so just Clinton was outraged by the popularity of Bernie Sanders, these women were infuriated by Jeremy Corbyn. Clinton claimed that she had been vilified by the ‘Bernie Bros’, who didn’t actually exist. And so her counterparts in the Labour party over here decided to follow her, and lie about how they were the victims of savage misogyny from Corbyn and the Old Left.

The reality is the opposite. I don’t doubt that there is racism and sexism on the Left. But there’s far less of it than on the right. But the press are still liars for claiming otherwise.

Book on Conservative, Anti-Left Bias at the BBC

August 24, 2017

The BBC: The Myth of a Public Service, Tom Mills (London: Verso 2016).

I managed to pick up a copy of this book, which came out last year, yesterday while poking around one of the secondhand book shops in Cheltenham. The BBC has become increasingly very blatantly biased against the Labour party, trade unions and the left in general. The Corporation has huffily denied this, but it’s been the subject of academic critiques by Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff academics, who have concluded that there is a very real bias towards the Tories and business leaders, and against Labour MPs and trade unionists. According to the back flap of the dust jacket, Tom Mills is another academic – a lecturer in sociology and policy at Aston University, and a former co-editor of the New Left Project.

The blurb on the front flap states

The BBC is one of the most important institutions in Britain; it is also one of the most misunderstood. Despite its claim to be independent and impartial, and the constant accusations of a liberal bias, the BBC has always sided with the elite. As Tom Mills demonstrates, we are only getting the news that the Establishment wants aired in public.

Throughout its existence, the BBC has been in thrall to those in power. This was true in 1926 when it stood against the workers during the General Strike, and since then the Corporation has continued to mute the voices of those who oppose the status quo: miners in 1984; anti-war protesters in 2003; those who offer alternatives to austerity economics since 2008. From the outset much of its activity has been scrutinized by the secret services at the invitation of those in charge. Since the 1990s the BBC has been integrated into the market, while its independence from the government and big business has been steadily eroded. The BBC is an important and timely examination of a crucial public institution that is constantly under threat.

Barry and Saville Kushner have also pointed out how the Beeb and its journos unquestioningly accept the necessity of austerity, rarely inviting on their programmes anyone dares say otherwise. When they do, the interviewer promptly throws a fit and shouts them down. They heard one instance of this while listening to a radio interview on Radio 4 with a leading trade unionist, who was very abruptly stopped when he tried explaining that there was absolutely no need for it. See their book, Who Needs the Cuts.

The anti-Labour bias is acutely obvious in Laura Kuenssberg’s treatment of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. It was also very evident with the reports on the Six O’clock news by John Pienaar and George Alagiah. Any number of people have complained about Kuenssberg’s flagrant bias, and got the same shirty treatment from the people in the media bubble. Those, who dare to complain, like Guy Debord’s Cat, get a haughty letter from one of its apparatchiks pompously informing them how the Corporations journalists are all scrupulously impartial, and they are mistaken. And the hackettes in the Groaniad immediately got on their high horses to claim that those criticizing la Kuenssberg were just doing it because they were sexist chauvinists, like the Bernie Bros in America. Which also didn’t exist, but were made up by Killary and her minions as a way of explaining why few people, including women, actually like this highly entitled, neoliberal, establishment figure, who befriends blood-soaked war criminals like Henry Kissinger.

And despite the Beeb’s protestations, several of their own journos don’t buy this rubbish either. Robert Peston, now the Beeb’s economics editor, was asked three years ago what he thought about the claims that it had a liberal bias. Peston replied that, on the contrary, the Corporation was ‘completely obsessed with the agenda set by newspapers’, naming the Heil and Torygraph. He added that it ‘quite often veers in what you might call a very pro-establishment, rather right-wing direction’. He forthrightly said that the claims that the Beeb is left-wing is ‘bollocks’. (p. 106).

But such claims have been around since the BBC was formally incorporated as a nationalized industry. When it was just a cartel of radio manufacturers and broadcasters, the Conservatives were accusing it of a Socialist bias. Glancing through the book reveals that there have been repeated attempts by the Tories to make it reflect their views. In 1947 Churchill launched one of these. Some of the most significant occurred in the 1970s with Keith Joseph and the other neoliberals around Maggie Thatcher. They got very upset in 1974 when the respected American economist, J.K. Galbraith, presented a series critiquing corporate power and the rise and crisis of industrial society, including Marxist and Keynsian perspectives, The Age of Uncertainty. This was too much for Joseph and the rest of the frothing mad Tory right. Galbraith was no liberal. He identified as Conservative, but had said the unsayable. Galbraith stated in the introduction to the ninth episode of that, ‘The Big Corporation’, that it was a myth that the consumer is sovereign and the corporation respond to their preferences, efficiently allocating society’s resources. The reality was that ‘corporations influence government, influence the consumer. Only the textbooks say otherwise.’ Joseph and Geoffrey Howe then organized a campaign to have another series set up, examination the question from a pro-Hayekian, free market perspective, presented by Milton Friedman. This was the Milton Friedman, who enthusiastically rejected democracy after realizing that his Chicago School would always been a minority. He therefore championed General Pinochet, who was also an enthusiastic Monetarist, when he overthrew the Marxist president of Chile, Salvador Allende, in a Fascist coup.

One of the most revealing sections is the chapter discussing how the Beeb’s massive pro-business bias was established about nine or so years ago, way back at the start of century around the year 2000. It was set up, and the treatment of business affairs expanded, by Greg Dyke. Dyke was a member of the Labour party, and a crony of Tony Blair. This explains why the Tories were constantly howling about how he was a dangerous Socialist, and there was a left-wing bias at the Beeb. In fact, Dyke had imbibed the same Thatcherite, neoliberal views as Blair, despite the continued whines that the Beeb had an ‘anti-industry culture’. It’s another example of how politicians on the nominal left, like Blair, took over and expanded the Conservatives’ neoliberal programme.

As for pro-Fascist bias, this even afflicted that great founder of the Beeb, Lord Reith. In 1933 Reith made a speech declaring that it was possible for someone to spread democratic values without being a democrat. Two years later, in 1935, he made a speech praising Mussolini. He personally believed the country needed a dictatorship. Fortunately, the rest of the Beeb’s governors and controllers didn’t, and forced him out.

This is interesting, as it’s an aspect of Reith’s life I hadn’t heard about before. There have been biographies of him – one of which was published in the 1990s, and, I think, reviewed by the Financial Times. However, from what I can remember, what was said about Reith’s personal failings was about his own puritanism, repressed homosexuality, and guilty infatuation with another man. I can’t recall any mention of Reith being a supporter of Fascist style dictatorship, although it should also be said that he despised the Fascists’ thuggery.

It would be too much to say that the corporation is pro-Fascist. They’re very proud of a quote made during the crisis of 1974, when one of the journos announced that the Beeb isn’t impartial – it’s strongly pro-democratic, and passionately feels this needs to be cherished. On the other hand, broadcasters tend to be Conservatives. And one aspect of the Conservative mindset is authoritarianism. See some of the pieces on YouTube discussing this by left-wing news sites like Democracy Now and so on. This would explain why they give more respect than they should to extreme right-wing movements like the BNP and UKIP. Guy Debord’s Cat has written about this over on his blog, if you want further information.

The book also places Mary Whitehouse, the moral crusader, who became the scourge of broadcasters from the 1960s onwards. Whitehouse is still a notorious figure today for her campaign against all manner of smut and filth on television with her group, the Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association. A year or so ago there was a book about her and her correspondence with the Corporation, Ban This Filth. Mills states that she is looked upon as an eccentric figure. Misguided, but essentially harmless. This isn’t quite the case.

Whitehouse was linked the Tories, and a friend of Maggie Thatcher. She and they thought that there was a plot by a left-wing elite to foist all this degeneracy and moral chaos on the British public. It’s a view that’s now become firmly established within the Right. And there was a very strong political dimension to her campaign. She believed that the liberal elite wanted to create sexual permissiveness and anarchy in preparation for a state of political anarchy, in which the fundamental institutions of British society would be torn down. And like many a bonkers conspiracy theorist, she was convinced that this was all being coordinated by Moscow. These days she’d probably be on Infowars with Alex Jones, along with nutters frothing about imaginary satanic paedophile rings operating out of Boston pizza parlours by Hillary Clinton, and those who think that the government is run by a secret cabal of aliens from Zeta Reticuli.

As for her views about political anarchism, this was also held by MI5, much to the amusement of the real anarchists in the Anarchist Federation. See one of the pieces on modern anarchism in the anthology of anarchist literature, Anarchism, edited by George Woodcock.

The book concludes that Reith’s vision of the Beeb’s role was the same as that as Matthew Arnold, the headmaster of Rugby, in his book Culture and Anarchy. The alienated laboring poor were to be incorporated into the culture and political structure of British society, but firmly under the leadership of the upper classes. The brief period when British society and the BBC had become more egalitarian due to rising affluence and the economic and social changes of the 1960s, has disappeared. This is partly due to the collapse of Communism. There is now no longer an exterior threat demanding that certain concessions be made to the working and lower middle classes, so that they don’t become too radicalized. Neoliberalism has increased poverty and jobs are precarious. At the same time, power has become more distanced and centralized amongst a powerful coterie of Oxbridge-educated managers. And just as this has occurred in industry and wider British society, so it as has also occurred in the Beeb.

This is an important study of the Beeb’s institutional right-wing, pro-Establishment bias. It’s another refutation of the Beeb’s repeated, and increasingly spurious claims of impartiality. Since Corbyn became leader, more people have become aware of how hypocritical and specious these claims are. It’s why more people are getting their news and information from the internet, and sites you can really trust. Sites like Vox Political, Tom Pride, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, DPAC, Kitty S. Jones, the Canary, the Squawkbox, Guy Debord’s Cat, Tony Greenstein and others too numerous to mention.

These people convey real news, and their under threat from the big corporations Google and Facebook, who only want you to view and read approved corporate, neoliberal propaganda. It’s why they’re demonetizing left-wing news shows like Democracy Now, The Young Turks, the David Pakman Show, Secular Talk and Sam Seder’s Majority Report, and changing the rules on Facebook to make it difficult for people to access the left-wing blogs.

Don’t let them get away with this. Support your favourite left-wing blogs and news shows.

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.

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.

Libertarian Sexism – Just Fascist Misogyny Mixed Up with Rothbard and Rand

July 20, 2017

About a week ago I put up a post commenting on a video from Reichwing Watch, a YouTuber who creates videos and documentaries about the rise of the extreme Right. That particularly video remarked on the way contemporary Libertarian was becoming a front for Fascism. The two ideologies share the same hatred of democracy, Socialism, minority rights, and organized labour, and exalt instead authoritarianism, private property and industry. The video included clips of comments from Rand and Ron Paul, Hoppe, Ayn Rand and other Libertarian ideologues laying out their highly elitist views, along with similar comments from Adolf Hitler. Libertarians have often described themselves as Anarcho-Individualists or Anarcho-Capitalists. Now, however, a number of them, of whom the most prominent appears to be the internet blogger, That Guy T, have begun to describe themselves and their ideology as Anarcho-Fascism.

And one of the attitudes they share with traditional Fascism is sexism and a deep distrust of women. Both the Nazis and the Italian Fascists believed that women were inferior to men, and that, rather than seeking equality and careers, they should properly confine their activity to the home. In Nazi Germany girls were explicitly educated to be home-makers under the official Nazi slogan ‘Kinder, Kuche, Kirche’ – ‘Children, Kitchen, Church’. This education culminated in a useless qualification derided as the ‘pudding matric’. The Italian Fascists held the same opinions, and also equated masculinity with aggressive militarism. One of Mussolini’s slogans was ‘Fighting is to man, what motherhood is to woman.’ Incidentally, it’s quite ironic that a female screenwriter, interviewed in the Radio Times this week about her forthcoming detective series about the organized abuse of women in international prostitution, is quoted as saying, ‘motherhood is the equivalent of when men go to war.’ I’ve no doubt many mothers, and fathers, for that matter, see it differently. Though it might appear to be so after they’ve been up all night with a crying baby.

Some of the clearest statements of Fascist misogyny came from the Futurists, the modern art movement launched in 1909 by the Italian poet, Marinetti. This glorified youth, speed, the new machine age, violence, dynamism and virility. Mussolini in his manifesto baldly stated ‘We advocate scorn for woman.’ In his manifesto Contro L’Amore ed il Parlamentarismo – ‘Against Love and the Parliamentary Process’, Marinetti declared ‘the war between the sexes has been unquestioningly prepared by the great agglomerations of the capital cities, by nocturnal habits, and by the regular salaries given to female workers.’ The Futurists were impressed by the militant dynamism of the suffragettes and early feminist movements, but later became violently opposed to any kind of demands for equality or female liberation. Marinetti declared that “Women hasten to give, with lightning speed, a great proof of the total animalization of politics… the victory of feminism, and especially the influence of women on politics will in the end succeed in destroying the principle of the family”.
(‘Love and Sexuality’ in Pontus Hulton, ed. Futurismo: Futurism and Futurisms (Thames and Hudson 1986) 503.

The same attitudes have returned with the rise of the anti-feminist Conservatives following the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Much of this is a reaction to the gradual decline of the nuclear family and massive increase in divorce following the emergence of more liberal attitudes to sexuality in the ‘permissive society’. Thus, Conservatives like the American Anne Coulter, Libertarians like Vox Day, and their British counterparts, many of whom seem to be in UKIP, stated very openly that they were in favour of removing women’s right to vote. This was partly because they feel that women favour the Left, and so reject economic individualism and property rights for collectivism and a welfare state. The denizens of the Men’s Rights Movements, who are regularly critiqued and pilloried by the male internet feminist, Kevin Logan, are also vehemently opposed to female sexual liberation. Far and Alt Right vloggers like Avis Aurini sneer at modern women as promiscuous, whose selfish hedonism is a threat to marriage and the family. One of the individuals even hysterically declared that women were responsible for the fall of all civilisations. This would no doubt surprise historians, who have actually studied the reasons for their fall. The forces responsible can include climate change and desertification, foreign invasion, social and political stagnation and economic decline. Rome fell, for example, because from the third century AD onwards it was suffering massive inflation, a growing tax burden that the aristocratic rich evaded, and put instead on the shoulders of the poor, a growing gulf between rich and poor that saw the free Roman plebs decline in legal rights and status to the same level as the slaves, along with the massive expansion of aristocratic estates worked by slaves, urban decline as the population fled to the countryside, a decline in genuine democratic institutions and the rise of feudalism, and, of course, the barbarian invasions. Women don’t feature as a cause, except in the writings of some of the Roman historians commenting on sexual depravity of various emperors, and the general moral decline of Roman society. O tempora! O mores!

Whatever intellectual guise the contemporary Conservative and Libertarian right might want to give such ideas, such misogyny really is just Fascism, or an element of Fascism. It’s just been given another name, and mixed up with the economic individualism of Ayn Rand, von Hayek and von Mises, rather than Hitler, Mussolini and Marinetti. It is, however, rapidly approaching and assimilating them as well. If female freedom and, more widely, a genuinely democratic society are to be preserved, the Fascist nature of such misogyny needs to be recognized, and very firmly rejected.

Does the ‘I’ Really Believe People Hate May Because of her Gender?

June 7, 2017

On the front page of the I, the paper boasted that it had an article by novelist Philippa Gregory on the eight prejudices that have historically been levelled against women rulers.

Is this supposed to imply that opponents of Theresa May are motivated solely by sexism?

It wouldn’t surprise me. After all, the paper gave a lot of support to the various female Blairites, who claimed that voting for Jeremy Corbyn and not for his female rivals in the Labour leadership elections was very, very sexist indeed. Despite the fact that Corbyn had far better policies for women, while the Harriet Harman and Angela Eagle had all been Blairite neoliberals, who had backed the failed economic and social policies that have actively harmed women.

If this is what the newspaper intends, then I have got news for them.

May’s gender is completely irrelevant to me.

I would loathe and despair her, even if she was a bloke called Terry. Just as I despised her male predecessors, the unfunny comedy double act David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

I despise May because she has

* Cut and done everything she could to privatise the NHS, running it into the ground.

* Cut and done everything she could to privatise the education system.

* Maintained the current system of tuition fees, which are loading students with mountains of debt.

* Carried on with Cameron and Clegg’s policies of massive welfare cuts, including the Bedroom tax and the humiliating and murderous Work Capability Tests, which have thrown thousands off benefits and into misery and starvation.

* Cut the numbers of police, armed services, border guards and other services back so that Britain was left dangerously vulnerable. A policy that ultimately allowed the Manchester and London terrorists to commit their horrendous crimes.

* Lied about her intention to put British workers in the boardroom, while she’s done just about everything in her power to get rid of workers’ rights.

* Her policies have also resulted in stagnant wages and maintained high levels of unemployment, to the point where most of the people on benefit are those ‘hard-working’ folk she and the Tories have patronised with their condescending rhetoric.

* Shown that she is completely incompetent to negotiate a fair deal for Brexit, which will enable British firms and other organisations contact with the EU and access to their markets.

* Done everything in her power to support the erosion of our precious civil liberties begun by Major, Blair, Cameron and Clegg. This means the massive expansion of the surveillance state and the malignant system of secret courts, in which you may be tried without knowing the crime, the evidence against you, who your accuser is, and behind closed doors. Like Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union.

* Cut taxes for the rich, while transferring the burden to the poor. Which, incidentally, was one of the reasons behind the French Revolution.

* Repealed legislation protecting our environment, so she can sell off Britain’s forests and trash our green and pleasant land with fracking for the profit of her friends in the oil industry.

* Supported Tory policies that have, instead of drawing the peoples of our great island nation together, have instead caused even further division by supporting islamophobia, fear and resentment of immigrants, and general racial intolerance.

* Not that she’s simply worked up racial intolerance. She and the Tory press have also done their utmost to whip up prejudice against the disabled to justify cuts in their benefits. The result has been a massive increase in hate crime against people with disabilities.

* Carried on with policies which will result in the break-up of the United Kingdom after three hundred years in the case of Scotland and England, and two hundred in the case of Britain and Northern Ireland.

The ‘Celtic Fringe’ – Scotland, Wales and Ulster don’t want Brexit. The Welsh and Scots Nationalist leaders want their nations and Ulster to be part of the Brexit negotiations. And all of the Northern Irish parties want to keep the open border with Eire. But all this is in jeopardy through May’s high-handed attitude to the nations, and her determination to promote only ‘Leave’ supporters to manage Britain’s departure from the EU.

And I could probably carry with more. Much more.

This is why I despise Theresa May and want her voted out, along with the party that chose her and has done so much serious harm to this country and its people for seven years.

I therefore urge everyone to vote Labour tomorrow to get her and them thrown out.

Richard Seymour’s Refutation of Sexism Smears against Corbyn

April 14, 2017

A few days ago I put up a piece about Richard Seymour’s book Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics (London: Verso 2016). Seymour’s analysis of the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, and what it means for the Labour party, is very much his own. Seymour points out that one of the reasons why Corbyn was able to take the Labour leadership was because the right-wing Labour vote was divided between three opposing candidates. He sees the Labour party as never having really been a Socialist party, and that Corbyn’s election as leader was part of a process of political stagnation and degeneration both within the Labour party and generally in British politics.

However, in the introduction and first chapter, he does attack the ‘Project Fear’ campaign launched by the Blairites and the press against Corbyn, and refutes the smears against him – that he and his voters were unelectable and anti-Semitic. The Blairites and their toadies in the press also tried smearing Corbyn and his supporters as misogynists, just as Killary had smeared Sanders and his supporters in the US in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. And just as Killary’s smears against Sanders were lies, so were the accusations against Corbyn and his supporters. Seymour writes

One of the main methods of obloquy from the centre-left papers – aside from the claim that Corbyn’s supporters were either spaniel-eyed naifs, gently prancing around in cloud cuckoo land, or dangerous ideological zealots – was to bait Corbyn’s supporters as sexist. The Guardian had backed Yvette Cooper for the leadership, partially on the grounds that she would be the first female leader, bringing ‘down-to-earth feminism’ to the role, and challenging austerity policies that hurt women. Its leading columnist and former Social Democratic Party (SDP) star Polly Toynbee seconded the endorsement, announcing: ‘Labour needs a woman leader.’ This prompted a reply by the seasoned feminists Selma James and Nina Lopez, who pointed out that Cooper not only supported ‘sexist austerity’ but had also implemented it in government, abolishing income support and extending work-capability assessments for the sick and disabled. Nonetheless, having supported Cooper as a ‘feminist’, it didn’t require much imagination to notice that Corbyn was not female and thus to indict his supporters ‘brocialists’. Suzanne Moore complained that as Corbyn was ‘anointed leader’ – that is to say, elected leader – ‘not one female voice was heard’. The remarkable thing about this complaint was that Corbyn won among women by a landslide. The polls showed that 61 per cent of women eligible to vote in the election supported Corbyn, while the two female candidates, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper, gained 4 per cent and 19 per cent respectively. The polling company YouGov pointed out that ‘women who are eligible to vote are dramatically more likely to vote Corbyn than men’. What Moore meant was the she hadn’t listened to the women who supported Corbyn, an important distinction.

This campaign spread to the Independent,which published a surreal piece headlined, ‘If it’s truly progressive, Labour will have voted in a female leader – regardless of her policies’. It was also mirrored by the Telegraph, which gleefully wondered if Corbyn had a ‘women problem’. Cathy Newman, a Channel 4 News reporter who had recently made headlines by falsely reporting an example of sexist exclusion at a mosque, authored a piece for the Telegraph which sneered ‘Welcome to Jeremy Corbyn’s blokey Britain – where “brocialism” rules’. Newman’s complaint did not concern policy, on which Corbyn was difficult to attack, but representation. She alleged that none of the ‘top jobs’ went to women. Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, it must be said, was notable for being the first to have more than 50 per cent of its posts occupied by women – as opposed to the pathetic 22 per cent representation that women have in wider public life. The shadow ministries of Defence, Business, Health and Education were all run by women. The shadow cabinet was, in other words, more gender-egalitarian on this front than any previous Labour shadow cabinet. It is perfectly fair comment to lament that important posts such as shadow chancellor have never been held by a woman, but the force of the point is blunted if it is simply used in an opportunistic way to belabour Corbyn. Likewise, the New Statesman’s effort to pour cold water on Corbyn’s victory, with the headline ‘Labour chooses white man as leader’, would have been more convincing if the publication had not generously supported every previous white man elected as Labour leader.

(Pp.37-9).

From this it’s very clear that the accusation of sexism and misogyny against Corbyn were merely another opportunistic smear by a group of entitled, wealthy Blairites. It was monumentally hypocritical, as these women were perfectly happy with promoting policies that actively harmed – and under the Tories, are still harming women. The ladies, who supported Corbyn knew better, and voted for substance, rather than the specious feminism of a female candidate, who was only interested in promoting herself and not improving conditions for women as a whole.

The Canary on the Lies and Falsehoods in May’s Brexit Video, Featuring Part of Bristol That Didn’t

April 14, 2017

Mike’s also posted up a great video today from the Canary, the Corbyn-supporting site, which has fired off a few, very well aimed shots at Theresa May’s latest party-political video. In it, May does what Tories always do, and spouts off her checklist of lies about creating a better Britain after Brexit, giving record funding to the NHS, creating a more open, fairer Britain, giving people the opportunity to succeed on merit and tackling racial and gender discrimination.

This is all complete twaddle and double-talk. The Tories have cut the NHS and the welfare state to the bone, and are preparing the health service for complete privatisation, just as Thatcher wanted to do in the 1980s. As for being a meritocracy, social mobility stopped under Blair and New Labour, and nothing the Tories have done since has started it up again. If anything, there’s probably a downward mobility as more and more people succumb to poverty and debt through the Tories’ stagnant wages and cuts to the welfare state.

As for creating a more open Britain and ending racism and sexism, this is another lie that’s so grotesque it’s very much verging on a sick joke. Margaret Thatcher, despite being the first female prime minister, was never a feminist. Neither is May. While some of the worst offenders went off to UKIP, it’s probably fair to say that the Tory party still contains many, who share the Daily Heil’s belief that women are too expensive to be employed in business, and should stay at home to raise their children, rather than pursue a career.

The Tories also aren’t likely to want to end racism any time soon either. Rather than making Britain more open and tolerant, it’s done the opposite. The racists, who previously kept quiet, have seen it as an opportunity to come out of the woodwork and start spouting their hate and worse, attacking immigrants and people from ethnic minorities. The Tory press, from the Torygraph to the Heil and Express, has always denounced immigration. I can remember how they ranted about unassimilable immigrants in the 1980s. Cameron tried to present his party as now nice and multicultural, cutting ties with the Monday Club and expelling a few party officials with connections to the Nazi right, but they won’t have changed their fundamental attitude. The Tories are still very much the same party that sent vans around largely ethnic minority areas asking illegal immigrants to had themselves in and for people to inform on anybody they thought had entered the country illegal.

So those jolly peeps at the Canary have taken May’s video, and added their own subtitles outlining what she really means. Which, put briefly, is poverty for all, except her and her rich chums.

The video’s also interesting to people from Bristol, as it begins with shots of Windmill Hill in Totterdown. This is not the best place to shoot a video trying to claim that Brexit is a good thing, as the good people of Totterdown overwhelmingly voted against it. Something like 70 per cent of the people there voted to Remain. As did 62 per cent of the people of Bristol.

So the video starts off with a piece of egregious misrepresentation, and it all gets quickly worse from there.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/04/13/theresa-mays-brexit-plan-video-set-in-bristol-is-misleading-bristolians-explain-why/

The Young Turks Lay in to Daily Mail’s Sexist Cover

March 30, 2017

The Daily Heil regularly judges women and girls on their appearance, rather than their intellectual abilities and achievements, but a few days ago they surpassed themselves by running a piece by Sarah Vine about whether Theresa May or Nicola Sturgeon had the best legs as their cover story. The headline was ‘Never Mind Brexit, What about Legs-It’ or something similar, and showed a photograph of May and Sturgeon sitting together in skirts which rose above the knees. And The American progressive internet news show, The Young Turks, have duly laid into the article for its sexism.

Cenk Uygur noted that Theresa May just shrugged it off as a ‘bit of a laugh’, as she would, considering that one of her press secretaries used to work for the Heil. Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader, simply commented that ‘the 1950s called. They want their headline back.’ Uygur and his co-host, Ana Kasparian, then ripped into the article proper. This raved about how the women’s ‘pins’ and ‘shanks’ were the two women’s greatest weapons. However, Theresa May sat demurely, as befitting the public schoolgirl vicar’s daughter she was. Sturgeon, however, was rather more sexy, ‘seductively’ pointing her feet at the audience.

Uygur and Kasparian point out that the article’s describing two of the most powerful women in Britain – the British Prime Minister, and the First Minister of Scotland. These two ladies were discussing a vitally important issue – Britain’s departure from the European Union, which also threatens to destroy the three-century old union with Scotland, should Scots vote to remain in the EU. And the Daily Mail is there trivialising the issue into a simple contest over which one had the better legs. Uygur says at one point that he doesn’t know what Vine’s ‘proclivities’ are, but Sturgeon wasn’t trying to seduce the audience. She was just sitting there. Kasparian was also deeply unimpressed about the Mail’s blatant sexism, and advised Vine to go off and examine her life.

Here’s the video:

This rather unsavoury piece of journalism is very much par for the course for the Mail, whose articles frequently comment on the appearance of female personalities and celebrities. The newspaper was specifically aimed at a female readership when it was set up in the 20s or 30s. It was aimed at the wives of the men, who read the Torygraph. Despite this, it has a very strong anti-feminist stance. In the 1990s it ran an article about a group of women calling themselves the fluffragettes. These young women were a kind of anti-feminist group, who wanted women to go back to being more ‘feminine’ – in their view – by being ‘fluffy’. And feminists have frequently criticised the paper for the way it judges women by their appearance. This is not just demeaning, but also dangerous. Many girls and young women are severely anxious about their bodies, which can and does lead to problems like eating disorders and an obsessive concern with pursuing an illusory ideal of female beauty and physical perfection, an ideal that can take over and ruin the lives of women, who have absolutely nothing wrong with their appearance in the first place. And this is quite apart from fostering the attitude that, whatever else a woman may achieve, her primary role is simply to look good.

This whole issue also distorts and complicates attitudes in the workplace. Since the 1970s feminists have been campaigning against sexual harassment at work. Again, a few years ago there was a piece of research, in which groups of men and women were shown or played footage of a man greeting female colleagues in various ways, including commenting on their appearance. This was done in order to gauge what the audience considered sexual harassment. Normal greetings at the start of the working day, like ‘Good morning, Mrs X,’, or ‘Hi, Sue’ obviously don’t count. When it involves commenting on a woman’s appearance, it can be sexist or demeaning, or be construed as such.

The Mail’s obsession with female appearance creepily extends to teenage girls. A few years ago Ian Hislop and some of the other panelists on Have I Got News For You also laid into the Heil for its very dubious moral stance in whipping up fears about predatory paedophiles, when it also ran sexualised articles about teenage girls. They made the point that the newspaper regularly printed articles showing photographs of 14 year old girls under headlines admiring their beauty.

I have to say I was really somewhat amazed by the Mail’s attitude, as it didn’t strike me that there was anything particularly sexy about the women’s pose. May and Sturgeon are politicians, which is hardly a physically glamorous profession. One comedian once said that it was ‘Hollywood for ugly people’. It’s not entirely true, but it does make the point that most politicians aren’t there because of their good looks. Nor should they be. The only criteria for their election to office should be whether they are effective representatives of their constituencies and good managers and leaders. And it also goes without saying that they should also be moral, law-abiding citizens.

It’s also not a bad idea to have a female journo commenting on May and Sturgeon as politicians and negotiators. There’s one strand of feminism, which says that women bring a different set of skills and perspectives to politics than their male comrades. I did wonder whether Thatcher deliberately excluded women from her cabinet, because they could see through her management strategies in a way that may not have been apparent to the men there, and so formed a potential challenge to her authority. If women do have a different leadership style, then it would make sense to have a female writer analyse it, as she might be able to perceive subtle nuances that may not be quite so apparent to a bloke.

But this was precisely what the article didn’t give us. We didn’t get any deep insights into the debate about Brexit and the British constitution between the two leaders. We just got a bit of drivel about which one had the better ‘pins’. It really does make you wonder about the people writing and reading the Heil. My guess is that many of the hacks there have come from the even lower end of the tabloid spectrum, like the Scum, which regularly feature various attractive young women in states of undress. The Heil is supposedly somewhat above this style of journalism, but as this headline showed, not by much. The journalistic urge to write about how glamorous and sexy a woman is, is still very much there. It’s just that it’s now applied to female politicians.

I think Ana Kasparian’s right. Someone at the Heil desperately needs to sort their life out. Or take a cold shower, at least.