Posts Tagged ‘‘The Mirror’’

Retired Generals Call for Military Dictatorship to Save France from Islamist Terrorism

April 28, 2021

Here’s another landmark on the march of militant populism across Europe and the ominous threat of the return of real Fascism. Mahyar Tousi is a right-wing, pro-Brexit YouTube, who regularly denounces the left. Normally I wouldn’t watch his videos, but last night he posted a grim one which reported that a group of twenty former French generals had signed a letter, published in the right-wing news magazine, Valeurs Actuelles, calling for a military coup if President Macron failed to stop the disintegration of France by Islamists. The first signature was that of Christian Piquemal, a former head of the French foreign legion. Macron’s government condemned the wretched letter and compared it to the failed military coup which tried to topple President de Gaulle during the Algerian war of independence sixty years ago.

The letter declared that France ‘is in danger. Several mortal perils threaten her. Even in retirement we remain soldiers of France and cannot in the present circumstances remain indifferent to the fate of our beautiful country.’ According to its signatories, the country was disintegrating with the Islamists of the hordes of suburbs – banlieus – who were detaching large parts of the nation and turning them into territory subject to dogmas contrary to the constitution’. They accused the government of sparking hatred because of the brutal police treatment of the Yellow Vest protesters two years ago. They warned that if nothing was done, there would be an explosion and then intervention by our comrades on active service in the dangerous mission of protecting our civilised values and the safety of our compatriots.’

Marine le Pen, the head of the National Rally party, has come out in support of a coup. Tousi calls this ‘a bit crazy, because France is still a democracy at this point’, and he doesn’t know why people are getting so emotional. His video also show a graph of the various parties’ support according to the opinion polls. These show Macron and Le Pen neck and neck at 26 per cent, Xavier Bertrand, an Independent centre-right candidate at 15 per cent, Jean Melenchon of the Far Left at 11 per cent, and Anne Hidalgo of the centre left at 6 per cent. The report on which Tousi draws for his coverage of the issue states that the generals’ letter has especial resonance following the murder a few days ago of a woman working in a Limousin police station by a Tunisian Islamist.

There are several remarks to be made here. There’s been much anti-Arab racism in France for sometime now, just as there’s racism here across the pond. About twenty or so years ago the Independent’s and I’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown complained about the racism her family experienced when on holiday in south of France. However, she subsequently wrote an article several years later about how the situation had changed for the better when her family went back there on holiday. And a few years ago there was a series of mass protests under a slogan that translates into English as ‘Don’t Touch My Mate’ of White French young people attacking this racism in solidarity with their Arab friends.

I think the racial situation on the other side of the Channel has got worse due to recent Islamist atrocities, such as the attack in Marseilles a few years ago and the mass murder of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists. The spectre of this attack returned a few weeks ago when a French schoolteacher, Thomas Paty, was murdered by an enraged Muslim for showing a classroom of children one of the blasphemous cartoons from Hebdo which provoked the attack. Paty was teaching a lesson about freedom of speech, and had warned his Muslim students that he was going to show the cartoon. If they were going to be offended, then they were allowed to leave the room. Some of them stayed, told their parents, and someone at the local mosque then put Paty’s details up on the Net. This prompted a raft of legislation against Islamist terrorism, and I’ve seen videos on YouTube claiming that, to show his defiance of the Islamists, Macron not only gave Paty a state funeral, but he had the cartoon displayed on public buildings. According to Sargon of Gasbag, the man who broke UKIP, and his mates over at the Lotus Eaters YouTube panel, the legislation provides for the deportation of the foreign-born parents of any child who protests over cartoons. If this is correct, then the French government is coming down very hard, and because of this there have been counterdemonstrations against the new laws by Muslims.

Many of the Islamist terrorists came from the banlieus. Muslims are generally underprivileged across Europe, and from what I was taught in geography while I was at school, the banlieus are grim places of tower blocks, unemployment, despair and nothing else. They don’t, or at least didn’t, have any basic services because their planners believed they weren’t necessary. Their residents could simply travel into the centre of town for whatever they needed.

The rhetoric about parts of France being detached and governed by dogmas against the constitution clearly mirrors the concern here in Britain and the rhetoric about the growth of parallel societies and Muslim ‘no-go areas’ governed by sharia law. Laicisme – secularism – is the official stance of the French state towards religion. It’s why the authorities there tried to ban the wearing of the hijab in school by Muslim schoolgirls. There are real issues about the rejection of French secular values in Arab and Muslim areas. A little while ago French television screened a documentary about the very strong pressure in these areas against women appearing in public and going to cafes. This disapproval even extended to western women living in those areas. The documentary followed the efforts of a group of female protesters to assert their right to go about in public and visit the cafes.

As for Marine le Pen coming out in favour of a dictatorship, she has just shown her true colours. the National Rally was originally the Front National, an avowed Fascist organisation, and her father, le Pen senior, made his living selling Nazi memorabilia. Marine Le Pen managed to win massive support for her party by dropping some of the Fascist symbolism and giving a more moderate, centre-right image. It was still anti-immigration, but a Black female rapper performed at one of their rallies on the grounds that she was still a patriotic French woman. And like UKIP and the former Brexit party over here, now Reform, it’s very much against the EU. It’s picked up much of its support from the elements of the French White working class, who’ve been left behind by neoliberalism and ‘centrist’ welfare cuts, and who also feel threatened by immigration and the European Union. The poor performance of the centre left in the polls also appears to bear out what I’ve heard and read elsewhere about the collapse of the centre left across Europe due to their embrace of neoliberalism. This could very well happen in Britain if Starmer and the Blairites keep their grip on the Labour party. The extreme right – the BNP, National Front and similar organisations – have all collapsed in Britain, or been banned as terrorist groups like National Action, although tiny little Fascist grouplets still remain. Nevertheless, the rise of National Rally in France does indicate that there could be space for a similar populist right-wing party over here.

Tousi in his video says that the generals’ letter is strange and wonders if Marine le Pen will lose or gain support by backing it. It’s a good question. Tousi says that Macron’s government has come under criticism from both the left and the right, and the generals’ complaint is that while Macron talks tough, and he hasn’t followed this up with action. As for supporting any kind of Fascist dictatorship, the village of Oradour-Sur-Glane in the Haute Vienne department of the Limousin provides a very stark, grim reminder of why no-one should. This was a village where all but 18 of its 660 inhabitants were butchered by the Waffen SS in June 1944 as a reprisals for kidnappings, attacks and sabotage by the resistance. It’s been preserved as a memorial. It’s a graphic reminder of the utterly horrific nature of Fascism – torture, mass murder and butchery on an industrial scale. Given the atrocities committed by the Nazis across Europe, and particularly in France and Poland, it astonishes me that any self-respecting French person or Pole could ever vote for or support such a party.

Hopefully no-one will take this call for a coup seriously and France will remain a democracy. But it does indicate that democracy is very fragile. And we have absolutely no reason to feel complacent over this side of the Channel. In the mid-1970s groups of politicians and industrialists, including the editors of the Times and the Mirror, wanted to overthrow Harold Wilson’s government and replace it with an emergency government or military dictatorship, to save Britain from the left and the trade unions.

We have to fight Fascism wherever we find it. And we need to take seriously the fact that it always presents itself as defending society from the absolute forces of evil.

If it rises again in France, how long before the sound of jackboots marching will be heard in Britain.

Oradour-Sur-Glane as it is today following the Nazi Massacre of its people. From Richard Harper, Abandoned Places – 60 Stories of Places Where Time Has Stopped ( Glasgow: Collins 2014) 68-71.

I’m not going to link to Tousi’s video, as he is a man of the right, but if you want to see it on YouTube, it’s title is ‘Retired Generals Call For Military Takeover In France’

Tom Mayhew Skewering the Lies about Benefit Claimants with Laughter

March 18, 2021

Okay, I finally stayed up last night to listen to Radio 4’s Tom Mayhew Is Benefits Scum. I blogged about this programme a little while ago when I first read about it in the Radio Times. I said that it looked like it was worth listening to, as it seemed that it would tell the truth about what it’s really like to live on benefits. This is as opposed to the various ‘poverty-porn’ documentaries like Benefits Street, that seek to portray everyone on welfare as a scrounger. Unfortunately, it’s on at 11.00 pm on Wednesday evenings, which is a bit past my usual bedtime. But last night I actually managed to stay up and listen to it.

It’s not long, only a quarter of an hour in length, and mixes staged recreations of meetings with Jobcentre staff and benefits advisors, and stand-up, observational comedy based on Mayhew’s own experience of the benefits system. He also had a guest performer, Francesca Inez, a disabled woman, who gave her own perspective on how unfair and humiliating the system’s treatment of the disabled is.

It started out in the Jobcentre, where Mayhew was being asked by the clerk if he had really been spending 35 hours a week looking for work. Had he gone for that job as a miner as he should have done? Going out, he found his friend Francesca lying on the floor. She had gone through the process of seeing what would be the ideal job for her, and told it was ballet dancer. She had fallen over trying to practise. Mayhew commiserated with her, telling her that the machine had told him his ideal jobs were footballer, boxer and the Queen’s butler.

This sketch led into Inez herself talking about the grotesque injustice of the benefits system. She said people ask her what should be the proper relationship between government agencies and the disabled over benefits. She said it should be a partnership between the government and the claimant’s doctor. Unfortunately, this had been scrapped by New Labour, who had decided that a sizable number of claims for disability benefit were fraudulent, and so had introduced the Work Capability Test. In fact, the proportion of fraudulent claims was 0.05 per cent, so it was in fact easier for Mayhew to get a job as a footballer than to commit benefit fraud. She asked who would seriously want to be unable to go out on their own, to go to the toilet on their or prepare their own food, all for the sake of £100 a week. She was also massively unimpressed by the clerks the Department for Work and Pensions send round to make sure that claimants really are disabled. ‘Oh, I’m just here to see if you’re still wobbly’, she imitated one saying. He reply was ‘Well, I’ll give you a wet shave, and then you tell me.’

Mayhew also attacked the sanctions system. He thought you were only sanctioned if you deliberately tried to mislead or play the system. But no! He found himself sanctioned for eight weeks simply because he’d sent the wrong form in. But he’d been told that it would take eight weeks for his case to be reviewed. How strange, then, that he had his benefits restored after only four after he’d written to him MP. He then gave a shout-out to David Gauke, a Tory, saying how weird it was that a Tory MP should actually help someone on benefit.

He argued that it was wrong to call welfare payments ‘benefits’. Benefits sounds like something extra on top of one’s wages. Instead it should be called ‘Survival Money’, because you needed it to survive. This would make it difficult to have people thrown off it as well. Depriving someone of benefits sounds much better than removing their survival money. And as for sanctions, how does being hungry make someone better at finding work?

He also joked about the massive lack of self-esteem people on benefits have. He told one story of how he’d been accosted by a man while walking back from the Jobcentre. The man had told him that he should carry himself with a bit more confidence, head held high, because if he’d been a mugger, Mayhew would have been an easy target. It was, Mayhew jested, a Virtual mugging in which he’d been robbed of his self-respect. He then told another one about a mugger marching him to a cash machine, telling him he was going to leave him with nothing. ‘How kind of him to clear my overdraft!’

More seriously, Mayhew told a chilling anecdote which showed how easy it is for desperate, starving young men to be reduced to selling their bodies for sex. He’d met someone at a gathering, and they promised to get in touch with each other again via email. A few months later he got one from this man. Mayhew replied to him, saying he was in a bad patch financially, and asked him for £50. He told him he’d be able to pay him back in two month’s time. The man replied that he couldn’t give him any money, but he would pay him £200 to have sex with him. Mayhew joked that he didn’t, as he wouldn’t do anything like that for less than £350. But for a moment he was tempted. Poverty has often forced desperate women into prostitution, but this story showed it could also happen to men.

I had a great, appreciative comment by Mayhew to my original blog piece about his programme. He asked me if I could do something to further publicise his programme, because he’d been going through the papers and hadn’t found any reviews of it. Listening to his programme, it was easy to understand why: he was too sharp, and told the truth.

Right-wing rags like the Heil, the Scum and the Depress sell copies by spreading moral panic about benefit claimants. They actively paint them as scroungers and malingerers, as does right-wing internet radio host Alex Belfield. Although rather more polite, the same attitude also pervades the Torygraph and the Times. These papers very definitely do not want their Thatcherite ideals contradicted by people, who’ve been at the sharp end of the system, showing their readers they’re perfectly decent, honest people and telling them how dysfunctional, humiliating and malign the system really is.

And unfortunately I don’t see the supposedly left-wing press being much better. The Mirror, the Graun and the Absurder have all struck me as being Blairite New Labour, who wholeheartedly embraced Thatcher’s contempt and persecution of the unemployed, the sick and the disabled. The Graun has many times urged people to vote Lib Dem in recent elections, so again, these papers won’t want their readers disabused of some of their received notions.

Added to this is the current campaign by the Tories and their lapdog press to destroy the Beeb. This is partly because the Tories depend for their propaganda on the favour of Rupert Murdoch and his papers, who hates the Beeb as an obstacle to his domination of the global media. They also hate the idea of a state TV broadcaster as part of their opposition to any kind of state intervention, as well as the idea of an impartial, public service broadcaster. Hence the attempt to set up various rivals to the Beeb by the Times.

As a result, the papers have been running stories about how the BBC is too left-wing and too ‘woke’. Belfield put up a video a day or two ago rejoicing over the cancellation of Nish Kumar’s The Mash Report. Director-General Tim Davie had supposedly cancelled it because it was too biased towards the left. Belfield went further, and claimed that the real reason it was axed was because it wasn’t funny and was helmed by a ‘box-ticker’ – his term for a person of colour or other minority, who’s been given a job because of their identity rather than talent. Kumar’s Asian, so Belfield’s comment looks just a tad racist to me. Belfield claimed that cancelling Kumar’s show wouldn’t make any difference, as the Beeb as a whole is too left-wing and needs to be privatised.

It’s obvious from this that the right-wing media, then, aren’t going to give a good review to an explicitly left-wing comedy show. I also think that class is also an issue here. New Labour, it has been pointed out, was liberal but not socialist. Blair had turned his back on the working class, and instead New Labour concentrated on trying to recruit the middle classes. The left-wing elements of New Labour ideology was a concern with combating racism and other forms of prejudice, such as against gays, and promoting feminism and better opportunities for women. I think defending and promoting the disabled is in there, so long as they are properly respectable and not benefit scroungers. Mayhew is working class, and so isn’t of interest according to New Labour ideology.

All of which means that, unfortunately, the press isn’t prepared to give a hearing to something like this. Which is a pity, as it’s very good. Mayhew tells his stories and his jokes in a normal, conversational tone. He doesn’t harangue or shout for effect, as many comedians do. And he’s actually very witty. To simulate a studio audience, the show used canned laughter because it was impossible to have a live audience due to the Coronavirus. Mayhew made a couple of jokes about how the imaginary audience hadn’t paid for their tickets. He then told how, after one gig, he’d been accosted by an unhappy audience member. Why didn’t he get a proper job instead of standing there complaining, asked the man. To which he replied, ‘Have you seen my show?’ He then commented that at least he was a Tory who had paid for his ticket. He also made jokes about other people, being paid to do nothing all day. Like MPs.

It’s a pity the shows on so late on a weekday night, as it’s a funny, necessary antidote to the constant propaganda being pumped out about benefit claimants being scroungers. I don’t know anything about Francesca Inez, but from what I heard she deserves a place with the other disabled comedians, who have appeared on TV. At the very least, she deserves an endorsement from DPAC because of the way her comedy tries to bring their concerns to public attention. The show also demonstrates very clearly why we need a public service broadcaster, as it’s only a broadcaster like the Beeb that would take a chance on a show like it.

I think it’s only a four part series, and concludes next week. If this sounds like the kind of thing that tickles your funny bone and you also agree with its message, then please tune in.

I hope this is the start of a great career for Tom Mayhew, and that the show later gets repeated in an earlier slot when hopefully more people can hear it.

I Stand with Piers Morgan Against Meghan Markle’s Racism Allegations

March 12, 2021

The big news this week has obviously been Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, and specifically Markle’s allegations of racism against unnamed royal advisors and flunkeys. Yesterday Piers Morgan got the heave-ho for very baldly stating his objections to Markle’s allegations. Standing outside his own not unimpressive residence yesterday, the former editor of the Mirror said that he didn’t believe a word Markle said, and that she had done enormous damage to the royal family, especially when Prince Philip was lying in hospital. Zelo Street has published a piece critiquing his remarks, and pointing out that Morgan’s claims to believe in and defend democracy and free speech are a bit rich, considering how he shouts down those he doesn’t agree with. He was also the editor of the Mirror when its journos and those of the Scum were hacking phones left, right and centre. Back in the 1990s he was also in the pages of Private Eye as it was under his editorship of the Mirror that the two hacks in the paper’s ‘City Slickers’ column committed the share ramping that got them arrested. The Eye presented very strong evidence that Piers ‘Boy’ Morgan was also involved, but somehow managed to escape arrest and prosecution. Morgan has fully reciprocated the magazine’s animus towards him. According to Ian Hislop, Morgan sent round a hack to talk to his parish priest, hoping that the good clergyman would betray a few confidences Hislop had made during Confession. In this instance, he was disappointed. Hislop’s like me, an Anglican. Individual confession is part of Roman Catholic belief and practice, not Church of England. And I don’t think the priest told Morgan’s boy or girl any secrets anyway.

Of course, the right-wing scumbag press have been engaged in a long campaign against Harry and Markle. They dislike her as an intrusive left-winger. Alex Belfield, the arch-Tory YouTuber and internet radio host, sneeringly refers to her as ‘Meghan Mallarky’. Not only does he hate her for being left-wing, feminist, anti-racist and ‘woke’, he also sees her as aggressively self-centre and manipulative. His short videos about the couple frequently included him urging Harry to dump her and return to the bosom of the royal family. Zelo Street has also pointed out that there is more than a touch of racism in the press’ antipathy to Markle. Part of their hatred was also due to the fact Markle wasn’t prepared to play their games. She wanted all media access and interviews to be on hers and Harry’s terms, not theirs. Snubbed with their power to make or break celebrities under attack, the press responded with hostile coverage of the royal couple.

But this time I do think Morgan is right. Markle’s allegations simply don’t ring true, and are likely to damage the royal family. Simon Webb, the author of the ‘History Debunked’ YouTube channel, put up a video the other day critiquing some of the remarks Hal and Megs made to Winfrey. Webb is, I think, a Telegraph-reading Tory. He’s also a very strong critic of some of the assertions and fake history put out by anti-racist activists and believes in the ‘Bell Curve’ nonsense about there also being differences in intelligence between the races. But he also seems not to be personally racist, and has put up several excellent videos tearing down the vile conspiracy theory about the Jews promoting mass immigration to destroy the White race. His arguments also seem to be based on real, historic fact.

His video critiquing the allegations Hal and Megs made begins with him commenting on Harry’s complaint that his father had cut him off financially. Webb thought this was peculiar, because by the time he was 20, he’d been supporting himself financially and independently of his family. He was somewhat out of touch with contemporary young people, but it seemed quite odd to him that a 36 year old man on the edge of middle age should complain about no longer being sent money by his father. It can also be added that Harry is immensely wealthy anyway, and so can well afford to look after himself and his wife in the style to which they have become accustomed.

He also wondered how true the allegations of racism could be, considering that Markle doesn’t look particularly Black to him. He observed that she looks more like the olive-skinned people of the Mediterranean. Which, I think, is a fair comment. I know people, who as far as I know are completely White, who go her colour or darker in the summer. Black anti-racists have complained for a long time about ‘colourism’. This is the form of racism in which lighter-skinned people of colour are given higher status, better opportunities and respect than their darker-skinned kindred. It’s another hangover from slavery and the caste system that it gave rise to. Darker skinned, ‘Black’ slaves were held to be more suitable for tough, physical work, while lighter skinned slaves were given less arduous duties commanding greater respect out of the sun. It seems to me that if colourism does exist, then Markle is probably a beneficiary of it, and not a victim of racism.

Then there is that comment by a courtier, speculating what colour the baby would be. It’s actually highly questionable whether this is actually racist. People usually speculate about the appearance of an expected child, and which one of the parents it will take after. Webb here recalls how one of his friends was a bi-racial young woman, who had an affair with a White guy, and became pregnant. Their Black friends freely speculated on whether the child would be White or Black. It seemed to Webb that the royal courtiers were being accused of racism simply for doing what people, including Blacks normally do, without any racist intent.

And the more I look back at Markle’s conduct over the past few years, the more it seems to me that, unfortunately, the scumbag right-wing press do have a point. I think she is manipulative, egocentric and self-promoting. And while I am no great fan of Morgan, I don’t think he should have been forced out of his position on GMB for his opinions on Markle. It very much looks like another piece of cancel culture, where individuals are being silenced for having controversial opinions. Mostly it’s been done against the left, but there have been instances where someone has been removed from YouTube for expressing a reasonable opinion someone has taken exception to as racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic or whatever. I’m sure Zelo Street is right when they point out that Morgan is no real defender of free speech and democracy himself. But Morgan’s forced departure is itself an attack on someone’s right to express their reasonable opinion.

In this matter, it’s Morgan’s opponents who are undermining free speech. Just as the pair’s interview with Oprah threatens to further undermine the monarchy.

Another Lesson from France: How to Maintain a Diverse, Pluralist Press

October 10, 2020

There’s a very interesting passage in Denis MacShane’s 1986 Fabian Society pamphlet, French Lessons for Labour, where he describes how the French have been able to create a diverse and pluralistic press. Apparently it’s the most diverse in Europe with the exception of Sweden. This has been achieved partly through legislation drafted at the country’s liberation during World War II, but which was never enforced, which would have removed newspapers from the ownership of Nazi supporters and collaborators, the nationalisation of the distributors and state subsidization.

In fact, France, partly by design, partly by chance, has the most pluralist press in Europe outside Sweden. The design lies in the laws passed at the liberation in 1944/45 which dispossessed the owners of the right-wing papers which had supported Hitler before 1939 and the Vichy regime after 1940. A right of reply law and, more important, one that nationalised the press distribution agency were also passed. The latter means that left-wing newspapers and magazines are on sale in the most remote parts of France and the distribution censorship which is exercised in Britain by the two main wholesale/retail companies does not exist in France. In addition, the Government subsidises the press with cheap postal tariffs, zero VAT rating and, on occasion, direct subsidy.

The chance lies in the willingness of businessmen or corporations to put up money on left-of-centre newspapers and to support them during periods of low or zero profits. Le Matin, Liberation and the left-wing weekly Le Nouvel Observateur (circulation 400,000) all provide a width of reporting and comments In addition, Le Monde, whose independence is assured by the right of journalists to elect its editor, maintains an objectivity and authority, and an influence because of those two values, which are not automatically hostile to a socialist government. (P. 17).

However, attempts to pass similar legislation to the 1944/5 laws in order to stop the Vichy collaborator Robert Hersant from owning 19 national and provincial papers in 1984 and 1986 was a failure, partly due to a press freedom campaign from the right.

This issue of media ownership and bias is acutely relevant on this side of the Channel as well. Since the 1980s, the press and media in Britain has been owned by a decreasing number of powerful individuals, who may also have other business interests. These individuals, like Rupert Murdoch, have been able to exert oligarchical control of the media, maintaining a strong Tory bias. Media and press bias against Labour was particularly acute during Thatcher’s administration and was certainly a factor in the 1987 general election. It has also been very much in evidence over the past five years, when even supposedly left-wing newspapers like the Mirror, the Guardian and the Observer, ran stories attacking Labour and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as well as the radio and television networks.

Media bias has also partly been responsible for the right-ward movement of the Labour party itself under Tony Blair. Blair was backed by the Murdoch press, and former ministers have said that Murdoch was an invisible presence at every cabinet meeting as Blair worried how his policies would be viewed by the press magnate. He was also able to gain the support of other papers with the exception of the Heil, but continued to hope that he would eventually win over that rag. I think it’s likely that press ownership will become even more restricted if some papers go under due to the Coronavirus lockdown. Even before the lockdown, the Express changed owners as its former proprietor, the pornography Richard Desmond, sold it to the Mirror group.

The willingness of businessmen to support left-wing newspapers is a crucial factor. When the Daily Herald went bust in the 1960s, to be bought by Murdoch and relauched as the Scum, it actually had a higher circulation that many of the other papers. What brought it down was the fact that it was unable to attract advertising. And I’ve encountered censorship by the distributors myself. Way back in the 1980s during the period of glasnost and perestroika introduced by Gorbachev, an English edition of Pravda was briefly available in some British newsagents. This was an exciting time as Gorbachev signed arms limitation treaties with Reagan ending the Cold War, and introduced reforms in the Soviet Union intended to turn the country into a multi-party democracy. I tried ordering it from my local newsagent in Bristol, but was told it was impossible. It was only being carried by one of the two national distributors. The one that served my area simply wouldn’t carry it.

And the newsagent chains can also exercise their own censorship. When it started out, Private Eye was seen as very subversive and viewed with distaste by many people. Many newsagents wouldn’t stock it. And at least one of the newsagents in the ‘ 90s refused to put its edition satirising the public attitude at Princess Di’s funeral on their shelves. When I asked what had happened to it when it wasn’t on sale in my local newsagents, I was told that it hadn’t come in yet. Well, there seemed to be many other newsagents, who hadn’t had it delivered either. After it returned to the shelves a fortnight later, the Eye published a series of pieces, including letters from readers, who’d had similar problems finding a copy, revealing what had actually gone on. One of the newsagents, John Menzies, had objected to the issue and its cover, and so refused to sell it.

Britain would definitely benefit considerably from similar policies towards the press as that of our friends across Le Manche. But I think getting such legislation through would be almost impossible. There were demands for workers’ control of the press in the 1980s, partly as a reaction by journalists on papers bought by Murdoch as he expanded his noxious empire. They were also concerned about editorial control and bias as the press passed into the hands of fewer and fewer owners. Those demands were obviously unsuccessful. Any attempt to pass legislation providing for state subsidisation of left-wing papers would be howled down by the Tory press as interference in press freedom and the state bailing out failing companies in contravention of the Thatcherite doctrine that market forces should be allowed full reign and failing companies and industries should be allowed to go under.

And I can’t imagine any law to deprive former collaborators or supporters of Hitler of ownership of their papers going down at all well with the Daily Mail, which is notorious for its support of Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists and articles praising Hitler before the outbreak of the War. John Major in the last days of his administration wanted to pass legislation breaking up Murdoch’s empire, but by that time it was too late – Murdoch had already switched to Tony Blair and the Labour party and Major’s government was in no position to do anything about Murdoch’s pernicious control of the press.

This problem is likely to become more acute if some newspapers fold due to lack of sales during the lockdown and the impact of the internet. Media ownership is restricted enough as it is, without Murdoch trying to destroy the Beeb so that Sky and the other cable/satellite stations can take its place. It may not be too long before Murdoch’s hold on the media becomes a true monopoly. In that event, government action to break it up will become a necessity. But given the uniform opposition it would face from the press, it’s questionable if it would be successful.

Or as governments increasingly ingratiate themselves with the Murdoch press in return for its support, even be considered as an option.

Sometimes to the Authorities White Lives Don’t Matter Either

July 14, 2020

There was outrage at the end of last month when Jake Hepple, an employee at Paradigm Precision, an aerospace engineering firm took exception to the Black Live Matter movement. Hepple  flew a light aircraft over the Etihad stadium shortly after a matched had kicked off between Burnley and Manchester City, incensed at players from the two sides wearing shirts with the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ to support the movement, and so. The aircraft flew a banner across the sky declaring ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’. Despite initial statements by the police that no crime had been committed, this was seen very much as an example of hate speech. Hepple’s partner, Megan Rambadt, was sacked by her employer for making comments such as  “I love Burnley but I must admit it’s pretty grim, that town centre is like a foreign country. Needs sorting” and “They need sending back on banana boats, stinkin bastards”. Hepple was also dismissed from his job soon after, with Paradigm Precision declaring that it did not condone or tolerate racism in any form. Apart from the stunt, it was revealed that Hepple had strong racist views of his own. Unite Against Fascism went through his Facebook page and found that he supported the EDL and had been photoed standing with its former fuhrer, Stephen Yaxley Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson. He had also posted these racist comments “Why would anyone in their right mind pay £90 for the new England shirt when it probably cost a company full of tree swinging spear throwers about 80p to make? Not a chance I’m paying that” and “I’m not even going to go into detail of how fucked up Sharia Law is, which is what some ‘people’ want in this country, absolutely mental this government”.

Burnley’s captain Ben Mee condemned Hepple’s stunt, saying “Fans like that don’t deserve to be around football … We’re ashamed, we’re embarrassed. It’s a minority of our supporters – I know I speak for a massive part of our support who distance ourselves from anything like that”. The Mirror also reported that those responsible for the stunt would face a lifetime ban from the Burnley ground. The club said “We wish to make it clear that those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor”. Hepple himself was defiant, tweeting  “Thanks a lot, no apology will be coming out as I’m not apologising for stating that white peoples lives matter as well”.

See Zelo Street: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/burnley-banner-man-will-be-banned.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/burnley-racists-employer-hard-choices.html

Unfortunately, Hepple has a point. The police and the authorities all too often have a needlessly aggressive attitude to Blacks and have shown apathy and indifference to their murder. This was also shown a week or so ago when the Met police stopped Black British athlete Bianca Williams and her family, dragging her and her husband out their car and seizing their baby on the suspicion that they were carrying drugs. They weren’t, and the rozzers’ behaviour served to stir up even further resentment against the police and the stop and search policy following the killing of George Floyd in America.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/07/bianca-williams-and-tory-racism.html

On Thursday at 9.00 pm, ITV are showing again the 1999 drama, The Murder of Stephen Lawrence, about Lawrence’s parents, Neville’s and Doreen’s battle to get justice for their son after he was killed by a White gang in a racist attack back in 1993. At 8.00 pm, before the drama begins, the commercial broadcaster is showing a programme Stephen Lawrence: Has Britain Changed? hosted by Rageh Omaar ande Anushka Asthana and with a panel of experts debating this question following Floyd’s death in Minnesota and the corresponding wave of protests around the world.

Older readers of this blog will remember the murder, and the scandal of the Met’s own racism and incompetence in failing to prosecute the youths responsible despite the overwhelming evidence against. Part of the problem may also have been police corruption, as the young perps were the sons of leading London gangsters. The scandal was front page news for weeks, months and years afterwards and there was rightly a major outcry against it. Private Eye, however, published a couple of separate articles revealing that a young White and an Asian man had been also been murdered into two different unprovoked racial attacks. And the Met had behaved in exactly the same way, steadfastly refusing to do anything to investigate the murders and prosecute the perps responsible.

Unlike Stephen Lawrence, these murders garnered no coverage and no media or public outrage. They were forgotten.

And the real elephant in the room here is the Rotherham Asian grooming gang scandal. For well over a decade, a gang of taxi drivers of mostly Pakistani origin had been grooming, raping and exploiting as prostitutes White girls from a care home. The police and local authority had been repeatedly told about it, but had refused to take action. Instead, at least one of the girls had been offered Urdu lessons to somehow help her. One of the cops responsible for this debacle stated that they didn’t act because they didn’t want to start a riot. This scandal has naturally provoked even more outrage, and since then more grooming gangs have been uncovered. It’s been a gift to the racist right, and Tommy Robinson was running up and down the country exploiting the trials by posting his own highly prejudiced take on them on the internet, thus risking a mistrial. He was thus hauled up before the beak himself on contempt of court charges after he filmed himself commenting on the trial of one of these gangs outside the court, and trying to interview them as they were being ushered in.

Academics and anti-racists have stressed that these gangs are not representative of the Asian community. One academic specialising in these issues posted a piece on the Net showing that Asians are no more likely to be predatory paedophiles than Whites. The point has also been made that Islam was not a motive in the crimes. They were simply a case of sick people abusing messed-up, vulnerable children. One Asian journo or celebrity was also outraged by the cops’ attitude in fearing that their arrest would spark riots. He maintained that British Asians wouldn’t have objected to the arrest of the offenders and would not have rioted. He may well be right, but as quoted by the papers, the cop in question made no mention of who would be doing the rioting. He just said they would start. He might have felt it would give White bigots an excuse to attack Asians.

The point here is that the police and authorities refused to take action because they feared a breakdown in what may be described as ‘community cohesion’ because of the races of the attackers and the victims. The girls didn’t matter, because they were White.

Although these crimes have been revealed and other similar gangs uncovered, arrested and tried since then, the Rotherham scandal remains. According to right-wing commenters, there is supposed to be a report on the grooming gang that has not been published. I don’t know if that is the case, but if so, it’s a scandal in itself. I doubt such a report would show that racial and religious motives were behind the assaults, as the islamophobes claim. They suggest that the decision not to prosecute or take action went all the way up to Blair’s or Gordon Brown’s government. If that’s the case, then its suppression – if that has happened – is almost certainly due to the authorities trying to protect their rear ends.

Now I certainly don’t begrudge the Lawrences the attention they managed to focus on their son’s murder and the disgusting conduct of the Met police. I am simply trying to make the point that sometimes the police and authorities also won’t take action against the abusers and killers of people of other ethnicities. The Black Lives Matter protests in some areas, like Cheltenham, have extended to include other ethnic minorities. But they all seem to believe that crimes against Whites are universally and automatically investigated to a higher standard than those against people of ethnic minorities. But this doesn’t seem to be the case.

There should be outrage when the police fail to prosecute perps in crimes where race is a factor, regardless of the ethnic background of the victim. It shouldn’t matter if the victim is Black, White, Brown or whatever, no-one should die from racist attacks and their murderers go Scot free, or young people repeatedly abused and assaulted with impunity.

If the victim of a racist attack is White or Asian, then people should unite across the racial divide to condemn the attacks, just as they should if the victim were Black. As the Black Lives Matter protesters stress, the movement does not mean that White lives don’t matter.

But unfortunately, sometimes White lives are ignored because of their race. And that should cause every bit of outrage as the culpably negligent attitude towards Black.

 

No, We Are (Probably) Not Going to See a Black Death Pandemic

July 6, 2020

Mike this morning has put up a piece on his blog reporting that the Chinese city of Bayannur in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia, has sounded the alarm after a hospital reported a case of Bubonic Plague. This was the disease, spread by fleas on rodents, which was responsible for the Black Death in 14th century Europe. The disease is believed to have killed a half to two-thirds of the European population and China experienced an even higher number of deaths.

Coming after the Coronavirus pandemic, this all sounds really scary, right? Well, I don’t think there’s any need to panic. Bubonic Plague has still been around in parts of the Developing World, like India for years. There’s no question that it should be wiped out, but it’s now much, much less lethal than its medieval and early modern predecessor. So much so that some historians and microbiologists have wondered if it really is the same disease.

For example, way back in the 1990’s New Scientist carried a piece about an outbreak in India. It was extremely localized. While the people living in one house or set of houses fell ill with the disease, the folks a few doors down were left unscathed. The small scale of Bubonic plague outbreaks, which only mercifully affect a very few, have led some scientists to question whether the Black Death was actually another, far more contagious disease. Back when I was at secondary school, the Beeb’s history series, Timewatch, aired a programme which suggested that the Black Death may instead have been anthrax. I think the symptoms are similar, but anthrax can also be contracted from dead bodies, which Bubonic Plague cannot. This would explain why Medieval people believed even handling the bodies of the dead was dangerous.

There is another, related form of Bubonic Plague, Pneumonic Plague, which is rather more serious as its an airborne disease and so more contagious. But fortunately even the outbreaks of this disease have been far more restricted than the outbreaks of the plague in the Middle Ages and 16th/17th centuries.

Rather more worrying is the news, which was also reported by the Mirror as well as a number of other papers, that a new strain of Swine Flu has developed, which is resistant to current vaccines. I’d consider that a more serious risk, but I don’t think we’re quite in danger of seeing that become a world-wide pandemic just yet.

Obviously, these diseases need to be monitored and are of serious concern to organizations like the World Health Organization, but the chances of either of these becoming another global pandemic like the Coronavirus is probably remote. As for avoiding people who have visited the Far East, I can remember Dr Kevin Fong’s remarks at the Cheltenham Festival of Science during the Bird Flu epidemic. Fong was speaking about space medicine, of which he’s an expert. He was also suffering from a cold and had just come back from Beijing. As he appeared on stage blowing his nose into a handkerchief, he reassured the crowd by saying, ‘Don’t worry – it’s just a cold.’ He explained how he’d just come back from the Chinese capital, and said that it was amazing how much room you could get now on the London Underground as an Asian man. Which was his jokey way of allaying any suspicions.

It might still be best to avoid people, who have travelled to China and neighbouring countries, but that would only be because of the Coronavirus. I’m very sure we aren’t going to see a return of the Plague next.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/07/06/if-you-thought-2020-couldnt-get-worse-brace-yourself-for-the-black-death/

Despite the Lockdown, Tories Still Enforcing Benefit Sanctions

April 23, 2020

Mike put this story up only a few a hours ago, and its disgusting. According to the DWP, their promise that there would not be any sanctions for three months during the Coronavirus emergency only meant that there wouldn’t be any new sanctions. If you’re already sanctioned, tough – those sanctions are still very much in place.

A young man in his early 20s, Ben, found this out the hard way according to the Mirror. He had been sanctioned earlier this year because he had not found work. He believed, however, the freeze would be lifted during the crisis, like the payment holiday for homeowners and the payments made to support employees furloughed. But this didn’t happen. After waiting a week to go shopping, he received a statement from the DWP’s online portal last Thursday that his family were entitled to a big, fat, round zero. He was directed to take out a hardship loan instead, which he would have to pay back if and when he was given benefit. Mike’s of the opinion that it’s the Tories’ plan to force him, and those like him, further into debt and hardship.

The DWP then issued its clarification to the Mirror, which stated that sanctions imposed before the freeze still continue to apply. As Mike points out, this means that people, who were led to believe that they would be helped in during the crisis, are left to fend for themselves with no money. And it’s especially harsh on the disabled, who may find it difficult coping with sanctions normally.

Fortunately, it has worked out well for Ben, as after the Mirror took up his case, the DWP reinstated his payments and gave him £1,600.

Benefit sanctions have NOT been suspended – as Universal Credit claimant found out the hard way

The Tories began replacing benefits with loans a long time ago. I think it began under John Major, when they set up the Social Fund in the DHSS as it then was. The previous system, I believe, included a series of grants that could be made to the unemployed to purchase necessities that they couldn’t afford. This was replaced by a system of loans. Some of those loans were to give claimants money to tide them over a certain period, for example if they had absolutely no money and still had to wait several days or a week for their benefit cheque. Others were for the desperately poor, who could not afford to buy certain necessities, like cookers. The system meant that those, who were already desperately poor, would be left with even less money if they were forced to take out these loans due to the repayments, which would be deducted from their benefits. Not everyone approved of the Social Fund system, and some Benefits Agency staff privately said that the previous grants system was better.

Since then, the Tories have expanded this scheme into a replacement for welfare, a policy the authors of The Violence of Austerity call ‘debtfare’. There’s an entire chapter on it, and how it is leaving people vulnerable to starvation and homelessness, as well as mental health problems from the stress of worrying about this danger and debt obligations.

But I think that’s the point. You degrade, humiliate and impoverish the poor, following Thatcher’s ‘Victorian value’ of less eligibility, so that they will do anything not to have to take up state aid. It also benefits the employers by giving them a cowed, fearful workforce, which will put up with poor wages, terrible conditions, few employment rights and insecure contracts, simply to avoid the humiliation and starvation inflicted by the DWP.

This crisis and the necessary lockdown have pushed many more Brits into poverty. We’ve already seen mass sackings, when some employers decided that rather than apply for the government’s payment of 80 per cent of their employees wages during the lockdown, they’d rather sack them instead. This would have surprised no-one, who actually knew how rapacious some business people can be. It did, however, shock the Beeb’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg. This either shows how massively naive she is in some ways, with a very idealised notion of capitalism completely at odds with what it’s like for many people. Or it shows just how insulated she is as part of an extremely affluent, metropolitan media set. Way back when Cameron was inhabiting 10 Downing Street, it was revealed just how many leading members of the lamestream media lived in his home village of Chipping Norton in the Cotswolds. And while 80 per cent of people’s wages may sound generous, it means that those, who are paid far less than the living wage and who therefore find it a struggle to cope normally, are forced even further into poverty.

The many people made unemployed and forced to rely on jobseeker’s allowance will not have magically found work by the time the lockdown is lifted. They will still be faced by the sanctions system, so there will be even more people reliant on charity and food banks, and more people forced onto the streets. Perhaps Laura Kuenssberg will be astonished by that as well. The Tories won’t, as it’s what they’re aiming for. But they will hide it from the rest of us so people keep voting for them, deluded into believing that the ranks of the unemployed has magically come down through the invocation ‘market forces’ and ‘personal responsibility’.

The sanctions system is an abomination. It should be ended now, not merely given a rest during this crisis.

 

Virus Death Toll Mounting, But Scum Still Demanding Lockdown Lifted – Because Murdoch Needs His Profits £££

April 7, 2020

The Scum provided further evidence yesterday of Rupert Murdoch’s utterly loathsome attitude to the Coronavirus crisis. The death toll in Britain was continuing to rise, we had lost young people as well as the disabled and elderly to the disease. I’m sure many of you will have been particularly upset by the fact that one of the new victims was a child of five, who had an underlying condition. We have also lost some of our dedicated healthcare professionals – doctors, surgeons and nurses – who carried on doing their duty despite an appalling lack of proper protective equipment. And yesterday Boris Johnson himself was hurried to hospital. This was supposed to be nothing special. It’s just that Boris’ cough had carried on longer than usual. He was just going to have a check-up. Zelo Street, as perceptive as always, smelled more Tory lies, and said that looking at the situation rather than listening to the flannel, Johnson was in a far more serious condition than the Tories were telling us. He was. It’s now been reported that Johnson had to be given oxygen, and is now in intensive care. There have been more reassurances from the Tories that Boris isn’t in that serious a condition, but the Mirror, and Zelo Street, disagree. It looks like he’s got pneumonia. And Matt Hancock, the odious Health Secretary, has said that he has also lost two people to the disease.

It’s serious, and Johnson’s current condition in intensive care should show this to anyone. It demonstrates how anybody can get the disease, no matter how rich and powerful they are. It also shows how you also have to take it seriously. Johnson, like everyone else, was told not to shake hands as this could allow him to catch the disease. He ignored the advice, and carried on shaking mitts, blithely telling the world that this wasn’t a problem, as all you needed to do was wash your hands afterwards. That didn’t help. Johnson has been hospitalised through his own failure to take the virus seriously, just as the same attitude stopped him from introducing the lockdown weeks earlier and making preparations for the disease, which would have saved hundreds of unnecessary deaths.

But that didn’t prevent Scum hack Trevor Kavanagh yesterday publishing another piece demanding that the lockdown should be lifted. Because the disease isn’t that serious, according to some other modelling by a different group of scientists, and the damage it’s doing to the economy. Similar arguments have been used before against measures to combat climate change and global warming and other hazards. These have been refuted in turn. One of the best arguments was put forward a few years ago in an article in New Scientist. This was the principle that even if something wasn’t as dangerous or harmful as suggested, it was still better to err on the side of caution. Hence harmful substances or processes still shouldn’t be used, and measures should still be taken to stop global warming. But obviously Kavanagh disagrees.

Or rather his master, Rupert Murdoch. When Kavanagh first published this nonsense, Zelo Street suggested that his motives probably weren’t as pure and altruistic as he made out. He wasn’t worried about the bankruptcies, mass unemployment and poverty that have resulted from the lockdown, or the way the country will still be paying for it in the years to come. No, he was rather more worried about the effect the lockdown was having on the fortunes of the Fourth Estate, and particularly the titles of his employer, Murdoch. Print editions of newspapers are down by five million. All of the press is taking a hit, including Murdoch’s. And so Zelo Street concluded that Kavanagh was demanding an end to the lockdown for the simple reason that Murdoch wanted his empire of lies, smears and filth back on track and making money. Or rather, less of a massive loss than it’s made in previous years.

There are other warning signs about Murdoch’s self-interest in this. A few days ago Zelo Street also reported that Fox News and Murdoch were being sued by a group in Washington State. They contended that the network had broken the Consumer Protection Act by denying the virus presented a threat. At the same time, according to other hacks, Murdoch himself and his family had been taking personal steps to protect themselves. Joanna, one of the great commenters on this blog, has pointed out that WASHLITE’s suit has been thrown out of court on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment. That is the right to free speech and publication. That still doesn’t stop the plaintiffs from being morally correct.

If Murdoch really took precautions against the virus, while telling everyone that a lockdown was unnecessary, then it means that he really isn’t worried about the public’s health. It strengthens the argument that Murdoch is really only interested in having the lockdown raised for his own selfish interests, no matter how many people die, including his readers and the country’s own political leaders.

Murdoch doesn’t care about the British public, or the people of any of the other countries in which he has his grotty tentacles. He doesn’t care about their leaders, even if he supports their right-wing programme of destroying the welfare state, privatising healthcare and education, and destroying workers’ rights. He just cares about profit.

By printing Kavanagh’s nonsense at the same time Johnson was taken into hospital, Murdoch has shown that he is absolutely no friend of the Tories. They should treat his rags in that light, and stop reading them.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/sun-pundit-volunteers-for-euthanasia.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/boris-illness-and-giveaways.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/boris-johnson-is-unwell.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/murdoch-facing-covid-19-lawsuit.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/03/sun-pundit-lies-about-covid-19-deaths.html

Melanie Philips Pushing the Anti-Semitism Smears Again

March 7, 2020

Okay, it’s the beginning of March, Boris Johnson’s government has settled into its new round of incompetence and personal vindictiveness, and the Tories have been caught in another islamophobia scandal. According to the Mirror, 20 Tory members were expelled for their horrendous views on Islam. BBC Politics Live in its wisdom decided to discuss the issue of race. Unfortunately, one of the guests they chose to talk about it was Daily Heil hack Melanie Phillips. The author of Londonistan, which claims that London is now seething with Islamist terrorists and that Muslims are intent on destroying western society, her views on race are closer to Tommy Robinson than Dr. Martin Luther King. And like the rest of the Israel lobby, she confuses anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. According to Zelo Street, she began by expressing her views on the leading contender for the Labour leadership. Keir Starmer, she opined, was a ‘very decent guy’, and she was sure he was going to put in eye-catchingly good measures to get rid of people, who have not been got rid of.  As for Rebecca Long-Bailey’s response to questioning the day before, she declared that Long-Bailey was trying to avoid the fact that she had gone along with something she should never have gone along with, along with many other members of the Labour Party. Which was, she then explained, that Starmer wasn’t going to get on top of this problem. And that problem went beyond the Labour Party and permeated progressive politics. And it was all about hostility to Israel. She said

It’s wrapped up in attitudes to Israel. It’s wrapped up with beliefs that what’s being talked about isn’t really anti-Semitism, it’s not really prejudice, it’s simply an attempt to stop criticism of Israel. In other words, even among people of goodwill, there is a very widespread failure to understand quite what this thing is that has come out of the woodwork, and until and unless people are prepared to acknowledge precisely what it is, and acknowledge the enormity of it, and the depth of it, no-one’s going to get on top of it”.

As Zelo Street points out, not only is Phillips highly presumptuous in arrogating to herself the authority to define what anti-Semitism is, she expands it so that it includes legitimate criticism of Israel. Even the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which includes amongst its examples criticisms of Israel, also allows legitimate criticism.

And Zelo Street also pointed out that Philip’s opinions were at variance with the facts. After all the evidence of anti-Semitism was passed to the cops, the rozzers only charged one person. Five were arrested, but four of them – three men and a woman – were released and told they would face no further action. That’s out of a party with nearly half a million members.

The Street concludes

‘If what Melanie Phillips was talking about “goes very deep”, how come only one person was charged with an offence? After all that evidence was handed over to the Police? After all the hype, if there was such a serious problem, wouldn’t one expect the numbers to be rather more significant than that? It’s almost as if someone was exaggerating.

Not that one could ever accuse Melanie Phillips of such behaviour. Perish the thought!’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/03/melanie-phillips-racism-hypocrisy.html

In fact nearly all the allegations of galloping anti-Semitism in the Labour Party are fact-free. The people accused and expelled, like Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Martin Odoni, Mike Sivier, Cyril Chilson and many others, were smeared because they were supporters of Corbyn and/or critics of Israel. They are all genuine anti-racists, but the whole point of the anti-Semitism witch hunt is to close down criticism of Israel and its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians, regardless as to truth or legitimacy. Eleven years ago Peter Oborne, a former Telegraph journalist of immense integrity, who just before the election announced his support for Corbyn, present a Dispatches documentary on Channel 4 on the Israel lobby. He talked to former Groaniad editor Alan Rusbridger, who told him that whenever the newspaper published a piece on Israeli atrocities, the head of the Board of Deputies of British Jews would turn up with his pet lawyer, moaning that coverage of such events would result in a rise in anti-Semitism. He also discussed how the Board had accused the Beeb of anti-Semitism because it dared to cover the massacre of Palestinians by the Lebanese Christian Phalange in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps during that country’s civil war. The Phalange were allied to Israel, and therefore the coverage was anti-Semitic. And so were the very respected Beeb foreign correspondents, Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin, who reported it. When the Beeb tried to defend them, the defenders, in true witch hunt fashion, were also accused of anti-Semitism. And that included David Attenborough, the very well respected wildlife presenter and former head of BBC 2 many decades ago. The documentary interviewed the Oxford academic Avi Shlaim, an expert on Middle East affairs, who revealed that the Board’s complaints had been examine by the broadcasting regulators, and rejected except on a minor point. The Beeb’s reportage had been correct.

But this is immaterial to the Board and the rest of the Israel lobby. What matters is defending Israel, whatever it does. Even when that includes shooting nurses and unarmed protesters dead and torturing children. And the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is an important weapon in its defence. Because it states that some criticism of Israel may be anti-Semitic. This is expanded to mean all, or as many as the Israel lobby can get away with. It’s why Kenneth Stern, the Zionist American academic, who was one of those who formulated the definition, has criticised it for having a chilling effect on free speech about Israel.

The Tories and the Israel lobby are terrified of legitimate criticism of Israel. So terrified in fact, that they ignore the fact that anti-Semitism is far more prevalent in right-wing parties, and that almost all of it in this country comes from the far right. And so Melanie Phillips and her ideological ilk have precious little to say about members of the Met police having connections to real Nazi organisations, or Tommy Robinson greeting his supporters with ‘Shalom’ and appealing for more money to overthrow the White race – a clear reference to the real anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

No, they’re far more worried about a united, resurgent Labour Party. A party that would allow legitimate criticism of Israel. And that says much about their racism and hypocrisy.

 

 

Journos Walk Out As Boris Tries to Control Press

February 5, 2020

The Tory attempts to impose rigid, authoritarian control over the press continues. One of the big stories yesterday was the news that the assembled hacks and hackettes of the media had walked out of a press briefing organised by No. 10. There was going to be a ‘technical briefing’ on Brexit by David Frost, our comedy Prime Minister’s adviser on Europe. However, only selected members of the fourth estate were invited. A list was read out of those favoured journos were going to be allowed to go to No. 10, splitting the media into two groups as those who were and were not invited were told to stand on different sides of the room. The media outlets that were definitely not invited included the I, Daily Mirror, Independent, Evening Standard, HuffPost UK and PoliticsHome. Those papers not on BoJob’s list also tried to get into the briefing. This assault on press freedom was too much even for those invited, and other journos walked out of the meeting in protest. They included Laura Kuenssberg for the Beeb, ITV.s political editor Robert Peston and the senior political correspondents from the Heil, Torygraph, Scum, Financial Times and the Groaniad. A row broke out, with Lee Cain, BoJob’s director of communications, declaring “We are welcome to brief whoever we want, whenever we want’.

The Mirror’s political editor, Pippa Crerar, described the shenanigans as ‘sinister and sad’. The SNP’s culture spokesman, John Nicholson, commented that Johnson already hid from interviewers he found too tough, a tactic he learned from Trump. The Shadow Culture Secretary, Tracy Brabin, said that it was concerning that Johnson was using Trump tactics to hid from scrutiny. Dame Eleanor Laing, the deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, also condemned BoJob’s actions, and said, ‘Accredited lobby journalists are indeed part of our parliamentary community and so, of course, must be, should be, and normally are treated with respect’. And the NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: ‘As ministers are now boycotting certain programmes and journalists, this represents another very dangerous step.’

The I covered this in yesterday’s edition, for 4th February 2020. Their description of the events on page 10 was accompanied by an analysis by Richard Vaughan, ‘No 10 has started to chip away at freedom of press’, describing how this was just the latest step in Boris’ attempts to restrict press freedom and hostile reportage. The article ran

Since entering No 10 last year, Boris Johnson’s senior advisers have wanted to exert greater power when it comes to the media. Up until the election, Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s de facto chief of staff, and his direct of communications Lee Cain, were too distracted to do much about it.

But having secured an 80-seat majority, the pair have all but declared war on the parliamentary “lobby” journalists in a bid to exercise their new-found strength.

First was change to the lobby briefing system – the twice-daily meetings where journalists can fire questions at the Prime Minister’s official spokesman.

Cain insisted that all meetings would be held in Downing Street rather than the Commons. This raised concerns that it would give No 10 the power to refuse entry for any journalists who had fallen out of favour.

And so it has proved. Last week, a select group of journalists were invited to a briefing by security and intelligence officials on allowing Huawei to run part of the UK’s 5G network. Representatives from I, the Daily Mirror, HuffPost, the Independent, the Press Association, Reuters and several websites were barred.

Yesterday, No 10 repeated the move, attempting to freeze out several journalists from a Downing Street briefing with the Government’s lead Brexit negotiator David Frost, only this time it prompted a walkout.

It follows similar decisions by Mr Johnson’s team to boycott BBC Radio4’s Today and ITV’s Good Morning Britain as well as avoiding Andrew Neil during the election.

It is a power play by Cummings and Cain, who prioritise “message discipline” above all else and who view the favoured outlets as being essential to getting their message out. The move has been described as Trumpian by opposition MPs, due to its similarity to the way the US President excludes certain reporters he does not like.

It would be very easy to dismiss this as sour grapes at not being one of the chosen few titles, but it is a worrying sign of things to come. Shutting out certain publications damages the bedrock of a free media which exists to help hold the Government to account.

In fact, as the media coverage of the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn has shown, it’s been a very long time since the Tory media held the government to account. They were also very heavily favoured by the Beeb. John Major, when he was in power in No. 10, used to ask his cabinet how their friends in the media could help them spin certain issues and stories. And former cabinet ministers of Tony Blair’s have described how he was always concerned to have the press on his side, and that Rupert Murdoch was always an invisible presence at meetings due to his switch to supporting Blair.

Now with this attempt by Boris to exclude the media outlets he dislikes and Johnson debating whether or not to abolish the licence fee and privatise the Beeb, the media just might be waking up to what a threat Johnson poses to freedom of speech and of the press.

And this is a very dangerous step. Trump, who started this tactic, also pondered whether or not he could have certain newspapers closed down. He can’t, at least not at the moment. But that’s another step in the sequence of imposing a rigid state censorship over the media comparable to that of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.

The media were fine about supporting Boris when it was voluntary. He was standing up for capitalist freedom against that evil Commie Corbyn. Well, Corbyn wasn’t a Commie, and they’re just now starting to find out that under Boris, supporting him is going to be  compulsory.