Posts Tagged ‘The One Show’

Simon Callow on the Press’ Perverse Attitude to Gay Celebrities

July 21, 2016

Simon Callow was on the BBC’s One Show last night. He, and his co-stars Anita Dobson and Bill Paterson were on, talking about a forthcoming TV series in which they play a group of pensioners, who throw dignity to the winds and decided to grow old disgracefully. Callow’s character is a man, who finds that having reached 70 and done his duty of working for a living and raising children, he feels robbed of his life, and wishes to return to the time when he was 18, and dreamed of a world of poetry, booze and drugs. A kind of anti-Victor Meldrew, if you like. This led into an interesting little discussion about when people decide you’re too old to do various ‘young’ activities, like going to nightclubs, wearing skinny jeans and sneakers. All accompanied with a picture of Keith Richards in full Rock axeman mode, who is 72 and doing all of the above.

Apart from this little insight into changing attitudes to aging and the elderly, Callow also gave a very interesting little window into the bizarre and contrary attitude of Fleet Street in the 1980s. Callow’s gay, but his sexuality has always been something of an open secret. Indeed, he himself did not try to hide it at all, despite the advice of his friends. He tried to come out several times in the 1980s, but the press ignored it every time he did. This was thirty years ago when attitudes towards homosexuality were harsher than they are now. There were gay celebrities, like Jimmy Somerville and Mark Almond, but attitudes generally were so hostile that many stars were very firmly in the closet. I can remember Elton John and Freddie Mercury both suing the press for printing that they were gay, before they finally came out.

Callow believed that honesty was the best policy, and so described how he gave several interviews to the press, in which he admitted his sexuality. What is strange and interesting, is that the press didn’t want to know. They never printed these stories, according to the great man. He said that they wanted to find people out.

This, it seems to me, indicates a kind of cynical, calculating cruelty in the press’ attitude to dealing with same-sex attraction. Clearly, what matter to them was the scoop, the revelation of an aspect of a celebrity’s life that they’d otherwise like to keep quiet. A prurient, salacious attitude, cynically exploited to boost sales by intruding on other people’s private lives. it seemed to me to be little more than a nasty delight in publicly humiliating someone, who was vulnerable to abuse because of their sexuality.

They couldn’t get Callow, however, because unlike many of his contemporaries, he believed and still believes that gay people are better off being open about their sexuality. He specifically mentioned the T-shirt slogan produced by the gay activist group, Stonewall, ‘Some people are gay. Get over it’. Clearly, the press at the time were mightily upset that Callow wasn’t tormented by the idea of people knowing about his sexual orientation. If I recall correctly, I think it was known at the time that he was gay, but that nobody was bother. I can remember hearing about how he was gay when I was at school, when he was in a family serial on ITV. It didn’t stop any of the kids I knew, who watched the programme from doing so. Callow now is one of Britain’s best-loved thesps. He’s toured the country presenting a one man show on Dickens, and appeared in an early episode of the revived Dr Who as his hero. So his sexuality clearly hasn’t set him back there. Nor should it.

But the anecdote does show the weird, persecutory and exploitative attitude of the press towards homosexuality and other’s privacy. It’s another example of why Private Eye’s column about the newspapers is called ‘Street of Shame’.

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Vote Leave’s Lies about the EU and the NHS Funding

June 9, 2016

I just caught a bit of Vote Leave’s referendum broadcast earlier this evening. It was broadcast around about 7 O’clock, just before the One Show. I didn’t see all of it, as I was busy here, putting up article, but just managed to catch a snippet where they claiming that the £350 million they claim we spend every week on Europe could be used to build hospitals in the NHS. They then claimed that the EU therefore was undermining the Health Service.

They then went on to scaremonger about immigration, raising the dire spectre of what might happen when Albania, Macedonia and Turkey all join the EU. There were large, scary arrows from those countries running across Europe to Britain, rather like the diagram of the Nazi advance in the titles of Dad’s Army. Which is actually what I’d much rather be watching, even in the recent film version, than the Brexiteers and their wretched propaganda. But they made, the claim, so let’s filk it.

Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Farage (and Johnson, Gove and Ms Patel)

First of all, the claim that Britain spends £350 million every week on Europe has been refuted again and again. Yes, we do spend that money, but we get over £100 million or so of it back. So in net terms, no, we certainly don’t spend that amount. See Mike’s articles about this over at Vox Political.

Then there’s that guff about funding the EU diverting money away from the NHS. This is rubbish. What is undermining the NHS is the stealth privatisation carried out by Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care bill of 2012. This has opened up the NHS to further privatisation by private health care firms, such as Virgin, which under law must be given contracts. This has frequently gone against the wishes of the patients using the NHS. The reforms included forcing local authorities responsible for some NHS provision to contract out at least 3 medical services from a list of eight sent down by the government. Furthermore, the remaining state-owned and managed sectors of the NHS are being deliberately starved of funds as part of the campaign to privatise the whole shebang. See Jacky Davis’ and Raymond Tallis’ NHS SOS, particularly the chapters ‘1. Breaking the Public Trust’, by John Lister; ‘2. Ready for Market’, by Steward Player, and ‘7. From Cradle to Grave’, by Allyson M. Pollock and David Price.

It’s a lie that the NHS is being starved of funding due to Europe. It’s being starved of funding due to Lansley and the rest of the Conservative party and their purple counterparts in UKIP. If Vote Leave were serious about the funding crisis in the NHS, then Johnson, Gove, Patel and the other xenophobes and Little Englanders would have voted against Lansley’s bill. They didn’t. They supported it.

‘Bloody Foreigners, Comin’ Over ‘Ere!’

Let’s deal with the threat of people from Turkey, Albania and Macedonia all flooding over here in the next few years. This too, is overblown and pretty much a lie. Turkey would like to join the EU, but the chances of it actually qualifying to do so are presently remote. Critics have suggested that it’ll only reach the point where it has developed sufficiently to be admitted in about 30 years’ time. So the Turks are hardly likely to come flooding up from Anatolia in the next few years.

As for Albania and Macedonia, I’m sceptical about the numbers that will come from those nations due to the open borders policies. Mike’s posted up pieces reminding us all how millions of Romanians and Bulgarians were supposed to be ready to inundate Britain, and in the event only a small number arrived. Mark Steel, the left-wing activist and comedian, in one of his newspaper columns, republished in Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove’s The People Speak: Democracy Is Not a Spectator Sport, attacked the inflated claims of the threat of uncontrolled immigration by pointing out that many of the Poles, who were supposed to flood in, had in fact gone back to Poland. So while it’s certainly possible that a vast number of Albanians and Macedonians may want to come to Britain, it’s also possible that few in fact will.

And in any case, why would they all want to come to Britain? The impression given by the Brexit video tonight was that Britain was a tiny island under siege, and that the first country that the Turks, Albanians and Macedonians would all head for was Britain. But why? Britain’s social security system and welfare state – or what remains of them – are much less generous than some parts of the rest of Europe. Britain does have more cache, apparently, than some of the other nations, but Britain is by no means the sole destination for migrants, as we’ve seen.

Vote Leave’s video tonight was little more than right-wing scaremongering. What I saw was mostly speculation, and when it wasn’t speculation, as on the piece on the NHS, it was a distortion compounded with lies. There are problems with Europe and immigration, but leaving the EU isn’t the solution. Indeed, voting for Johnson, Gove, Patel, Farage and their cronies will only make the situation worse. They want to privatise the NHS, just as they want to remove the EU human rights legislation and social charter that protects British workers. The anti-EU campaign is part of this programme to grind down and deprive working people of their hard-won rights at work and for state support in sickness and unemployment. Don’t be taken in.

The Anti-Semitism Allegations: A Very British Coup Against the Left

May 18, 2016

I was sent this clip from RT’s Going Underground by one of the great commenters on this blog. In this piece, the anchor Arshid Rattansi talks to Max Blumenthal about highly politicised nature of the anti-Semitism allegations. Blumenthal argues that they are being made to defend Israel from criticism, particularly after the Gaza conflict, and shows that those accused also include religious Jews, and those of Jewish descent, whose anti-racist beliefs and pride in their heritage should not be questioned.

Max Blumenthal describes himself in the clip as ‘an anti-Zionist’ Jew. He’s the author, according to a pop-up text in the show, of Life and Loathing in the Greater Israel. He says he was struck by the strong similarity between the accusations of anti-Semitism, directed at Jeremy Corbyn and the plot of the book, A Very British Coup, by the former Labour MP, Chris Mullens. In Mullens’ book, a former steelworker, Harry Perkins, becomes the British Prime Minister, and embarks on a very left-wing, Marxist programme, nationalising industry and setting up anti-nuclear zones. Perkins is very popular, and to topple him from power, the British establishment, the press and the right-wing of the Labour party, aided by the security agencies, manufacture quotes smearing him as an anti-Semite.

Blumenthal states that this is what is being done to Jeremy Corbyn, including groups within the Labour party that are close to the Zionist lobby. These are the Blairites in the Progress party-within-the-party and Labour Friends of Israel. Corbyn himself has said nothing anti-Semitic and has attended a meeting of the Labour Friends of Israel. On the other hand, he has embraced much of the programme of the BDS campaign – Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement, which seeks to persuade firms and consumers from dealing with firms or purchasing goods made in the occupied West Bank. He has also opened his office to anti-Zionist Jews, including Blumenthal himself. Blumenthal also makes the point that this started two years ago in 2014 when Ed Milliband, who was also Jewish, criticised the Israeli attack on Gaza. Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, who has joined in these allegations, was previously one of the spokesmen for Likud regime defending Israel’s actions during the attack. The definition of anti-Semitism used to justify these actions is highly partisan and politicised. It is not the definition used by some Jewish journalists and philosophers, which is that it is hatred of ‘Jews simply as Jews’, but hatred of the state of Israel. Regev even falsely accused Corbyn’s spokesman, Seaumas Milne in an interview, of saying that he wanted Israel’s destruction, before having to take that back 35 minutes later.

Some of those accused of anti-Semitism include Jews, and people of Jewish descent, whose character should be beyond reproach. In Britain, these include Jacqui Walker. Walker is a black woman of Jewish heritage, who is an anti-racist activist. She was suspended on these charges for a tweet she made saying that slavery was the Black equivalent of the Holocaust. Rattansi states that this isn’t anti-Semitic, just a very strong statement condemning slavery. In America, Bernie Sanders, also Jewish, has been attacked for being anti-Semitic for being critical about Israel. He was also forced to sack his ‘Jewish Outreach Officer’, Simone Zimmerman. Zimmerman is a very religious Jew, who is active in her community. But she also committed the heinous sin of objecting to Israel. Blumenthal states that Sanders and Corbyn have had some contact, but that criticism of Israel is far more muted in America, because AIPAC, the Zionist lobby in America is much more powerful than BICOM, its British equivalent. Blumenthal mentions an awkward moment during an interview Bernie Sanders gave to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Sanders’ raised the point that Comcast, the parent company, was owned by someone, who donated to AIPAC, and that one of its leading journalists, Wolf Blitzer, was also a leading journo and researcher for the lobbyists, and that therefore the show would not broadcast any material critical of Israel. Blumenthal makes the point, however, that there is a grassroots movement in the Democrats away from supporting Israel. This is largely from younger people, who are more secular, and because the country has become much more diverse.

The show has a caveat at the end, stating that they tried to get into contact with Comcast, who made the statement that they do not interfere in the editorial contents of their shows.

Here’s the interview:

CounterPunch have also published a series of articles about the anti-Semitism allegations, pointing out that these are all about the Zionist lobby trying to protect its own interests and Israel against what are perfectly legitimate criticisms. Blumenthal mentions that some of the allegations were made against people, who have criticised the Israeli premier, Benjamin Netanyahu. There’s nothing anti-Semitic about this. I can remember going to a science talk given by a British scientist, who was a staunch supporter of multiculturalism and who had clearly worked in Israel. He had nothing but contempt for the man, whom he described as ‘That b*stard Netanyahu’. There was no condemnation of Israel qua Israel, and certainly no condemnation of the Jewish people. Just a fair comment about the brutal thug governing the country.

As for the extension of the definition of anti-Semitism from its accepted meaning ‘hatred of Jewish as Jews’ to ‘hatred of the state of Israel’, this also won’t wash. Those on the left, who object to Israel, do so because they see it as a White, colonialist settler state, like apartheid South Africa, or indeed the USA. They do not object to it, because its people are Jews.

Moreover, the accepted definition of anti-Semitism, as hatred of Jews simply because of their ethnicity, is that of the person, who first invented the term, Julius Marr. Marr was the founder and leader of one of 19th century Germany’s leading anti-Jewish groups, the League of Anti-Semites. Marr coined the term to describe hatred of Jews based on their racial heritage, rather than their religion. Again, his definition doesn’t have anything to do with the state of Israel. The only way an anti-Semitism allegation against someone based on their opposition to Israel would be correct by that definition, would be if their objection to it was purely or mainly because Israelis were Jewish. This doesn’t appear to be the case in most of these allegations, if any.

As for the suspension of Jacqui Walker for commenting that ‘Slavery was Black people’s Holocaust’, it’s extreme and highly emotive, but it’s one that has certainly been said before. I think it was first made by the highly respected civil rights pioneer, W.E.B. DuBois, after he became a citizen of Ghana after the War. He compared the treatment of Blacks under slavery to the atrocities against the Jews by the Third Reich. In 1994 Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade came under the spotlight once again with the TV adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s A Respectable Trade, and the exhibition of the same name at the City Museum. One particular point of controversy is the statue to Edward Colson on the city centre. Many Black Bristolians wish to see the statue removed. Colson was a wealth patron, who donated generously to charity for the people of Bristol. It was with money donated by him that Colston girls’ school was set up, which still continues today. He made his money from the slave trade, however, and that’s the reason why his statue is so controversial. Gregory presented a feature on Bristol’s legacy from the slave trade during which she interviewed Paul Stephenson, a Black civil rights activist in the city. Stephenson, obviously, had nothing but hatred and contempt for Colson, saying that he was responsible for ‘a holocaust in Africa’. As far as I know, no allegations were made of anti-Semitism against Stephenson for his remarks.

And their people’s experience of persecution and exile from their ancestral homeland through slavery and its aftermath has led some Black writers to identify with the Jewish people. Also back in the 1990s the Black British writer, Caryl Philips, that the historical experiences of Blacks and Jews in this fashion were so close, that sometimes he believed he was Jewish. This caused a little controversy, with Hilary Mantel, the Jewish author of Wolf Hall, writing in reply that Phillips shouldn’t be so daft, as the Jewish experience was unique to Jews. Phillips might be mistaken about the identity of Black and Jewish historical suffering, but he was not anti-Semitic. Far from it.

However, underlying these accusations is a renewed feeling of insecurity amongst Britain’s Jews. There have been reports that anti-Semitic attacks have gone up, especially after the Israeli attack on Gaza. A few years ago there were a couple of festivals celebrating the Jewish contribution to British culture. There was a festival of Jewish literature, which was a general festival of books by Jews. Non-Jews were welcome to come, and the writers speaking at this event included, I believe Howard Jacobson and Hilary Mantel. There was also a festival of Jewish comedy, which was featured on the One Show. It was also covered on Radio 4. The blurb for the radio programme about it stated that one of the reasons it was being staged was because Jews were facing competition as comedians from other ethnic groups. There has thus been some insecurity amongst British Jews about their place in Britain, partly caused by the growth of other ethnic groups in Britain’s changing diverse society. The allegations of anti-Semitism made by the Zionist lobby against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party reflect and draw on this insecurity. Of course, attacking Jews because of the actions of the Israelis is wrong, and should be condemned as anti-Semitic. But this does not make condemnation of Israel for its actions and treatment of the Palestinians anti-Semitic.

The One Show and Ian Hislop on IDS’ Crying over the Unemployed

April 8, 2016

Yesterday, the Beeb screened the documentary, showing Ian Duncan Smith, the Minister for Culling the Disabled and Unemployed, crying his crocodile tears. Presented by Private Eye’s editor, Ian Hislop, and entitled Workers or Shirkers, it aimed to tell the story of how there had been a constant tension in British politics between offering state aid to the poor as unfortunates requiring help on the one hand, and a much tougher line demanding that they look after themselves on the other. The interview between Hislop and aIDS, in which the Gentleman Ranker shed his tears, was a discussion about Victorian attitudes to poverty.

I didn’t watch the programme, for the very good reason that I thought it would make me angry. There was also no need. Hislop himself was on The One Show Wednesday evening to talk about it, and they showed the clip of aIDS crying then. I wasn’t impressed. Usually I’ve got quite a lot of respect for Hislop. I’ve used material from Private Eye to attack the Tories, and particularly their privatisation of the NHS and the vicious and murderous sanctions regime by the DWP, ATOS and Maximus. But his comments and the lack of them about this incident left me somewhat disappointed.

Let’s be clear from the start that IDS did not break down in floods of tears. He was merely talking to Hislop about a 19 year old girl, who’d given up on finding a job. So his voice broke, and he dabbed his eye. Several times. He then said, ‘I’m sorry, but she reminded me of my daughter.’ It wasn’t open weeping so much as when some people stop themselves when they’re beginning to well up, and then try to excuse this sudden show of emotion by saying that ‘they’ve just got something in their eye’. Or other such words to maintain their dignity.

Now, I follow Mike, and probably most left-wing commenters on this government, that IDS’ performance, whatever it was, was certainly not a genuine display of grief. Or if it was, it was only that he’d so far managed to kill so few. IDS has presided over a regime that has killed about 490 odd people from neglect, starvation and by their own hand, after having them thrown off benefits. Over a quarter of a million more have had their mental health exacerbated – sometime severely – by the sanctions regime. And far from expressing any remorse, IDS has simply had a guffaw about it in parliament with David Cameron. He laughed about it when some of the cases histories of those, who had suffered were read out in the House of Commons.

And then he has the gall to pretend that he is somehow ‘caring’.

What I disliked was that neither the presenters of the One Show nor Hislop, who should, and probably does know better, didn’t challenge the authenticity of this performance. The Show’s regular female presenter said sympathetically, ‘You can tell that was genuine’. When asked about his reaction, Hislop said that he was surprised, and didn’t expect it from the Ranker. He seemed prepared to give Smith the benefit of the doubt. He said that if it had been someone like Tony Blair, he would have expected there to have been an onion. The presenters then asked why he didn’t try to comfort Smith, at which Hislop laughed, ‘No! It is Ian Duncan Smith’.

Now Hislop’s failure to tackle the authenticity or lack thereof of Smith’s tears is serious. I’m assuming that Hislop was aware about the jolly chuckle Smith had about the suffering his policies had caused in parliament. It should have been mentioned, as it puts into perspective not just Smith’s, but this entire government’s attitude towards poverty and unemployment. But he didn’t. You’re left wondering about how far Hislop’s own sympathies are with Smith, and the Beeb’s bias towards the Conservatives. Or it may simply be any case of the weird code of Omerta amongst some journalists – that you don’t push politicos too hard, or they’ll stop giving you the interviews you need.

I also wasn’t impressed by some of the other comments Hislop made which were purely historical. For example, he talked about how Edwin Chadwick, who invented the workhouse system, was later castigated and reviled because of its horrors. Hislop, however, says that at the time workhouses were accepted, and the hatred merely came later. In my experience, this simply was not the case. When they were set up the workhouses were denounced by the poor and the radical press as ‘the new Bastilles’, prisons where the poor would be incarcerated like criminals, like the infamous prison for political prisoners under the ancien regime in France before the Revolution. Some parishes were so horrified by them that they flatly refused to build any. If anything, the workhouses only became accepted after a notorious case in the 1880s when inspectors found the inmates in one were so starving, that they were cutting open the bones to be ground for fertiliser in order to get at the marrow bone inside. That incident started a parliamentary inquiry into the terrible conditions in the Workhouses, resulting in some improvement in conditions. And even then, there were contemporary folk songs and popular ballads attacking them.

So after seeing this rather biased view of the historical reality behind the workhouse, and Hislop’s failure to tackle Ian Duncan Smith, I simply didn’t feel that I wanted to see the documentary. Perhaps the next one will be better. I hope so, but after that, I’m not sure.

Vox Political: Tory Lack of Investment in Mental Health Costing £105 Billion a Year

February 15, 2016

Mike has put up a piece about a report by Paul Farmer for the mental health charity, Mind, which argues that the Tories’ refusal to invest in mental health is costing the British economy £105 billion a year. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/15/tories-failure-to-invest-in-mental-health-costs-economy-105-billion-a-year-says-report/.
The piece also states that Cameron is due to make a statement about his government’s policies towards mental health this Wednesday.

I am not surprised about the amount of damage neglect of the country’s mental wellbeing is doing to the economy. I have, however, no illusions that David Cameron wants to do anything about it. He will want to be seen as doing something about it, and so will probably make noises about how he and the government take this issue very serious, but any action taken will ultimately only be trivial and cosmetic.

It really shouldn’t surprise anyone that the country’s losing so much money because of this issue. Sick people can’t work, or can’t work as well as those enjoying good health. And very many people are being left very sick indeed by the government’s policies. If they’re threatened with losing their jobs, and their homes, or being unable to pay their bills because their jobs don’t pay, or they don’t get enough welfare benefit – if they’ve luck enough not to be sanctioned – and they’re saddled with a massive debt from their student days that they can’t pay off, then they’re going to be scared and depressed. And the Tory employment policies are deliberately designed to make people scared and depressed. It’s all to make us work harder, you see. It’s psychological carrot and stick, but without the carrot and the stick very much used.

Mike himself has reblogged endless pieces from welfare and disability campaigners like Kitty S. Jones and the mental health specialists themselves, blogs like SPIJoe, about how the number of people suffering from anxiety and depression due to the government’s welfare-to-work programme has skyrocketed. The latest statistics are that there 290,000 people suffering because of poor mental health due to the quack assessments carried out by Atos and now Maximus. And 590 people have died of either neglect or suicide due to being sanctioned. That no doubt includes people, who could have contributed to the economy, if they’d been properly supported. But they weren’t. They were thrown of sickness and disability, and left to fend for themselves. They couldn’t, and so they died. Just as prescribed by the wretched Social Darwinism that seems to guide the policies of these monsters in government.

The government’s big idea of helping people back into work is to tell them to pull themselves together, and put them through workfare. As cheap labour for big corporations that don’t need it, like Tesco. Now with the genuinely depressed and anxious, it isn’t the case that they don’t want to work. It’s that they can’t. I know from personal experience. There gets to be a point when you really can’t go into work. And it isn’t just a case of not feeling bothered or up to it either. You feel ashamed because you can’t work. And putting you back into work, before you’re ready, won’t help.

But that’s ignored, or simply doesn’t register with the New Labour and Conservative supporters of this vile and destructive welfare policy.

I’m reblogging Mike’s article now because it ties in with several programmes about depression and mental health issues this week. And 9 O’clock tonight on BBC 1 there is The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive Revisited with Stephen Fry. This is the sequel to a documentary he made, The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, ten years ago. Fry’s bipolar himself, and in the original documentary he spoke to other sufferers, including Hollywood star Richard Dreyfuss and one of the very great stars of British pop in the ’90s, Robbie Williams. Fry was on the One Show on Friday talking about the show. He mentioned there was a much greater awareness of the problem. He described talking about it before pupils at the most elite and famous public school in the country, and saw his young audience nodding in agreement when he talked about self-harm. He stated that this was astonishing, as when he was at school no-one had heard of it.

Presumably Fry means Eton, and I’m not particularly surprised to find that some of the pupils were all too aware of what he was talking about. The entire regime at public school seems designed to turn the young scions of the ruling classes either into complete bastards, or absolute mental wrecks. I can remember reading accounts in the Sunday Express when I was at school, where ex-private schoolboys stated that they had been left emotionally numb and scarred by their experiences. And the former schoolgirls had similarly had an horrific time. When former pupil described how the girls at her school were perpetually in tears. So much for happy schooldays and jolly hockey sticks.

This Wednesday, at 10.45 pm, the BBC is screening a documentary, Life After Suicide. The blurb for this runs

The leading cause of death in men below 50 is suicide, yet people still seem reluctant to talk about the grim reality. Angela Samata, whose partner Mark took his own life 11 years ago, meets others who have suffered a similar loss. Those she meets include Downton Abbey actor David Robb, who talks about the death of his actress wife Briony McRoberts in 2013; a Somerset farmer and his five young daughters; and a Norfolk woman who is living with the suicides of both her husband and her son. Showing as part of BBC1’s mental health season.

And at a quarter to midnight the following evening, on Thursday, there’s the rapper Professor Green: Suicide and Me. The Radio Time’s blurb for this goes

This deeply personal, affecting film created a nationwide stir when it was first aired on BBC3 last autumn. “Crying’s all I’ve bloody done, making this documentary.” remarks Stephen Manderson, aka rapper Professor Green, describing the emotions that frequently overwhelm him as he tries to better understand why his father committed suicide.

His conclusion is simple: men need to talk about their emotions.

That helps a lot. One of the reasons why women are apparently less likely to commit suicide is because women have more friends, to whom they can confide and share their troubles. But in the case of general depression and anxiety, much can be done to prevent this simply by easing the immense economic and social pressures on people, pressures that have been made much worse through the government’s austerity campaign, as well as making sure there’s better understanding and treatment available for mental illness.

Well, that’s me done on this issue. As Dr Frazier Crane used to say, ‘Wishing you good mental health’.

Hackers Have Their Revenge on Rupert Murdoch

December 10, 2015

There was a little moment of pure comedy amongst a very serious piece on the Beeb’s The One Show Tuesday evening. The programme was discussing hacking, and showing how easy it is for hackers to get into your computer. One of the guests on this segment of the show was a former hacker, who had been arrested and jailed for his activities. One of the stunts he had pulled during his career was hacking into the Sun’s website. He’d was angry at the way New International journalists had hacked private phone conversations, and decided to take revenge. He hacked into the Sun’s website, and put up a piece on their on-line edition announcing that Rupert Murdoch had died. Obviously, this is not the case, and we are sorry to say that the Dirty Digger remains in rude health, and lowering standards across the globe as we type. The incident was completely scurrilous. It was also, as Ian Hislop, who was also on the programme, observed, very funny. And the Lord only knows what would have happened if Anonymous had attacked.

Oddly enough, there is an ethical hacker community. They have their own magazine back in the 1990s, which if I recall properly, was called 2400, or something similar, and their own code of conduct. This pledged that they would only peer around the machines, websites and databases into which they hacked. They wouldn’t change anything, or commit other crimes. Along with articles on phone phreaking and phishing, the magazine also had a regular column, ‘Payphones of the World’, where its geeky readers sent in pictures of phone boxes and their equivalents from across the globe.

Unfortunately, most hackers ain’t so benign, and you do need to put security on your computer and be wary, because of the sheer amount of cyber crime out there. But the idea of hackers taking their revenge on Dirty Rupe for hacking is funny, and definitely poetic justice.

Gulzabeen Afsar, UKIP and Nazi Anti-Semitism

April 26, 2015

Earlier today I reblogged Tom Pride’s piece, reporting a tweet from the Tory councillor Gulzabeen Afsar that she would never support ‘al Yahud’ Miliband. Al-Yahud is Arabic for ‘the Jew’. It’s a blatant statement of anti-Semitism.

Her statement is somewhat ironic, as Ed Miliband has been criticised by some British Jews for not being as pro-Israel as they feel he should. Moreover, there are initiatives by the Jewish and Islamic communities in Britain to overcome prejudice and extremism and establish good relations between them. There was a section about this on the Beeb’s One Show a few weeks ago.

And it hasn’t just been in Britain. In Norway about a month ago Muslims formed a protective shield around a local synagogue against attack by Fascists during a neo-Nazi demonstration.

Afsar’s anti-Semitism seems to come from the bizarre conspiracy theories that were deliberately imported into the Islamic world by the Nazis in their attempt to find allies in the Middle East and North Africa during the Second World War. Before then, the Islamic world was much less anti-Semitic than Europe.

And anti-Semitism is hardly confined to parts of the Tories, or sections of the British Muslim community. A very high percentage of Kippers stated that they did not want a Jewish prime minister. And the meme below is directed against one Kipper politico, who has made statements showing he believes all the anti-Semitic conspiracy bilge claiming that the Second World War was deliberately created by the Jews. He also denied the Holocaust.

Kipper Holocaust Denial

The Kippers are, of course, horrendously Islamophobic. There’s hardly a week goes by with some Kipper, somewhere, saying something monstrous about Muslims. Both Afsar’s and this joker’s views ultimately come from the Nazis. And they have absolutely no place in 21st century Britain, regardless of the colour or faith of the person saying them.

CNN Interview with Female Former ISIS Fighter

April 7, 2015

Yesterday I put up a couple of videos from The Young Turks internet news show discussing the issue of young women and girls being lured away from their homes and families to join the genocides and butchers in ISIS. This has also happened in Britain, the most recent and notorious examples being the three girls from Bethnall Green in London, who fled to Syria. There was a brief feature about it on the One Show, where one of the Beeb’s female newsreaders discussed the possible reasons why some British girls would find it attractive. The Beeb is also screening a full length documentary on it some time this week.

This is another video, which also gives some insight into the lives of women joining ISIS. It’s an interview with a female defector from the terrorist outfit, broadcast by CNN. The woman is heavily veiled, her voice disguised, and given a pseudonym to protect her identity. She was a former junior school teacher, who became radicalised in the uprising against Assad in Syria. When it first broke out, she was very positive and optimistic, but then said she was drawn to a darker and more violent path when the country descended into civil war and the bombing and shooting started.

She states she was also drawn into the organisation through her love for a Tunisian man she met on the web. They travelled to Raqqah in Syria, where they were married. She also had a female cousin, who had already joined the al-Khansa women’s brigade. This cousin took her to meet the brigade’s leader, tall and fearsomely equipped with combat rifle, guns and dagger.

The woman says that she initially felt happy carrying a gun. It was new to her, she felt powerful, but she didn’t feel she was scaring anyone. Her job was to make sure that women obeyed the strict dress code. If they didn’t, they were punished. This could include whipping, and she was forced to do this. Eventually ISIS’ brutality was too much for her. She was especially upset by the image of crucified boy, who had been convicted of rape.

This last is a very interesting perspective, as there are many in this country, who’d applaud such a severe measure against rapists. However, it also shows the human cost on some of those meting such punishments out, and who have to live in a society where such judicial brutality is normal.

She also states that the brutality was not confined to criminals, but was also inflicted by ISIS members on their wives. She states that ISIS had an office in Raqqah, where they arranged marriages for their members. She was taken to this by the Tunisian she had met when they moved to the city. These marriages were not just arranged, sometimes they were forced. She states that most of ISIS’ fighters were foreign, and that they abused and brutalised the local people. They also beat and raped their wives. This could be so severe, that in one instance one of the women had to be taken to A & E at the local hospital because of the sexual violence.

Sick of ISIS, the interviewee decided to get out. She states that she wants to go back to the happy, carefree young woman she was before she joined.

This video is just the perspective of a very courageous and moral woman, who found the regime’s brutality too much to stomach, and took the extremely dangerous step of leaving. She may be just one of a small minority. As the BBC’s newsreader said on the One Show, very few of the girls recruited to ISIS are likely to come back, because they want to be there. The video made by French TV made the same point, when it showed French women in the chat rooms arguing with their parents, telling them that they weren’t going to return to France.

It does, however, show the reality of what joining the regime is actually like, and the cost it has on the humanity of its recruits. They are stripped of decent human compassion in order to become the obedient servants of a violent and pitiless regime. It is an organisation that treats the indigenous people of the area it conquers with contempt, and whose thuggery even extends to violence against the women it forces to marry its fighters. As I said in one of my articles, there are passages in the Qu’ran and Hadith where Mohammed encourages men to treat their wives well. However, an army of brutal, extremely violent men, who twist the Qu’ran to justify their mass murders, aren’t going to be too particular about observing these milder texts.

The Young Turks on American Girls Joining ISIS and the Reality there for Women

April 6, 2015

This is another couple of videos from The Young Turks internet news show. Although this is an American news programme, it addresses an issue that is also very much in the news over here: that of western girls running away from home to join ISIS as jihadi brides.

Western Girls Joining ISIS

This was in the news about a month or so ago, when three Muslim girls from London ran away from their families and school to go to Syria to join the Islamic State there. As the video below shows, this isn’t just confined to Britain. It’s also happened in America. In the video, the Turks’ anchors Cenk Uyghur and Ana Kasparian discuss the case of three girls from Colorado, who ran away from their homes to try and join the jihadis. The were of Somali and Sudanese heritage, and aged between 15-17 years old. They were caught by the German police trying to go from there to Syria after the authorities were contacted by the girls’ families.

Muslim Feelings of Disenfranchisement and Isolation

Uyghur and Kasparian discuss the girls’ motives for going, and the fundamental stupidity of their actions. They make the point that however marginalised and disenfranchised the girls may feel in America, nevertheless they are leaving America and its immense freedoms for ISIS. Uyghur makes it very clear that the girls could only expect a loss of freedom over there. He states that Islamic fundamentalists view women in a lot of ways as chattels, and would regard them as more property arriving.

Low Status of Women in Islamists like ISIS

It’s a very good point. You can certainly find passages in the Qu’ran and Hadith where Muhammad urges Muslims to treat their wives well – he himself helped his wives with the housework, and the Qu’ran, while allowing polygyny, states that a man must treat all his wives equally. Nevertheless, a movement that twists the words of Muslim scripture to justify the terrorisation and mass butchery of civilians and non-combatants probably isn’t going to be too punctilious about observing those verses that encourage respect for women. Especially as one factor in these movements appears to be a reaction against western feminism.

Uyghur himself is from a Turkish Muslim background, although he’s an agnostic/ atheist like most of the Turks. His comments thus come from his experience from within Muslim culture, and therefore should carry far more weight than the bonkers utterances of various members of the Repugs, who frankly haven’t a clue about the Middle East or its peoples.

Jihadi Brides and Western Idolisation of Serial Killers

He also connects the motives of the girls and young women joining ISIS with those of the westerners, who idolise masked killers. They feel disconnected and powerless. Watching murderers like ISIS and domestic serial killers makes them feel powerful. It’s the same motive that inspired Adam Lanza, the maniac responsible for shooting the audience in an American cinema. He was absolutely obsessed with masked spree killers.

Western Recruits to ISIS Will also Kill Other Muslims

Uyghur also makes the point that once there, those westerners joining ISIS would spend most of their time butchering other Muslims, whose religious views don’t match those of the Islamic State, like the Shi’a. Rather than fighting against non-Muslims, they probably wouldn’t see them, and would spend all their time killing their co-religionists. Again, it’s an excellent point, though following Sayyid Qutb, radical Islamic ideology views liberal or secular Muslims as part of the jaihiliyya, the non-Muslim forces of darkness and ignorance. They are seen as irredeemably corrupt through their acceptance of non-Muslim, western ideas and culture.

As for the Shi’a, extremist Sunnis, like the Wahhabis, consider them to be heretics, who are an enemy of true Islam. The grand mufti in Saudi Arabia even declared them to be ‘worthy of death’, in a chilling exhortation to religious genocide. In addition to murdering and enslaving non-Muslims, ISIS also present a murderous threat to other Muslims, who don’t share their brutal views.

Girls Joining ISIS Should also be Prosecuted for Terrorist Offences

They also make another good point in that the girls joining ISIS should, if caught, face some kind of judicial process and punishment for aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation. This shouldn’t mean an adult court, as they are minors, but nevertheless they should face some kind of judicial punishment.

Women’s Lives in ISIS-Controlled Syria

In this second video, John Iadorola and the others discuss a film made by the French showing the reality of life for women in the part of Syria controlled by ISIS. It was made by a courageous lady, who made it with a hidden camera. For western audiences, it’s chilling. There are armed men everywhere, including one woman calmly pushing a baby buggy with a Kalashnikov slung over her shoulder. The dress code for women is very strictly enforced. All the women are swathed with the niqab. At one point a soldier or cop flags the female journalist down, and tells her to cover up properly. Too much of her face is showing, as her veil is transparent. Her face is fully covered, apart from a slit for the eyes.

Women in Internet Café Refuse Parents’ Pleas to Return

In the second segment of the film the Turks show, the journalist goes to an internet café to talk to the women there about why they joined ISIS. They’re talking to their families, who are clearly distraught and desperately trying to persuade them to come back to France. The girls refuse, saying that they want to stay there, and are very definite about this.

Women Motivated not from Lust for Bad Boys, but also Rage at Western Treatment Middle East

Talking about the video, Ana Kasparian makes the point that she isn’t convinced that it’s just about women falling in love with ‘bad boys’, like criminals in jail. She argues instead that much of the girls’ motives for joining ISIS probably comes from rage at the way the Western powers have treated and abused these countries.

No Choice about Wearing Niqab under ISIS and Extreme Muslim States

She also makes a good point about the headscarf. She states that she was against the French mandatory ban on the scarf, as it was a part of their religion. It should, however, be a woman’s own decision whether or not she wears it. Under ISIS, women don’t have a choice. They have to wear the niqab.

On this last point, it needs to be said that the penalties for women, who don’t dress ‘modestly’ under extremely hard-line Islamic states can be fatal. After the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, women were legally required to wear the veil. If they did not, the police shot them as prostitutes. I’ve heard that things have loosened up a bit since then. For example, at one time if the Iranian police caught a group of youths with a bottle of vodka, they’d shoot them. Now they just pour the bottle away.

That, however, is contemporary Iran. This is the Islamic State, who seem to have taken over as the most violent and repressive state in the Middle East.

Ban on Music by ISIS; Pop Music in Revolutionary Iran

On a more trivial point, amongst the things the Islamic State has banned is music. The Turks are astonished at this, and can’t work out why. Now there has always been a debate within Islam on whether music is lawful. It is, however, very much a part of modern life and contemporary youth culture around the world. So much so, that many people, like the Turks, cannot imagine a world without music, and would find such a situation almost unbearable.

Again, Iran provides an example. In Iran it was illegal to play contemporary pop music so loud that another person could hear it. It’s not a complete ban on music by any means, and there was no problem with listening to western classical music. Traditional Iranian music was actively discouraged because it had been promoted by the Shah as part of his programme of creating a secular, national identity against that of Islam.

The Beeb’s reporter, John Simpson, in his book on Iran describes the case of an Iranian trucker, who was playing a piece of western pop in his truck. He had the window down, but the sound of the hip ‘n’ happening sounds were drowned out by the noise of the traffic. Except when he had to stop at the traffic lights. He was overheard, arrest, and given something like 60 lashes.

As I’ve said, Iran appears to have become somewhat looser since then. There are pop groups in Iran, including one that made the news by having both male and female musicians on stage together at the same time. This contravenes the regime’s policy of strictly segregating the sexes. Nevertheless, the Iranian experience after the Revolution gives some idea of the nature of the strictures imposed by the regime in ISIS. Any westerner going there should know that when they do, they’re going to have to give up their ipods and CDs.

Jihadi Girls Want to Marry ‘Warriors’

I’ve posted these videos as they add an interesting, foreign perspective on something that has happened here, and is being discussed in the British press and the BBC. After the three London girls from Bethnal Green fled to Syria, the Beeb’s One Show had one of the Corporation’s female Muslim newsreaders on as a guest to discuss the issue. She put some of it down to the attraction to some girls of marrying a warrior, and the excitement of joining a military organisation, especially one that claimed it was defending their faith.

Girls who Go Won’t Return

She also made the point that those who went, probably wouldn’t come back. It was extremely difficult for those, who wanted to leave, to return to Europe. She cited the case of a foreign women, who joined ISIS, married one of the commanders and had his child. She then decided she’d had enough, and wanted to leave. She couldn’t, and her situation became very difficult.

But she also made the bleak point that most of the girls wouldn’t be returning to Europe and America, simply because they wanted to be there, a fact that must surely break their parents’ hearts.

Difficulty and Dangers in Pregnancy and Child Birth in War Zone

She also made the point that if the girls wanted to get pregnant and have children, then they would have to give birth in a warzone with very limited medical provision. Pregnancy and childbirth is a difficult time for expectant mothers and their partners anyway, even with advanced western medical care. In those areas fought over by ISIS, the risks become much higher.

ISIS Propaganda Tailored to Appeal to Girls and Women

Following this brief item on the One Show, the Beeb are screening this week a documentary on women joining the Islamic State. This makes the point that the internet propaganda perpetrated by the jihadis is extremely pernicious and insidious. Along with the propaganda about fighting for Islam, or rather, ISIS’ version of it, their propaganda also includes items designed to appeal to young women and girls, like fluffy kittens and food.

Girls’ Applause of Brutal Murder American Aid Worker Shows Them to be Sadistic Psychopaths

Now it strikes me as bizarre that the women and girls, who have got drawn into ISIS, have any kind of finer feelings at all, including sentimentality over cute animals. One of the British girls, who ran off to join ISIS, was a fan of beheading videos. She had commented on the video of the brutal execution of an American aid worker ISIS had captured, saying ‘that was gut-wrenchingly awesome’ and pleading ‘more beheadings please!’ I see absolutely nothing in that comment except sadism and bloodlust. It’s the comment of a psychopath, who has absolutely no feelings for the suffering of others, and in fact only derives pleasure and amusement from them.

I realise that kids getting sick pleasure from watching the suffering and deaths of others on video is hardly confined to Muslims. A friend of mine told me years ago how one of his friends – who was definitely White, and non-Muslim – had a copy of the video, Executions. This was ostensibly produced by an organisation opposed to the death penalty, and purported to show how horrific execution actually was. My friend was shocked by the way his friend was just laughing and sniggering at the last, desperate actions of those killed.

The girl’s applauding of the murder of the American aid worker goes beyond this. She wasn’t just a passive spectator; she demanded more, and in doing so became complicit in further atrocities, even if she did not, in fact, commit them herself. As for the victim, if he is the person of whom I’m thinking, then his death was even more iniquitous than the usual run of murders. The man was an aid worker, who had dedicated his life to helping the local people. He had identified with them so much, that he had converted to Islam. By no stretch of the imagination could he ever be considered a threat to Islam or its people.

Except in the twisted minds of ISIS, who captured him purely because he was an American. When the Americans refused to make a deal for his release, they butchered him. Just like they’ve butchered so many others.

I have every sympathy for the parents of children, who have gone to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, from those of the girls from Bethnal Green to the parents of ‘Jihadi John’ Emwezee. Clearly they wanted the best for their children, as most parents do across the world, regardless of race or faith. The last thing they wanted was for them to join monsters and mass-murderers.

But this is what has happened. And I’m not convinced that the girls, who ran off to join ISIS should be seen as somehow more innocent than the boys and young men, who did so. Considering the atrocities committed by the Islamic State, they should be seen exactly as modern counterparts to the women, who volunteered as guards for the female sections of the Nazi concentration camps, and who showed themselves as brutal as the men.

Village Power Companies, the Spencean Land Plan and the Bulgarian Peasants’ Party

May 29, 2014

A village was in the news last week for setting up its own solar power company. I’ve forgotten which programme it was on. It could have been the local news, Points West, on the BBC 1 for this part of the West Country, or, alternatively on the One Show. The village had initially been intended for fracking, but the villagers had examined that and very firmly decided against it. They had turned instead to solar power. They had set up a massive array of solar panels, which not only provided the village with its own energy, but also sold some on to the national grid. The power company was owned by the village as a whole, and each villager received a dividend from the profits generated by the company.

The feature was accompanied by questions about the practicality of such schemes. It was pointed out that you needed an awful lot of solar panels and would have to wait several years before the investment paid off. The number of solar panels required were so great, that it was well beyond the ability of a single person or family to afford. There were also questions about whether individual villagers should be included in the scheme, if they didn’t want to. The schemes’ inclusion of all the villagers made this a possibility, though the organisers made the point that because of the way it was actually set up, this didn’t actually happen.

Very many people now have solar panels on the roof, providing them with cheap electricity, or selling it to the electricity companies. This was the idea expanded from a single household to a whole community. Way back in the 1990s New Scientist had also carried a story about scientists working to develop power units, which would allow household to generate their own electricity and sell also sell it to the power companies, very much like the system with household solar panels.

It also reminded somewhat of Thomas Spence’s land plan. Spence was an early late 18th and 19th century Socialist. He advocated reforming Britain into a federation of autonomous parishes. Each parish would own the land in common, with the profits from the rents given out each quarter day to all the parishioners, whether men, women or children. It was effectively a form of land nationalisation, with the land turned into a co-operative.

It also reminded me somewhat of the programme of the pre-Second World War Bulgarian peasant party, the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union under its leader, Stamboliiski. BANU weren’t Socialists. They strongly supported private property, but believed in an egalitarian world where each individual would own enough, with no one having too much or too little. But just as humanity had an individual dimension to its nature, which demanded private property, it also had a social aspect with required co-operative action. They thus advocated that the Bulgarian peasant farmers should unite in a system of co-operatives that would allow the country to develop and enjoy modern prosperity.

R.J. Crampton describes this part of their ideology this in the book A short History of Modern Bulgaria (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1987) 87.

It was only in 11918 that BANU adopted an official programme, the ultimate objective of which was to create an egalitarian society based upon private ownership of the means of production and the absence of the exploitation of one man’s labour by another. The focus was primarily but not solely upon the peasantry. The party’s, and especially Stamboliiski’s vision, was of a society in which no peasant owned too much and none too little land, in which they lived in clean, modernised villages furnished with electricity, communications and recreational facilities and a developed educational system. Though private property was to remain the basic form of ownership – Stamboliiski had once described it as ‘the motive force for work and progress’ – individual properietors were to help each other through the cooperative system, which was to provide credit, to store harvested crops, and to market produce. The cooperative idea was a fundamental aspect of Agrarian ideology, and was meant not only to provide material benefit, but, through that provision, to lead to the evolution of new forms of civic political morality and organisation. Stamboliiski’s long-term vision saw a society in which all producers had voluntarily joined the cooperatives, and in which the latter had become so influential that they provided the basis for local government and administration. Cooperation was not only to provide a new form of local organisation, but could, it was felt, even lead to the merging of nation-states into a free association of peasant communities – a true peasant, or green, international.

It seems to me that the village power company in rural England was merely a modern form of Spence’s land plan and BANU’s village co-operatives, except whereas Spence had based his utopian society on communal land, this was based on communal power. Nevertheless, it also shows that as society and technology develop, the old, Utopian Socialist and radical ideas return. They are still relevant, even in the Tories’ supposedly new age of cut-throat Thatcherite individualism and private enterprise.