Posts Tagged ‘The Spectator’

Boris Johnson – A Racist Candidate for a Racist Party

June 21, 2019

A few days ago, Ian Blackford, an SNP MP caused an uproar in parliament by having the temerity to call Johnson what he is, and say what a very large number of the British public are thinking and saying: that Johnson is a racist. He cited a poem Johnson had published in the Spectator when he was its editor, about how a giant wall should be built around Scotland and the gates closed to turn it into a giant ghetto, who inhabitants should be exterminated. He mentioned again Johnson’s infamous comments about Black Africans, describing African children as ‘grinning pickanninies’ with ‘watermelon smiles’, as well as his infamous Torygraph article attacking the burka. He described those women, who chose to wear it as looking like letterboxes or bin bags. This caused a storm of outrage from the Tories, who accused Blackford of unparliamentary conduct and Blackford did get a caution from Bercow as a result. But as Mike showed today on an article in his blog, very many ordinary Brits on Twitter agree with Blackford. Johnson is a racist, and indeed, so is his party. This was also made very clear by a post about Johnson and his noxious racism on Zelo Street. Johnson had been asked about his derogatory comments about Muslims. He responded by saying that he was mistaken, and apologised, but he felt that people wanted someone who talked straight about these issues to be their Prime Minister. This drew massive applause from the Tories. The article pointed out that the article wasn’t mistaken, it was racist, and by applauding him and supporting his leadership bid, the Tories were showing that they supported and shared his racism.

Now there are stresses created by multiculturalism and the problems of adapting to an increasingly ethnically and religiously diverse society. One the one hand, there are fears that alienated Muslims and other minorities may create parallel societies away from mainstream institutions and values. On the other, many Whites do feel marginalised by the growth of non-White communities, with the ‘White flight’ from the multiracial urban centres to the suburbs or rural communities. A few months ago there was a documentary about the last Whites in the East End of London, which discussed how the number of Whites in this part of the capital was declining as they moved away and the older generation died off. Several of the people interviewed on the programme were Black and Asian, who lamented how the White members of their shared community were dwindling. One Muslim gent lamented that his son or children would not see any more White people in this area.

But the Tories don’t try to solve these problems constructively. They don’t try to bring people of different colours, ethnicities and religions together. They just try to exploit White, and particularly White English racism and resentment for their electoral advantage. 

The animus towards Scotland is a case in point. The poem’s recommendation that the Scots people should all be imprisoned behind a gigantic wall actually seems to me to be highly unoriginal. Apart from the fact that the emperor Hadrian did it with his wall, it was done again more recently in the horror flick World War Z. In this Hollywood blockbuster, the world is suffering from a zombie apocalypse. The whole of Scotland, or as near as makes no difference, gets infected, and so they’re sealed off from the rest of Britain behind a wall and an enormous part of gates. I did wonder what the great Scots philosopher and political scientist, Rab C. Nesbit, would have said about it all. Probably ‘What in the name of God! Govan’s no that bad!’

I don’t think the poem was by any means isolated. From what I can remember, it was probably part of a campaign against Scotland, the SNP and New Labour, and with the latter, specifically Gordon Brown. I can remember the Heil publishing a series of articles in which he more than suggested that Scotland was now far more privileged than England. Devolution meant that the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish now had their parliaments and assemblies, but the English didn’t. And while the English couldn’t vote on Scots issues, thanks to devolution, the Scots were voting on English matters. Moreover, New Labour’s leadership was dominated by Scots – Tony Blair, Derry Irvine and Gordon Brown. The attacks on the Scots were a very cynical ploy by the Tories to overturn Labour’s majority. Labour held the majority of British constituencies, but this depended on their seats in Scotland. If those were removed, then the Tories would hold the majority of seats in England. I’ve heard that during New Labour’s term in office, the Tories were on the verge of breaking up and that there were suggestions that the party should be dissolved and rebranded instead as the ‘English Nationalists’. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do remember reading articles in the Heil about the fate of the Tory party if Britain and Scotland went their separate ways. This seems to be the background to that nasty little piece of anti-Scots bigotry in the Speccie.

And the Spectator tried the same with Blacks.

They had to be more careful about this, as they couldn’t get away with it to the same extent as their sneers about the Scots. The Scots are largely White Europeans, rather than a race, nor a persecuted minority in the same way as Blacks and other people of colour have been, and so it’s permissible to make jokes about them or abuse them in ways that would be viewed as racist if done to other groups. But the Spectator tried the same tactics. Way back c. 2004 it ran an article, ‘Blackened Whites’, argued that Whites were unfairly accused for racism. This started out by saying that despite all the rhetoric of multiculturalism and pluralism, there was one group that wasn’t welcome in the streets of central London: White men. London certainly is a very ethnically diverse city, and the last time I looked at the stats over a third of its population were Black or Asian. But that doesn’t mean that Whites aren’t welcome in central London, or other areas where there’s a large Black or Asian population. It looks to me that the article was attempting to play up the resentment some White men feel about affirmative action programmes aimed at ethnic minorities and women. And in this the Tories were – and still are – copying the Republicans, who were deliberately targeting ‘angry White men’.

And this is apart from the Speccie’s contributor, Taki, the Greek playboy, who regularly made racist and anti-Semitic comments in his column. Most recently he caused offence once again when he published a piece praising the Greek Golden Dawn, a bunch of Nazis, who beat up immigrants and left-wingers. One of their leaders was charged with the murder of a left-wing activist.

There is also the deeply ingrained racism of the Tory papers the Scum, Depress and Heil. Or the scandal of institutional Islamophobia in the Tory ranks, as well as the long tradition of racism within the Tory party. Some of us can still remember the scandal caused by the Union of Conservative Students and their racist antics, including the demand that the Tory party should adopt racial nationalism – the ideology of the Nazi fringe, like the National Front and BNP – as their official policy in the 1980s. Zelo Street has also published a series of articles about the findings of one individual on Twitter or Facebook, who revealed the viciously racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic posts by supporters of Boris Johnson and Rees-Mogge on social media.

Despite David Cameron’s efforts to modernise the party and clean up its image, the Tories are still very much a racist party, and so its no surprise that a sizable number of them are supporting Boris Johnson’s bid to lead it.

As for how we should deal with them, I remember the episode of Rab C. Nesbit in which Burnie, the younger of his two sons, decides he’s a Nazi. This ends with Nesbit grabbing Burnie’s ear to administer a suitable walloping while singing ‘Gettest thou to buggery, thou horrid little shite’. I don’t support cruelty to children, and we can’t do it to Johnson. Unfortunately.

But we can all recognise his racism and that of his vile party, and take our votes and our hopes for a better Britain elsewhere.

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The Tories and the War on Drugs

June 16, 2019

There’s been some amusement to be had this past week with various leading Tories coming out and admitting to having used drugs. Michael Gove confessed to having snorted cocaine, and Rory Stewart admitted that he’d smoked opium once, 20 odd years ago, when he was backpacking around Iran. It was at a wedding. He claimed that it couldn’t have affected him much, as he was walking 25 – 30 miles a day. My guess is that in reality he’d have been stoned out of his tiny patrician brain. It’s generally the lean, fit people, who are most affected by intoxicants, as you can see by all the tales about champion marathon runners and other athletes, who become massively drunk when they celebrate with half a pint of booze afterwards. Then there’s Paul Staines of the Guido Fawkes blog. He hasn’t come out of the stoner closet, but he was notorious as a Libertarian for taking and advocating DMT as a mind-expanding drug. My guess is that he’d need it. As a member of an organisation that was so right-wing, it invited the leader of one of Rios Montt’s death squads from El Salvador to be their guest of honour at their annual dinner, Staines would need some powerful hallucinogenics to convince himself he was a decent human being.

Boris is also widely suspected of having done drugs, and it’s almost certain that the allegations are true, and of continuing to use them. But he hasn’t confessed to it. When asked whether he had at a press conference about his candidacy for the Tory leadership, he brushed the question aside by claiming that he thought the British public were more interested in what he intended to do as politician than whether he took illegal substances. He might be right for some people. We’re so used to public figures, like actors, rock stars and other media celebrities, coming forward to admit that they took drugs some time in their lives, that it almost seems unremarkable. In some parts of the entertainment industry, it’s even to be expected, as with tales of pop musicians, which have become part of the general pattern of rock excess. However, Boris’ own political career isn’t any recommendation for him as Prime Ministerial material either. He’s been so egotistical and massively incompetent that many people would have to take large amounts of illegal chemicals to be persuaded otherwise.

Author’s impression of Theresa May with potential voter.

There’s more than a little fun to be had out of all this furore. Some wag with a better grasp of video editing than yours truly could provide us all with a laugh by cutting their speeches with bits from notorious films about drugs from the past. Like the 1950s anti-cannabis film, Reefer Madness, or David Cronenberg’s ’90s flick, The Naked Lunch, based on the notorious book by William S. Burroughs. This latter film is roughly based on Burrough’s own life, and is about a pest exterminator, who gets high on the ketamine he’s using to kill the insects. As the drug takes effect, he hallucinates that he’s some kind of SF spy, and has to make his report to Interzone before flying to Morocco after accidentally shooting his wife while they were playing William Tell. The hallucinations include the hero seeing everyone in a bar as mugwumps – humanoid lizards – and a gay talking typewriter-beetle. You could have some fun showing Boris sitting down to type his statement for the leadership election, but showing the hands of Cronenberg’s hero typing away at the beetle creature. Though as the beetle-typewriter then goes on to declare how wonderful homosexuality is, this scene might not be appropriate. The Tories have declared themselves at ease with the gay community, and no-one could ever accuse Boris of it. Another excellent film candidate for mixing with the Tory leadership speeches would be Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, based on the book by Hunter S. Thompson, illustrated by Ralph Steadman. Which also has a bar full of hallucinatory lizards, bats coming down out of the desert sky, and Richard Nixon erupting out of a TV set, amongst other bizarre visions.

But there’s also a very serious side to all this. The great commenters on Mike’s blog, when he covered this story, made some very good points about these people’s hypocrisy. They’ve all done drugs, and got away scot-free, in contrast to more ordinary users, who’d been to jail. One commenter told how he had a friend, who now suffers from PTSD because of what he’d experienced in prison after being convicted of a drugs offence. And the whole affair also seems to me to be a replay of a similar scandal back in 2004, when a number of other Tories confessed to having used cannabis.

The furore was started when Anne Widdecombe announced that she wanted harsher sentences for drugs, quite at variance with the party stance on the issue at the time. A number of Tories then came forward to announce that they’d taken it. Matthew Parris then gave his view about it all in an article he wrote for the Spectator. One Tory revealed that he had smoked cannabis at Oxford. This didn’t shock Parris, who was far more outraged by the way the august gentleman had consumed it. Parris declared that he could have been smoking cowpats for all he cared. What offended him was that the pretentious so and so had put it in his pipe. He smoked a pipe! It’s something you can imagine Rees-Mogg, the MP for the 18th century, doing. If he were inclined towards the substances used by Thomas De Quincy and Coleridge, of course.

This came at the time the government was considering changing its policy towards drug abuse. Much had been in the news about the success the Scandinavian countries, Portugal and Switzerland had achieved in their battle with illegal drugs, in contrast with Britain’s failure to combat or contain its growing drugs problem. These nations had a softer approach to tackling drug abuse. Addicts were treated not as criminals, but as sick people, who needed to be helped. But this was too namby-pamby for Widdecombe and those like her. Parris wrote that this had also been the policy in Britain, and had been giving positive results. But it all changed with the election of Ronald Reagan. Reagan wanted a war on drugs, and as American’s ally and the Special Relationship, we had to follow suit. The result was harsher sentences for drug offences, which actually had a negative effect on what they were trying to achieve. Treating drug addiction as a sickness makes sense, as no-one wants to be sick so they seek help. Criminalizing it, however, gives it a kind of glamour. You ain’t sick, you’re gangsta! Public enemy No. 1. And so far from deterring people from using drugs, the policy actually helps to promote it.

And then there’s the racism of the War on Drugs. Hillary Clinton deliberately played on White American fears of Black criminality when she announced Clinton’s new, tougher policies on drugs back in the 1990s. She talked about ‘superpredators’ – at the time, a term that was only used about Black men. The laws were also framed so that it targeted Blacks rather than Whites. Although studies have shown that Whites are just as likely to use drugs as Blacks, the majority of those arrested and convicted are Black. And I suspect that the situation is similar over here. Certainly it’s been clear to me from talking to Black friends that they believe that Blacks suffer disproportionately harsher punishment than White drug abusers. I know many Blacks, who won’t touch the stuff, and they make the point very clear to Whites trying to encourage them to do so.

It seems very clear to me that we need a return to a saner, more effective drugs policy. One that discourages it as it helps the victims by treating it as a disease, rather than giving it a spurious glamour it doesn’t deserve by criminalizing it. A policy that punishes and cures White and Black equally, instead of playing to White fears and racism.

But for me, the most toxic drug not mentioned in the Tory leadership contest is Conservatism. This has destroyed whole communities, and comprehensive wrecked Britain, creating poor healthcare, unemployment, despair, depression and general poor mental health, all while fostering racism, bigotry and bitter resentment against the poor, disabled and marginalised. It has done this while creating illusions of prosperity and national greatness. It’s time it was stopped. The pushers of this vile drug – Johnson, Gove, Leadsom and the rest of them – should be properly punished by losing any and every election they take part in. And the literature that encourages this vile drug – the Times, Torygraph, Mail, Sun and Express, should be binned at once and readers should turn to proper news outlets.

Only then can we look forward to a saner society, less afflicted by drugs.

Tommy Robinson Exploiting the Misery of the White Working Class

May 20, 2019

Last Monday, 13th May 2019, the great man at the Zelo Street blog put up an article explaining how Tommy Robinson was avoiding the more prosperous areas of northwest England to concentrate instead on the poorest, and those areas with the highest levels of depression. The virulent anti-Islam campaigner, late of the EDL, Pegida UK and the BNP, was avoiding towns like Crewe, Chester, Southport, Lancaster, Northwich, Winsford, Runcorn, St Helens, Ellesmere Port, Chorley, Wilmslow, Ashton-under-Lyne, and places like them. Instead, he was concentrating on towns like Brinnington, Birkenhead, Blackpool, Rochdale, Burnley, and Barrow-in-Furness.

Brinnington has the highest levels of clinical depression in the north and midlands. According to the Groaniad, it accounted for 23.6 per cent of all cases seen by GPs in the town. Four other areas with the highest levels of depression are in or near Birkenhead – Bidston Hill, Tranmere, Woodchurch and Birkenhead Central. Another two are in Fleetwood, near Blackpool. Robinson is due to visit that fair town, as well as Carlisle, which has another area with a very high incidence of depression. Three more areas are Rochdale, whose Heywood area Robinson was due to visit on Saturday. Robinson cancelled a visit to Blackburn, but turned up in Burnley, which has two of England’s most deprived towns near it. He also planned on visiting Barrow-in-Furness, which has an acute heroin problem.

Zelo Street concluded

And by pure coincidence, Stephen Lennon is favouring the area with a visit this week. All the while, The Great Man is waving his begging bowl, telling those amongst whom he comes that he needs their help. That they live on the margins of society, and he lives in the lap of luxury, does not seem to occur to those willing to cheer him on.
Living high on the hog while preying on misery. Welcome to the Tommy Tour.
See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/05/tommy-robinson-campaign-trades-on-misery.html

It’s not just that Robinson is exploiting the poverty and poor mental health afflicting the people of those towns, he’s also trying use their misery to distract them from the real economic and political causes of their problems. These areas have suffered from the decline of traditional industries, resulting in high unemployment rates. Which would also account for the massive rise in depression due to the lack of self-esteem, hopelessness and sheer despair. These are areas that have not been helped by the neoliberalism embraced and enthusiastically promoted by the Tories, the Lib Dems and Blairite Labour. Thatcher made it very clear that she did not believe in providing any help to failing industries or direct state interference in the economy. Failing companies were to be allowed to fail, on the grounds that state aid was inefficient and would prevent the operation of the market forces that would see new industries take off to provide work and prosperity.

This hasn’t happened. These areas are still poor and depressed. And it was situation made worse in the 1990s when the Tories decided to destroy whatever remained of the British mining industry. This was touted, again, as saving the country from supporting a failing and uneconomic industry, but the real reason was to destroy the NUM, which had overthrown Heath’s government in the 1970s.

But Conservative ideology prevents any discussion of the failings of private industry or the precious market forces, which the supporters of the free market are constantly telling us must be obeyed at all costs, and will ultimately bring back jobs and wealth. And so scapegoats must be found to explain why the free market isn’t working as it should, or to direct popular anger away the businessmen, think tanks and politicians pushing these policies. And so Fascists like Robinson accuse racial or religious minorities or outside groups of causing these problems. The Nazis made Jews synonymous with capitalism, and so claimed they had created a socialist Germany when they persecuted and murdered them. Capitalism, however, was retained and encouraged, although private industry was subject to a complex system of state planning. George Orwell described it as ‘the socialism of fools’. And right-wing populist politicians across the world, from Trump in America to the EDL, UKIP and the Brexit party in Britain are doing it today. Aided by mainstream Conservatives.

The right-wing press, and particularly the Heil and Speccie, have been telling their working class readers that their poor and underprivileged, not because of Tory policies that have decimated manufacturing industry and are destroying the NHS and welfare state for the profit of big business. No, it’s because high-spending Labour authorities and liberal ‘political correctness’ are deliberately diverting funding to undeserving groups, like Blacks, other ethnic minorities, gays and in the case of Tommy Robinson and his supporters, Scary Muslims.

The right have been doing this since Bacon’s Rebellion in 17th century. This was a revolt in Virginia where the slaves were joined by White indentured servants. The rebellion was put down, but to ensure that Blacks and poor Whites never united again to challenge the social hierarchy, laws were passed that separated Blacks from Whites, and gave Whites a higher social status. But crucially, these laws did not improve conditions for the indentured White servants. Materially, they gained nothing from these laws. Nevertheless, they had the psychological effect intended. From then on, White indentured servants didn’t make common cause with the slaves against their exploitation, or at least, not so much, because Blacks were now their social inferiors.

And it’s the same here. Robinson fully supports neoliberalism. Indeed, in his attack on a female academic at Liverpool John Moores University, he defended it against left-wing academics such as herself. He and his supporters offer precious little that will make the lives of ordinary working people better. The only thing they offer is more division and hatred.

There are issues with Islam, such as the continuing malign influence of the preachers of hate and the dangers of self-radicalisation for the young and disaffected through the internet. And authorities have targeted ethnic minorities for a greater proportion of aid because these groups are, or have been, more deprived, or have specific needs that can only be addressed through projects directed to them. Like the rape helpline for women from ethnic minorities, which Robinson so grossly misrepresented as deliberately excluding Whites and legitimising the assault of White women. It wasn’t the case, and his vile tweets about it resulted in the phone line having to be shut down because of the abusive calls they were receiving, thus depriving extremely vulnerable women of the help they needed.

Fortunately, Robinson’s tour of the northwest isn’t going as smoothly as he planned. A string of towns have made it clear that he is not welcome, there have been large counterprotests. And to cap it all, the internet platform, Stripe, that makes it possible for people to donate their hard earned cash to him, has thrown him off. Which makes it a bit more difficult for him to scrounge off the poor and misinformed.

Robinson poses as a member of the working class, defending them from the politically correct Left and militant Islam. He isn’t. He’s a very rich man, thanks to the money he’s been given by his followers. And he offers nothing to the working class except more neglect and poverty, but with racial hatred and suspicion added. He’s a disgrace.

This Thursday, those who really want to see working people’s lives improved should ignore him, and his lies about Europe and Muslims, and vote for somebody else instead.

Radio 4 Programme on Journalistic Impartiality

April 16, 2019

According to next week’s Radio Times, for 20th-26th April 2019, Radio 4 are due to broadcast a programme questioning the notion of journalistic impartiality, ‘Call Yourself an Impartial Journalist?’, hosted by Jonathan Coffey. The blurb for the programme by Simon O’Hagan on page 138 of the magazine runs

In a febrile political age, fuelled by social media, the BBC has felt the heat as possibly never before – guilty, in its accusers’ eyes, of failing to reflect the full spectrum of opinion over not just Brexit but such culture-wars issues as transgenderism. With the BBC due to publish a new set of editorial guidelines in June (the first since 2010), Jonathan Coffey explores the idea of impartiality and whether any sort of consensus around it is possible. Contributors include the Spectator columnist Rod Liddle, the BBC’s director of editorial and policy standards, David Jordan, and Kerry-Anne Mendoza, the editor of online media The Canary.

The programme’s on at 11.00 am.

I don’t think there’s much doubt about the Beeb’s political bias. Academics at the media monitoring units of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff universities found that the Beeb was twice as likely to seek the opinions of Conservative MPs and financial experts as Labour MPs and trade unionists. Barry and Savile Kushner also describe how the Beeb pushed the austerity agenda in their book, Who Needs the Cuts?, to the point that the opponents of austerity were rarely invited onto their news and politics programmes to put their case. When they were, the presenters actually tried to silence them, even by shouting them down. And years ago Tony Benn in one of his books said that the Beeb considered itself impartial, because its bias was largely slightly to the left of the Tories at the time, but way to right of everyone else.

There could be some interesting things said on the programme, particularly by the excellent Kerry-Anne Mendoza, but my fear is that it’s going to be like the Beeb’s programme, Points of View, and just be an exercise in the corporation justifying itself and its own bias. 

Zelo Street on Neil Hamilton’s Nazi Antics

April 5, 2019

This morning, Zelo Street has put up a very interesting article about Neil Hamilton and his sordid history of extreme right-wing acts. The Street reports that Labour’s Ruth Jones has retained her seat at the Newport West by-election yesterday. This was despite the fact that she’s a Remainer, and it’s a constituency where a sizable part are ‘Leave’ supporters. The Labour majority was reduced, but that’s partly to be expected as the turn-out was much lower.

Unfortunately, the UKIP candidate, one Mostyn Neil Hamilton, also retained his deposit, even though he didn’t get in. Hamilton used to be a Tory politico until he ended up before the beak for taking bribes from one Mohammed al-Fayed, a grocer of Knightsbridge, in the ‘cash for questions’ scandal under John Major. Fayed, who was the-then owner of Harrod’s, had given money to Hamilton to ask questions in parliament, which is very much against the laws. Hamilton had taken the money and run, whereupon the man Private Eye dubbed ‘the Phoney Pharoah’ sued him for breach of contract. The result was a court case and mass hilarity. As someone said, it was the kind of case you wished both sides would lose.

The Street goes on to discuss the Kippers’ lurch to the far right, and its involvement with street protests. Why has Hamilton remained in the party when it has become notorious for intimidation and thuggery? The answer is that Hamilton himself has a history of intimidation and Fascist thuggery. He was one of those discussed in the Beeb Panorama documentary, ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency’, which alleged that the Tories had been infiltrated by the Far Right. Hamilton was in it because he had made the Nazi salute in Germany, contrary to the country’s anti-Nazi legislation; worn blackface makeup to impersonate Idi Amin; gave a speech to a group of Italian neo-Fascists; was a member of the far-right Eldon group and an associate of the notorious George Kennedy Young, who had issued anti-Semitic slurs against Leon Brittan and Nigel Lawson. The documentary was never shown, because, despite all the evidence that the Tories were infested with Fascists, the Beeb surrendered when it could and should have humiliated Hamilton over Fascist links and behaviour. He also tried it with the Guardian, but the Groan stood up to him.

Zelo Street says that it was clear that several of the witnesses had suffered intimidation to change their stories, whether this was just a private word or a phone call. And it wasn’t personal intimidation, but legal threats from his wealthy supporters, like James Goldsmith and the Spectator columnist Taki Theodoracopulos,  who’s notorious for his anti-Semitism. This makes Hamilton perfectly at home in UKIP, which now boasts Tommy Robinson and associated thugs. Robinson was the former founder of the EDL, and has also been in Pegida UK and the BNP. His tactic of dealing with critics is to turn up mob-handed on their door step to intimidate them, as he has done with Mike Stuchbery. He also did this a few weeks ago to the parents of an unnamed young man, who had committed the heinous crime of posting footage showing Robinson contradicting himself or otherwise looking stupid or obnoxious on the web. The Street says

Plenty of intimidation, a little thuggery here and there, plenty of far-right links to keep him happy – Hamilton will be like the proverbial pig in shit.

And concludes

That’s why someone who served as a Conservative MP for 14 years fits right in with today’s UKIP. It’s also an indictment on that broad Tory church letting in the boot boys for so many years with no questions asked. 

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/04/still-liar-and-cheat.html

 

Handbook of Disability History in Latest Oxbow Book Catalogue

March 31, 2019

I got the latest issue of Oxbow Book News, for Spring 2019, through the post the other day. Oxbow are specialist booksellers and publishers for archaeology and history. The Book News is really a catalogue of what they have in stock. And in the latest issue was The Oxford Handbook of Disability History, edited by Michael Rembis, Catherine J. Kudlick and Kim Nielsen (Oxford: OUP 2018). The blurb for it in the catalogue runs

Disability history exists outside of the institutions, healers, and treatments it often brings to mind. It is a history where the disabled live not just as patients or cure-seekers, but rather as people living differently in the world. The Oxford Handbook of Disability History is the first volume of its kind to represent this history and its global scale, from ancient Greece to British West Africa. The twenty-seven articles, written by thirty experts from across the field, capture the diversity and liveliness of this emerging scholarship.

Unfortunately, this book is going to be well beyond most people’s pockets. It’s hardback, and the listed price is £97.00, which means that it’s only really going to be affordable to the very affluent. On the other hand, you might be able to order it from your local library, assuming that the Tories haven’t shut it down already.

What is interesting is what its publication on its own says about this as an emerging area of scholarship. It says that the history of disabled people themselves is coming to be recognised as a field of historical research and endeavour by itself, alongside other disciplines in social history like Black, women’s, and gender history. It’s possible that this is part of a change in general cultural attitudes towards the disabled, in the way that the Black civil rights and feminist movements directly caused the emergence of Black and women’s history. Unfortunately, despite this apparent change in academic attitudes, popular attitude towards people with disabilities still has some way to go. We still have the Tories closing down services for disabled people in the name of austerity, efficiency and all the hypocritical cant about concentrating resources where they’re really needed. And we still have the wretched Tory press and media demonising them as welfare scroungers. A week or so ago Zelo Street put up a post about the Spectator’s Rod Liddle attacking people with ME as malingerers, who didn’t have a real illness. To which the answer is, no, Rod, it is, they are, and you’re a soulless Murdoch hack. This wasn’t the first time he’s taken a swipe at the disabled either. A few years ago he wrote a piece about how he’d like to get a disability, that would allow him to get off work without really being disabled. Once again, he went for ME and fibromyalgia. I’ve known people with ME. They’re not malingerers, and it’s a real illness which leaves them wiped out through chronic fatigue. And it’s a long time since doctors seriously doubted whether it really existed. I think that stopped with the end of the 1980s. But obviously not in Liddle’s squalid excuse for a mind. And if you need convincing that fibromyalgia is a real disease, go over to Mike’s blog and look up some of the posts, where he mentions the suffering it’s caused Mrs. Mike. This is real, genuine pain, and definitely not imaginary. Unlike Liddle’s pretensions to objective journalism.

This looks like it could be a very interesting volume. It’s too bad it’s price puts it beyond the reach of most of us. Hopefully this will lead to further scholarship, some of which will be aimed at a less restricted audience beyond academia, and will be at a more affordable price. And I hope some of it is also taken up by activists, who use it to challenge the assumptions of Liddle and the rest of the close-minded bigots in the right-wing press and Tory party.

‘Three Right Wing Dinosaurs’: Dutch Economist Rutger Bregman Attacks Poor Journalism of Beeb’s ‘This Week’

March 25, 2019

Ho Ho! More criticism of the Beeb’s late night politics show, This Week, hosted by Andrew ‘Brillo Pad’ Neil, former editor of the Economist and the Sunset Times. Neil has already found his career cut short as BBC bosses consider axing one of his politics shows after Owen Jones raised the issue of the increasingly extreme Right-wing slant of his magazine, the Spectator. This was during a debate on one of his shows about the role the media plays in boosting the rise of the Fascist Right. Neil is chairman of the board of the company that publishes the arch-Tory Spectator, one of whose contributors is the noxious Greek playboy, Taki Theodoracopulos, otherwise known to readers of Private Eye as ‘Taki Takealotofcokeupthenos’ because of his conviction for cocaine possession some time ago. Taki’s columns are often racist, with a real streak of anti-Semitism. And in once recent issue of the Speccie, he praised the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn as just patriotic young people, who are bit rough about the edges. Which is a lie. The Golden Dawn are outright Nazi thugs, who beat up illegal immigrants. One of their leading members was arrested for murdering a left-wing activist. An clearly agitated Neil told Jones that he wasn’t responsible for the magazine’s content, but Jones carried on and pointed out that he was responsible for the appointment of the editor, Fraser Nelson. Neil tried changing the subject and talking over him, but Jones carried on, even when an exasperated Neil asked him if he was trying to get him sacked. The announcement that the Beeb was cancelling one of his shows came a week or so later, and may not be unconnected, despite the Beeb’s statement about it coming with professions of effusive pride in Brillo and his journalistic performance.

Brillo’s professionalism as a journalist, and that of his co-presenters, was cast into severe doubt a few days ago by the Dutch author, Rutger Bregman. Bregman’s best known for a viral video telling the super-rich at Davos to pay their taxes. Bregman’s written a book on how Utopia may be attainable, Utopia for Realists, and was invited on to Brillo’s show to discuss it with Michael Portillo and Alan Johnson, who were presumably the three dinosaurs Bregman described in a devastating Twitter account of his experience on the show. Bregman was colossally unimpressed by Neil and co’s complete lack of interest in his book. He stated they hadn’t read it, and didn’t even have a copy. Before they went on air, he was asked if he could say something about the EU. He refused on the grounds that it wasn’t his area of expertise. So he was asked to say something about the terrorist outrage in Utrecht. He refused to comment on that either, for the same reason. So the produce returned to asking him to comment on Brexit again, and got the same reply as before. He was then asked to make a two-minute video summarising his ideas. This, badly edited, was then played on the programme. He then found the three right-wing dinosaurs, two of whom were from the Stone Age, ganging up on him. They blatantly made up facts, telling him that inequality hadn’t grown and that the economy had never been better, changed the subject every ten seconds and hardly let you finish a sentence before it’s over. Bregman said

This was the worst experience I’ve had with UK media, but after quite a few interviews in different countries, I think I can say that, on average, British journalists are the least curious of all. So often, being ‘critical’ is just a pose.

He contrasted this with an interview he gave to Trevor Noah in the US. He also said that the good news was that there were new media in the UK filling the gap. The sharpest questions he had that week came from Aaron Bastani of Novara Media.

This criticism clearly stung Brillo, who tweeted back about how discriminatory towards old people it was to call them dinosaurs, and compared it with talking about Black or gay people in the same context. He was just asking legitimate questions, and as for being a dinosaur, he accused Bregman of reviving policies from Eisenhower in the 1950s and Milton Friedman in the 1960s.

Zelo Street pointed out that ‘dinosaur’ referred to a state of mind, and that his disparagement of Milton Friedman seemed also dismissive of his former idol, Maggie Thatcher, who was also a fan of Friedman at one point. As for policies from the 1950s, this was America under Eisenhower, which suggested that Ike was a Keynsian or an secret economist.

Brillo then roped in a few others to support him, but Zelo Street remained unimpressed, concluding:

Kicking off like that and justifying his behaviour by Retweeting sympathetic voices from the right – David Jack and Iain Martin, for instance – is not going to help either the BBC, or those wanting the Corporation to somehow accommodate Brillo, rather than just bin his late night show. And it won’t help The Great Man himself.
The age of Andrew Neil at the BBC was for a time, but not for all time.
http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2019-03-23T09:29:00Z&max-results=20
Mike in his article concluded with the observation that Ofcom might find it informative to watch the show. He said
This Writer sincerely hopes that Ofcom, which is currently investigating whether the BBC is honouring its obligation to be impartial in its news reporting, has been paying attention. If not, I would encourage Mr Bregman to get in touch with that organisation.
See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/03/23/is-ofcom-reading-euro-economist-bregmans-twitter-takedown-of-this-week-is-a-revelation/
I’m not surprised that Brillo and his fellow presenters or guests and the production team behaved like that. Media monitoring organisations have said for years that the Beeb has a pronounced pro-Tory bias, which has become increasingly explicit. Question Time has become particularly notorious for Fiona Bruce’s biased treatment of Diane Abbott, by the fact that the audience for the show have been repeatedly packed by Tories and Kippers. From Bregman’s account of his experience, it seems very clear that neither Brillo nor any of the others were remotely interested in the book, only in talking about Brexit, the EU or terrorism, issues which they felt they knew about. And they clearly didn’t know anything and didn’t want to know anything about Bregman’s ideas. Shows like This Week often book more guests than they can use in case someone drops out. John Spencer, a UFO researcher, described a similar experience he had back in the 1990s in one of his books. Looking at Bregman’s description, it’s possible that the person Brillo really wanted on his show was unavailable, so they brought on Bregman instead. Or it may be that they felt they needed to tackle his book, but idleness and right-wing complacency made them utterly uninterested in reading it and seriously discussing his ideas.
Either way, not only does This Week seem biased, it also looks extremely shallow in expecting him to present his ideas in two minutes, and actually dishonest in making up facts to assert against him. If you believe the Beeb, Neil is a master broadcaster with a keen grasp of the facts and able to get to grips at the real heart of the issues he is discussing. This would suggest otherwise.

Tony Greenstein on the Neocon Warmongering of Nick Cohen, Private Eye’s ‘Ratbiter’

March 20, 2019

This fortnight’s edition of Private Eye contains yet another piece by ‘Ratbiter’ promoting the fake story that Corbyn’s Labour party is just one seething mass of anti-Semites, and making these allegations against a couple of people in particular. I’ll blog about these latest claims in due course, as they’re very similar to the accusations used against others like Mike, who are very definitely not anti-Semites.

‘Ratbiter’ is the pseudonym used by GuardianObserver journalist Nick Cohen. According to a piece Tony Greenstein put up on his blog in October last year, 2018, Cohen at one time used to be a respectable journalist. He started writing for the Groan / Absurder during Blair’s tenure of No.10, but what actually respectable. He defended immigrants and asylum seekers against Blair’s attempts to demonise them and tighten up the anti-immigration legislation. And then along came 9/11, and he became a determined critic of Islam and a fervent supporter of Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq. Greenstein described this part of his journalistic career in a piece he put up defending Jon Lansman, the head of Momentum, who seems to believe the anti-Semitism smears. Cohen had attacked him for not doing enough to purge the organisation of Greenstein himself. Here’s how Greenstein described Cohen and his turn to the Right.

But first let me digress. There was a time, at the beginning of the Blair government, when Nick Cohen was a decent journalist. I even looked forward to reading his column in The Observer. No one was a more indefatiguable defender of asylum seekers from the depredations of a racist New Labour government than Cohen. Cohen was a mainstream Tribune style journalist.

Then something happened. As with Christopher Hitchens it was 9/11 and then the war with Iraq.  From being a left-wing journalist Cohen became transformed into an anti-Muslim bigot. No one, not even David Aaronovitch, banged the war drum more assiduously than Cohen. He did it, he said, in support of his anti-Baathist Iraqi friends, seemingly oblivious to the hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq, the murderous rampages of American troops, the torture centres and the deliberate policy of setting Shi’ites against Sunnis with all the devastatingly sectarian consequences that followed. To Cohen Iraq was a holy war and unlike Aaronovitch he never publicly recanted (Aaro promised to eat his hat, although to my knowledge this never happened).

Instead Cohen became one of the authors and founders of the short-lived Euston Manifesto group of neo-cons and imperialists. For him opposition to war meant you were inextricably intertwined with Islamic fundamentalism and inherently anti-Semitic. Naturally when Jeremy Corbyn came along Cohen joined the rest of the chorus at the Guardian/Observer in his ceaseless attacks on Labour’s most radical and left-wing leader ever. Nothing was too dirty or discredited to attack Corbyn with but it is nonetheless worth remembering that once upon a time Nick Cohen was a decent and genuine journalist.

Today Cohen operates under the pseudonym of ratbiter at Private Eye, acting as a conduit for whatever misinformation about the Left that the Right supplies him with. It is an appropriate name as his journalism, if that’s the right word, is certainly verminous. In this capacity he has written a series of attacks on Momentum’s Left in Brighton and in particular on my friend and comrade Greg Hadfield.

Greenstein then turns to taking apart the lies, smears and inaccuracies Cohen has made against the Momentum left in Brighton in that fortnight’s issue of Private Eye in a piece entitled ‘The New Nasty Party’. And he also reveals another magazine Cohen writes for: The Speccie. Greenstein writes

As befits a good socialist, not only does Nick Cohen write in Private Eye but he is a columnist at that well known socialist weekly The Spectator. And there it was that he attacked poor Lansman for not doing enough in the fight against ‘anti-Semitism’. Cohen starts off his column with the brainless comment that ‘being a Jew on the Corbyn left is soul crushing.’

Greenstein also add the remark that he was tempted to ask Cohen how he would know, as Cohen isn’t actually Jewish. He then goes on to attack the inaccuracies in another, previous article Cohen had written, and a piece on his blog. After describing this lies and inaccuracies, Greenstein concludes by stating that he wrote to the Guardian telling them he would be willing to replace both Cohen and Owen Jones for half their salaries. His offer was unsurprisingly rejected.

A picture of the man himself from Greenstein’s article. If you can’t read the caption, it says, ‘The worst thing about all the Fascists, charlatans and liars running the Leave campaign is all the bloody name calling! To which Greenstein adds a caption saying that he lacks a certain self-awareness.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2018/10/will-nick-cohen-guardians-hapless.html

Private Eye is therefore publishing highly biased pieces, which could well be considered defamatory – Greenstein said that the only reason he isn’t suing him is because he was already suing the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, and has the Jewish Chronicle and a certain unnamed councillor in his sights – by someone who fully supported and promoted an unprovoked, illegal war. A war that was really wages solely for the enrichment of predatory western multinationals and the American-Saudi oil industry. A war that has left a million dead and seven million displaced in the Middle East, quite apart from the carnage Greenstein describes in the passage quoted above.

But there, no source is apparently too low and no lie too vile in the media’s determination to oust Corbyn.

Zelo Street on the Mainstream Press and the New Zealand Mosque Shooting

March 17, 2019

We got the news today that, at lunch time New Zealand time, gun men shot the worshippers at two mosques over there, killing men, women and children. There are 49 dead, and many more wounded. Two men and a woman have been arrested. One of them is an Australian White supremacist. It’s particularly shocking as I understand that, while New Zealand has its problems with violent crime same as everywhere else, it’s largely quiet and peaceful compared with some other nations. I can remember talking to an elderly gentleman in my part of south Bristol, who was preparing to leave to join relatives out there. He said he was impressed with the humanity of the place. It’s still a country where neighbours greet and talk to each other, And now sadly racist, islamophobic violence has hit that nation too.

The good fellow at Crewe, who posts the Zelo Street blog, has put up a really good piece not only condemning the violence, and putting it in the context of the other massacres caused by Fascist maniacs – Anders Breivik at Utoya, the rabid anti-Semite who attacked the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the other bigots and racists who gun down and murder Jews, Muslims and gays, including children. He also points the finger at those, whose own politics and rhetoric of hate have helped to inspire such atrocities: the right-wing press. He makes the point that this hate long ago went beyond the extreme right-wing fringe, and discusses the extreme right-wing figures, from Donald Trump, Milo Yiannopolis and the Alt Right, to Tories like Boris Johnson. All of whom will claim that their venomous hatred of Muslims and minorities had nothing to do with these outrages. And he says very strongly that none of them can escape their responsibility for these events. He writes

It is an industry that does not exist in a vacuum: as with any malignant virus, once incubated, it has to spread if it is to have any effect. And here, our free and fearless press, and even our broadcast media, should hang their heads in shame, although they will not. They have published the hate merchants, given platforms to bigots, encouraged the demonisation of minorities, all for the momentary interest of profit and ratings.
Moreover, it is not just fringe media that has spread the virus of hatred. It long ago went beyond Breitbart, InfoWars and Rush Limbaugh. Now it has been transmitted by Fox News Channel, the Murdoch Sun, the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, the Express, the Spectator and others. Yet the management of those media outlets are not responsible for the end product of the hatred they enable. Nor are the figureheads of the hate movement.
So it is that Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Geert Wilders, Marine le Pen, Nigel Farage, Gerard Batten, Rod Liddle, Douglas Murray, Tony Gallagher, Paul Dacre, Trevor Kavanagh, Katie Hopkins, Stephen Yaxley Lennon, Paul Joseph Watson, Peter Imanuelsen, Martin Sellner, Brittany Pettibone, Lauren Southern, Milo Yiannopoulos, Taki Theororacopulos, Fraser Nelson, James Delingpole, Boris Johnson, and so many others will rest easy this morning, safe in the knowledge that It Wasn’t Them.
Well, I have news for this collective stain on humanity, this repellent convocation of amateur human beings, this vicious cohort of hate preachers. Don’t think any or all of you can duck responsibility for what happened in Christchurch. You cannot. This is where your ignorance, hatred and bigotry leads. This is the fruit of your ill thought out labours.
Damn you. Damn every last miserable, hate-filled, bigoted, snivelling, cowardly, intolerant, selfish, worthless, uncaring one of you. Damn you all to hell.
See: http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/03/mosque-shootings-this-is-where-hatred.html
Absolutely.

Liddle and Phillips Hold ‘Freedom to Offend’ Event – But No-One Seems Interested

March 8, 2019

More fun at the expense of right-wing hacks and hate-mongers Rod Liddle and Melanie Phillips from Private Eye. According to this fortnight’s edition, for 8th-21st March 2019, Liddle and Phillips held an event supporting the ‘freedom to offend’. But no-one was interested. The article on page 8 runs

FORGET the Rumble in the Jungle; consign Frost v Nixon to the history books. As the Eye went to press this Monday evening, London was preparing itself for the event that would eclipse them all: “Spectator and Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle makes the case for the freedom to offend. Rod will be in conversation with Melanie Phillips”.

For just £32.50, organisers at the How to Academy were offering tickets to a “no-holes-barred (sic) approach to what it is and is not acceptable to say in the 21st century”.

Alas, despite the Spectator’s boast last year that Liddle’s pulling power was enough to sell out the 2,300-seat London Palladium,m his popularity seems to have wanted. A full fortnight before the Rod/Mel smackdown, self-described audience-booster website Central Tickets was trying to convince its “community of seat fillers” to make up the numbers at the event, paying just a “nominal booking fee” of £4. Any gluttons for punishment taking up the offer were given strict instructions: “Don’t mention complimentary tickets in or around the venue. Do not make social media posts referencing free tickets.

The Tory press has been pushing the ‘freedom to offend’ stance for some time. It’s part of the usual torrent of complaints about ‘political correctness’ stifling free speech. And they are also ostensibly firmly against racist hate crimes being investigated as such only on the perception of the person offended. Over two decades ago I remember the Heil publishing a long rant against Labour’s introduction of this legislation, complaining that perfectly decent people would now be accused of racism simply on the subjective judgment of the offended person.

Er, no. That’s not what the legislation says. As Mike’s pointed out time and again, the legislation states that a possible hate crime is to be recorded as a hate crime if the victim believes that it is, but is to be investigated in the same way as any other crime. And this includes ascertaining whether it is, in fact, a hate crime.

And it’s cant and hypocrisy anyway. The right really isn’t interested in the ‘right to offend’ as such. Both Liddle and Phillips are venomous islamophobes. Liddle is notorious for saying that there should be more islamophobia in the Tory party, while Phillips is constantly talking about the threat Islam poses to Judaeo-Christian western and British society. She published the book, Londonistan, about how the country’s capital is now the largest centre of Muslim terrorists in Europe. When these two talk about the right to offend, like the Mail and the rest of the right-wing press they mean the freedom to demonise and vilify Blacks and other ethnic minorities. And particularly Muslims.

But this doesn’t apply to Zionists and Zionist Jews, as the press is fully against anyone offending them. And this is what many of the anti-Semitism accusations come down to: not that Jews were really being vilified or demonised, as they notoriously were by the Nazis in the pages of Der Sturmer. Or that the information in the material which forms the basis of their complaints is incorrect. That’s irrelevant. Shai Masot at the Israeli embassy was certainly conspiring with British officials to have Alan Duncan removed from the government, but simply describing it as a conspiracy is anti-Semitic. Because of the real anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, you see. No, they’re quite happy to accuse innocent, decent people of anti-Semitism due to personal offence. Marc Wadsworth was accused of anti-Semitism partly because, according to the Heil, he had made Ruth Smeeth cry. He hadn’t, but fact has never been of particular concern to the Heil in these matters. And Mike was accused of anti-Semitism because someone had been ‘upset’ by one of his pieces. And then there’s the matter of libel. Because it was the Sunset Times, along with other rags like the Jewish Chronicle, which published the libels against Mike that he’s an anti-Semite and holocaust-denier.

In fact, I fully support the ‘right to offend’. George Orwell wrote about the political writer’s job being to tell people things that they don’t want to hear. It’s a quotation often used by news journalists, including hacks like Liddle. But Liddle and Phillips aren’t really interested in the right to tell uncomfortable truths. That’s why the right has given its full, malign support to the anti-Semitism smears and witchhunt in the Labour party. They’re only interested in the right to smear, and create racial hatred and division. Because it’s through racism and hatred, including that of the poor, the unemployed, and ethnic minorities, that the Tories thrive and their vile press sells their papers.

But possibly not for much longer. By and large the younger generation is much less racist than the older generation of readers and bigots, who seem to be the core of the internet groups demanding that Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson should lead the Tory party. And the Spectator and Sunset Times were clearly promoting Liddle and Phillips as a pair of journalistic big hitter, who could be expected to draw crowds in. But they didn’t. And I hope this will continue, until there’s no-one left reading these genteel, up-market hate-sheets.