Posts Tagged ‘The Times’

More Fearmongering from the Murdoch Press: Times Names British Politicians Appearing on RT as ‘Helpers of Putin’

October 12, 2017

You can really feel the fear coming off the mainstream press in waves now, and with this story Murdoch appears to be the most frightened and desperate. This short clip from RT reports and comments on two pieces in the Times today, which named the British politicians, who had appeared on RT. Most of these were from the Labour party, but there were also a select number of Conservatives. One of the pieces was entitled ‘Helping Putin’, and claimed that the politicos going on the Russian-owned station were guilty of helping the Russian president interfere in British politics. Not only did the Times name the individual politicians, it also gave details of how many times they had appeared on RT, and the amounts they’d been paid. Among those outed are the Shadow Energy Secretary, Barry Gardiner, the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, the Welsh MP David Davies, the MP Nigel Evans, and the Shadow Lord Chancellor Richard Burgon.

The RT’s own Polly Boiko remarks that traditionally in Britain, speaking to the media was seen one of our democratic freedoms. She then walks into the studio of RT’s ‘Going Underground’ to talk to the programme’s host, Afshin Rattansi. Rattansi remarks that the story’s ‘pretty shoddy stuff’, and the Times has not come to RT for their comment on this story. He also says that they’ve had not just Labour politicians on the programme, but also Tories as well as those from other parties. They come on the programme as they know they will be listened to. As for ‘helping Putin’, this is an attempt to scare people off the broadcaster by connecting them to Jeremy Corbyn. Boiko asks him if he believes that this will make it difficult for RT to get politicians on to his show. Rattansi states that it was initially difficult, but it has now become much easier as they’ve become established and known for listening to their speakers.

The Russian embassy have also given their response to the accusation, asking if that means that the Russian politicos, who have appeared on the BBC, have been helping the British government.

This looks to me like the Murdoch press doing what it has so often done in the past: kick up a ‘Red Scare’ in order to stop people voting Labour. The Times is copying the attacks on RT America over the other side of the Pond by the Republicans and Corporatist Democrats, who are terrified because increasingly more severely normal Americans are preferring to get their news from alternative media outlets, like RT, rather than believe anything from the biased and compromised mainstream broadcasters. Like Fox News, which is solidly Republican to the core, and whose main host, Bill O’Reilly, and one of its chief executives, Roger Ailes, were both sacked as serial sexual harassers. Obama’s election victory in 2008 was credited to a campaign for him on social media, and it has been social media that’s played a very large part in the massive growth in popularity for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party, in opposition to a barrage of lies and smears from the mainstream press and broadcasters.

And Murdoch in particular is threatened by this. Fox News audience is very largely in their late 60s. I think the average age is 68, which means that it is signally failing to attract and influence the younger folks, who are turning instead to Bernie Sanders over in America and Corbyn in Britain. As for the Times, the paper is actually losing money hand over fist, to the point where Private Eye remarked that it would have been closed down long ago if it were not the British ‘paper of record’. Murdoch keeps it propped up so that he has a place at the table influencing our politicians.

Lobster and other commenters have observed that over the past decades, Murdoch has used his power in the British press to make deals with various governments. His papers support them and give them popularity as an a kind of unofficial official press, while in return they give in to Murdoch’s own agenda. This means that they grant him important business concessions, such as purchasing rival satellite and cable networks and generally expanding his squalid little empire. At the same time, they also listen very carefully to his wider political agenda, which has always consisted of smashing workers’ rights, and deregulating and privatising the economy. And that includes the NHS.

Clearly, with this story, Murdoch’s starting to become afraid that time’s running out for this scam. People are turning away from the mainstream media, including and particularly the Murdoch press, which has always had a reputation for sensationalist trash and gross rightwing political bias. And if nobody reads his papers, or watches Sky News, not only is Murdoch’s empire failing in itself, but so is his power to influence British and American politics.

He’s panicking, and it’s clear he’s panicking.

Of course, this isn’t the first time he’s attempted to smear respectable politicos as traitors and agents of Moscow. He’s done that many times before. Way back in the 1990s or early part of this century, the Times under its editor, David Leppard, printed a completely bogus story that Michael Foot, the former Labour leader, had been a KGB agent codenamed ‘Comrade Boot’. This was a highly credible story, as shown by the way Private Eye sent it up on their front page. This showed Foot walking his dog, which was cocking its leg on a tree. The tree, in turn, was attempting to contact Foot in code. Not surprisingly, Foot sued for libel and won.

Then there was the Scum’s attempt to smear various Labour politicians as Commies in the 1987 general election. Among those targeted were Labour politicians, who had spoken to or written for the Marxist press. Shock! Horror! Except that the politicos they tried to smear in this way weren’t actually Communists, nor even necessarily Marxists. They were largely mainstream Labour politicians, who had just written for the Marxist press on a particular issue. They also smeared Red Ken as a Marxist, when those, who knew him, said he wasn’t, though he wasn’t averse to using them and sounding like them on occasion. They also claimed that Peter Tatchell was a member of the Trotskyite entryist group, Militant Tendency, when he was no such thing. As well as making other spurious claims based on his homosexuality.

This is all the kind of stuff the right-wing British press has been doing since the infamous ‘Zinoviev Letter’ of the 1920s. This was an attempt by one of the newspapers to scare people away from voting Labour by publishing a letter from the head of the Comintern, Zionviev, to the Labour party, which purported to show that they were going to collaborate with Russia and turn the country into a Communist dictatorship. Except that the letter was a fake, a forgery, probably cooked up by MI5.

I’ve reposted a number of stories from RT, simply because the broadcaster is doing an excellent job of covering stories that the mainstream British media, including the Beeb, aren’t. This doesn’t mean I support Putin. I don’t. He’s an extremely authoritarian thug, and I don’t doubt that the stories of his own massive corruption are true. But that doesn’t mean that the stories reported by RT are false, or that RT isn’t doing proper journalism when it reveals them. In fact, it seems to me that RT is very much doing this, and it is precisely this that has got Murdoch and the Republicans and Clintonite Democrats in America running scared.

The Russian word for newspaper is ‘Gazeta’. The Russian word for the type of journalism practised by the Murdoch empire is ‘govno’. Which is Russian for ‘Sh*t’.

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From RT: ‘The Sun Won’t Be Able to Boast They Won It Ever Again

September 29, 2017

Yesterday Mike over at Vox Political put up a brilliant piece reporting how the media, and particularly the Beeb, got very defensive after Jeremy Corbyn remarked at the Labour Conference on the attacks against them from the press and media. He particularly mentioned the Daily Mail, and went further to praise the way social media had worked to provide a more balanced, objective coverage of the Labour party and its leadership.

This was cheered by many people on Twitter, who were really impressed by the way Corbyn had shown he was strong enough to criticize the Heil, which is the second largest selling newspaper in the country. The Beeb and the rest of the media also responded by getting very huffy about the criticism directed at them. In the case of the Beeb this was the old nonsense that they are utterly impartial, and only fools believe otherwise, while the social media in highly unreliable and just retails falsehoods.

It’s a flat-out lie. Since the Beeb began to try to tear down Jeremy Corbyn, the BBC has received any number of angry letters criticizing their flagrant bias, with Nick Robinson and Laura Kuenssberg specifically criticized. Robinson is, of course, the ‘Macclesfield Goebbels’, who was head of the branch at the Tory party when he was at university there, and who then went on to have a very long career in the party. Apart from his clear bias against Labour, he was responsible for an appalling piece of doctored news worthy of Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany during the debate about the Scots Referendum. He asked the-then leader of the SNP Alex Salmond about what would happen to the Scots financial houses in Edinburgh if Scotland voted for independence. Salmond supplied him with a full answer. This was then heavily edited in subsequent reports so that it appeared first that Salmond fudged the answer, and then Robinson claimed he hadn’t answered at all.

As for Kuenssberg, who has also shown herself to be so biased against Labour, I’m considering calling her Arnalda Mussolini, after Arnaldo Mussolini, the brother of the Italian dictator, who produced propaganda for his sibling’s dictatorship. Arnalda was declared to be completely unbiased, despite the fact that she spoke at a fringe meeting at the Tory conference.

And it is by no means fools or the uninformed, who seriously doubt the Beeb’s objectivity. Experts at the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff, and the authors of books like The BBC: The Myth of a Public Service have also produced ample proof of the corporation’s bias against Labour and the left.

After Corbyn took a well-aimed pot shot at the Heil, McDonnell dared to criticize the Scum. In this clip from RT, he states that the Sun under Rupert Murdoch was extremely biased against Labour, and that people have realized it and seen through them. This is shown by the results of the last election. And people’s skepticism towards the Scum and the other established media is now so strong, that the Scum will never again be able to claim that it was ‘the Sun Wot Won It’, as that newspaper did after yet another victory for Thatcher in the 1980s.

It looks to me we’re going to get more angry denunciations of the entirely justified criticism of their bias by the Beeb and the rest of the press and mainstream media, and more frightened ranting about how pernicious and unreliable social media is. In fact, McDonnell is absolutely right. People are turning more to social media and the internet for their views. It was the internet that was partly responsible for the rise of Barak Obama. It is social media and the internet that’s driving much of the support for Corbyn and the return of socialism in the Labour party.

And Corbyn’s and McDonnell’s gibes about the Heil and Scum show that the Labour leadership now has a confidence and combativeness that it lacked under Blair. Blair accepted totally the idea that you couldn’t possibly act against the wishes of a hostile press. Hence he was keen to get the support of the Murdoch press, including the Scum, and wanted desperately to get the Heil over on his side. He succeeded with Murdoch, but was disappointed, though still hopeful, with Vere Harmsworth’s mighty organ.

In fact, the circulation of all the papers is falling, including that of the Scum. The Times’ circulation is now so low that, were it not the British paper of record, it would have been closed down long ago. The Scum has shown in the past that it has the ability to swing elections, but even so there is massive public cynicism and dissatisfaction with the Murdoch press and its extreme right-wing bias. The impression I had is that while Murdoch can influence elections, and curry influence with mercenary politicos like Blair by offering them good publicity in exchange for business favours, the Murdoch empire’s readership is contracting so that it may never be able to do this again in the future.

Let’s hope that’s the case, and that a Labour victory will show how utterly petty and insignificant the Scum now really is.

Guy Debord’s Cat on the Deceptive Charm of Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Fascist Entryism in the Tory Party

August 26, 2017

The current popularity amongst the Tories and their lackeys for Jacob Rees-Mogg is a particular concern of mine. Mogg is the highly privileged son of William Rees-Mogg, a titled member of the aristocracy, who wrote at various times for the Times and Independent. Rees-Mogg senior lived in one of the villages around Bath, if I recall correctly. His son is the Tory MP for north Somerset, just south of where I live in Bristol.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has somehow endeared himself to the Tories and part of the British public through his polite, aristocratic and anachronistic demeanour. He’s been called ‘the minister for the 18th century’. He now has a fan club, Moggmentum, in imitation of Corbyn’s support group of Momentum. He also has 25,000 followers on Twitter. One fan of his in Somerset is such a mad fan of his, that he had Mogg’s face tattooed on him, which became one of the evening’s news stories for the local news programme, Points West here in Bristol a few weeks ago. He’s so popular indeed, that he’s being touted as a possible successor to Theresa May.

This should terrify anyone, with any real idea of politics and the true state of this country. For his smooth, cultured and quiet-spoken politesse, Mogg’s own views are highly reactionary, and frankly horrific. He began his career as a politician campaign in Fife, where the major platform of his campaign was trying to convince impoverished fisherfolk that retaining an hereditary House of Lords was supremely important and beneficial. And as a blue-blooded aristo, he is convinced that the poor should be kept firmly in their place, serving and transferring whatever wealth they have to the rich and powerful. A little while ago Mike did a feature on him on his blog. He discussed the numerous instances in which Mogg had consistently voted down bills, which would improve conditions for the poor and disabled, and voted instead for cutting benefits and privatizing what’s left of the welfare state.

It probably isn’t too much to say that many of those, who vote for him either believe themselves to be of the same class as him, and so will also benefit by his efforts to restore aristocratic privilege. Or else they’re members of the lower classes, who have been convinced through repetition of the same claims down the generations that the aristocracy are the country’s natural rulers, and working people should know their place. Like the various servants Mum met while working in that part of Somerset, who voted Tory because that’s the way Master voted.

Guy Debord’s Cat has written a very good piece over on his site, describing just how vile Mogg and what he represents actually are. He writes

It’s a sure sign of the Conservative Party’s dearth of talent that Jacob Rees Mogg should be talked up as a possible successor to the hapless and utterly useless Theresa May. Many people find Moggy endearing. They love his plummy RP accent. They love his double-breasted suit jackets. They love his fustiness. They love his toffee-nosed demeanour and they love his apparently Waugh-esque wit. At Nowhere Towers we take a different view: we find him tiresome and representative of an ages old problem with Britain. Namely, he reeks of privilege and his accent and ‘eccentric’ charm masks a ruthlessness and cruelty that is common to many members of his class.

When it comes to loving one’s oppressor, the Brits have both rationalized and elevated their oppression a fine art. We love our posh bastards. Don’t we? Remember how people fawned over Bozza? I haven’t forgotten. Both of them went to Eton and Oxford. Both of them are seen as rather buffoonish, though for very different reasons. And both are seen as thoroughly British eccentrics. But that’s the problem: many people refuse to see through their media-constructed façades and choose to see oh-so-disarming posh twits instead. Please, wake up!

That Moggy should be touted by some Tories as a counterweight to Jeremy Corbyn’s soaring popularity speaks volumes about the parlous condition of his party and the dire health of our media.

He goes on to mention three articles taking apart Mogg, his highly deceptive appeal, exposing what he really represents, from Skwawkbox, the New Statesman and Victor Lewis-Smith. But he goes on to discuss an event the other articles don’t. This is the time in 2013 when Mogg went off to a formal, black tie dinner with the Traditional Britain Group. His article includes a photo from the evening, showing Mogg seated next to two truly horrific fixtures of the British Far Right, Jack Buckby of the Cultural Nationalists and the BNP, and Gregory Lauder-Frost.

The Traditional Britain Group itself, from what I’ve seen of it, is another xenophobic, anti-immigrant, racist group, which particularly despises Islam. They also want to restore the old class system and privatize the NHS. Gerry Gable of the anti-Nazi organization, Searchlight, warned Mogg not to attend. But he did. When he was exposed by the press, he made a gushing Mea Culpa condemning racism, distancing himself from them, and claimed he had been misinformed and acted in ignorance.

To me, this is less than convincing. As the French philosophical feline points out, most people if invited to attend a function by a group they know nothing about would try to know what it stood for first.

The article then goes on to discuss just how unpleasant Buckby and Lauder-Frost are. As well as founding the National Culturalists, which was banned on campus as a racist, Fascist organization by the Students’ Guild at Liverpool University, Buckby was also a member of the BNP. He was their candidate for the Batley and Spen bye-election, caused by the assassination of Jo Cox. Which shows this character’s complete lack of class. He was also press officer for Liberty GB. The Cat’s article states that it is anti-immigration. That’s true, but it’s also specifically against one ethnic group of immigrants: Muslims. It was founded as part of the Islamophobic ‘counter-jihad’ movement by many of the same people involved in the EDL.

Demonstrating Buckby’s personal nastiness, the Cat’s article has a clip of him being interviewed by Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 News, along with an Irish expert on White supremacist and Fascist movements and a young Black woman from Black students’ group. Guru-Murthy makes it very clearly that he despises Buckby’s views, but has to interview him as part of the programme’s mission to investigate minority opinions. Buckby spends much of the interview vehemently denying that he is at all racist, while loudly declaring that we shouldn’t allow more Muslim immigrants into the country because of their inherently violent, criminal nature. When one of the two women argues against him, he replies by saying ‘I hope you don’t get raped.’ Because all Muslims are rapists, right?

Lauder-Frost, it seems, is a former member of the Monday Club, who used to chair their Foreign Affairs Committee, and is the Traditional Britain Group’s vice-president and treasurer. Before joining them, he was one of the steering committee of the Conservative Democratic Alliance, formed by disaffected members of the Monday Club. There’s also a clip of him being interviewed on Vanessa Feltz’s radio show. Lauder-Frost spends much of the interview sneering at Doreen Lawrence, whom he feels should not have been elevated to the House of Lords. Because she’s ‘a nothing’, who he claims hasn’t done anything for this country and despises it. It’s not hard to see behind his attitude a mixture of racism and sheer class snobbery. Doreen Lawrence is a Black woman, and not a member of the British aristocracy. Hence Lauder-Frost is utterly horrified at her taking a seat in the upper house.

Now it’s true that Doreen Lawrence has made statements where she has said she doesn’t have any love for this country. Or that’s how it’s been reported. It grates, but she has every right. Her son, Stephen, was murdered by a gang of racist thugs, who got off scot-free. The Met investigating his murder was corrupt and riddled with racism, and the thugs were the sons of notorious gang bosses. See the press coverage at the time, and also Private Eye passim ad nauseam. She then dedicated her life to trying to obtain justice for her murdered child. This is a far better reasons for being given an honour than simply being Dave Cameron’s hairdresser.

Lauder-Frost also waffles on about how immigrant groups don’t support this country at sports matches, which recalls Norman Tebbitt’s infamous comment about coloured immigrants not supporting Britain at cricket. He also recommends that we should go back to the Tory party’s 1970s promise for ‘assisted repatriation’ for coloured immigrants to go back to their countries of origin. Feltz is definitely not impressed, and pointedly asks him where she should go, as she’s Jewish, and one set of her grandparents came from Poland, while another of her antecedents was also not British. Lauder-Frost simply says that if he was a Zionist, he would say she should go to Israel. To cap it all, Lauder-Frost is also a massive fan of the Nazis. No wonder Feltz was unimpressed. As were no doubt every other decent person listening to the programme, regardless of ethnicity or religious beliefs.

The TBG was also invited to a dinner by the Bow Group, another outfit like the Monday Club on the extreme right of the Tories. The Cat cites Louise Haigh, the Labour politico, who managed to get the Nazi youth group, Britain First, banned, who states very clearly that Lauder-Frost’s comments about Doreen Laurence and assisted repatriation are racist, and that the Bow Group should not invited them to their functions.

The TBG’s other vice-president is Professor John Kersey, a traditionalist Roman Catholic clergyman, a professor at a right-wing university with branches in the Caribbean and West Africa, who is nostalgic for the old days of feudalism. If you follow the link on the Cat’s blog, you come to a site for the British followers of the Austrian Libertarian, Von Mises. Kersey is also the Director of Cultural Affairs of the Libertarian Alliance.

Other members of the Traditional Britain Group are Stuart Millson and Jonathan Bowden. Together these two charmers founded the Revolutionary Conservative Caucus. Millson was also a former member of the BNP and an officer in Western Goals, which the Cat describes as ‘semi-Fascist’. He’s not alone in this assessment. Western Goals also got into the pages of Lobster as a Far Right organization. Also in the Revolutionary Conservative Caucus was Mark Cotterill a former member of the NF. The Cat then describes how Millson joined the Tories despite being a member of the BNP and having had dinner with Jean-Marie Le Pen. The Tories refused to throw him out, and Millson only resigned after this was exposed by the Mirror.

The Cat’s article concludes

The Tories may deny it, but many of their members are sympathetic to groups like the TBG. Indeed, in the 1970s NF members joined local Conservative Clubs and were members of the Monday Club. Others are members of The Freedom Association, the faux libertarian pressure group that talks warmly about their idea of ‘freedom’, while working hard to deny it to others. Tories may complain about ‘entryism’ in the Labour Party, but for decades extreme-right entryists joined the party and they’re still joining.

Moggy’s antiquated views are only matched by his sartorial style. If you find him amusing or endearing, you might want to ask yourself this: what kind of friends are the TBG? Rees Mogg only apologised when he got caught by Liberal Conspiracy. If that had never happened, Moggy would have got away with it. Makes you wonder…

The Cat’s article also has a link to the original piece by the Liberal Conspiracy website.

For more information, see: https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/08/01/friends-like-these/

The Cat certainly ain’t wrong about Fascist infiltration of the Tory party. Lobster a few decades ago devoted several pieces to exposing this. And it’s something else you won’t see being reported by the Beeb. Way back in the 1980s the BBC was due to screen a Panorama expose, ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency’, on the Far Right’s infiltration of the Tory. Maggie and the Tories, however, threw a strop and the BBC was forced to spike the programme.

As for the Libertarians, their definition of liberty is definitely reserved only for the upper classes. They hate socialism, trade unions and organized labour. I can’t remember which one of the libertarian organisations actually did it, but one of them invited the head of a central American death squad to their annual dinner. As for Kersey being a fan of feudalism, this adds a new dimension to Von Hayek’s book, The Road to Serfdom. Von Hayek thought it was socialism, but as subsequent events show, it’s really the far right-wing economics he advocated.

Libertarians have always denied being Fascists, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that’s exactly what they are. I’ve put up several pieces from the American YouTuber, Reichwing Watch, on how Libertarian not only shares many of the same tenets and attitudes of Fascism and Nazism, but that its adherents are beginning to admit this quite openly. One Black YouTuber, ‘That Guy T’, discusses and advocates ‘anarcho-Fascism’ on his vlog.

As for Mogg, while he denies sharing the Traditional Britain Group’s racism, he certainly shares their attitude towards aristocratic privilege, and keeping the poor and marginalized so. It shows how corrupt and class-ridden this country is that this man is at all popular, let alone an MP and possible successor to May.

On the Selection of a Female Dr. Who

August 6, 2017

The week before last, the BBC finally broke the tension and speculation surrounding the identity of the actor, who is going to play the next Doctor. They announced that the 13th Dr would be played by Jodie Whitaker, an actress, who has appeared in a number of crime dramas. Like many people, I was shocked by this radical departure from tradition, but not actually surprised. The Doctor has been male for the past fifty years, but thirty years ago the Beeb announced that it was considering making the next Doctor a woman as Tom Baker was leaving the role and preparing to hand it on to the next actor. In fact, the announcement was joke dreamed up by the Baker and one of the producers and writing team, and the role went to Peter Davison. The announcement of a possible female Doctor resulted in a few jokes, such as ‘the most painful regeneration of them all’. One of the British SF media magazines – I can’t remember whether it was Starburst or Dr. Who Magazine, then went on to make a serious point, that nothing was known about the Time Lord family, and so it was quite plausible that this alien race could change their genders during regeneration.

I can also remember Mike telling me at the time that there was also a feminist group in the European parliament, who wanted a female Doctor, who would have a male assistant, which she would patronise, in a reverse of the usual situation. The role of women in Dr. Who has been somewhat contentious down the years. Critics, like the Times journalist Caitlin Moran, the author of How To Be A Woman, have criticised the show’s portrayal of women in the Doctor’s companions. She claimed a few years ago on a TV segment about the show that they usually were there to say, ‘But Doctor, I don’t understand’. Others have also made the point that their role tended to be stereotypically passive and traditional. They were to scream when threatened by the monster, and be rescued by the Doctor. It’s quite a controversial statement, though I do remember seeing one of the team behind the Classic Dr. Who saying that there was some truth in it. They had tried to make the Doctor’s female companions less stereotypical, and stronger. So you had Zoe, one of Patrick Troughton’s companions, who was a computer scientist from the future. Romana was a Time Lady, who had majored in psychology at the Academy. In her first appearance in the Tom Baker serial, ‘The Ribos Operation’, it was made clear that she was actually more intelligent than the Doctor, who had scraped through his degree after he retook his exam. Sarah Jane Smith was a feisty female journalist, who was fully prepared to talk back to the Doctor, representing the new generation of independent young women that came in with ‘Women’s Lib’ in the ’70s. And the strongest female companion of them all has to be Leela, a female warrior of the Sevateem, a primitive tribe descended from a group of astronauts sent to investigate a jungle world. Leela mostly wore only a leather bikini, but she was skilled with the knife and the deadly Janus Thorn, a poisonous plant, whose venom killed within minutes. Leela was quite capable of defending herself and protecting the Doctor. In the serial ‘The Invisible Enemy’, for much of the story she is the active member of the team, after she proves immune to the sentient virus that infects and paralyses the Doctor. There were also attempts to introduce strong female villains, such as the Rani, a renegade Time Lady of the same stripe as the Master, but who specialised in genetic engineering and biological transformation rather than mechanical engineering. But the producer or writer conceded that as time went on, these strong female characters tended to become weaker and more stereotypical, so that they ended up screaming and waiting to be rescued by the Doctor.

The stereotypical role of the female companions has become more outdated as traditional gender roles in society have changed, and Science Fiction as a genre began exploring and challenging issues of gender and sexuality. There’s a tradition of feminist SF, which has been present from the emergence of the genre in the late 19th century, but which became more prominent with the rise of the modern feminist movement in the 1960s. A few years an anthology of female utopias, created by late 19th and early 20th century female writers, Herland, was published. It took its title from that of a female utopia described by an early American feminist and campaigner for women’s suffrage. Feminist SF writers include Joanna Russ, Ursula K. Le Guin, best known for her ‘Earthsea’ fantasy novels, and Sheri S. Tepper. Russ is an American academic, and the author of The Female Man. She considers that the rise of the women’s movement is a far more revolutionary and profound social change than space travel and the other technological conventions of Science Fiction. And many of these SF authors, both female and male, have created worlds and species, in which the genders are fluid.

In Le Guin’s The Word for World Is Forest, conditions on the planet on which the book is set are so harsh, that little time is available for procreation. The people there are neuter for most of the time. However, they have a breeding season, during which they may become male or female. However, the adoption of a particular gender doesn’t necessarily recur, so that a person, who is female one season may be the male in the following season, and vice versa. Michael Moorcock also experimented with gender identity in some of his books. The Eternal Champion may be male or female, depending on incarnation. And at the end of the Jerry Cornelius book, The Final Programme, Cornelius is transformed into a beautiful hermaphrodite, which leads humanity to its destruction.

Other SF writers have envisoned futures, where humans are able to transform the bodies in a variety of ways, according to taste, including switching genders. In Gregory Benford’s ‘Galactic Centre’ novel, Across the Sea of Suns, the crew of an Earth ship sent to investigate the centre of the Galaxy following the attack of the Mechs, a hostile galaxy-spanning machine civilisation, devise special pods, which can remake and refresh the crew. This includes changing gender. And Ian M. Banks ‘Culture’ novels are also set in a future, where humans are able to use technology to switch genders easily. In Alastair Reynolds’ Chasm City, the bored, immortal rich of the titular city on a world orbiting Epsilon Eridani, are able to use nanotechnology and genetic manipulation to change their appearance, often into outlandish forms. One character, a woman, is called ‘Zebra’, because she has covered her self in black and white stripes, and sculpted her hair into a mane that runs down her back. She tells the hero, Tanner Mirabel, that this is only her latest appearance, and that she will probably change it and move on to another in the future. She also states that she hasn’t always been female either.

In the 1990s there was a particularly strong demand for Science Fiction to challenge gender stereotypes. This was a reaction to the traditional image of the genre as dominated by White males, and focused on issues of surrounding technology and hard science. Thus one of the American SF societies launched the Arthur C. Clarke award for Science Fiction that challenged traditional stereotypes. There has also been a demand for a better representation of women amongst the genre’s writers. The anthology of ‘Dieselpunk’ stories therefore has roughly as many women writers as men.

The exploration of gender roles has also included explorations of sexuality, including same sex attraction. Gay fans of Star Trek in the 1980s hoped that the new series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, would include a gay character, a wish echoed by David Gerrold, one of the writers of the Classic Trek series. They were disappointed when the series did feature a story, where Riker becomes romantically involved with a member of the Jnai, an alien race, who have evolved beyond gender, but where it re-emerges occasionally amongst a persecuted culture of throwbacks. Riker becomes attracted to one of these throwbacks, a female, and attempts to rescue her after she is arrested. However, he arrives too late. The corrective treatment meted out to such people has worked, and she is now as sexless as the rest of them.

Gay fans of the series felt that they had been cheated. Instead of a forthright endorsement of homosexuality, they’d been given a kind of half-hearted nod. The issue of gay rights was there, but so heavily disguised that it may as well not have been there at all. They also objected to it on the grounds thta it seemed to reinforce the prejudiced view of opponents of gay rights, who declare that it is about removing gender altogether. This prejudiced was clearly expressed by the conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, a couple of years ago on his show, Infowars. Jones ranted that gay rights was a ‘transhumanist space cult’ intent on creating a race of genderless, cyborg people.

Er, not quite.

Gay characters and the exploration of alternative sexuality have been part of Science Fiction since William S. Burroughs’ books The Naked Lunch, and Samuel R. Delaney, a Black American writer, who also uses his novels to explore racial issues. Gay characters and issues of gender and sexuality have also been a strong element in the modern Dr. Who series. Captain Jack Harkness, a time traveller from the future, who became the lead character in the spinoff series Torchwood, is bisexual, and Ianto in the second series of that show was gay. This is probably mainly due to the series having a strong gay following, and that the writer behind its revival, Russell T. Davis, is also gay. For those, who can remember that far back, he was the creator of the gay series, Queer As Folk on Channel 4 in the 1990s.

There’s a sort of inevitability to the news that the next Doctor would be female, as the new Dr. Who series has also experimented with issues of gender roles. In the episode, ‘The Doctor’s Wife’, Matt Smith’s Doctor revealed that the Time Lords changed their gender, when explaining that another Time Lord he knew always retained the tattoo of a serpent on their arm throughout their regenerations, even when they were female. In the series before last, a Time Lord general shot by Peter Capaldi’s Doctor regenerates as female. And then, of course, there’s Missy, who is the female incarnation of the Master. My guess is that these changes were partly used to gauge how the audience would respond to a new Doctor. Once it was shown that most accepted the idea that Time Lords could regenerate as the opposite sex, then the way was clear for a female Doctor.

The show has also several times had strong female leads, while the Doctor has been more passive. Thus, in the last episode of the First Series, ‘Bad Wolf’, Rose Tiler becomes virtually a goddess, mistress of space and time, after peering into the heart of the TARDIS, saving Earth and Christopher Ecclestone’s Doctor from the Daleks. Catherine Tate’s character similarly rescued David Tennant’s Doctor from Davros and his Daleks after she gained all his knowledge as a Time Lord. And in one of the stories featuring the revived Zygons, it seemed to me that apart from the Doctor, all the characters in positions of authority – the heads of UNIT, scientists and so on, were all female.

The programme has also experimented with male gender roles. In one story about a year or so ago, one of the characters is a man, who has an alternative identity as a superhero following his childhood encounter with an alien device that can grant people’s deepest wishes. In his normal life, he’s a childminder.

It’s been said that there’s a division between TV and film SF, and literary Science Fiction, with the audience for TV and film uninterested in science fiction literature. I don’t believe that’s entirely the case, and the audiences for the various media clearly overlap. And literary SF has had an influence on Doctor Who. In the 1980s the BBC tried to recruit SF writers to give the series a great connection with SF literature. And several of the stories in recent Dr. Who series have shown the influence of literary SF. For example, in the last series, Earth suddenly became a forest planet, as the trees grew and spread everywhere. This, it was revealed, was to save humanity from some cosmic disaster. This looks quite similar to a book by Sheri S. Tepper, in which trees come to life to save people from danger and disaster. And to me, the name of space station in the last series’ story, ‘Breath’, Chasm Forge, sounds a bit too close to ‘Chasm City’ to be entirely coincidental, although the two stories are very different.

I also think that there have been social and political considerations that may have influenced the decision to make the next Doctor female. As well as the general demand within SF fandom for more women writers and female-centred stories, I got the impression that the audience for SF on TV may have slightly more women than men. This is not to say that the numbers of men watching SF is small – it isn’t – but that the fan organisations may have a very large female membership. I certainly got that impression from Star Trek. If that’s also the case with Dr. Who, then the series’ writers and producers would also want to cater for that audience.

I also think that there’s probably pressure too to create a female character, who would act as a role model and encourage more girls to enter science, particularly male-dominated subjects like Maths, physics and engineering. There have been initiatives to do this before, but they’ve had limited effect. You may remember the video one governmental organisation made a few years ago. Entitled Science: It’s a Girl Thing, this featured attractive young women in lab coats tapping away to a pop tune. Many women, including female scientists, felt it was patronising and demeaning. As the Doctor is very much the hero as scientist, who solves problems through his superior Time Lord scientific knowledge, I think those concerned to see greater representation of women in the sciences would welcome the Doctor’s transformation into a woman.

I have to say that, provided the transition is done well, I don’t think a female Doctor will harm the series. As I said, the rumour that there might be a female Doctor along the way has been around since the last Tom Baker series back in 1980s or thereabouts. If done badly, it could easily reduce the series to farce or pantomime by being just that little bit too incredible, or just plain weird. But the idea of gender-swapping Time Lords/Ladies hasn’t been so far, and from previous experience I think it will be done properly. The series might lose some viewers, but I think many of the real, hard-core Whovians, like Mike, won’t be bothered at all. I hope so in any case, will watch the new series with interest.

Hyper Evolution – The Rise of the Robots Part 2

August 5, 2017

Wednesday evening I sat down to watch the second part of the BBC 4 documentary, Hyperevolution: the Rise of the Robots, in which the evolutionary biologist Ben Garrod and the electronics engineer Prof. Danielle George trace the development of robots from the beginning of the 20th century to today. I blogged about the first part of the show on Tuesday in a post about another forthcoming programme on the negative consequences of IT and automation, Secrets of Silicon Valley. The tone of Hyperevolution is optimistic and enthusiastic, with one or two qualms from Garrod, who fears that robots may pose a threat to humanity. The programme states that robots are an evolving species, and that we are well on the way to developing true Artificial Intelligence.

Last week, Garrod went off to meet a Japanese robotics engineer, whose creation had been sent up to keep a Japanese astronaut company of the International Space Station. Rocket launches are notoriously expensive, and space is a very, very expensive premium. So it was no surprise that the robot was only about four inches tall. It’s been designed as a device to keep people company, which the programme explained was a growing problem in Japan. Japan has a falling birthrate and thus an aging population. The robot is programmed to ask and respond to questions, and to look at the person, who’s speaking to it. It doesn’t really understand what is being said, but simply gives an answer according to its programming. Nevertheless, it gives the impression of being able to follow and respond intelligently to conversation. It also has the very ‘cute’ look that characterizes much Japanese technology, and which I think comes from the conventions of Manga art. Garrod noted how it was like baby animals in having a large head and eyes, which made the parents love them.

It’s extremely clever, but it struck me as being a development of the Tamagotchi, the robotic ‘pet’ which was all over the place a few years ago. As for companionship, I could help thinking of a line from Andrei Tarkovsky’s epic Solaris, based on the novel by the Polish SF writer, Stanislaw Lem. The film follow the cosmonaut, Kris, on his mission to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris. The planet’s vast ocean is alive, and has attempted to establish contact with the station’s crew by dredging their memories, and sending them replicas of people they know. The planet does this to Kris, creating a replica of a former girlfriend. At one point, pondering the human condition in a vast, incomprehensible cosmos, Kris states ‘There are only four billion of us…a mere handful. We don’t need spaceships, aliens…What man needs is man.’ Or words to that effect. I forget the exact quote. I dare say robots will have their uses caring for and providing mental stimulation for the elderly, but this can’t replace real, human contact.

George went to America to NASA, where the space agency is building Valkyrie to help with the future exploration of Mars in 2030. Valkyrie is certainly not small and cute. She’s six foot, and built very much like the police machines in Andrew Blomkamp’s Chappie. George stated that they were trying to teach the robot how to walk through a door using trial and error. But each time the machine stumbled. The computer scientists then went through the robot’s programming trying to find and correct the error. After they thought they had solved it, they tried again. And again the machine stumbled.

George, however, remained optimistic. She told ‘those of you, who think this experiment is a failure’, that this was precisely what the learning process entailed, as the machine was meant to learn from its mistakes, just like her own toddler now learning to walk. She’s right, and I don’t doubt that the robot will eventually learn to walk upright, like the humanoid robots devised by their competitors over at DARPA. However, there’s no guarantee that this will be the case. People do learn from their mistakes, but if mistakes keep being made and can’t be correctly, then it’s fair to say that a person has failed to learn from them. And if a robot fails to learn from its mistakes, then it would also be fair to say that the experiment has failed.

Holy Joe Smith! I was also a reminded of another piece of classic SF in this segment. Not film, but 2000 AD’s ‘Robohunter’ strip. In its debut story, the aged robohunter, Sam Slade – ‘that’s S-L-A-Y-E-D to you’ – his robometer, Kewtie and pilot, Kidd, are sent to Verdus to investigate what has happened to the human colonists. Verdus is so far away, that robots have been despatched to prepare it for human colonization, and a special hyperdrive has to be used to get Slade there. This rejuvenates him from an old man in his seventies to an energetic guy in his thirties. Kidd, his foul mouthed, obnoxious pilot, who is in his 30s, is transformed into a foul-mouthed, obnoxious, gun-toting baby.

The robot pioneers have indeed prepared Verdus for human habitation. They’ve built vast, sophisticated cities, with shops and apartments just waiting to be occupied, along with a plethora of entertainment channels, all of whose hosts and performers are robotic. However, their evolution has outpaced that of humanity, so that they are now superior, both physically and mentally. They continue to expect humans to be the superiors, and so when humans have come to Verdus, they’ve imprisoned, killed and experimented on them as ‘Sims’ – simulated humans, not realizing that these are the very beings they were created to serve. In which case, Martian colonists should beware. And carry a good blaster, just in case.

Garrod and George then went to another lab, where the robot unnerved Garrod by looking at him, and following him around with its eye. George really couldn’t understand why this should upset him. Talking about it afterwards, Garrod said that he was worried about the threat robots pose to humanity. George replied by stating her belief that they also promise to bring immense benefits, and that this was worth any possible danger. And that was the end of that conversation before they went on to the next adventure.

George’s reply isn’t entirely convincing. This is what opponents of nuclear power were told back in the ’50s and ’60s, however. Through nuclear energy we were going to have ships and planes that could span the globe in a couple of minutes, and electricity was going to be so plentiful and cheap that it would barely be metered. This failed, because the scientists and politicians advocating nuclear energy hadn’t really worked out what would need to be done to isolate and protect against the toxic waste products. Hence nearly six decades later, nuclear power and the real health and environmental problems it poses are still very much controversial issues. And there’s also that quote from Bertrand Russell. Russell was a very staunch member of CND. When he was asked why he opposed nuclear weapons, he stated that it was because they threatened to destroy humanity. ‘And some of us think that would be a very great pity’.

Back in America, George went to a bar to meet Alpha, a robot created by a British inventor/showman in 1932. Alpha was claimed to be an autonomous robot, answering questions by choosing appropriate answers from recordings on wax cylinders. George noted that this was extremely advanced for the time, if true. Finding the machine resting in a display case, filled with other bizarre items like bongo drums, she took an access plate off the machine to examine its innards. She was disappointed. Although there were wires to work the machine’s limbs, there were no wax cylinders or any other similar devices. She concluded that the robot was probably worked by a human operator hiding behind a curtain.

Then it was off to Japan again, to see another robot, which, like Valkyrie, was learning for itself. This was to be a robot shop assistant. In order to teach it to be shop assistant, its creators had built an entire replica camera shop, and employed real shop workers to play out their roles, surrounded by various cameras recording the proceedings. So Garrod also entered the scenario, where he pretended to be interested in buying a camera, asking questions about shutter speeds and such like. The robot duly answered his questions, and moved about the shop showing him various cameras at different prices. Like the robotic companion, the machine didn’t really know or understand what it was saying or doing. It was just following the motions it had learned from its human counterparts.

I was left wondering how realistic the role-playing had actually been. The way it was presented on camera, everything was very polite and straightforward, with the customer politely asking the price, thanking the assistant and moving on to ask to see the next of their wares. I wondered if they had ever played at being a difficult customer in front of it. Someone who came in and, when asked what they were looking for, sucked their teeth and said, ‘I dunno really,’ or who got angry at the prices being asked, or otherwise got irate at not being able to find something suitable.

Through the programme, Japanese society is held up as being admirably progressive and accepting of robots. Earlier in that edition, Garrod finished a piece on one Japanese robot by asking why it was that a car manufacturer was turning to robotics. The answer’s simple. The market for Japanese cars and motorcycles is more or less glutted, and they’re facing competition from other countries, like Indonesia and Tokyo. So the manufacturers are turning to electronics.

The positive attitude the Japanese have to computers and robots is also questionable. The Japanese are very interested in developing these machines, but actually don’t like using them themselves. The number of robots in Japan can easily be exaggerated, as they include any machine tool as a robot. And while many British shops and businesses will use a computer, the Japanese prefer to do things the old way by hand. For example, if you go to a post office in Japan, the assistant, rather than look something up on computer, will pull out a ledger. Way back in the 1990s someone worked out that if the Japanese were to mechanise their industry to the same extent as the West, they’d throw half their population out of work.

As for using robots, there’s a racist and sexist dimension to this. The Japanese birthrate it falling, and so there is real fear of a labour shortage. Robots are being developed to fill it. But Japanese society is also extremely nationalistic and xenophobic. Only people, whose parents are both Japanese, are properly Japanese citizens with full civil rights. There are third-generation Koreans, constituting an underclass, who, despite having lived there for three generations, are still a discriminated against underclass. The Japanese are developing robots, so they don’t have to import foreign workers, and so face the problems and strains of a multicultural society.

Japanese society also has some very conservative attitudes towards women. So much so, in fact, that the chapter on the subject in a book I read two decades ago on Japan, written by a Times journalist, was entitled ‘A Woman’s Place Is In the Wrong’. Married women are expected to stay at home to raise the kids, and the removal of a large number of women from the workplace was one cause of the low unemployment rate in Japan. There’s clearly a conflict between opening up the workplace to allow more married women to have a career, and employing more robots.

Garrod also went off to Bristol University, where he met the ‘turtles’ created by the neuroscientist, Grey Walter. Walter was interested in using robots to explore how the brain functioned. The turtles were simple robots, consisting of a light-detecting diode. The machine was constructed to follow and move towards light sources. As Garrod himself pointed out, this was like the very primitive organisms he’d studied, which also only had a light-sensitive spot.

However, the view that the human brain is really a form of computer have also been discredited by recent research. Hubert L. Dreyfus in his book, What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Intelligence, describes how, after the failure of Good Old Fashioned A.I. (GOFAI), computer engineers then hoped to create it through exploring the connections between different computing elements, modelled on the way individual brain cells are connected to each by a complex web of neurons. Way back in 1966, Walter Rosenblith of MIT, one of the pioneers in the use of computers in neuropsychology, wrote

We no longer hold the earlier widespread belief that the so-called all-or-none law from nerve impulses makes it legitimate to think of relays as adequate models for neurons. In addition, we have become increasingly impressed with the interactions that take place among neurons: in some instances a sequence of nerve impulses may reflect the activities of literally thousands of neurons in a finely graded manner. In a system whose numerous elements interact so strongly with each other, the functioning of the system is not necessarily best understood by proceeding on a neuron-by-neuron basis as if each had an independent personality…Detailed comparisons of the organization of computer systems and brains would prove equally frustrating and inconclusive. (Dreyfus, What Computers Still Can’t Do, p. 162).

Put simply, brain’s don’t work like computers. This was written fifty years ago, but it’s fair to ask if the problem still exists today, despite some of the highly optimistic statements to the contrary.

Almost inevitably, driverless cars made their appearance. The Germans have been developing them, and Garrod went for a spin in one, surrounded by two or three engineers. He laughed with delight when the car told him he could take his hands off the wheel and let the vehicle continue on its own. However, the car only works in the comparatively simply environment of the autobahn. When it came off the junction, back into the normal road system, the machine told him to start driving himself. So, not quite the victory for A.I. it at first appears.

Garrod did raise the question of the legal issues. Who would be responsible if the car crashed while working automatically – the car, or the driver? The engineers told him it would be the car. Garrod nevertheless concluded that segment by noting that there were still knotty legal issues around it. But I don’t know anyone who wants one, or necessarily would trust one to operate on its own. A recent Counterpunch article I blogged about stated that driverless cars are largely being pushed by a car industry, trying to expand a market that is already saturated, and the insurance companies. The latter see it as a golden opportunity to charge people, who don’t want one, higher premiums on the grounds that driverless cars are safer.

Garrod also went to meet researchers in A.I. at Plymouth University, who were also developing a robot which as part of their research into the future creation of genuine consciousness in machines. Talking to one of the scientists afterwards, Garrod heard that there could indeed be a disruptive aspect to this research. Human society was based on conscious decision making. But if the creation of consciousness was comparatively easy, so that it could be done in an afternoon, it could have a ‘disruptive’ effect. It may indeed be the case that machines will one day arise which will be conscious, sentient entities, but this does not mean that the development of consciousness is easy. You think of the vast ages of geologic time it took evolution to go from simple, single-celled organisms to complex creatures like worms, fish, insects and so on, right up to the emergence of Homo Sapiens Sapiens within the last 200,000 years.

Nevertheless, the programme ended with Garrod and George talking the matter over on the banks of the Thames in London. George concluded that the rise of robots would bring immense benefits and the development of A.I. was ‘inevitable’.

This is very optimistic, to the point where I think you could be justified by calling it hype. I’ve said in a previous article how Dreyfus’ book describes how robotics scientists and engineers have made endless predictions since Norbert Wiener and Alan Turing, predicting the rise of Artificial Intelligence, and each time they’ve been wrong. He’s also described the sheer rage with which many of those same researchers respond to criticism and doubt. In one passage he discusses a secret meeting of scientists at MIT to discuss A.I., in which a previous edition of his book came up. The scientists present howled at it with derision and abuse. He comments that why scientists should persist in responding so hostilely to criticism, and to persist in their optimistic belief that they will eventually solve the problem of A.I., is a question for psychology and the sociology of knowledge.

But there are also very strong issues about human rights, which would have to be confronted if genuine A.I. was ever created. Back in the 1970s or early ’80s, the British SF magazine, New Voyager, reviewed Roderick Random. Subtitled, ‘The Education of a Young Machine’, this is all about the creation of a robot child. The reviewer stated that the development of truly sentient machines would constitute the return of slavery. A similar point was made in Star Trek: The Next Generation, in an episode where another ship’s captain wished to take Data apart, so that he could be properly investigated and more like him built. Data refused, and so the captain sued to gain custody of him, arguing that he wasn’t really sentient, and so should be legally considered property. And in William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the book that launched the Cyberpunk SF genre, the hero, Case, finds out that the vast computer for which he’s working, Wintermute, has Swiss citizenship, but its programming are the property of the company that built it. This, he considers, is like humans having their thoughts and memories made the property of a corporation.

Back to 2000 AD, the Robusters strip portrayed exactly what such slavery would mean for genuinely intelligent machines. Hammerstein, an old war droid, and his crude sidekick, the sewer droid Rojaws and their fellows live with the constant threat of outliving their usefulness, and taking a trip down to be torn apart by the thick and sadistic Mek-Quake. Such a situation should, if it ever became a reality, be utterly intolerable to anyone who believes in the dignity of sentient beings.

I think we’re a long way off that point just yet. And despite Prof. George’s statements to the contrary, I’m not sure we will ever get there. Hyperevolution is a fascinating programme, but like many of the depictions of cutting edge research, it’s probably wise to take some of its optimistic pronouncements with a pinch of salt.

‘1990’ – The BBC’s anti-Socialist 1970s SF Drama

July 27, 2017

Looking through the chapter on British television in John Clute’s Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia (London: Dorling Kindersley 1995), I found this entry for the forgotten SF drama 1990. Produced by Prudence Fitzgerald, with scripts mainly written by Wilfred Greatorex, this ran for 16 episodes from 1977 to 1978. Clute writes

In 1990s totalitarian Britain the welfare state is all-powerful. A maverick journalist helps infiltrators from the freedom-loving United States, and assists British rebels in fleeing there. Intended as a dire warning of trade-union socialism, the series’ caricatures in fact make the venture risible. (P. 101).

The Wikipedia entry for the series also adds the following details along with other information on its plot, characters, cast and crew:

The series is set in a dystopian future in which Britain is under the grip of the Home Office’s Public Control Department (PCD), a tyrannically oppressive bureaucracy riding roughshod over the population’s civil liberties.

Dubbed “Nineteen Eighty-Four plus six” by its creator, Wilfred Greatorex, 1990 stars Edward Woodward as journalist Jim Kyle, Robert Lang as the powerful PCD Controller Herbert Skardon, Barbara Kellerman as Deputy PCD Controller Delly Lomas, John Savident, Yvonne Mitchell (in her last role), Lisa Harrow, Tony Doyle, Michael Napier Brown and Clive Swift.Two series, of eight episodes each, were produced and broadcast on BBC2 in 1977 and 1978. The series was never repeated but was released on DVD in 2017. Two novelisations based on the scripts were released in paperback by the publisher Sphere; Wilfred Greatorex’s 1990, and Wilfred Greatorex’s 1990 Book Two.

and includes this description of the show’s fictional background to its vision of a totalitarian Britain:

Exposition in this series was mainly performed by facts occasionally dropped into dialogue requiring the viewer to piece together the basic scenario.

This state of affairs was precipitated by an irrecoverable national bankruptcy in 1981, triggering martial law. In the general election, only 2% voted. The economy (and imports) drastically contracted forcing stringent rationing of housing, goods and services. These are distributed according to a person’s LifeScore as determined (and constantly reviewed) by the PCD on behalf of the union-dominated socialist government. As a consequence, the higher-status individuals appear to be civil servants and union leaders. An exception to this are import/export agents, which appear to be immune to state control due to their importance to the remnants of the economy. The House of Lords has been abolished and turned into an exclusive dining club. State ownership of businesses appears to be near-total and prohibition of wealth and income appears to be very high. The reigning monarch is male due to the unfortunate death of the previous monarch (queen Elizabeth the 2nd) but his identity is never made clear. The currency is the Anglodollar (replaced the pound sterling in 1982 due to economic collapse) which appears to have little value overseas due to the international boycott of British exports. The armed forces have been run down to the extent that they are little more than an internal security force. This is made clear in one episode where the RAF is depicted as consisting of little more than a handful of Harrier Jump Jets and a few dozen counter-insurgency helicopters. Despite this National Service has been re-introduced (via the Youth Behaviour Control Act 1984 which enforces conscription and Genetic Crimes Act 1985, which makes sexual offences punishable by hanging). It is said that in 1986 two Army Generals and a retired Air Chief Marshal attempted a coup against the government, but it failed.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1990_(TV_series)

There’s also a Wikipedia entry for Greatorex, the show’s creator, which states

Wilfred Greatorex (27 May 1921–14 October 2002)[1] was an English television and film writer, script editor and producer. He was creator of such series as Secret Army, 1990, Plane Makers and its sequel The Power Game, Hine, Brett, Man At The Top, Man From Haven and The Inheritors.[2] He also wrote the screenplay for the 1969 film Battle of Britain.[1] He was described by The Guardian newspaper as “one of the most prolific and assured of television script-writers and editors from the 1960s into the 1980s”.[3] Starting off as a journalist, he got his big break as a TV writer on Lew Grade’s ATV service writing dramas about journalism, such as Deadline Midnight and Front Page Story.[3]

As a TV script editor he also worked on series such as Danger Man[1] and was also creator/producer of The Inheritors, Hine and The Power Game.[1] Papers discovered at a Norfolk auction house in 2011 reveal that ‘Hine’ had a budget of £84,000, the equivalent of close to £1m some forty years later.

In 1977, he came up with the dystopian drama series 1990 for BBC2, starring Edward Woodward. Greatorex dubbed the series “Nineteen Eighty-Four plus six”.[4] Over its two series it portrayed “a Britain in which the rights of the individual had been replaced by the concept of the common good – or, as I put it more brutally, a consensus tyranny.”[3] The same year he also devised (with Gerard Glaister) the BBC1 wartime drama Secret Army. The show later inspired the sitcom parody ‘Allo ‘Allo!.[5]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilfred_Greatorex

The show’s clearly a product of the extreme paranoia that gripped the Tories in Britain during the mid-1970s. The total collapse of the economy seems to have been inspired by the country’s bankruptcy in the mid to late 1970s, when the country was forced to go to the IMF. It also shows the fears that the Labour party was planning some kind of extreme left-wing coup. This was the decade when the Times was urging the formation of a national government, and various figures in intelligence and politics were considering organizing a military coup against the minority Labour government. Ken Livingstone also states in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, that MI5 had also compiled a list of subversives, including journalists, politicians and trade unionists, who were to be rounded up and interned in a camp somewhere in the Hebrides. Behind much of this paranoia was the belief, held by James Jesus Angleton, the head of the CIA, and many others in the Tory party, including Maggie Thatcher, that Harold Wilson was a KGB spy.

The series has long been forgotten. I can’t remember ever hearing or reading about it, apart from the entry in Clute’s Encyclopedia and the Wikipedia pages. The show was clearly quite successful at the time, as it lasted two seasons, but I can’t remember anyone I knew having watched it, or even mentioning it in the school playground.

Nevertheless, this is interesting, as the series was clearly written from an extreme right-wing stance, albeit one of that was shared by much of the Tory media during the 1970s. It definitely shows the alarm the Tories and a large section of the middle class clearly felt at trade union militancy and the Labour left’s desire to extend nationalization, as well as the experiments with worker’s control under Tony Benn. In fact, despite the accusation often heard during the ’70s and ’80s that Labour wanted to nationalize everything, the party only wished to take into public ownership 25 more companies. This is far from complete nationalization. As for worker’s control, this was confined to three firms, which were failing anyway. These eventually collapsed, but many of the workers involved in these projects felt that the experiments had been worthwhile and had shown that workers could run businesses.

And it also shows how blatantly biased the BBC could be against the Left.

There’s been considerable discussion on blog’s like mine and Mike’s about the Beeb’s bias against the Labour party and especially Jeremy Corbyn. Mike’s put a number of articles commenting on this bias. The BBC claims it is impartial, and whenever anybody complains about the bias in its programmes, as Guy Debord’s Cat did recently, they receive a bland, and slightly pompous reply telling them that they’re wrong. Researchers at Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow universities have found, however, that the Corporation is far more likely to interview, and treat respectfully the opinions offered by Conservative MPs and experts from the financial sector, than trade unionists and members of the Labour party. Barry and Saville Kushner have commented on how the Beeb uncritically accepts and promotes the idea of austerity in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, to the point of shouting down anyone, who dares to disagree. There’s even been a book published exposing the Corporation’s bias, The BBC and the Myth of Public Service Broadcasting.

The existence of this explicitly anti-Socialist SF drama shows how far back this bias goes. In many ways, I’m not surprised. The corporation is largely staffed by members of the upper middle class. It’s one of the country’s central institutions, and so reflects the views of the established political, business and media elites. Hence it shared the British right’s groundless fears of some kind of radical socialist takeover in the 1970s, and their bitter hatred the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn today.

Soft-Spoken Aristo Thug Jacob Rees-Mogg Joins Boris as Latest Tory Celebrity

July 9, 2017

On Friday, Mike also put up a piece commenting on how Jacob Rees-Mogg, the son of William Rees-Mogg, the former Times and Independent journalist, has developed a cult following. Apparently he has his own fan group, dubbed Moggmentum in imitation of Corbyn’s greater and far better supporter’s group. Mike also supports his comments with a couple of Tweets from fans, who rave about how he has ‘class’, is better than ‘left-liberal misfits who would ruin the country’, and how ‘England needs him’.

As Mike then goes on to show, Jacob Rees-Mogg is the kind of right-wing politico Britain really doesn’t need. He is, of course, Eton-educated, and as his voting record shows, he believes in punishing the poor simply for being poor, while also demanding that Tory Toffs like himself get generous state handouts to retain their position of power.

In a long list of the policies favoured by the man dubbed ‘the minister for the 18th century’, Mike shows that

He generally votes against laws to extend equality and human rights.
Consistently votes for cuts to welfare spending.
Consistently votes against gay rights.
General votes against laws to tackle climate change.
Consistently supports the extension of the surveillance state.
Consistently voted against raising support payments for the long term ill or disabled.
Consistently votes against government spending to create jobs for young people, who have been unemployed for some time.
Nearly always votes for restricting the right of EU nationals to remain in Britain.
He was also nearly always in favour of reducing access to legal aid.
He was also a solid supporter of tuition fees, the bedroom tax and against raising unemployment benefit in line with rising prices.

As Simon Renshaw says in his Tweet, which Mike has also posted in his article, Rees-Mogg is not amusing. He is cruel, deplorable and dangerous. And another Tweeter, Paul, also commented

Sperminator Rees-Mogg would not govern for the people, he would rule for his class with a selective dose of his religion thrown in.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/07/mogg-mentum-the-tories-are-losing-their-grip-on-reality/

This last comment is extremely accurate. Rees-Mogg began his career as a politician by campaigning for the Tories in a depressed fishing area in Fife in Scotland. When asked what he would be campaigning on, Rees-Mogg declared that he would be trying to convince the locals that the country would be best served by retaining an unelected, hereditary House of Lords. Somehow, I’m not surprised he didn’t succeed on this occasion. The Scots aristocracy, led by the Duke of Buccleuch, had a greater degree of political power north of the border than their counterparts further south, until the guid Duke and his ilk were stripped of them by the Labour government in 1975. And obviously, the unkempt masses weren’t keen to bring them back. Given the spectacle of this strange, gangling figure stalking about the streets and vennels and addressing the locals in a cut-class, pukka Etonian accent, I suppose it was almost inevitable that the SNP would suddenly receive a massive boost in support. Heaven knows how he’d have got in Govan or the rougher parts of Glesgae toon.

A few years ago, Private Eye did a little feature on him as part of their series on the new boys and girls, who had entered parliament after that year’s election. Not only does Rees-Mogg expect people to defer to him because of his class, he also expects close family members to protect him personally in uncomfortable situations. By which I mean that once, at Glyndebourne, he got his nanny and his wife to hold a book over his head to protect him from the sun.

The aristocracy are also known for inflicting stupid names on their children. Rees-Mogg is no exception. Along with the normal names he has given his new-born son, Dominic and Christopher, he also inflicted ‘Sextus’ and ‘Dominic’ on the poor little mite. ‘Sextus’ is Latin for ‘Sixth’, and the little chap is his sixth sprog.

So why would anyone become a fan of this weird creature? I think part of it’s because he is so strange, as well as being personally very polite. He has a diffident, gentlemanly manner while at the same time he stands out as something of a character. He’s similar to Boris Johnson in this respect, who’s built his career on a very carefully crafted persona of being a good-natured chump, while he’s anything but in real life. Quietly spoken with a slightly diffident manner, it makes Rees-Mogg look for more harmless and reasonable than he actually is. But as his voting record shows, his political views are those of a typical vengeful Tory thug with all their class hatred and contempt for working people.

Rees-Mogg is a particular presence in my part of the world, because he’s the MP for North-East Somerset, which is just south of my bit of Bristol. I’m not surprised he got in down there. This is the same part of rural Somerset, where the Waldegrave family have their seat. There’s even a pub called ‘The Waldegrave Arms’ in Green Ore, one of the villages there on the Waldegrave estate. This is a part of Britain, where they still feel people should be tugging their forelocks in deference to the lord of the manor.

As for his supporters, from what I’ve heard personally, they’re deeply reactionary, true-blue members of the upper middle class, who really do want to drag us all back to the 19th century, when the upper classes were in power and the proles knew there place – in hovels, suffering from malnutrition and cholera.

There’s some speculation that the Tories are looking to put him into No. 10 at one point. Mike states that he’s not likely to go away, and we shall all do our best to make sure he doesn’t get in. If he does, you can bet that all the poverty, despair, joblessness and starvation the Tories have inflicted on the working class, disabled and poor in this country really will reach truly 19th century levels.

Thoughts and Prayers for the Victims of the Finsbury Park Terrorist Attack

June 23, 2017

I know I’ve been late getting round to this, so apologies. This is just to give my thoughts and prayers for the 11 people, who were attacked outside Finsbury Park mosque on Friday by Darren Osborne. One man was killed and another nine were injured.

Finsbury Park mosque was at the centre of a storm of outrage nearly a decade and a half ago, as it was one of the centres of Salafist hate preaching in Britain, under an imam whose sermons advocated terrorism and violence against non-Muslims. The I newspaper reported that there have been four previous terrorist attacks against it. Its history is undoubtedly the reason it was targeted now.

However, the newspaper also reported that a new management had taken over the running of the mosque in 2005, and had cleared out the jihadis and their bug-eyed supporters. The people Osborne attempted to kill were not Islamist terrorists, but ordinary Muslims seeking to practice their faith in peace.

Mike over at Vox Political has noted the strong role the Tory press has played in whipping up hatred against Islam, with a selection of headlines from papers like the Scum, Star and Heil. He also shows a headline from the Times, which shows the double-standard for this type of attack. When a Muslim commits an atrocity, they’re a terrorist. When it’s a White, non-Muslim, he’s a lone wolf. This hypocrisy was picked out and attacked by some of the commenters on social media.

People condemning this attack, and giving their best wishes and solidarity to British Muslims included Gary Lineker and Susanna Reid. It was heartening and inspiring to see members of the local community coming together to support each other after the attack and against further bigotry and hate.

My guess is that Osborne was probably motivated by outrage at the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. The article in the I also noted that other islamophobic incidents had risen sharply. This needs to end.

It’s firstly an attack on the innocent. Despite what the EDL and similar organisations are trying to tell everyone, British Islam is very diverse. It’s a mosaic of different sects and ethnicities. Some of them are very devout and traditional, others much more westernised and secular. They aren’t a uniform mass, and the jihadis really are only a minority. One of the complaints of ordinary, peaceable Muslims long before this was that their demonstrations against the bigots and preachers of hate were ignored by the media. This incident unfortunately shows what happens when the counter-demonstrations to the preachers of hate are ignored.

Secondly, Osborne’s attack and those like it are playing into the jihadis’ hands. They’re exactly what they want to happen. The last thing they want is for Muslim and non-Muslim to live in peace in this country. They want people to fear, hate and persecute Muslims, so that the Muslim community will be alienated from the rest of the British people. They want people to hate Muslims, to radicalise the Muslim community so that they can pose as its defenders.

The jihadis are, of course, massive hypocrites. Those captured by Salafist terror groups, like ISIS and al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria have said that far from being devout, God-fearing servants of Allah, these creatures didn’t even have a Qu’ran. And as they believe that only their, bitterly intolerant version of Islam is correct, they’ve also murdered other Muslims as well as Christians and Yezidis. More Muslims have been butchered in total around the world by these grotty bigots than people of other faiths. And Muslims in this country have tried to warn the authorities of the dangers from Islamist terrorists, and been ignored.

There’s been a reason for that. As we’ve seen from the example of Salman Abedi, many of these terrorists were jihadis, who had been given asylum in Britain by successive British governments from Maggie Thatcher to Tony Blair for their assistance attacking and overthrowing secular Middle Eastern rulers. Several of them were Mujahideen from Afghanistan, who were allowed to settle in Britain to preach hate by Thatcher for their part in the proxy war against the Soviet Unions. Abedi and his family were members of an Islamist group dedicated to overthrowing Colonel Gaddafi, for which purpose they were allowed to travel to Libya. The wider Libyan community in Britain, by contrast, is well integrated into British society.

The commenters on social media is also remarked on Theresa May’s immense hypocrisy in condemning racism and bigotry, while it was her, as home secretary, who sent round vans urging illegal immigrants to hand themselves over to the authorities for deportation.

If we’re serious about tackling racism and terrorism, there can be no double standards. White racists and Fascists have to be condemned as much as Islamist militants. No one should have to live in fear simply because of their race or religion. The news reports after the attack covered how many Muslim women are now learning self-defence, fearing that they will be the next victims. Other Muslims told how their mothers were afraid to go out. This is disgusting.

And we should absolutely stop giving any aid and support to the Salafists in the Middle East. At the moment, Britain has followed American in supporting the Islamist groups in Syria seeking to overthrow Assad. We’re doing this, not because Assad is a dictator-he is, but that’s not the reason. We’re doing it simply from Cold War geopolitics. Assad’s an ally of the Russians and Iran. His is a secular, Arab socialist regime, which to Cold War America was synonymous with Communism. He’s blocking a natural gas pipeline, which the Gulf Arab states, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, want to run into Europe. And so corporate America and the Wahhabi theocrats in Saudi Arabia want him overthrown.

And if that happens, it’ll lead to more violence and butchery against the Syrian people, and become another hotbed for Islamist terrorism.

The war on terrorism has failed. Let’s stop creating new terrorists, and giving aid and sanctuary to those that already exist. Let’s not confuse their ideology of hate and violence with that of the peaceful Muslim majority.

And stop further attacks on decent, ordinary people, whether they’re White, Black, Muslim, non-Muslim or whatever.

The last response on Mike’s piece about it is a reply to Susanna Reid by Yasmin A. Chaudhury, who wrote

Hate never ever wins. Only love does – it is deadliest, silent weapon and costs nothing.

Or as the Romans said ‘Amor vincet omnia’ – love conquers all.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/20/how-can-we-say-we-dont-support-hate-when-it-is-all-our-government-and-newspapers-preach/

My Cartoon of Margaret Thatcher as Zombie

June 21, 2017

Here’s another of the drawings I made a few years ago, in order to vent some of my spleen in utter revulsion and contempt for the Tories and their media lapdogs. This time it’s of the Leaderene herself, Maggie Thatcher.

I drew her as a decaying, reanimated cadaver because she’s still a powerful presence in British politics, despite the fact that she was forced out of office by her own party over a quarter of a century ago, and died five years ago in 2012. She’s still revered by the Tories as some kind of infallible oracle, whose word cannot be doubted. Any mockery of her or criticism produces howls of outrage from the party and her devoted followers in the press, such as the Daily Mail.

And this despite the fact that all of her policies have manifestly failed. Trickledown economics don’t work. The poor haven’t got richer – they’ve got poorer. Public services haven’t benefited from private investment – they’ve been starved, and used as cash cows, so that shares have been kept artificially high while the services they’ve provided have deteriorated. There are over 7 million people living in ‘food insecure’ poverty – too poor to know if their next meal will be their last. Hundreds of thousands are using food banks. And tens of thousands have died of starvation and misery thanks to being thrown of their benefits due to the DWP and its sanctions regime.

But her policies still carry on, zealously defended by the keepers and tenders of her cult. One book written by an American economist, which attacked the free market policies of the Reagan era, was called Zombie Economics. It’s a fitting metaphor. These policies should be dead and laid to rest. But they lurch on, like zombies, causing more misery and fear.

Just like the undead spectre of Maggie Thatcher, whose own noxious shadow still haunts British politics, propped up by the Tories and newspapers like the Scum, the Depress, the Times and Torygraph.

Cartoon Against Charles Moore of the Times and Maggie Thatcher

June 19, 2017

This is another of the cartoons I drew a little while ago to express my hatred and contempt of the Tories and their cheerleaders in the press and media. This one’s of Charles Moore, a former editor of the Times, and his molten idol, Margaret Thatcher. Moore is one of those, who published a biography of the Leaderene after she passed away a few years ago.

Thatcher has been more or less been deified by the Tories to the point where she is the centre of a secular political cult. She is considered absolutely infallible, and her words are revered as if they were almost sacred writ, which no-one must ever contradict. If they do, it results in howls of rage from the Tory press, which immediately falls over itself pouring invective on the offender, as if it was the worst type of blasphemy. And no-one must ever discuss the immense harm she has done to this country, its institutions and its citizens.

Moore isn’t the very worst of those tending the Thatcherite cult. He does at least poke gentle fun at her – sometimes – in his biography of her, as in the paragraph where he describes how she really didn’t understand jokes. But nevertheless, as one of her supporters he is responsible for continuing her legacy of poverty, marginalisation and the demonization of the unemployed, the poor and disabled, the privatisation of the NHS and other public services, and the welfare cuts which are killing tens of thousands of ordinary people each year.

The skull behind Thatcher is a pre-human hominid. I thought it was a suitable metaphor for the deaths she’s caused because it is something ancient, archaic and subhuman – pretty much like her policies, the Tory politicians who pass them into law, and the press that applauds them and the vicious harm they do while extolling their benefits to private industry.

I realise the two pictures are more or less straightforward drawings. I thought of drawing something far nastier, but was afraid that if I put it up, I’d be banned from the web and would get a libel writ. So what you see here is the acceptable alternative.