Posts Tagged ‘Transhumanism’

Examining Jeanette Winterson’s Ideas on AI and Literature

June 4, 2019

Last Saturday’s I for 1-2 June 2019 carried an interview in its ‘Culture’ section with the literary novelist, Jeanette Winterson, about her latest work, Frankissstein. This is another take on Frankenstein, with one strand of the book set in the contemporary world and exploring AI, the downloading of the human mind into computers and literature. Winterson’s the second literary novelist, following Ian McEwan, to turn to the world of robotics for their subject matter. I’ve critiqued both of them, based on reviews in the papers, because this comes across to me very much of another instance of ‘literary’ novelists appropriating Science Fiction subjects and issues, while disdaining and ignoring the genre itself.

Winterson’s interview with Max Liu was also very interesting in other respects, and worth reading. While I am not remotely inclined to read her book, and have real objections to some of her statements on philosophical grounds, I also found that there was much that she said, which I agreed with. Particularly about the exploitation of British communities under Brexit.

The Interview

The article, on page 49, was prefaced with the statement Jeanette Winterson talks to Max Liu about AI and why the novel could die if it doesn’t reinvent itself’. It ran

Jeanette Winterson would like to upload her brain to a computer. “It were possibl, I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to find out what it’s like to live without a body,” she says when we meet to discuss Frankissstein, her new novel about artificial intelligence. “I had a very religious upbringing, so to me, the idea that the body is just a house is normal.”

The 59-year-old wrote about her Pentecostal childhood in her semi-autobiographical debut novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985), and her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2011). For the past couple of years, she has been reading about AI and robotics at the same time as thinking about Mary Shelley’s Gothic classic, Frankenstein. In her latest novel, the young Shelley appears as a character.

“I started writing about Mary in Italy at the beginning of the 19th century then worked my way to the present,” says Winterson. “There was no point setting a novel about AI in the future, because I wanted readers to realise the future is here. We don’t know how far big money has gone in developing AI, but I suspect it’s much further than we think.”

Winterson believes “we’re living in an ahistorical world where people don’t know how we got here”, the pace of change since the Industrial Revolution leaving us bewildered. “By its nature, reading slows us down,” she says,”so I’m pushing against the acceleration of modern life, creating imaginative space for readers to inhabit. Anybody who can imagine something is in control.”

Her new novel’s present-day characters include Ry, a transgender doctor, and Winterson says: “One of my godchildren identifies as transgender and I’ve been reading a lot about that because I thought I needed to understand. The idea of identity being provisional fed into this novel. Much Western thought rests upon the idea that there is a core self that we can know and perfect, but probably there isn’t.

Ray falls in love with Ron, who is trying to make his fortune by designing sex dolls. Ron plans to exploit post-Brexit tax breaks by opening a factory in Wales. “I hate to see how my class has been manipulated by people who have no thought and no care for them,” says Winterson. “I’m ashamed of my country for turning its back on a European project and choosing nationalism.”

Were she to live for another 100 years, Winterson says she would retrain as a scientist. Does this mean she doesn’t see a future for the novel?

“The novel is only on its way out if it doesn’t change,” she says. “In the 80s, it was too middle-class and too male. Then Angela Carter came along and was so fresh, but she had a terrible time initially. The example of English literature’s conservatism that kills me is when Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac won the Booker in 1984 and Carter’s Nights at the Circus wasn’t even shortlisted. It was the year before I published Oranges and I just thought: “This is so dull.”

In Frankissstein, one character says the urge to write comes from vanity, but Mary counters that it’s about hope. Which is it from Winterson? “My writing is a message in a bottle. I won’t be here long enough to get my brain uploaded, so I’m chucking this message overboard in the hope it will move the conversation on.”

Moravec, Transhumanism and Max Headroom

It would be interesting to find out what Winterson had been reading as her research for her book. My guess it would almost certainly include Hans Moravec and the downloaders and transhumanists. They aim to upload their minds into machines. A little while ago they held a party at which they avowed their intention to meet each other on the other side of the Galaxy in a million years’ time. Which is some ambition. I think Moravec himself believes that by this middle of this century the technology should have been perfected that will allow a human brain to be read in such minute detail that its functions can be reproduced on computer. This was the premise behind the Max Headroom pilot, 20 Minutes into the Future. In this tale, broadcast on Channel 4 in the 1980s, Headroom, a computer-generated TV personality, is created when his human original, an investigative journalist in a dystopian future London, knocks himself unconscious going through a crash barrier to escape the villains. The journo’s body is retrieved, and used by a teenage computer whizzkid, Brice, who seems to spend his whole life in the bath, to create Headroom as an experiment. The character takes his name from the last thing his original sees before he goes through the barrier: a sign saying ‘Max Headroom’.

Sladek’s The Muller-Fokker Effect

I also wonder if she read any of the SF literature about downloading and cyberspace, including one of the first novels to tackle the subject, John Sladek’s The Muller-Fokker Effect, published in 1970. This is about Bob Shairp, a man reduced to date and stored on computer tape. I haven’t read it, but according to Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove in their history of Science Fiction, The Trillion Year Spree,

it is a deeply satirical book, homing in on the US Army, evangelism, newspapers and the like for its target, with an overall sense of fun reminiscent of the work of Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick and Sheckley. (p. 307).

Future Shock and the Global Rate of Change

Winterson’s comment that it was useless to set the book in the future, as the future is already here, is very similar to the remarks I heard about two decades ago by William Gibson, one of the founders of the Cyberpunk SF genre. Speaking at the Cheltenham Festival of literature, Gibson said that the future was already here, it was just wasn’t spread out the same everywhere, so there were parts of the world, such as the developing countries, where it wasn’t present to the same extent as the more advanced West. As for her comments about living in an ahistorical age, where people don’t know how we got here, and the pace of change is accelerating, this sounds very close to Alvin Toffler and his idea of future shock, where societal change is now so advanced and rapid that it is profoundly disorienting. But it is possible to exaggerate the speed of such changes. I can remember reading an article a few years ago, that argued that the impact of modern technology is vastly overestimated. The internet, for example, it was claimed, isn’t half as revolutionary as it is made out as it is only a development of earlier technologies, like the telegram. It’s a contentious claim, but in many ways the most rapid technological, social and economic changes were in the century following Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1937. That was when Britain was transformed from an agricultural, almost feudal country into a modern, industrial society. Britain’s empire expanded massively, communications improved allowed the rapid movement of information, goods and people across the globe. It was the period when new transport technologies like the railway, the automobile, the electric tram, dirigible balloons, aeroplanes and the rocket were created, along with inventions like the X-Ray, electric light, the telegram, telephone, radio and the first experiments in television, and, of course, sound recording and the cinema. Contemporary technological advances can be seen as refinements or improvements on these, rather than completely new inventions.

Transgender People and the Question of Core Personality

I also have objections to her comments about whether or not there is a core, human personality. I’ve no doubt that one argument against it is that many people would be very different if they had had a different upbringing. If they’d been born into a different class, or allowed to study a particular subject at school or university, or if they’d decided to pursue a different career. And, obviously, if they’d been born a different gender. But twin studies suggest that people do have some aspects of their character determined by their biology rather than their upbringing. And I don’t think she makes her argument by pointing to transpeople. As I understand it, many transpeople believe very strongly that they have a core personality or nature. It’s just that this is at opposition to their biological gender. Hence their desire to change. It isn’t simply that they simply decide at some point that they want to change their sex, which would be the case if it was simply the case that they had no core personality. But perhaps Winterson’s godchild is different.

Computers and the Existence of Self 

I’m also suspicious of the idea, as it sounds rather close to the ideas of Daniel Dennett and Susan Blackmoore that consciousness is an illusion and that the brain is simply a meat machine for running memes, discrete units of culture like genes are discrete units of biological information. On the other hand, when she says that existing as a disembodied entity on a computer doesn’t seem strange to her because of her religious background, she’s in agreement with Paul Davies. In his book, God and the New Physics, he stated that he’s prepared to accept that life can exist outside the body because of the way computers could be used to simulate human personalities. I can remember reading that the wife of one of the leading downloaders was a Methodist minister. He commented about this apparent contradiction between their two disciplines by saying that they were both trying to do the same thing, but by different methods.

The Manipulation of the Working Class

I do agree wholeheartedly, however, with Winterson’s comments about how her class is being manipulated by people, who give them no thought and no care for them. The idea that the creation of tax breaks for businesses after Brexit would allow an amoral entrepreneur to build a factor for sex robots in Wales is all too credible. Just as I agree with her about Britain turning it’s back on the EU, though I also have strong criticisms of the European Union. But Brexit has been and is being used by the Tory extreme right and its related movements, like UKIP and Farage’s noxious Brexit people, to manipulate the working class and exploit them. If you look at what Boris Johnson and Farage want, the privatisation of the NHS to American private healthcare firms is very much on the table.

Conservatism, Sexism, Literature and Literary Snobbishness

She was also right about the conservatism and sexism of the literary world in the 1980s. Private Eye’s literary column attacked Hotel du Lac for its snobbishness at the time. And the Orange Prize for literature was set up because it was felt that women were being unfairly excluded from the main literary prizes. However, the remarkable success of women writers in winning the mainstream awards has also, in the view of Private Eye a few years ago, also called into question the reason for Orange Prize. Why have a separate prize for women when that year the lists were dominated by female writers? And as for Angela Carter, I wonder if some of the problems she had didn’t just come from her writing feminist magic realist tales and fairy stories, but also because the genre SF/Fantasy crowd liked her. Flicking through an old SF anthology I found in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday, I found a piece by her about literary theory along with pieces by other, firmly genre figures. A few years ago Terry Pratchett commented that the organisers of the Cheltenham Festival looked at him as if he was going to talk to his fans about motorcycle maintenance, and he was certainly subject to appalling snobbery by the literary critics when he started out. I think it’s therefore quite possible that Carter was disdained by those who considered themselves the guardians of serious literature because she was too genre. But I also wonder if Winterson herself, despite her deep love of Carter’s work, doesn’t also have the same attitude that sees genre fiction as somehow not proper literature, as she, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and the others write.

I have to say that I don’t see the death of novel being anywhere near imminent. Not from looking along the shelves at Waterstone’s, and particularly not in the genre fiction, crime, horror, and SF. But it says something about the apparent lack of inspiration in literary fiction that it is turning to SF for its subjects. Winterson said some fascinating things in her interview, but to me, genre SF still did AI, robots and downloading first and better than the mainstream novelists now writing about it.

 

Yay! David R. Bunch’s ‘Moderan’ Now Back in Print

May 7, 2019

Bit of good news for fans of classic SF. Looking through the Cheltenham branch of Waterstone’s last week, I found that David R. Bunch’s Moderan was now in print. This was published in 1971, and is really a series of vignettes originally published in small magazines, as well as the big SF mags Amazing and Fantastic. These are set in a future in which organic humanity has decided that its reached the end of its natural evolution, and to evolve further it must transform itself into machines. This process is described as it affects the hero, Stronghold 10. The style is superficially sympathetic to heighten what the reality of what this new, cyborg humanity has become: immortal, but paranoid with each stronghold at war with their neighbours.

Brian Aldiss gives as sample paragraph of Bunch’s prose style, which explains the background to the novel, in his and David Wingrove’s history of SF, The Trillion Year Spree:

Now, to turn tedious for a time, this is what happened. Flesh-man had developed to that place on his random Earth-ball home where it was to be the quick slide down to oblivion. All the signs were up, the flags were out for change for man and GO was DOWN. To ENDING. Flesh-man was at the top, far as he could climb as flesh-man, and from there he was certain to tumble. But he had the luck to have these brave good white-maned men in the white smocks, the lab giants, the shoulders, and great-bulged thighs of our progress (what matter if they were weazened, probe-eyed, choleric scheming, little men sometimes – more often than not, REALLY?) authors of so much of man’s development and climb to that place where he was just due to die, expire, destroy himself and his home at this grand stage of development to make new-metal man and set him in the Strongholds upon the plasto-coated Earth that had been man’s random and inefficient home. New-metal replaced flesh (down to the few flesh-strips and those, we hope, may soon be gone) the bones were taken out and new metal rods, hinges and sheets put in (it was easy!) and the organs all became engines and marvellous tanks for scientifically controlled functional efficiency forever. YAY! Don’t you see?! Our Scientists made of life-man (the VERY-STRANGE-accident man) essentially a dead-elements man, one who could now cope with eternity, but he certainly was not a dead man. AH! Heavens no! He was alive! with all the wonderful scienc3e of the Earth ages, and just as functional as anyone could wish. YAY! science, take your plaudits now! You’ve shown what was meant from the beginning for the VERY-STRANGE-accident man. (p.324).

Aldiss states that it’s a technophobic piece in the SF tradition of questioning technological progress that began with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Moderan was out of print for a long time, so I’m looking forward to reading it some time. Bunch also wrote poetry in an avant-garde style very much like his prose, though in verse. A collection of his pieces, of which only one or two were SF, The Heartacher and the Warehouseman, was published in the 1990s. The title poem is set in the Moderan world, and is about one of these cyborgs coming to a warehouse carrying his pump in his heart. He complains that he – and all the other cyborgs – have no heart. The cyborg warehouseman, suspicious, retreats behind his armoury of weapons, informing him of all the cyborg bits and pieces they have, like hearts and mechanical fingers. But he fails to understand the man’s real complaint – that their civilisation has no heart in the metaphorical sense. The warehouseman drives the Heartacher away, but wonders what will happen to him as he retreats back into his cubby-hole.

It’s one of those pieces that was acutely relevant in the 1990s, when there was much talk among the chattering classes of transhumanism and cyborgisation. It was the decade when Radio 3 broadcast the series Grave New Worlds examining these possibilities through interviews with writers, artists and scientists, including Paul J. McAuley, J.G. Ballard and the Australian performance artist, Stelarc, who really has tried to turn himself into a cyborg in performances in which he wired himself up to the net, so that images found online would work his body automatically through galvanic stimulators some Borg organic puppet, and by giving himself a third, cybernetic arm. It’s still relevant as prosthetic limbs continue to improve. While these are an immense benefit to those, who have lost their real limbs through accident or disease, it does raise the question of how far this process can go and humans become the cyborgs of SF. This was the central question David Whittaker was pondering when he created Dr. Who’s cybermen. Bunch’s novel also seems to have influenced one of the writers of Dr. Who Magazine way back in the ’70s. One of the comic strips, Throwback: The Soul of a Cyberman, was about a cyberman, who had some how retained his emotions and compassion. The story was set on the planet ‘Moderan’. And in the 1980s the British space scientist, Duncan Lunan, expressed concerns that people, who were heavily reliant on medical machines suffered a loss of creativity when he explored the possibility of similar mergers between humans and machines in his class Man and the Planets.

I’m glad that this lost classic is back in print. But still more than a little annoyed that it, and other SF works like it, are overlooked by the literary crowd in favour of those by ‘literary’ authors like Ian McEwan. Sorry to ride this old hobby-horse again, but a few weeks ago there was an interview with McEwan in the I. The newspaper mentioned to him that Science Fiction fans were upset about him denying that his book was part of the genre. McEwan repeated his sentiment, saying it wasn’t SF, but was based on him considering real world issues. Well, so is much Science Fiction, all the way back to Frankenstein. Aldiss has praised it as the first real work of Science Fiction as it was based on science as it was known at the time. This was Galvani’s experiments making the severed legs of frogs twitch and move through electricity. McEwan’s attitude shows the basic contempt of many literary authors and critics for the genre. They’re keen to borrow its tropes, but sneer at it as essentially trivial fantasy, unlike the serious stuff they’re writing. Much SF is, and doesn’t pretend otherwise. But there is a very large amount which isn’t, and which deserves to be taken as seriously as so-called ‘serious’ literary works like McEwan’s.

 

Maoist Rebel News on Alex Jones Cursing Trump for Syrian Airstrikes

April 19, 2018

This is very interesting, and it made me think slightly better – but only slightly – of Alex Jones, the mad right-wing conspiracy theorist and his wretched internet show, Infowars. In this clip from Maoist Rebel News, host Jason Unruhe comments on a little piece of video which shows Jones screaming and cursing Trump for the airstrikes that hit Syria at the weekend. It was clearly shot before Jones went on air, so I assume the footage must have been leaked by someone.

Jones is one of the tin-foil hat brigade, who tells the world that there is a conspiracy by ‘the globalists’ to establish some kind of one world superstate and destroy all personal freedoms along with nation states. It’s standard right-wing conspiracy theory stuff, of the type that’s been a part of the right-wing paranoid fringe since at least the ’70s. Jones identifies the ‘globalists’ with the international business elites, who are under the control of demons or interdimensional aliens. Also involved in this are liberals, socialists and feminists. As for gay rights, they’re a transhumanist space cult to create a new race of genderless cyborgs and deprive us of our humanity.

Obviously, no-one has actually told the gays that. Or indeed, the producers and writers of Dr. Who. Since Russell T. Davis revived the show about ten years ago, it’s been very gay friendly. Which isn’t surprising, as Davis is not only gay himself, but way back in the ’90s made his name with the gay soap/ drama series, Queer As Folk. It’s also quite feminist, in that it’s been doing its best to break the stereotype of the Doctor’s female companions as just being there to scream and have things explained to them by the Doctor. The Time Lords are shown to change genders as well as appearance when they regenerate. The Master regenerated as a woman, and reappeared as Missy. And the next Doctor is going to be female as well.

But this liberal approach to sexual orientation does not mean a rejection of sexuality. Aside from the deep emotional bond between Rose Tyler and David Tennant’s Doctor, which saw Rose eventually settle on a parallel Earth with a human duplicate of the Doctor, there’s the Cybermen. Part of the horror of these monsters is the fact that not only have they had their humanity stripped away and replaced with steel and plastic, but they’ve also been deprived of their gender. They’re mechanical, neuter creatures, devoid of emotion, and determined to perpetuate themselves by turning humans, if not all humanoids, into themselves. All you have to do to see Jones is wrong about gay rights and transhumanism is simply watch a few episodes of Dr. Who.

Jones was initially a very enthusiastic supporter of Trump. He gave him much airtime when the orange buffoon was campaigning for the presidency. Jones thought that Trump was an outsider, who would defeat the globalists and drain the swamp of corruption engulfing American politics.

He’s been gravely disappointed. Trump has carried on with pretty much the same policies as his Republican and corporatist Democrat predecessors, and has, if anything, been even more corrupt in giving government posts to his friends and family, including positions where they would enjoy an unfair advantage as private businesspeople.

Trump’s decision to launch airstrikes against Syria provoked a particularly vehement reaction from Jones. Jones is very much a man of the right, but from here it looks like he belongs to that strain of American Conservativism which states that the country has absolutely no business interfering in other countries’ internal affairs. it’s why some American Conservatives were against the Iraq invasion, including a senior female Pentagon colonel. It’s peculiar, but some Libertarians can be very critical of American foreign policy and its programme of increasing tension with Russia, which can make them seem a bit more left-wing than they actually are.

Of course, Jones doesn’t go the whole way, and wake up to the fact that the reason Trump’s bombing Syria is because of American capitalism and the greed of American multinationals to conquer and exploit yet another middle eastern state, as well as the Neocons to destroy another threat to Israel. Instead he rants about how its all the fault of liberals, Democrats and other members of the left.

Unruhe makes some very valid, pertinent points himself in his comments on Jones’ screams of rage. He states that Marxists realise that the problem isn’t just individual capitalists, but with the system as a whole. But Jones’ anger at Trump shows how profoundly Conservative he is. Jones believes the present system is perfect, and that it’s only gone wrong because of a few individuals. This, Unruhe says, is the psychology behind conspiracy theories, such as those which see the world’s problems as being due to the Illuminati, or, in an anti-Semitic variant, the Jews.

He’s absolutely right on this point. The stupid, malign conspiracy theories which claim that there is a global plot by the Illuminati, the Freemasons, Jews or some other clandestine group, is an attempt to explain the failure of capitalism and laissez-faire economics, without challenging them. They’re seen as perfect, and so if they don’t create the freedom and prosperity their advocates promise, it must be due to some group operating outside the system and trying to pervert and destroy it.

I don’t agree with Unruhe when he says that individual figures aren’t of importance, and that what matters is the system as a whole. There are clearly good and bad employers and some Tories are definitely far worse than others. The present structure of society isn’t perfect, but the extreme right, like the current Tory party and the business people who donate and support it, are making it far worse. They need to be turfed out of office immediately.

In the meantime, here’s the video:

Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Defends the Size of Trump’s Penis

January 12, 2018

Okay, I apologise for the crude nature of this post, but it’s weirdly fascinating and gives a bizarre insight into the mindset, not just of Alex Jones, but of much of the Republican party in America.

In this clip from Secular Talk, host Kyle Kulinski talks about a compilation video one of his viewers sent in, of the various times Alex Jones, the mad conspiracy theorist behind the Infowars internet show, defends Trump from the accusation that his manhood is of less than impressive size.

As Kryten said of Rimmer in Red Dwarf, ‘Oh for a world class psychiatrist!’

This all started with Ted Cruz telling the crowd during the campaigning for the Republican nomination that Trump had tiny hands, and that this meant that certain other areas of his anatomy were also correspondingly small. Mind you, Trump had just claimed that Cruz’s father was responsible for the assassination of J.F.K., which is actually a far worse accusation. My guess is that most people watching Cruz make the accusation probably took it for what it was – a particular low, ad hominem attack, and nothing more. But it’s clearly got under Jones’ skin. Hence the ranting in the video about how well-endowed Trump is, against the lies put out by the media.

Kulinski goes on to discuss how Jones has turned from a critic of the establishment, to its most fervent propagandist through his support of Trump. He likes Trump. It’s as if Trump has cast a voodoo spell over him, as Kulinski describes it. When Obama was president, Jones declared that he was responsible for all manner of conspiracies. Now Trump’s in the Oval Office, the president isn’t responsible for any of those. It’s always the people around him.

He points out just how much of an establishment shill Trump is. He’s doing exactly what his backers in Wall Street and big business want, and is impoverishing ordinary Americans for their corporate profit. He’s the enemy of the middle Class. But to Jones Trump can do no wrong.

Kulinski also discusses some of the other lunatic statements that Jones has made. Jones went on the Joe Rogan Show, where he raved about interdimensional demons and aliens, and claimed that there was a war going on in the political elite between paedophiles and real men, ‘who eat steaks, drink whisky and like women’. Kulinski makes the point of how ridiculous this is as the standard for judging who’s one of the good guys. It means that various truly repulsive Republicans, who have backed every war launched by the presidents, are good guys, merely because they’re heterosexual and have those tastes in food and drink. He also goes on to point out how Jones’ conspiracy theories are demonstrably wrong. Like Jones’ claim that Obama was going to declare a state of emergency, and have everyone rounded up and imprisoned in FEMA camps. Well, Obama’s been and gone, and it never happened. Even worse was Jones’ statement that the Sandy Hook massacre was staged at the pretext for taking Americans’ guns away. He doesn’t mention it here, but this did result in grieving parents being accused by Jones’ viewers of being ‘crisis actors’, and that their children weren’t really shot and killed. Kulinski points out that the legislation that was proposed in the aftermath of the massacre to prevent further outrages like it were a ban on certain types of automatic weapons, magazines of a particular size, and uniform background checks. But the ban on automatic weapons and magazines never got through, because the Republicans blocked it. As for the background checks, this was passed, but was watered down to the point where there are a million loopholes in it. So if Sandy Hook was staged as a ploy to deprive Americans of their firearms, it hasn’t worked.

In fact, Jones’ rants say something about the psychology of part of the Republican base, and the visceral fear of castration that some of them seem to have, associated with socialism, liberalism and feminism. The Republican party stands for a very traditional conception of the sex roles, in which men are expected to be aggressively masculine. The gun culture is part of this. Much of the rhetoric by the Alt Right is about how alpha male they are, compared to all the beta male cucks in mainstream society and the left. When Trump was campaigning for the presidency, Jones did a broadcast about how ‘alpha’ Trump was, and how he’d been having ‘transcendent’ conversations with him. Which, in addition to these comments defending the size of Trump’s genitals, add a kind of homoerotic undercurrent to his attitude to Trump.

Several of Jones’ rants are about the threat to masculinity and biological gender posed by feminism, the UN, and the gay rights movement. In one rant, he declared that the gay rights movement was ‘a transhumanist space cult’ dedicated to removing biological gender and turning us all into genderless cyborgs. Which I’ve no doubt surprised an awful lot of gay people. He also claimed that UN doctors were going to come to cut men’s testicles off. One of the internet news commenters sent up this raging paranoia in one of their vlogs, stating that no, Obama was not going to have them castrated and put in FEMA camps, where they would be forced to carry around greased up lesbians.

Jones’ rants about the size of Trump’s manhood are ridiculous, but they do show the real insecurities about masculinity in the Republican party and the Alt Right. Jones and others like him really do see liberalism and feminism as emasculating movements, which can only be combated by powerful, aggressive alpha males. Hence their support for Trump, and the bitter anti-feminism within the Republican party itself. And not all of those, who hold such views are men. One of those, who has vociferously attacked feminism, and denied that women should have the right to vote is Anne Coulter. And Kulinski makes the point that these genital obsessions have also been played out in the theatre of international relations. Like when he told Kim Jong Un that his nuclear button was bigger. Trump’s concern, and those of his supporters, to show how ‘alpha male’ he is, aren’t just ridiculous, they’re an active danger to the safety of the entire world. As are the stupid conspiracy theories about aliens, paedophiles and FEMA camps promoted by Jones and his Infowars team.

Secular Talk: Alex Jones Rants about Liberal Butch Lesbians Eating Brains

December 8, 2017

Before I get to the serious stuff today, here’s some comedy from the TV lunatic asylum that is Alex Jones and Infowars. In this clip from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski comments on an unhinged rant from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, in which he gives his well-thought out and deeply considered opinions on female sexuality, sexual violence and cannibalism. And like almost everything else Jones says, it’s as a mad as a hatter.

Jones rants that butch lesbians really want to be the macho bad boy, who beats women up. Women actually like macho bad boys, who beat them up, as shown by the success of the book 50 Shades of Grey. If women can’t get men to beat them up, they’ll turn to butch, lesbian women. Who are, of course, all liberals, and will then take them down into their basement, where they will cut open their skulls and eat their brains.

As Kulinski himself points out, no, they won’t. That never happens. He has never been to a meeting with other liberals, like Jimmy Dore, Ro Khanna and the like, where, after discussing politics, they have decided to retreat to their secret dungeon to eat the contents of someone’s skull. It might have been done once by an apolitical serial killer somewhere, but never by anyone on the Left.

But the rant does creepily reflect on Jones himself, as it is disturbingly too detailed. Listening to it, there probably isn’t a judge, who wouldn’t issue a search warrant for Jones’ own basement.

Kulinski also mentions the other side of Jones, that amongst all the nonsense and sheer, right-wing paranoia and lunacy, there were things that he had exactly right. He was right about America starting imperialist wars and the exploitative conduct of the multinationals. But he’s now gone on to pushing insane conspiracy theories and stupid rants like this. He emphasises just how stupid and ridiculous this particular diatribe is by comparing Jones to genuinely great thinkers like Bertrand Russell, Socrates and so on. Well, that’s how some of Jones’ followers perceive him, even though the absolute opposite is true, and the true dimensions of Jones’ tiny intellect are shown very clearly in the comparison.

It’s clear here that Jones has been watching too much Silence of the Lambs. And specifically the sequel in which Lecter escapes, captures the corrupt head of the FBI and eats his brain while the man’s still alive and conscious.

Even though it’s unhinged, the rant also says something serious about the American lunatic fringe’s attitude to female sexuality. They really do believe that women are biologically driven to strong male figures, especially men who treat them badly. You find that a constant source of complaint from the anti-feminist denizens of the Manosphere, like Davis Aurini. In one of his videos, Aurini rants about how modern women are ‘the most decadent sluts since the Fall of Rome’. Which is quite a claim, and not even remotely true. Many of these guys seem to be deeply sexually frustrated. They can’t get girlfriends, and so, rather than there being something wrong with them, there has to be something wrong with women.

There are women, who find bad boys sexy. And unfortunately there are women, who do go from one abusive relationship to another, and actively defend the men, who hit and maltreat them. It’s a real problem for those genuinely concerned about women’s welfare and safety, including the police officers, who are called in to sort the violence out, only to find that the victim does not want to leave or press charges against her abuser.

But clearly this is very much not true of all women. As for 50 Shades of Grey, the book’s a fantasy, and the violence and domination in that has its male counterpart in the pornography about whip-wielding dominatrices. And just because people like reading about such practices, doesn’t mean that they actually want such a relationship in reality, for the same reason that the millions of SF fans, who enjoy films about alien invasions really don’t want creatures from outer space to invade.

As for the ranting about butch lesbians, that comes from Jones’ anti-feminism and homophobia. In a previous rant, he sputtered that gay rights was a transhumanist space cult to create genderless human cyborgs. Jones does seem to be obsessed with castration and emasculation. There’s one rant where he declares that UN doctors were coming to cut men’s testicles off. And one of the left-wing commenters on YouTube remarked that he seemed to be afraid that liberals were coming to castrate men, and force them into FEMA camps, where they would carry around fat, greased-up lesbians. It’s a lurid image, and Jones hasn’t quite said that, but it’s a fair reflection of his views.

It’s massively distorted, but Jones’ rant does say something about the American Conservative attitude to sex and gender. Much Republican rhetoric and ideology is about defending traditional gender roles, in which women stay at home to raise children, while the men are the aggressive heads of the household. Liberalism, Socialism and feminism oppose this traditional family structure, or at the least state that women and men should be free to choose different roles if they wish. But to American Conservatives, this is a direct attack on masculinity itself. Hence Jones’ ranting about UN doctors coming to castrate American men. It also seems to form part of the hysteria surrounding gun rights. Americans have the right to own guns, which empower men to defend themselves and their families. Liberals want to take these guns away, or regulate them, and this is seen as another attack on traditional masculinity.

It’s debatable how much Jones actually believes in the really mad stuff he rants about. Sam Seder has said that he’s seen Jones at political and media gatherings, where he’s perfectly calm, lucid and reasonable. In a recent dispute with his wife over custody of their children, Jones’ lawyer stated that he was a ‘rodeo clown’, who didn’t believe any of the crazy nonsense that his ex-wife was afraid would disturb their children, who lived with Jones at his home and TV studios. Looking through the number of videos that are on YouTube, of Jones ranting and raving, which are actually posted by Infowars, and described as rants, it seems to me that Jones doesn’t believe in the really crazy stuff he rants about. But he is aware that it draws people into his show, and so acts up for the camera and his audience. Others have suggested that Jones really is that mad, but he’s just got enough self-awareness to realise how it looks to others, and to exploit that.

Even though it’s hysterically and grotesquely exaggerated, Jones’ rant does say much about the very real attitudes towards female sexuality and gender roles in American, and for that matte, British Conservatism. You can find much the same comments about the evils of feminism uttered by the Kippers, several of whom became notorious for their comments denying that women should leave the home and go to work. It’s a grim worldview in which women, despite decades of feminism and female empowerment, secretly hanker after strong, dominating men, who’ll keep them in line. It forms part of the misogynistic attitudes of the anti-feminist Men’s Right’s movements. And while Jones himself certainly doesn’t condone violence towards women, this attitude could legitimise the horrific levels of domestic violence against women in American, and for that matter, British society.

Jones’ rants are funny, but underneath the lurid stupidity, they express a very disturbing mindset, which in its fundamental attitudes, isn’t remotely funny at all.

From the JFK Files: CIA Planned False Flag Attack from USSR

November 27, 2017

This is another interesting little piece from Jason Unruhe at Maoist Rebel News. Unruhe, sporting a black and orange Mohican, reports that amongst the other recently declassified documents relating to JFK, there were details of a false flag operation planned by the CIA to start a war with Russia. The agency wanted to convert a couple of American planes so that they resembled, at least from a distance, Soviet MIG fighters. Or alternatively, they would use real MIGs purchased from countries outside the Warsaw Pact. The planes would be used to stage an attack on America, which would then be blamed on the Russians.

Fortunately, the plan was never put into action. The costs of converting the American planes was much too high, at over a million dollars for each plane. Technical experts stated that it would be impossible, and the results would not be convincing except from a distance.

Unruhe points out that this shows how far the American military was prepared to go – to start a war that would easily have ended up in a nuclear inferno – in order to attack a nation that had defied American imperialism.

In fairness, American imperialism wasn’t the only issue involved here. The Communist states established by the Soviet Union were dictatorships, and alternative, competing political parties and organisations had been suppressed by force. But it’s also fair to say that what also terrified the Americans, and other, western leaders, was that an aggressive alternative to capitalism had emerged. In the 1950s under Khrushchev standards of living in the USSR rose to such an extent, and the economy prospered, that the Americans were seriously afraid that the USSR would overtake America as the richer, more affluent society. Hence the determination to find any means of discrediting Communism and destroying the USSR.

And this appears to be just one of a number of false flag attacks that the CIA dreamed up to blame on America’s enemies elsewhere in the world. A little while ago I remember posting up a piece about how the CIA also planned a series of bomb attacks in Miami and other cities in Florida, which they hoped to blame on Castro’s Cuba. All in order to start a war there, and restore the brutal Bautista regime, which Castro had overthrown.

There is now a section of the American population which really, really doesn’t trust their government. At it’s most extreme, this milieu is represented by people like Alex Jones, who rants about how the globalist elites are somehow in a weird alliance with evil aliens, or demons, and planning to destroy the world and turn the survivors into genderless transhuman cyborgs. All through socialism and feminism and with the use of FEMA camps. Many others simply don’t believe that Islamist terrorists were responsible for 9/11, and instead think that it was a false flag attack conducted by their own government with the intention of starting a war.

In fact, the line that attempted to connect Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attack was a lie. Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with it, and Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda hated Hussein’s secular Iraq as much as they hated America. The ultimate responsibility for 9/11 lies with the Saudis. 17 out of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, and the operation was planned and funded by people very high up in the Saudi political hierarchy. But this was far too inconvenient for Bush and later Obama to reveal to the American public, and so they suppressed those pages of the report into the attack.

Given the numerous false flag attacks that the American military has planned and carried out against its own people, including the Gulf of Tonkin incident which provided the pretext for the Vietnam War, it isn’t even remotely surprising that so many Americans are highly sceptical of the official stories about 9/11.

Alex Jones: KKK Are Leftist Jewish Actors Creating Division

August 20, 2017

I blogged a few days ago about a report on one of the American left-wing internet news shows about a particularly odious comment about Charlottesville from the conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones. Alex Jones is the head of the conspiracy internet show, Infowars, and its website, Prison Planet. As I’ve discussed many times before, Jones believes – or pretends to believe – in all manner of outre conspiratorial ideas. At their heart, however, is his unwavering belief that the ‘globalists’ in charge of politics and industry are paedophile Satanists, who worship and are possessed by demons, and are intent on enslaving and destroying humanity. Their ultimate aim is to create a one-world state. Among their weapons are socialism, feminism and gay rights, which he has described as ‘a transhumanist spacecult to create a genderless human being’. Oh yes, and they’re intent on taking away good, freedom-loving Americans guns.

In this clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, co-host Michael Brooks plays the clip from Jones’ Infowar broadcast in which he talks about how he protested the Klan. Jones states that back then there was no Antifa protecting him. He’s clearly a bit miffed at that, though depending how far back he was protesting – Jones has been around for a long time – the organization as such may not have existed back then. Brooks wonders why Jones was protesting. Was he protesting against their racism, or because he thought they were a front group funded by George Soros?

And then Jones gets very sinister. He claims that when the hoods came off, the Klansmen were all FBI infiltrators, played by ‘leftist Jewish actors’. He then states that they were so Jewish, they looked like the cast of Seinfeld. And concludes that Leftist Jews are posing as the Klan in order to create division.

Brooks and his team joke about Jones’ statement about the supposed actors impersonating the Klan looking like the cast of Seinfeld. Brooks states that the show had the weirdest portrayal of New York. They were no Black people, but also no inbred WASP-ish types.

I’m sure I don’t need to go into how dangerous and sinister Jones’ comments are to the readers of this blog. But just to make it absolutely clear, this is verging dangerously on the stupid, genocidal conspiracy theories at the heart of Nazism. Hitler believed that ‘Marxist’ Socialism – meaning everything from the Communist party to the reformist SDP and trade unions – and capitalism were both Jewish strategies for enslaving the Aryan race. The modern variant of this is that the Jews are still intent on establishing themselves as the rulers of the world, and are attempting to destroy the White race through racial intermixing, and the promotion of homosexuality and other forms of depraved sexuality, including Rock and other Black musical genres.

Now Jones hasn’t promoted these long discredited and murderous theories yet, but by talking about ‘leftist Jewish actors’ attempting to create division, he’s not very far away.

And especially as the stupid theories of government collusion with extraterrestrials produced a further theory in the 1990s that the American and other governments were cooperating with the aliens to enslave humans. These theories, at least those promoted by the infamous Bill English in his book, Behold a Pale Horse, drew extensively on the Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This is the spurious document at the heart of many of these theories of Jewish world domination. It’s supposed to be the minutes of a secret meeting of Jewish leaders outlining their plan to seize global power and enslave gentiles. It has inspired Nazis and Fascists all over the world. It was even supported by the right-wing press in Britain, until some of them woke up to how fake and dangerous it was, and turned against it.

The Protocols of Zion are absolutely fake. They were put together by the Okhrana, the Tsarist secret police, in order to encourage the last tsar, Nicholas II, to persecute the Jews even more harshly. Nicholas II believed in the old blood libel, that Jews murdered Christians during Passover and used their blood in the matzoh bread eaten at this Jewish holiday. He had a young man, Beilis, repeatedly tried for this non-existent offence, to the point where even some of his most anti-Semitic advisors realized that it was discrediting his regime.

English and the other conspiracy theorists took care when citing the Protocols to try to make their ideas seem more acceptable by excising, or rather, explaining away the Protocols’ anti-Semitic content. Where the text said ‘Jews’, they claimed it really meant ‘Illuminati’, the 18th century conspiratorial group under Adam Weishaupt, which infiltrated the Freemasons. The Illuminati have been blamed as the secret actors behind the major political events of world history, such as the French Revolution, and are intent on destroying Western, Judeo-Christian culture. One of the female leaders of the British Fascist movement in the 1920s was a very strong advocate of these claims. I can’t remember if it was Nesta Webster or Rotha Orne Linton. One of the two, anyway. Whoever it was, she was an alcoholic, who had been given this privileged information by the spirit Duc de Orleans, one of the aristocrats involved in fighting the French Revolution.

I think the John Birch Society in the 1960s also claimed that the Illuminati were responsible for the decline of civilization and the rise of Communism, so that today there is a distinct subculture around the world of ultra-Conservative people, who really believe it. Many of those, who believe in the existence of the Illuminati genuinely aren’t anti-Semites, and would probably be horrified if you called them that. But by citing the Protocols in his stupid UFO conspiracy theory, English did much to rehabilitate them. One bookshop in the north of England even stocked the wretched thing because of this.

Jones calls the ‘globalists’ he thinks are, in Jon Ronson’s phrase, ‘the secret rulers of the world’ the Illuminati. I don’t think he’s anti-Semitic, but by promoting these absurd views he’s coming dangerously close to the real, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that form their basis. The right-wing political scientist, Daniel Pipes, in his book Conspiracy Theories, discusses how these theories first blamed the Freemasons when they emerged after the French Revolution. During the 19th century the Jews were introduced into them as allies and collaborators of the Freemasons. The final revision came in the 20th century, when the Jews were blamed as the prime cause of the liberal revolutions and left-wing dissent, displacing the Freemasons.

You can see from this that it’s only a very short step from Jones’ ranting about the Illuminati, who include ‘Leftist Jews’ as just one of the groups collaborating with them, to the full bilge of The Protocols.

This isn’t just an American problem. People have access to the internet all over the world, so that I’m sure Jones has viewers in many different countries. One of his co-hosts, Paul Joseph Watson, is British, and he’s also had David Icke on his show. I’m therefore very show that he has more than a few followers in Britain. He was even interviewed over here by Andrew Neil, who was far less than impressed with his sanity when Jones started ranting about gun rights.

I don’t know how many people honestly take Jones seriously. Certainly there are any number of videos on YouTube taking the mick out of him, using carefully edited excerpts from his show. These show him ranting nonsensically, including one where he screams ‘I am a fluoride-maddened chimpanzee’.

But at this point, the laughter has to stop. It’s beyond a joke. Jones is becoming dangerous. Not to the ‘globalists’ – the real corporate heads, who run multinational industries responsible for enslaving millions in sweatshops and trashing our planet’s already fragile ecology. He already embraced one, when he had Trump himself come on his show and gave his support to the orange buffoon during his election campaign.

He’s a danger to ordinary people, and particularly the Jews. It starts with them, before going on to the other racial and political groups Nazis and Fascists hate and fear – people of colour, gypsies, socialists, communists, trade unionists, gay and transgender folk. Other religions or sects, which are deemed to be subversive and dangerous. The Nazis persecuted either the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Seventh Day Adventists – I’ve forgotten which, because they wouldn’t accept Hitler as a secular messiah. They and Mussolini also banned the Freemasons, and Fascist Italy also carried out a campaign against the Waldensians, a Protestant sect that had its origins way back in the 12th century with the merchant, Peter Waldo. And, as disabled rights activists have rightly pointed out, the Nazis also murdered the disabled and mentally handicapped.

For all his loud liberatarianism, Jones is coming perilously close to promoting the kind of lies that led to the death of nearly 12 million people in the Nazi death and concentration camps. These comprised 6 million Jews, and 5 1/2 million others, rounded up, persecuted and murdered because of their political or religious beliefs, or, as in the Roma, for their race. The Nazis also despised as untermenschen the Slavonic people of eastern Europe. Russian POWs were also worked to death and murdered in the camps as slave labourers.

I dare say this genuinely horrifies Jones. But as I said, he’s coming very, very close to promoting the same ideas and attitudes that created the Third Reich and its horrors.

It’s time the plug was pulled on his programme, and it was taken off the air.

The Emergence of ‘Cyborg’ Chic?

August 8, 2017

Last weekend’s Sunday People carried a feature, complete with ‘tasteful’ nude piccie, of a former female British squaddie, Hannah Campbell. Campbell, had lost a lower leg while guarding a building in Basra a decade, and was mentally still scarred with PTSD. The accompany photo showed her wearing only Union Flag body paint and her artificial leg.

Aside from the questionable morality of using pictures of women in states of undress to sell newspapers, I’ve absolutely no objection to disabled women – or blokes, for that matter – appearing as sexy or glamorous. I don’t mean in a fetishistic sense, such as amputee fetishism, but simply as people, who remain glamorous and attractive despite their injuries.

But the picture also set me wondering how long it would be before disabled people also became style icons, because of the quality and aesthetic style of their prostheses.

A few weeks ago there was a piece on the news about a company based at UWE here in Bristol, which has developed relatively cheap artificial hands, which people can make for themselves. The designs are only, and I’ve got a feeling some of the components can be manufactured using a 3-D printer. The journos talked to one little chap, who was very well impressed with his new hand. One of the company’s directors also said that they were currently negotiating with Disney for the rights to use some of their characters. They were interested in developing an Iron Man artificial hand, based on the Marvel character’s body armour. I can see children absolutely loving that, and the lad, who wore one of their hands already said that the other kids really admired it. This is great, because the company’s turned something that could easily be a mark of shame – a missing limb, and its artificial replacement – and turned it into something cool.

These two stories have made we wonder how long it will be before models, celebrities, fashionistas and other style icons include those with disabilities, but who have managed to incorporate the latest trends in cybernetic or bionic aesthetics with their own natural good looks or stylish clothes. After all, a few years ago one newspaper, reviewing Britain as the centre of cool design, selected various pieces of technology – I can’t remember whether it was computers or mobile phones – as examples of British design excellence. And just as style is a part of modern computer design, it’s also a factor in that of artificial limbs.

And so there’s the distinct possibility that as the technology advances, so we could see the emergence of a kind of ‘cyborg’ chic, of glamorous people sporting equally glamorous artificial hands and legs. It’d be what the Transhumanists – those extreme technophiles that want to upload their minds into robots and computers – have partly been looking forward to all these years.

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.

Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Claims NASA Operating Child Slave Labour Base on Mars

July 1, 2017

More madness from the very warped mind of Alex Jones. Jones is the head honcho behind the internet conspiracy theory show, Infowars, and its companion website, Prison Planet. Jones believes, or affects to believe, that the American government, the UN, the ‘globalists’, the elite and liberals, Socialists and feminists are engaged in dire and foul conspiracies against the world and its people, and particularly those in America.

Over the years he has claimed that the richest 1 per cent of American society and industry, or at least their menfolk, sacrifice children in Satanic rituals at their annual secret meetings in Bohemian Grove in California. The Twin Towers collapsed because of a conspiracy by the American government, and not because Saudi-backed terrorists hijacked and flew two planes into them. President Obama was going to use to the legislation permitting the establishment of refugee camps to house disaster victims to seize power and herd people into what were really concentration camps. Humanity and the world were under attack by evil extradimensional entities, who might be demons or simply alien intelligences. And Barack Obama was fully under their control. He was truly the Devil’s emissary, because, apparently, he looked demonic, smelt bad and flies were always hovering around him.

Ditto Hillary Clinton. She was also under Satanic influence. She was part of a vast, paedophile conspiracy supplying children to leading politicians from a pizza parlour in Boston. She was also some kind of robot or cyborg, because something metal fell out of her trouser leg when she had a fainting fit during her campaigning. When she momentarily had some kind of problem swallowing a glass of water, Jones seized on this as evidence that she was either demonically possessed, or carrying some kind of alien spawn, which was about to come bursting out of her like the xenomorphs in the Alien movies. She was herself also a participant, with Bill, in black magic ‘spirit eating’ orgies put on by a performance artist.

The UN, Socialists and feminists are all engaged in some weird plot to take over the world and enslave everybody in it, particularly White men. Gay and transgender rights activists are a ‘transhumanist UFO cult’ to create a new, genderless, form of humanity.

How much of this Jones actually believes is a moot point. His ex-wife was suing him for custody of their children, on the grounds that he was utterly made and it was damaging their kids to see their Dad ranting and raving in the TV studio he has at his home. Jones’ lawyers responded by stating that Jones didn’t believe any of it, and it was all ‘performance art’.

Recently Jones has also been forced to issue apologies to people he has libelled on his programme. Someone took his comments about the pizza parlour in Boston very seriously indeed, and walked into it waving a gun around in order to free the child captives in the basement. There weren’t any children kept prisoner there, in the basement or anywhere else. Fortunately, no-one was shot or hurt in this incident.

Then he was threatened with legal action from the Turkish owner of a Yoghurt factory, who had a deliberately policy of employing immigrants. Many of these were Middle Eastern. Jones claimed that this, entirely respectable businessman, who was another paedophile, and that his employees had been responsible for a series of rapes. The businessman wasn’t, and his employees were also innocent. After being threatened with a writ, Jones ended up making a statement that he was entirely mistaken about it all on air.

Now he’s done the same to NASA. On Thursday, Jones had on his programme Robert David Steele, a former Reform Party presidential candidate, who claims to have been a case officer with the CIA. Steele spun a yarn that NASA had been kidnapping children to send them on a 20 year journey to be used as slave labour on Mars. Oh yes, and they were also been frightened and then killed, so that their blood and bone marrow could be harvested for use by the elites. The children had to be terrified when they died as this would enrich it with adrenaline.

NASA responded by denying everything, and pointing out that they didn’t have any kind of child labour camp on the Red Planet.

See: http://www.news18.com/news/buzz/we-do-not-have-a-child-slave-colony-on-mars-nasa-1447965.html

This story is, of course, absolute nonsense. For a start, 20 years is far too long for a journey to Mars. Spacecraft have to go at a certain speed – escape velocity – to escape the Earth’s gravitational pull if they are to go anywhere else in the Solar system, whether it’s the Moon or the other planets. I think current plans for a Mars mission estimate that it would take about 2-3 years or so to get there. A long time, certainly, but not as long as 20.

Then there’s the logistics and engineering problems of getting people to Mars. You need rockets of a certain size and power. Furthermore, any colonists for Mars, whether free or not, would have to carry all their food, water and air with them. The spaceships will also have to be shielded against cosmic radiation and solar flares. These weren’t much of a problem when going to the Moon, because of the relatively short length of the journey – about a week. Even so, if a coronal mass ejection – a type of massive flare known as a sun storm – had occurred, it would have fried the Apollo astronauts. These are a real threat for those intrepid souls going on the lengthy journey to the Red Planet.

There are also other medical problems caused by the lack of gravity in space. As the astronauts’ bodies don’t have to fight against the pull of the Earth’s gravity, muscles shrink. They also go to the toilet more than they would on Earth, and so start to lose calcium, weakening their bones. Hence their health is monitored, and those crews staying in space for a long time, such as during the Skylab programme from 1973-5, have to devote a certain amount of time each day to doing their exercise.

As there is no ‘up’ or ‘down’ in zero gravity, and the fluid in your inner ear that tells you which is which also starts to float along with the rest of you, some astronauts suffer from ‘space sickness’, similar to the sea sickness some people feel travelling by ship.

There are also psychological hazards that may endanger the lives of the space travellers. I heard Dr Kevin Fong, who’s a specialist in space medicine, talking about them one year at the Cheltenham Festival of Science. Fong pointed out that the strange environment of space can also affect astronauts’ mental health. Several of them have reported hearing sounds, such as dogs barking and babies crying, while in orbit. They can also find themselves doing strange, irrational things, which can potentially kill them, before being snapped out of it. One astronaut aboard Mir described how he was asleep one night, before being suddenly awoken by a noise. He then found one of his fellow astronauts suited up, ready to take a spacewalk. But the poor fellow hadn’t connected the air hoses. It takes about seven hours or so to put on and inflate a spacesuit, so that it protects its wearer from the hard vacuum outside their craft. None of this had been done, and if the astronaut had walked through the airlock, he would have been killed. Fortunately, the other astronaut was able to wake his friends and colleagues, who woke up and managed to stop him.

These are the hazards facing the extremely healthy men and women, who manage to pass the rigorous testing and gruelling grueling training programmes. Hopefully, one day we’ll have learned enough to make space travel sufficiently safe so that families with children can venture into the Deep Black. But we very definitely aren’t anyway near that level now.

This is sheer bullsh*t, and it’s not hard to see where it’s ultimately coming from. Somewhere in there is the influence of Alternative 3. This was an April Fool’s Day joke, broadcast by ITV in 1975. It was a bogus edition of a fake science programme, ‘Science Report’, which claimed that the Earth was dying, and so the Americans and Russians had secretly shelved their differences in order to colonise Mars secretly. Leading scientists were disappearing as they took up their new lives on the Red Planet. Ordinary people, meanwhile, were also disappearing. They were being kidnapped, lobotomised and ‘de-sexed’ to turn them into slaves as ‘batch consignments’, serving their elite masters.

The programme was a hoax, but unfortunately many people were genuinely taken in and didn’t realise that it was a joke. There was also a tie-in novelisation, which until recently was unavailable in the US. This led to rumours that it was all true, and had been deliberately suppressed by Them.

The result has been that a number of other conspiracy theories about secret government space projects have grown up around it, or been inspired by it. This latest nonsense appears to be one of them.

I don’t know how many people actually believe Steele’s story. Possibly very few, the kind of people, who bought into the lurid revelations of Commander X and his tales about secret collaboration with aliens. Or the late Bill English and his rubbish about meeting the Zeta Reticulan ambassador, Omnipotent Highness Krill, at a military base.

I doubt very many people actually believe the story, but that hasn’t stopped Jones having an effect. During the American presidential elections, he gave very vocal support to Donald Trump, who was a guest on his programme several times. He has libelled various blameless individuals, such as the Turkish yoghourt manufacturer. It’s a mercy that his stories about paedophile gangs didn’t result in someone being shot at that pizza place. He also notoriously claimed that the Sandy Hook school shooting was all staged, and that the children and others, who were killed and injured were ‘crisis actors’. This has led to people approaching and accusing the kids’ grieving parents with these claims.

And anti-racist activists are worried about the links Jones and his show have with the racist Alt-Right. This includes his fellow presenter, Paul Joseph Watson, who has inveighed against the threat Islam and Muslim immigration supposedly poses to western civilisation.

Jones is a clown, and his ranting can be hilarious, but there’s a very serious, very dark side to his show. It’s almost the very definition of ‘fake news’, and it is having a pernicious effect on politics in the US, as more citizens are encouraged to fear the terrible, but entirely imaginary Others that mean to harm and enslave them. While, of course, supporting right-wing Libertarian policies, which will deny them proper, decent medicine, welfare support, housing, clean water and education.