Posts Tagged ‘Universities’

Book on How to Resist and Campaign for Change

November 4, 2018

Matthew Bolton, How To Resist: Turn Protest to Power (London: Bloomsbury 2017)

About this time last week, hundreds of thousands of people were out on the streets marching to demand a second referendum on Brexit. It was the biggest demonstration since 2 million or so people marched against Blair’s invasion of Iraq. And as Mike commented in his blog post about it, as likely to do as much good. Blair and his corrupt gang ignored the manifest will of the people, and went ahead anyway, determined to prosecute a war whose real reasons were western imperialism and multinational corporate greed. The march failed to stop the war and the chaos it caused is still ongoing. Just as last week’s march will also fail to prevent the Tories doing whatever they want.

It’s a disgusting situation, and this book is addressed to everyone who’s fed up with it. The author, Matthew Bolton, is an organizer with the campaigning group Citizens UK and their Living Wage campaign. And the book is addressed to people, who have been on the march, and are sick and tired of being ignored. Right at the very beginning of the book, he writes

This book is for people who are angry with the way things are and want to do something about it; for people who are frustrated with the system, or worried about the direction the country is going in. For people who are upset about a particular issue, or want a greater say in the changes happening in their neighbourhood. They’ve posted their opinions on social media and they’ve shouted at something they’ve seen on the news. They’ve been on the big march and they’ve been to the ballot box, but what more can be done? This is for people who want to make a change, but they’re not sure how. (p.1)

A few pages later he describes the dangers to democracy and the increasing sense of powerlessness people now feel when decisions are taken out of their hands by politicians.

What’s at stake here is more important than simply helping people who care about particular issues to run effective campaigns. It’s about democracy. In the past, people who wanted to make a difference, and believed in change fought for democracy with sweat, blood and courage. The Chartists, the Suffragettes and other endured prison and faced death in their struggle for the chance to have a say in the governance of the country. They organized and campaigned to force the ruling elites to open up our political system to influence by the majority of the people. It is a great misunderstanding to think that they were fighting for the chance to put a cross in a box once every few years. They were fighting – week in, week out – for power. Fighting for more people to have more influence.

Over time, we have become confused. Now we have the vote, we have mistaken politics for Parliament and have come to see democracy as something to watch on television or follow on Twitter, like spectators at a football game – or worse, to switch off from it completely, losing trust in politicians, losing trust in the media, losing trust in the system. Democracy doesn’t just mean ‘to vote’, it means people power. It means embedding political action into our day-to-day lives, in our communities and workplaces. It is a vision of a society where power is distributed amongst the people, not concentrated in the hands of the few. It’s not an end state, but a constant struggle for people to fight for a seat around the decision-making table.

But it doesn’t feel like we are at the table. It feels like we are on the menu. Power is being concentrated in the hands of an increasingly small circle of people. We have a revolving door of Cabinet ministers becoming bankers, becoming newspaper editors, becoming chief executives. We have been lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that our democratic system would create a better future for us all. But it doesn’t look that way. By lunchtime on the first Wednesday in January, after just two-and-a-half days’ work, FTSE 100 bosses will have earned more than the average person will earn that entire year. The generation now in their twenties will be the first in modern times to be worse off than their parents. What we want for ourselves and our children – a decent job, a home, a health service, a community – is under threat. (pp. 4-5).

He then discusses how the political terrain has shifted immensely recently, with people demanding change, giving as examples the vote to Leave in the Brexit referendum and the election of Jeremy Corbyn. But he also makes the point that you need a strategy and that winning campaigns are very well planned and organized. And he gives two examples: Rosa Parks and Abdul Durrant. While the action that sparked off the bus boycott that began the Civil Rights movement in earnest was presented as spontaneous in Dr. Who, in reality it was very carefully planned. The Montgomery chapter of the NAACP had been planning a boycott for a year before she refused to give up her seat. They had already tried this with three other Black passengers, but had failed to light the fuse of public indignation. This time, they found the right person with Rosa. Durrant was a leader in the East London Communities Organisation, part of Citizens UK, who worked nights as a cleaner in HSBC in Canary Wharf. He led a campaign to get better pay for workers like him, and then organized a media and mass protest to get it.

As for Bolton himself, he comes from a working/ middle class family. His father’s family were working class, his mother’s solidly middle class. He attended Cambridge university, but went to the state primary in his part of London. The local area was very rough, and his mother wanted him privately educated, and he was lucky enough to get a scholarship to a private school in Dulwich. He says that it was at this time that the stark difference between conditions in south London and the bubble of privilege in Dulwich began to grate on him. He was mugged twice in his neighbourhood, once at the point of a knife, punched several times in the face, and violently carjacked. After private secondary school, he went to sixth form at a state school that also had its fair share of problems. He describes how some of his friends from private school went on to work with a family friend in the City, which he describes as a conveyor belt to a decent university and a great career. Others had to avoid gang trouble on their way home, looked after their young siblings in the evening because their mother was working nights, scrimped and saved to pay the gas meter, and then tried to do their homework. He continues

It wasn’t just the unfairness that made me angry: it was the fact that as a society we say success is determined by how clever you are and how hard you work. If you fail, it’s your fault. That convenient lie made me angry then and it makes me angry now. (p. 21).

The book describes the strategy he has devised over years of campaigning to affect change. It starts off by identifying the issue you are particularly angry about – it could be anything – and identifying the people in authority who may be able to do something about it. He rejects the idea that powerlessness is somehow noble, and recommends instead that protestors concentrate on developing their power, as well as appealing to those that already have it to help them through their self-interest. The book also talks about the correct strategy to adopt in meetings and talks with those in authority and so on. It is all about mobilizing popular protest for peaceful change. After the introduction, pieces of which I’ve quoted above, it has the following chapters:

1. If You Want Change, You Need Power

2. Appreciating Self-Interest

3. Practical Tools to Build Power

4. Turning Problems Into Issues

5. The Action is in the Reaction

6. Practical Tools to Build a Campaign

7. Unusual Allies and Creative Tactics

8. Finding the Time.

9. The Iron Rule.

I’m afraid I didn’t finish reading the book, and have no experience of campaigning myself, so I can’t really judge how useful and applicable it is. But just reading it, it seems to be a very useful guide with sensible, badly needed advice for people wanting to mount effective campaigns on the issues that matter to them. And Bolton is absolutely right about the rising, obscene inequalities in our society and the crisis of democracy that has developed through the emergence of a corrupt, self-interest and interlinked media-political-banking complex.

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Video of Three Military Robots

October 23, 2018

This is another video I round on robots that are currently under development on YouTube, put up by the channel Inventions World. Of the three, one is Russian and the other two are American.

The first robot is shown is the Russian, Fyodor, now being developed by Rogozin. It’s anthropomorphic, and is shown firing two guns simultaneously from its hands on a shooting range, driving a car and performing a variety of very human-style exercises, like press-ups. The company says that it was taught to fire guns to give it instant decision-making skills. And how to drive a car to make it autonomous. Although it can move and act on its own, it can also mirror the movements of a human operator wearing a mechanical suit. The company states that people shouldn’t be alarmed, as they are building AI, not the Terminator.

The next is CART, a tracked robot which looks like nothing so much as a gun and other equipment, possibly sensors, on top of a tank’s chassis and caterpillar tracks. It seems to be one of a series of such robots, designed for the American Marine corps. The explanatory text on the screen is flashed up a little too quickly to read everything, but it seems intended to provide support for the human troopers by providing extra power and also carrying their equipment for them. Among the other, similar robots which appear is a much smaller unit about the size of a human foot, seen trundling about.

The final robot is another designed by Boston Dynamics, which has already built a man-like robot and a series of very dog-like, four-legged robots, if I remember correctly. This machine is roughly humanoid. Very roughly. It has four limbs, roughly corresponding to arms and legs. Except the legs end in wheels and the arms in rubber grips, or end effectors. Instead of a head, it has a square box and the limbs look like they’ve been put on backwards. It’s shown picking up a crate in a say which reminds me of a human doing it backward, bending over to pick it up behind him. But if his legs were also put on back to front. It’s also shown spinning around, leaping into the area and scooting across the test area with one wheel on the ground and another going up a ramp.

Actually, what the Fyodor robot brings to my mind isn’t so much Schwarzenegger and the Terminator movies, but Hammerstein and his military robots from 2000AD’s ‘ABC Warriors’ strip. The operation of the machine by a human wearing a special suite also reminds me of a story in the ‘Hulk’ comic strip waaaay back in the 1970s. In this story, the Hulk’s alter ego, Banner, found himself inside a secret military base in which robots very similar to Fyodor were being developed. They were also controlled by human operators. Masquerading as the base’s psychiatrist, Banner meets one squaddie, who comes in for a session. The man is a robot operator, and tells Banner how he feels dehumanized through operating the robot. Banner’s appalled and decides to sabotage the robots to prevent further psychological damage. He’s discovered, of course, threatened or attacked, made angry, and the Hulk and mayhem inevitably follow.

That story is very definitely a product of the ’70s and the period of liberal self-doubt and criticism following the Vietnam War, Nixon and possibly the CIA’s murky actions around the world, like the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile. The Hulk always was something of a countercultural hero. He was born when Banner, a nuclear scientist, got caught with the full force of the gamma radiation coming off a nuclear test saving Rick, a teenager, who had strayed into the test zone. Rick was an alienated, nihilistic youth, who seems to have been modelled on James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. Banner pulls him out of his car, and throws him into the safety trench, but gets caught by the explosion before he himself could get in. Banner himself was very much a square. He was one of the scientists running the nuclear tests, and his girlfriend was the daughter of the army commander in charge of them. But the Hulk was very firmly in the sights of the commander, and the strip was based around Banner trying to run away from him while finding a cure for his new condition. Thus the Hulk would find himself fighting a series of running battles against the army, complete with tanks. The Ang Lee film of the Hulk that came out in the 1990s was a flop, and it did take liberties with the Hulk’s origin, as big screen adaptations often do with their source material. But it did get right the antagonism between the great green one and the army. The battles between the two reminded me very much of their depictions in the strip. The battle between the Hulk and his father, who now had the power to take on the properties of whatever he was in contact with was also staged and shot very much like similar fights also appeared in the comic, so that watching the film I felt once again a bit like I had when I was a boy reading it.

As for the CART and related robots, they remind me of the tracked robot the army sends in to defuse bombs. And research on autonomous killing vehicles like them were begun a very long time ago. The Germans in the Second World War developed small robots, remotely operated which also moved on caterpillar tracks. These carried bombs, and the operators were supposed to send them against Allied troops, who would then be killed when they exploded. Also, according to the robotics scientist Kevin Warwick of Reading University, the Americans developed an automatic killer robot consisting of a jeep with a machine gun in the 1950s. See his book, March of the Machines.

Despite the Russians’ assurances that they aren’t building the Terminator, Warwick is genuinely afraid that the robots will eventually take over and subjugate humanity. And he’s not alone. When one company a few years ago somewhere said that they were considering making war robots, there was an outcry from scientists around the world very much concerned about the immense dangers of such machines.

Hammerstein and his metallic mates in ‘ABC Warriors’ have personalities and a conscience, with the exception of two: Blackblood and Mekquake. These robots have none of the intelligence and humanity of their fictional counterparts. And without them, the fears of the opponents of such machines are entirely justified. Critics have made the point that humans are needed on the battle to make ethical decisions that robots can’t or find difficult. Like not killing civilians, although you wouldn’t guess that from the horrific atrocities committed by real, biological flesh and blood troopers.

The robots shown here are very impressive technologically, but I’d rather have their fictional counterparts created by Mills and O’Neill. They were fighting machines, but they had a higher purpose behind their violence and havoc:

Increase the peace!

The Sky At Night Looks at Britain in Space

October 19, 2018

I just managed to catch the weekday repeat a day or so ago of this month’s Sky at Night, in which presenters Maggie Aderin-Pocock and British astronaut Tim Peake looked at the history of Britain in space, and forward to the country’s future in the deep black. The programme’s changed a bit over the past few years in the case of its presenters. It was famously presented by Sir Patrick Moore from its beginning in the 1950s until he passed away a few years ago. This made the programme the longest-running show presented by the same person. Aderin-Pocock joined it before Moore’s departure. She’s a black woman scientist, with a background in programming missile trajectories. She’s obviously very intelligent, enthusiastic and very definitely deserves her place on the show. But I wish she’d done a job that didn’t involve the military use of rocket technology, however much this is needed as part of national defence.

Aderin-Pocock was speaking to one of the management officials from Orbex, a new, British company, which has developed a rocket launcher and intends to open a spaceport in one of the more deserted areas of Scotland. The rocket will stand about 17 meters tall, using propane and High Test Peroxide as fuel. High Test Peroxide is a highly concentrated version of the hydrogen peroxide used by hairdressers to bleach peoples’ hair. The use of propane is particularly important, as it’s lighter than conventional rocket fuels, meaning that the rocket doesn’t have to carry as much fuel to lift off into space. Advances in satellite design have also allowed the rocket to be smaller than other spacecraft used elsewhere. British universities have succeeded in developing microsatellites – satellites that are much, much smaller than some of the satellites put into orbit, but which can perform the same functions. As these satellites are smaller and lighter, they only need a relatively smaller, lighter rocket to launch them.

The Scottish launch complex also wasn’t going to be as big as other, larger, major launch complexes, such as those of NASA, for example. I think it would still contain a launch tower and control buildings. As well as the official from Orbex, the show also talked to a woman representing the rural community in the part of Scotland, where they were planning to build it. She admitted that there would be problems with building it in this part of the Scots countryside. However, the community was only going to lease the land, not sell it to Orbex, and care would be taken to protect the farms of the local crofters and the environment and wildlife. Like much of rural Britain, this was an area of few jobs, and the population was aging as the young people moved away in search of work. She looked forward to Orbex and its spaceport bringing work to the area, and creating apprenticeships for the local young people.

The programme went on to explain that this would be the first time for decades that a British company was going to build a British rocket to launch a British satellite. From what looked the British space museum in Manchester, Time Peake stood under the display of Britain’s Black Knight rocket and the Prospero satellite. He explained how the rocket launched the satellite into space from Australia in 1975. However, the project was then cancelled, which meant that Britain is the only country so far which has developed, and then discarded rocket technology.

But Black Knight wasn’t the only space rocket Britain developed. Peake then moved on to talk about Skylark, a massively successful sounding rocket. Developed for high altitude research, the rocket reached a maximum of altitude of 400 km in the few minutes it was in flight. At its apogee – its maximum distance from Earth – the vehicle briefly experienced a few minutes of zero gravity, during which experiments could be performed exploring this environment. The Skylark rocket was used for decades before it was finally cancelled.

Aderin-Pocock asked the official from Orbex how long it would be before the spaceport would be up and running. The manager replied that this was always an awkward question to answer, as there was always something that meant operations and flights would start later than expected. He said, however, that they were aiming at around the end of 2020 and perhaps the beginning of 2021.

Orbex are not, however, the only space company planning to open a spaceport in Britain. Virgin Galactic have their own plans to launch rockets in to space from Cornwall. Their vehicle will not, however, be launched from the ground like a conventional rocket, but will first be carried to a sufficiently high altitude by an airplane, which would then launch it. I’m not a betting man, but my guess is that of the two, Orbex is the far more likely to get off the ground, as it were, and begin launching its rocket on schedule. As I’ve blogged about previously, Branson has been telling everyone since the late 1990s at least, that Virgin Galactic are going to be flying tourists into space in just a few months from now. This fortnight’s Private Eye published a brief list of the number of times Branson had said that, with dates. It might be that Branson will at last send the first of his aspiring astronauts up in the next few months, as he claimed last week. But from his previous form, it seems far more likely that Orbex will start launches before him, as will Branson’s competitors over the pond, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

When asked about the company’s capability of perfecting their technology, Orbex’s manager not stressed the skill and competence of the scientists, technicians and engineers working on the project. This included not just conventional space scientists, but also people, who had personally tried and failed to build their own spacecraft. He said that it was extremely important to fail to build rockets. He’s obviously referring to the many non-professional, hobby rocketeers out there trying to build their own spacecraft. He didn’t mention them, but one example would be the people at Starchaser, who started out as a small group of enthusiasts in Yorkshire but have gone on to create their own space company, now based across the pond in America. I think it’s brilliant that amateurs and semi-professionals have developed skills that the professionals in the industry find valuable. And the failures are important, as they show what can go wrong, and give the experience and necessary information on how to avoid it. I don’t think the rocket will be wholly built in this country. The manager said that some of it was being constructed in Copenhagen. This sounds like Copenhagen Suborbitals, a Danish team of rocket scientists, who are trying to put a person into space. They’re ex-NASA, I believe, but it’s a small, private venture. They have a webpage and have posted videos on YouTube, some of which I’ve reblogged. They’ve also said they’re keen for people to join them, or start their own rocket projects.

I’d been looking forward to that edition of the Sky at Night for the past week, but when the time came, it slipped my mind that it was on. I’m very glad I was able to catch it. If Orbex are successful, it will be the first time that a British satellite will launch a British satellite from here in Britain. And it sounds really optimistic. Not only will Britain be returning to space rocket development, but the Scots spaceport sounds like it will, hopefully, bring work to a depressed area. I’m also confident that the local environment there will also be preserved. The launch complex around NASA is necessarily so remote from other buildings, that it’s actually become a wildlife haven. So much so that it’s now a location for birdwatching.

When it was announced that they were planning to build a new spaceport in Scotland, I assumed it would be for Skylon, the British spaceplane. There had been articles in the paper about the spacecraft, which stated that it would be launched either from Scotland or Cornwall. It seems I was wrong, and that it’s Orbex’s rocket which will be launched there instead. But nevertheless, I wish Orbex every success in their venture, and hope that sometime soon Skylon will also join them in flight out on the High Frontier.

Three Arrows Attacks the Right-Wing Myth of ‘Cultural Marxism’

October 13, 2018

Three Arrows is a German vlogger, who makes videos attacking and refuting the lies and assertions of the internet far right. These are reactionary, anti-feminist and anti-immigrant – some would also say racist – personalities like Stefan Molyneaux, Jordan Peterson, Carl Benjamin AKA ‘Sargon of Akkad’ and Paul Joseph Watson, who was formerly Alex Jones’ little Brit buddy on Infowars. In the video below, he tackles the myth of ‘cultural Marxism’. This is the belief amongst the transatlantic extreme right that a group of Marxist intellectuals are trying to destroy western culture from within through feminism, immigration, postmodernism, gay and trans rights and other radical movements. They trace this movement back to the German Frankfurt School of radical Marxist thinkers, which included Horkheimer, Jurgen Habermas and Theodor Adorno.

I’m putting up this video as it is directly relevant to the issue of some of the extremist literature that was found at the Tory conference this week. Mike over at Vox Political reported a piece by Vice that an extremist pamphlet, Moralitis: A Cultural Virus, had been found at a meeting of the Thatcherite, right-wing organization, the Bruges group, at the conference. This used the metaphor of a virus to describe the spread of left-wing ideas, particularly a positive attitude to immigration and Islam. These were attacking western culture, and were being promoted and orchestrated by ‘Cultural Marxists’.

Three Arrows shows how similar the modern Right’s ideas of Cultural Marxism to the Nazi idea of Cultural Bolshevism. The Nazis also believed that the Bolsheviks were spreading radical cultural and intellectual movements to bring down traditional western, and especially German culture, with the Jews at the centre of this Marxist conspiracy.

The modern right-wing myth of cultural Marxism started with two Americans, Pat Buchanan and William S. Lint. Buchanan wrote two books, The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilisation and Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost its Empire and the West Lost the World. Three Arrows states that Buchanan is a palaeoconservative who has complained that there are too many Jews on the American supreme court. In the first book, he argued that the cultural Marxists, referring to the Frankfurt School, were trying to de-Christianise and subvert the country. This meant making America more open to issues like homosexuality. The second book argued that Britain should never have declared war on Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust was the consequence of its doing so.

Lint is more overtly right-wing and racist. He calls for hanging as the punishment for crime, but only in ‘urban areas’. Which is a dog-whistle reference to Black ghettos. In 1989 he told a conference that political correctness and cultural Marxism had turned American universities in little ‘North Koreas’, in which dissenters would be persecuted and punished by ‘gender feminists’ and homosexual activists. In 2002 Lint spoke at a conference organized by the Barnes Review, a Holocaust revisionist rag, in front self-described Holocaust revisionists, anti-Semites and neo-Nazis. The character of the rag is shown by the cover of the issue Three Arrows puts up, which shows Adolf Hitler at a rally, with the caption, ‘In Defence of Adolf Hitler’. Lint is not, however, a Holocaust denier. He again talked about how the Frankfurt school were responsible for the ideas destroying America, and said that they were all Jewish. For which he was greeted with rapturous applause from the stormtroopers.

Three Arrows then goes on to discuss how, contrary to what Buchanan, Lint and their successors believe, the Frankfurt school were very definitely not supporters of postmodernism, and wished to preserve western culture. Indeed, Jurgen Habermas was one of postmodernism’s fiercest critics. He attacked the founders and major figures in postmodernism – Jacques Derrida, Foucault and Nietzsche contradicted themselves by using the methods of western rationalism to attack western rationalism. He also criticized Nietzsche for destroying the unity religion had given wester culture. The Frankfurt School were also appalled at the uniformity and coarseness of modern culture and expressed this in terms that resemble some of the comments of right-wing mouthpieces like Paul Joseph Watson. The difference, however, was that Theodor Adorno, who voiced these criticisms of the modern culture industry, placed the blame for western cultural decline on capitalism. Horkheimer, Adorno, Lowenthal and the other members of the School wished to preserve and promote western values like rationality and personal freedom. They believed that capitalism itself threatened Enlightenment values, and some of them attacked postmodernism, pop culture and ‘political correctness’. Three Arrows also makes the point that they wouldn’t have supported changing the culture to bring about Communism, because this contradicted the Marxist doctrine that this could only be done through changing society’s economic base.

Three Arrows also makes the point that there is absolutely no evidence for this ‘cultural Marxist’ conspiracy. Wikipedia had to move its entry for it to that of the Frankfurt School, because none of its readers could provide any. There are no Marxist countries in the West. And in Three Arrows’ homeland, Germany, in which Marx was born, the two biggest Marxist parties – the German Communist Party and the Marxist-Leninist Party together got less than 0.1 per cent of the vote combined. He suggests that instead of a secret Marxist conspiracy, these changes in western society owe more instead to politicians and businesses adopting ‘political correctness’ to appeal to a wider audience. As for left-wing students, they have always been around, and some of them do stupid things. Like the two young women in the late ’60s who took off their clothes and started kissing Adorno as a protest against ‘patriarchal structures’. For which Adorno called the cops and had them removed.

Three Arrows then argues that the similarity between the Nazis’ Cultural Bolshevism and the ‘Cultural Marxism’ of modern right-wing internet pundits like Stefan Molyneaux, Sargon of Akkad and Paul Joseph Watson isn’t coincidental. They both require their audience to accept the existence of this conspiracy on their word alone, without any supporting proof. The only difference is that Molyneaux, Sargon, Watson and the others aren’t anti-Semites. For them, the group responsible for this conspiracy aren’t the Jews, but the globalists. But their opinions do validate the Nazis’ own conspiratorial beliefs about Marxism, even while they decry the Nazis’ actions and murder of the Jews.

Three Arrows also makes the point that Molyneaux et al are massively wrong about the ‘Decline of the West’. According to them, Germany should have collapsed several times over by now. But Three Arrows declares with biting irony that he has no doubt that the Caliphate will be declared soon.

This is a good, short account of the idea of cultural Marxism, which makes it clear that it is just another extreme right-wing conspiracy theory, advanced and promoted by fringe ideologues with no real understanding of what the Frankfurt School actually was. Buchanan, Lint and the rest of them have mixed it up with the ideas of the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, who did believe that a change in culture could be use to alter social relations and society’s economic base.

As for Buchanan himself, he’s a Republican politician notorious for his extreme ideas. A pro-gun nut, he and his followers once went through a crowd
holding their guns in the air, crying ‘Lock and Load’ – basically, ‘take aim and fire’. Back in the 1990s he won an election in New Hampshire as part, I think, of the presidential primaries. The edition of the Radio 4’s Postcard from Gotham, a weekly show covering events in America over the previous week, began with a piece of Italian dialogue from the film Il Postino, which was then in cinemas. The show’s presenter, Joe Queenan, instead joked that it was Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini congratulating Buchanan on his success. He and his guests discussed the rise of the Right in America and Europe, and one of them, a Jewish woman, stated that despite his denials Buchanan was an anti-Semite. Going back to the subject of New Hampshire, Queenan joked yet again that now Buchanan had won the nomination for that state, all you could hear up there were cries of ‘Duce! Duce!’

Cultural Marxism doesn’t exist. It’s just a malicious conspiracy theory promoted by extreme right-wingers to attack the Left, and provide a spurious explanation for the social changes they fear and dislike – like gay rights, immigration, particularly Muslim communities and the decline of traditional morality. But while Cultural Marxism is a myth, those promoting it are a real threat to today’s culture of tolerance and pluralism.

Vox Political on the Insulting Appointment of Jackie Doyle-Price as ‘Suicide Prevention Minister’

October 11, 2018

Yesterday, Wednesday 10th October 2018, was World Mental Health Awareness Day. Mental health has become a major issue, with this country in particular seeing increasing rates of depression, particularly amongst school and university students, not to mention the poor, the disabled and the unemployed. According to yesterday’s I newspaper, 4,500 people take their lives every year, and a total of 6,213 people killed themselves last year in the UK and Eire. It’s the leading cause of death in blokes under 45. Guys in the UK are three times more likely to end it all than women, and in Eire the rate is four times.

With this such an issue, Tweezer decided to make a world first by appointing Jackie Doyle-Price as the world’s first Minister for Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention. The I yesterday published this pic of Doyle-Price grinning into a camera.

According to the paper, her responsibilities will include ensuring that every local area has a plan to prevent unnecessary deaths. She is also going to be investigating how technology can be used to identify those most at risk.

It also quoted her as saying

“I understand how tragic, devastating and long-lasting the effect of suicide can be on families and communities. In my time as health minister I have met many people who have been bereaved by suicide and their stories of pain and loss will stay with me for a long time.

“It’s these people who need to be at the heart of what we do and I welcome this opportunity to work closely with them as well as experts, to oversee a cross-Government suicide prevention plan, making their sure their views are always heard.” (p.3).

Which are fine words, but from her voting record and previous attitude to the poor and desperate, it’s a pack of lies.

Mike posted an article today pointing out the critical role Tory policies towards the poor, such as cutting benefits, had contributed immensely to rise the suicide. He notes that the inquest into the death of Stephanie Bottrill, who was worried about the bedroom tax, found that the stress caused by the Tory government of the day resulted in her taking her own life.

His article then goes on to quote a piece about it from Nursing Notes, who stated that

“Statistics show that those with long-term physical or mental health issues are significantly more likely to be dependent on the state for assistance with housing and living costs.

“Social isolation, financial and health struggles are thought to be some of the leading risk factors for preventable suicide in the UK.”

It also quoted Vicki Nash, the head of policy and campaigns at the mental health charity, MIND, who said

“MIND found that half of people with mental health problems have thought about or attempted suicide as a result of social issues such as housing issues, finances, benefit support, and employment. We need a benefits system that is supportive – not one that drives people into poverty.”

Which is precisely what the Tory attitude to the welfare state and their wretched reforms don’t do. Thatcher wanted to destroy the welfare state completely, including the NHS. She was prevented from doing so, but she was determined to make getting benefits as hard, cruel and degrading as possible to deter people from going on it. It was one of the wretched ‘Victorian values’ she took over, the principle of ‘less eligibility’ underlying the poverty and degradation of the workhouse. And the Tories have gone on with the same attitude ever since, followed by Blair’s equally revolting New Labour.

Mike has, in his articles, argued strongly that there is a deliberate policy of ‘chequebook euthansia’ behind the Tories’ welfare reforms. It seems as though they’re consciously and deliberately planned to drive the most vulnerable to suicide, so Cameron, Tweezer, IDS, Esther McDeath and the whole sordid lot can save more money, and give more tax cuts to the filthy, pointlessly rich. There’s a nasty strain of Social Darwinism in the Republican Party on the other side of the Atlantic, and it’s in the Tories over here as well. In the survival of the economic fittest, these parties see the rich and business leaders as the biologically superior. And the poor have only themselves to blame – it’s all due to their inferior constitutions. In the Social Darwinism of the 19th century, such people would always be with humanity. The only solution was to stop them breeding by denying them welfare support and sterilizing them. Or simply murdering them, as the Nazis did with their notorious Aktion T4.

And there can be little doubt that Tory policies are driving the poor and vulnerable to take their own lives. Despite repeated whines by the Conservatives that ‘correlation doesn’t indicate causation’, some of those, who have killed themselves left notes, which stated plainly that there were doing so because of the stress of benefit cuts and sanctions. Mike’s article states that 1/2 of all women claiming benefits have thought about killing themselves.

So how does Doyle-Price herself measure up in this? Well, abysmally, as it happens. She voted for raising the bedroom tax, voted against increasing benefits in line with inflation, voted against increasing benefits for the long-term sick and disabled, and voted 46 times in favour of cutting benefits. This was also in Mike’s article from Nursing Notes, who took it from They Work For You.

Worse. She added insult to grievous wounding by laughing about the subject. Yep, she’s also joked about suicide.

I’m not surprised about that either. The Tories have absolutely no sympathy for the suffering of the poor. They really do think it’s a jolly joke. Like when Cameron and Ian Duncan Smith were caught on TV laughing in parliament when one woman’s account of the troubles she’d had claiming benefit were read out. They had a good guffaw, like some Nazi version of the Chuckle Brothers.

Nor is the DWP sympathetic to those with suicidal thoughts. When one claimant said that they were depressed and thinking of suicide, one DWP clerk asked them why they hadn’t done it already.

Mike in his article quotes the reactions of a number of people to the news that Doyle-Price has been appointed to this post. Keith Ordinary Guy said it was like curing malaria with the plague. Matt Turner said it was a grotesque slap in the face to those struggling on. And Samuel Miller, a friend of Mike’s blog, who’s been campaigning for disabled students since attending McGill University in the 1970s, said that nothing angered him more than the government’s maltreatment of the sick and disabled.

He also posted this tweet:

“Was her appointment merely a sop to counter alarming headlines about the soaring rate of suicides and attempted suicides among sick and disabled claimants, mostly triggered by loss of benefits.”

Mike concludes his article with this:

Was it? I don’t think so.

I think it was a signal; they appointed the least appropriate person for the job because they think the deaths and attempted deaths of hundreds of thousands of people are nothing but a big joke. They really are that repulsive.

I don’t think there’s any contradiction between these two positions. Yes, it is a sop to counter the headlines about the soaring suicide rate. And yes, the Tories do find it all a joke, and so deliberately appointed the least appropriate person.

She’s there not because she has any real sympathy with the mentally ill, the depressed, the disabled and suicidal. She’s there purely to make sure the system carries on, while limiting any damage to the party that appointed her. She’s just a mouthpiece, who’s simply there to spout reassuring platitudes and assure the public that the Tories are taking this issue seriously. And all the while she’s going to laugh about it behind her back.

Get her out, get Tweezer out and the whole wretched lot of them OUT! Before they drive any more people to their deaths.

Vox Political on the Racist, Islamophobic Booklets at the Tory Conference

October 9, 2018

Mike also raised further questions about the prevalence of racism in the Tory party in an article he put up about a report by Vice that they had discovered far-right literature at a meeting of the Bruges group, a Thatcherite anti-EU group within the Tories. The book in question was Moralitis: A Cultural Virus. This was a long, racist rant against ‘Cultural Marxism’ using the metaphor of bacteriology. It stated that

The body politic has become infected. Like the growth of bacteria in a petri dish, the subversive tenets of cultural Marxism have spread as a pinking of the public discourse.

Mike goes on to explain that ‘Cultural Marxism’

refers to a far-right conspiracy theory with its origins in anti-Semitic beliefs that Jews – as a culture – want to undermine traditional Western values.

In its modern variant it seems to be a product of the Republicans in America. Right-wing organisations like Prager U and Paul Joseph Watson, formerly Alex Jones’ Brit sidekick on Infowars, rant about it. It seems to be based on a confused and garbled understanding of the German Frankfurt School and Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci was a Marxist, who turned Marxism on its head by discussing and analyzing how culture helped perpetuate capitalism. In orthodox Marxism, it’s the other way round: the economic basis of society determines the culture. Scholars from the Marxist Frankfurt School sought refuge in America when the Nazis took power. In the form the Republicans and their followers over here are retailing, there’s no explicit reference to Jews, and I think many of those who have adopted this view may also believe the lie that anti-Semitism is also something unique to the Left.

But critics of the idea have also pointed out that the idea of ‘Cultural Marxism’ actually goes all the way back to the Nazis and their idea of Kulturbolschevismus – Cultural Bolshevism. This was the idea that the supposed Jewish plot to enslave White Aryans, and particularly Germans, included the destruction of German culture. Jews were members of many of the modernist movements in art, music and literature the Nazis despised, such as 12 note Serialism in music and Expressionism. And so the Nazis and anti-Semitic mobs angrily denounced anything dangerously modern as ‘Jewish’.

Mike goes on to quote the Vice article on the contents of this nasty booklet.

The Vice article states: “The booklet blames immigration for “relentless population growth” and suggests that the growth of Britain’s Muslim population was “a deliberate policy to replace one set of voters with another”. It also notes that it is absurd for progressives to favour immigration, “considering the very conservative cultures that they bring” – for instance, “the growth of fundamentalist Islam”.” It goes on to suggest that such “progressives” are like turkeys voting for Christmas.

He explains that

This refers to a far-right conspiracy theory called “The Great Replacement”, that believes Western culture is being systematically “replaced” by the culture of immigrants from third-world continents who are allegedly “pawns for the revolutionary zeal of cultural Marxism”.

This idea is merely a modern version of the old conspiracy theory that the Jews are encouraging racial mixing in order to destroy the White race. You may remember that the Nazis and Klansmen marching through Charlottesville last year chanted ‘You will not replace us!’ and ‘Jews will not replace us!’ It also seems to be partly based on the fact that some parts of the radical American Left in the early part of this century did look forward to immigrants from Latin America and elsewhere revitalizing American radicalism. You also hear regularly on this side of the Atlantic the claim that Blair deliberately allowed in greater numbers of immigrants because he wanted to create a multicultural society that the Tories would be unable to undo or appeal to. This claim was first made by a former civil servant under Blair, who remains its only source. And the positive attitude of the American Left towards immigration, and its alleged deliberate increase by Blair are far from being the racist plot the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory claims.

As for the book’s title, Moralitis is ominously similar to the Nazis’ explicit rejection, common to Fascism generally, of humanitarianism.

As for the claim that Muslim immigration presents a particular danger because of the conservative nature of those societies, there is indeed a problem with the very hardline, intolerant form of Islam promoted by the Saudis. And I can remember one moderate Muslim imam complaining in the Financial Times back in the 1990s that the lack of properly trained Muslim clergy in Britain meant that dangerous fanatics and bigots were able to come here from Pakistan unchecked in order to meet this spiritual need. However, this was before 9/11 and I doubt very much the same type of clergy find it quite so easy to get into this country or others in the EU. Furthermore, many, if not the majority of the Islamic terrorists so far caught are second or third generation Brits, coming from integrated, westernized homes. Anjem Chaudhury, the raving bigot behind a whole host of Islamist organisations in Britain and Europe, like Sharia4UK, is an example of this. Before he converted to hardline Islam and became an ardent, vocal supporter of terrorism, Chaudhury was a law student at Oxbridge. He managed to fail his degree, largely due to drink and drugs. While many people reach out to religion and God during personal crises like that, they don’t all of them by any means decide that the way to the divine is by the destruction of their surrounding society and the murder of its people. It looks to me very much like Chaudhury and those like him turned to nihilistic, destructive Islamism because of their own personal failings and destructive tendencies. They aren’t representative of wider British Islamic culture.

Mike’s article concludes

The meeting of the Bruges Group was said to be well attended this year, with a cabinet whip keeping watch over hard-Brexiteer MPs – that’s right, Conservative members of Parliament have been swallowing this tripe.

The title of his article asks ‘Are these far-right, racist booklets influencing Conservative MPs?’

It’s a good question. Even if they aren’t, they show that people elsewhere in the Tory party are reading them, and are being influenced. Which in turn shows that vehement racism is still a powerful force amongst the ‘Nasty Party’.

Vox Political: Guardian Journos Outraged at Speaking Invitation to Editor of The Canary

September 28, 2018

Mike over at Vox Political today also put up another story about an attempt to silence a very able and outspoken woman of colour. This time it’s Kerry-Anne Mendoza, the editor-in-chief of the Canary. She’s another friend of Mike’s blog, and mentioned it and other leading members of the new left media when she appeared on Newsnight in 2016.

Mendoza has been invited to give this year’s Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture. These talks are organized by the National Union of Journalists Black Members’ Council in honour of the pioneering Black lady journalist. It has zilch to do with the Guardian-Observer branch of the NUJ, but for some weird reason they’re outraged that Mendoza’s been given this honour. They sent an email out to their members, asking them to send in complaints to the NUJ’s equalities people and were threatening to hold a vote.

The Guardian journos’ audacity as White, university-educated people complaining and threatening to vote to stop one of the very few BAME editors from giving a talk to commemorate a black journalist as part of Black History Month provoked an immediate backlash. Mendoza herself said

I’m a proud member of the National Union of Journalists and honoured to be invited to give the Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture this year.

It’s a sign of the entitlement of our establishment journalists that they would behave so poorly in response.

I think we’ve reached peak Guardian. A group of mostly white, middle class journalists trying to stop one of Britain’s only working class, BAME editors in chief from giving a speech for Black History Month.

And the Groan’s hacks also shot themselves in the foot with the timing of their outburst. It came just when a national boycott was being organized against the Guardian under the hashtag,#BoycottTheGuardian for the hours between 7 and 9 pm, September 27, 2018. This shot the hashtag campaign up to No.1.

And the peeps on Twitter also weren’t silent themselves about the Guardian and its presumption. Tom Pride, Aaron Bastani, Craig Murray, Alex Tiffin, Nadeem Ahmed, Jimmy Lacey and the MP, Chris Williamson, also sent Tweets wondering what the Guardian thought it was doing, alienating its left-wing readers when nobody on the right reads it. They deplored its political coverage, and said that while Britain needs a left-wing paper, it seems increasingly irrelevant. They also pointed out that it was Neoconservative and had done its level best to damage Corbyn and the Labour party, especially by running stories linking them to anti-Semitism.

Mike makes the point that the tweets attacking the rag’s attacks on the Labour party would have received far less attention if the hacks had kept their mouths shuts and their mitts away from the keyboard. He goes on to say that it’s not clear what will happen next. He concludes

It is possible that the Establishment will try to hush up the fact that there has been a huge protest against what can be seen as a clear example of racism by mostly white, middle-class university-graduate journalists.

If that happens, we’ll just have to run another campaign – bigger, louder, and impossible to ignore. Repression always incites rebellion.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/09/28/journalists-outrage-at-canary-editors-speech-invitation-leads-to-boycott-the-guardian-campaign/

Despite its reputation, the Groaniad isn’t a far left rag. In at least seven elections since the 1970s, the newspaper has urged its readers to vote Liberal/Liberal-SDP Alliance/Lib-Dem. The last time they did so was in 2010, and the result was the disgusting coalition between the Lib-Dems and the Tories. And they do seem to have a very strong Neocon bias. There have been articles in Lobster pointing out that the newspaper has a very long history of supporting Zionism and Israel at the expense of the Palestinians. And I have a very strong suspicion that they, or some of their journalists, were also busy writing articles defending and promoting Blair’s wars in the Middle East. From a left-wing point of view, of course.

They’re also massive hypocrites when it comes to the use of unpaid, intern labour. They got into Private Eye several times a few years ago because they published articles attacking the use of unpaid interns by big companies, while at the same time they were the newspaper that most extensively exploited such unpaid aspiring journalists.

Quite why they should take it upon themselves to decry Mendoza’s invitation to give this year’s Claudia Jone’s lecture is a mystery to me. I have no idea why they think it is any business of theirs, but there seems to be more than an attitude of entitlement, as if they feel that as one of the country’s leading left-wing papers, they somehow have some kind of right to decide who gets to speak on issues like this. It seems very strongly to me that they feel threatened not just by Mendoza herself, but also by what she represents. The Guardian, like the rest of the national papers, is losing readers and money. Private Eye has reported in its ‘Street of Shame’ column several times that the Guardian Media Group is at least tens of millions in debt. I think the real figure may even be over a hundred million.

By contrast, people are increasingly turning to the internet for their news and information. Mendoza’s invitation to speak shows just how influential the Canary has become, and, by implication, the new left media of which it, and Vox Political, are a part. The Guardian, like the lamestream media generally, is losing its audience and its influence. The previous editor, Alan Rusbridger, used to speak regularly at political gatherings and events. It seems that the people at the Groan felt that it should have been someone from their paper, or who at least worked in print and shared the lamestream media’s bias. And it really couldn’t tolerate that the Black Members’ Council had chosen someone different. Someone from outside. Hence the tantrum about Mendoza being invited to speak.

I’ve only heard her on the radio and TV, but she came across very strongly as an excellent speaker with a keen, critical intelligence, able to dismantle and rebut the arguments and lies of the right. I have absolutely no doubt that she is an excellent choice of speaker, and wish her all the best.

‘The Lobby’: Labour Friends of Israel’s Lies and Smears at Labour Conference

September 26, 2018

This is the third part of the Al-Jazeera documentary, ‘The Lobby’, on the Israel lobby in the UK. In this section, the Arab news agency’s undercover reporter went with Shai Masot and Mark Regev of the Israeli embassy to the Labour conference in Liverpool. There they met and advised Joan Ryan, the Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, and her parliamentary assistant, Alex Richardson, and Michael Rubin, the Parliamentary Assistant for Labour Friends of Israel, on how to deal with supporters of the Palestinians. They also recorded Ryan smearing Jean Fitzpatrick as an anti-Semite, accusing her of saying something which she definitely did not. Ryan did so because Fitzpatrick had the temerity to ask her a question she could not answer about what the LFI was doing to advance a two-state solution to the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Israel’s Attack on the BDS Movement

The segment includes a clip of one of the Labour party’s Israel lobby saying that she could ‘take’ Jackie Walker. It then moves on to the challenge to Israel posed by the BDS movement, and Israel’s response to it. Netanyahu is shown saying to the camera that Israelis have to fight the BDS movement because it is morally wrong. Israel’s attack on the BDS movement is run by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which recruits mainly former Israeli secret agents. London is a major battleground in the conflict over the BDS movement. There’s a shot of Ilan Pappe, the Israeli historian and critic of Israel, stating that in many ways the BDS movement started in Britain. There’s another clip of someone from the Labour Friends of Israeli ominously declaring that they work closely with the Israeli embassy, ‘doing a lot behind the scenes’. The documentary’s director, Clayton Swisher, states that one of the main targets is the Labour party, as for the first time they have a leader, who is a champion of Palestinian rights. There is also a shot of Peter Oborne, the Telegraph journo, who himself made a Channel 4 documentary investigating and criticizing the Israel lobby, saying that Israel interference is an outrage, an affront to democracy and shouldn’t be allowed.

Mark Regev on What to Tell Supporters of the Palestinians

The video shows the Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, telling a group of sympathetic Labour activists that people on the left today are likely to be pro-Palestinian and hostile to Israel, if not anti-Semitic. He tells them that to combat Progressives, they are to ask them why they are supporting reactionaries like Hamas and Hezbollah, and to say in the language of Social Democracy that they are misogynist, homophobic, racist anti-Semitic and reactionary. The chair of the Labour Friends of Israel, Jeremy Newmark, then talks to the crowd about how he used the argument to win over Clive Lewis, one of Corbyn’s close allies.

Jackie Walker: The Anti-Semitism Crisis Is Constructed to Unseat Corbyn

There is another clip of Jackie Walker stating that the anti-Semitism crisis is constructed and manipulated by parts of the Labour party, other parties and the media to discredit Corbyn and a number of his supporters. She makes it clear that she wants an argument between Zionism and anti-Zionism, instead of the fake conflict there is now. She also states that at a debate she had with Newmark, he turned his back on the audience and whispered to her that she was a ‘court Jew’, the Jewish equivalent of calling a Black person a ‘house n*gger’. A note at the end of the programme states that when they contacted Newmark, he denied he said any such thing and feels that it is not a fair description of Walker. When asked if she had told anyone, she replies that it’s hard to use the compliance system, because it’s so discredited.

Masot is also filmed boasting that the Israeli embassy had attended 50 events that year at universities, and that more than 100 events were organized by the Israel societies on campuses, eight receptions for young people at the embassy, and three receptions for more than 300 people from Parliament.

Jean Fitpatrick and Joan Ryan of Labour Friends of Israel

The video also interviews Jean Fitzpatrick about her encounter with Ryan and the Labour Friends of Israel. Fitzpatrick says that is was her first Labour conference, and that she wanted to use the opportunity to have a genuine dialogue with a group she felt had a lot of influence. She is shown asking Ryan and the others what they were doing about the Israeli settlements in Palestine. Ryan replies that they aren’t friends of Israel and enemies of Palestine, and that they believe in a two-state solution. Fitzpatrick asks how this will come about. Ryan simply comes out with more flannel about coexistence and self-determination for both peoples. Fitzpatrick states that she had no idea, who was on the stall, and what she wanted was straight answers not slogans. Fitzpatrick asked Ryan what they were doing about Israeli occupation. In reply Ryan restates that they’re in favour of a two-state solution, and Israeli security.

Swisher then follows, explaining that a two-state solution is impossible due to the way Israeli colonization has atomized the existing Palestinian villages and towns, separating them from each other. Fitzpatrick also states that she wanted reassurance that a two-state solution was still possible. Back to the video of Fitzpatrick and Ryan talking, where Ryan states that they have to be careful not to let their feelings morph into anti-Semitism. Fitzpatrick in reply says she’s not anti-Zionist.

Ben White, a journalist with the Middle East Monitor, appears on camera to state that it is clear that, whatever party is in power in Israel, the country has no desire to relinquish the territories seized after 1967. This throws up questions no-one wants to ask. Or don’t want to answer.

Ilan Pappe states that there are only two solutions to the problem. Either you support Israel, which is an ethnic apartheid state, or you support a change of regime in Israel, which means that the country would go through a process of genuine democratization like apartheid South Africa. There is no third option.

Back to the conversation between Fitzpatrick and Ryan, Ryan tries to end the conversation. Pappe observes that Fitzpatrick didn’t ask anything about Judaism or the existence of Israel. She just asked about the settlements, and how anyone who supported Israel justified them.

Ryan Calls Fitzpatrick Anti-Semitic

Fitzpatrick states she was interested to know how they would use whatever funds and influence they had to bring about a two-state solution. Fitzpatrick is shown saying to Ryan that they have a lot of money and prestige in the world. Ryan asks her where she got that from. Fitzpatrick replies that that is what she has heard. the Labour Friends of Israel is a stepping-stone to good jobs, and that the son of a friend of hers got a good job at Oxford university on the basis of working for the Labour Friends of Israel. Ryan then responds that this is anti-Semitic, which Fitzpatrick denies, stating that it’s a fact. Ryan then goes on about how it’s an ‘anti-Semitic trope’ and talks about ‘conspiracy theories’. Ryan then declares she’s ending the conversation, because she doesn’t want to talk further about getting jobs in university or the City through this, which is anti-Semitic.

Swisher then explains that Ryan falsely claimed that Fitzpatrick had spoken about getting jobs in the City, London’s financial centre. Pappe comments that Fitzpatrick wasn’t anti-Semitic, and Ryan and her friends knew it. She was simply an ordinary pro-Palestinian person concerned about Israel’s violation of their civil rights. Ryan continued talking about how Fitzpatrick had spoken about banking as she left the conference hall, even though Fitzpatrick had never mentioned it.

That evening, at a rally for the Labour Friends of Israel, Joan Ryan described her day, claiming that there were three anti-Semitic incidents that day at the stand to the people staffing it. Which she believed showed the reality of anti-Semitism in the party.

Ryan, Angela Eagle, Jennifer Gerber and Chuka Umunna

Swisher states that by the following day the news had got out about the exchange on the stall. The video shows internet messages from LBC and the Labour Friends of Israel. Various MPs came by to express their views on the subject, including Angela Eagle, who is told by Ryan’s assistant, Michael Rubin, the Parliamentary Officer for Labour Friends of Israel, that they had someone talk to them, who said the anti-Semitism accusations were made up to attack Jeremy Corbyn. Chuka Umunna also turns up to hug Jennifer Gerber, the director of the LFI, and asks for an update on the anti-Semitic incidents. They tell him that a ‘nutter’ turned up to tell him that the coup was run by Jews, Jewish MPs and Jewish millionaires. They also say that Angela Eagle’s husband was Jewish to show how unpleasant this comment was. Ryan also tells Umunna that she reported ‘that woman’ and that Fitzpatrick had videoed her not answering the question. This has clearly upset Ryan. Ryan then goes on to say that she didn’t film her telling Fitzpatrick that she’s anti-Semitic, and that she’s made a formal complaint.

Fitzpatrick states that she’s angry about how Ryan misquoted her, and anxious about how she totally misinterpreted her words. Fitzpatrick says she has no idea how Ryan got from what she really said to getting good jobs in banking. ‘Maybe she believes her own trope’.

The video goes back to Gerber stating that she met someone who said that the anti-Semitism isn’t real, they haven’t seen it, their Jewish friends haven’t seen it and it’s really being used to crush Corbyn.

Pappe then says that it’s pathetic and worrying that such evidence is used every day to attack Corbyn, and get him to deny that he is anti-Semitic.

Alex Richardson: I Don’t Know If It’s Anti-Semitic Or Not, But It Made Me Uncomfortable, So It Is

And then were back Gerber telling the LFI that it’s upsetting to her as a Jew to hear about how anti-Semitism is being used to undermine Corbyn. But Gerber then goes on about how this person worries her more than the blatant anti-Semites, who talk about how Jews have big noses and control the world, because she doesn’t know whether she’s an anti-Semite. The conversation then moves on to a debate over which of these incidents was worse, with Rubin claiming it was Fitzpatrick’s conversation with Ryan. And Rubin himself is shown saying that he doesn’t know where the line is about anti-Semitism anymore. Alex Richardson, Ryan’s parliamentary assistant, then gives his opinion, that it’s anything that makes you uncomfortable. And so he reported Fitzpatrick’s comments as anti-Semitic, even though nothing anti-Semitic was said – but he’s sure there were undertones – simply because it made him feel uncomfortable.

Fitzpatrick observes that she tried to talk to them because she thought they were willing to talk about Palestine. Now it appears they are not, and if you try to talk about it, they will bring a charge of anti-Semitism against you.

Pappe observes that the LFI is really scraping the bottom of the barrel to find 2 1/2 cases of anti-Semitism, and that even they aren’t sure if 2 of their 3 cases are actually anti-Semitic.

Fitzpatrick Investigated

Fitzpatrick was unaware that a complaint of anti-Semitism had been lodged, and that the story had made the news. This part of the video shows the headline in Jewish News. Shortly afterwards, Ryan’s parliamentary assistant emailed Rubin asking him to be a witness to the supposed anti-Semitic incident. But Richardson says that Fitzpatrick’s comment was ‘on the line’, but he felt it was anti-Semitic, even though she didn’t mention Jews, but Israel instead, and was all about Jews controlling money and power. Richardson then speculates about how ‘that woman’ might be banned because she said something anti-Semitic.

Shortly after she left the conference, Fitzpatrick was contacted by someone from the Labour party, who only told her it was about ‘a serious incident’. She was left racking her brains wondering if she had seen a fire or an assault of some kind. She was then told that it was her conduct, that was being investigated, ‘which was a real bombshell’.

At the end of the programme, it is states that they contacted everyone involved for their opinion. Ryan stated that she believes that it is duty of all party members to report language that is racist or anti-Semitic, and that she believes that her actions were entirely appropriate.

She added that comments like those about certain groups having lots of money and prestige and helped to advance people’s careers appeared to evoke classic anti-Semitic tropes.

The documentary also states that neither Shai Masot nor the Israeli embassy responded to their findings.

Conclusion

This shows just how nasty and desperate the Israel lobby is, and I admit, it has changed my opinion about the Israel lobby. I’d previously assumed that the accusations were a cynical ruse to smear Corbyn and his supporters. But it seems from this that the people who make them, Labour Friends of Israel, the Jewish Labour Movement and others are so fanatical and blinkered, that they really do think that any who questions their views and Israel’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians is an anti-Semite.

Of course, they can’t clearly tell you what is anti-Semitic about particular comments. As Ryan showed with her own faulty recollection of what she was asked by Fitzpatrick, if it’s not explicitly anti-Semitic, they won’t remember it properly and make it fit their existing prejudices. Anti-Semites think Jews are behind the banking system, so when Fitzpatrick talked about the prestige surrounding the LFI that got her friend’s son a job, Ryan altered it in her recollection of the event to be about banks. Even though banks weren’t mentioned.

Nor did Fitzpatrick say anything about Jews. And it may very well be that the board interviewing the young man for the job at Oxford University were impressed that he had worked for Labour Friends of Israel. But just because Fitzpatrick believed, or her friend’s son believed, that he had got the job because of this doesn’t make it anti-Semitic. Fitzpatrick did not say that Jews controlled education, only that working for the LFI got him a job. People are impressed by different things, and it is not remotely impossible that someone at the university, who was personally impressed by the LFI, would offer a job to someone, who had worked for them.

As for Regev telling the Labour Friends of Israel to ask supporters of the Palestinians why they are supporting reactionaries, it’s true that Hamas and Hizbollah are unpleasant organisations. But there are deeply reactionary, racist and misogynist organisations in Israel. Not every Palestinian supports Hamas, and the nature of that political organization does not justify Israel’s dispossession and persecution of the Palestinians, which started long before it arose.

It’s clear from this segment that the Israel lobby can’t justify it’s treatment of the Palestinians. Ryan couldn’t in her conversation with Fitzpatrick, and this embarrassed and angered her. Hence the smear. And with no arguments, Rubin and Richardson act like precious snowflakes demanding ‘safe spaces’ from being made uncomfortable.

And the use of anti-Semitic tropes to accuse decent people of anti-Semitism is contrived and deliberately constructed so that those making the accusation do not need to take any account of the reality of what they are being told. It’s a particularly nasty way of sticking their fingers in their ears, and saying ‘la-la-la, I’m not listening to you, and you’re an anti-Semite anyway for telling me things I don’t want to hear, can’t answer, and don’t want you to know.’

Human Rights Lawyer Maria LaHood on Israel’s Suppression of Criticism in the US

September 25, 2018

This is another video from the conference ‘Israel’s Influence: Good or Bad for America?’, organized by the American Educational Trust, which publishes the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs; and Middle Eastern Policy, Inc. The speaker in this piece is Maria LaHood, a deputy legal director at the Centre for Constitutional Rights, who works to defend the constitutional rights of Palestinian civil rights activists in the US. In this clip she describes some of the cases she’s worked on defending Palestinian and pro-Palestinian activists from legal attack by the Israel lobby. These includes the case of the Olympia Co-op, Professor Stephen Salaita, and filing Freedom of Information Act Requests to obtain government documents about Israel’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza. The speaker also says she works on the Right to Heal Initiative, helping Iraqi civil society and veterans seeking accountability for the damage to Iraqis’ health from the last war. She’s also challenged the American government over the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki and Caterpillar over its sale of the bulldozer used to kill Rachel Corey to Israel. Before joining the Centre, she also worked campaigning for affordable housing in the Bay area of San Francisco.

She begins by talking about attempts to harass, prosecute and suppress pro-Palestinian students and professors at US universities.

The first case she talks about is Professor Stephen Salaita, an esteemed Palestinian-American lecturer, who had a tenured position at Virginia Tech University. He was offered a position at the University of Illinois, Urban Champagne on its Native American Studies programme, which he accepted. He was due to begin his new job at the University of Illinois in the summer of 2014. During that summer he watched, horrified, Israel’s devastation of Gaza and tweeted about it. Two weeks before he was due to take up his post, he received an email from the Chancellor telling him not to bother because he would not be accepted by the Board of Trustees. The professor and his family were thus left without jobs, an income, health insurance and a home.

Salaita lost his job due to a self-declared Zionist, who’d been following his tweets. These were published on the right-wing blog, Legal Insurrection. Professor Salaita was also targeted by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, the Jewish Federation and the Anti-Defamation League. Also, wealthy donors to the uni threatened to withdraw their money. The Chancellor and the Board later stated that they withdrew his job offer based on those tweets, which they considered uncivil, and anti-Semitic. LaHood states that accusations of anti-Semitism is commonly used to silence criticism of Israel. Christopher Kennedy, who led the Board’s rejection of Salaita, was later given an award by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.

CCR sued the university, the trustees and top administrators. The court found in his favour, and the Chancellor resigned a few hours later the next day, and the Provost resigned a few weeks later. LaHood states that last autumn (2015) Salaita became the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut, and settled his case for $875,000 against the university. LaHood paid tribute to the immense grassroots support for Salaita, with thousands signing petitions, five thousand professors boycotted the university, and 16 U of I departments voted ‘no confidence’ in the administration. The American Association of Professors also censured the university. Salaita went on to talk about his experience to more than 50 unis, and his works on Israel and settler colonialism are more popular than ever.

The Olympia Food Co-op is a local food co-op in Olympia, Washington; a non-profit organization, it has been very involved in social work and political self-determination. It has adopted a number of boycotts, and in 2010 the board voted by consensus to boycott Israeli goods. Five of the co-op’s 22,000 members voted to prosecute the 16 board members, who’d passed the vote, over a year later. Six months before the lawsuit was filed, the Israeli consul general to the Pacific northwest, based in San Francisco, travelled to Olympia to meet the co-chairs of Stand With Us Northwest, the lawyer representing those suing, and some Olympia activists. Stand With Us is a non-profit organization supporting Israel around the world. It is one of the groups trying to suppress free speech on Israel in the US. It maintains dossiers on Palestinian rights activists. The five issued a letter to the board members telling them to rescind the boycott or else they would be sued and held personally accountable. They were accused of violating the co-op’s governing principles, and the board asked their accusers how they had done this, and invited them to put their proposal to a membership vote, according to the co-op’s bye-laws. The accusers refused to do so, and went ahead and filed the suit. After they did so, Stand With Us put it out on their website that they had brought the suit in partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spearheaded by the Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Alon. Alon admitted that the Israelis were behind the lawsuit, and using it to amplify their power.

CCR then sued, using an anti-SLAPP motion. SLAPP stands for ‘Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Half the states in America have legislation to deter the abuse of laws to chill free speech. The trial court dismissed the case as a SLAPP, held the Board had the authority to initiate the boycott, and awarded them each $10,000. The accusers launched an appeal, this was turned down, and they then appealed to the Supreme Court. The Washington Supreme Court turned down the anti-SLAPP motion, and referred the case back to the trial court. The CCR’s motion to dismiss the case again was denied. The case goes on, and the board members, most of whom are no longer in their post, have been subject to discovery and intimidation. The boycott of Israeli foods continues, however.

LaHood states that these are not isolated incidents, but only two of numerous cases where those, who speak out on Palestine are attacked. In September 2015 the CCR and their partner, Palestine Legal, issued a report, The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack in US, documenting the increasing attempts in the US to silence and punish advocacy in favour of Palestine and speech on Israel, including BDS. The report details to the tactics and many cases studies, and is available on both of the organisations’ websites. In 2015 Palestine legal dealt with 240 cases of suppression, including false accusations of terrorism and anti-Semitism. 80% of those incidents were against students and professors at 75 campuses, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. She talks about some of these tactics and cases, such as that of the Irvine 11, who were criminally prosecuted for walking out of a speech by the-then Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren. Several schools have been given complaints by the Zionist Organisation of America, claiming that advocacy on campus for Palestinian rights creates a pro-anti-Semitism atmosphere on campus. Even though these complaints are unconstitutional, universities respond by investigating those accused and cracking down on speech.

These complaints are not only brought by the Z of A, but also the Brandeis Centre, the Ampline Centre, Sheriat Hedin, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, the Anti-Defamation League amongst others. Netanyahu has launched a full attack on BDS, which Israel has declared to be the biggest threat it faces. Movements to divest from Israel across America have been accused of being anti-Semitic. The American Studies Association was received death threats when they voted to endorse the call to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Sheriat Hedin, the Israeli law centre, threatened to sue them if they didn’t end the boycott. Sheriat Hedin admits that it takes advice on which cases to pursue from Mossad and Israel’s National Security Council. Also in response to the ASA’s decision, legislatures around the country voted on bills to withhold state funding from colleges that used any state aid to fund academic organisations advocating a boycott of Israel. Mobilisation of public opinion prevented these bills from being passed, but now 15 states have introduced anti-boycott legislation. Some states have also passed non-binding resolutions against the BDS, but those have no legal effect. Last year (2015) Illinois passed a law demanding a black list of foreign companies that boycott Israel and compelled the state pension fund to divest from those companies. Florida passed a similar bill in 2016, which also outlaws state contracts with such companies for amounts over a million dollars. New York has even worse legislation pending.

The US Congress has introduced legislation to protect these state laws from federal pre-emption challenges, but these cannot prevent challenges under the First Amendment. Anti-Boycott provisions were introduced into the Federal Trade Promotions Authority Law, making it a priority to discourage BDS from Israel and the Occupied Territories. More information can be found about anti-BDS legislation at righttoboycott.org. Anti-BDS isn’t confined to the US. Israel has anti-boycott damages legislation and France has criminalized BDS. And people have been arrested for wearing BDS T-shirts.

She states that these laws are an extension of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. They have no defence, so they attempt to stop the debate. Free speech and free inquiry is essential to the functioning of democracy, especially at universities, and open debate helps shape public attitudes. Campus opposition helped turn the tide against the Vietnam War, Apartheid in South Africa and will eventually do the same against Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. The mounting opposition to people working against the occupation and other violations of international law shows how strong the pro-Palestinian movement is, and how it will eventually win.

Jeremy Corbyn on Arms to Saudi Arabia, the Environment, the Living Wage and University Education

September 24, 2018

This is a short video from RT of just under two minutes, in which the Labour leader gives his views on Britain selling weapons to Saudia Arabia, Donald Trump’s disastrous attitude to the environment, the living wage, and that university education should be free.

Arms to Saudi Arabia

Addressing the Labour party conference, Corbyn states that whilst he obvious wants us to send all the aid necessary to deal with the consequences of the war and the bombing, the best thing to do is to stop the war altogether and to begin that by ending our supply of arms to the Saudi coalition that is undertaking that bombardment.

The Environment

Corbyn explains that Donald Trump is saying that he wants to walk away from the Paris climate accord and tear up all those decades of environmental campaigning that got us over that hurdle to that place, are totally wrong. Corbyn states that our movement has to be as strong on environmental protection and eco-protection as it is on social justice, because that is the way we protect the future for all of us.

The Living Wage

He declares that he does not think there is anything particularly extreme in saying a living wage should be for all workers at ten pounds an hour. You should have rights at work from the time you start your work.

On University Fees

He admits that Labour’s proposal is expensive, but he thinks it’s the right way to invest our money. It was to end college and university fees in order to make further and higher education free for everyone that wants to undertake it.

These are excellent policies and are certain to draw fire from the Tories and Blairites. There was a piece in the I this weekend about the massive growth in British arms exports. It’s supposed to have grown by 83 per cent last year.

And it was under Thatcher and Major that student grants were axed, and tuition fees introduced under Tony Blair, though they were raised massively by the Tory – Lib Dem Coalition.

As for Trump’s position on the environment, this is almost omnicidally dangerous. Some environmental scientists, according to the press, believe that we may actually only be ten years away from the tipping point where global warming is irreversible. We have to protect the environment, if we are not to bequeath our children a ruined, poisoned, dying world.

Now watch the Tories, the Lib-Dems and the right-wing press go absolutely berserk telling everyone that this’ll all be bad for the economy, that businesses won’t be able to afford it, that it’ll make our exports uneconomical, and repeat all the old tropes about ‘high spending Labour’ and that this will lead to more tax rises ad nauseam. Of course, none of this will be connected to the fact that very many Tory MPs have strong links to the arms and petrochemical industries, and that too many MPs across the House are millionaire managing directors. Quite apart from the fact that any tax rises Labour may make will be placed on the extreme rich, not the poor, who can’t afford it. It’ll be the complete reverse of what the Tories and New Labour have done.