Posts Tagged ‘Utah’

LBC’s Maajid Nawaz Blames Protests and Riots on Postmodernism at Universities

June 4, 2020

It seems that it isn’t just Donald Trump and members of the far right, like Andy Ngo, in America who are blaming the current unrest on bogus, mythical far left conspiracies. On this side of the Pond one of the presenters on LBC radio, Maajid Nawaz did the same yesterday. And he then got terribly shirty when an American philosophy professor, Jason Stanley, called him out on it.

Nawaz had tweeted

The hard-left has fucked up our youth. These are fruits of their Long March & a consequence of us all giving the hard-left an easy pass on their morally relativist, post-modernism”.

To which Yale prof Stanley replied. asking if his Tweet was a joke and saying that it was impossible to take him seriously when he mentioned post-modernism in that context.

Nawaz replied in turn that he was a Muslim, who had lived through torture and racist violence, and accused Stanley of White privilege and having the dismissive racism of the American left. This did not impress Stanley, who stuck to his guns. He continued asking if Nawaz’s thread was a parody, and pointed out that postmodernism had nothing to do with the protests in his country, and that Marxists aren’t postmodernists. This upset Nawaz even more, who accused him of ‘Whitesplaining’. It didn’t stop Stanley from asking further if Nawaz’s thread was a parody. Mehdi Hasan then joined in to criticise Nawaz’s own, contradictory position:

Maajid Nawaz has this whole anti-identity politics schtick but as soon as someone calls him on his BS – as my friend Yale professor & fascism expert [Jason Stanley] did earlier – he instantly reverts to a ‘you-cant-criticize-me-because-youre-a-white-man’ line. He is beyond parody”.

Quite.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/maajid-nawaz-post-modernism-fail.html

I’ve come across the same view before from the transatlantic right. The hard left, it is maintained by Conservatives on both sides of the Pond, is trying to destroy western culture through postmodernism and its radical destruction of traditional western society and questioning of objective truth.

Postmodernism, Architecture, Linguistic Theory and History

Postmodernism actually started out as an architectural movement. It meant a style of modern architecture which ‘quoted’ features of past building styles. For example, it might include turrets like a medieval castle, or the volutes above the doorways of the Baroque. It was then taken over into French philosophy, where it mixed Marxism with with poststructural linguist theory. Radical philosophers like Liotard, Derrida, Lacan and Irigay argued that, just as there was no innate link between the signifier – a word – and the signified – the object or concept that word represented, so there was no objective truth and all historical accounts were equally valid. Althusser in the late 60s demanded a ‘semioclasm’ – the liberation of words from their bourgeois meanings, In history, postmodernism also sought to attack traditional Eurocentric history which privileged White men. It’s fair to say that postmodernism continued to be strongly associated with the radical left into the 1990s. I can remember attending a seminar at my old college in the 1990s in which postmodernism was invoked to argue that White Europeans could never really understand extra-European cultures, and people talked about being ‘othered’ and alienated by conventional Western discourse.

Sokal and Bricmont’s Attack

But that, dear friends, was a long time ago. Things have changed somewhat since then. In the mid-1990s Sokal and Bricmont, one an American Maths professor, the other a Belgian philosopher, gave postmodernism a thorough intellectual drubbing with their Intellectual Impostures. This was an attack on the way postmodern philosophers, like the above, tried to use scientific and mathematical concepts in their writings without actually understanding them. They simply used them in order to show off. The results were articles that were nonsense scientifically, and really just plain gibberish whose impenetrability was meant to make them look profound. One the offenders the two critiqued was a piece which seemed to claim that philosophy’s job was to quiet down and smooth out the quantum foam, the phenomenon at the subatomic level where particles suddenly pop in and out of existence randomly. The targets of Sokal’s and Bricmont’s fierce demolition hit back by claiming that the two were right-wing reactionaries. They weren’t. Sokal was a member of the American Left, who had taught in Nicaragua under the Sandanistas. They were partly motivated to attack the postmodernists because they followed Orwell’s maxim that if you want to write politics, you should do so clearly.

Postmodernism Passe

By the late ’90s and certainly by the first years of the 21st century, the vogue for postmodernism had passed. When I did an MA history course around 2003, it included postmodernism in the historiography section, but only as one school of history. The others included Historicism, and the French Annales school amongst others. One of these is Marxism, which shows how Marxism and Postmodernism are two separate ideologies. The reading on it we were given accepted the premise that you couldn’t produce a completely objective account of an historical event or movement, but nevertheless considered that postmodernism was important in that it should spur the historian to try as hard as possible to approach this unattainable goal. This was very different from accepting the radical postmodernists’ claim that as objective truth doesn’t exist, all accounts and narratives are equally valid.

Colin Bennett, Postmodernism and the Far Right

By that time, postmodernism had also changed its political affiliation. It was no longer a movement of the left. This was stated very clearly by one of the lecturers. This is demonstrated very clearly by the writings of the Fortean author Colin Bennett. Bennett appeared in the 1990s, when he published a book on the UFO Contactee, George Adamski, Looking for Orthon. He’s now considered a fraud by most UFO researchers, not least because one of the photos he was trying to pass off as a picture of Venusian spaceship was of a chicken coop. He’s also supposed to have remarked in private that he founded his mystical organisation as a way of obtaining alcohol during Prohibition by claiming he was using it for spiritual purposes. Bennett appeared on a panel at the Fortean Times Unconvention one year to talk about his book, and got very irate and refused to give a straight answer when he was asked by another panelist if he thought Adamski was genuine. Bennett definitely considered himself a postmodernist, but he was very far from being a Marxist. He’s an ex-soldier, whose views on multiculturalism and non-White immigration in my view come very close to the White European Fascist fringe. He is Jewish, and so is also very critical of them for their anti-Semitism. As for sexual politics, from what I saw of his writings a few years ago, he was very definitely traditional in his view of gender roles and very bitterly opposed to homosexuality. Several of his pieces contained rants against the British cultural elite for refusing to accept postmodernism, and trying to drag British literature back to the Bloomsbury group and promote what the Beeb used to delicately call ‘effeminacy in men’.

From starting as a left-wing movement, postmodernism had, at least in Bennett’s case, been taken over by the far right.

Anti-White Racism at University

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t radical left-wing postmodernists teaching at universities. There was a scandal a couple of years ago when a White student at Wash University in Utah recorded the rantings of the Black professor teaching the communications course. The professor rejected space because science was a White invention. The student also recorded his Black students screaming racist diatribes against Whites, some of which were tantamount to genocide. On the recording, one of them can be heard shouting that Whites should all be rounded up and shot into space. The recording caused immense controversy, and was the subject of a number of YouTube posts from American Conservative channels and individuals.

Conclusion

I doubt, however, that there are very many university professors like that one. I don’t doubt that there are others, but they’re going to be in a minority. The vast majority of scientists, for example, are utterly convinced that there is indeed an objective truth, and that their disciplines are finding it. It’s why Richard Dawkins has also strongly attacked postmodernism. Many scientists are themselves critical of some of Dawkin’s views on evolution and the existence of God, but I think they nearly all agree with him about this. Postmodernism is largely confined to the arts and humanities, and even there I very much doubt that very many academics and students really believe in it. I am also extremely sceptical of right-wing claims that universities are dominate by the left. In my experience, teaching staff are of all political opinions. Many of them also take seriously the difference between education and indoctrination, so that some of the most left-wing keep their private views very separate from what they say in the class room and lecture hall.

And it should be very obvious that on its own, no academic discipline, no matter how sophisticated, can get people on to the streets demonstrating. The people marching and protesting in America and Britain do so because of real social, political and economic grievances.

It has zero to do with any bogus conspiracies of far left, postmodernist College professors.

 

The Humanist Report: Killary Gets Rough Reception in Wales

October 28, 2017

Which the American presenter pronounces as ‘Welch’ and ‘Welsh’, confusing the term for its people with the name of the country itself. But you can forgive him that because (1) he’s foreign, and (2) he loves the people of Welsh for standing up to Her Highness and telling her how it really was. And he also likes Matt Free of Channel 4 News for also asking Killary tough questions, which American pundits avoid.

As I’ve discussed in previous blog posts, Killary, who seems to think going around with a mass-murdering creature like Henry Kissinger is a badge of honour, has been going up and down on the Earth promoting her book like crazy. It’s called What Happened, and is basically her attempt to blame everyone but herself for her massive failure to win the election against a colossal moron like Donald Trump. She was Down Under a few weeks ago, giving the Aussies the benefit of her wisdom. Then she was over here, at the South Bank Centre, the Cheltenham Literary Festival and then Swansea University across the border, to receive an honorary degree. The Uni decided to grant her the honour for her work promoting women’s and children’s rights around the world. As the presenter here states, presumably they didn’t get the message that she voted for the Iraq War.

But all did not go smoothly for Kissinger’s fangirl. The students at Swansea actually booed her. And one young woman, a biochemistry student, Kirsty Lloyd, called out to her ‘Bernie would’ve won. He would’ve beaten Trump.’ Which he would have. He was in the lead against her in the polls, until she, Debbie Wasserman Schulz of the Democratic National Convention, and Donna Brasile, Clinton’s main woman in her team, managed to steal the presidential nomination from her.

Lloyd said afterwards

“Hillary Clinton cheated Bernie Sanders of his nomination. And all those drone strikes, which kill women and children are illegal contradict the reason she is being given a doctorate – which is for doing things for women and children all over the world. The main thing she’s done for women and children is kill them in drone strikes.”

And things didn’t get better when she was being interviewed by Matt Free. He reminded her that her share amongst women went down 1 per cent from 44 per cent under Obama to 43. Hillary then tried to rebut this by saying that it was only White women who became disillusioned with her. Overall she won amongst women. And she lost because gender is not yet a powerful factor in American elections as race is. The commenter on the Humanist Report states that this could only be the response of an American politician, who sees everything in terms of identity politics. He also points out that it’s also terribly insulting to Barack Obama, as it implies that he only won the election because he was Black.

Free goes on to make the point that she lost partly because of her background. She’d already been in office – sort of – as the First Lady with Bill Clinton, and so her membership of a political dynasty worked against her. And people didn’t like her as they saw her as an establishment candidate, in an age of revolution.

At which point Hillary goes off and drones on about how she led in all the debates, and was seen as the more intelligent, winning candidate. When he asks her, Clinton responds that she lost partly because of Steve Dromey and Russian ‘interference’.

The Report’s presenter again points out here how Killary has contradicted herself. She says she takes full responsibility for her failure, but then immediately blames other people. He also states that it’s great to see how people in the rest of the world don’t follow American pundits in fawning over their guests, asking easy questions. He liked the way Free made her squirm. He states that you don’t see politicians like Hillary pop up elsewhere in the world, because everywhere she’s seen as another sleazy, corrupt politician like all the others. Largely because of the dodgy dealings of the Clinton Foundation. But you do find politicians like Bernie Sanders appearing in other countries, like Jeremy Corbyn in Britain.

The presenter clearly makes some great points, though he and Free on Channel 4 could have challenged her about the so-called ‘interference’ from the Russians. They didn’t lose her the election. They were trying to interfere in the American election, but no more than they usually do. Crucially, they didn’t leak the incriminating emails to WikiLeaks. Those came from a Democratic insider disgruntled at her corruption.

As for her being the better candidate over Trump, he points out that Trump was trailing behind her and faced worse challenges than she did. In Utah a Mormon, Republican establishment candidate went independent to challenge Trump. And Trump faced another Republican challenger elsewhere, who took more votes away from him than Jill Stein did Hillary.

Hillary, her arrogance, corruption, and entitlement is responsible for her failings, not other people.

Except in one instance: the Electoral College. This swung overwhelmingly for Trump, despite the fact that Killary had three million votes more than he did at the popular level. And the College is an anti-democratic measure put into America’s bizarre and byzantine electoral system in the 19th century in order to give some political power to the southern, slave-holding states. If America was a genuine democracy, it would have vanished a long time ago. But it’s enshrined in America’s constitution, and so is preserved as part of the great wisdom of the patrician founders of the American political system. Who were all patricians with a real fear of power being grabbed by the White peasants and proles, let alone Blacks. They set up the Constitution to keep power in the hands of the monied, and so have built into the system the political paralysis that is stifling the forces for real change that America needs.

BBC 2 Programme on ’21st Century Race for Space’ Next Tuesday

August 30, 2017

Here’s news of yet another BBC programme on space exploration and science. Next Tuesday, 5th September 2017, physicist, broadcaster and massive Carl Sagan fan Dr. Brian Cox will present a programme, The 21st Century Race for Space, on BBC 2 at 9.00 in the evening, on the private companies planning to take humanity into the High Frontier. Among the scientists and engineers he interviews in the programme are Richard Branson and the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos. The blurb for it in the Radio Times runs

As a new age of interplanetary exploration dawns, it is private companies and their maverick owners who are planning to finance space tourism, asteroid mining and even colonies on Mars. Professor Brian Cox investigates the technical challenges that could stop these billionaires achieving their dreams and also finds out how they hope to overcome the daunting obstacles to human space travel. Sir Richard Branson is among the stargazers explaining how they plan to fly through the heavens. (p. 76).

Another piece about the programme on the previous page, page 75, by David Butcher, also adds the following

When the likes of Richard Branson or Amazon founder Jeff Bezos enthuse about space travel it’s easy to be skeptical. But when Brian Cox meets both billionaires for this engaging look at “the prospect of us becoming a space-faring civilization” he comes away convinced by their vision, their desire to push boundaries and to make sci-fi stuff happen.

And for us, it’s hard to see the various hangars and labs and prototypes and launches and not get the feeling that space tourism, mining on asteroids and trips to Mars really aren’t that far off.

Cox is a good guide, leaning towards the deeper questions implicit in the subject. Ultimate, one designer argues, space travel is about “building life insurance for the species.” Though you hope we won’t need it.

That snippet also has a photo of Cox and with the space scientist, Brian Lillo, in space suits outside a Mars Society Research Station in Utah, ‘exploring the Red Planet’.

I went to a symposium 17 years ago on space tourism at the British Interplanetary Society’s headquarters in London. There are no end of really great ideas, and very motivate, intelligent people out there planning and discussing ways to take people up into the Deep Black for their holidays. One of the scientists, reviewing previous spacecraft designs going back to the early days of spaceflight, showed how sophisticated some of these were. He made the case that we’re actually decades behind schedule in our ability to explore and commercially exploit space and its resources.

The Young Turks on White Nationalists Campaigning for Trump in Utah

November 2, 2016

In my last post, I discussed a piece by The Young Turks’ Michael Shure, reporting that many Conservative Mormons in Utah have turned away from the Republican party and are supporting an alternative Conservative candidate, Evan McMullin. The reason for this change of political loyalty appears to be an abhorrence of Trump’s state policy of banning Muslims from entering America. Many members of the LDS Church object to this because of their experience of persecution when the Church first arose in the 19th century.

Obviously, there was going to be a backlash against McMullin from his former colleagues on the American Right. He’s been attacked by members of the Republican Party, and now he’s also under attack from the White nationalists. Citizens of Utah are receiving robocalls – presumably this means automatic calls playing a recorded message – from William Johnson. Johnson identifies himself as a White nationalist and farmer. He then goes on to urge people not to vote for McMullin because he’s ‘an open borders immigration amnesty advocate’, and then gets on to more personal smears. He states that McMullin’s mother is a lesbian, who has married her partner, and that, as McMullin is himself over 40, and unmarried with no girlfriend, he too must be gay. He then implores the person receiving the call to support Donald Trump, who will respect all women and make America great again.

McMullin has responded by stating that he has a very Conservative, very traditional view of marriage. His mother has a different view, but that’s OK – he loves her very much.

Cenk Uygur, The Turks’ host, points out how sinister, and at the same time, ludicrously funny, this assault on McMullin’s character is. The attacks on his mother’s sexuality, and inference to his own, are really childish. ‘Are we really still in third grade?’ asks Uygur. At the same, it shows how sick America is in danger of becoming, as this Nazi wants people to hate McMullin for not hating his own mother. And Uygur also points out how ominous this is as well. Johnson is part of a White Nationalist Superpac. He’s a lawyer, and a member of the American Freedom Party. Uygur notes how Trump makes a pretence of disavowing the support of the racist Right, while really enjoying their support. He points out that if these robocalls have an effect, and Trum wins, even if the margin is very small, like 2 per cent, Trump will nevertheless be in debt to the White Nationalists. And he will doubtless wish to return the courtesy once he’s in power.

Utah Mormons Placing Alternative Conservative Candidate against Trump

November 2, 2016

This is a very interesting piece from TYT Politics, which is part of The Young Turks series of shows. In this brief report, Michael Shure talks to people from Utah about why that state has put its own, alternative candidate, Evan McMullin, up against Donald Trump. Utah’s a very Conservative state, and this is the first in a very long time that it isn’t automatically voting Republican. McMullin himself is deeply Conservative, but he’s standing as an independent, and when this report was broadcast was standing neck and neck with the Fascist orang-utan in the polls.

The people Shure interviews make it clear this is because Trump’s hardline stance against Muslims violates their principles as members of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints. One young woman states that Mormons greatly value freedom of religion, because of the way they were persecuted when the Church began in the 19th century. Trump’s demand to end Muslim immigration violates their belief in freedom of worship and conscience. Shure also makes the case that many of those backing McMullin also do so because they have had personal contact with Muslims through missionary work. He talks to a young man, who was a Mormon missionary in the Philippines. He states that he knew many Muslims, and had them in his house. They were decent people, and he opposes Trump and supports McMullin because of Trump’s attack on Muslims.

I am very definitely not a Mormon, though a friend of mine has Mormon friends, and obviously they’re decent people. I don’t share the Conservative politics of the people of Utah, but I do respect their commitment to their faith and their determination to uphold religious freedom and the demonization of Muslims as the terrible Other. I think we need far more people like them.

Naz Shah and the Diagram of Israel in America

May 2, 2016

Mike has also pointed out on his blog that the graphic Naz Shah retweeted, that was deemed to be so anti-Semitic, actually came from a Professor Finkelstein. Prof Finkelstein had posted it on the website of a Jewish group campaigning for justice for the Palestinians. There are several aspects to this.

Firstly, I don’t know if this was consciously the point of the graphic, but there is an episode in Jewish American history, and a 1990s poll of young Israelis, which actually show Prof Finkelstein has a point. I can’t remember the details, but in the 19th century one of the Jewish emigrants to America, wished to create a Jewish homeland in the continent. I think he intended to establish the new, Jewish state in the Niagara region, though as I said, I can’t really remember the details.

There actually wasn’t anything unusual in this fellows plans for creating such a state. America at the time was seen by many people, from various religious and political groups, as the place where they could begin anew and set up their own, independent communities. This included the British Utopian Socialist, Robert Owen, who tried to found one of his utopian communities there. Robert Southey, the Romantic poet, had also been a part of a movement to set up a utopian socialist community, Pansocracy, so called because it would be a society in which everyone would govern equally, in the Land of the Free. And there were many others. The best known of these new attempts to found a particular religious or political state in America is Utah, originally founded as an independent state by the Mormons.

Secondly, in the 1990s there was a poll of young Israelis, which asked them, ‘Where would you rather live – in America, with neighbours, who are Christians and love you, or in Israel, with neighbours, who are Muslim and hate you?’ About 80 per cent of the kids polled responded ‘America’. See the relevant chapter on Israel in the collection of papers edited by Albert Hourani, The Modern Middle East.

As for Jews and Muslims collaborating for a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, or making criticisms of the way Israel treats the Palestinians, there are many groups dedicated to this. The Open Democracy meetup group held a webinar a few weeks ago, in which the head of an Israeli human rights organisation criticised the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. One of the Israeli parties set up to defend Palestinians has both Arab and Israeli members. One of the Israeli pressure groups against the demolition of Palestinian homes is a group of rabbis. The section on modern Israel in the book edited by Hourani also notes that, according to polls, the majority of American Jews want a two-state solution to the Palestinian problem. The two American authors of the book, Bushwhacked!, criticising George Dubya and his wretched administration also include a section about an American Jewish businessman, who gives equally to Israeli and Palestinian charities, and who also wants a two-state solution. I’ve also seen adverts in some of the Asian shop windows in Cheltenham for a meeting held for Ilan Pappe, a Jewish anti-Zionist author, who I think was thrown out of Israel.

Now I don’t know what else Shah said, but simply retweeting Prof Finkelstein’s graphic does not automatically make her anti-Semitic. Indeed, you could argue that she herself has been the victim of prejudice, as someone simply saw a Muslim criticising Israel, and came to the conclusion that she must somehow be a terrible anti-Semite. As I’ve tried to show, this is not necessarily the case.

Utah Adopts Social Housing for Homeless

March 1, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this story, http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/01/ending-homelessness-the-utah-way/ covering a story from the American liberal website, Nation of Change. The Republicans in Utah have now solved their homelessness problem because they worked out that the cost to the state of people living on the streets was $16,000, while it would only cost $11,000 to house them and provide them with a social worker. So Republican Utah, one of the most right-wing states in the US, took the homeless off the streets by giving them apartments. Mike’s story begins

How much does it cost to keep a homeless person out of hospital or jail, and to feed them?

That is the question that Utah’s state government asked, and when they discovered it was more than it would cost to house these people, the people’s representatives made the obvious choice.

Homelessness in Utah dropped by 78 per cent in the eight years to January 2014, and was on track to be eradicated altogether by this year.

But you won’t see a Conservative member of Parliament advocating such a policy! Why is that?

“In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of Emergency Room [hospital] visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker”, according to Nation of Change.

“So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.

“It sounds like Utah borrowed a page from Homes Not Handcuffs, the 2009 report by The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and The National Coalition for the Homeless. Using a 2004 survey and anecdotal evidence from activists, the report concluded that permanent housing for the homeless is cheaper than criminalization. Housing is not only more human, it’s economical.”

Mike contrasts this with the UK, where Cameron’s government has forced hundreds from their council houses and onto the streets. Some of this might seem to be due to a desire to take over the empty homes and convert them into luxury housing for the rich. But it’s far more likely that it’s done out of spite to hurt the poor.

Mike also points out the other Tory policies that are harming the economy, such as the tuition fees. The rise in these will cost the country £300 bn by 2030. Mike makes the point that they pensioners will be next to be attack by the Tories.

And then you.

You can bet that the Repugs have already started sneering at their brethren in Utah as ‘socialists’. The Libertarians have done the same to one of the eastern US states, because their healthcare is funded through a mixture of private and public health insurance similar to Switzerland and some of the other continental countries.

But Utah’s absolutely right. It’s humanitarian and makes good economic sense. Unlike everything this Conservative-led government over here has done.