Posts Tagged ‘Voltaire’

Labour Complaints Unit Fine With MP Wes Streeting Smearing and Doxing Party Member

February 11, 2019

Now that Tweezer is floundering about trying to keep herself and her wretched party from sinking on the black rocks of Brexit, they, the Blairites and the Israel lobby both within and outside the Labour party have taken to repeating the anti-Semitism. One of those who decided that he was going to try to whip up the witch hunt there again was Wes Streeting, who took it upon himself to dox and smear a 70-year old woman using a fabricated image on twitter.

Doxing is publishing someone’s name and personal details, like their address, on the internet without their consent. It’s against Twitter’s rules and is very dangerous. People have been personally threatened, attacked and their homes vandalized through others maliciously putting their personal details on the internet. In this case, Streeting decided he was going to dox Annie W-B because he’d decided that she’d dismissed anti-Semitism as a smear. He tweeted

Meet Ann . Ann dismisses anti-Semitism as a smear and says that hatred is being perpetrated by Emily [Benn] and Luciana [Berger] against innocent people who have never in their lives been anti-Semitic’.

He then goes to say ‘Let’s take a look in her back catalogue’.

But the tweet he was referring to did not dismiss anti-Semitism as a smear. It only dismissed the witch hunt against innocent people in the Labour for alleged anti-Semitism as a smear. Ann W-B actually posted this tweet, replying to Emily Benn raving about how brave Luciana Berger had been for standing up to anti-Semitism.

Oh please go away. Luciana Berger has done everything she possibly can to smear Mr Corbyn & over 500k members. #EnoughisEnough of the cost hatred being perpetuated by you and others towards innocent people who have never in their lives been antisemitic.

That these accusations are nothing but baseless lies and smears is amply shown by some of the very upstanding people, who have been accused. People like former Momentum Vice-President Jackie Walker, a Jewish woman of colour and civil rights activist; Marc Wadsworth, a Black anti-racism activist, who campaigned with the Board of Deputies of British Jews against anti-Semitic assaults by the BNP in the 1980s; Cyril Chilson, a former member of the IDF and the son of a Holocaust survivor and a heroic Russian Jewish airman; Ken Livingstone, who has always been notorious for his opposition to racism and the recruitment of real, genuine Nazis by the British secret state; Tony Greenstein, a Jewish anti-racism activist and campaigner. Because he campaigns against Zionism for the good reason that it is just another form of apartheid and Fascism. Tony Odoni, another Jewish anti-racist, for the same reason. And, of course, Mike, for defending Livingstone and Walker.

Then Streeting moved on to smearing Annie W-B with a doctored image. She was shown tweeting her approval of an image posted on Twitter by another person, which contained a spurious quote from Voltaire ‘To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize’. This was next to a giant hand coming down crushing a group of people. On its sleeve is a Magen David, a Star of David. Mike points out that the quote doesn’t actually come from Voltaire. It comes from an American Nazi and Holocaust-Denier Kevin Alfred Storm. As for the image, it has a variety of forms in which the symbol on the sleeve differs. In its most common form, there is no symbol. It’s possible that Annie W-B may have genuinely believed the quote was from Voltaire. I’ve come across it several times, and until Mike’s article did not know who was really responsible for it. Mike suggests other Labour members and supporters may have been tricked into liking it because of its similarity to Tony Benn’s ‘Five Essential Questions of Democracy’, which as Mike says, are ‘What power have you got? Where did you get it? In whose interests do you use it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?’ And the dodgy quote does look like something Voltaire would say as an Enlightenment philosopher and defender of free speech against institutional religion and absolute monarchy.

He also decided that she had to be an anti-Semite because she had also posted a series of comments attacking the Rothschilds. Mike says of this

Interesting subject, the Rothschilds: A hugely wealthy and influential business/banking organisation that is apparently immune from investigation under any circumstances because those questioning its actions may always be accused of anti-Semitism. Does anybody – apart from a witch-hunter – think that is reasonable? We can see that Mr Streeting does, but then, he stands with the witch-hunters.

And the family has immense personal power. Last year one of the continental members of the family appeared in a very brief article in the I. It reported that this man was having the indigenous people in one region of Zaire cleared out of their homes in order to make it his personal hunting preserve. It’s because of its wealth and power that the Rothschilds feature in many of the Nazi conspiracy theories about Jews, Freemasons and the Illuminati plotting the downfall of the White race. But they also have a very sordid past. They lent money to the Third Reich, even when it was known that the Nazis were persecuting and exterminating the Jews. But because the Rothschilds themselves are the subjects of so many conspiracy theories, any person asking serious questions about their influence and power is automatically tarred as an anti-Semite themselves.

The peeps on Twitter immediately pointed out to Streeting that what he had done to Annie W-B was wrong. Not only had he published her name, but it, and the story, had been picked up by BBC news. This was far too far, and they began writing complaints to the Labour party about Streeting, with one person stating it was a sackable offence. Unbelievably, the complaints team said that Streeting’s actions did not contravene Labour policy. Which made them all the more determined to press their complaints and escalate it.

As for Streeting, he then went off and attacked Mike for being an anti-Semite using the old, and now absolutely discredited Sunday Times article. Which left Mike demanding that, if it was an attempt to smear him, he wanted an apology.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/06/police-investigation-threat-for-mp-over-faked-anti-semitic-image-and-doxxing/

The controversy continued when Jenny Formby got involved. She was upset that Streeting was being ‘tried by twitter’ and so asked everyone to send their complaints into the Labour party’s Compliance Unit instead, so that they could all move on to attacking the Tories. She was then bitterly attacked in her turn by angry Labour party supporters, furious that the Blairites were able to smear and bully ordinary party members as they pleased without Formby or anyone else for that matter taking any kind of disciplinary action. As proof of this, Mike cited the example of one individual, who was thrown out for liking the music of the Foo Fighters, while Streeting himself went unpunished for what should have been a disciplinary offence. Some people stated that it was high time the Blairites were kicked out of the party. The sheer number of complaints about their behaviour on Twitter showed how deeply unpopular the various right-wing members of the Parliamentary Labour Party are. Finally, to show just how unfair the system is, Mike put up the case of Karen, a Labour party member, who told Formby that when she sent in a complaint against Tweeting, one of his little minions reported her in turn for ‘bullying’. Mike asked if Karen was also going to be penalized.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/07/formby-asked-and-labour-answered-reform-labours-complaints-system-but-will-she-listen/

You can understand why Formby doesn’t want a fuss kicked up about Streeting, or any of the other Blairites and supporters of the Israeli apartheid state. They’re actually a tiny minority in the party, but they have the full support of a deeply biased right-wing media. Whenever they are even lightly embarrassed or taken to task, their immediate response is to whine about how they’re being bullied by evil Trotskyites, Stalinists, Communists and anti-Semites. As Joan Ryan did after she lost her local party’s vote of ‘No Confidence’. And these lies are automatically retailed as absolute truth by the Beeb and everyone else.

But time is not on their side. They are only a minority and the strength of the response to Streeting’s smears and doxing, and Formby’s attempts to hush it all up, show how much ordinary party members have lost patience with them. And it is becoming glaringly clear to an increasing number of people outside the party that people like Streeting do not represent the real heart of the Labour party, and that their smears and accusations of anti-Semitism are nothing but grotesque lies. As for their own threats and bullying, it’s high time the leadership stood up to them and called them out on it. That would have saved a lot of grief if it had been done at the very start, no matter how hard they may have whined and moaned in response.

Israel Based Journo Shows How Censorship of Steve Bell Cartoon Plays into Hands of Real Anti-Semites

June 11, 2018

Last week the editor of the Groaniad, Kath Viner, spiked a cartoon by the paper’s Steve Bell for supposed anti-Semitism. The cartoon commented on the complete indifference to the murder of 21 year old Palestinian medic, Razan al-Najjar by the IDF shown by Netanyahu and Tweezer. Bell depicted the two having a cosy chat by the fire, in which al-Najjar was burning. This was too much for Viner, who immediately did what the Israel lobby always does whenever the country is criticised for its brutal treatment of the Palestinians: she immediately accused the critic of anti-Semitism. The cartoon was anti-Semitic, apparently, because al-Najjar’s place in the fire was supposedly a reference to the Holocaust and the murder of the Jews in the Nazi gas ovens. Despite the fact that Bell denied that there was any such intention in his work, or indeed, any overt references to the Holocaust at all.

Bell was naturally outraged, and issued a strong denial. I’ve blogged about this issue, as has Mike, and Bell’s denial was also covered by that notorious pro-Putin propaganda channel, RT. And an Israel-based journalist, Jonathan Cook, has also come down solidly on Bell’s side and against censorship.

Mike posted a piece reporting and commenting on Mr Cook’s view and analysis of the case on Saturday. Cook is a former Guardian journalist, who now lives in Nazareth, the capital of Israel’s Palestinian minority. Cook praised Bell’s cartoon because of the way it held power to account, and indicted the powerful and their calculations at the expense of the powerless. He stated

In other words, it represents all that is best about political cartoons, or what might be termed graphic journalism. It holds power – and us – to account.

He then went on to describe how, by siding with Israel over the cartoon, the Guardian was siding with the powerful against the powerless; with a nuclear-armed state against its stateless minority. He then goes on to make the point that when criticism of Israel is silenced, the country benefits from a kind of reverse anti-Semitism, or philo-Semitism, which turns Israel into a special case. He writes

When a standard caricature of Netanyahu – far less crude than the caricatures of British and American leaders like Blair and Trump – is denounced as anti-Semitic, we are likely to infer that Israeli leaders expect and receive preferential treatment. When showing Netanyahu steeped in blood – as so many other world leaders have been – is savaged as a blood libel, we are likely to conclude that Israeli war crimes are uniquely sanctioned. When Netanyahu cannot be shown holding a missile, we may assume that Israel has dispensation to bombard Gaza, whatever the toll on civilians.

And when we see the furore created over a cartoon like Bell’s, we can only surmise that other, less established cartoonists will draw the appropriate conclusion: keep away from criticising Israel because it will harm your personal and professional reputation.

He then makes the point that doing so plays into the hands of real anti-Semites, and generates more:

When we fail to hold Israel to account; when we concede to Israel, a nuclear-armed garrison state, the sensitivities of a Holocaust victim; when we so mistake moral priorities that we elevate the rights of a state over the rights of the Palestinians it victimises, we not only fuel the prejudices of the anti-Semite but we make his arguments appealing to others. We do not help to stamp out anti-Semitism, we encourage it to spread. That is why Viner and the Guardian have transgressed not just against Bell, and against the art of political cartoons, and against justice for the Palestinians, but also against Jews and their long-term safety.

Mike goes on to make the point that we need to be more critical about the raving paranoiacs, who see anti-Semitism in Steve Bell’s cartoon, and also in Gerald Scarfe’s depiction of Netanyahu building his anti-Palestinian wall using the blood and bodies of the Palestinians themselves. This was attacked by Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, as ‘anti-Semitic’, who claimed that it was a reference to the Blood Libel. It wasn’t, but the I apologised anyway. Mike goes on to say that there is no such thing as an unintentional anti-Semite, but authorial intentions are routinely ignored in these cases.

He then goes to state very clearly that as the authorial intentions of these cartoons weren’t anti-Semitic, Viner was wrong about Bell’s cartoon. Just as the Sunset Times, as Private Eye dubbed the rag, was wrong about Scarfe and Mike himself, as was the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. And so are the people, who’ve accused Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein and so many others of anti-Semitism. And in the meantime, Netanyahu gets away with mass murder.

Mike concludes

But Mr Cook is right – these attitudes only fuel real anti-Semitism among those who draw the only logical conclusion about what’s going on in the media, which is that the Establishment is protecting the Israeli government against censure for its crimes.

It suggests to me that all those involved in this charade have been creating problems that will come back to harm all of us in the future.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/06/09/israel-based-journo-shows-how-guardian-editor-helped-anti-semites-by-censoring-steve-bell/

Now part of the problem here could be certain developments in anti-racism and postmodernist literary theory. For example, some anti-racist activists have argued that there is such a thing as unconscious racism, and have used it to accuse people and material they have seen as spreading or legitimising racism, but without any conscious intent to do so.

In postmodernist literary theory, the author’s intent is irrelevant. In the words of one French postmodernist literary theorist, ‘all that exists is the text’. And one person’s interpretation of the text is as good as another’s.

Hence, those arguing that the above cartoons are anti-Semitic, could do so citing these ideas above.

Now there clearly is something to unconscious racism. If you look back at some of the discussions and depictions of racial issues in 1970s popular culture, they are often horrendously racist by today’s standards. But they weren’t seen as such then, and I dare say many of those responsible for some of them genuinely didn’t believe they were being racist, nor intended to do so. And unconscious racism is irrelevant in this case too. The accusers have not argued that these cartoons are unconsciously racist. They’ve simply declared that they are, without any kind of qualification. Which implies that their authors must be deliberately anti-Semitic, which is a gross slur.

As for postmodernist literary theory, the accusers haven’t cited that either. And if they did, it could also easily be turned against them. If there are no privileged readings of a particular text, then the view of someone, who thought Bell’s cartoon was anti-Semitic, is no more valid than the person, who didn’t. Which cuts the ground out from such accusations. That argument doesn’t stand up either, though here again, the people making the accusations of anti-Semitism haven’t used it.

Nevertheless, their arguments about the anti-Semitic content of these cartoons and the strained parallels they find with the Holocaust, or anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, are very reminiscent of the postmodernist texts the American mathematician Sokal, and the Belgian philosopher Bricmont, used to demolish the intellectual pretensions of postmodernism in their 1990s book, Intellectual Impostures. One of the texts they cited was by a French feminist arguing that women were being prevented from taking up careers in science. It’s a fair point, albeit still controversial amongst some people on the right. However, part of her evidence for this didn’t come from studies showing that girls start off with a strong interest in science like boys, only to have it crushed out of them later in their schooling. No! This strange individual based part of her argument on the medieval coat of arms for Brussels, which shows frogs in a marsh. Which somehow represents the feminine. Or at least, it did to her. For most of us, the depiction of frogs in a marsh in the coat of arms for Brussels is a depiction of precisely that: frogs in a marsh. Because, I have no doubt, the land Brussels was founded on was marshy.

But Cook and Mike are right about these accusations, and the favouritism shown to Israel, playing into the hands of anti-Semites.

The storm troopers of the right are very fond of a quote from Voltaire: ‘If you want to know who rules over you, ask who it is you can’t criticise’. Or words to that effect. Depending on whether the person using the quote is an anti-Semite or an Islamophobe, the answer they’ll give will be ‘the Jews’ or ‘the Muslims’.

Of course, their choice of the French Enlightenment philosopher is more than somewhat hypocritical. Voltaire hated intolerance, and in the early stages before it became aggressively anti-religious, the French Revolution stood for religious toleration. A set of playing cards made to celebrate it showed on one card the Bible with the Talmud, the Jewish holy book containing extra-Biblical lore and guidance, and the Qu’ran.

But by ruling that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, the Israel lobby very much appears to show – entirely falsely – that the anti-Semites are right, and that the Jews really are in control of the rest of us. It gives an utterly false, specious confirmation of the very conspiracy theories they claim to have found in the works of the people they denounce. The same conspiracy theories they claim to oppose, and which have been responsible for the horrific suffering of millions of innocent Jews.

It’s high time this was stopped, and accusations of anti-Semitism treated with the same impartial judgement as other claims of bias or racism. And false accusations should be firmly rejected as a slur, and apologies and restitution demanded from the libellers.

Hope Not Hate on the Banning of Nazi Group ‘National Action’

December 13, 2016

Yesterday the government banned National Action as a terrorist group under new legislation against anti-Semitism. National Action are truly vile. They see themselves very much as a Fascist youth group, and are a blatantly Nazi organisation. They really do subscribe to the stupid and murderous conspiracy theory that the Jews are attempting to enslave and destroy the White race, and have made speeches, which have openly called for their extermination. Hope Not Hate’s report on them states that one of their members called for a genocide in Britain of the same proportions as Pol Pot’s Cambodia. There’s also a piccie of two of these thugs desecrating the memory of those murdered at Buchenwald by making the Nazi salute in the part of the death camp where prisoners were executed.

Reporting the ban yesterday, Mike wondered whether banning them was the correct way to deal with these idiots on the grounds that banning them could force them underground, where they could fester and grow. He speculated on whether a better way of handling them might be to educate people, so that they aren’t fooled by their monstrous racist ideology.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/12/is-it-better-to-ban-the-neo-nazis-or-to-educate-people-on-why-theyre-wrong/

Today I received this message about the ban from Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate, explaining their position on the group’s banning.

Yesterday the British Government announced plans to proscribe the neo-nazi group National Action, describing it as a terrorist organisation. It is the first time a British far right group has been proscribed in the post-war period.

Enforce the law

HOPE not hate has cautiously welcomed the ban because National Action has been taking an increasingly alarming trajectory and its leadership and supporters have been openly advocating extreme violence and even murder.

We have produced this briefing on National Action.

However, we are under no illusions that banning National Action is the end of the story. Indeed, there are many reasons why a ban could be counter-productive. National Action leaders are already basking in their notoriety and the attention the group will have will only attract more young people to their cause. The group has already announced its intention to merely re-constitute itself under a different name, a tactic which Anjem Choudary’s Al-Muhajiroun organisation used so effectively for so many years.

There is also a risk that some National Action supporters will convince themselves that they are truly at war with the State and take matters to a new dangerous level.

We have long argued that the activities of National Action could have been severely hampered if the authorities had enforced the laws we have at the moment.

Why is it that the CPS still have not decided whether to prosecute NA leader Jack Renshaw for a strongly Antisemitic speech in Blackpool in February, where he threatened to execute antifascists and described Jews as a disease and parasites and said Hitler was too lenient on them?

Why has no action been taken against NA supporters for celebrating the murder of Jo Cox and calling for other politicians and so-called ‘traitors’ to be killed too?

So it is all very good for the Government to proscribe National Action, but just like the many laws that currently exist, the effectiveness of this ban will be in its enforcement.

HOPE not hate has successfully infiltrated National Action and we will continue to monitor and expose their violent activities.

Hope Not Hate’s report can be read here:

http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/features/national-action/

I’ve mixed feelings about the ban myself. Hope Not Hate are, as you might expect, absolutely correct in their statement that existing legislation could have been used to ban them long before this. This is the legislation that makes it an offence to foment racial hatred, amongst other provisions. It has been used countless times to prosecute and jail members of the extreme right, and succeeded in getting the BNP to admit members from ethnic minorities, if it wished to continue as a legal political party. National Action, with their celebration of Adolf Hitler, overt, venomous anti-Semitism and racism, clearly violate this.

I wonder if part of the government’s motive for this ban is to validate the new definition of anti-Semitism. This seems to follow the standard definition of anti-Semitism, which states that it is the hatred of Jews as Jews. It seems to me to be unproblematic, unlike the definition of anti-Semitism to which Jackie Walker objected, for which she herself was subsequently smeared as anti-Semitic by the organisers of a workshop on Holocaust Memorial Day. This explicitly defined anti-Semitism to include criticism of the state of Israel. Walker is part Jewish, and not only is she opposed to anti-Semitism, she is also like the others smeared as such by the Israel lobby in the Labour party, profoundly against all forms of racism. This included the Israeli state’s persecution of the Palestinians.

Recently, the American government has passed legislation, which also defines criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic, which is intended to prevent government organisations supporting the BDS – Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement. This is an organisation that encourages people not to buy goods produced by Israeli businesses in the occupied West Bank.

Although the phrasing of the new legislation appears not to allow this, my fear is that some way will be found to criminalise the BDS movement in this country as well. I am also afraid that special legislation intended to protect Jews will be seized upon as spurious evidence to support their stupid views. The far right on their websites frequently quote one of Voltaire’s sayings: If you want to know who rules you, look at who you can’t criticise. Or something like that. Voltaire undoubtedly meant the French monarchy and supernatural religion, particularly Christianity and the Roman Catholic church. But the EDL and various Fascist groups use it to claim that the legislation protecting ethnic minorities, including Jews and Muslims, means that they are being deliberately elevated above the white, gentile population.

That said, National Action’s explicit racism and calls for violence are very definitely potentially dangerous now after Jo Cox’s murder and the rise in racism following Brexit, and the government is right to try to prevent further racially motivated incidents and violence.

Chris Sterry on the Democratic Need to Prosecute Blair for War Crimes

July 9, 2016

I’m sorry if this seems a bit incestuous, and rather narcissistic, but I thought Chris Sterry’s comment on his reblog of my post from this morning also deserved to be posted over here. Chris Sterry is one of the many great commenters on my blog. This morning I put up a piece about three videos by the American left-wing comedian Jimmy Dore, in which he gives a line-by-line commentary on Blair’s speech responding to the Chilcot report. This has damned him for waging an unprovoked war, launching hostilities before the available peaceful solutions had been explored. The British people were lied to about Saddam Hussein’s military ambitions and capabilities. There was no proper consideration of how order and peace were to be restored after the conflict was won. And Blair, his minions and allies, were warned that the result of the invasion would be ethnic and religious violence and trouble from Iran.

And Blair remains completely unrepentant. He acknowledges, casually, that ‘mistakes were made’ – in the passive voice, note, as if they just happened with no-one being responsible for them. He then claimed that all the carnage that followed could only be known with hindsight, despite having been told at the time. Michelle, another of the great commenters on my blog, remarked on how sickening this was.

I’m flattered that Chris decided to reblog the piece, commenting:

I thank Chilcot and Jimmy Dore for their condemnation of Tony Blair. It as all been said, no one can be unaware that Tony Blair is the biggest liar in the world and he created the current situation in the Middle East and was the creator of modern radicalisation. This does not mean that George W Bush is an innocent, for he is as guilty as Blair, but that is for the people of America to comment on.

For Blair what should the next step be, there needs to be a process started to bring him to court for being a ‘War Criminal’ for if there is not, we are all complicit in being war criminals.

So be warned Presidents and Prime Ministers in waiting you are accountable for your action both now and in the future. Any atrocities created by these actions are on your shoulders and your shoulders alone for which you will suffer the consecquences.

See: https://61chrissterry.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/the-videos-by-jimmy-dore-on-tony-blair-and-the-chilcot-report/

Chris is right. Democracy means that our leaders are ultimately accountable to us. They govern us through our consent, which we can withdraw at elections by voting for another party or candidate. Democracy means the rule of law, from which our leaders are not exempt. In normal society, criminality is prosecuted and punished. Murderers are tried and sent to jail. Tony Blair lied to the people of one nation, and committed mass murder to the people of another. The Iraqis, and the surrounding Middle Eastern peoples were direct victims of his aggression. But we have also paid the price. The British taxpayer has been forced to fund a war for which there was no legal or moral justification. Morally, our country has been sullied through the atrocities and violence committed through the invasion. And our forces and people have also suffered. Blair sent courageous and capable men and women to die, or return home mutilated and mentally scarred. Their families have lost husbands, wives, sons and daughters. British Muslims have also lost family members, radicalised through the violence they have seen against their co-religionists in Iraq. Some of them have gone on to destroy themselves and others in acts of the most appalling violence.

Blair has said that he takes ‘full responsibility’. In the videos, Dore remarks that it won’t re-animate all the dead killed through his war. The only way he can take full responsibility is by going to jail. Absolutely. Full responsibility means just that. It means more than words, and must entail due punishment for crimes committed. For democracy to mean anything, leaders and governments have to be tried when they commit offences. The great thinkers of the Enlightenment, like Voltaire and Kant, were against cruelty, mass murder and arbitrary government. Kant reformulated the Golden Rule ‘Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you’, in the words of Christ, though the maxim was known long before Him in the Middle East, as ‘If you legislate for one, you legislate for all’. Laws have to apply to everyone, rulers as well as ruled. The execution of Charles I by the Roundheads after the English Civil War shocked England and Europe. He was executed for crimes against the British people. This was a dangerously radical idea, as until that point it was universally accepted, and continued to be so for centuries after, that the king was above the law as the ultimate lawgiver. But no more. Our leaders have to be subject to the same laws as their citizens. This means us, as well as the tyrants we have tried for war crimes, like Ratko Mladic, Slobodan Milosevic, and the other butchers from the former Yugoslavia. Like the Nazis at Nuremberg and Richard Nixon after Watergate. And now Blair should be taken to the dock to face justice for all the horror and violence he has unleashed.

And after him, who knows – Maggie? It would, naturally, be posthumous. Something like Khrushchev’s 1956 secret speech finally attacking Stalin’s ‘Cult of Personality’, and the true vileness of her policies and minions listed and enumerated. As for the charge, well, to quote Marlon Brando in The Wild One, or is it James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause: ‘What’cha got?’

Voltaire on the Rich’s Use of the Poor

February 11, 2016

I found this quote on how the rich use the poor used as a slogan on one of the T-shirts made by Red Molotov, who make T-shirts with suitable witty, left-wing or atheist quotes and quips. I don’t share their atheism, but do share some of their political views. And the quote’s far too good and apt, not to share.

Voltaire Pic

Trump Too Much Even for the American Eagle

December 10, 2015

Apart from causing widespread disgust with his racist proposal to ban all Muslims from the US, which was too much even for the Repugs, Trump has also managed to upset that most majestic of America’s wildlife, the bald eagle. He was trying to pose with one during a photoshoot for Time magazine’s ‘person of the year’ awards. He’s annoyed he didn’t get the award, as it went to Angela Merkel instead. And the eagle wasn’t too keen to be seen with him either, as this video shows.

I’ve also seen this as a gif on 1000 Natural Shocks (over 18 site), with the note: Go on, eat that ****ing muskrat on his head.

Some people would also take the fact that the eagle, one of the most venerable symbols of America, doesn’t want to have anything to do with him as an omen and message from the gods.

Donald Trump: So toxic even raptors don’t want to have anything to do with him.

And others have also expressed their dislike of Trump in the same way Voltaire did when he wrote to a critic, ‘Sir, I have your letter in front of me. I am in the privy. Soon it will be behind me.’

Trump Toilet Paper

Swedish Church Threatened for Supporting Muslims

February 13, 2015

Religious Freedom Card

French Revolutionary Card celebrating religious freedom.

There’s been a lot of alarm recently about the massive growth of the German anti-Islamic organisation, Pegida. The group’s name is an acronym for ‘Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West’, in German, Patriotische Europeaer Gegen der Islamisierung des Abendlandes. In Germany the groups boasts tens of thousands of members, and has staged mass demonstrations and marches across the country. These have provoked in their turn large counterdemonstrations from liberal Germans fearing a return of the xenophobia that plunged their country in the Third Reich and culminated in the genocide of the Jews and the projected extermination of other groups judged genetically or racially inferior, like the Slavonic peoples of eastern Europe, Gypsies and the disabled. Angela Merkel herself has denounced Pegida and its bigotry. Pegida is not content to confine itself to Germany, however. It is expanding across Europe and plans to stage a rally in Newcastle on this side of the North Sea.

This story comes from Christian Today, a Christian news website, from the 10th a few days ago. The pastor at St. Petri’s church in Malmo was so alarmed at a Pegida demonstration in his city, that he staged a service the previous night (the 9th) supporting the city’s diverse population and its Muslim citizens in particular. Andres Ekhem, the Pastor, stated that he wanted to express solidarity with them and also “express joy for our city and our Muslim friends”.

“There is strong support for diverse cultures in Malmö and it is important that the church is there to support that,” he said.

“You can choose to stay silent and let them give a voice to something you don’t accept. Or, we can choose to show what we believe in, which is a multi-religious society where everyone is given the freedom to preach their own religions.” Pastor Ekhem received some criticism for his service, including ‘more or less clear threats’, according to an interview he gave with Sydsvenkan.

Pegida’s Cant about Kant

One of Pegida’s slogans is Kant Statt Koran: ‘Kant instead of Qu’ran’, referring to the great 18th century German Enlightenment philosopher, Immanuel Kant. Kant is one of the most brilliant European philosophers, and his ideas are still very influential today. He was one of the first to suggest that the Earth and the solar system were formed by condensing out of a primordial gas, an idea that has been confirmed by contemporary science and the study of the evolution of stars. He also believed that the human conscience pointed to the existence of God. The pangs of conscience one felt, he argued, were like someone knocking at your door. The implication is that in the case of the human soul, that someone is the Almighty.

You wonder what Kant, a man of the Enlightenment, would think of Pegida. Many of Enlightenment philosophers were religious sceptics, either Deists, like Voltaire, or outright atheists, like Mably and Diderot. The philosophes were revolted by the horrors committed by the Wars of the Religion in the 16th and 17th centuries, which pitched Protestant against Roman Catholic, and the adherents of Protestant sects and denominations against each other. They strongly argued for religious freedom and toleration.

The philosophes’ hostility to revealed religion eventually led in turn to the abolition of Christianity and its vicious persecution in the name of the Goddess of Pure Reason during the French Revolution. When the Revolution broke out, however, its supporters believed it would usher in a new age of complete freedom of conscience. The new rights, liberties and virtues inaugurated by the Revolution was celebrated in a series of playing cards. These included the card right at the head of this article. It says ‘Liberty of Cults’, and includes some of the holy books of the great Abrahamic faiths. Along with the Christian Gospels, there is the Talmud for Judaism, and the Qu’ran for Islam.

This pack of cards was also way ahead of its time in celebrating racial equality. Both rationalist philosophes and evangelical and reforming Christians, like the Quakers, Methodists, and the evangelical wing of the Anglican Church, were revolted by the cruelty inflicted on Africans by the slave trade. The French Revolutionaries initially freed the slaves in their colonies, only for it to be put back by Napoleon. This card is entitled ‘Egalite des Couleurs’ – Equality of the Colours, and shows a Black man with a gun. Alongside is the word ‘Courage’. The message is clear. Far from being degraded savages, who deserved their enslavement, Black people were every bit as courageous and deserving of freedom as Whites.

Race Equality Card

These cards together show the new ideas of racial and religious liberty and equality, which were part of the intellectual ferment of Kant’s age. Looking at them, I doubt whether Kant would have had much time for the bigotry and xenophobia of groups like Pegida.

From 1999: Empower America Suitably Honours Rupert Murdoch’s Services to American Culture

September 30, 2013

With Murdoch’s News International still in the headlines over the phone-tapping scandal, this item from Private Eye fourteen years ago seems a particularly appropriate comment on the Dirty Digger’s contribution to artistic standards worldwide. In their edition from the 1st October, 1999, the Eye reported that Australia’s ‘minister for public enlightenment’ had been awarded a prize for his achievements by a campaigning Right-wing group over the other side of the Pond. The article read

‘When Rupert Murdoch was awarded the Humanitarian of the Year award by an obscure American body two years ago, this well-deserved tribute received copious coverage in his newspapers.

Strangely there has been no mention of his latest triumph: being “dishonoured” by right-wing media lobbying group Empower America.

Even before Murdoch’s 20th Century Fox releases Brad Pitt’s sick new film Fight Club, Rupert has scored a double, picking up two awards. He wins the third annual Silver Sewer Award for his “outrageous contribution to the degradation and coarsening of our culture and unswerving dedication to the pursuit of profit above principle.” And he also picks up a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “personal role in the corrosion of American values.’

Now I actually like Fight Club, and I do think it made an excellent point about the existentialist despair, lack of direction and emasculation some men felt in consumerist modern American society. But it definitely ain’t family viewing.

As for Empower America and their Silver Sewer Award to Dirty Rupe, all I can do is say what the great wit and philosopher, Voltaire, would probably have said in these circumstances. ‘I may not agree with your political views, but I will defend to the death your right to stick it to this horrible old media tycoon’.

18th Century Religious Scepticism Not Based on Science: Part 2 – Atheist Materialism

June 8, 2013

In the first part of this essay, I examined how most of the arguments against Christianity and revealed religion used by the Deists were philosophical, rather than scientific. Science did play a part in their attacks on Christianity, but it was a subordinate role. The same is true of 18th century atheism. Most of the arguments used by Jean Meslier in his Testament, for example are again, moral, philosophical and political, rather than scientific. Meslier was a former Roman Catholic priest, who attacked Christianity and particularly Roman Catholicism for its supposed immorality. He considered that religions were artificial creations of ruling elites, intended to justify and further their own power. He attacked Christian morality for supposedly preaching an acquiescent attitude towards tyranny, like monarchist rule in contemporary France. Like many later atheists, he also attacked the idea of an immortal soul and rewards in the hereafter for discouraging people from social reform here on Earth.

The Three Scientific Developments Used to Argue for Atheism in the 18th Century

Like some of the Deists, he also believed that matter had self-organising properties. The evidence for this came from three sources. These were John Turbeville Needham’s experiments into spontaneous generation, Haller’s discovery that muscles from recently deceased animals contracted when pricked, and the hydra’s ability to regenerate when cut. Needham was an English Roman Catholic priest. In his experiments he noted the appearance of microscopic organisms from the remains of vegetable matter and even the gravy from roast meat. Albrecht von Haller was a Swiss naturalist, who believed that there was an unknown force present in the heart. This indicated that matter had its was able to move itself independently of the soul. La Mettrie, the author of the materialist, L’homme machine (Man a Machine) of 1747 incorporated it into his own arguments against the existence of the soul. The dissection of polyps showed that this creature would become two or more when cut into pieces, and so apparently disproved the idea of indivisible animals. Finally, the great 18th century atheist, Denis Diderot argued living creatures may have evolved over millions of years to produce their present forms. He suggested a kind of natural selection, in which useless or defective physiological features had died out. This gave living creatures the appearance of design, even though they were simply the products of chance evolution.

These Experiments Do Not Necessarily Lead to Atheism

In fact all three of these scientific discoveries could be interpreted in other ways that did not support materialist atheism. Needham himself did not see any danger to religion in his results. Indeed, he was attacked by Voltaire as an Irish Jesuit monger of fraudulent miracles, despite the fact that he was English, not Irish, and not a Jesuit. As for the new force of motion supposedly inherent in muscle tissue, Haller believed it was similar to gravity. Both forces were known through their effects, but were ultimately instruments of a Creator God. He considered the presence of this so-called “irritability” in muscle tissue was much less important than contemporary debates in embryology in supporting or leading to atheism. At the time Haller was engaged in an argument with C.F. Wolff over the nature of the development of the embryo. The debate centred around two rival concepts, epigenesis and pre-formation. Epigenesis was the view that the embryo developed from the less organised material of the egg. Pref-formation, by contrast, was the view that creature already existed, pre-formed in the egg or sperm of the animal. Haller strongly supported pre-formation. He considered that the development of living beings from unorganised matter would indicate that similarly life itself had originated through these forces without the action of a creator God. Wolff believed that his observation of chick embryos had indeed shown that individual organisms develop from the primordial, undifferentiated matter of the egg. Unlike Haller, he did not see any theological difference whether one believed in either theory. He stated that ‘Nothing is demonstrated against the existence of divine power, even if bodies are produced by natural forces and causes, for these very forces and causes … claim an author for themselves just as much as organic bodies do.’ Thus immaterial forces and the matter they shaped were both grounded in God.

AS for Abraham Trembley’s experiments with the polyp, this was only felt to show that polyps did not have indivisible souls. It was not believed to be relevant to other animals and humans. Indeed, more conservative naturalists believed that the polyp was actually a missing link in God’s great chain of being between plants and animals.

Joseph Priestley: Scientist, Revolutionary and Unitarian, Rational Christianity

Some Unitarians, such as the Dissenting Minister Joseph Priestly, also managed to combine materialism with a form of Christianity. Priestly was an active scientific research. His experiments on the various gases included the production of what he termed ‘dephlogisticated air’, which was later called ‘oxygen’ by Lavoisier. Priestly attempted to show that materialist science would serve to purify Christianity of what he considered to be superstitious features derived from ancient Platonism, such as, he believed, the doctrine of the Trinity. Priestly was a philosophical monist, who believed that God worked through forces that were neither physical or immaterial as commonly understood. They could be identified with matter, but this was a matter that possessed active powers of motion and organisation. He did not believe in an immaterial soul, but did look forward to the Resurrection. He also accepted miracles, and argued as proof that without them, Christianity could not possibly have spread. He was also an egalitarian, who supported first the French, and then the American Revolutions. He finally moved to America after the War of Independence. In an 1802 letter to Thomas Jefferson, Priestly described how he was looking forward to living under the protection of the American Constitution. He praised this as ‘the most favourable to political liberty, and private happiness, of any in the world’. Despite his scientific scepticism of orthodox Christianity, he always denied that he was an atheist. When one of his French materialist friends at a dinner stated that he no more believed in Christianity than they did, he replied that he was indeed a Christian believer.

Science as Means for Purifying Christianity, Unitarians Active in Scientific Advances of Industrial Revolution

For Priestly, scientific progress was ‘the means under God of extirpating all error and prejudice, and of putting an end to all undue and usurped ahtority in the business of religion as well as science’. These views were shared by other Unitarians in the main British manufacturing towns. These Unitarians were active in scientific research and their practical application in industry. They were particularly prominent in the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, but were also strongly present in most of scientific societies outside London. William Turner, another Unitarian, was the dominant figure behind the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society. Turner has been described as believing that the Industrial Revolution was not happening behind God’s back, but at His express command.

Conclusion: 18th Century Science Not Necessarily atheist, Could Lead instead to Rational, Unitarian Christianity

Thus, scientific developments also played only a small role in the atheist arguments that arose during the 18th century. Like the arguments of the Deists, these were also primarily moral, philosophical and political. The three major scientific observations that did seem to argue for atheism and materialism – Needham’s observation of spontaneous generation, the response of dissected muscle tissue to stimulation and the polyp were largely seen as having no relevance to the wider debate about the Almighty. In the case of the continued activity in muscle tissue, this was seen as like Newton’s force of gravity in being based in God, and as a force through which the Lord worked.
Finally, Joseph Priestly and his fellow Unitarian scientists showed how some Dissenters combined a belief in science to produce an unorthodox form of rational Christianity.

Christian Wolf’s Other Edens

May 11, 2013

Way back in the 1970s there was an anthology of Science Fiction stories entitled Other Edens, probably referring to the strange worlds and bizarre futures envisaged by the stories’ authors. In the 18th century, however, many European intellectuals took the idea of extraterrestrial life very seriously. One of the Christian apologists of the 18th century was the German, Christian Wolf. Wolf was a follower of Natural Theology. He believed that the Book of Nature did indeed testify to the presence of an almighty and beneficient God. Some of his views now seem quaint or ridiculous. He followed many 18th century philosophers and theologians in believing that the Earth’s creatures had been formed for the benefit of humanity. The moon and stars, for example, had been made so that humans could perform at night some of the activities they also did during the day, such as going fishing. This idea was widely mocked even in Wolf’s time. Wolf did not believe that these celestial bodies had been formed only for humanity’s benefit. He reasoned that as there were so many different worlds in the universe that astronomy was increasingly revealing, so they must have been made by God for the benefit of these planets’ different inhabitants. These beings naturally would be adapted to the very different conditions on their worlds.

This view, that the universe was full of inhabited planets, formed the intellectual background for the early, proto-SF tales of the 17th and 18th centuries, such as Cyrano de Bergerac’s The States and Empires of the Sun and Voltaire’s Micromegalas. This last was a satire, in which two vast aliens, thousands of miles huge and with a multitude of different sense beyond the five of humans, travel to Earth from the star Sirius. They are greeted by a delegation of terrestrial scientists, eager for the aliens’ superior knowledge of the cosmos. The aliens duly grant the scientists’ request for a book containing their knowledge of the universe. They give them a book the size of the present day Baltic states. Looking through the book, the scientists find every page empty, and duly complain. The aliens have broken their bargain with the international scientific research team. No, the creatures from Sirius reply, they have kept their word. That is precisely what they know about the universe. It shows Voltaire’s satiric wit about the nature of science, and the idea that the universe may be far more vast and unkowable than we can ever truly know. The 20th century British biologist, J.B.S. Haldane, said that ‘Not only is the universe queerer than we imagine, it is queerer than we can possibly imagine’.

The idea that God had formed the various worlds of the universe to support different intelligent species was known as the doctrine of plenitude. It was seriously shaken in the late 19th and 20th centuries when increased astronomical investigation revealed the worlds of the solar system to be mostly barren rocks, either too scorching, boiling hot or icily cold to support life. Far from the notion of alien life attacking the belief in God or Christianity, it was the opposite – the notion of a vast, sterile universe devoid of intelligent beings except humanity, that led many to atheism. Despite this the recent discoveries of a vast and increasing number of extra-solar planets has led people to consider the possibility once again that humanity may not be alone in the universe. A few years ago there was a scientific conference called by the White House to debate the consequences and possible approaches to alien contact. One of the subjects discussed was the effect such contacts would have on terrestrial religion. Would it undermine religious faith? All of the representatives of the world’s religions consulted, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and so on concluded that alien contact would not affect their particular faith, but they weren’t sure of the others. There is still much speculation that alien contact would somehow undermine human religions. Historically, however, the opposite has been true: the existence of alien life has been seen as proof of the Almighty’s existence, rather than His absence.