Feminism

Dimbleby Resigns as BBC Propagandist on Question Time

Yesterday, Mike put up a piece commenting on the resignation of former Bullingdon boy David Dimbleby as the host of Question Time. The man Private Eye dubbed ‘Dimblebore’ has been presenting the show for 25 years, and now considers it the right moment to leave. Dimbleby is another BBC presenter, who is very biased towards the Conservatives. Mike’s photograph of him accompanying his piece shows him raising two fingers, with the comment that it’s probably to a Socialist. Mike also cautions against feeling too good about Dimblebore’s resignation, as we don’t know what monster’s going to replace. He wonders whether the secret of human cloning has been found, and whether the next biased presenter of the programme will be Josef Goebbels.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/06/17/if-david-dimbleby-is-leaving-the-bbcs-question-time-what-horror-will-replace-him/

Last week Dimblebore was off in Russia, presenting a documentary about the country under Putin ahead of the footie there. He wasn’t the only, or even the first person to go. The comedian Frankie Boyle got there over a week earlier, presenting a two-part show about the country, it’s people and football on Sunday evening. Dimblebore was rather more serious in tone, presenting Russia as a country in the grip of a repressive autocrat, and mired in corruption which was strangling the economy.

Dimbleby first explained that Putin was most popular with young people, the generation that everywhere else is rebelling against autocrats, dictators and tyrants. He puts this down to Russians’ experience of economic collapse under Yeltsin. Yeltsin ended communism and dismembered the economy of the Soviet Union, privatising whatever he could. The result was chaos, and massive employment. At one point it got so bad that some factories were paying their workers in the goods they produced. Putin has restored order and economic stability to the country, and so has the support of the younger generation.

He spoke to a great of young professionals, an advertising branding team who were supporters of Putin, working to promote him through images and slogans. He stated that most of the media was controlled by the Russian president, with a few exceptions. He then went to speak to someone from RT’s Moscow branch. Dimbleby explained that some of the staff were British, and asked one of the Brits there whether he was presenting propaganda. The man denied it, said that there was no one watching over him, telling him what to do, and that his conscience was clear. Dimblebore then gave a knowing smirk into the camera.

He then talked to a female presenter on one of the few dissident broadcasters Putin had allowed to remain open. She said that she had not received any threats, but she knew that she could be killed for what she did. But she was still determined to carry on.

He then talked about how those, who criticised the government were arrested and jailed, interviewing a human rights lawyer, who defended them. When asked what people could be arrested and jailed for, the lawyer explained that it could be criticism of the government, or a non-traditional understanding of the Second World War. The other year Putin passed a law criminalising the view that Stalin was partly responsible for the Nazi invasion of eastern Europe and Russia through the Nazi-Soviet pact. From what I remember, I think you can also be arrested for promoting gay rights.

He then spoke to a woman, who was protesting her treatment by the state. She had already been jailed for criticising Putin, but was determined to do so again. She had not been able to get a permit to organise a protest, and so held her own, one-woman demonstration outside the court. This is permitted under Russian law. If you can’t get a permit for a demonstration, you can still protest, so long as there is only one person involved. As she stood with her placard, she was joined by an increasing number of counter-protesters determined to disrupt her protest, and possibly send her to jail. They moved closer to her, and she moved away, telling them to keep their distance. They kept coming, and their numbers kept increasing. Then the cops turned up, and started filming things as they’d been told foreigners were involved. And someone else from one of the TV companies materialised to film the protest as well. Eventually it all ended, and the police and counter-protesters disappeared.

Dimbleby then did a piece about the police’s brutal suppression of dissent, complete with footage of the cops beating what looked like a feminist protester from Pussy Riot.

He also touched on gender roles. He talked to a hairdresser, while having his haircut, who told him that Russia still had very traditional gender roles, in which women wanted a strong man to provide for them.

Putin has also succeeded in reversing the declining Russian birthrate. Instead of falling, it is now rising, with medals and benefits given to couples who have large families. He showed one woman and her husband, who were being presented a medal by Putin for having ten children.

He also went off to talk to a youth organisation, that was set up to get children, including boys of junior school age, interested in the army. The group’s name translates as ‘Net’, and is run by army officers. The children there wear combat uniforms and learn to shoot using air rifles, which they are also taught how to strip down. They were shown blazing away at targets, and competing with each other over who could reassemble a gun while blindfolded the quickest, with Dimblebore cheering the winner. And it wasn’t all boys. One of the youngster there looked like a girl. Dimblebore asked them if they wanted to join the army, to which they gave a very enthusiastic ‘Yes’.

He then went off to speak to a prelate from the Russian Orthodox Church about its support for Putin, where he described Putin as an autocrat attacking human rights and threatening peace in Europe. The prelate responded by saying that there were those, who did not agree with his view. And that was that.

He then went off to discuss the massive corruption in Russia, and how this was undermining the economy as more and more investors and companies left the country because of it. Russia has 144 million people, but it’s economy is 2/3s that of Britain, or about the size of Italy’s, and is declining.

Now all of this is factually true. John Kampfner, in his book Freedom For Sale discusses Russia as another state, where the population has made a deal with its leader. They have absolute power, in return for which they give their people prosperity. Except that, according to Dimbleby, living standards and wages are declining. Putin has passed laws against the promotion of homosexuality, there are massive human rights violations, including the jailing of the type of people, who would have been called dissidents under Communism. Journalists, who haven’t toed the Archiplut’s line have been beaten and killed.

Other aspects of the Russian state, as revealed by this programme, would have been immediately recognisable to the generation raised by Communism. Like the corruption. It was rife under Communism. The Bulgarian journalist, Arkady Vaksberg, wrote a book about it, The Soviet Mafia. And Gogol took a shot at official corruption under the Tsars back in the 19th century in his play, The Government Inspector. So no change there.

As for the Russian Orthodox Church supporting Putin, it was always the state church under the tsars, to which it gave absolute support. The watchword of the tsarist regime was ‘Autocracy, Orthodoxy and the People’. And its support of autocratic leadership didn’t begin under Putin. After the restrictions on religion were lifted in the 1990s, the BBC journalists interviewed some of its clergy on their shows. And the clergy had the same preference for absolute state power and total obedience from the people. Putin made the relationship between the Church and his government closer by granting them a sizable share of Russia’s oil.

The youth groups designed to get children interested in joining the army are also little different from what already went on under the Soviet system. Secondary schoolchildren did ‘military-patriotic training’ to prepare them for national service as part of the school curriculum. It was led by retired army officers, who were often the butt of schoolboy jokes. They were taught to handle weapons, complete with competitions for throwing grenades the furthest.

And let’s face it, it also isn’t much different from what used to go on over here. I’ve known young people, who were in the army and naval cadets. And the public schools used to have the CCF – the Combined Cadet Force – which the Tories would dearly love to bring back. And boys, and some girls, do like playing at ‘War’, so I’ve no doubt that if something like the Russian group was set up in this country, there would be many lads and girls wanting to join it.

Russia has also too been a very masculine society with very traditional ideas about gender and masculinity, despite the fact that most engineers were women, who also worked as construction workers and many other, traditionally masculine areas. One of the complaints of Russian women was that the men didn’t do their fair share of standing in queues waiting to get whatever groceries were in store.

And the medals and rewards to the women, who gave birth to the largest number of children is just another form of the Heroic Mother Awards under the Soviet Union. Putin’s Russia continues many of the same aspects of the country’s society from the age of the tsars and Communism, although Dimblebore said the country was going backward.

I’ve no doubt it is, but the programme annoyed me.

What irritated me was Dimblebore’s knowing smirk to camera when the guy from RT denied that he broadcast propaganda. Now I’m sure that RT does. There’s videos I’ve seen on YouTube from RTUK, which could fairly be described as pro-Russian propaganda.

But what annoyed me was Dimblebore’s hypocrisy about it.

The Beeb and Dimbleby himself has also broadcast it share of propaganda supporting western foreign policy interests, including imperialism. Newsnight has finally got round, after several years, to covering the Fascists running around the Ukraine under the present government. But the Beeb has emphatically not informed the British public how the pro-western regime which was put in power with the Orange Revolution, was created by the US State Department under Obama, and run by Hillary Clinton and Victoria Nuland. Far from being a grassroots movement, the revolution was orchestrated by the National Endowment for Democracy, which has been handling the US state’s foreign coups since they were taken away from the CIA, and one of George Soros’ pro-democracy outfits.

Putin is also presented as the villainous aggressor in the current war in the Ukraine, and some have compared his annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine to the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland. But Crimea had been a part of Russia before 1951, when Khrushchev, a Ukrainian, gave it to that state. And Putin is not looking to take over the country either. The population of Russia is 144 million. Ukraine’s is a little over a third of that, at 52 million. If Putin really had wanted to annex it, he would have done so by now. And under international law, as I understand it, nations are allowed to intervene in foreign countries militarily to defend members of their ethnic group that are being persecuted. That was the pretext for the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland, and it’s also the reason why Putin’s invaded eastern Ukraine. But it’s legal under international law. And I don’t doubt for a single minute that Russians, and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, were being persecuted by the new, pro-Western government.

In his documentary, Dimbleby met a very angry, patriotic Russian, who told him that the British had tried to invade Russia three times in the past three centuries. Once in the 19th century during the Crimean War; then in 1922 during the Russian Civil War. And now we were preparing to do the same. He angrily told us to ‘get out!’. Dimbleby looked shocked, and said to him that he couldn’t really believe we were ready to invade.

This was another continuation of the Soviet paranoia and hostility towards the West dating from the Communist period and before. Russia has always felt itself encircled by its enemies since the tsars. But the man has a point. We did invade Russia in 1922 in an effort to overthrow the Communist regime. Pat Mills has talked about this in his presentation on comics he gave to the SWP a few years ago. He tried to get a story about it in Charlie’s War, the anti-war strip he wrote for Battle. This is another piece of history that we aren’t told about.

And when Gorbachev made the treaty with Clinton pledging the withdrawal of Soviet troops from eastern Europe after the collapse of Communism, Clinton in turn agreed that these state would not become members of NATO. He broke his promise. They now all are, and NATO’s borders now extend to Russia. At the same time, western generals and NATO leaders have been predicting a war between Russia and NATO. One even wrote a book about it, 2017: War with Russia. Thankfully, 2017 has been and gone and there has, so far, been no war. But with this in view, I can’t say I blame any Russian, who is afraid that the West might invade at any moment, because it does look to me like a possibility.

And there are other matters that the Beeb and the rest of the lamestream news aren’t telling us about. They’re still repeating the lie that the invasion of Iraq was done for humanitarian reasons, whereas the reality was that western corporations and the neocons wanted to get their hands on Iraqi state industries and privatise the economy. And the American and Saudi oil industry wanted to get their mitts on the country’s oil reserves.

The civil war in Syria is also presented in simplistic terms: Assad as evil tyrant, who must be overthrown, and Putin as his bloodthirsty foreign ally. Assad is a tyrant, and one of the causes of the civil war was his oppression of the Sunni majority. But we are constantly being told that the rebels are ‘moderates’, while the fact is that they still have links to Islamists like the al-Nusra Front, the former Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, and ISIS. Nor have I seen the Beeb tell anyone how the Syrian rebels have also staged false flag chemical weapons attacks against civilians in order to draw the west into the war.

And objective reporting on Israel is hindered by the pro-Israel lobby. Any news item or documentary, which shows Israel’s horrific crimes against Palestinian civilians is immediately greeted with accusations of anti-Semitism from the Israeli state and the Board of Deputies of British Jews. I’ll be fair to the Beeb. Some of their presenters have tried to give an objective reporting of events, like Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin. But they’ve been accused of anti-Semitism, as was Dimblebore himself when he tried to defend them. In this instance, the bias isn’t just the fault of the Beeb. But it is there, and newsroom staff have said that they were under pressure from senior management to present a pro-Israel slant.

Domestically, the Beeb is very biased. I’ve discussed before how Nick Robinson in his report on a speech by Alex Salmond about Scots devolution carefully edited the SNP’s answer, so it falsely appeared that he had been evasive. In fact, Salmond had given a full, straight answer. Salmond’s reply was whittled down further as the day went on, until finally Robinson claimed on the evening news that he hadn’t answered the question.

And numerous left-wing bloggers and commenters, including myself, have complained about the horrendous bias against the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn in the Beeb’s reporting. Dimblebore himself has shown he has a very right-wing bias on Question Time, allowing right-wing guests and audience members to speak, while silencing those on the left. Not that he’s alone here. Andrew Marr has done exactly the same on his programme on Sundays.

Dimblebore is, quite simply, another right-wing propagandist, with the Beeb backing current western imperialism. His smirk at the RT journalist’s denials of doing the same is just gross hypocrisy.

Book Review: Feminism and the Politics of Childhood: Friends or Foes? edited by Rachel Rosen and Katherine Twamley

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/06/2018 - 10:33pm in

In Feminism and the Politics of Childhood: Friends or Foes?, editors Rachel Rosen and Katherine Twamley bring together contributors to explore ways to think about women’s and children’s interests without assuming them to be either antagonists or equivalents. Fabrizia Serafim welcomes the collection for providing a range of alternative theoretical constructs and practical examples of thinking relations with complexity. 

Feminism and the Politics of Childhood: Friends or Foes? Rachel Rosen and Katherine Twamley (eds). UCL Press. 2018. 

Find this book: amazon-logo

Is it possible to think about children’s interests and women’s interests without falling into sharply contrasting womenandchildren or women versus children patterns? Rachel Rosen and Katherine Twamley edited the collection Feminism and the Politics of Childhood because they argue that to answer this question is not only a promising, but indeed a crucial effort for women’s and childhood studies and related socio-political movements. The volume was preceded by an international two-day symposium on feminism and the politics of childhood held at University College London, UK, between 16-17 November 2015, and it is divided into three sections, beginning with more theoretically bent discussions of the tense encounters between gender and generation, followed by considerations of care labour regimes and experiences, before finishing with essays about political projects and movement-building.

Both the symposium and book have adopted rather original formats and involved academics and activists alike. For the former, papers were pre-circulated and then discussed in one large circle in the hope of encouraging dialogue and collaborative learning processes. For the book, all contributors were asked to read, comment and draw on each other’s chapters, going beyond traditional peer-review formats to engage in a co-construction of the end result. Despite the very welcome newness and the open access availability of the book, the editors recognise that some old problems remain, especially concerning stratified relations of knowledge production, given that there is no contribution from children and the number of articles from authors on the Global North is significantly larger than those on the ‘Majority World’.

In their introduction, Rosen and Twamley list three key themes that recur across the chapters. Inclusion of insights from the relational turn in social sciences is one of these, which can be exemplified by Rachel Thomson and Lisa Baraitser’s consideration of ‘mother’ and ‘child’ as relational entities that could enrich both childhood and maternal studies if bracketed and thought together without abstraction, maintaining a connection to their situatedness and concrete lives (see also ‘The Making Modern Motherhood’ research project’s website).

The other two recurrent themes are the employment of different vantage points to look at (or in, out, back) women and children; and the elaboration of alternative metaphors including weaning, struggle-in-relation, temporal lag or becoming-girl to both counter and cover gaps left by conventional imagery produced by prior feminist and childhood studies as well as traditional theories. These key themes are tremendously generative and should by themselves draw the attention of any reader interested in the conundrum of articulating interests which have for long been thought of as either antagonists or equivalents.

Image Credit: (Steve Snodgrass CC BY 2.0)

However, my attention, perhaps steered by my own projects and concerns at the time of reading, kept being drawn to two other themes that also appeared to be touched upon again and again. These are the necessity of the meaningful participation of ordinary human actors both when producing theory as well as in imagining political responses, and the need to consider political, cultural and economic contexts in order to bring forth social and economic justice for everyone. Let me draw some examples from the texts.

Debolina Dutta and Oishik Sircar remind us of the slogan ‘nothing about us without us’, used by sex workers as well as other organised movements, as something feminists and those who work with any community of people must learn – perhaps unlearning other assumptions first. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh exasperatedly reports on how taking into account the opinions and desires of girl-children was not even considered a necessity by the different women involved in resolving a dispute in the case discussed regarding the Sahrawi Refugee Camps in Algeria. As Tanya Pace-Crosschild also teaches through the Opokaa’sin project, it is not possible to provide the necessary culturally-informed childcare welfare services without this kind of participation. These contributors all insist on bringing in concrete subjects and thinking of ways to actually attend to their participation.

Furthermore, Erica Burman argues that the answer to the relationship between women’s and children’s interests lies in structurally organised socio-political contexts and practices that not only constrain but also constitute these very relations. Merryn Edward’s photo essay explores one example of working-class women’s collective action against the austerity measures propelled by neoliberal state and capitalist forms of the (dis)organisation of childcare and reproductive labour, identifying the resistance against exploitation and not individual woman/child relationships as the major problem. Susana Borda Carulla’s analysis of the Colombian childcare programme, based on community homes run by women, explains that we cannot simply put children (or women, for that matter) first. Instead, we must attend to the social interdependency of their needs, interests and rights as well as to the social injustices they suffer, exemplified in her research on the infringement of the labour rights of the women responsible for performing care labour. In an interview with Rosen, Selma James asks: who else is responsible for the well-being of others? These authors all point outside: that is, to political, cultural and economic contexts.

The examples abound. In sum, when trying to answer the question posed by the book’s subtitle – if women and children or feminism and the politics of childhood are friends or foes – many articles redirect the question. They show us that research and activism concerned with women’s and children’s rights and social status should not reproduce traditional and mainstream notions of individualism, therefore focusing on independent and abstract subjects (liberal subjects). Instead, they point towards embodied, interdependent and concretely situated subjects (which can be thought of in dialogue with Martha A. Fineman’s theorisation of vulnerable subjects), who should not be treated as passive, observational objects of study or aid.

Doing so, the authors within the volume support not only those interested in exploring the junctures between gender and generation, women’s studies and childhood studies, feminism and women’s movements and childhood activism, but all those interested in theorising alternatives to neoliberalism and traditional political and social theory. They provide us with alternate theoretical constructs and practical examples of research on how to best make sense of the importance of relations and thinking with complexity.

Fabrizia Serafim is currently an SJD student at Emory University School of Law with Professor Martha Albertson Fineman as her supervisor and funding from CAPES/Brazil. Her doctorate research seeks to further explore theoretical aspects of Professor Fineman’s innovative Vulnerability Theory and to examine liberal and feminist legal debates on pornography, thus interrogating contemporary critical analyses of power and institutional forms. Previously, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil and her LLM from LSE with the support of a Chevening Scholarship.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics.


Anything Else Would Not Be Good Enough

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/06/2018 - 10:23pm in


At Dublin Castle, several of those politicians took the stage to rapturous cheers. Crowds filled the courtyard of the building to celebrate and observe, as they had at the announcement of the referendum on marriage equality three years previous. Some of the politicians on stage had only had their moments of conversion weeks or months before, and yet were ready to take the applause as if it was they who had given up their time and energy to pound pavements and tell stories of women’s experience for years and decades. “I was warned about this, that it will only be politicians’ names in the history books, and there is only so much room on the stage at Dublin Castle,” Kavanagh said. “It’s something you have to adjust to. As grassroots activists, we know that we won't get the credit we deserve and we have to just live with that. It's why it's all the more important that we take care of each other afterwards.”

Living The Dream in the time of #metoo Part 1

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/06/2018 - 2:26pm in

Tags 

Feminism, gender

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#metoo has brought issues of sexual violence and gender to the forefront of public debate. But what's it all about? What's the relationship of #metoo to older feminist ideas and struggles over gendered violence and how has feminism engaged with questions of violence, crime and the state? Part 1 of a 2 part special from Living the Dream at The Word From Struggle Street

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Far Right Watch Explain Why Tommy Robinson Is Not a Martyr for Free Speech

Last month, Tommy Robinson, or to give him his real name, Steven Yaxley Lennon, was arrested and jailed for contempt of court. Robinson is the former leader of the Islamophobic EDL, and has also been a member of PEGIDA UK, as well as the BNP. He’d been covering the trial of a group of Pakistani Muslims in Leeds on the internet outside the court. Robinson already had a suspended sentence for doing the same thing about a year ago in Canterbury. The rozzers swooped, Robinson pleaded guilty, and is now enjoying a holiday at her majesty’s pleasure.

His supporters have gone berserk, claiming that he’s been persecuted for his beliefs and that this is a serious breach of free speech by the multicultural establishment to protect Muslims. They’ve also been on the internet claiming that this is all part of the establishment’s campaign to make Whites extinct through immigration and racial mixing. The Islamophobic Dutch politician, Gert Wilders, who is himself no stranger to prosecution for racism, has condemned Robinson’s arrest and imprisonment. As has Pauline Hanson, the head of the minuscule Australian anti-immigration party, the One Nation Party. Hanson runs a fish and chip shop in Western Australia, and she’s made herself president for life of her outfit, so there are definitely no overtones of Fascist dictatorship there.

Last Sunday, 4th June 2018, Robinson’s supporters held a rally in London demanding his release. This has alarmed anti-racist activists and organisations. Hope Not Hate have released a video telling the truth about Robinson and what he really stands for and why he was jailed. As have Kevin Logan, the male feminist and anti-Fascist, and Far Right Watch. RT also covered the demonstration, and their short clip shows some of Robinson’s supporters trying fighting or attempting to fight the police.

Far Right Watch are an unpaid, volunteer group of nine people dedicated to exposing Fascism and the Far Right on the internet. In this video, which is about 28 minutes long, they answer five questions about Robinson and bust seven myths about him.

They start out by making the point that Robinson is a racist, and has been a member of a series of racist organisations, including the BNP. He’s also a criminal, having been convicted 12 times of various offences, including fraud. They go into great detail, including citing the official court document explaining to Robinson why he is being jailed, showing that his arrest is certainly not political censorship but was done as part of the ordinary legislation designed to give defendants a fair trial.

They point out that under English law since the 13th century, a person is innocent until proven guilty. This is unique to English law and the legal systems that are derived from it, and it’s a cornerstone of British justice. Robinson broke that in his coverage of the case, because his commentary on the trial assumed that the men being tried were guilty.

This is serious because it threatened to prejudice their trial, meaning that if the judge considered that the accused couldn’t get a fair trial because of Robinson, the trial would be abandoned or the accused acquitted. And if the accused were guilty of the heinous crimes with which they were charged, it would be a serious miscarriage of justice. Hence the mass of legislation surrounding the reporting of criminal cases which bind real journalists.

Robinson also violated accepted journalistic procedures by broadcasting live. When the professional broadcasters cover cases from outside a courthouse, it’s always recorded, and the report is then examined by legal experts to make sure that it complies with the law. Robinson did not none of that. He had no control over what was occurring, and was simply filming events as they happened. Furthermore, there were other people also coming to court for their trials, and his cavalier contempt for the law could have placed their cases in jeopardy.

His followers have also claimed that Robinson was all right to present his commentary on the case, as it was over. This video reveals that it wasn’t. The case Robinson was covering was only one of a number of trial, which were ongoing. They have also claimed that the ruling of contempt of court doesn’t apply to him, because he was outside the courtroom. That isn’t the case. The documents state that Robinson was still subject to the laws about contempt of court because he was still in the precincts of the court. Mike, who is a professional journalist, and who knows the law, told me that the precincts of the court are wherever the judge decides they are. So that excuse for him doesn’t hold up.

As for Robinson’s swift arrest, it’s so fast because he was given a 13 month suspended sentence for doing the same thing in Canterbury last year, which he didn’t contest. This sentence would immediately have started the moment Robinson broke the law again, regardless of any additional sentence he would be given for this offence. And while the speed of his arrest is unusual, it’s not unknown. Plus the fact that Robinson actually pleaded guilty to contempt when he was tried for it, so there’s absolutely no reason for the whole process to be prolonged with a lengthy trial and prosecution.

The video also makes the point that Robinson’s own interest in the trial was cynically racist. He wasn’t interested so much in the welfare of the children these people are accused of violating and exploiting. He was only interested in it as a way of generating further hatred against Muslims. He hadn’t covered a string of similar trials up and down England and Wales, for the simple reason that the paedophile gangs being tried in these cases were all White. Just like he also wasn’t interested in talking about Jimmy Savile or the allegations against the former Tory leader, Edward Heath.

As for Wilders and Pauline ‘President for Life’ Hanson fulminating against his arrest and sentencing as a travesty of British justice, or words to that effect, the same laws against contempt of court are in force everywhere, including the Netherlands and Australia. So if Robinson had broken the law in those countries, as he has here, he’d still have been jailed.

In short, Robinson is in no way a martyr for free speech, as the document outlining the reasons why he has been jailed states very clearly. This wasn’t about politics. It was about justice, giving the accused a fair trial, under laws which go all the way back to the Middle Ages. It was definitely not about protecting Muslim paedophiles, or the elites advancing the cause of ‘White genocide’ or any of the stupid and vile conspiracy theories that the Far Right may choose to believe or make up about it. And Robinson himself is hardly a high-minded, principled political activist. He’s a convicted criminal and a racist, who knowingly violated the law in order to generate more anti-Muslim hatred.

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

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.

Two new anarchist feminist projects in Scotland

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/06/2018 - 8:48am in

Tags 

UK, scotland, Feminism

image/jpeg iconunicorn-FINISHED-WEB.jpg

A quick blog in which I’m very optimistic about the Edinburgh Anarchist Feminist Bookfair, and a new class struggle self-education project in Edinburgh

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Mars as Communist Utopia in Pre-Revolutionary Russian SF

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/06/2018 - 3:39am in

I thought this might interest all the SF fans out there. One of the books I’ve started reading is Lost Mars: The Golden Age of the Red Planet, edited by Mark Ashley (London: The British Library 2018). It’s a collection of SF stories written about the Red Planet from the 19th century to just before the Mariner and then Viking probes in the ’60s and ’70s showed that rather than being a living planet with canals, vegetation and civilised beings, it was a dead world more like the Moon. It’s a companion volume to another book of early SF stories from about the same period, Moonrise: The Golden Age of Lunar Adventures, also edited by Mike Ashley. The Martian book contains stories by H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury – from The Martian Chronicles, natch – Marion Zimmer Bradley, E.C. Tubb, Walter M. Miller, and the great novelist of dystopias and bug-eyed psychopaths, J.G. Ballard. It also contains pieces by now all but forgotten Victorian and early Twentieth writers of Scientific Romances, W.S. Lach-Szyrma, George C. Wallis, P. Schuyler Miller and Stanley G. Weinbaum.

Both books are also interesting, not just for the short stories collected in them, but also for Ashley’s introduction, where he traces the literary history of stories about these worlds. In the case of the Moon, this goes all the way back to the Roman satirist, Lucian of Samosata, and his Vera Historia. This is a fantasy about a group of Roman sailors, whose ship is flung into space by a massive waterspout, to find themselves captured by a squadron of Vulturemen soldiers from the Moon, who are planning an invasion of the Sun.

The history of literary speculation about Mars and Martian civilisation, is no less interesting, but somewhat shorter. It really only begins in the late 19th century, when telescopes had been developed capable of showing some details of the Martian surface, and in particular the canali, which the Italian astronomer Schiaparelli believed he had seen. The Italian word can mean ‘channels’ as well as ‘canal’, and Schiaparelli himself did not describe them as artificial. Nevertheless, other astronomers, like Percival Lowell of Flagstaff, Arizona, believed they were. Other astronomers were far more sceptical, but this set off the wave of novels and short stories set on an inhabited Mars, like Edgar Rice Burrough’s famous John Carter stories. I remember the Marvel adaptation of some these, or at least using the same character, which appeared as backing stories in Star Wars comic way back in the 1970s.

It’s also interesting, and to contemporary readers somewhat strange, that before H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, the vast majority of these stories about Mars assumed that the Martians would not only be far more scientifically and technologically advanced, but they would also be more socially and spiritually as well. Just like the Aetherius Society, a UFO new religious movement founded by George King in the 1950s, claims that Jesus was really as Venusian, and now lives on that world along with Aetherius, the being from whom they believe they receive telepathic messages, so there were a couple of short stories in which Christ was a Martian. These were Charles Cole’s Visitors From Mars, of 1901, and Wallace Dowding’s The Man From Mars of 1910.

Other utopias set on the Red Planet were more secular. In Unveiling a Parallel, by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant, of 1893, the Martians are handsome and intelligent, and their women totally liberated. Another feminist utopia was also depicted by the Australian writer Mary Moore-Bentley in her A Woman of Mars of 1901.

And in Russia, the writer Alexander Bogdanov made Mars a Communist utopia. Ashley writes

While the planetary romance theme was developing there were other explorations of Martian culture. The Red Planet became an obvious setting for a communist state in Krasnaia Zvesda (‘Red Star’, 1908) and its sequel Inzhener Menni (‘Engineer Menni’, 1912) by Alexander Bogdanov. Although reasonably well known in Russia, especially at the time of the revolution in 1917, and notoriously because of its reference to free love on Mars, it was not translated into English until 1984. Kim Stanley Robinson claimed it served as an influence for his own novel, Red Mars (1992), the first of his trilogy about terraforming the planet. Although the emphasis in Bodganov’s stories is on the benefits of socialism, he took trouble to make the science as realistic as possible. The egg-shaped rocket to Mars is powered by atomic energy. His Mars is Schiaparellian, with canals that have forests planted along their full length, explaining why they are visible from Earth. He also went to great lengths to explain how the topography of Mars, and the fact that it was twice as old as Earth, allowed social evolution to develop gradually and more effectively, with planet-wide communication and thus a single language. (Pp. 11-12).

So five years before the Revolution, Mars really was the ‘Red Planet’ in Russian literature. I’m not surprised it wasn’t translated into English until the 1980s. British publishers and censors probably disliked it as a piece of Communist propaganda, quite apart from Anglophone western Puritanism and the whole issue of free love. No naughtiness allowed on the side of the Iron Curtain, not even when it’s set on Mars. Russian cinema also produced one of the first SF films, also set on Mars. This was Aelita (1922), in which Russian cosmonauts travel to the Red Planet to start a revolution, though at the end it’s revealed that it’s all been a dream.

Meanwhile, Mars as a planet of mystery continues in the French SF series, Missions, shown at 10.00 Thursdays on BBC 4. This has French spationauts and their American rivals landing on the Red Planet, only to find a mysterious altar constructed from lost Atlantean materials described by the Romans, and Vladimir Komarov, a Soviet cosmonaut, who has been turned into something more than human with three strands of DNA. In reality, Komarov died when the parachutes on his spacecraft failed to open when it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. Tragically, Komarov knew it was a deathtrap, but went anyway because Khrushchev wanted another Russian space achievement to show up the Americans, and Komarov did not want his friend, and first man in space, Yuri Gagarin to go. It’s a tragic, shameful waste of human life on what was a purely political stunt, and Komarov is, because of his desire to save his friend, one of the great heroes of the space age.

But Missions shows not only how much people really want us to travel to Mars – to explore and colonise – it also shows how the Red Planet still remains the source of wonder and speculation about alien civilisations, civilisations that may not be hostile monsters intent on invading the Earth ‘for no very good reason’, as Douglas Adams described the motives of those aliens, who wanted to take over the universie in The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. One of the French spationauts, Jeanne, has dreamed of going to Mars since being shown it through a telescope by her father when she was a little girl. Electromagnetic scans of the area, when developed, give a picture of her face, and ‘Komarov’ tells her he has been waiting millions of years for her, and she is the true link between Mars and Earth.

Yes, it’s weird. But different. And it shows that Mars is continuing to inspire other forms of SF, where the Martians aren’t invaders – or at least, not so far-but benevolent guides waiting for us to come to them and make the next leap in our development. Just like Bogdanov in 1912 imagined that they would be ahead of us, and so have created a true Communist utopia.

Cartoon: The life cycle of a slur

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/06/2018 - 9:50pm in

This week's strip was inspired by the recent Samantha Bee controversy, in which the comedian referred to Ivanka Trump as a "feckless c-word" during a monologue about Trump's treatment of undocumented immigrants. This came on the heels of Roseanne having her show canceled for making racist and anti-Semitic remarks on Twitter. Many on the right demanded similar consequences for Bee, who later apologized. But the two incidents were not the same. As I tweeted the other day:

Samantha Bee, a woman, calling a white supremacist wannabe-oligarch's enabling daughter the c-word is punching up. A white person calling a black person an ape and spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories is punching down, historical abomination-style.

When it comes to slurs, it's not about the word itself -- it's about the context. The meaning changes depending on who's using the word, and who they're talking about. Samantha Bee is probably the most feminist personality on TV right now. When she drops a c-bomb in the service of criticizing a woman who is complicit in oppression, it may be a crude insult -- but it's not sexist.

Update: To clarify my thoughts a bit more, I try to avoid using language in this way in my own work, since there’s too much room for misinterpretation. And there are reasonable debates to be had about the merits of certain types of reclaiming; I’ve even drawn cartoons in the past about the dangers of embracing your opponents’ insults (“tree hugger” being one example that hasn’t helped reframe the debate, in my opinion). HOWEVER! I’m not “making excuses” for Sam Bee simply because I’m a fan. Had she said something genuinely supportive of patriarchy, I’d criticize it. I think Rebecca Traister gets it right here

It is true that in her critique of Ivanka Trump, Bee used an expletive that is explicitly misogynistic; it is wholly reasonable to object to the word cunt for feminist reasons. It is also reasonable and worthwhile to consider why a term for female anatomy has become such a potent pejorative; why does a word that means vagina also mean “very bad person”? That’s a valid question, but it’s crucial to consider it in this context. Bee was not reinforcing or replicating the crude harm that “cunt” has been used to inflict historically: the patriarchal diminishment and vilification of women. In fact, Bee was using it to criticize a woman precisely because that woman is acting on behalf of that patriarchy, one that systematically diminishes women, destroys families, and hurts children.

Given that we can’t even pass the Equal Rights Amendment, it’s probably a stretch to expect that many people get these subtleties. But one thing that is clear: we can safely dismiss the performative outrage from those who never gave a damn about misogyny until now. 

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In the ‘I’ Today: Columnist Deborah Orr Catches Up with Mike’s Posts about DUP and Decline of Democracy in Ulster

Mike over at Vox Political has several times commented on stories in the mainstream media, which suspiciously repeat some of the points he’s made in his articles. Now it’s the turn of the I’s columnist, Deborah Orr, to catch up with some of the points Mike’s been making about the grossly disproportionate influence the DUP now has, thanks to the Tories’ dependence on them for support in the Commons. And the way this has meant that effective devolved government won’t be coming back to Ulster any time soon.

The power sharing agreement between Sinn Fein and the DUP collapsed last year, and since then Ulster’s been governed from Westminster. After Eire voted by a two-thirds majority to legalise abortion, feminists – not necessarily female – have been calling for a similar referendum in the Six Counties, where abortion is also illegal. But the DUP and Arlene Foster are very firmly against abortion, and don’t want to give the people of Ulster the choice of whether it should be legal or not. And because May needs their support, she really isn’t going to risk alienating them by giving them the referendum many are calling for. Nor is she going to risk losing them by handing power back to Stormont. And so, thanks to Foster and her far right hordes, Ulsterwomen don’t get to vote on what can be a matter of life and death – not just for unborn children, but also for the mothers – and Ulster’s people are denied their right to self-government.

Mike made these points in his posts a few days ago. See for example, this article by Mike yester, which actually comments on a story in the Mirror:
https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/30/vox-political-proved-correct-as-dup-threatens-tories-over-ni-abortion-law-reform/

Orr is also one of the columnists, who’ve repeated the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour party and Ken Livingstone. Last week in her column she claimed that Leninspart had said that Hitler was a Zionist, and called him ‘a fool’. In fact, the depraved Marxist newt-fancier had said no such thing. He had said that Hitler briefly supported Zionism ‘before he went mad and killed the Jews’. This is actually solid, established fact. Under the Ha’avara Agreement, the Nazis did support sending German Jews to Israel with the Zionist organisations. As Mike’s pointed out over and again, you can find this on the website of the International Holocaust Museum in Israel.

Livingstone’s comment that Hitler killed the Jews in the Holocaust only after he went mad is wrong. Historians of the Third Reich have argued that the implications of Hitler’s anti-Semitism were clear from the outset, even if he only started murdering the Jews en masse from 1942 onwards. The Nazis made absolutely no secret of their murderous hatred of the Jews. Joachim C. Fest in his biography of Hitler records how the Nazis in Berlin even sang about having ‘the Jew lies bleeding at our feet’. This is quite apart from their real attacks on Jews, and their brutal persecution in Germany and Austria before the Final Solution.

However, Leninspart hasn’t been smeared as an anti-Semite because of his belief that Hitler hadn’t planned the Jews extermination from the start. He was smeared because he raised an awkward fact of history that the Israel lobby, and its enabler in the mainstream press and the political parties, can’t tolerate: that Hitler briefly allied with the Zionists, without being a Zionist himself.

And Orr couldn’t tolerate that fact herself. Or perhaps she was just too lazy and complacent to research the historical fact behind Livingstone’s statement. Either way, she was happy to repeat the Israel lobby’s contemptible lie.

Either way, her article shows that if you really want to know what’s going on, check Mike’s blog, and those of the other great left-wing bloggers and vloggers he follows and cites.

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