Literature

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.

Mike Launches Crowdfunding Appeal to Help Fight Libel Battle

On Wednesday, 13th June 2018, Mike annnounced that he had set up a crowdfunding page to raise money for him to take to court the organisations and publications that have libelled him as an anti-Semite. He has had to do this, because he simply doesn’t make enough from the Vox Political page to pay the legal fees himself, and so he has turned to the generosity of his readers.

He posted up the description of his case, and why he needs the money, which he has put on his JustGiving page. This runs

“My name is Mike Sivier. You may know me as the writer of the Vox Political website.

I am probably best-known as the man who forced the Conservative government to reveal the number of sick and disabled benefit claimants who had lost their lives after being denied benefit, after a two-year campaign.

In 2017, immediately before local government elections in which I was standing as a Labour candidate, an organisation calling itself the Campaign Against Antisemitism published an article falsely alleging anti-Semitism by me. I believe the intention was to corruptly spoil my chance of being elected.

The piece ‘quotemined’ investigative articles I had written about claims of anti-Semitism against Labour Party politicians, using only those words that could present the most prejudicial impression about me, in order to falsely suggest hatred of the Jewish people. A weblink to the article was then sent to the Labour Party, in an attempt to have my membership suspended. This led to newspaper articles including one in which my local Conservative MP libelled me.

Labour obligingly suspended my membership, and subsequently launched a one-sided investigation in which I was found guilty despite being absent from the proceedings, at which none of the evidence I had presented to the party was mentioned by the investigator.

A copy of the report to the Labour Party committee that heard my case was then handed to a member of the national press. This led to further newspaper articles claiming I was not only an anti-Semite but also a Holocaust denier (an innovation by the Labour Party investigator).

I have been trying to persuade all those involved to retract their unfounded claims and apologise. These lies have harmed my main business – the Vox Political website – by encouraging readers to believe I should be avoided because of the unacceptable views they have attributed to me.

My attempts seem unlikely to produce positive results so it seems I must resort to court action.

I need your support to fund the court campaign to clear my name.

Please support this case and share. As a Labour Party member, I believe in equal opportunities for all people, no matter the colour of their skin, their religion or ethnic background, or any other accident of birth. My campaign to force the Tory government to release its sickness and disability death figures was an example of my commitment to end discrimination, prejudice and hate based on such characteristics.”

He ends his article with an appeal to readers to support him, either by donating or sharing the link, or both, which is

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/mike-sivier

The article is at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/06/13/help-vox-political-writer-fight-anti-semitism-libels-in-court/

All this is absolutely true. And I’ve written time and again that Mike is no racist, Anti-Semite or any kind of Nazi. He and I had an uncle, who was of Jewish descent, with whom our family used to go on holidays when we were children. Our father had done his national service in Germany, not far from Belsen concentration camp, and showed us the photos he’d taken of the remains of that terrible place, and the memorial the British army put up to the Jews murdered there.

He has always enjoyed the friendship of people of different cultures, religions and nationalities. One of his mates at college was a Muslim Nigerian. And while he was there, he was one of the speakers reading out the names of some of the victims of the Holocaust in a performance commemorating them and the others butchered in the Shoah. He had done this at the invitation of a female Jewish friend, who was deeply moved by his performance.

One of the books I’ve got on my shelf on the Third Reich was given to me by Mike after he went on a College trip to Berlin. It’s on the Nazi Sicherheitsdienst – the infamous ‘Security Service’, which formed a part of the apparatus of state terror in the Third Reich. It was published by the-then West German government to acccompany an exhibition on the SD and the horrors they perpetrated following the redevelopment and archaeological investigation of the organisation’s headquarters in what was then West Berlin. As well as information on the SD and the other parts of the Nazi secret police, like the Gestapo and the Krimipolizei, the ordinary criminal police, who were also responsible for persecuting political and ethnic enemies of the Nazi order, the book also gave due coverage of the Nazis’ victims. It described the network of camps, and gave the figures for the number of Jews and other victims murdered in the occupied countries. It also had a photographs and potted biographies of some of the most notable victims. It is most definitely not the kind of book Nazis, ant-Semites and Holocaust deniers want people reading, let alone give to their relatives.

Mike and I grew up in the ’80s, when the NF and BNP were very much in the news and trying to make their presence felt through terrorising and attacking people of colour and lefties. It was also the decade when Blacks and Asians also fought back against racism with the support of White sympathisers. There was a real fear at the time that the BNP or something like them could gain power, especially under Thatcher’s noxious government, with its links to South American Fasciss like Pinochet and the horrific Rios Montt. This fear was expressed in some of the comic literature that both he and I read, which dealt with issues like racism and persecution.

It shows the absolute contempt for truth or any kind of journalistic integrity that he, and so many others like him, have been smeared and libelled by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the scumbags of the right-wing press. I full support Mike in his court battle, and hope others will too.

This digital novel narrates the violence against ethnic Chinese during the 1998 riots in Indonesia

“We cannot heal what we will not face.”

A digital illustrated novel tells the stories of Indonesian Chinese who were attacked during the riots that toppled the Indonesian government in 1998.

In May 1998, violent riots erupted across Indonesia demanding the resignation of then President Suharto who had ruled the country for over three decades. The riots led to a change in government but thousands of innocent civilians — in particular, Indonesians of Chinese ancestry– were injured, raped, and killed. Many Orang Tionghoa (how Indonesians with full or partial Chinese ancestry are called) fled the country because of the escalating violence that targeted them.

A government report released in October 1998 revealed that, while some violent incidents against Indonesian Chinese were spontaneous, most cases appeared to be systematically planned by local thugs supported by powerful political and military forces. The report also documented cases of rape that victimized many Indonesian Chinese women.

After two decades, victims of the attacks in 1998 and their families continue to seek justice.

Written by Melbourne-based artist Rani Pramesti, the ‘Chinese Whispers’ illustrated novel narrates the tragedy that forced her to flee her beloved country in 1998. It also features the stories of women who witnessed the 1998 riots.

Global Voices interviewed her about the novel and her motivation for initiating this project:

The Chinese Whispers was inspired by my personal experiences of how the May 1998 racial violence impacted my sense of identity as well as by the historical context of May 1998.

I noticed how 1998 became an important unspoken issue (among) Chinese Indonesian diaspora in Australia.

I can’t speak for other people’s experiences. But I can speak about mine. My family and I were spared from (the) 1998 looting, rape, and violence but we lived the era where we were subjected to politically motivated racism. Being raised unequivocally Indonesian, a proud one that is, the 1998 riot questioned my identity.

Through the Chinese Whispers, I want to reveal what politically motivated racism (PMR) could do to people, (and it) doesn’t matter how many years after it happened. PMR has real human costs, not just in Indonesia but the entire world today.

She explained why she chose the title ‘Chinese Whispers’ for her novel:

During the creative process with the community, we talked about many things and everything. Yet, when I brought up the events that took place in 1998, of our whereabouts and what not, the voices in the room were reduced to whispers.

As a student of dramatic arts, I learned to observe tones, body languages, expressions. What I came across during the meetings and dramatic workshops, 1998 held a certain significance to the community.

Many said that the 1998 riot is something taboo to talk about. It remains sensitive, it’s hard to talk about the events, but taboo’s not the word to describe it.

And this is what she hopes her work will accomplish:

One day I attended a poetry reading by Mark Gonzales, one of his poems reads “We cannot heal what we will not face.” That rang true to me.

20 years on, 1998 is barely acknowledged. There [are] a lot of things to be done in terms of healing, to obtain some forms of justice. I’m not only talking about healing at the personal level, but also as a nation.

I want my readers to remember what 1998 entails and to be moved by the experiences of individuals who went through it.

In my work, my 12-year-old persona experienced having her identity torn apart by politically motivated racism.

I love how dramatic arts contributed in telling my personal stories. After all, despite the macro stories we hear everywhere, in the end, we are all human beings, we all have our micro stories and that is how we connect at the most profound level — from one person to another.


One of the pages of the Chinese Whispers. Used with permission.

Currently, the Chinese Whispers is available in Indonesian. Its English version is due out by the end of 2018. Rani's work can be found on her website and she can be reached through her Facebook page and Instagram.

Ursula Le Guin Referenced in Radio 3 Programme about Forests

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/06/2018 - 5:17pm in

Next week, Saturday 16th June 2018 to Friday 22nd June, Radio 3 is broadcasting a series of programmes about forests, in folklore, history, anthropology, witchcraft, music and art. And next Tuesday’s edition of Free Thinking, 19th June 2018 at 10.00 pm discusses forests and the natural world in the work of the Fantasy and SF author Ursula K Le Guin. It takes as its title that of one of her SF novels, The Word for World Is Forest. The blurb for it on page 126 of the Radio Times reads

Humanity’s impact on the natural world is a theme running through the work of American novelist Ursula K. Le Guin. Matthew Sweet discusses Le Guin on forests with British academic and Green Party politician Rupert Read.

Gerald Scarfe Caricature of Menachem Begin

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/06/2018 - 12:55am in

I found this caricature of the former Israeli premier, Menachem Begin, as a desert tank, on page 71 of Scarfe’s book, Scarfeface (London: Sinclair-Stevenson 1993).

I’m posting it as a rebuttal of the latest attempts to silence criticism of Israel, and particularly the censorship of cartoons commenting on Israeli atrocities and human rights abuses. Like the Guardian’s spiking of Steve Bell’s cartoon of Netanyahu and Tweezer having a chin-wag, while the murdered Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar burns in the fire. Or the German cartoon, which was censored for anti-Semitism, because its depiction of Netanyahu was held by the censor, Klein, to be like the Nazi caricatures of Jews. And then there was the case of Scarfe’s own cartoon of Netanyahu building his wretched wall to keep the Palestinians out a few years ago. Mark Regev, the odious Israeli ambassador, speciously claimed that because it showed Netanyahu building it using the blood and bodies of Palestinians, that it was somehow a reference to the infamous ‘Blood Libel’.

It’s all rubbish. None of these cartoons were anti-Semitic. And as Mike has pointed out, in these cases authorial intention have to be taken into account. Scarfe isn’t an anti-Semite, and neither is Bell, who has vigorously denied that there was any anti-Semitic intention in his cartoon. But the people making these accusations aren’t interested in whether they’re really anti-Semitic. They’re interested solely in using the issue of anti-Semitism as a convenient weapon for shutting down criticism of Israel.

I don’t know when Scarfe’s cartoon of Begin was published, but it was clearly a much freer time journalistically. It’s a comment on his militaristic character and period in office. And I’m very sure that there were no accusations of anti-Semitism, and it was accepted as ‘fair comment’. And looking at it, it is not very different in its intent and comment on Israeli politics as the others that have recently been censored.

How very different to today, where if you draw a cartoon that the Israelis and their supporters don’t like, you will be automatically libelled as an anti-Semites and your cartoon spiked.

It’s time this grotesque infringement of free speech and libelling of perfectly decent people stopped. Journalists should hold everyone to account, including Israel and its leaders, just like every other nation, without fear of defamation and censorship.

It’s

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.

Radio 3 Programme Tomorrow on Harlem Poet Langston Hughes at the Beeb

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/06/2018 - 6:31pm in

At 6.45 pm tomorrow, Sunday 10th June 2018, Radio 3’s Sunday Feature is on Langston Hughes at the BBC, brought there through his friendship with producer Geoffrey Bridson. The blurb for this in the Radio Times runs

A look at how an unlikely friendship led to the epic 1964 Third Programme series The Negro in America, which was presented by the great Harlem poet Langston Hughes. The series brought to the airwaves sounds and voices of the civil rights struggle of Jazz music and of black literature – sounds and voices that had rarely been heard in Britain. Media historian Professor David Hendy pieces together the story of Hughes and his friendship with British co-producer Geoffrey Bridson. the programme includes highlights from the original series; remarkable on-location recording of riots in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963; writers James Baldwin and LeRoi Jones (later known as Amiri Baraka), Jazz musicians Cannonball Adderley and Cecil Taylor. (p. 120).

Argentina Pulls Out of Friendly with Israel Due to Move to Jerusalem

Yet another short video, this time from that noted pro-Arab, Islamist propaganda mouthpiece, Al-Jazeera. Or it is in the minds of American Republicans and the Islamophobic ‘counterjihad’ movement, like the EDL and Pegida.

Argentina was due to play a friendly with Israel, but pulled out after the venue for the match was changed from Haifa to Jerusalem under pressure from the Palestinians. Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Association, states that this was in response to the Israelis politicising the match. They had said that it was part of the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel, and the 51st anniversary of the ‘liberation’ of Jerusalem.

Netanyahu is supposed to have phoned the Argentinian president, Maurizio Macri to try to get him to change the team’s mind, but he replied that it wasn’t up to him.

Reuven Rivlin, the Israeli president, issued a statement accusing the Argentinians of politicising the match. This read

It is truly a sad day for soccer fans, including some of my grandchildren, but there are values even bigger than Messi. The politicisation in the Argentinian decision is of great concern. Even in the most difficult times we made every effort to leave considerations that are not purely about sport off the playing field, and it is a pity that the Argentina team did not manage do so on this occasion.

Al-Jazeera’s reporter Bernard Smith concludes the piece by explaining that the Israelis want to normalise Jerusalem as the nation’s capital with the international community, and this was part of their strategy. But it’s backfired this time by reminding everyone how the status of Jerusalem is far from settled.

There are a number of reasons why the Argentinians would side with the Palestinians against the Israelis on this issue. Firstly, South America has long-established links with the Levant going back to the 19th century. Many of the merchants and traders, who supplied imported goods to communities across Latin America were ‘Turks’, actually ethnic Arabs from Lebanon and Syria, which were then provinces of the Turkish Empire. Carlos Menem, the right-wing president of one of the Latin American countries a few years ago, who was embroiled in a corruption scandal, was of Lebanese descent.

It also struck me that there was a possible element of anti-Americanism in this. The Latin American intellectuals, who formed the ideology of Arielismo in the 19th century, came from Argentina. Arielismo is the literary and political critique of US imperialism in Hispanic America. It arose after the US invaded and annexed parts of Mexico, and went to war with Spain in the last years of the 19th century to seize Cuba. It’s based on an anti-colonial reading of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Arielismo sees the peoples of Latin America as having been cast as Caliban, Prospero’s brutish assistant in the play. They have been presented as a monstrous, backward ‘other’, by the Americans, in order to justify their own imperialism towards the continent.

American and Israeli foreign policy in the Middle East is so closely enmeshed that it’s identical. Trump caused widespread outrage when he moved the location of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The refusal by the Argentinian team to play there may also be partly an attack on Trump and the Americans for doing so.

Also, I read in a review of a book on Israel’s activities supporting the Fascist dictators in South America in Lobster, that the Israeli secret agencies had acted as an American proxies in the parts of the continent where it would be dangerous for the Americans themselves to operate.

If this is correct, then the Argentinians’ decision isn’t just about Israel, but a wider condemnation of American colonialism and imperialism, of which Israel has been a part.

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.

Rees Mogg Senior’s Support of Pinochet’s Fascist Coup in Chile

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the rising Tory star and archaic ‘minister for the 18th century’, as he’s been dubbed, last week seemed to show very clearly the extent of his ambitions. He bought a townhouse overlooking Downing Street. Despite his denials that this showed his intention of occupying No. 10, everyone else took it as a clear sign that he very definitely does have his sights on becoming Prime Minister.

Rees-Mogg is a true-blue Tory aristo, who began his career by campaigning to keep the unreformed, and unelected House of Lords. He has consistently voted to increase spending, tax cuts and other privileges for the rich, and to cut and deny state aid, welfare benefits and spending on the poor, the unemployed and the disabled. He has a vast income provided by his investment firms. And he’s also the son of William Rees-Mogg, the former editor of the Times and later columnist for the Independent.

I found this passage quoting and commenting on a piece Rees-Mogg senior wrote at the time, welcoming the Fascist coup by General Pinochet which overthrew Salvador Allende, in Colin Sparks’ article, ‘The Media and the State’ in James Curran, Jake Ecclestone, Giles Oakley and Alan Richardson, eds., Bending Reality: The State of the Media (London: Pluto Press 1986). Allende was a democratically elected Marxist, who enraged his country’s ruling elite by wishing to expropriate land from their estates to give to the peasants. He was also a danger to the American-led global campaign against Communism, simply because his regime had taken power through popular elections. It contradicted the view that Communism could only gain power through very undemocratic means, like revolutions and coups. And so the CIA backed Pinochet’s coup against Allende, which plunged the country into a brutal Fascist dictatorship that lasted from c. 1974 to the early 1990s.

Before quoting Rees-Mogg senior, Sparks also describes how the elite will try to bring down any government genuinely trying to create a more democratic, equal society, and eliminate poverty using ideological as well as other weapons, one of which will be the establishment press. He writes

Any government which seeks to get rid of poverty and inequality will come up against the opposition of those whose life has been built upon the fruits of poverty and inequality. Any government which seeks to establish democracy as the common norm for the conduct of human affairs will come up against the opposition of those whose whole life has been built upon the exercise of irresponsible and unaccountable power. The people who run the state, the media, industry and the banks will not just let us get on with changing the world because a temporary majority in the House of Commons tells them to. They will fight us with ideas and with weapons. It was, after all, that organ of ruling class opinion, the Times, then edited by the shameless Rees Mogg, that welcomed the bloody overthrow of Salvador Allende and the Chilean government with the words:

The failure of the Presidency of Allende was also a tragedy for Chile herself, not because the coup put an end to a government which never had a majority either in the country or in congress, but because it marks the end of a long period during which Chile’s peaceful and democratic political traditions were the envy of her neighbours. To apportion blame for this is no easy matter. Many Chileans will argue that the Unidad Popular government had itself made the coup inevitable by its hopeless mismanagement of the economy leading to a breakdown in public order, and at the same time had provided justification for it by its own unconstitutional acts. On the whole this would be our judgement; there is a limit to the ruin a country can be expected to tolerate…
At this state what a foreign commentator can say is that, whether or not the armed forces were right to do what they have done, the circumstances were such that a reasonable man could in good faith have thought it his constitutional duty to intervene.

No doubt Rees Mogg had discussed just such ‘circumstances’ with ‘reasonable military men’ at Pirbright and Aldershot. (Pp. 94-5).

The last sentence presumably refers to the attempts various members of the elite, including the Times and the then editor of the Mirror, to organise a coup in Britain against Harold Wilson’s minority Labour government in 1975. If this had gone ahead, the result would have been the mass internment, not just of MPs, but also of other political activists and journalists. The proposed location for their imprisonment was either in the Shetland Isles or the Hebrides. Ken Livingstone discusses this in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, as does Francis Wheen in his book about 70’s paranoia, Strange Days. As for Pinochet’s coup, this resulted in the mass imprisonment, rape, torture and execution of 40,000-60,000 people. Parents imprisoned and murdered by the Fascists had their children taken away, to be raised instead by members of Pinochet’s Fascists, who were childless.

And Sparks is absolutely right when he states that those, whose power and social position is built on poverty and inequality will try to bring down those governments trying to end it. The Conservatives’ entire economic strategy, and that of the ruling elites they represent, is based on increasing poverty through austerity, welfare cuts, the privatisation of the NHS, and the creation of insecure, low paid work with little, if anything, in the way of workers’ rights like pensions or sick pay. And he’s also right about the way the same elite uses the press in this. We’ve seen the way the British press and media has consistently vilified Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters as everything from Trotskyites and misogynists to anti-Semites, in order to prevent a genuinely reforming Labour government coming to power.

And the quotation from Rees-Mogg senior also shows how Jacob Rees-Mogg turned out the way he is. He’s the child of privilege, whose family owed its position to inherited wealth and inequality, and whose father dutifully supported the same establishment elite with his ideas and editorship of the Times. And Rees-Mogg senior’s approving comments about Pinochet’s coup also shows how easily other parts of the Tory party supported other Fascist thugs in Latin America. Like the Libertarian group, of which one Paul Staines, now Guido Fawkes, was a member, which invited the leader of one Central American death squad to be their guest of honour at their annual dinner.

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