Monty Python

Coughlan Tears into the Embittered Snowflakes of the Daily Heil’s ‘Comments’

Perhaps this is another way of dealing with the Daily Mail and its pernicious influence on our politics and culture. As well as refuting its lies and scare stories, perhaps we should also mock its readership when they write in to express resentful, envious and sneering views about those they deem not to be as deserving as themselves. As in the comments Coughlan reads out here, which seem to be all by members of the older generation attacking the younger for not grinning and putting up with snow and cold weather like they had to in their youth.

Coughlan’s a stand-up comedian, who has put up a lot of really great stuff on his YouTube channel tearing the Far Right into gory chunks, and defending anti-racism and anti-sexism from the manosphere and, well, people pretty much like these. He starts out by noting how the various figures on the extreme right have been moaning about how hard done by they are. Like Milo Yiannopolis losing his job, Nigel Farage complaining that he’s ‘dirt poor’ despite earning £90,000 a year, and Anne Coulter that she’s single. As Coulter is viciously critical of anyone even slightly to her left, and so right-wing that she thinks that women shouldn’t have the vote, it’s probably no surprise that eligible men aren’t queuing up at her door. Be warned – Coughlan’s language is colourful – he’s an edgy, modern comedian – and he makes some coarse jokes at Coulter’s and Farage’s expense.

In this video he tackles the comments posted on the Daily Mail’s site on the subject of schools having to close because of the snow. The Mail stated hysterically that ‘hundreds’ of schools had been forced to close. He rightly points out that this is nothing. There are thousand upon thousands of schools in the UK, so it’s hardly the mass chaos the Heil is trying to paint it. And then come the comments. They all seem to come from older readers, disgusted at the wimpishness of today’s generation, and harking back to their youth when they still had to go to school in the snow, to endure unheated, literally freezing classrooms and outdoor urinals(!). Oh yes, and one of them complains that the reason the schools are close is because otherwise the children will be able to sue them for accidents. So we’re back to the old, right-wing canard about health and safety legislation.

Coughlan observes that these embittered curmudgeons sound very much like the ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch from Monty Python. You remember the one: four Yorkshiremen in very elegant dinner suits, smoking cigars and drinking brandy, compete with each other to make the most extreme claims of the poverty they suffered when they were children. So he goes on to read out the comments in a spoof ‘northern’/’Yorkshire’ accent.

He also points out occasionally where these poor, resentful souls are wrong and haven’t remembered things properly. For example, one of them claims that schools never closed for snow when he was young. Wrong. Coughlan remembers when they did. I went to school in the ’70s and ’80s, and they certainly closed when we had very severe weather round about 81, 82-ish. And like Coughlan, I remember listening to the radio to see if our school would be one of those, which would not be opening that day. In this particular instance, school was open and we had to go in as normal. But not for long. After waiting in our coats in class while the staff debated what to do, we were all finally sent home. Trudging through town to the bus stop, I can remember one of the workers from one of the firms we passed asking us we weren’t in school, clearly thinking we were bunking off. So we told him the truth – that school had been cancelled. He simply replied with ‘Oh, all right,’ and got back to work.

Back to the Daily Mail, the comments here show something of the ugly attitude of the Mail’s readers. They clearly see themselves as unfairly treated by history or circumstances, and resent young people for apparently enjoying better treatment or conditions than themselves. And they very definitely see themselves as more deserving. They come across very much like the sneering elderly Harry Enfield used to lampoon on his show. ‘These young people, they don’t know they’re born’. ‘No’. ‘I say to them, ‘Do you know you’re born”. That was one of Enfield’s comments about this type of sad old soul.

Most of the older people I’ve met have expressed the exact opposite views to these people. I’ve been told by retired people, that they wouldn’t like to be young today for various reasons. A few years ago this was because of the threat of drugs. Or the dangers of the Net, and paedophiles and bullying on social media. I’d also include the terrible unemployment rate, the mass poverty created by the wage freeze and exploitative working conditions, like zero hours contracts. As well as the crushing weight of student debt and the housing crisis, which means that many will never get to own their own home. At very many levels, young people today are worse off, sometimes very much worse off, than their predecessors.

And most of the older generation know this, and are sympathetic. Most people, I think, actually want their children and grandchildren to enjoy a higher standard of living than them, and not to have to suffer the same awful conditions they had. Like grotty, freezing toilets.

Except the Daily Mail. They seem to see themselves as being so much more worthy than everyone else, and bitterly jealous of any indulgent or simply better treatment of the younger generation. Hence the sneering at them as ‘snowflakes’. Not that this attitude is confined merely to this subject. It runs through the Mail’s readership as a whole, and the people they attack and sneer at for being supposedly more privileged than they are include public sector workers, trade unionists, teachers, single parents, those on benefits, and Blacks and Asians. Because ‘political correctness’. It’s a seething mass of right-wing resentment, stirred up against anyone the Tories and the Mail decide should be the next target to keep ordinary people divided and fighting against each other, rather than wake up and realise that the people, who are really keeping them poor, are the Tories. The Tories stir up and use this jealousy and resentment in order to garner support for destroying more of the welfare state, and passing more legislation making jobs even more precarious.

The Mail’s a disgrace. It promotes nothing but hatred, ignorance and bigotry, for a corrupt, exploitative party. A party that should have been voted out of power long ago, and whose lies and threadbare excuses are becoming even more evident by the day.

Still From My Abortive Cartoon Revenge on Iain Duncan Smith

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 26/11/2017 - 2:49am in

Speaking about Iain Duncan Smith, the man who has reduced millions of poverty, forced something like a quarter of million on us to use food banks to keep body and soul together, and whose sanctions systems have been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths of the poor and disabled, here’s a still photograph from a short animated piece I tried making about the man about three years ago. It was my attempt to get some of the hatred and bile out of my system by giving him a virtual comeuppance, if only as a cartoon.

So I portrayed him as a Nazi, making the Fascist salute in front of a portrait of the Leaderene, Maggie Thatcher. Instead of the Nazis’ black or brown shirts, he wears a blue one – the colour of the Tories. Although blue was the colour of the shirts worn by Owen O’Duffy’s Irish Fascist stormtroopers in the 1920s.

Following the conventions of Monty Python, I had a giant hand come out from off screen to punch him and knock him over. As he deserves. And more.

I finally tried animating the whole piece last week, only to find I couldn’t do it on YouTube. They’ve withdrawn the feature that allows you to upload single photos to make a slideshow, which I had been using to make animated shorts. Apparently it was little used. I’ve another programme, which I have used, which turns it into a Gif. Unfortunately, you can’t use gifs with the basis package for WordPress, which I have. So, unfortunately, for the present you’re just going to have to be satisfied with this image of Duncan Smith getting his deserts.

‘Florence’ Suggests I should Compile a Book about British & American Support for Fascist Dictators

Yesterday I put up a piece commenting on a video from the Aussie left-wing blogger, Democratic Socialist. This showed the Tory media’s double standard in reviling Jeremy Corbyn as a supporter of terrorism, Iran, and an anti-Semite, when he is none of those things. But the hacks of the Telegraph definitely did not make those accusations against their Tory molten idol, Maggie Thatcher, when she by association supported all of the above through her friendship with General Pinochet.

Corbyn’s support for Iran was based on an interview he made to an Iranian group, the Mossadeq Project. Mohammed Mossadeq was the last, democratically elected prime minister of that ancient and extremely cultured nation. He was no theocrat, but a secular liberal. He was also a Baha’i, a post-Islamic, syncretistic faith which embraces human equality, including that of men and women. The Shi’a Muslim establishment have hated them since the faith first emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and there have been terrible pogroms against them. This hatred is not shared by all Iranian Muslims, and I have personally known Iranian Muslims, who are heartily sick of the way their Baha’i friends are treated.

Mossadeq’s crime was that he dared nationalise the Iranian oil industry, then dominated by the British-owned Anglo-Persian Oil, which became BP. This resulted in us and the Americans organising a coup, which toppled Mossadeq, and began the long process by which the Shah gradually assumed absolute power, ruling through terror and a secret police force, SAVAK.

‘Florence’, one of the many great commenters on this blog, commented

In the early 70s I volunteered to help type up translation transcriptions of reports from torture victims of the “Shit” of Iran, as Private eye called him. (It was as evidence for Amnesty.) Its not something you can ever forget. When the revolution happened, it was simply new bosses at the same slaughter houses. This is another lesson learned; the violence required by a state to terrorise its own people seeps into the culture, and remains for generations (maybe longer, its too early to tell in most of the cases you cover in this interesting and evocative piece). The violence of the state becomes symmetrical in the revolution in many countries, Iran, Iraq, etc. that follows such repression.

(For this reason I also worry that, for example, the almost visceral hatred of the disabled (and other poor) in the UK bred by the eugenics of neoliberalism for decades will not be so easily dislodged with a change in government. )

I see that the experience of having lived through those times is no longer part of the wider political education of the younger members of the left. In Labour the excesses of the neoliberals all but wiped out that generation and the links. I talk sometimes to our younger members in the Labour party and they are fascinated – but totally clueless. I do try to point them at this blog for this very reason. They are oblivious to who Pinochet was, why it mattered to us then and now, the refuge given to that butcher by Thatcher, the entire history of the Chicago school etc. The traditional passing in of this history, personal history too, through social groups in the Labour party has all but broken down.

As a suggestion, perhaps you could edit your blogs into a book we could use in discussion groups? You would help us be that collective memory board for the newer (not just younger) activists. It would help tease out the older members stories of their personal part in the struggles at home and abroad, but more than that your pieces on the collision of religious and political also show the rich complexities of life.

I am really honoured that my blog is so highly regarded and useful. While talking to Mike earlier today, I mentioned the idea to him. He was enthusiastic and supportive, making a few suggestions on how I should go about it. I told him I have had problems finding a mainstream publisher for some of my other books I have written. He suggested I should try Lulu again, and have the cover done by a professional artist. This would be a great help to actually selling the book, and he could put me in touch with some of the great comics artists he’s worked with.

I am therefore definitely going to look into this.

Now for the other points ‘Florence’ has raised in her comment.

As for the point about how a whole generation in the Left and the Labour party having an awareness and opposition to the various Fascist leaders run riot around the world thanks to British and American support as part of their political education, I think that’s how very many people got involved in politics. Private Eye covered these issues, as it still does, and there was the series of comedy reviews put on in support of Amnesty in the 1980s called The Secret Policeman’s Ball. These featured some of the greatest comedy talents of the day, such as the Pythons and the languid, caustic wit of Peter Cook. I don’t think you had to be particularly left-wing to be a fan, only a supporter of democracy and civil liberties. Very many of the other kids in my Sixth Form were into it, including those, who could be described as working-class Tories.

But come to think about it, we haven’t seen anything like that on our screens for many, many years. The series was becoming long and drawn out towards the end, but nevertheless there’s no reason something else like it, which could be launched. And I don’t doubt that there are young, angry, talented comedians out there, who are perfectly capable of stepping up to the mike and doing it.

And some of the absence of comment and criticism of the monsters, who ran amok across the globe thanks to British and American support does come from the victory of neoliberalism. Including its adoption by New Labour. Blair was an Atlanticist, and an alumni of the Reagan-founded British-American Project for the Successor Generation, or BAP for short. This was a group that trained up future British political leaders, sending them on free jaunts to the US, so that on return to Britain they would be enthusiastic supporters of the ‘Special Relationship’. And they did a superb job on Blair. Before he went on one jaunt, he was a supporter of unilateral disarmament. When he returned, after meeting the American nuclear lobby, he was fully on board with us supporting America’s siting of nukes in Britain, as well as our own, independent nuclear deterrent.

Much of the activism against these thugs came out, it seems to me, of the campaigns against the Vietnam War. This inspired the radical young people of the time to look more closely at what America and the West were doing in the Cold War, and the people we supported as the bulwark of ‘freedom’ – which really meant ‘capitalism’ and western big business – against the Soviets. And the brutal realities of Pinochet’s regime, and that of the Shah of Iran, and very many others, were extensively reported. Clive James in one of his TV reviews written for the Observer, acidly commented on an interview on British TV with some high level thug from the Shah’s Iran. This torturer was asked about the brutal methods of interrogation employed by SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police. There was no problem, said the thug. They were improving all the time. Oh yes, commented James, or something similar.

Incidentally, an Iranian friend of mine told me had some experience of the activities of the Shah’s secret police himself. Back in Iran, he’d been a footie fan. But he noticed that several of his mates kept disappearing. He then found out that one of his friends was a snitch for the secret police, and had been informing on them. It’s when you hear these experiences from the people, who observed what was happening, that really begin to understand why so much of the world is less than enthusiastic about western imperialism. And why so many Iranians were taken in by that other thug, Khomeini. When he returned to Iran, he promised freedom to all Iranians. That didn’t last long, as it was back to normal with the rapists and torturers in Evin prison under his regime.

I was also part of a British medieval re-enactment group. One of the great peeps I met in that was an American chap, whose ancestry was South American. He was proud of his Incan heritage, and in America he’d been part of a similar group, that recreated the warrior traditions of this Andean people. He’d also been a translator for one of the human rights organisations, translating documents on abuses from Spanish.

There is indeed a whole generation out there, with personal experience of the dictatorship supported by the West, people whose wealth of knowledge and experience should be passed on.

But part of the problem is the supposed break with dictatorship and the entry of neoliberalism into the Labour party. The Fall of Communism was meant to be the End of History, as heralded by Francis Fukuyama. From now on, Western liberal democracy and capitalism would reign unchallenged. And with the threat of Communism gone, the Americans decided to cut their losses and move against the Fascist dictators they’d been propping up. Hence their ouster of General Noriega.

This gave the impression that the world was going to be nicely democratic, with the unspoken assumption that western, Euro-American culture would remain dominant and unchallenged.

But the old culture of lies, coups and regime change when the dominated countries in the developing world get too uppity is still there. As are the Cold Warriors. We didn’t invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to free its peoples. We invaded because the Neocons wanted their state industries for American multinationals, and the Saudi-American oil industry wanted their oil fields. And Israel wanted to stop Hussein from aiding the Palestinians. Human rights was just a convenient pretext. And it’s been like this for the last 14 years.

Just like we’re also being told lies about the situation in Ukraine. The Maidan Revolution was not spontaneous. It was staged by the CIA, National Endowment for Democracy, George Soros, and Victoria Nuland in Obama’s state department. It was to stop Ukraine becoming too close to Putin’s Russia. Ukraine has always had strong links to its eastern neighbour. Indeed, Kiev was one of the earliest and most powerful of the Russian states to emerge in the Middle Ages. Trying to sever the links between the two is similar, as someone put it, to Canada moving away from America to side with the Communist bloc.

But we aren’t being told any of that. Nor are we told that real, unreconstructed Nazis from the Pravy Sektor are in the ruling coalition, and that there is credible evidence that human rights abuses have been visited on the Russian minority and Russian speaking Ukrainians.

We are just being told that Putin is a thug – which is true – and that he’s ready to invade the former Soviet satellites. Which probably isn’t.

There is also a further problem, in that some of the countries, whose Fascist leaders Britain and America supported, are very remote. I’d guess that many people really wouldn’t be able to find them on a map, let alone know much about their history. And so we face the same problem the Czechs faced, when Chamberlain sacrificed their country to Hitler at Munich. They are faraway countries, of which we know nothing.

And this is a problem with British imperial history generally. Salman Rushdie once said that the British don’t know their own history, because so much of it happened abroad. This is true. British capitalism was stimulated through the colonisation of the West Indies, the slave trade and the sugar industry. How much is a matter of debate. Black and West Indian scholars have suggested that it was the prime stimulus behind the emergence of capitalism and the industrial revolution in Britain. Others have argued instead that it added only 5 per cent to the economy. But that it did have an effect is undeniable, especially on its colonised peoples. In the West Indies, this meant the virtual extermination of the indigenous Amerindian peoples and their replacement with enslaved Africans.

Well, the Empire has gone, and been replaced by the Commonwealth. But western domination of these countries’ economies still remains through the various tariff barriers that the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal called Neocolonialism. As well as the domination of their industries by western multinationals.

There are book available on the British Empire, some of them critical. Like John Newsinger’s The Blood Never Dried, and a recent book about the internment, torture and mutilation of the indigenous Kenyans during the Mao Mao crisis, Africa’s Secret Gulags. But the people, who appear on TV to talk about imperialism tend to be those on the right, like Niall Ferguson, who will admit that the British Empire was seriously flawed, but on balance did more good. Which might be true, but still glosses over some of the horrors we perpetrated.

And many of these are still kept from us. The public documents supporting the allegations of the victims of British torture in Kenya only came to light because they fought a long and hard battle in the British courts to get them released. I honestly don’t know what other nasty little secrets are being kept from us, in case it embarrasses senior ministers or industrialists.

So if you want to see the brutal reality behinds the West’s foreign policy, you have to read specialist magazines, many of them small press. Like Robin Ramsay’s Lobster, which has been going since the 1980s, and which is now online, and Counterpunch, an American radical magazine and website, which has been digging the sordid truth up about the American Empire and the rapacity of capitalism and the global elite. I also recommend William Blum’s The Anti-Empire Report, and his books, as well as Greg Palast’s dissection of the real reasons we invaded Iraq, Armed Madhouse.

More material on the rapacity of western imperialism is coming to light through the internet, and especially the emergence of alternative news sites. And there is a growing audience for it, as young and older people from across the world are brought together through international links. This isn’t just business, but also through the foreign students coming to Britain, as well as Brits living, working and studying elsewhere in the world.

The problem is getting it out there, and moving it from the sidelines so that it becomes a major topic that can be used to challenge our leaders and hold them to account, without being written off as ‘loony radical lefties’ spouting about things no-one else wants to know about or even hear. About other ‘faraway places, of which we know nothing’.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017 - 8:32pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Wed, 19/04/2017 - 8:37pm in

I'm prepared to suspend judgment over this bit of landscape gardening until it's done, but calling it "momentous" and a "corner of paradise" does seem to be overstating the scope of the project. Granted, the Key Stakeholders who say "Ni!" did threaten to say "Ni!" to us again unless we brought them a shrubbery, but I'm sure that once it's done we'll resume going about our business as though it never happened.

Unless they decide they want another shrubbery…