art

Johnson’s Fascistic Denunciation of ‘Collaborators’ with the EU

Yesterday Mike put up a piece commenting on Johnson’s Fascistic rhetoric describing those opposing a no-deal Brexit in parliament. Simply put, he described them as collaborators with the EU. The Blonde Beast said

There’s a terrible kind of collaboration as it were going on between people who think they can block Brexit in Parliament and our European friends, and our European friends are not moving.

We need our European friends to compromise and the more they think that there’s a chance that Brexit can be blocked in Parliament, the more adamant they are in sticking to their position.

As Mike points out, Johnson is falsely claiming that the ordinary people, who don’t want a no-deal Brexit, have teamed up with the EU. It also identifies his enemies as a unified cause, which is also one of classic features of Fascism. Following the infamous forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Hitler viewed everything that he considered damaging to Germany to be part of a massive Jewish conspiracy. Financial capitalism, socialism, Communism and democracy were all parts of this conspiracy to undermine Germany and destroy and enslave the White, ‘Aryan’ race. As were decadent modern art, music, literature and unAryan scientific theories, like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, because Einstein was Jewish.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/14/terrible-collaboration-speech-johnson-flashes-his-fascist-credentials/

Johnson hasn’t gone quite that far yet, and Mike points out that he isn’t a Fascist. But he is showing many of the warning signs. So much so that one tweeter put out a picture of BoJob with the caption ‘This man is the biggest threat to Britain since Adolf Hitler’. It’s an exaggeration, but a forgivable one, considering that BoJob’s Brexit is already wrecking British economy and industry, and that he and his backers in the Murdoch press are looking forward to a trade deal with Trump’s America which would see our agriculture and industry bought up by the Americans, including the Health Service, the welfare state dismantled, workers’ rights removed completely, along with our environmental protection laws. All so that BoJob and the elite rich can enjoy absolute unfettered capitalism and massive profits for their own businesses.

And I’m not surprised that Johnson is sounding like a Fascist. He’s a massive egotist, like Donald Trump, and both men are extremely authoritarian. Trump talked about having newspapers and press people, who criticised him shut down. Johnson, when he was mayor of London, spent millions of taxpayers’ money on three watercannon that were illegal in mainland Britain. And BoJob’s the leader of a highly authoritarian party. Under Thatcher the Tories had links with very unpleasant South American Fascist regimes, like Chile’s General Franco. The Libertarians in the party, including Paul Staines, used to invite to their annual dinner the leader of one of the Fascist death squads in El Salvador. The Freedom Association also wanted the suppression of trade unions, workers’ rights and the welfare state and NHS, and unfettered capitalism. It was very much freedom for the rich, and wage slavery for the poor.

And he’s supported by a fanatically authoritarian press. Remember how the Tory papers demonised the judges and lawyers, who had ruled against one of Tweezer’s Brexit plans as the enemies of the people. It was the classic rhetoric of authoritarian, Fascist regimes.

And you can bet that as opposition to Boris mounts, he and his backers in the media are going to become even more splenetic and Fascistic in their denunciations. They’re already demanding anti-democratic measures to get what they want. This is the suspension of parliament, as advocated by the Torygraph, so that BoJob can force through Brexit without opposition from MPs. Who are our elected representatives.

BoJob is a menace to British prosperity, British industry, British working people and British democracy. Get him out!

 

Storming Utopia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/08/2019 - 1:09am in

Tags 

Literature, art

This event is an Oxford Public Engagement with Research and part of a Knowledge Exchange project. Organised by Professor Wes Williams (Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages) and Richard Scholar (Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages). Thomas More’s ground-breaking island fantasy, first published in 1516, asks us all what brave new world we are to wish for. What would a society better than ours look like? Who ought to be allowed in? And on what terms? These are More’s questions in Utopia, and they have never mattered more than today, as the UK prepares to pursue a political future outside the EU and walls go up in the US. It may seem timely to return to the traditional reading of More’s text as a blueprint for political change: Utopia tells, after all, how a peninsula cut itself off from the continent to make a better future as an island… Yet the name More created for his island – Utopia – means ‘no place’: the political message of More’s text is undermined by the surrounding irony that his brave new world is a Nowhere Island.

A group of East Oxford residents have come together to develop a creative contemporary response to More’s text and Shakespeare’s Tempest in the form of a new theatrical show, Storming Utopia, which they are performing at the Pegasus Theatre in Oxford and at the Fondazione Cini in Venice in 2017. This lunchtime discussion event builds on their perspectives and on the work of two Oxford researchers – Professor Richard Scholar and Professor Wes Williams – to explore what Utopia has meant since 1516, from Venice to Venezuela and beyond, and what it might mean here in Oxford in the age of Brexit. Participants will include: researchers working on the history of Utopian literature and thought from the Renaissance to the present day; writers, directors and facilitators working in the Oxford arts scene; members of the Storming Utopia project.

Speakers: James Attlee (author of Isolarion: A Different Oxford Journey); Sara-Louise Cooper (Caribbean Studies, Oxford); Euton Daley MBE (long term artistic director of Pegasus Theatre, now freelance performance poet and arts consultant) ; Erin Maglaque (History, Oxford); Amantha Edmead (Performer), Richard Scholar (French and Comparative Literature, Oxford); Wes Williams (French Literature, Oxford).

NSW Government To Fast track Building Of Giant Milk Crate Sculpture In Sydney

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/08/2019 - 8:20am in

Milk Crate

The NSW Government has announced that not only is it taking it’s plan to build a giant milk crate sculpture off of the scrap heap but it will now fast track the construction with an aim for the sculpture to be completed by the end of the year.

“After yesterday’s horrific events in the city it’s time we made Sydney siders feel safer and what better way to do it than with a giant milk crate,” said a Government Spokesperson. “We have listed this project as one of state significance so after building the new casino this is our next priority.”

“Unless of course we have to build another casino in which case it will be bumped down again. But rest assured it is more of a priority than building new hospitals or schools.”

When asked why the project was being rushed through the Spokesperson replied: “Some projects just need to get done, besides which we talked to the State’s most important person Alan Jones and he was cool with it.”

“Of course Alan wanted it built no where near his house but besides from that he had no problems with it.”

Mark Williamson
www.twitter.com/MWChatShow

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter or like us on facebook.

Brendan O’Neill Claims El Paso Mass Murderer ‘Eco-Terrorist’

Is there no lie so low that Brendan O’Neill and Spiked won’t stoop to? Spiked magazine, as has been pointed out by various left-wing blogs, is completely unrelated to the satirical magazine of the same name that briefly appeared in the 1990s. That was an attempt to compete with Private Eye, but rather more left-wing and much more scatological. It had a cartoon strip spoofing Clinton with the title ‘Clinton’s Got Aides’, for example, which was presumably a pun about both the presidential staffers and the disease. The modern Spiked is frantically right-wing. It’s what happened to the net work around Living Marxism magazine after Communism collapsed. Instead of carrying on the ideological struggle for equality and workers’ rights, the former Revolutionary Communists decided to throw on in their lot with capitalism and became extremely right-wing. And one of their latest pieces of drivel is very unpleasant indeed.

On Thursday, the Sage of Crewe put up on Zelo Street a piece taking apart an article by Brendan O’Neill, one of Spiked’s hacks, who decided to vent his spleen and try to smear the left with the El Paso massacre last weekend. You’d have thought this would be difficult, as the murderer was a White supremacist with a bitter hatred of immigrants. Like the White terrorist a few months ago who shot up the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, because they were Jews, who were heavily involved with a charity for immigrants. But no, for O’Neill it was because the mass-murderer was an ‘eco-terrorist’. O’Neill’s piece began

“In his alleged manifesto, the killer, alongside his racist rants about Hispanic people and the ‘replacement’ of whites, attacks modern society for being eco-unfriendly. Westerners’ lifestyles are ‘destroying the environment’ and ‘creating a massive burden for future generations’, he says. He seems obsessed with the core element of green thinking.

He then went on to state that the murderer in his manifesto was also strongly opposed to urban sprawl, consumer culture for producing thousands of tonnes of plastic and electronic waste, and humanity’s decimation of the environment. He also alleged that the murderer targeted a Wal-Mart as an act of ‘eco-Malthusianism’. O’Neill speculated that he not only wanted to kill Latinos, but also shoppers. He also claimed that the butcher, who opened fire on the worshippers at the mosque in Christchurch said that he was an ‘eco-Fascist’ not a Nazi. The Zelo Street article effectively tears O’Neill’s nonsense to shreds, quoting a comment by Zubaida Haque:

“Brendan O’Neill’s piece is utterly dishonest. I’ve seen the manifesto thru a journalist. It’s almost entirely focused on immigrants and barely mentions environmentalists. And there’s a whole section on guns, how it’s great that US have them and how the killer needed to adapt his”.

Zelo Street notes that, strangely, O’Neill’s article doesn’t mention that. He also skewers the article’s attempts to appear mildly even-handed by throwing in a few ‘perhaps’ and ‘it seems’ when the title of the wretched article asserts that ‘El Paso was a vile act of eco-terrorism’. He concludes that O’Neill is a massive charlatan, ‘so no change there then’.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/08/brendan-o-neill-out-trolls-himself.html

There are several points of interest about the article, and how it tries to divert attention from the attacker’s real motives. One is O’Neill’s careful avoidance of informing his readers that the El Paso terrorist was a gun nut. The Republican party gets a considerable amount of funding from the NRA, whose leadership get donations from the gun and munitions companies. Most Americans, including the rank and file members of the NRA, would actually like tougher legislation on certain types firearms to prevent atrocities like this occurring. Or at least, preventing the killers from having access to military-grade weaponry. But because of the power of corporate sponsorship, this is ignored in favour of the fanatics, who believe that every American should have the right to own the type of guns and armaments wielded by professional soldiers. In the name of freedom, of course.

The argument here is that a free people need guns in order to defend themselves from an oppressive regime. The Holocaust is often cited as an example. If the Jews had guns, it’s argued, they could have successfully fought off the Nazis. This ignores the fact that the legislation permitting and demanding their persecution was gradually enacted, so that it is difficult to tell when German and eastern European Jews could have rebelled before it was too late. Furthermore, while the Jews were disarmed, the Nazis were also very firmly in favour of ‘Aryan’ Germans owning firearms. And in many cases, Jews did not go passively to the gas chambers, but rose in heroic revolt. But this didn’t help them, because they were pitched against the massively superior force of the German armed forces. No matter how incredibly bravely they fought, it was inevitable that, with the exception of the Russian Jews, who banded together in that country’s forests, they’d lose.

Guns don’t guarantee freedom. And the availability of military-grade weapons to the public just makes atrocities like El Paso possible, regardless of the views of doubtless responsible weapons hobbyists.

There’s also the attempt in O’Neill’s article to smear Green politics with the taint of Fascism. The Republicans in America have been doing that for a very long time. I remember coming across this type of argument in the 1980s. This argues that because the Nazis were very ecologically aware, environmentalism itself is somehow automatically Fascist. This obviously ignores the central features of Fascism – dictatorship, extreme nationalism, racism and militarism. It also ignores the fact that the roots of the modern Green movement lies in the increasing appreciation of the threatened beauty of the natural world from the 19th century onward by thinkers and social movements that had nothing to do with Nazism or organised anti-Semitism. One source of the American Conservationist movement, for example, is working class huntsmen. The same people the American Right tends to celebrate and defend. In fact much of the early Conservationist movement in both America and Britain came from the first few generations of factory workers, who yearned for the beauty of the countryside their parents and grandparents had left in search of work. At the same time, local authorities and the wider public in Britain became concerned about the threat to the countryside from urban sprawl and the dangers to health from industrial pollution, lack of sanitation and overcrowding. One early example of this new sensibility in art is Cruikshank’s 1829 cartoon, London Going Out of Town, which shows the capital, represented by decaying buildings, and personified by marching, anthropomorphic buckets and spades, invading a terrified, equally anthropomorphised countryside.

O’Neill’s piece also shows how desperate the Anglo-American Right are to divert attention from the role of nationalism in the rising racism and the resulting atrocities. Remember how Candace Owens, when she appeared over here to promote Turning Point UK, tried to distance nationalism from the Nazis? She notoriously claimed that, in her opinion, Hitler wasn’t a nationalist. He was the opposite of a nationalist, she claimed, because he didn’t want what was right for his own country. He imposed it on others. She was rightly torn to shreds for this piece of utter bunkum by people, who pointed out that her wretched comment seemed to suggest that it would have been all right for Hitler to exterminate the Jews, if he had just kept to those in Germany. They also pointed out that Hitler actively said that he was a nationalist. It was in his party’s name: the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP). Conservatives, not just in America, like to claim that he was a socialist on the basis of the party’s name, despite the fact that the Nazis weren’t and were actively hostile to it, whatever they said to the contrary. But they really don’t want to face the fact that he also rightly claimed to be a nationalist.

O’Neill’s article is thus absolute rubbish, designed to protect nationalism and the gun lobby by throwing the blame instead on the Green movement. It’s an example of Spiked’s absolute mendacity, and is pretty much in line with the Right’s hatred of environmentalism and its increasing concern to defend racism and extreme nationalism. And unfortunately, as governments in America and Britain move rightward, I fear we can expect more of this dangerous nonsense.

Hell and the Mean and Exploitative Rich in the Non-Canonical Gospels

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/08/2019 - 9:58pm in

Leafing through the book The Apocryphal Jesus: Legends of the Early Church by J.K. Elliott (Oxford: OUP 1996) yesterday, I got to the chapter on heaven and hell. The book’s a collection of extracts from apocryphal Christian literature, the Gospels and various lives of the Apostles that weren’t included in the Bible because they were not considered historically reliable by the bishops of the Early Church. Despite being outside the accepted canon of scripture, they were nevertheless widely read and have influenced Christian art and literature. These writings include descriptions of the delights of paradise and the torments of the damned. Most of the torments are for moral offences, like fornication, adultery and homosexuality and failure to live according to proper Christian standards or neglect or rejection of Christianity. It’s grim stuff, and is the type of material and doctrines that now puts people off religion. How can a loving God inflict all these torments on people for all eternity, especially since the sexual revolution of the 1960s? Pre-marital sex is now the norm, homosexuality is accepted and opposition to it is seen as bigotry. It’s a good question, and I’m no fan of the hellfire and damnation preaching myself. As for Hell, I tend to follow the Father Duddleswell attitude from the books about the Irish priest by Neil Boyd. God’s justice demands it exists, but his mercy means there’s no-one in it.

But several of the torments described in these apocryphal books are for the rich and the exploitative. Like some of the people in the Tory and Brexit parties. One of the extracts is from the Acts of Thomas, in which the apostle raises up a dead woman, and commands her to tell what she has seen. And amongst the damned were people hung up by various parts of their bodies, including the hands.

Those hung up by the hands are they who took that which did not belong to them and have stolen, and who never gave anything to the poor, nor helped the afflicted; but they did so because they wished to get everything, and cared neither for law nor right. (p. 191).

In the Apocalypse of Peter, it is Christ Himself who describes the torments of hell, including those reserved for the rich.

‘And beside them, in a place near at hand, upon the stone shall be a pillar of fire, and the pillar is sharper than swords. And there shall be men and women clad in rags and filthy garments, and they shall be cast thereon to suffer the judgement of an unceasing torment; these are the ones who trusted to their riches and despised the widows and the women with fatherless children … before God.’ (p. 194).

In the Apocalypse of Paul, it is this apostle, who is taken by an angel and shown the heaven and hell, including this description of what happens to usurers:

And I saw another multitude of pits in the same place, and in the midst of it a river full with a multitude of men and women, and worms consumed them. But I lamented and sighing asked the angel and said, ‘Sir, who are these?’ and he said to me, “These are those who exacted interest on interest and trusted in their riches and did not trust in God that he was their helper.’ (p. 202).

We now have a government that is packed full of rich, highly rapacious individuals, who really don’t have any thought for the poor, the widows and the fatherless. And all too many of them are connected to the financial sector, like Jacob Rees-Mogg. Mogg and several other Tories come from the Christian right. It’s a pity they don’t read these passages, and those in the Bible itself, urging concern for the poor, the sick and marginalised, and do the right thing.

Which is stopping these exploitative, murderous policies of immiseration and exploitation, and resign!

As an old piece of graffiti in Bristol used to say: ‘Repent of your sins, Maggie Thatcher!’

 

On Being Inside Leibniz's Mill (on Remainder, Smith and Kramnick)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 05/08/2019 - 10:41pm in

Tags 

aesthetics, art

Remainder’s way turns out to be an extreme form of dialectical materialism-it’s a book about a man who builds in order to feel. A few days after the fake homeless epiphany, at a party, while in the host’s bathroom, the Enactor sees a crack in the plaster in the wall. It reminds him of another crack, in the wall of “his” apartment in a very specific six-story building he has yet no memory of ever living in or seeing. In this building many people lived doing many things-cooking liver, playing the piano, fixing a bike. And there were cats on the roof! It all comes back to him, though it was never there in the first place. And now Remainder really begins, in the mission to rebuild this building, to place reenactors in it reenacting those actions he wants them to enact (cooking liver, playing the piano, fixing a bike), doing them over and over till it feels real, while he, in his apartment, fluidly closes and reopens a fridge door, just like De Niro....To facilitate his reenactment, the Reenactor hires Nazrul Ram Vyas, an Indian “from a high-caste family” who works as a facilitator for a company dedicated to personal inauthenticity: Time Control UK. It takes people’s lives and manages them for them. Nazrul is no more a character (in realism’s sense of the word) than I am a chair, but he is the most exquisite facilitator, and it is through him that every detail of the reenactment is processed. He thinks of everything. In place of the pleasure of the rich adjective we have an imagined world in which logistical details and logical consequences are pursued with care and precision: if you were to rebuild an entire house and fill it with people reenacting actions you have chosen for them, this is exactly how it would play out. Every detail is attended to except the one we’ve come to think of as the only one that matters in a novel: how it feels. The Reenactor in Remainder only ever has one feeling-the tingling-which occurs whenever his reenactments are going particularly well. The feeling is addictive; the enactments escalate, in a fascinating direction.--Zadie Smith in "Two Directions for the Novel," in Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, pp. 86 (First published in 2008 in NYRB as "Two Paths for the Novel")

After (recall) I wrote about Tom McCarthy's Satin Island the distinguished literature scholar, Jonathan Kramnick, mentioned to me he thought McCarthy's Remainder one of the most important novels of this our comparatively new century (having almost passed a fifth of its projected years, it's still fresh). Chapter six of Kramnick's collection of essays, Paper Minds, taught me that he, in turn, was echoing the judgment of "Zadie Smith, in an influential essay in the New York Review of Books, [touted Remainder] as both the most significant novel of its decade and the direction Anglophone fiction should follow into the new millennium." (130) As it happens, I was familiar with Smith's essay, but somehow had remembered mainly the devastating criticism of Joseph O'Neill's Netherland, which has discouraged me from reading the book (life is short!), and the subtle use of a poem by Szymborska.

In re-reading Smith's essay I was reminded of her comic description of the International Necronautical Society (INS). In its manifesto, the INS assumes, with the logicians of old, the necessity of death and commits itself to reinventing death in rigorous ways. In the new logic, if we can make it (recall this post on Regina Rini), death will be a violent possibility.

But somehow, I had completely forgotten that Smith treated the seven year path (and presumably many rejections of) Remainder to publication as exemplary of "our ailing literary culture." (71) This culture represents unhealty times. In healthy days literature has multiple, possible futures. This (in 2008) is now denied. The opposition between Netherland and Remainder is a form of prophecy in order to re-open paths (and also recall the American metafiction -- "Barth, Barthelme, Pynchon, Gaddis, David Foster Wallace" [I would add Fran Ross's Oreo]-- now languishing in a safe corner of literary history (73)). Since that very literature culture has rewarded Smith greatly, one cannot help avoid sensing some ambivalence (she uses "violence") in these remarks.

As Smith's description reveals, Remainder presents a character, a reenactor, who is very much a part inside Leibniz's Mill argument:

[W]e must confess that perception, and what depends upon it, is inexplicable in terms of mechanical reasons, that is through shapes, size, and motions. If we imagine a machine whose structure makes it think, sense, and have perceptions, we could conceive it enlarged, keeping the same proportions, so that we could enter into it, as one enters a mill. Assuming that, when inspecting its interior, we will find only parts that push one another, and we will never find anything to explain a perception. 

But the novel suggests that Leibniz is inviting us to look in the wrong place. Perception is co-constituted by the body moving in space, the body's interaction with its umwelt, and repetition with (to echo Deleuze) occasional variation. Kramnick expertly connects Remainder to recent developments in enactive philosophy of mind (although understates the significance of repetition). Strikingly, the only feeling that occurs inside the reenactor, occurs when a pattern is recognized as, and thereby projected, as having occurred before. This constitutes a reenaction as going well.

The reenactor is a person who suffered an accident. His experience of recovering motor-control, which the able bodied ordinarily take for granted, reveals that the only person with truly fluid movement is a fake (De Niro's screen character). There is no what it's like of that. Once our behavior is (now quoting Kramnick) "slowed down and made unfamiliar, the experience in each does not layer on top of the [body-]motion. It is, rather, identical to it." (135) This claim is made visible (I almost wrote felt) by a kind of stripping away, that is, abstraction.

Both Smith and Kramnick note that Remainder's aesthetic is fully (ahh, I almost wrote self-conscious) present in the art. I quote Kramnick's description before I close with a comment: 

“In school, when I was maybe twelve, I had to do art,” the reenactor begins one chapter; “I wasn’t any good at it, but it was part of the syllabus” (90). What follows is a revealing meditation on the making of art as its own type of perceptual activity. “For a few weeks we were taught sculpture. We were given these big blocks of stone, a chisel, and a mallet, and we had to turn the blocks into something recognizable—a human figure or a building. The teacher had an effective way of making us understand what we were doing. The finished statue, he explained, was already there in front of us—right in the block that we were chiseling away at” (91). The art object is already there, only requiring a certain kind of physical motion—the lifting of one’s arm and hammering—for it to come into its own. The action is a deliberately plain shucking away of what is not art; thus, the reenactor can “not be any good at it” while also standing as the form-giving example in McCarthy’s ordinary sentence. “‘Your task isn’t to create the sculpture,’ he said; ‘it’s to strip all the other stuff away, get rid of it. The surplus matter.’ ” The reenactor takes this as a lesson on how to create his building (“chiseling away at surplus matter” will “scare my building out” [96]), and we are in turn supposed to take both as an account of how to see form as a kind of matter, the novel as a thing in the world rather than the world’s representation. Creative engagement merely strips away the surplus matter of what is neither experience nor art. (137)

One part of the (serious) joke here is that the teacher echoes (with a non-trivial difference) Vasari's definition of the nature of sculpture:* "Sculpture is an art which by removing all that is superfluous from the material and reduces it to that form designed in the artist's mind." Of course, the joke is that the traditional artist and his design has been removed from the (perhaps mis-remembered) teaching; there is now -- as Leibniz feared -- only motion and rough pattern recognition.

That would have been the best end to this long digression. But the other or same part of the joke is, of course, that one encounters the reenactor and his teacher through the words of McCarthy and (ahh) one's imaginary participation with these...and just then one recognizes the looming regress.

And so I close with gratitude to Kramnick with Swift:

*On the internet the remark is often attributed to Michelangelo. This is not all wrong because Michelangelo said something similar in a 1549 letter to Varchi.  See the long note on by G. Baldwin Brown in Vasari on Technique, translated by Louisa S. Maclehose (pp. 179-180). My translation is taken from p. 143 (with modest modification). 

Japanese Scientist Obtains Permission for Animal-Human Hybrids

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/08/2019 - 2:49am in

This is very ominous. A Japanese scientist has been granted permission to create animal-human hybrids, according to yesterday’s I. The man intends to use them in research for the possible creation of organs in animals, that could be used for transplantation into humans. There are limits to his research, however. He states that at the moment he will not keep them alive for longer than 15 and a half days, so it isn’t like he’s going to produce complete animal-human hybrids, like the chimpanzee-human creature developed by rogue scientists as a new slave animal in the 1990s ITV SF thriller, Chimera. But it is a step in that direction.

The article, ‘Human-animal hybrid research is approved’, by Colin Drury, on page 22, runs

Human-animal hybrids are to be developed in embryo form in Japan after the government approved controversial stem-cell research.

Human cells will be grown in rat and mouse embryos, then brought to term in a surrogate animal, as part of experiments to be carried out at the University of Tokyo.

Supporters say the work – led by the renowned geneticist Hiromitsu Nakauchi – could be a vital first step towards eventually growing organs that can then be transplanted into people in need.

But opponents have raised concerns that scientists are playing God. Critics worry the human cells could stray beyond the targeted organs into other areas of the animal, creating a creature that is part animal, part person.

For that reason, such prolonged experimentation has been banned or not been financed across the world in recent years.

In Japan, scientists were forbidden from going beyond a 14-day growth period. But those laws were relaxed in March when the country’s education and science ministry issued new guidelines saying such creations could now be brought to term.

Now, Dr. Nakauchi’s application to experiment is the first to be approved under that new framework.

Human-animal hybrid embryos have been made in countries such as the United States, but were never brought to term. The US National Institutes of Health has had a moratorium on funding such work since 2015.

“We don’t expect to create human organs immediately, but this allows us to advance our research based upon the know-how we have gained up to this point,” Dr. Nakauchi told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

He added that he planned to proceed slowly, and will not attempt to bring any hybrid embryos to term for several years, rather growing the hybrid mouse embhryos to 14.5 days, when the animal’s organs are mostly formed, and the hybrid rat embryo’s to 15.5 days.

Such caution was welcomed by bioethicists in the country.

There was also a little capsule, containing the comment that

Some bioethicists are concerned about the possibility that human cells might stray, travelling to the developing animal’s brain and potentially altering its cognition.

Which seems to be a concern that this research could unintentionally also result in animals acquiring some form of human intelligence accidentally.

The British philosopher Mary Midgley attacked that part of the biotech industry and those scientists, who looked forward to bioengineers being able to redesign whole new forms of humans in her book, The Myths We Live By (London: Routledge 2004). She writes

That ideology is what really disturbs me, and I think it is what disturbs the public. This proposed new way of looking at nature is not scientific. It is not something that biology has shown to be necessary. Far from that, it is scientifically muddled. It rests on bad genetics and dubious evolutionary biology. Though it uses science, it is not itself a piece of science but a powerful myth expressing a determination to put ourselves  in a relation of control to the non-human world around us, to be in the driving seat at all costs rather than attending to that world and trying to understand how it works. It is a myth that repeats, in a grotesquely simple sense, Marx’s rather rash suggestion that the important thing is not to understand the world, but to change it. Its imagery is a Brocken spectre, a huge shadow projected on to a cloudy background by the shape of a few recent technological achievements.

The debate then is not between Feeling, in the blue corner, objecting to the new developments, and Reason in the red corner, defending them. Rhetoric such as that of Stock and Sinsheimer and Eisner is not addressed to Reason. It is itself an exuberant power fantasy, very much like the songs sung in the 1950s during the brief period of belief in an atomic free lunch, and also like those in the early days of artificial intelligence. The euphoria is the same. It is, of course, also motivated by the same hope of attracting grant money, just as the earlier alchemists needed to persuade powerful persons tthat they were going to produce real, coinable gold. (p. 166).

She goes on to argue that such scientific hubris comes from the gradual advance of atheism with the victory of the mechanistic model of the universe introduced by Newton in the 17th century. As God receded, scientists have stepped in to take His place.

On the clockwork model the world thus became amazingly intelligible. God, however, gradually withdrew from the scene, leaving a rather unsettling imaginative vacuum. The imagery of machinery survived. But where there is no designer the whole idea of mechanism begins to grow incoherent. Natural Selection is supposed to fill the gap, but it is a thin idea, not very satisfying to the imagination.

That is how the gap that hopeful biotechnicians now elect themselves to fill arose. They see that mechanistic thinking calls for a designer, and they feel well qualified to volunteer for that vacant position. Their confidence about this stands out clearly from the words I have emphasised in Sinsheimer’s proposal that ‘the horizons of the new eugenics are in principle boundless – for we should have the potential to create new genes and new qualities yet undreamed of … For the first time in all time a living creature understands its origin and can undertake to design its future.’

Which living creature? It cannot be human beings in general, they wouldn’t know how to do it. It has to be the elite, the biotechnologists who are the only people able to make these changes. So it emerges that members of the public who complain that biotechnological projects involve playing God have in fact understood this claim correctly. That phrase, which defenders of the projects dismiss as mere mumbo jumbo, is actually a quite exact term for the sort of claim to omniscience and omnipotence on these matters that is being put forward.

One of the most profound artistic comments I have found about the implications of this new biotechnology is the sculpture ‘The Young Family’ by the Australian artist Patricia Piccinini. This shows a hybrid mother creature, bred for organ transplantation, surrounded by her young. Curled up like an animal, her human eyes peer back plaintively at the spectator. It’s a deeply disturbing work, although Piccinini states she is not opposed but optimistic about scientific progress. She says

In terms of the real world, these are some of the key issues that I am trying to question and discuss with my work. I’m not pessimistic about developments in biotechnology. We are living in a great time with a lot of opportunities, but opportunities don’t always turn out for the best. I just think we should discuss the full implications of these opportunities.

So if we look at The Young Family we see a mother creature with her babies. Her facial expression is very thoughtful. I imagine this creature to be bred for organ transplants. At the moment we are trying to do such a thing with pigs, so I gave her some pig-like features. That is the purpose humanity has chosen for her. Yet she has children of her own that she nurtures and loves. That is a side-effect beyond our control, as there will always be.

That is what makes the question of breeding animals purely for organ-transfer so difficult to answer. On one hand we need organs to help people in need, on the other hand we are looking at an animal that wants to exist for the sake of itself. I can’t help but feel an enormous empathy for this creature. And, to be very honest, if it would save the life of one of my children, I would be will to take one of these organs. I know it is probably not ethically right but sometimes honesty, emotions, empathy and ethics don’t always line up.

I am not nearly so optimistic. For me, this sculpture is a deeply moving, deeply disturbing comment on the direction this new technology can go. And I fear tht this latest advance is taking us there.

Philosopher-Photographers on Instagram (and Elsewhere)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 01/08/2019 - 11:48pm in

Tags 

art, philosophy

Sometimes a little beauty is in order. 

I know about and follow a few philosophers who take gorgeous photographs and post them on Instagram or their own sites. I’ll share some of them with you, with a few samples from each.

I hope you’ll be able to clue us in to some more philosopher-photographers to follow, be it on Instagram or elsewhere.

Justin Sytsma (Victoria University of Wellington)


photo by Justin Sytsma

 


photo by Justin Sytsma

 


photo by Justin Sytsma

You can follow Justin Sytsma on Instagram here (@jmsytsma)

Daniel Star (Boston University)


photo by Daniel Star


photo by Daniel Star

 


photo by Daniel Star

You can follow Daniel Star on Instagram here (@daniel_star_net). He also posts his photos at his own site.

Maureen Eckert (University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth)


photo by Maureen Eckert

 


photo by Maureen Eckert

 


photo by Maureen Eckert

You can follow Maureen Eckert on Instagram here (@maureenaeckert).

David Estlund (Brown University)


photo by David Estlund

 


photo by David Estlund

 


photo by David Estlund

David Estlund doesn’t have much recent work on his Instagram feed (@destlund1), but he does have his own photography site with many more photos.

Simon C. May (Florida State University)


photo by Simon C. May

 


photo by Simon C. May

 


photo by Simon C. May

You can follow Simon C. May on Instagram here (@nomisyam).

Richard Pettigrew (University of Bristol)


photo by Richard Pettigrew

 


photo by Richard Pettigrew

 


photo by Richard Pettigrew

 

If only we could all be as happy as that lemur looks, right?

You can follow Richard Pettigrew on Instagram here (@richardpettigrew1981).

I also park my occasional amateur photography on Instagram, here (@justin.weinberg).

Do you know of other philosopher-photographers with pictures on Instagram or somewhere else publicly accessible online? Are you one? If so, please let us know where to look.

UPDATE (8/4/19): People are really coming through in the comments with pointers to some great photography by philosophers. Thanks! Check them out!

The post Philosopher-Photographers on Instagram (and Elsewhere) appeared first on Daily Nous.

The Beeb’s Reply to Zelo Street Commenter’s FOIA Request for Information on the Selection of the Panel for Question Time

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/07/2019 - 5:42am in

An anonymous commenter to Zelo Street posted this very interesting piece about the reply they got when they sent the BBC a request under the Freedom of Information Act for information on the way the BBC selects the guests for the panel on Question Time, its flagship current affairs programme. This has been the subject of controversy and serious criticism for its blatant right-wing bias. The members of the Panel are drawn almost exclusively from the Right, with the exception of a single individual to represent the Left. As for the host, there was always a right-wing bias under David Dimbleby, but this has increased and become even more pronounced and objectionable under Fiona Bruce. Many people have complained to the Beeb about its bias, and got the standard bland replies and brush-offs. This commenter, unfortunately, was treated no differently. Here’s their post.

The BBC?

A few weeks ago I sent a FOI request to said propaganda organisation. Here’s the reply I got:

“Thank you for your request to the BBC of 05 July 2019 seeking the following information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘the Act’):

“Selection of panel members on TV Question Time. Can you kindly confirm which individuals (by name) and department(s) are responsible for selection of the above, plus all criteria used during selection.”

The information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ The BBC is therefore not obliged to provide this information to you and will not be doing so on this occasion. Part VI of Schedule 1 to FOIA provides that information held by the BBC and the other public service broadcasters is only covered by the Act if it is held for ‘purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature”. The BBC is not required to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or information that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities1 . The limited application of the Act to public service broadcasters was to protect freedom of expression and the rights of the media under Article 10 European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”). The BBC, as a media organisation, is under a duty to impart information and ideas on all matters of public interest and the importance of this function has been recognised by the European Court of Human Rights. Maintaining our editorial independence is a crucial factor in enabling the media to fulfil this function. However, the BBC makes a huge range of information available about our programmes and content on bbc.co.uk.”

The BBC is about as trustworthy as a barrel load of snails covered in excrement. London-based right wind propaganda clerks, nothing more.

The comment is posted at: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/07/boris-appoints-lawbreaker.html

To find it, scroll down past the article.

In short, the BBC responds to the request by saying that FOIA doesn’t cover them, and so they aren’t going to release it. I can appreciate why the Beeb and other public service broadcasters have been exempted from the legislation because of human rights issues. However, this means that the Beeb’s news editors remain unaccountable, and the Corporation is determined to protect those responsible for its grossly biased news and current affairs coverage, at least as regards Question Time.

In many ways, it really is a Tory propaganda machine, which corporately has the same sense of arrogant superiority that it’s overpaid chiefs have individually and personally.

‘I’ Newspaper: Aristocracy Have Doubled Their Wealth in Past Decade

The cover story on Saturday’s I for 20th July 2019 was a report that Britain’s landed gentry had doubled their wealth in a decade. Beneath the headline declaring that very fact were the lines

  • Dramatic surge in fortunes of British nobility since the 2008 financial crash, I learns
  • 600 aristcratic families now as wealthy as they were at the height of the British Empire.

The story on page 12 of the paper by Cahal Milmo was based on the research of two academics, Dr Matthew Bond and Dr Julien Morton, lecturers, sociology lecturers at the London South Bank University, who had examined probates, or settled wills, of 1,706 members of the aristocracy going back to 1858. However, the article made the point that these wills only represented part of the aristocracy’s immense wealth, and their real fortunes is likely to be much higher because their lands, property, art collections and business investments are very frequently held in separate trusts which cannot be examined.

The article stated that

A hereditary title is now worth an average of more than £16m – nearly twice the value it stood at proior to the 2008 financial crisis, I can reveal. their fortunes contrast starkly with the decade experienced by the vast majority of Britons, whose inflation-adjusted wages remain stuck at 2005 levels.l Since the Thatcher era, the value of a hereditary title has also increased four-fold.

The academics’ research also

shows that the minimum value of one of these (aristocratic) titles now stands on average at £16.1m. The same figure, adjusted to reflect current purchasing power, stood at £4.2m between 1978 and 1987.

The four-fold increase suggests the aristocracy has prospered spectacularly under the era of financial deregulation and economic liberalisation ushered in by Margaret Thatcher when she came to power in 1979.

The I also stated

The figures represent a sharp recovery in the fortunes of the nobility, which went into a decline during the Second World War and the post-war consensus, which brought in more progressive taxation and the welfare state. From a pre-war high of £23m, average fortunes fell to £4.9m by the 1980s.

The data suggests that Britain’s wealthiest aristocrats have more than weathered the economic problems caused by the 2008 financial crisis, apparently using existing assets to take advantage of low interest rates to buy up stocks and shares and other investments which have rocketed in value. In the decade to 2007, the average wealth of the nobility stood at £8.9m – suggesting it has nearly doubled in the decade since. (pp. 12-13).

The article also looked at the educational background of the ten richest toffs. And what a surprise! They nearly all went to Eton and Harrow, before going on to Oxbridge.

Of the ten largest probates between 2008 and 2018, seven of the deceased attended Eton or Harrow, with the remaining three also attending major public schools. Six of the 10 went to either Oxford or Cambridge universities. (p. 13).

The newspaper also asked the Labour MP, Chris Bryant for his views about this. Bryant was the author of A Critical History of the British Aristocracy, published two years ago in 2017. He responded

“For more than a century the landed aristocracy have been moaning about their terrible impoverishment. Ostentatiously sitting in dilapidated drawing rooms with buckets and pails catching drips from the beautiful but bowed stucco ceiling, they have extended the begging bowl.

“Yet the last century has seen many do remarkably well. The end result is that eh great old landed, crested and hallmarked families of the UK are still in possession of most of the land and a large part of the wealth of the nation.” (p. 13).

The I was at pains to state that the study itself takes no view on the social role of the aristocracy, whose fans argue that it plays a valuable role supporting rural communities through fishing and farming. It quoted Morton as saying

“It may well be that having a rich and vital aristocracy is good for the country. We are interested in understanding this group as objectively as possible.”

Well, that might be the case, but they’ve also been severely bad for the rest of us. The I doesn’t mention it, but one of the ways the aristocracy has almost certainly increased their wealth is through the massive tax cuts the Tories have given high earners. They’ve been enriched through the Thatcherite doctrine that taxes and government spending have to be cut, the welfare state destroyed and everything, including the NHS privatised, in order to benefit the upper classes. Their wealth will then magically trickle down to the rest of us, as they open new businesses, pay higher wages and so forth. Except they don’t. They simply take the money and put it in their bank accounts, where it stays. And far from opening new businesses, business proprietors simply carry on as before, laying off staff in order to enrich themselves and their shareholders. The Young Turks and a number of other left-wing American internet news shows, like the Jimmy Dore Show, have put up videos about various companies that have made thousands unemployed after they were given tax cuts by Trump.

As for the British aristocracy, way back in 1988 Private Eye published a very critical review, ‘Nob Value’, of Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd’s The Field Book of Country Houses and their Owners: Family Seats of the British Isles, as well as the-then emerging ‘heritage’ sector. Massingberd, who wrote a ‘heritage’ column in the Torygraph, was a massive fan of the aristocracy to which he belonged, and, of course, Maggie Thatcher. In this book he loudly praised her policies, and looked forward to a ‘social restoration’ that would see the blue-bloods return to power. The Eye wrote

The ‘heritage’ mania has softened us up for a return to inherited wealth. Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd may be a richly Wodehousian figure, but his book, lauding the privately owned, is symptomatic. It is the correlative to Peregrine Worsthorne’s recent articles about the desirability of large inheritances and the return of a rentier class: the desirability in short of ‘a social restoration’. Come the day, of course, Massivesnob knows where he will be – in his seat again. But the fans of his snufflings seem curiously unaware of where that leaves them: which is sat upon. 

In Francis Wheen, ed., Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion (London: Verso 1994), 320-2 (322).

Quite. It’s as true now as it was then, after Downton Abbey on the Beeb and now with the Tory party dominated by two toffs, Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, coming after another Eton educated aristo, David Cameron, all of whom very much represent the interests of their class against the poor.

The only chance for the rest of us to shake them off, and go back to having a society where ordinary people have a decent standard of living, can enjoy good wages, proper welfare support and a truly national, and nationalised health service, is by voting for Corbyn.

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