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Book on Fascism in Black American Literature Between the Two World Wars

Mark Christian Thompson, Black Fascisms: African American Literature & Culture between the Wars (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press 2007).

This is one of the other books I’ve been reading during the last few days. It’s a fascinating examination of a little known episode of Black American literary history when, in the 1930s and early 1940s, a number of Black American authors and activists took over elements from European Fascism to form their own version of the totalitarian creed. The blurb reads

In this provocative new book, Mark Christian Thompson addresses the startling fact that many African American intellectuals in the 1930s sympathized with fascism, seeing in its ideology a means of envisioning new modes of African American political resistance. Thompson surveys the work and thought of several authors and asserts that their sometimes positive reaction to generic European fascism, and its transformation into black fascism, is crucial to any understanding of Depression-era African American literary culture.

Taking on a subject generally ignored or denied in African American cultural and literary studies, BLACK FASCISMS seeks not only to question the prominence of the Left in the political thought of a generation of writers to change how we view African American literature in general.

Following the introduction, it has the following chapters:

  1. Black Literary Fascism
  2. The Myth of Marcus Garvey: Black Fascism and Nationalism
  3. George S. Schuyler and the God of Love: Black Fascism and Mythic Violence
  4. “In Turban and Gorgeous Robe”: Claude McKay, Black Fascism, and Labor
  5. His Rod of Power: Zora Neale Hurston, Black Fascism and Culture
  6. Richard Wright’s Jealous Rebels: Black Fascism and Philosophy

Conclusion: Historical Black Fascism, Black Arts, and Beyond

For some, this is no doubt shocking and uncomfortable reading. Thompson states that his book will be controversial, because it seems to challenge the dominance and achievements of Marxism in Black American politics and culture of the period. He does not seek to deny this, but to argue that there was a significant turn away from Communism towards Fascism at the tail end of the Harlem Renaissance, and that this was no mere blip in the career of the figures discussed, as some historians and critics have claimed. It’s also remarkable, in that as victims of racism it seems to run counter to reason that Black Americans would embrace a viciously racist ideology associated with White supremacy. But by the early 1940s some Black youngsters had become so alienated from their country, that they were singing songs about how they thought they’d move to Germany because they’d be better off there. The likelihood is that these kids probably didn’t understand what Nazi Germany was really like. The Black intellectuals, who turned to Fascism, didn’t support its specific European versions. They didn’t want to become Nazis or supporters of Mussolini’s Fascists. But they took elements of generic Fascism and adapted it as a vehicle for their own nationalist aspirations and desire for pan-African racial uplift.

Defining Features of Black Fascism

Thompson considers that the main elements in this turn were a dissatisfaction with Communist multiculturalism, the expectation that Ethiopia would produce a strong, modernising leader to redeem Blacks across the world, admiration for newly independent Haiti, and anti-Semitism. Black Fascists rejected Communism, because they were afraid that its emphasis on racial collaboration and the class war would lead to Blacks’ own aspirations and needs being neglected and Blacks used instead to improve conditions for White liberals. The Communist party in turn attempted to harness Black nationalism for the general class struggle, by defining Black Americans as working class. But this also created an anti-White racism that characterised all Whites as members of the exploiting classes. Which strikes me as not at all unlike Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory. The expectations of Black leadership from Ethiopia came from Psalm 68 in the Bible, which states that, after Egypt, Ethiopia will raise its hands to God. Ethiopia was the one African nation not conquered by the Europeans in the 19th century, which seemed to many Black Americans that the country was destined to lead the Black people. Coupled with this was the hope that Black Americans would return to Africa to take up positions of leadership and power in the continent, and free her from the European colonial oppressors. At the same time, the American army had just withdrawn from its occupation of Haiti. Many Black Americans admired this Caribbean nation because of the way it had thrown off French rule in the late 18th century to become a free, Black republic. At the same time, its new president, Stenio Vincent, sweeping autocratic powers dissolving the lower house and allowing him to appoint a sizable proportion of its senate. It was not a democracy in the American sense, as Zora Neale Hurston recognised, but an elected monarchy. Anti-Semitism and a hatred of Italians and Greeks among working class Blacks in Harlem was also part of the turn towards Fascism. The Black soapbox Caesar, Sufi Abdul Hamid, wished to create a separate trade union exclusively for Blacks. He was one of the leaders of a boycott against the White-owned department stores, which refused to employ Black clerks. He succeeded in getting this reversed, but his inflammatory anti-Semitic rhetoric – many of the stores were Jewish owned – resulted in the 1937 Harlem race riot.

Marcus Garvey and the Invasion of Ethiopia

Chapter one is a general discussion of Black American fascist aesthetics. The first of the writers and activists to be examined is Marcus Garvey, the founder and leader of the United Negro Improvement Association. This was a mass organisation, whose hierarchy was based on that of the army, with Garvey giving his followers various military ranks. Militantly nationalistic, the organisation also campaigned for a return to Africa, and Garvey was also impressed with the Italian Fascist corporatist state. Rejecting Communism, he instead supported private property. Blacks should work to acquire wealth, that they should then use to build the new Black state. However, private wealth should also be limited. Only the state should be able to hold investments over $5 or $6 million.

Of the figures discussed in the book, Garvey is the most overtly Fascist. Indeed, in a 1937 interview he claimed that Hitler and Mussolini based their movements on his. He was no fan of Mussolini, however, after the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, which also caused him to become a bitter critic of its former emperor, Hailie Selassie. Selassie had scarpered to London following the invasion, which bitterly disappointed Garvey. He had also expected the Ethiopian emperor to modernise the country, turning it into a modern, Fascist, corporate state, which would embark on its own destiny of imperial conquest. Selassie had not done this. Garvey also sneered at him because of the Biblical lineage of the Ethiopian monarchy. This claimed descent from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Thus, Garvey attacked him because he was, by virtue of this descent from the great Israelite king, Jewish. This was in contrast to Simon of Cyrene, who was Black, and Jesus, who was mostly Black.

Schuyler’s Pulp Fiction Supervillain Black Liberator

George S. Schuyler was a Black American writer and journalist, described by the book as somewhat like H.L. Mencken. He had started off as a vague socialist, believing that Africans were innately Communistic, and pan-African. Well, he was until he visited Liberia, which left him bitterly disillusioned to the extent that he wished the US army would invade so that America could take over and improve the country. This changed again with the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Schuyler, like many other Black Americans, was outraged and wanted to raise an army of Black American volunteers, who would go and fight for the African nation. Seeking advice from the American foreign department, he was told that was impossible as America wished to preserve its neutrality. Schuyler thus turned to literature to express his anger and desire for revenge, writing the pulp story Black Empire. This tells the story of Dr. Belsidus, a Black American genius, who takes over Africa with his organisation, the Black Internationale, turning it into a military superpower through able to repel the Italians and then embark on the genocidal conquest of Europe through advance Black super science. Black scientists create death rays, hydroponic farms, fax machines and hypno-robots. Hypno-robots? Yes. Belsidus creates a new religion and deity, the God of Love, whose mission is to inculcate Black Africans with belief in their noble descent from the Babylonians and Egyptians and their future greatness. The hypno-robot is a giant, 50-foot tall figure of a naked Black man representing the God of Love, which has the power to move, raising its arms and nodding its head. Its eyes light up to hypnotise the congregation, so that they will become mentally receptive to Belsidus racial doctrines. Aiding Belsidus are a series of White women, his lovers, whom he casually murders if they fail him in bed or in their tasks of bringing down European rule. Belsidus comes across as Yaphet Kotto’s villain in the Bond film, Live and Let Die, but even nastier. He’s a genocide who ruthlessly kills White men, women and children. The story’s a nasty revenge fantasy, written by Schuyler to compensate for the Italian invasion. Schuyler himself didn’t stay a Fascist, but instead became a noted Black Conservative intellectual.

McKay, Sufi Abdul Hamid and Black Labour

Claude McKay was another Black American who had started out as a Communist, but then moved away from it, converting to Roman Catholicism. In the 1930s and ’40s McKay was also concerned with building a Black labour movement for which he also adopted aspects of Fascism. He was also an admirer of Sufi Abdul Hamid, an eccentric individual who styled himself Bishop Amiru Al-Minin Sufi Abdul Hamid, an Egyptian, but whose real identity may have been Eugene Brown of Philadelphia. Hamid had founded his own cult, the Universal Temple of Tranquillity. In 1932 he led a jobs boycott in Chicago and in 1934 led a similar boycott against Blumstein’s department store in Harlem. He was not popular with the other Black intellectuals, who regarded him as a charlatan and racketeer. Before his death in the late 1930s he was trying to promote himself as a cult leader in an attempt to challenge Father Divine. Called the Black Hitler because of his virulently anti-Semitic speeches, Hamid was partly responsible for the 1937 race riot, for which he was unsuccessfully prosecuted by the Jewish Minute Men. He appears as ‘Omar’ in McKay’s unfinished novel, Harlem Glory. This is partly an examination of the divided psychology of Black America. ‘Omar’ represents its Fascist side, while Father Divine, who appears as ‘Glory Savior’, and his cult, the ‘Glory Soulers’, represent religion and Communism.

Hurston, Moses and Haiti

Zora Neale Hurston is included because of her novel about Moses leading the Exodus, Moses, Man of the Mountain, in which both the greatest of the Hebrew prophets and his adversary, Pharaoh, have the nationalistic, genocidal qualities of modern Fascist dictators. Hurston also linked Moses to Haiti’s founder, Toussaint L’Ouverture. L’Ouverture’s power was represented by the Voodoo god, Damballah, who was also Moses’ rod of power. Damballah’s a snake god, while one of the miracles Moses performed was changing his staff into a snake. This novel is strongly influenced by Hurston’s admiration for Haiti and its authoritarian leader.

Cross Damon, Fascist Murderer or Existentialist Anti-Hero

Wright was another Communist intellectual, who then went to France to hang out with Sartre. He then wrote his own existentialist novel, The Outsider, about a former postal worker, Cross Damon. After losing his job, and suffering problems from the women in his life, Damon becomes a murderer, committing a series of killings across America. The novel was widely criticised at the time for not saying anything about the condition of Black America. Thompson argues that this is untrue. The book does examine their plight, as Damon personifies the Fascist tendency within Black America through his ruthless pursuit of the power over life and death. His murder of two twins, one a Communist, the other a Fascist, shows that to Wright these political creeds were essentially the same, and that Damon is also similar to them through their murder.

The Black Arts Movement and Neo-Fascism

The Black Arts movement was a post-War phenomenon, in which Black intellectuals and artists attempted to create a distinctly Black artistic culture, in contrast and opposition to that of White America. This chapter argues that historic fascism ended with the Second World War, and that its post-War successor, neo-Fascism, is markedly different. Fascism itself is also broader than Nazism, with which it has been identified, and which has itself been reduced to murderous anti-Semitism. It is a distortion, therefore, to describe the Nation of Islam as Fascist and genocidal simply because they held a joint rally with the American Nazi party, for which the party’s Fuhrer, Lincoln Rockwell, donated $20 to them. The chapter nevertheless states that the Black Arts movement constitutes an extreme form of Black nationalism, and ends with a call for it to be examined as a form of neo-Fascism.

Belsidus’ Statue and Fascist Homosexuality

Thompson’s a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, so the book is less a work of political science as literary criticism. Thus it frequently refers to the works of such literary theorists as Georges Bataille, Foucault, Althusser and Guy Debord. I found some of the book’s arguments extremely convoluted, particularly in the chapter on Wright and The Outsider. There are times when he seems to be arguing for the Fascist nature of Cross Damon, from that character’s difference to or opposition to Fascism. He also follows the German writer, Ludwig Theweleit, in considering that their is a homosexual component to the Fascists’ adoration of their leaders. This causes the book to contain some bizarre passages about the significance of the penis in some of the pieces discussed. For example, he writes of the Belsidus’ 50 foot statue of a naked Black man

The statue is what Siegried Krakauer calls the “mass ornament”: a ritual object that is “an end in itself”. But even after the “ritual meaning” of such objects is discarded, “they remain the plastic formation of the erotic life which gave rise to them and determined their traits”. (146). The mass ornament is emptied of its ritual content and plenitude and re-cathected with an erotics of power that seeks to control the masses’ libidinal urges by converting them into an iconic religious outpouring. This is why Schuyler’s mass ornament is depicted as “a huge statue of a nude Negro standing with legs apart, gazing sardonically downward with arms crossed. It was all of 50 feet high and every part of the body was clearly depicted” (58). The bearer of the sardonic gaze cannot be mistaken. “Sardonic” is, after all, one of Schuyler’s favorite adjectives for the good Doctor and his notorious gaze. Also inescapable in this mammoth fifty-foot statue of a male Negro is an anatomical accuracy that surpasses the bounds of decency. If one wondered whether Dr. Belsidus’s movement followed the fascist phallocentric logic of male ego-reintegration Theweleit theorizes, the appearance of the fifty foot “God of Love” in all his anatomical glory removes all doubt. (pp. 90-1).

Black Fascism and other Forms of Dictatorship

The book acknowledges that none of the authors and activists discussed founded Fascist parties or movement, and he regards them as individual figures rather than the leaders of mass Fascist organisations. Garvey, with his militaristic nationalism and claims to have inspired the European Fascist dictators is the closest figure to European Fascism. So too is Sufi Abdul Hamid with his emphasis on labour, Black separatism and anti-Semitism. Hamid’s similar to the Nazis in another way: they also hated the department stores as an example of ‘Jewish capital’. Schuyler’s Black Empire is a revenge fantasy, whose hero – or anti-hero – would certainly qualify as a Fascist, even though Belsidus himself doesn’t appear to his followers to make speeches from the balcony. He just leaves that to his naked 50-foot robot. But this doesn’t make Schuyler himself a Fascist or mean that he is calling for a similar Fascist movement. It is questionable, however, whether Hurston’s Moses or Pharaoh are really fascist either. Political scientists have debated the difference between Fascism and other forms of authoritarianism and aggressive, intolerant nationalism. Noel O’Sullivan in his book, Fascism, argues that it possesses distinct features that distinguish it from the militant, dictatorial regimes of some of the nations in Africa and the Developing World. Stenios Vincent was highly authoritarian, but it’s questionable whether his regime can be considered Fascist. This also raises the question of how far Hurston’s Moses and Pharaoh are Fascists, although they certainly act in a way which could be described as fascistic. I find the argument about Wright’s The Outsider rather less convincing. It may be that Cross Damon partakes of part of the psychology of Fascist and Communist dictators through his murders, but it seems to me to be a straightforward piece of existentialist literature rather than an examination of Black American Fascism. It reminds me of Albert Camus’ novel of the same name, about a Frenchman in Algeria who murders an Arab out of boredom. Wright’s outsider is another murderer, but is a Black American rather than French.

Conclusion

I don’t know how far the Black Arts movement could be described as neo-Fascist, but historians of post-War British Fascism have noted the radical revisions of doctrine the BNP went through under its generalissimo, Nick Griffin. But Critical Race Theory does seem very similar to the Communist party’s simplification of race relations in America to Black workers versus White exploiters. My guess is that an examination of the Black Arts movement would uncover clear parallels and influences from European neo-Fascism, as would Black Lives Matter today.

The Artists’ Rebellion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 17/01/2021 - 3:09pm in

I have this fantasy where the artists go on strike.

I dream that one by one, in their own quiet ways, the artists, the writers, the musicians, the comedians, the graphic designers, the marketing gurus, the spinmeisters and press release writers, the jingle makers and advertising creatives, the seamstresses and cake decorators, will lay down their tools and refuse to work for evil anymore.

The writer will stand up from her desk at Raytheon and walk away without lending them another word.

The graphic designer at the State Department will turn off his Wacom and shut down Photoshop and pick up a pencil and start sketching homeless people.

Whole marketing departments will turn their talents to telling the real story of what their organization does in words and jingles and graphics and logos while the hapless artless CEO looks on helplessly, threatening them with everything he’s got.

Across boardrooms in every state of the US, in every country in Europe, on all the continents and in all the languages, the artists will stand up one by one and say:

“I will no longer use my poetry to sculpt weasel words into beautiful truthless forms so that you might suck up more life and turn it into greenbacks.”

“I will no longer use my art to run cover for your ambitions.”

“I will no longer lend credence to your planet-killing philosophy.”

“I will no longer let my goodness stand in the way of people seeing your badness.”

“I will no longer be the sole reason why people still trust your organization.”

And I hope that one day the CEO of Boeing will be forced to sit down at a laptop and type out his own press release, and I hope he cries in frustration when reading back the one and only sentence he can come up with: “Killing people is good, ackshually.”

In this dream I have, the artists know their power, and not only are they no longer begging for their invoices to be paid, they are so aware of their worth, entitlements and responsibilities that they can look an employer in the eye who wants to use their skills to sell a bad idea and say “I don’t care how much you are willing to pay me, I can’t let you use me that way.”

And I hope that any other artist who that employer approaches tells them the same. “Get a better business model — one that helps people instead of harming them — and I might consider it.”

They will say, one after the other:

“No, you will not use my intimacy with the muse to sell more units of your novelty landfiller.”

“You will not use my access to creativity making others poorer and sicker to make yourself richer.”

“You will not use my inspiration to explain us into another war.”

“You will not use my love of people to help you act out your hatred of them.”

And each time a young artist makes the decision to pledge their life to their talent, they will gather in a group and say this oath to themselves and each other:

I solemnly pledge to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;

I will practise my profession with conscience and dignity;

The health of the whole will be my first consideration;

I pledge stand in the truth — my truth — and let inspiration pour through me unhindered by the death cult agendas of the money men;

I refuse to use my skills to manipulate or persuade others to act against their own self-interests;

I recognize that my art is not mine, I am merely a conduit for the wisdom of the whole and any attempt to manipulate my art to benefit myself, another individual, or a group of people at the expense of others is a misuse of my privilege;

My loyalty is to the highest interest of the whole;

So long as I maintain this oath faithfully and without corruption, may it be granted to me to partake of life fully and the practice of my art, gaining the respect of everyone for all time. However, should I transgress this oath and violate it, may the opposite be my fate.

And then they all high-five and cheer and clink their drinks and spend the rest of the night dreaming up wonderful ideas and making each other laugh til their tummies hurt and their faces ache.

It’s a good dream. I like it. I want it.

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The 1920s’ View of the Future

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/01/2021 - 3:44am in

I found this fascinating video on the ‘1920s Channel’ on YouTube. It’s about the decades view of the future, taken from the pulp magazine, Science and Invention, founded and edited by Hugo Gernsbach. Gernsbach is one of the major figures in 20th century SF. An immigrant to America from Luxembourg, he was passionately enthusiastic about science and technology and founded the first the first SF pulp magazines. He also wrote an SF novel, Ralph 124C41 + A Romance of the Year 2660, and coined the term ‘scientifiction’ to describe the new genre. This was shortened and altered by his successors and rivals to become the modern term.

The channel’s main man says he’s interested in 1920s futurism because it falls between the ‘Steam Punk’ predictions of the Victorians and the ‘Atom Punk’ of the 1950s and 1960s, although it also has some elements of the ‘Diesel Punk’ of the 1940s. He states that the 1920s and the 1950s were similar decades, in that both followed major wars but were periods of optimism. Most of the illustrations were by Frank R. Paul, Gernsbach’s artist, who is now justly respected as one of the foremost pioneers of SF art. Among the inventions and developments the magazine predicted are massive, skyscraper cities now a staple of SF in such classic films as Metropolis and Blade Runner. But the magazine also predicted underground cities, as well as improved scientific instruments like astronomical telescopes, devices for signalling Mars, bizarre machines for taking care of one’s health, like the ‘sun shower’ and health meter. There are new entertainment media, like television and a cinema with four screens, as well as new musical instruments like the Theremin. This last creates sound through the alteration of a magnetic field by the player’s hands. It’s one of the many instruments played by the hugely talented Bill Bailey. The magazine also looked at the vehicles of the future. These included moving walkways, cars and railways. Cars wouldn’t be confined to the road, but would fly, and the magazine also showed the new aircraft of the future. Humanity would master anti-gravity and fly beyond Earth into space. At the same time, new ships and flying boats would cross the oceans, while people would venture underneath the seas in diving suits that somewhat resemble the metallic suits created to withstand the crushing pressures of the ocean depths. And the magazine also predicted that SF staple, the robot. One of these was to be a ‘police automaton’, like Robocop.

The illustrations are taken from worldradiohistory.com, where they’re available for free, and the video is accompanied by some of the music of the period, so be warned!

Futurism Of The 1920s – YouTube

It’s interesting watching the video to see how much of modern SF was formed in the decade, and to compare its predictions with reality. Most of these predictions haven’t actually become reality. Flying cars are still waiting to happen, we don’t have zeppelin aircraft carriers and skyscraper cities haven’t quite become the dominant urban form. Nor do we have truly intelligent machines and robots. On the other hand, I think the ideas and devices Gernsbach and Paul discussed and portrayed in the magazine still have the power to inspire, and think that they would make a great source of ideas for future, aspiring SF writers.

History Debunked Calls for More Black Blood and Organ Donors to Show Black Lives Really Matter

This is another, really short video from History Debunked. It’s creator, Simon Webb, is an author, and has published several history books. He’s very definitely a man of the right, and many of his videos tackle and refute some of the myths and false history being promoted as part of the Black history movement. In this video he expresses his incredulity at the rioting and destruction of statues that broke out earlier this year with the eruption of the Black Lives Matter movement. He finds it difficult to understand how defacing a statue of Winston Churchill or setting fire to the Union flag shows that Black lives matter. Black deaths at the hands of the cops are widely publicised, but they probably occur at the rate of less than one a year. There hasn’t been one for over a year now, and they may well only happen once every 2 to 3 years.

A far greater killer of Black lives is Sickle Cell Anaemia. This can result in episodes, known as Sickle Cell crises, that can produce blindness, disability and death. They can be treated with transfusions. There are differences in the blood of different races, so that Black people are better treated with blood from other Black people, Whites with White blood. But there is a terrible, pressing shortage of Black blood and organ donors. The NHS in London and Birmingham is currently seeking 5,000 Black blood donors so that they can treat the Black victims of this disease. Whites are twice as likely to donate blood and the organs of dead relatives as Blacks, which means, for example, that Blacks on average wait twice as long as Whites on dialysis for a kidney transplant. He therefore feels that the people, who protest against a statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University, instead of demonstrating against injustices that may have occurred centuries ago, should donate blood in order to show that they really believe Black Lives Matter.

Saving black lives; a way forward for the Black Lives Matter Movement – YouTube

This is obviously a controversial view of BLM. The demonstrations and riots against the statues occurred because the historic western slave trade is seen as being inextricably linked to the terrible, underprivileged conditions of many western Blacks. Institutional racism in the police has been a particularly obvious cause of anger and resentment amongst the Black community. It could be said that it doesn’t matter how low the actual numbers of Black people killed by the cops are, it’s still too many. In fact, it’s questionable how disproportionate the number of Blacks killed by the cops compared to Whites actually is. Sargon of Gasbag, the Sage of Swindon, went through the official statistics in one of his videos and concluded that Whites were in far more danger of being killed by the police than Blacks. This certainly runs counter to the allegations made by BLM. Sargon is, however, extremely right-wing. Too right-wing for UKIP, as when he joined, more socially liberal members left. I don’t agree with Sargon’s views about Trump, capitalism or how British political theory begins and ends with John Locke, but he did present a very good case on this issue.

And it is true that Sickle Cell Anaemia is killing Black people. Black people are more prone to it thanks to an adaptation in their blood cells which makes them far less palatable to mosquitoes, and hence vulnerable to the malaria they carry, than Whites. And it is true that there is a terrible shortage of Black blood and organ donors. Various Black ‘slebs have appeared on The One Show to urge Black people to consider donating blood.

Years ago I read in the book Black Pioneers of Science and Invention, that the use of blood plasma to save lives in blood transfusions was the invention of a Black American doctor, who successfully used it on Brit injured in the Blitz. It would undoubtedly be great if more Black people followed in his footsteps by donating their blood to save other Black lives.

Far Right Brexiteers Annoyed Boris Gave Award to Bristol Police Chief Who Allowed Attack on Colston Statue

The gravel-voiced anonymous individual behind the website ‘We Got a Problem’ got very annoyed yesterday about one of the peeps Johnson decided to reward in the New Years’ honours. ‘We Got a Problem’ is a pro-Brexit, anti-immigrant channel on YouTube. It views non-White immigrants as a serious threat to traditional British citizens and particularly concentrates on reporting crimes committed by people of colour. Such migrants are reviled in some of the crudest possible terms, which also clearly reveal the party political bias of the faceless man behind the website. One of the epithets he uses for them is ‘imported Labour voters’. This nameless individual was upset because Johnson has, apparently, given an award to the Bristol police chief, who resolutely sat back and did nothing to stop BLM protesters pulling down the statue of Edward Colston and throwing it into the docks. He therefore decided to put up a video expressing his considered disapproval yesterday, 6th January 2021. I’m not going to provide a link to his wretched video. If you want to see it, all you need do is look for it on YouTube.

Now I am very definitely not a fan of Black Lives Matter nor the destruction of public property. But the Bristol copper actually had very good reasons not to intervene. ‘We Got A Problem’s’ video contains a clip from an interview the rozzer gave to the Beeb about his inaction. He states that there’s a lot of context around the statue, and that it was of a historical figure that had been causing Black people angst for years. He was disappointed that people would attack it, but it was very symbolic. The protesters were prepared. It had been pre-planned and they had grappling hooks. The police made a tactical decision not protect the statue in case it provoked further disorder. They decided that the safest thing to do was not protect the statue. What they didn’t want was tension. They couldn’t get to the statue, and once it was torn down the cops decided to allow the attack on the statue to go ahead.

‘We Got A Problem’ takes this as an admission of incompetence by the Bristol copper, calling him a ‘cuck’, a term of abuse used by the Alt-Right. The YouTuber is also upset that while the cop got an honour, that hero of Brexiteers everywhere, Nigel Farage, didn’t. As all Brexit has done is created more chaos, and seems set to create more misery, including food and medicine shortages, the further destruction of British industry, especially manufacturing, and massively increased bureaucracy for trade and foreign travel, Farage doesn’t deserve to get one either. But this is lost on the fanatical Brexiteers like ‘We Got A Problem’, who cling desperately to the belief that somehow Brexit is going to lead to a revival of Britain’s fortunes, ending Black and Asian immigration and propelling us back to a position of world leadership.

As for the lack of action taken by the chief of Bristol’s police, I think he made the right decision. The statue the BLM protesters attacked was of the slaver Edward Colston. Colston was a great philanthropist, using some of the money he made from the trade to endow charities and schools here in the city. But understandably many people, especially Blacks, are upset that he should be so honoured with a statue. There have been demands for it to be removed since the 1980s. One Black woman interviewed on Radio 4 said she felt sick walking past it to work in the morning. However, the statue was retained because when Bristolians were asked whether it should be taken down, the majority were against it.

While ‘We Got A Problem’ presents the attack as a riot, in fact the only thing that was attacked was Colston’s statue. None of the other buildings or monuments were touched. Not the statue of MP and founder of modern Conservatism Edmund Burke, not the statue of Neptune or to the city’s sailors nearby, or of Queen Victoria just up the road by College Green. Nor were any of the shops and businesses in the centre attacked, unlike the riots of 2012. This could have changed, and the attack on the statue become a full-scale riot if the police had tried to intervene. The police chief doesn’t mention it, but I also believe one other factor in his decision not to protect the statue was the issue of racism in the police. One of the causes of the St. Paul’s riots in Bristol in 1981 was the feeling by the Black community there that the police were ‘occupying’ the area. It seems to me that the Bristol cop was worried that an attempt by the police to defend the monument would lead to further accusations of racism and a deterioration in their relations with Bristol’s Black community.

It was only one statue that was pulled down. It has been recovered from the docks, and I think is either now on display or awaiting going on display in one of the Bristol’s museums. No-one was hurt and no other property was damaged. I think four of those responsible for the attack have been identified and charged. Mike in one of his pieces about the incident made it clear that they should have been allowed to go free. I think this would be wrong. While you can sympathise with their reasons, it’s still an attack on public property. Allowing one set of vandals to go unpunished would encourage others to make similar attacks, possibly to monuments to figures much less deserving of such treatment. While I don’t think very many people are genuinely upset about the attack on Colston’s statue, attacks on others, such as that of Winston Churchill, may have caused far more outrage. While it was a good tactical decision not to defend the statue when it was attacked, it’s quite right that the attackers should receive some punishment in order to prevent further, far more controversial attacks, from taking place.

Starmer’s Purge Dictated by Board of Deputies’ Hit List

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/12/2020 - 5:07am in

This comes from a piece on The Electronic Intifada from 20th November 2020, by their main man, Asa Winstanley. Winstanley’s another decent, committed anti-racist, who was purged due to accusations of anti-Semitism. The reality is that he’s no such thing. But he is a pro-Palestinian activist, as you can tell from the title of the online magazine he contributes to. The article reports the finding by another pro-Palestinian activist, Becky Massey, that she and ten other members of the Labour party were expelled on the demands of the Board of Deputies of British Jews in a hit list the Board submitted to Starmer on 11th May 2020. Massey discovered she was on the Board’s list of people they wanted expelled and on a Labour party email chain discussing her after making a subject access request for the information the party hold on her. Massey was sent the letter of expulsion on the evening of the day of the email chain. Coincidentally, Starmer had also paid a visit that day to the Jewish Labour Movement. A Labour party spokesperson at the time categorically denied that the meeting had in any way been connected to Massey’s or anybody’s expulsion. That can be taken with a pinch of salt, as the Jewish Labour Movement, previously Paole Zion, has been demanding the expulsion and suspension of left-wing members and pro-Palestinian activists for years. And there is hints that the two are connected. The Board later wrote that they had sent the Labour Party a list of eleven people they wanted expelled, and were heartened that Starmer had met the JLM.

Labour party apparatchiks in the email chain discussed suspending Massey with a view to her ‘autoexclusion’. Like all authoritarian movements, the party deliberately uses language to imply that they’re not at fault, but the victim. The term ‘autoexclusion’ means to state that somehow, those expelled did it all themselves. Andre Breton, the ‘pope of Surrealism’, used to say the same thing whenever anyone queried him for expelling people from his movement. The letter sent to Massey herself simply said that she had been suspended subject to the approval of the NEC’s next meeting. Another line in the email chain, which somehow escaped redaction, indicates that Starmer was actively involved in the expulsion, or at least knew full well about it. It reads “Subject: RE: For LOTO: Rebecca Massey.” LOTO’s an acronym for ‘Leader Of The Opposition’. In other words, Starmer appeared to have interfered politically in the case, which is one of the accusations levelled at Jeremy Corbyn.

The Board’s Hit List

Strangely, neither the Board nor the Labour party offered any comment when they were contacted about this The Electronic Intifada. The article states that although the Board claims to represent the Jewish community, much of its activity is protecting Israel’s crimes and that in 2013 its president wrote ‘We lobby unashamedly for Israel’.

Revealed: the Israel lobby’s Labour hit list | The Electronic Intifada

The article descibes Massey as ‘a leading activist in one of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s most visible branches, in Brighton on the south coast.’

I don’t know her, but Tony Greenstein appears to be a member of the same branch. He’s also been expelled and smeared as an anti-Semite, despite being Jewish. From what I’ve read of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign on Tony’s and other websites – many of which are also by Jewish supporters of the PSC – the organisation most definitely does not accept real anti-Semites. They’ve also been highly successful in boycotting local shops selling goods made in the occupied West Bank or which are owned by businesses based there. They’ve also embarrassed the local, Sussex Friends of Israel outfit, or however they describe themselves. There are videos up on the net showing the pro-Israel activists threatening and abusing the pro-Palestine demonstrators, despite claiming in their literature that they stand for peaceful and respectful debate. The Sussex pro-Israel bunch also seem to have some very bizarre members. One is a balding, clean-shaven bloke, who claimed on his website to be an Orthodox Jew, despite his appearance to the contrary. Massey is almost certainly no kind of anti-Semite, but another victim of the Blairite’s and the Israel lobby’s campaign to purge the party of left-wingers and pro-Palestinian activists.

This also seems to show that Starmer himself is deeply implicated in these expulsions. Which should come as no surprise considering the revelation by The Canary that two organisations devoted to attacking left-wing sites and blogs as ‘fake news’, the Center for Countering Digital Hate and Stop Funding Fake News, were set up and run by Blairites with links to him.

As for the Board of Deputies, they are an unrepresentative organisation that smears and persecutes left-wing, pro-Palestinian Jews and gentiles. They are not a part of the Labour party, but through the smears and lies of the political and media establishment, have been allowed dictatorial control over it.

This needs to end now. It should be Starmer who is on trial for his crimes against Labour, not these decent people. And the control of the Board should be resisted and them shown up for their malign interference, smears and libels.

Philosopharmacology

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/12/2020 - 3:24am in

A few months ago I learned about the brilliant conceptual artwork of Dana Wyse. Since the mid 1990s she has been producing a series of fake pharmaceuticals packaged to look as if they were supposed to be sold at a convenience store in the 1970s or ordered from the back of a magazine or comic book. And she actually sells them—mainly at museum shops and now online.

The Guardian called her fictional drug company, Jesus Had A Sister Productions, “perhaps the most provocative and accomplished example of a fictitious business venture undertaken by an artist,” and if you browse through the 180 or so drugs shown on her site, you’ll find a a mix of products aiming to help you with problems ranging from existential despair to an inability to understand video art to forgetting where you left your keys, as well as enhancement pills for “instant happy childhood memories” or to “catch a fish every time” or to address various sexual matters, plus a range of other items.

Quite a number of them are explicitly philosophical in content, and many would provoke interesting discussions, both in and out of the classroom. For example:

It was tempting to include many more examples of her work in this post but you should really check them out on her site here.

I love the artistic device Wyse uses with this project and wondered what similar products academic philosophers would come up with. Repurposing some of Wyse’s packaging, I came up with a few. Normally on Tuesdays there would be a comic strip but there won’t be one this week, so I thought today would be a good day to share them. Here they are (with apologies to Wyse, and to you all, too):

And, since I knew there would be a request for one like it, here, with empathy:

Your suggestions for additions to this product line are welcome.

The post Philosopharmacology appeared first on Daily Nous.

Proposed Thatcher Idol to Be Attacked by Manic Egg Throwers – ‘I’ Newspaper

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/12/2020 - 9:36pm in

Ho ho! Here’s a bit a fun news, also from yesterday’s I, for Tuesday, 1st December 2020. Grantham, the home town of Margaret Thatcher, of late and reviled memory, wants to be put up a statue to their most famous daughter. Of course, it’s massively expensive – the article quotes a price tag of £100,000 – and so a slap in the face of people struggling through the Covid lockdown. The council’s well aware that it’s controversial, and are going to put it on a high plinth to stop vandalism. Some hope! The good peeps on the ‘net have started organising an egg-throwing contest against it. The article by Jane Clinton, ‘Hundreds plan to throw eggs at new Thatcher statue’, runs

More than 1,000 people have signed up to attend an “egg throwing contest” at the £100,000 unveiling ceremony of a statue of Margaret Thatcher.

Around 1,400 people said they would be at the “egg throwing contest” in Grantham, Lincolnshire, which was advertised on Facebook. Yesterday more than 8,000 people had responded to the event.

In an accompanying Facebook post the organiser of the event, Kasa Arif, said: “We have a special target… a beautiful statue of the Iron Lady.”

Members of South Kesteven District Council’s (SKDC) cabinet will be asked today to approve the £100,000 expenditure, with fundraising for the even potentially carried out by the public, businesses and others.

But Adam Brookes, a Market Deeping town councillor, said “There is no guarantee as to the level of outside funding that will be secured, leading SKDC funding any gap.”

Baroness Thatcher was born and brought up in Grantham. And while councillors say the £300,000 bronze statue, created by Douglas Jennings, will be a fitting tribute, many have been angered by the financial outlay during a time of hardship. The statue is to be placed on a 10ft-high plinth to prevent vandalism.

News of the unveiling ceremony has sparked hundreds of anty responses on social media.

Twitter user Sammy said: “If you have to put the statue on a 10ft plinth because everyone hates its may be consider not buying the statue.”

I contacted South Kesteven District Council for a comment.

I’ve called the statue an idol because, in my view, that’s precisely what it is. Thatcherism is now a cult, like that of Reagan in America. Their economics have failed massively, and free trade neoliberalism with its central dogma of privatisation and the destruction of the welfare state, workers’ rights and low wages, have wreaked incalculable harm and suffering on ordinary people everywhere in the world. It’s been rightly described as ‘zombie economics’, but it has made the 1 per cent colossally richer, and so the political and media class are pushing it with all their might. And no voice must be allowed to blaspheme against the woman Alan Bennett once described in his dulcet tones as ‘Our Lady of Monetarism’.

Over the decades many people and organisations have shown their hatred of Thatcher by refusing to put up monuments to her or defacing them when they were put up. I think Oxford Uni shocked the government and the political class in the ’90s by refusing to put up a statue of her, despite the fact that they a tradition of erecting statues and busts of former PMs. And then, later in the decade, a statue of Maggie did appear – I think it was at an art exhibition – it was beheaded by an angry member of the public. Which led Private Eye to compare it to the great poem about the shattered remains of similar monument from ancient Egypt, Shelley’s Ozymandias.

Well, they’re trying to protect it by putting it on a plinth, but as the old glam rock song goes, ‘You can’t stop the children of the revolution!’ Rock on!

On Tuck Everlasting

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/12/2020 - 12:17am in

"Know what happens then?" said Tuck. "To the water? The sun sucks some of it up right out of the ocean and carries it back in clouds, and then it rains, and the rain falls into the stream, and the stream keeps moving on, taking it all back again. It's a wheel, Winnie. Everything's a wheel, turning and turning, never stopping. The frogs is part of it, and the bugs, and the fish, and the wood thrush, too. And people. But never the same ones. Always coming in new, always growing and changing, and always moving on. That's the way it's supposed to be. That's the way it is."--Natalie Babbit (1975) Tuck Everlasting

When my son, now almost 11, first went to school, I had to get used to the fact that he was not especially forthcoming with what happened during the day. I learned that certain directed questions might make a difference, but he quickly and repeatedly alerted me to the fact that I ask too many questions. (Another way my occupation deforms me, I thought ruefully many times.) 

Since, I have been well trained to accept any information about his day from any source with gratitude. I have also learned to read signs of distress or success in oblique fashion. 

I don't want to suggest that I never learn anything at all about what goes on in school. For instance, a recent book they read in class -- Peter Pan -- was deemed boring and stupid

It is not because he dislikes reading. Our son is a voracious reader. While we are a rather bookish family, I have been, in fact, astonished by the speed with which he reads and the complexity of the material he assimilates. (Okay, I am a proud dad!) He reads so fast that he is perpetually running out of things to read. But despite the fact that he frequently faces a serious search problem, he is quite adamant that our suggestions won't do. (So, he and I most frequently bond over films and football, not books.)

The other day I was, thus, quite surprised that he recommended a book to me: Tuck Everlasting. I learned they also are reading it in class. When I asked him why he recommended it to me, his answer surprised me: it's very philosophical. But after that enticing morsel little else was forthcoming. 

I had never heard of the book. And I was amazed to learn that it had sold millions and was turned into numerous feature films. I suddenly felt very sheltered. It turns out my spouse was convinced she had read it and still owned a copy. After a fruitless search, and a repeated nudging from our son to me to read it, I ordered it online and read it Saturday.

Now, nearly all books I read I encounter with a reputation attached to it. I either know the author personally or by reputation; it's a classic I should have read or a work central to debates in my field; or it's a novel I have heard about (through reviews or word or mouth) or that has been gifted to me with some kind of comment. And in writing these sentences I realized it is, in fact, incredibly rare that I read a book without any sense of what I might expect.  

When I was a late teen-ager a family friend, Marion Zilversmit, gave me a paperback copy of Paul Auster's New York Trilogy. I am not sure whether it was for my birthday or a goodbye gift for my departure for college Stateside. For some reason I did not read it initially. And so it stayed in my room in Amsterdam, where I found it after I returned my freshman year. I took it with me in a backpack following the Dutch team around Italy for the world cup in 1990. 

After the (horrible) game against England in Cagliari, where all fans were treated as dangerous animals -- the police used tear-gas indiscriminately --, I found myself alone on the deck of a freight boat returning some of us to Palermo. The fans were packed in and the boat reeked of alcohol and piss. I found a spot on the upper deck, and started reading Auster through the night under the mediterranean sky. When I look back on it, I only see the romance because Auster took me into a vastly more fascinating and stimulating world than the one I was sailing; the smell and disgust are evaporated. 

The first major surprise of Tuck Everlasting is the incredibly abstract, even mythical style that is achieved at once:

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.

Yes, my brain knows that this is strictly false in the Southern hemisphere and, in some sense, unintelligible prior to the building of the first ferris wheels. But simultaneously it feels like I have just assimilated a truth eternal. This sense is heightened by the next sentence with starts with an "Often..."

After I read the book my son pointed out to me, while we were on an errand, that Babbit's descriptions are simultaneously lively ("glaring noons") and austere ("silent," "blank"); that when you read it, you have to do a lot of work imagining what's going on, but this work of imagining does not feel like work. I recognize part of the point and whisper, we co-construct the story, as it were, with the author. He squeezes my hand. 

A second major surprise of my reading Tuck Everlasting is when I recognize (I hope he forgives me for sharing this) my son's recent bedtime questions to me in a passage early in Chapter 1:

The ownership of land is an odd thing when you come to think of it. How deep, after all, can it go? If a person owns a piece of land, does he own it all the way down, in ever narrowing dimensions, till it meets all other pieces at the center of the earth? Or does ownership consist only of a thin crust under which the friendly worms have never heard of trespassing?”

At the time he did not disguise his disappointment with the inadequacy of my responses (something about local jurisprudence, scarcity, innate commitments) to his questions. I hope to do better some day.

The other day, I asked him if he wants to talk about Tuck Everlasting (which is a rather violent book). No. Did he identify with the main protagonist (also a single child around his age). No. I could tell I was risking asking too many questions. We eventually negotiated a compromise that I could write a digression about it.

That concessions feels like a pyrrhic victory here; what to say now?

You, perceptive reader, will have noticed that eternal return and heracleitan flux are key themes in Tuck Everlasting. And I don't share any spoilers if I say that the plot is accelerated by ordinary decisions about what to do with dangerous secrets that take on weight in virtue of the possibility of eternal return. 

And then, as I am contemplating a post about how Frodo has to leave Middle Earth, and wondering if I have written that already, and before I realize what's happening, I recognize something else my son was telling me, but hadn't heard; if he and I both co-construct the story while reading it, there is a sense we have not read the same story at all. And while I reflect on this, I discern that asking about the version he is constructing with Babbit would be a way of grabbing illicitly what's now his

 

 

 

Arabic Language Picture Dictionary

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 30/11/2020 - 4:43am in

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E.C. Parnwell, Oxford English-Arabic Picture Dictionary (English Language Teaching for the Arab World, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1978).

This is another book I bought all those decades ago when I thought I’d try to learn Arabic. As this book’s title says, it’s a picture a bilingual picture dictionary. It consists of a series of colourful drawings of objects, events and activities with their names in English and Arabic, along with a couple of pages giving the English and Arabic words for numbers, weights and measures, and guides to English pronunciation and stress. The Arabic used appears to be the literary language, as the Arabic alphabet is used throughout and there are no transliterations.

It’s short, only about 81 pages of text, followed by English and Arabic indices. It was written to help Arab students learn English, but I think it could equally be used to help English-speakers learn Arabic, especially those with a good visual memory. It looks like it’s for children, but sometimes materials written for them are the best because of the simple clarity with which they present the information. As it’s written in standard Arabic, it really can only be used by people who have already learned the Arabic alphabet. Apart from that, it looks like a simple, useful resource for people wishing to learn the English and Arabic languages.

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