Boris Johnson

The Seven-Step Path from Pandemic to Totalitarianism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/04/2020 - 1:00pm in

Rosemary Frei As if it was planned in advance, billions of people around the globe are being forced step by rapid step into a radically different way of life, one that involves far less personal, physical and financial freedom and agency. Here is the template for rolling this out. Step 1 A new virus starts …

Beeb Attempts to Refute Tory Sock Puppet Allegations

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/04/2020 - 5:22am in

This morning I caught a brief item by the Beeb tackling what they called the ‘rumours’ of the Tories using fake Twitter accounts to post messages supporting Boris Johnson and pressing for a return to the herd immunity policy. When this became difficult for them to justify outright, they simply retreated into calling for the lockdown to be lifted. Which would pretty much be the same policy. It just wouldn’t describe itself as ‘herd immunity’.

The plot was uncovered on Monday by John O’Connell of Rightwing Watch, a site which I think tackles Fascism and right-wing extremism. Which would, judging by the Tories horrendous policies and long history of flirting and supporting extreme right-wing parties and ideologies, naturally include them, and particularly Boris Johnson. O’Connell believed he had found 128 fake Twitter accounts posing as NHS staff. These seemed to come from the DHSC through a marketing company that had only one client, the DHSC, four staff, all ex-DHSC. The accounts themselves had been posted by a single person, who was herself on secondment from government.

O’Connell presented as evidence a Tweet purporting to be from a deaf junior doctor, Susan, who said that she was transitioning this year. She said she was fighting Covid-19 with other LGBTQ+ people. ‘Susan’, however, didn’t exist, and the photo of her was an NHS paediatric nurse from Greece. O’Connell contacted the Department of Health and Social Care to get their response. There was absolutely none, and his offers to go through their data was refused. When he tried again, they told him it was also misinformation, and if you repeated it, you were harming our common attempt to battle the Coronavirus. And the messages themselves all mysteriously disappeared.

From the details O’Connell gave, it sounds like he has the government bang to rights, including the very identity of whoever posted the tweets. And it’s not like Boris hasn’t done it before. The Tories did, using Cambridge Analytica for Brexit, and Dominic Cummings was unmasked by the Absurder as the noxious personality behind the Twitter account @toryeducation, which abused the government’s critics and opponents. This was when Cummings was a mere spad at the department of education under Gove. And I think Boris has been using a bot army more recently too.

The Beeb, however, in their wisdom decided to give the story no credence. The government and Twitter had both denied that these fake accounts had been created, and O’Connell had not handed over his data. The only evidence was the Tweet from ‘Susan’ and the 128 deleted accounts. ‘Susan’ was, the Beeb’s correspondent explained, a genuine fake account. But the character with its LGBTQ+ identification looked like it was by someone trying to discredit Boris by posting a fake identity that looked like it came from him or his supporters. And so the Beeb decided that the claims were just rumours after all.

At no time was it mentioned that Boris, Cummings and the Tories have used such bot accounts. O’Connell wasn’t even named, let alone interviewed to present his side of the argument. Perhaps the Beeb contacted him and he was unavailable for comment. But somehow I doubt that. Another Tweeter had tried to get the Beeb in the form of Laura Kuenssberg, as well as Robert Peston and a number of websites and news organisations interested, including Zelo Street and Novara Media. Mike and Zelo Street put up articles about it, but the lamestream media had zero interest when Zelo Street put up their articles yesterday.

I don’t know, but it seems to me that O’Connell is correct, and the Tories and Twitter are lying. As for the Beeb, they now have such an extreme pro-Tory, anti-Labour bias that I don’t think they can be trusted on stories like this. O’Connell has said that he doesn’t want to be crucified like the people, who revealed Cambridge Analytica. He’s therefore waiting for the evidence to be ‘gold-plated’ before he reveals it in full. It’ll be very interesting if and when he does.

In the meantime, the Tory supporters were out on Twitter screaming that he was a crank, and, unsurprisingly, a left-wing anti-Semite. Yes, we’re back to the anti-Semitism smears again. The fact that the smear merchants were reduced to name calling and smearing once again to me acts as another factor in his favour.

O’Connell’s probably right, as the abuse directed against him shows that certain people are very, very worried.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/20/more-coronavirus-propaganda-hundreds-of-fake-nhs-social-media-accounts-set-up-by-health-dept/

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/nhs-fake-twitter-accounts-exposed.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/tory-twitter-dirty-tricks-warning-from.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/fake-tweeters-shoot-messenger.html

Tories Create Sock Puppet Twitter Accounts to Push Anti-Lockdown Propaganda

The Tories don’t get any better. The party that spent public money on the Institute for Statecraft and its wretched Democracy Initiative, or whatever the wretched organisation was called, to put out anti-Labour, anti-Corbyn propaganda from its army of sympathetic hacks on Twitter has once again been exposed using pretty much the same reprehensible tactics. The pretext for giving the Democracy Initiative our hard earned tax money was to defend democracy against Russian on-line influence. In reality this meant targeting any British or European politico that the right didn’t like. This time there seems to have been absolutely no excuse whatsoever. They did it simply to push propaganda. And when caught the sock accounts were deleted and the Department for Health and Social Care went on the attack, vehemently denying they had done any such thing, and shouting that it was all misinformation that would damage the common effort to combat Coronavirus. Rubbish. The Department was caught red-handed, and it’s got the weaselly paw-prints of the man Zelo Street calls ‘Polecat’ Dom all over it.

Mike put up the story last night. John O’Connell, of the awesome Rightwing Watch, had discovered 128 fake accounts, 9 probable fakes and a further 14, possibles, which had been created by someone at the Department. 43 of those fake accounts used photographs of real NHS staff. One of these was for a deaf NHS junior doctor, ‘Susan’, who was due to transition into someone of the opposite gender. ‘Susan’ gave a shout out to the LGBTQ+ community, and praised Boris Johnson. The photograph used for the Tweet was identified by John Scott as that of Mia Magklavani, a paediatric staff nurse from Greece. The fake accounts were trying to push for the ‘herd immunity’ solution to the crisis, although this changed and instead they were arguing that the lockdown should be lifted.

The DHSC created these sock accounts through a marketing company set up a few months ago. This company apparently only has one client – the DHSC, and a staff of three, all ex-DHSC. The posts were sent using the mass-posting tool Hootsuite, whose account was registered to one person with four assigned contributors. That person is a government employee on temporary secondment to the department.

O’Connell contacted the DHSC about this, naturally making some inquiries. They refused to comment. He also offered to provide all his data to them to help them with an internal inquiry, which they declined. He also asked to deal directly with their Soc Med and Comms teams to work through their data. They refused that offer too. When he asked for further comment, he got this reply from the Department:

These claims are categorically false.

To share disinformation of this kind undermines the national effort against coronavirus.

Before anyone shares unsubstantiated claims online, use the SHARE checklist to help stop the spread of harmful content:
➡https://sharechecklist.gov.uk/ 

O’Connell makes it very clear that no-one should be surprised by these tactics. They’re what the Tories did when they were pushing Brexit with Cambridge Analytica. And at the general election First Draft, a monitoring body, found that they issued 5,952 political ads on Facebook that they called ‘indecent, dishonest and untruthful.’ The Labour Party didn’t issue any deceitful advertising.

Mike in his article on this squalid little tactic advises people not to use the ‘sharechecklist’ link, as the Tories at the changed their publicity department’s monicker to ‘FactCheckUK’ at the election. This purported to be an independent fact-checking organisation, and calmly reassured anyone who used it that the Tories were telling the truth, and Labour were lying. Which was more lies, of course.

John O’Connell further states that the DHSC and various NHS trusts have shown no interest in the welfare of the 43 NHS staff whose photos were used. He naturally wonders if this runs contrary to their duty of care. And Mike concludes his article about this by asking rhetorically

And why would anybody use a government website to check whether content is harmful, when it’s the government that is accused of creating it?

The danger is that the Tory government is undermining trust in the institutions we need to be able to trust. It is deadly dangerous – but the Tories are playing the fool.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/20/more-coronavirus-propaganda-hundreds-of-fake-nhs-social-media-accounts-set-up-by-health-dept/

Zelo Street added further information, noting that another Tweeter had tried to alert various media figures to the scandal, like Laura Kuenssberg, Robert Peston, Peter Jukes of Byline media, and Novara Media, The Skwawkbox, Zelo Street itself, and Carole Cadwalladr. Unfortunately, although Peter Jukes responded stating that it looked very much like Cambridge Analytica/ Russian bot farm tactics, the other major media figures appear to be uninterested. Zelo Street suggested that it might be because they’re afraid of Polecat Dom.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/nhs-fake-twitter-accounts-exposed.html

Zelo Street followed up their piece with a further article arguing that Dominic Cummings was very likely behind this torrent of sock puppetry and falsehoods, as the Polecat has previous. He was rumoured to be the man behind an abusive account, @toryeducation, when he was but a lowly Spad working for Michael Gove in the education department. This Twitter account poured scorn and abuse on politicos like Margaret Hodge, Chris Patten, Tristram Hunt, Hannah Richardson, Robert Peston, the Beeb, as well as Zelo Street and Tom Barry of Boris Watch.

Cummings denied he was behind these tweets, but Toby Helm, at that time a hack at the Observer, revealed that the Department had taken steps to stop the Twitter feed issuing any more abuse against its opponents. He also stated that the Observer had said that two contributors to it were Dominic Cummings and Henry de Zoete. Under the code governing spads, disseminating party political material and personal abuse were sackable offences. Cummings and de Zoete had not denied they contributed to the feed, merely saying that they were not @toryeducation.

And, like the 128 sock puppets John O’Connell discovered, @toryeducation also mysteriously vanished. It was registered as an official Tory account on Twitter until the day after the Observer told the world who was behind it. And a year after this all occurred, bloated badger-haired Libertarian Fascist Guido Fawkes revealed that it was indeed Cummings who had been the Twitter account while discussing a spat between Gove and Clegg over free school meals.

Zelo Street concludes

‘Cummings is not, it seems, subject to the controlling hand of his current boss right now, and restored to health following his brush with Covid-19. And by complete coincidence you understand, the Twitter fakery is firing up again. As Private Eye magazine might have put it, I wonder if the two are in any way related? I think we should be told.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/tory-twitter-dirty-tricks-warning-from.html

It seems O’Connell has got the Tories bang to rights, right down to the personal identity of the woman behind all these fake accounts. And it really does look like Dominic Cummings is also behind it, although given their record of flagrant, gross mendacity, he doesn’t seem to have broken any established Tory patterns of conduct whatsoever. It would be rather more surprising if they told the truth instead.

But it also shows the Tories are afraid. Very afraid. According to polls, 65 per cent of the public think that Johnson is doing a good job, which shows how effective media spin and propaganda is. But with the death toll increasing and medical staff running out of PPE, that spin appears to be wearing very thin.

And so they’ve started lying again, to cover up their massive failures and the deaths for which they’re responsible.

The sock puppets’ support for the discredited ‘herd immunity’ policy and an end to the lockdown also shows how worried they are about their donors’ interests. The party’s backers clearly want the lockdown ended so that they can continue making big bucks.

Even though this policy could lead to 40,000 deaths, or even as many as 200 – 250,000.

But still, Murdoch and those hedge fund managers must have their billions.

 

 

 

Book Review: Political English: Language and the Decay of Politics by Thomas Docherty

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/04/2020 - 9:15pm in

In Political English: Language and the Decay of PoliticsThomas Docherty offers a new examination of the historical and contemporary linkages between power, politics and the English language, arguing that the impoverishment of language is intimately connected with the impoverishment of political debate today. The book demonstrates the concomitant decline of discourse and democracy and brings a new slant to analyses of racism, classism and xenophobia in its attention to the inequalities of power bound up in the English language, writes Sarah Burton

Political English: Language and the Decay of Politics. Thomas Docherty. London. Bloomsbury.

Once upon a time, political debate rested upon notions of subtlety and incisiveness – think of Denis Healy’s description of Margaret Thatcher as ‘La Pasionaria of middle-class privilege’ and his now-legendary insult to Conservative MP, Geoffrey Howe, that debating with him was ‘like being savaged by a dead sheep’. Now, in more contemporary politics, we have Silvio Berlusconi reportedly calling German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, ‘an unfuckable lard-arse’. These are all examples cited by author Thomas Docherty in his new book, Political English, on the political weight and consequence – or, as Docherty writes, ‘the intrinsic political muscle’ (7) – of the English language.

Docherty opens with the declaration that ‘Something is rotten in the state of English’ (7), and moves immediately from here to ask whether this means that ‘something is also rotten in the state of England?’ (7). This is the central premise of the study: in a contemporary UK (which Docherty sees as dominated by England and Englishness) of increased racist hate crime, Brexit-driven xenophobia, mass deportations and crises such as Windrush and Grenfell, to what extent are empire, colonialism and imperialism the cultural inheritance of English speakers, and does this now make itself felt through the suppression of anything and anyone not-English? At the same time, Docherty pulls in issues of toxic political debate, a President of the USA who governs through Twitter diatribes, the culture of misinformation and fake news and the extent to which English is a language which allows for wantonly misshaping and obscuring the ‘truth’. For Docherty, the decline in political debate is a decline of the English language; the blatant obfuscations and lies of populist politics are reshaping English to a point where critical and nuanced discussion is no longer possible, and thus the conditions of democracy are at stake (12).

Reading this book is a pleasure – Docherty weaves examples from the media, politics, sociology and English literature in a discursive, even meandering, manner which allows the reader to feel themselves in Docherty’s train of thought and direction of argument. There is a deftness of touch here which makes profound and heavy research feel light but tangible. The real strength of this book is in its narrative. What I’m less convinced by is that all of the topics Docherty touches on fit together coherently under the structure he has provided.

The book begins with ‘On Pluck: English and Money’, in which Docherty poses the question of ‘the intimacy or otherwise between the state of a language and the state of a polity’ (16),  and suggests the differences between the suaveness of Barack Obama and the banality of Donald Trump as examples of this. Where Obama made such cogent and convincing political speeches that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just nine months after taking office, on the basis that ‘dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts’ (13, quoting The Nobel Peace Prize for 2009), Trump is distinctly – linguistically – different. In his chants of ‘lock her up’ (directed at Hillary Clinton), crass sexualised language regarding women and off-the-cuff declarations of nuclear war, Trump presents both a political language and political landscape radically different – Docherty says, ‘impoverished’ (14) – to that of Obama’s lyricism, optimism and nuance. Impoverished language begets impoverished politics.

Docherty moves through an analysis of Winston Churchill’s oratory (which also brought a Nobel Peace Prize) to settle on Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking Peoples – a book published in 1956, in which Churchill extols the virtues of English as a language uniting all those who speak it, but moreover as a language with particular and special access to truth, enlightenment and authority. This is where Docherty locates contemporary issues of English racism, classism and xenophobia. If, indeed, native English speakers have such a ‘direct access to truth’ (23) because of their native language, then this extends all sorts of colonial and imperial ideas regarding the English as the ‘natural born’ leaders of the world. This cultural inheritance of native English speakers is something Docherty explores in the following chapter, ‘English Nativism and Linguistic Xenophobia’, where he asserts that:

English-language nativism completely eschews the more democratic idea that the proper or better way of resolving a conflict is not by the imposition of one’s own physical presence, strength, or force: throwing one’s weight around (40).

Despite finding few flaws in Docherty’s argument here, this is where I begin to question the structural suppositions of the book. Certainly, this blustering neo-imperial attitude is one which has been prevalent throughout the campaigns leading up to the EU referendum in the UK and subsequent Leave-supporting narratives. Docherty also, rightly in my view, identifies a connection between English nativist suspicion of foreign languages with a concurrent suspicion of ‘foreign’ ideas (42). However, I’m not convinced of the underlying claim that the ‘decline’ in English creates an impoverished political landscape – not because I don’t accept that political discourse is increasingly crude, rough and trigger-happy, but because I remain unconvinced of any linear progression from one to the other. Though Docherty makes excellent arguments in the book and demonstrates in great detail the concomitant decline of discourse and democracy, he doesn’t identify an underlying cause or set of causes. What is it that pushed the decline of English as a political language in the first place? What arrived first – the decline in politics or the decline in language? And if they began in tandem, what stimulated this?

The discussion missing from Docherty’s study is a sociological look at current social movements, in particular the rise of social media, influencers, celebrity pundits and a Twitter-led, character-limited stranglehold on incisive and textured political discussion. Media is now oriented towards Twitter, or Twitter-friendly, cuts of debate, elevator-speech rhetoric or 280-character sloganeering. Increasingly political and news programming is prodded and pulled in such a way as to make organic interactions into confrontations suitable to slice up and repackage as twenty-second, clickbait, ‘like’-grabbing, content. In this brave new(ish) world, there is quite literally less space for analysis, argument or cooperative discussion.

The mockery which followed the viral photo of then Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, eating a bacon sandwich would, perhaps, have been a strong lead-in for Docherty, given that this photo was used to undermine and obscure the (relatively) cogent and hopeful language used by Miliband. It became symbolic of a culture where the content of what you say matters a great deal less than being able to say something – anything – in a bombastic, confident and energetic manner. During the 2010 General Election, Miliband was savaged as lacking leadership qualities because he haphazardly ate a sandwich and spoke with an occasional stutter or lisp. Conversely, Boris Johnson was presented in much of the press as a sophisticate and a man of learning and intellect after confidently and assuredly reciting from The Iliad during the 2019 General Election – despite much collective agreement among classicists that both his Greek pronunciation and the actual words of the poem were incorrect. Docherty’s study could arguably be better underpinned – or advanced – through a more concrete examination of the relationship between language, agency and presentation of self, which would offer opportunity to draw more finely the connection between the post-truth/fake news sections and the inherent imperialism of English.

Despite this misgiving, Docherty’s book, with its focus on language, does an excellent job of bringing a new slant to analyses of racism, classism and xenophobia, particularly in his precise and well-thought-out analysis of the inequalities of power inherent in English. Docherty shows the connection of the language to historical and partisan ideals of Englishness, conservatism and civility (40-46). This speaks extremely well to the frequent calls for increased politeness and calm heard in modern political discourse. That these are most often seen directed from the bourgeois white ‘native’ English towards people of colour highlighting racism and unjust border policies, working-class people highlighting wealth inequality and immigrants highlighting xenophobia is key. Docherty’s scholarship allows us to understand how English itself, with all its baggage of assumed authority, colonial rule, imperial rights to land and power and class-based cultural capital, exploits tropes of the ‘angry black’ person (Sara Ahmed 2009) or the ‘uppity’ working class (Bev Skeggs 2004).

Docherty finishes the book by returning to what is at stake – and for him, this is ‘the language’ (227). Academics have, he says, ‘like the poets, and like the musicians, a responsibility to it, and to the international community who need the language to be open, exploratory, unconstrained’ (227). Whilst not wishing to disagree too forcefully with this point, I would also add that part of this openness is, perhaps, a recognition that English need not have – and has no – ‘natural’ authority in claiming to be the language of international politics. This privileging of English as fundamental is itself a remnant of Empire. More people speak Mandarin Chinese or Spanish than English; indeed, native English speakers comprise around just five per cent of the world population. If we’re aiming for openness, reflexivity and global responsibility in our discourse, then a sharper and more active discussion of the international dominance of English, and of monolingual education (particularly in native English-speaking countries), is arguably well overdue.

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

Image Credit: Image by PDPics from Pixabay.

 


Boris Johnson’s Culpable Idleness in the Coronavirus Crisis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/04/2020 - 4:31am in

The Sunday Times seems to have caused a massive ruckus today in its piece about Boris Johnson’s abject failure to tackle the Coronavirus when it first emerged. He didn’t take it seriously, and delayed taking any action at all for too long. Two weeks were wasted by his refusal to impose a lockdown until the very last minute. He also wasted five weeks in which he simply didn’t turn up at the Cobra meetings about the emergency. As Zelo Street remarks in his piece about the scandal, this means that during the time he wasted, Johnson ‘went on a killing spree, as sure as if he’d emptied an Uzi into all those poor souls.’

This material isn’t anything new. Mike points out in a couple of his articles today that he had put up posts detailing Johnson’s catastrophic lack of action about the virus on several of the pieces he put up on his personal blog.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/19/if-you-want-to-survive-coronavirus-its-time-to-use-your-intelligence-and-stop-reading-the-sunday-times/

The Sunday Times’ article was hidden behind a paywall and Murdoch’s goons are angry that Owen Jones copied the article’s salient points and issued them as a series of Tweets, so that people don’t have pay to see it. A series of hacks consisting of Oliver Kamm, Polly Vernon, Caitlin Moran and Hadley Freeman have moaned about the newspaper not getting its money for the article. They complain that it’s not about giving Murdoch a profit, but allowing the newspaper to continue publishing more quality articles like it. Quality journalism in Murdoch rags is, as Spock’s father says of Klingon justice in the conclusion to the Star Trek film, The Search for Spock, ‘an interesting point of view’. The Sunday Times is the newspaper that libeled Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, and has libeled so many others from the left over the years. It was the Sunday Times, back in the 90s, that was successfully sued by former Labour leader Michael Foot after it wrongfully claimed that he was a KGB spy codenamed ‘Comrade Boot’. Mike has pointed out that all the information was already available on the net long before, and all he needed to do to produce his articles was to collect it and write it up. Zelo Street has also made the point that the Guardian and FT also put out free articles on line. The Sunset Times was also edited by years by John Witherow, who is notorious for using illegal information gathering. And asking people to provide their personal information to Murdoch’s crew to read the articles and others like it is just too much. He acidly comments that ‘they sup some strong stuff in that media bubble.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/murdoch-paywall-pleading-pathetic.html

Nevertheless there was one aspect about Johnson’s conduct discussed in the Sunset Times article that I found particularly shocking. This was BoJob’s own immense laziness. It appears that Johnson didn’t attend crucial meetings about the virus and dithered because, quite simply, he couldn’t be bothered to get off his well-fed, Eton-educated rear end. The paper quotes one government adviser as saying

“what you learn about Boris was he didn’t chair any meetings. He liked his country breaks. He didn’t work weekends. It was like working for an old-fashioned chief executive in a local authority 20 years ago. There was a real sense that he didn’t do urgent crisis planning. It was exactly like people feared he would be”.

As Zelo Street points out, the explodes the well-crafted Tory spin that Johnson has been working so hard, that he became exhausted and thus came down with the virus. The Street also says that the article has upset the government, and they’ve already set the spin machine going, with Michael Gove appearing on the Andrew Marr Show this morning to rebut it. The delays in tackling the virus mean that many more people have contracted it than would otherwise have done, and many of these have died, or soon will. And the Tory press is again lying to us about how hard Johnson is working. But the real reason Johnson was taken ill is that he was overweight and unhealthy.

The government’s reputation will take a hit from these revelations, but the real damage will be done to that of the press. ‘It is’ Zelo Street says, ‘the craven, courtier, client stenographers of our free and fearless press who will be exposed as preening, shameless, selfish and unprincipled propagandists.’

As for Johnson, he concludes ‘Some of us knew he was worse than useless. This knowledge is slowly, but surely, spreading to others. If only it was as contagious as the Coronavirus.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/boris-and-five-week-killing-spree.html

Alternative news sites like Mike’s have been telling you this for months, if not years. But now some people have only woken up to how bone idle, incompetent and utterly, utterly unfit to run our great country because, after months of inaction, the Sunset Times has come out and said it.

I’ve blogged many times about how Mike, Zelo Street and other left-wing news sites have got the story before the lamestream media. This is another example. If you want reliable news and informed comment, go to them. Murdoch simply gives you right-wing propaganda and all too often, along with the rest of the press, simply follows them.

Thinking Errors and the Coronavirus

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/04/2020 - 1:00am in

Martin Cohen “The end of everything we call life is at hand and cannot be evaded” H. G. Wells (1946) The coronavirus doesn’t just make individual people ill – it threatens the whole of society too. Measures used to control the virus destroy people’s livelihoods, trample basic freedoms and, if prolonged, could eventually bring about …

Right-Wing Americans Campaign Against Lockdown

Last night the Beeb reported that there were demonstrations in America against the Coronavirus lockdown, encouraged by presidential clown, Donald Trump, against the advice and desires of his own administration and its medical advisers.

The Beeb interviewed some of them. One was a man dressed in protective gear, holding up a sign saying ‘American worker’. He objected to the lockdown because he wanted to work. Other placards declared that ‘Liberty is God-Given’, and that ‘Health Is My Choice, Not the Governments’. The Beeb’s reported stated that the demonstrators felt that the lockdown was unconstitutional and was an attempt by the government to expand its powers. Meanwhile, Trump had been supporting the protesters by issuing a series of Tweets demanding that Virginia, Idaho and a number of other states should lift their lockdowns. This naturally did not go down too well with those states’ governors, such as Cuomo in New York, who was particularly scathing. It was leading to a constitutional crisis over just who had the right to lift the lockdown. And the states were insistent that it wasn’t Trump.

It’s easy to sympathise with them up to a certain extent. People in this country are worried about their businesses and jobs. We have a larger welfare state than America, which means we’re better cushioned against poverty. Even so, thanks to the Tory dismantlement of our welfare system and the gross inadequacies of their emergency legislation, millions of people are still wondering how they’ll feed and clothe themselves and their families, as well as pay the rent or mortgage. America has a much smaller welfare system, which does far less to stop people falling into destitution and poverty. There’s also a psychological dimension to this. Americans have more of the work ethic. If you’re on welfare, it’s through some fault of yours. You’re a moocher and a loser. And so the fear of unemployment, which is very much present in the UK, is much greater over the Pond.

But it also shows how the bonkers libertarian right have also created an extreme fear about the state. Any expansion of state power, even it is beneficial, is seen as a dangerous threat to American freedom, a threat that will eventually lead to the establishment of a Nazi-Communist-Atheist-Muslim dictatorship. A few years ago, when Alex Jones and Infowars were in full flood all over the internet and Obama was in the White House, Jones was screaming about emergency legislation that had been passed. Obama, he announced, would declare a state of emergency and force the American people into FEMA camps in order to deprive them of their freedom and establish the one-world Satanic state for the globalists. Or something like that. Others on the right said the same. The pastors on one right-wing church radio station blithely told their listeners that Obama was infused with a hatred of Whites, and was set on creating a dictatorship which would kill more people than Chairman Mao. Others considered that he was going to start a genocide of White Americans. Well, Obama has come and gone, and showed himself to be none of these things, and committed none of the predicted horrors. But that clearly has left a deep-seated terror of the state.

The emergency legislation would be a threat to liberty, if it wasn’t framed within the context of constitutional, democratic government. When governments enact, or activate such legislation, they do so with provisions that limit its duration and provide for its lifting. There were worries about legislation passed by Boris which gave him, the police and armed forces extraordinary powers for two years. But the legislation now in place, passed in the 1980s, which demands that the state of emergency be reviewed every so many weeks, strikes a far better balance in favour of personal freedom.

As for it being a personal choice what someone does about their health, in most cases that’s true. But not here. Because it’s not just the person that’s choosing whether or not to expose themselves to the virus who’s affected. Their choice affects the lives of others, and in too many cases it’s a matter of life and death. So for their sake the issue is taken out of the hands of the private citizen.

Human lives are more important than the economy, and a properly functioning welfare state enhances personal freedom, not detracts from it. The libertarians and organisations like the Freedom Association over here are flat wrong in their attacks on the welfare state and their demands for absolute privatisation and a minimal state.

Lives, and people’s businesses and jobs, are at threat from the lockdown, but this can be ameliorated by state aid and a properly functioning welfare state.

Unfortunately, this is what Trump, Murdoch and other right-wing media loudmouths, want to prevent. Because it’ll stop them getting richer.

 

Cartoon: The Dead Thatchers – Bedtime for Democracy

Hi, and welcome to another of my cartoons, in which I attempt to lampoon the Tory party and our disgusting Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. This one is another mock poster/ record sleeve for my entirely fictional band, the Dead Thatchers. The name’s modeled on the American ’80s punk band, The Dead Kennedys. One of their satirical attacks on Reagan’s administration was ‘Bedtime for Democracy’, which I’ve used as the title and inspiration of this drawing. It shows Boris Johnson as Mussolini, surrounded by Maggie Thatcher and her bestie, General Pinochet, the Fascist dictator of Chile, as well as Ian McNichol and Emilie Oldknow.

Despite their loud claims to be the defenders of democracy, the Tories have so often been anything but. Churchill was an ardent opponent of Nazism, but it was because he saw them as a threat to British maritime domination of Europe and the North Sea. He was personally authoritarian, and actually like the Spanish dictator, Franco. He did, however, have the decency to describe Mussolini privately as a ‘swine’ when he visited Fascist Italy. In the 1980s sections of the Tory party had a very strong affinity for the Far Right, such as the Union of Conservative Students. Among their antics was calling for the National Front’s doctrine of ‘racial nationalism’ – the idea that only Whites should be considered true Britons – to become official policy. They bitterly hated Nelson Mandela as a terrorist, singing songs about hanging him in response to the pop single demanding freedom for the future leader of a democratic, multiracial South Africa.  Other songs included a parody of ‘We Don’t Want No Education’ from Pink Floyd’s The Wall, ‘We Don’t Want No Blacks or Asians’. There were also Tory demonstrations in support of apartheid South Africa.

The libertarian outfit to which Guido Fawkes belonged played host at its annual dinners to politicos from the South African Conservative Party, as well as the leader of one of Rios Montt’s death squads. Montt was the dictator of one of the Central American countries.  Maggie Thatcher’s friendship with Pinochet was for the old monster’s support against Argentina during the Falklands War. But some of it no doubt came from Thatcher’s own very authoritarian personality. She wanted a strong state, which meant the police, armed forces and the intelligence agencies. The Tories also claimed that she was somehow working class. She wasn’t. She was lower middle class, strictly speaking, and despised the people the Victorians called ‘the labouring poor’. She despised the trade unions and regarded the working class as ungrateful and disloyal. Following Enoch Powell, she was a monetarist, as was Pinochet. His regime was supported by Milton Friedman, who went down to Chile to advise Pinochet on its implementation, because he and the rest of the Chicago school and American libertarians because they believed it could only be established by a dictator. The masses were too wedded, they believed, to state intervention and a welfare state for a monetarist government ever to be democratically elected.

And Boris is also extremely authoritarian. He shares the eugenics views of Cummings and Toby Young, as well as previous Tory governments, that the poor, the disabled, the elderly and the long-term unemployed are useless eaters on whom as little money and resources should spent as possible. He and his cronies seem to regard their deaths as simply the inevitable operation of the forces of Natural Selection. His and his advisers were in favour of letting the British people develop ‘herd immunity’ against the Coronavirus, which meant avoiding lockdown and letting the disease take the weakest in order to preserve the economy. When Johnson was finally forced to act, he did so by awarding himself dangerously wide, exceptional powers in order, so he claimed, to be able to deal with the emergency.

These powers could very easily be used to turn him into a dictator.

The Coronavirus bill debated by parliament on 19th March 2020 gave the government sweeping new powers to arrest, detain and surveil for the next two years. It was criticised by Observer journo Carole Cadwalladr, who asked why the bill was supposed to last for two years, when the government did not expect the emergency to last that long. She also asked the pertinent question of what the government would do with all the information it wanted to collect.

Labour’s Chris Bryant also attacked it, stating that current emergency legislation, from the Civil Contingencies Act to various health and disease legislation, also gave the government sufficient powers to deal with the emergency. The Civil Contingencies bill requires renewal every 28 days, and the other laws also contain important safeguards. Commons library clerk Graeme Cowie also stressed how important ‘Sunset Clauses’ are. He explained that they ‘

are an important safeguard against the use of unusually broad or general executive powers. They also take different forms: (a) time limiting provisions in an Act (b) time limiting the power to make regulations or (c) time limiting the effect of regulations”.

Zelo Street, the bill looked like a power grab by Boris, enabled by Tory tribal politics.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/03/coronavirus-bill-warning.html

This is all too credible, given the way BoJob also had the Queen grant him extended powers to try to force Brexit through parliament despite the opposition of many MPs, including those in his own party.

But Boris isn’t the only anti-democrat.

I’ve also included in the cartoon Ian McNichol and Emilie Oldknow, the chairman of the Labour party and the present COO of Unison respectively. Because these two charmers were part of the very real conspiracy within the Labour Party democracy to unseat Jeremy Corbyn by withholding information on the anti-Semitism scandal so as to make him appear incompetent. Other tactics included trying keep Wallasey Labour Party suspended for as long as possible so they wouldn’t deselect the sitting Blairite MP, Angela Eagle, running a parallel election campaign in London intended to ensure that only Blairites would be elected, debating whether they could get Momentum expelled. They also wanted to set up an interim government with Tom Watson as leader after the 2017 election, and intrigued against and vilified other Labour MPs and activists from the left-wing – the real Centre – of the party. All this is described in the Anti-Semitism report, which was suppressed on the advice of the party’s lawyers, and on which Starmer sat for a week before it was leaked. One of the plotters wanted to get an electoral college set up in the party to make sure that a left-wing could never be elected leader.

McNichol, Oldknow and the rest of them are as anti-democratic as Johnson.

They did not work for the good of the party as a whole, but merely their own, narrow factional advantage. And as the behaviour of the Blairites has repeatedly shown, they prefer Tory government to one by a left-wing Labour figure. The report describes how they debated who to vote for if it came to a contest between Corbyn and Tweezer. But their contempt for Labour party democracy has been amply shown over the past four years of Blairite intriguing against Corbyn. And Blair himself was very authoritarian, curtailing party democracy and centralising it around himself. The Blairites themselves are only small minority within the party, but they were able to present themselves as representing mainstream Labour through their monopolization of the party bureaucracy and the connivance of the lamestream media.

Now following the report’s leak, the Socialist Group of Labour MPs have written to Starmer asking very serious questions. Ordinary Labour members, activists and supporters like Mike are also demanding greater disclosure about their activities, as well as their censure and expulsion.

This is absolutely correct, as their contempt for their party’s leadership and members and fervent support of Tory policies shows that they are a threat to democracy like Boris and his mob in government.

Here’s the cartoon. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Cartoon: Up Pompous

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/04/2020 - 4:03am in

As I said, I’m glad Boris Johnson has recovered enough from the Coronavirus to be sent home. I really don’t want anyone to die from this disease, including BoJob. But his recovery also means that I can at last put up the cartoon below. I was drawing just when it was announced that Johnson had been taken into hospital, and to lampoon the man when he was fighting for his life would have been unacceptable. But Johnson’s illness doesn’t change what he is, or what he and his party stand for. And so they’re still suitable subjects for ridicule and satire.

Johnson prides himself on his classic learning. He presented a series a few years ago on ancient Rome, and had a column in the Spectator when he was its editor, in which he discussed what lessons the classics had for us today. I remember one piece he did in his series about Rome, in which he contrasted the early empire, which was governed by just 12 men, with the army of MEPs and bureaucrats that administer the EU. The obvious lesson there was that smaller government equals good government. Of course the argument falls apart when you consider the vast distance in time, morals and social and technological sophistication, as well as the simple fact that the EU and its constituent nations are meant to be democracies. Ancient Rome wasn’t. It was an oligarchy, in which only a narrow section of the population had the vote, and the only real political power was that of the emperor and the army. The senate continued to meet under the empire, but their debates were so meaningless that I think they more or less stopped having them. One emperor was forced to send them a message requesting them to debate something. With his background in the classics and admiration for ancient Rome, it therefore made sense to lampoon Boris as a Roman politician.

But readers of this blog of a certain age will also remember the late, great Frankie Howerd and the comedy, Up Pompeii. This was set in the famous Roman city, and starred Howerd as the slave, Lurcio. It would start with Lurcio leaving the house, sitting down on a convenient seat, and saying ‘Salute, citizens. And now, the prologue -‘ at which point he would be interrupted by some commotion. And thus would begin that week’s episode. It was a ’70s BBC TV show, but in the winter of 1990-1, it was revived by ITV. Howerd was once again Lurcio. But the show had moved with the times and changed one character. In the original series, I think the son of the family that owned him was supposed to be gay, and the butt of various jokes about effeminacy by Lurcio. This was before the gay rights movement had had quite the impact it has now, when jokes about gays were still acceptable. By the 1990s they weren’t, and so the gay son was replaced by a eunuch, so they could still carry on making the same jokes about lack of masculinity. Sadly, it only lasted one episode, as Howerd died after the first episode was shown.

His material, like the ‘Carry On’ films, is dated now, but Howerd was a great comedian and genuinely funny man. He lived in the village of Mark in Somerset, and after his death his home was turned into a museum. He was very popular and respected there, because whenever they had a village fete, he’d turn up to do a turn and give them his support. He also, I heard, used to rehearse in the church hall. A friend of mine told me he’d actually been in a church service while Howerd was rehearsing, and his lines could be heard coming through the hall. Let’s hope they weren’t the monologue where he pretended to be a vicar, and joked about how last Sunday he held a three-hour service for the incontinent. ‘There wasn’t a dry aisle in the house’, is the punchline to that one.

So I’ve drawn Johnson as a Roman patrician politician, being jeered and pelted with mud, cabbages and buckets of water by the mob. Behind him is Howerd’s Lurcio, looking at once shocked and puzzled, and underneath is one of Howerd’s catchphrases ‘Titter ye not’.

As Johnson and his party are authoritarian and extremely right-wing, I’ve tried to show their Fascistic tendencies in the decoration at the top. The pattern around the panel is based on a Roman design, although I’ve taken a few liberties. If you look at it, it’s composed of repeating swastikas. It also has the fasces, the bundle of rods with an axe attached. This was the ancient Roman symbol of the lictor, a Roman official. The rods symbolised his right to beat, and the axe to behead, Roman citizens. It was also adopted by Mussolini’s Fascists and their counterparts in other nations, like Oswald Mosley’s disgusting BUF.

Here’s the cartoon. I hope you enjoy it, and it helps cheer you up in these dreadful times.

 

Despite the Fullsome Praise, BoJob Still Wants to Privatise the NHS

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 13/04/2020 - 9:50pm in

Yesterday the news reported that Boris had finally been discharged from hospital. He will not be starting work immediately, but has gone to Checkers to recuperate after his battle with Coronavirus. But before he did so, he gave fulsome to praise the hospital staff, including two nurses, who cared for him. The NHS, he made clear, had saved his life, and we would beat the Coronavirus because it was the beating heart of Britain.

I’m very glad Johnson has recovered. I don’t wish, or anyone else’s death, and I’m very glad that he is showing his sincere, genuine gratitude to the nursing staff and the great institution that has saved his life. He’s not the only Tory politico to owe his life to the NHS. Back in the 1980s the Fabian Society published a pamphlet arguing very forcefully against privatisation of the NHS, and made very telling comparisons about the US system, which is funded by individual insurance. The pamphlet quoted a Tory politician, who stated that the NHS had very definitely saved his life when he had suffered heart problems, and that there is no way he could have afforded such treatment in America.

But you’ll forgive me if I say that I found such praise coming from Boris a tad hypocritical and hollow. Right-wing governments since Thatcher – and that includes Tony Blair’s – have been doing their level best to privatise the NHS piecemeal by stealth. And the series of Tory governmental trainwrecks since Labour lost the 2010 election are no different. Cameron went on with the privatisation, passing Andrew Lansley’s wretched Health and Social Care Bill, which absolves the Health Secretary from his or her historic role of having to make sure that everyone has health care free at the point of use. NHS trusts and doctor’s surgeries, organised in Community Care Groups, are enabled and required to consider commissioning services from private healthcare companies. More and more contracts – it is now more than half – have been awarded to private healthcare companies. Despite the lies and smooth assurances to the opposite, this privatisation is for the private sector’s benefit, not ours. On its own, private healthcare can’t compete with that provided by the state. Private hospitals are smaller, and don’t offer the range of services the NHS provides. Private health insurance works well for the affluent, young and largely well, who don’t require long term or complicated treatment. It does not work for the old, the poor, the disabled or the long term sick. Which is why Lyndon Johnson had to introduce Medicare and Medicaid for those groups in the US. Despite this, 40,000 people still die through lack of affordable healthcare in the US, and the top cause of bankruptcies over there is medical costs.

But over here the Tory drive for privatisation continues. I noticed a Torygraph headline reproduced on one the blogs, which very graphically showed this. This proclaimed that it was due to the NHS’ cumbrous bureaucracy that PPE equipment weren’t getting to NHS staff. The Tories have been very keen to tell everyone that introducing the private sector is going to cut bureaucracy. And this is another example of the truth being the direct opposite of anything Johnson, Cummings and any other Tory will tell you. The Tories’ privatisation has actually increased the bureaucracy through setting up organs within the NHS to ensure competition and value for money. Also private healthcare firms have larger management bureaucracies that the NHS. In extreme cases, these can account for 40 per cent of the companies operating costs. But there were over 100 MPs in Cameron’s government, who had connections to private healthcare firms. And so, despite rising costs and inefficiencies, it’s immensely profitable to them and the heads of those companies.

Treatment by the NHS is supposed to be free at the point of use, but the Tories have been introducing charges, or expanding the range of services for which charges may be made. One of those supporting this move is Jacob Rees-Mogg.

But despite their determination to sell it off, the Tories give their unstinting praise to it. One recent Tory health secretary even declared that they ‘treasured it’. This was after the fact it was revealed that he, or one of the other Tory MPs, had written a book advocating the incorporation of private healthcare into the NHS to such an extent that the NHS would cease to exist. Which is privatisation.

With this in mind, I see absolutely no reason to take Johnson’s praise at anything like face value. No, I don’t deny he’s grateful – now. But this gratitude will wear off a soon as he steps back through the doors of No.10 and starts listening once again to his Tory friends and fellows, and although the advisers that have trooped into government from private industry.

Then, whatever Johnson said yesterday, he’ll go back to privatising the NHS.

So no one else will be able to get treatment for a disease like Coronavirus without paying for it. And heaven help the poor if they can’t.

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